5 Teen Packing Tips for Carry on Travel

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My family will be traveling for the first time to a foreign destination this summer.  And while I am very excited and checking out great packing lists, capsule wardrobes and travel hacks, my teens are not  This isn’t to say they aren’t excited.  this is just to say that they are busy people and they haven’t considered that packing for this trip will be different from any other.  And in many ways the teen packing lessons they need don’t change much for a foreign trip, but they do change when mom tells them they only get one carry on and no checked baggage.  Below are the 5 main things I am teaching teens about packing for a trip with just a carry on.  And since my kids are millenials, I had to find some videos to reinforce the information

teen packing tips | FaveMomTeen Packing Tip #1 Look up the weather where you are going first

This seems painfully obvious, but it isn’t to to many teens (who am I kidding, many adults don’t do this…I have forgotten to do this). WEather will dictate your clothing packing for the most part.  Following the guides that say, “What to pack Paris in the Summer”  or “22 items for a Mexican Beach vacation” are worthless if the weather is unseasonable.  Listen when I was a kid, we had a hard time getting a hold of weather information for travel destinations, so you packed for the general season.  Sometimes you got it wrong.  Trust me the frigid downpours of northern Minnesota in the summer were super unpleasant when you only packed shorts, t-shirts and canvas shoes.

So look at the weather for your destination.  And make sure to check that little bit in the weather report that says, “Feels like”  that is usually more helpful than you know.  I live in a very dry climate and 80  degrees (26 Celsius) is pleasant with just a bit of sweat break out if you exert yourself in the sunshine.  The same temperature in a muggy tropics region can be oppressive feeling and will lead to swamp butt.  This could be a totally different clothing situation.

Teen Packing Tip #2 The # of days traveling determines the # of clothing items

Here are my basic packing formulas.  From 1-4 days you will always pack  1 bottom, 1 top and 1 pair underwear, 1 pair of sock for each day.  4-7 days you don’t add any additional tops or bottoms, just additional undergarments and socks, one for each day.  For 7-14 days one additional set of tops and bottoms, and if you can fit additional underwear go for it.  But after 1 week of vacation I usually have to do laundry or wash clothes in sinks, so further clothing is just redundant.   And one set of pajamas.

Teen Packing Tip #2  Take 1/3 the toiletries you think you need–because most won’t make it by TSA

This is slightly more important for girls than boys as by practice girls have more toiletries than girls.  My personal philosophy is that toiletries are easily purchased at most destinations.  Don’t overpack, you probably will find you didn’t need it.   Know your 3-1-1 rule for TSA.  This makes choosing much easier.  There are some basic toiletries they both need:  toothbrush, comb/brush, bar soap, deodorant, razor, floss and a washcloth in a ziploc bag.  Girls you must pack a few feminine hygiene items, but again my philosphy pack a few and buy them when you get there if you need them.    The following are items that you might want for your situation  conditioner, moisturizer, medicines, first aid, contacts/glasses, cotton swabs or pads. make-up.  There are gobs of liquids involved in the toiletries area, so it is best for everyone if you remove as many of those as possible and know your 3-1-1.

Teen Pack Tip #3  You only need 3 pairs of shoes

2 pairs go in your bag and 1 is worn on your feet.  There are essentially 4 types of shoes you might ever need to pack dressy, casual, rugged and sandal.  Your destination and activities are going to determine the 3 you choose.  And always, ALWAYS, wear your bulkiest shoes on the plan.  I don’t care if you don’t want to take your hiking boots off at TSA–the space savings is worth the 5 minutes at the scanners.  For our foreign trip my choices are dressy, casual and rugged.  We aren’t staying ocean side anywhere and we aren’t staying in many hotels with pools, so sandals are not needed.  But we are walking a bunch and will be visiting outdoor places and there will be church worship (yes we sometimes attend church while on vacation–it’s actually pretty pleasant).  Packing Tips for a Teen | Fave Mom

Teen Packing Tip #4 Pick a Travel outfit

Plan what you will wear in transit.  This is important because often we leave early in the morning and clear thought is at a minimum.  But also there are many items you can wear to save packing space.  Jacket or hoodie?  Wear it on.  Boots?  Wear those on.  Jeans? You would be surprised how much room they can take up  Wear it on.  Essentially pick the clothing that is heaviest or least packing-friendly to be worn the day you travel.  Now I am older and sometimes creature comforts come before this rule.  Like I won’t wear  jeans on a plane because they get uncomfortable smashed into a airline seat all day long.  But until you got issues follow the rule.

Teen Packing Tip #5  Layer the clothes in a giant bundle

The video shows this concept pretty well.  You will be paying your clothes in the bag and then folding them over each other.  This will decrease wrinkles and will fit way more stuff in the suitcase.  So just do it.  The down side is that you can’t sneak in your bag and just grab a shirt out.  You have to unpack at your destination.  Buck up you can handle it.  My husband is still a fan of the rolling method.  It works quite well for compact packing, but I still fit more with this method.

Bonus Teen Packing Tip

Bring something without a battery to kill the time.  You should still bring your phone, charger and earbuds and teens should put them in the outer pockets of their carry on or in the briefcase/purse carryon.  Why something without batteries.  Because chargers aren’t always available on flights and watching videos or playing games drains it fast.  For some ideas you can check out the post on “No Batteries Required: Travel Entertainment for Teens”

That’s the basics.  But if you need a packing list here is the Teen Carry on Packing List based on the advice given here.

Teens need to know how to pack like an adult, so teach them these 5 tips for packing and then the trip will be better for everyone.



Annette Barney

Annette Barney

I live in the mountains of Utah. Yes, I am also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I love hot pink, XC skiing, running, hot chocolate, yoga, romance novels,traveling for fun, volunteering and, of course, origami. I am a woman, a mom, a wife and a daughter of God. I believe that everything tastes better with a little bacon or a little chocolate but not both.