Ten Helpful Packing Tips for Teens Traveling Alone from a Teen who Travels (and his Mom)

Hey everyone! It’s Buddy. This past summer, I went on tour to Ireland, Scotland, Northern Ireland, England, and Wales with my choir. This was the first trip that I did without my family. And the first trip where I had to pack and carry my own suitcases. Because a lot of kids take their first trips alone for school, sports, and club activities when they are teenagers, I am sharing some helpful tips for teens packing.

My mom is also sharing her thoughts and tips for parents who are sending their teens off on their first solo trips. Her tips are at the end of the blog post.

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Helpful Packing Tips for Teens Traveling Alone from a Teen who Travels

1. Make a list

Make a list of everything you need.  This may seem like it takes a lot of time, but it’s really important to make sure you don’t forget anything. Make a list of everything you’ll need for the trip. Sometimes you might forget something like dental floss, your swimsuit, or a towel. It is important to write everything down. Once you have your list, you can start packing

When I went on my trip, I had to follow certain dressing requirements. My choir sent a list of required items to pack. So, I only had to remember to write a few things down for my carry-on like snacks and my phone charger. If you are lucky, your school group or club will share a packing list. It makes packing a lot easier when they provide you with a list. But if they don’t provide a list, make sure to make your own.

2. Choose the right suitcase size

If you are going to be on your trip for a lot of days, you definitely want a bigger suitcase because everything is just not going to fit in a small suitcase. But, if you are just going for a few days and can fit everything into a smaller suitcase, a small suitcase will work.

Even though I knew that I was going to check a bag for this trip, I tried to fit everything into a carry-on size suitcase. It did not fit. I had to take a larger suitcase. It was my mom’s old duffle bag with wheels. I liked that the duffle bag was light, and I could move things around easily. I am also lucky my mom saved that old suitcase because it is the only large one that we have.

Was my suitcase heavy? It depended. Because I was traveling with a choir, I had a secondary garment bag with me plus my suitcase and carry-on, which was a backpack. When I put the garment bag on the suitcase handle and dragged them both at the same time it was super light. But, when the garment bag fell, it was super heavy. So, it just depends on the situation. My suitcase overall in my opinion was light.

3. Only pack what is necessary

You might want to take a lot of things with you on your trip. But only take what is necessary. Before you put your stuff in your bag, you can ask yourself – do I really need this? You can ask yourself multiple times. If things do not fit in your suitcase, you can ask someone to help figure out what you can leave behind. For example, your parents or older siblings might have a good idea of what you really need on your trip.

Try your best to make everything as compact as possible.

4. Make sure you have enough undergarments and socks

Always take an extra pair of undergarments and socks with you.

I take two extra sets just in case. One in my carry-on and one in my checked bag. I do this in case my luggage gets lost. Or in case my flight is cancelled, and I have to sleep at the airport or a hotel the airline puts me in a hotel, and I don’t have my checked bag.

I also always take an extra shirt and pants just in case too. It’s always better to be prepared. So, yea, pack extra clothes.

5. Put your toiletries in a sealed bag

Make sure you have your toiletries in a sealed Ziplock bag. Even if you are checking in your bag, it is a good idea to have things like the gel or mouthwash in a Ziplock bag separate from your clothes.

I also recommend keeping your bars of soap in a separate from your liquids. My bar soap exploded everywhere because it fell out of the small Ziplock bag into my larger toiletry bag. And then water from one of my toiletry items leaked and caused a crazy soap explosion.

6. Make sure you have everything you need for the climate

Try to pack according to the climate at your destination. So, if you are wearing shorts in a place where it is like the Artic, that is not a great idea and vice versa.

When I went to Ireland in the summer, I was packing my Arizona winter clothes. I even had to buy and pack a special raincoat and sweatshirt for the trip. But I was glad I did because there were a few days that it rained all day long. And it was cold compared to hot summer in the desert. So, make sure you have what you need for the place you’re going to visit.

7. Roll your clothes and make space

Try to roll everything as much as possible. This will save space in your suitcase. And your clothes will be less wrinkled. I roll all my clothes when I travel. There is a special technique to me rolling my socks. I usually ball them up as small as I can get them and then stick them in my shoes to save space. You definitely want to roll everything up together to save space, especially for souvenirs.

Buddy rolling his clothes

8. Leave space for souvenirs

When you first leave for your trip, you want to make sure that you have extra space in your suitcase. This is so you can bring home your souvenirs. If you only have a little bit of space in your suitcase, try your best not to buy a big souvenir or something that you can’t fit into your bag. Just be careful about the size of gifts and always consider how much space you have left in your suitcase.

9. Pack your carry-on wisely

Packing your carry-on is important because you will want to take stuff out of your bag when you are on the plane or bus, so you need to know where things are.

In your carryon, pack anything you might need just in case something happens, you are prepared for it. Anything like first aid, medicine, snacks, if you can. I recommend putting the snacks away from the toiletries. If there are any gooey snacks, try to keep those away from the clothes, especially if they can stain. Try to keep snacks separated and isolated from everything else in your bag.

 As an example, for this trip I had a backpack where I kept my food and notebooks and other stuff. I also had a backup pair of undergarments, socks, a sweater, some snacks, and a water bottle.

I used the phone charger the most from my carryon. But that was just me. If you are traveling without an electronic device, you don’t have to worry about. But mostly likely you will so keep your chargers in line.

Another random tip, try to get the fastest charger you can get because some time you are exploring from place to place, and you have to wait for your phone to charge. My phone was dead for the majority of the trip, so I couldn’t really take good pictures, so always make sure your phone is charged.

10. Stay organized when hostel hopping

If you forgot something at home or lost something at the hostel, it’s okay. If you can buy whatever you lost while on your trip, do it. As long as it is a reasonable price. But if it is hard to find or not easy to replace while on your trip then don’t even bother then.

On my trip I lost my toothbrush and water bottle. I bought a new toothbrush because I needed one, but I did not buy a water bottle. Also, I bought many new phone chargers because the ones I had were not charging the phone well. I forgot some medicine at home but didn’t need it.

A teen with brown hair, black glasses, blue head phones, a black face mask, a blue shirt, and black pant stands in a kitchen wearing a backpack, holding a hanger with a white plastic bag and stands behind a packed duffle bag with a handle. Packing Tips for Teens. MPA Project Travels.
Buddy Packed and Ready to Go.

Helpful Packing Tips for Teens Traveling Alone from a Mom

Thank you, Buddy! Those were 10 helpful packing tips. I am chiming in here with 5 Tips for Parents who are helping their teen pack their bags for their very first solo trip. Here we go!

1. Do not pack the suitcase for your teen

Oh, I know it can be tempting not to pack their suitcase for them. Especially if they are younger teenagers. I also know it can be frustrating to watch them stuff things in their bag in a not so efficient way. But if you want your teen to know where things are in their suitcases, they have to pack them themselves.

This tip I got from Buddy’s choir who has been touring internationally for over 80 years. From experience they learned that if the parents pack the teen’s suitcases, the first things teens do upon arrival is dig through the bag, often taking everything out, to try and find something. This leads not only to a giant mess, but to things being left behind. It is better for the teen to pack their own bags and know where things are when they need them.

2. Make sure their the suitcase isn’t too heavy, especially the carry-on

Every teen is different. And while some teenagers might pack light, others may overpack. I completely understand. I definitely overpacked on my first trip to Hawai’i at 14. But it is very important that your teen has a suitcase that they can feasibly carry or pull around with them. This is especially true for the carry-on bag, which they must lift over their heads to get into the overhead bin. A shorter or younger teen might have difficulty getting an overstuffed bag into the overhead bin without assistance. And they need to be able to lift that bag over their head on their own.

Make sure your teens pack light.

An orange tabby cat sits in an open black small carry-on suitcase. Packing Tips for Teens. MPA Project Travels.
Our cat packed herself!

3. Do not pack anything of high value

Although it might not be a pleasant idea but anticipate that anything your teen packs will be lost, forgotten, or even stolen. This includes phones, wallets, cash or debit cards, headphones, toothbrushes, and on and on. If it is a precious item that the teen wants to take, make sure that they can live without it in the case that it is lost. And have a backup plan for lost cash, debit cards, or identification in case something goes wrong.

On Buddy’s first solo trip, he lost his toothbrush, water bottle, and gel. I was grateful that he did not loose his wallet or phone. And speaking of his phone, we had him take an older phone on the trip. Not only was the older phone less likely to be stolen, but if it was stolen, it was not a big loss on our end. Dad and I also had a plan for his debit card – it was one of those cards where we deposit money, and we were only putting few dollars on it when necessary, so large amounts of money wouldn’t disappear if he lost his wallet.

4. Send a laundry bag

Pack a mesh laundry bag for dirty clothes. This will help your teen keep the clean clothes separate from the dirty clothes. It is a great way for them to stay organized. Especially if they are touring from place to place and changing hostels every few days.

5. Wrap bar soap in a wash cloth

And because Buddy mentioned his bar of soap (it was actually his shampoo bar) exploding. My last tip is to wrap soap in a washcloth. This will contain extra suds in case the soap gets wet in the bag. I do this on all our trips but forgot to communicate this to Buddy on his first solo trip overseas. Oops! Now I know for next time.


As a teen packing for your first solo trip doesn’t have to be stressful! With a little planning and these helpful tips, you’ll be all set in no time at all. If you have any helpful packing tips for teens heading out on their first solo trip, let us know in the comments below!

And check out the non-packing related Movement Postcard filmed at the REACH at the Kennedy Center.

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13 thoughts on “Ten Helpful Packing Tips for Teens Traveling Alone from a Teen who Travels (and his Mom)

  1. This post is super helpful. My 15 year old granddaughter is travelling to Europe for 10 days and they will have to carry their own suitcases between destinations. It’s recommended that they take a carry-on only. The idea of a separate card with only small amounts of cash be deposited is a great idea! As is taking an older phone.

  2. So many awesome tips here, especially about over packing, I always believe if you brought it you should carry it Lol so don’t make it too heavy. Thanks for sharing

  3. These are some good tips for packing for a teen. I surely would not want to see how they would pack for themselves. And good to teach them what to put in carry on bags early in life. Skills that will stay with them.

  4. I don’t have kids but I loved reading this & enjoyed both perspectives on tips for packing. Great ideas for anyone packing, let alone a teen!

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