When I was pregnant with my first child, I couldn’t wait to not be pregnant. I wanted to feel light and free . . . or at least be able to put the baby down and feel unencumbered again.
Isn’t that sweet?
Then the baby came and my little peanut apparently required a huge diaper bag and car seat. Then the little peanut became a toddler and I was still hauling all the stuff and another baby came and my muscles grew even stronger and before I even knew what happened, I was trying to corral three of them and all their stuff every time we went out.
You’d better believe I established some new family rules, to save both my back and my sanity. These rules were only partially successful . . . sort of like how all my theories about parenting have been thrown out the window now that I have teens. Anyway, by the time a child in my house was three (or four or without a stroller – parenting is a moving target) the rule was that they had to carry their own stuff for the day. This is one rule that was frequently broken, but a rule that has paid off in the long run.
No matter where we went, whether we were heading to the zoo in our own city or exploring on a far-flung vacation, everyone carried their own day bag. Despite the roadblocks of life, budgets, and babies, we managed to some pretty great adventures.
What’s in Your Kid’s Day Bag? (And Tips to Make Your Day Go Smoothly)
1. Start Young
Find a backpack that fits your child well and won’t be too heavy for them to carry when they fill it. Then start them young. As toddlers and preschoolers, my kids loved hauling luggage around and those tiny backpacks were perfect to carry a favourite toy or stuffed animal and a sippy cup and a cheese string.
2. Find a Backpack With a Chest Clip
Chest clips really help keep a backpack on a kid’s back, especially if a bag is a little big or heavy. We found small backpacks from MEC that did the job perfectly. They had chest clips (with a whistle . . . was that good . . . or bad?) and they were small enough not to be too heavy once filled but big enough to last for several years. Around 10 L, they were too small for a school backpack, but perfect for a day bag, and my kids used them until they were pre-teens. Plus, they survived any amount of abuse and trips through the washing machine and never showed any wear. MEC no longer has the same bag, but there are plenty of options out there, like this one.
3. Throw in an Empty Belt Bag on Longer Trips
Yes, a belt bag. A waist pack. A fanny pack. Thank you to the 1980s and 90s. That stylish, yet downtrodden, fashion trend that people love to hate is back in style and I made my kids wear them long before they became fashionable again, even if they sometimes wore them slung over a shoulder as a cross-body bag. Some days they just didn’t need to carry very much and the belt bag allowed them to still carry a small juice box, snack, or tissue. This was usually our plan for theme park days, so I didn’t have to worry about taking backpacks on and off for rides and then leaving them behind. We all look so chic in our travel pictures . . . we were just ahead of our time.
4. Food and Water
Five people can eat and drink a lot. This is the best reason for everyone to carry their own day bag. Enough said.
5. Entertainment Items
A special stuffed animal or favourite toy for the car can be helpful and fun. A small colouring book or any kind of personal item that will make your life easier is worth it. My daughter always carries a book in her day bag because she never trusts that we will be entertaining enough. Also, if your kid tends to fall in love with random rocks, they get to carry that weight themselves. It’s astonishing how many rocks I’ve pulled out of backpacks before washing them.
6. Hygiene Items
I hooked miniature hand sanitisers onto my kids’ bags long before the COVID pandemic. My friends made fun of me, but who’s laughing now?! Oh, right – no one. I also included a couple of tissues, and maybe a bandaid or a lip balm.
7. Clothing Items
One of my other rules was to always carry a sweater that would fit in your day bag. You never know how the weather might turn and I’m not carrying it for you. Now that I have teenagers who refuse sweaters, the guidance is more along the lines of, “Go ahead and freeze!” It’s also great to have a place to shove a hat or sunglasses. Personally, I like to carry a rain poncho, because I hate getting wet. My kids make fun of me, but I stay dry.
Whether you travel near or far, it’s time to pack the bags for adventure and family fun! What’s in your kid’s day bag?