Early in our marriage, with my parents four hours one direction and Steven’s parents four hours the other direction we loved taking trips as newlyweds and then later as new parents. I remember I would pack up our little family and load our jeep. Then I would put our baby in the car and pick up hubby from work to leave directly for our journey on Friday afternoons. Then Monday morning we would leave in the wee hours of the morning and head back home. I would drop Steven off at work and head home to unload and unpack the family. We did this at one point nearly every weekend for a season. Wherever we went, however many kiddos we have had—we have loved to take car trips.
So I thought as we are in the middle of our Thanksgiving trip and even now riding in the car as I am typing—I might share some tips and things we have done over the years to assist in large family travel. With a family of ten now, it is very different than it was in those early days. Now many of my children can pack themselves and the load is lightened on my husband and I. We even have more drivers now! Our strategy has changed as we have adapted to the needs of our growing family.
We left for our current trip at 1am this morning and are driving straight through.
Here are a few ideas.
~Use plastic drawers in the back of your van and live out of them. Each child can have a drawer or two and instead of bringing in suitcases of clothes you can just bring in your outfit for the next day. This can be helpful especially when you are traveling from place to place and can keep things organized.
~If your children are really little you can put their outfits all paired together even with underwear and socks and put them in baggies labeled for each day. This option never worked of us and didn’t suit us but it has many others.
~Do laundry on the trip. This is pretty much a must for a large family if you are gone for any length of time.
~Use a car top carrier, pull a small trailer, or have some other type of outside of the van storage. I know of one family who went to family camp and were bringing their food for their large family of 13 and they actually brought a refrigerator and carried it inside their dorm. 😃 My husband for this current trip has two barrels on the back of our van that has our suitcases and backpacks inside of it.
~Get creative with your set up. One year we turned our van seats around and Steven installed a table between the two benches so the children could eat, play games and other things on the table.
~Utilize older siblings. We use the buddy system at times. They can help pack their buddy and get him/her ready to go. When we are out at stores the old buddies should help the younger buddies by holding their hands. In the car, the older buddies can sit next to, help buckle up, care for and entertain their sibling.
~Play family games. My husband invented a game called “Time Warp”. In the game you pick a category and each one gives an item that fits in that category. So if the category is things that fly. Someone might say a bird. But, as people share their items and run out of ideas you have to get creative, so you might say something like “the fuzz on a dandelion when you blow it”. It is then up to all the rest of the family to vote on whether your choice is valid. This actually can get quite animated in our home and has been a tool to learn logic and debate as Steven keeps the rules strict on when someone can make their case and when someone can give a rebuttal. Even the youngers join in on this and before you know it an hour has gone by while everyone was having such fun!
~For youngers make special travel packs that you hand out in measured doses. When my two grown boys were little their Nona went and bought them miscellaneous little car toys and things to do. Then every so often I would pull them out and they would get something new and exciting one at a time. Going to the dollar store is great for this, whether it is a toy car, a coloring book or a fun game the measured out gifts really help the time to pass.
~Use a potty! One year we arranged the back of our van to have space for a camper potty. We could climb back to the back and in privacy use the potty and didn’t have to make so many stops. 😃
~When you stop, make it a multistop. EVERYONE needs to potty, fill the van with fuel, stretch your legs and get your food. We have been known to throw a ball in the back of a hotel parking lot, find an area next to the gas station where the little ones can safely stretch their legs, and we often use Walmarts for our multistop. This morning at just before 6am our tired crew headed into Walmart and literally were one of the first ones that went inside as the store opened. We used the bathroom, stretched our legs, and got our breakfast all in one fell swoop.
~Be watchful for OFS’s. For those who are wondering OFS is Opportunity for Sanctification. Traveling long distances with a large family gives lots of room for self denial. My husband has been known in the middle of a baby crying, children cranky, and meltdowns happening — to break out in song…”OFS, it’s an OFS! Don’t say no to an OFS. When it looks like everything a mess, don’t say no to an OFS!” 😃
~Remember to submit your trip to the Lord. We have often stopped and had our evening family worship in the van or even at a rest area picnic table. As always we remember that safety is of the Lord. We are dependent upon Him in all our coming and going. There was the time when we hit a buzzard which smashed our windshield on 4th of July evening. As we were on the side of the road a Christian family who were complete strangers stopped and helped us, took us into their home and even put us up in a house that belonged to the church while we waited for a repairman to fix our vehicle the next day. The Lord is our Guide and Protector.
I hope each of you has safe travels this Thanksgiving week!
You might also be interested in another post I wrote a long time ago about traveling with a large family.
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<div class=”MsoNormal”>~~<em>Feeling weary and worn down physically or mentally? Make sure to read <a title=”Adrenal Fatigue/Depression and Plexus pt. 1″ href=”http://www.gerdtfamily.com/2015/03/17/adrenal-fatiguedepression-and-plexus/”>my health testimony </a>and my journey with <a href=”http://www.gerdtfamily.com/2011/09/22/when-mama-is-weak/”>adrenal fatigue</a> and <a href=”http://www.gerdtfamily.com/despondency/”>depression. </a> If you’d like more info on the protocol that God has blessed me with connect with me on <a href=”https://www.facebook.com/jenny.ervin”>facebook</a> or email me at email@example.com</em></div>