Traveling with a large family

Family, Homemaking, Mothering / Thursday, July 7th, 2011

We are on our summer vacation this week, so I thought I would post some travel tips for being on the road with a large family.  For moms, vacations often mean lots of work!  I often breathe a huge sigh of relief when the van pulls out of the driveway and my job in getting the family ready is done.

We love to go on trips together.  Our children are very good travelers so that has been a blessing.  We have done several different things over the years to make things easier.  Sometimes one thing works better than another depending on the various circumstances and the ages of our children. So here are some of the things we have done.

  • We have used plastic drawer systems that we put in the very back of the van, for easy access.  This way everyone can keep their clothes tidy and you can keep things more organized for a large trip.  You don’t have to even bring them in at your destination, but can just pull out your needs for the day, if you desire.
  • Alternatively, we have also taken the huge sterilite containers with wheels on one end and packed everything together.  This makes for simple, compact and easy loading and unloading.
  • Sometimes I have packed a big suitcase of the girl’s clothes and another big suitcase of the boy’s, with a third suitcase for Steven and I.  If we are on a trip where we are staying overnight somewhere, I might pack an overnight bag or two, so that most of our stuff can stay in the van and we don’t have to completely unload it at the first stop.
  • This trip was a first for us, in the fact that my older ones did most of their own packing (Yes!) and each child wanted to take their own bag.
  • Typically, for our shoes, I use a bin or laundry basket.
  • We bring a big cooler of water to have plenty on the road.
  • Wet wipes, a roll of paper towels, and trash bags are a must!
  • We have packed a car bag with books, color crayons, small toys, etc.
  • One year when we had just a couple very young children on a long trip, my mother in law packed a bag of lots of surprises, that we could pull out a new thing every few hours.  That was great fun and keeps the children occupied for long periods of time.
  • We play approved videos in the car, using small dvd players, a laptop computer, or we have even brought a small tv in the car and plugged it up to our power converter in the van.
  • We have brought books on tape to listen to.  One year in particular even my husband got very interested in the third book of the Elsie Dinsmore series on tape.  (We love the Elsie books!)
  • My husband often offers up little games like “How many Caterpillar equipment tractors will we see on the trip today” and everyone guesses.
  • Twenty questions is another fun game idea for in the car.

  • As far as eating meals on the road…We have had trips where we have brought a cooler and eaten at a park, or rest-stop.  Other times we have eaten on the road.  Depending on our time schedule, often we will eat in the van, and save our stops for running around and stretching our legs.
  • When we stop at a rest area or other spot, we will often throw a ball, or just run around for a few minutes.  Steven is very good at engaging the children and encouraging them to get their exercise.
  • When we stop everyone has to use the bathroom (whether they think they have to or not) to avoid multiple breaks.  We have brought a port-a-potty in the van before which is so great…children can “go” at anytime and we can keep going.
  • We have had family worship many times at a rest area picnic table or even in the van.  It has been a wonderful way for the children to see that the Lord is in every place, and we can set up our altar wherever we go.
  • Because of having a 15 passenger van, we have been able to configure it in different ways.  At one time, my husband turned one of the benches around and made a table in between the benches (like a booth) and the children could color, do their schoolwork, or play at the table.  When I have a baby in a carseat, it helps to have an older child sit next to them, to talk or play with them.  I also nurse whenever we stop, to “top him/or her off”.  I have also learned how to hang over the carseat to nurse while we are still rolling.
  • We have occasionally chosen to do something crazy, like at the last minute decide to leave at night instead of waiting until the next morning.  It is great fun, to drive through the night, if you can.  When else can you stop at Walmart at 3am? Not to mention, all the hours of mommy/daddy time while children are sleeping.  Just make sure you have lots of coffee and snacks on hand, and be prepared to be wiped out the next day.

We have had trips where we have been amazed at the good timing we have made, and all has gone so smoothly.  Other times the trip has taken twice as long as we had imagined (like the time a buzzard hit our windshield on the Fourth of July and we ended up being taken in by complete strangers).  It is not easy getting a family of 9 from point A to point B.  Many times it is a strong call for patience.  But, with the Lord’s help, vacations can be strong family bonding times and great loads of fun!

What are your trip ideas?  I would love to hear them!

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