Friday, May 7, 2010

Taking a Large Family on Vacation

“How do you do it?” is probably the question people ask me the most.   My answer,  "Take time to organize."  Routine and organization is the way to a simpler life.  When chaos rules a house, it easily loses its charming warm atmosphere, both physically and emotionally.  So, setting up routines and seeking organizational methods that work for your family are of vital existence to your family.  I love to ask other quiver full moms what their favorite organizational tip is.  I hear a lot of the same thing:  "get a schedule/routine!"
Even when preparing for our trip to Seattle, we started organizing a month in advance.  I can look back at my journal entries and see that this has been my standard for many years now.  The first thing I did was make a grid of the days on our trip.  Then I began scribbling notes about possibilities for filling in the  blank squares.  The categories were: where are we going, what are we eating, what are we wearing, and extra things we need to bring.  On the day we were going to the aquarium, we were all wearing blue shirts.  We would pack a lunch of ham and cheese sandwhiches with condiments, apples, trail mix,  and water.  We would need to take the stroller, the camera, jackets, and diaper bag.  When we were getting ready to go, All the older family members could look at he grid and easily take on a job…”I’ll pack lunch”  they knew just what to put in.  “I will load the van”  I did not have to oversee this, and we always had everything we needed with us.  It worked out beautifully.
The second thing I did, about a week before our trip was check to make sure we had all the luggage we needed, then assign extra bags for categories like:  tech cords for ipod, computer, etc.  or bag for quiet basket and games/books/toys.  To me, the less bags and assorted things floating around in the van, the better!  And, we cleaned out the van, vacuumed, and fabreezed it.  There's nothing like starting your trip with a clean rig!
Thirdly, I bought snacks for the trip and packed them in a box that I kept behind the driver’s seat, which is in front of the baby, and next to me.  For handing out snack mixes, I had a pile of paper cups, which we found more reusable  and easier for the little ones to use than plastic baggies.
Next, I nabbed a sterilite box from the laundry room that fit under the first bench seat in the van.  I filled this with paper towels, plastic grocery bags for garbage, a towel and some washclothes, diaper wipes, Kleenex, and fabreeze.  Since this was under my seat, it was incredibly handy for all the needs of a family traveling 400 miles.  And we did use it!
Also in the van we keep a detailed medical kit that we have used and reused.  It has all sorts of goodies in it, and I feel confident I can take care of anything short of a broken bone or surgery when we are on the go.  A variety of pain killers, all sorts of bandages, including really big ones and feminine necessities.  A burn kit, mole skin, superglue and butterfly bandages, iodine, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide…and the list goes on.  Each child in the van has a fleece blanket that pretty much stays there at all times. We don’t have to take bedding with us for them, they just use the blankets on a couch, air mattress, or on the lawn.  I always carry water with us, a few gallons are preferable.  Each  other seat has a sterilite box underneath it for the children’s stuff which they must have with them.   The back of the van was crammed with our luggage, and it appears that we may have to graduate to a small trailer for future trips.  We managed to get it all in.. but it wasn’t pretty.
The day before we left, we packed the van as much as possible, or if that is not possible, we staged all the packed bags in the house ready to load into the van.
The day we left, we got up early, loaded bags and sleepy little ones, grabbed some coffee and hit the road.  About an hour down the road, everyone had to "go", which we figured would happen, so we planned a stop where we could pick up some yogurt, bananas and granola bars to eat on the road for our breakfast.  Later on, we stopped for a picnic lunch, eaten in the van if it was too chilly out.  While traveling, we listened to the audio Bible, we particularly like the Listener’s bible by Max Mclean.  We also like to listen to Henty, C.S.Lewis and various sermons while we travel.  This of course, is all planned in the first stages of the trip since I include travel day on the grid. 
So, that might sound like a lot of work, but don’t bug out on me yet!  All this preparatory organizing will allow things to run smoothly, which, will enable you and your love to enjoy your vacation, without quibbling over why there is no mayonnaise in the lunch cooler, or where so and so’s socks are.  I always think it is a good witness for children to pile out of the van with smiles and without  a landslide of socks, garbage and beanie babies coming out with them.  I can just hear some lady observing such a mess, “And that is why I only had two children!  Humph!”  Instead, my goal is a cheerful crew, respectfully dressed and tidy, enjoying our trip together in love and laughter.  Be prepared though… if you do that you will be stared at,  pointed at, have pictures taken of you, and possibly be someone’s dinner conversation.  We can only hope.   

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