Family outings, holiday travels, and homeschool field trips are more fun when you are prepared and organized! Here’s how our family of 11 makes day trips fun!
Our family likes to take impromptu day trips. It’s not uncommon for us to tag along with Daddy on business or decide last-minute to travel a couple of hours to a museum or wildlife preserve. With all this “running around” a lot of our friends have asked us about the logistics of making these day trips enjoyable.
First of all, BE THANKFUL. Be thankful you have the opportunity to go somewhere as a family. If you see windshield time as a blessing, then you are less likely to disdain your trip.
Pack a Day Bag
Next, grab a backpack or other bag. In it, you will need jammies for each child and a change of underwear and pants for any newly potty-trained toddlers (accidents happen, my friends–especially when they fall asleep in the car!).
Throw in a shirt for you and your husband as well and some extra diapers and wipes (I like to put these under the van seat). This may take 2 bags depending on how many children you have and how old they are…older tends to mean bigger clothes! 😉
This takes care of any clothing issues that may arise. Yes, you can go with the “more is more” approach, packing each child an extra change of clothes, but I’m a “less is more” kind of gal with the philosophy that if a child has to wear jammies to get by the rest of the day because of some freak accident that left their clothing ripped to shreds (because frankly, that…and NOT something like stains…is what it will take for me to consider changing a child out of the clothing he or she is currently wearing), then so be it. (And hey, there are people out there who wear jammies out and about on purpose!?!)
The only time I pack another full outfit for the older children in the family is if we will be attending a dressy function and I don’t want them to be in their dress clothes all day. The idea behind packing jammies is that if we will be arriving home at a past-bedtime hour, then the children can be carried (or guided) straight to their beds with the least amount of disturbance.
Pack it now:
- pajamas for small children
- a couple of changes of underwear for potty-trainers
- a couple of changes of pants for potty-trainers
- extra shirt for mom
- extra shirt for dad (not always necessary)
- extra diapers & wipes
Bonus – If you take a lot of day trips, keep a preloaded Day Bag in your coat closet!
Pack a Diaper Bag
Next item…if you have a baby, pack a SMART diaper bag. But, truth be told, your diaper bag should be fully loaded at all times so that all you need to do to be able to take off on your day trip (or on any excursion) is to quickly give it a once-over.
What does a smart diaper bag look like? Here’s my diaper bag contents…
*diapers/wipes/changing pad – I prefer a simple changing pad that can easily be folded up like THIS ONE.
*small bottle of hand sanitizer (I love, love, love the Bath & Body Works PocketBac travel size of these. They make diaper changes almost fun!)
*Fever-reducing medicine and room for any other current medications
*1 small toy per toddler/baby
*scratch paper and a pen
*small photo album of children–this was originally given to me by a friend as a place to keep Emily’s picture for those times when I HAD to be able to look at her. Anyone who has lost a child knows this feeling and I am forever grateful for this wonderful and thoughtful gift.
READ: Emily’s Story
*small zippered bag containing a couple of menstrual pads–these can serve more than one purpose…think nose bleeds
*a baby wrap or mei tai–the all fabric, homemade kind are very easy to pack into a diaper bag b/c they aren’t so bulky.
READ: Homemade Baby Carriers
*one change of clothes for baby–once again, accidents happen!
*1-2 small lightweight blankets – I like THESE!
*A couple of dollars in cash for “emergencies”
*camera (or your phone!) – I really like baby backpacks that have pockets on the side that I can easily slip my phone into.
*wallet–I haven’t carried a purse in years. I have a wallet that easily fits in a side pocket of my diaper bag because my diaper bag IS my purse!
And in case you are wondering what diaper bag I use, it is actually a backpack style that is now discontinued from Baby Gap, but similar to THIS ONE. Over the years, my favorite diaper bags have been backpacks. You don’t have to spend a fortune either. Just look for one that has plenty of pockets and is roomy in the interior.
Once you have this diaper bag loaded, you have to just learn to be in the habit of checking your supplies (or teaching one of you older and more responsible children to check it) and restock as needed.
Do it now:
- Choose a diaper bag style.
- Load it from the list above.
- Make a list of everything you need to complete the bag.
Bonus – Assign a diaper bag buddy to help you keep track of the bag!
Pack a Busy Bag for the Kids
Next, pack a Busy Bag or a Community Bag. This bag is something like a satchel or backpack that contains 1-2 “busy” items per child. Think books, notepads, small toys and the like. I allow the children to pack this bag on their own as long as they stay within reason and the bag is not overflowing.
Do it now:
Choose a Busy Bag and hang it in in your coat closet so it is ready to be packed whenever you need it!
Pack a First Aid Kit
Always make sure you have a First Aid Kit in the van. You can buy relatively inexpensive ones from places like WalMart or Amazon that are compact and fit nicely under a seat. I can’t even begin to count the number of times that kit has been needed by my family or someone we’ve met along the way.
Do it now:
Buy a first aid kit & put it in your van!
Pack a Snack Bag
Lastly, pack a Snack Bag. I recently purchased a small soft-sided cooler to put drinks and baby food in so I could use my own baby food on trips. Nalgene bottles and/or the bottles with the built-in ice packs are a great choice. I usually pack 2-3 large ones and we share (I imagine there are some of you are grossed out right now, but if you kiss your kids goodnight, you might as well drink after them too!)
Other things we keep in our van
Extra wipes and diapers – I mentioned this before, but I like to keep several diapers and wipes and night diapers under the passenger seat in my van.
Baby carriers – I keep a wrap in my diaper bag, but the van is where I keep ALL of my homemade baby carriers. I use different wraps for different occasions and circumstances, so I like to have them all available.
Small toolbox – we have a cute little toolbox hidden under the 2nd row seat. It has a hammer, a screwdriver, needle-nose pliers, gloves, a flashlight, tape, and some odds and ends. The toolbox is rarely opened, but everything is there if we need it. You wouldn’t necessarily need a real toolbox – a small plastic tub with a lid would work great too!
Pack a good attitude
The last but best thing you should have for a family day trip is a good attitude. Get your game face on. Adjust any bad attitudes YOU might have, throw a smile on your face, and RELAX! No matter what happens, remember most of it is NO BIG DEAL.
As my husband says, “Don’t sweat the petty stuff and don’t pet the sweaty stuff.”
Memories aren’t made when everything goes right, but when everything goes wrong and you still have fun!
Watch my video on packing bags for a large family vacation!