Archive for the ‘Travel and Picnics’ Category

Annual Fall Day Trip

Every Fall we go on our annual Fall Day Trip, which includes apple-picking, hiking, picnicking and pizza.  It’s a highlight for the kids, mostly because we do it EVERY year.  We bring a picnic lunch, our own apple cider (it’s cheaper) and cups, trail mix (for hiking), and maybe a Fall treat like apple pie or molasses cookies.  Then we end the day at a pizza place (something we hardly EVER do!)  It’s interesting how traditions become loved, simply because they’re traditions.  Here are some pictures…

I think that a family could do just about anything once a year at a special time, and the kids would think it the greatest thing ever!  (Adults, too!)


Traveling – Part 5: Take Notes While On Your Trip!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been taking notes WHILE TRAVELING for several years now, and it has REALLY HELPED make subsequent trips run more smoothly!  Your own notes will be more valuable, but here are some of my more “generic” ones:

  • Bring lots of plastic grocery bags for garbage.
  • Everyone should have their own tissue package.
  • Back packs that unzip are good; you can actually SEE what’s in them!
  • Plan a “fun” meal for the day AFTER the trip so there’s something to look forward to.  (We ordered pizza!)
  • Don’t PLAN to run errands during the last two days of packing.
  • Have an emergency bag handy for mud and/or water accidents (extra socks, etc.)  (This has happened more than once!) 
  • Have a small “over-the-shoulder” purse or bag in which to carry a small first-aid kit while on a short hike.
  • Have a collapsible insulated bag for picnics that are a “hike” away from the van so we don’t have to carry the cooler (if the weather is hot.)

Traveling with a Large Family – Part 4: Packing the Van

A major task in traveling is packing the van, so here are some things I’ve learned to make it run more smoothly.

FOOD is one of the biggest things to pack and, in the case of cold food, can’t be packed until the day we’re leaving.  So planning ahead helps us get out the door faster. 

So another page in my “travel-planning packet” has a column for each major food-category to go into the van:  Frozen Food in Cooler, Refrigerated Food in Cooler, Food in Bags (for the road), and Food in Boxes (for the cabin).  Then, using my menu, I list the foods needed for each meal in the appropriate column.  When it’s time to pack, I pack the food in the OPPOSITE order so that whatever we need is close to the top.  I try to pack the non-cooler food a few day ahead, since that’s one thing that doesn’t need to be last-minute.

 FRONT OF THE VAN – Here’s something I found VERY helpful for organizing the front seat of our van: magazine holders.  In fact, in our 12-passenger van, I put a bankers box between the two front seats, and it held four magazine holders perfectly!  This helped separate items like 1) Paper—receipt envelope, map envelope, pamphlets/brochures envelope, 2) My “entertainment”—a few magazines and books, 3) “Technology”—cameras, GPS unit, batteries, etc, and 4) My “pharmacy”—first aid type things.  I also discovered a while ago that flat, 3-hole-punched pencil holders work well to organize things AND keep them rigid enough to not fall all over the place as you begin to use things.  They also fit well into a bag or backpack.  (We used to just have a box between our seats, and while it started out organized, it was usually a jumbled mess by the end of the first day!)

TIP – Here’s something I just figured out this last trip:  On the day of departure, I should pack the coolers FIRST, while Scott gets himself ready.  THEN I can get myself ready while Scott packs the van (because he waits for the two coolers—the biggest items.)  This last departure, Scott had to wait for the coolers, and then the rest of us had to wait while he figured out the puzzle of getting everything in—it takes a LONG time!

Traveling with Large Families – Part 3: Packing the Clothes

On a longer road trip, we don’t pack suitcases by person, we pack by what we are going to need on any given day (unless we’re at the same place every night, which we never are.)   This way,we only have to carry one medium suitcase and one duffle bag into our overnight place.  Here’s what we did this last trip, and it worked pretty well . . .

  1. Everyone’s PJ’s and toiletries went in a duffle bag (along with overnight diapers) to last the whole trip.  This went into every place we stayed.
  2. Each change of clothes, undies, diapers, etc. that we needed WHILE ON THE ROAD went into a separate suitcase.  (We made our outfits last for at least two days.)  This was so much easier than lugging in (and messing up) one or more big suitcases.
  3. We used one big suitcase for the time at our destination.
  4. I packed an extra suitcase with out-of-season outfits that we might need in case of unexpected weather.

Here are some notes regarding clothing that I have made to myself  while on road trips in the past…

  • Plan the clothes ahead of time like I plan the menu; decide what everyone is going to wear, and when.
  • It takes a LONG TIME to pack all the clothes!  (Not a half-hour; more like 4 hours!)
  • Don’t leave any laundry to be done on packing day.
  • Tell the kids what they can (or can’t) wear the day or two BEFORE the trip so they don’t wear their “travel” clothes and get them dirty!  We don’t have a lot of clothes.  🙂
  • Most outfits last two days (except those of young kids), but we should have a back-up somewhere in the van.
  • The less clothes there are in the suitcase, the less messy the suitcase gets.
  • Also, suitcases do not get NEARLY so disorganized you’re starting fresh every other day or so!
  •  Matching clothes are GREAT!  All you have to do is count kids by that day’s shirt-color!  (Woe is any little boy not from our family who is wearing our color that day!) 

(Yes, I actually made a “chart” on the floor with everyone’s clothes.  And these are only the boys’ clothes!)

Traveling with a Large Family – Part 2: Planning the Menu

My menu is the second page of my “travel packet” that fits in my homemade planner (more on that later, maybe.)  Most of my vacation menu planning is for staying at a cabin where we can prepare our own meals, at least for part of the trip.  There is sometimes a day (or two) of traveling before and after our destination.  So this is what I usually do . . .

1.  Make a calendar-chart big enough for all the meals on our trip (organized by day, of course) and then label each square (in little words) with where we will be for that meal. 

2.  Plan each meal based on three things:  1) Where we will be—as in, on the road, at a hotel, or at our destination, and 2) How much time will have gone by since the food was refrigerated or frozen, 3) What is easy to make ahead of time and pack, versus what can (or needs to be) to be made or heated up at our destination. 

Then filling in the squares usually goes like this…

Meals on the road – Most perishable and/or squish-able sandwiches eaten first, ending with peanut butter and jelly.  (Egg salad sandwiches, tuna salad sandwiches, meat wraps, taco dip with tortilla chips, then PB&J.  (This goes for the drive home, too, but those meals are prepared at the cabin.)

Any breakfast before arriving at our destination – continental breakfast at a hotel (I know, not very healthy)

Meals at our destination – at least semi-healthy breakfasts , like scrambled eggs, homemade pancakes, and french toast; lunches that we can make at the cabin and bring on day trip or hike (sandwiches and wraps), and dinners that I can make and freeze ahead of time to just heat up at the cabin (beef stew, BBQ beef sandwiches, spaghetti casserole, etc.)  I have even brought a crock pot and our own large griddle a few times

Scattered throughout – since we don’t eat very much convenience food normally, our kids find it a treat to have “special” foods like little yogurts, applesauce, pudding, crackers, chips, granola bars and trail mix.  In our family, these snacks have become synonymous with traveling, and going to the grocery store to buy these things is about as fun as the trip itself!

Next time . . . Planning and Packing the Clothes

Traveling with a Large Family – Part 1: The Preparation Timeline

Since we just got back from Yellowstone, and I have traveling fresh on my mind, I thought I’d write about my “travel packet” that goes into my planner. It’s very helpful when planning a vacation with many children.  🙂

Every time we go on a trip, I take notes about what worked well and what didn’t work so well.  Then the next time we’re planning a trip, I pull those notes out and make “better” plans.  So after a few years of this, I feel like I should pass on some of what I’ve learned, and maybe it will help someone else! 

1.  The first thing I do is make a list of everything that needs to be done.  I use a previous list, or a master list.  So keep whatever list you’re currently working on, and save it for next year in a file folder labeled “Vacations” or “Traveling” or whatever you’ll remember.  OR, I like to put mine in my “May” folder (I have a folder for each month right on my desk) so that I’m reminded in May to start thinking early about our vacation. 

2.  Sort those tasks into somewhat equal sized groups AND divide them by the number of days you have left–minus one.  I try to pretend we’re leaving a day early so that all the stuff I didn’t have time to do can be done on that “extra” day. 

So my timeline/calendar might go something like this…

Two weeks before: 

  • Plan menu, start buying non-perishable food items and collect them in one location (I usually use a cardboard box or some grocery sacks)
  • Plan clothes based on weather predictions and our activities.  I plan by color, short-sleeved or long-sleeved, and shorts or pants.  (Have one outfit for everyone of the “opposite-weather” clothes in a separate duffle bag or suitcase in case the weather is completely different than you were expecting; it makes it easier to change clothes while still on the road.)
  • Start making meals to freeze.

One week before:

  • All frozen meals made by five days before the trip.
  • All non-perishables packed four days before the trip.
  • All laundry done by three days before the trip.
  • Start collecting travel toiletries (and meds) in one location three days before so you can see what you need to purchase or “re-bottle.”
  • Start collecting clothes in an out-of-the-way spot three days before the trip, or do it all two days before.
  • All clothes in suitcases and duffle bags two days before.  (When I wait until the last day, I always regret it!)

Next time . . . Planning the Menu

Picnic Tip: Picnicking With Very Small Children

Since our family went on over 100 picnics last year, I feel like I have a bit of experience, so here’s another picnic tip for those of you with young children . . .  

We used a tray-seat similar to this one for ALL of our little kids (9-18 months?) who would otherwise crawl all over the picnic blanket and get into everyone’s food!  I think it’s perhaps the single most important item you could have to make picnics with a one-year-old even a possibility.  And if you taught them sit time, you’ll have it made!

(This also works in the house when you need your child to stay in one place (for a few minutes:)) or if you’re practicing sit-time!