As we are on our second furlough, I wanted to make a list of ideas to help other missionary families as they travel on deputation or furlough. At this time we have 5 children ages 10, 8, 7, 2 and a 6 week old baby. Of course you may not use everything on this list, this is just things that we do to make the trip lighter.
- Leave with a clean vehicle. A few days earlier clean out the car. Everyone will feel so much better in a clean car. Of course it won’t stay that way for long. J You can keep a small bottle of Febreeze in the glove box to keep it smelling clean.
- Cut the trip in half. Many hours on the road are hard on the whole family. If you have time to travel, try to break up a 9-10 hour traveling day into 2 days. Or leave very early in the morning so the kids will continue to sleep if you are a morning person and can stay awake on the road.
- Use a GPS! Long gone are the days of figuring out a map. I’m sure this one is a given, but it is worth the investment and you can even use them in the country that you are going to by installing the maps of your country.
- Have lots of patience! We have 5 kids so our vehicle is full. There is not even one empty seat to stretch out into. J Remember to keep your cool when things get “rough” and they will! This is usually an indication that it’s time to get out and stretch.
- We have a small emergency bag of clothes and toiletries in the car. If a church is less than 3 hours from home, we will usually drive back home after the meeting. Once we were stranded in a city because of slick roads and had no clean clothes for the following day. After that I started keeping an emergency bag in the car.
- Make a list of things that you need to take so you don’t forget anything important. I keep a list on my I pad and just go over it, as I’m packing. Some important things that I try to take are:
- DVDs for the kids
- Extra car key (in case you lose or get locked out of your car)
- Wet wipes (great for sticky hands for the little ones), Antibacterial gel,
- Thank you notes (to leave at prophets chamber, in homes you stay in or if someone gives you a gift)
- Small recipient of Dish soap for washing out no-spill cups and bottles in hotel rooms
- Plan your trip ahead so you can call and find a Prophet’s Chamber instead of spending tons of money on hotels along the way. There is a list here: http://www.mwbm.org/images/propetschambers2006.pdf
What to do in the Car
A missionary spends many hours in the car. An entire day can be filled with just traveling to get to the next church. The hours will go by much quicker if you are busy instead of staring out the window or arguing about something stupid. J Here are some things we do in the car to stay busy and also get some needed things done.
- Call family members. Let the children talk to grandparents and cousins while they are on the road.
- Write thank you notes. Be a grateful missionary. Write thank you notes to the churches you were in, to the people you stayed with, for the people who gave you a special gift. The children can even write a thank you note to someone who gave them something if you have their address.
- Reply to your emails on the road. Even if you don’t have WIFI, they can always be sent later. A smart phone would be great for this!
- Write your prayer letter.
- Listen to audio books. We listen to the Bible, to parenting books, Lamplighter theater (great character stories for adults and kids).
- Read…..if you don’t get sick. I read to my husband as he drives. We have been through several books while on the road.
- Write posts for your blog or web page if you have one. I’m doing this right now as we travel on I-85 N. J
- Clip and organize coupons if you do that kind of thing.
- You can probably even scrapbook on the road…although your husband may not appreciate that! J
- Learn to knit or some other skill you have always wanted to learn to do.
- You can start learning the language of the country where you are going. I know of missionaries who got a jump start on the language by using Rosetta Stone.
Traveling with Kids
- If your vehicle doesn’t have an installed DVD player, get a portable one! Find one that has a car charger (not all of them come with this). The hours go by much quicker if your kids are quiet and have something to do. (Take a CD album full of movies for them to watch)
- Take a cooler or insulated lunch bag for bottles and no-spill cups of milk during warm weather. This is also helpful for packing lunch.
- Technology has helped traveling so much! MP3 players can allow the kids to listen to audio books, Patch the Pirate and music. If you have an Ipad or ipod Touch there are many fun apps that have games such as scrabble, checkers, and even educational ones. Here are some of our favorites:
- Stack the States – teaches USA capitals and facts
- Sorting Sounds and Letter of Day – for children starting to read
- Friendle – has checkers, connect four, scrabble, etc.
- Word Ball
- Hang Man
- My Horse
- Math Drills and AB Math
- Pack a lunch! Some missionaries like to stop and let the kids play in a play place while you eat lunch. This is great, but we actually prefer eating in the car and stopping at a rest area to let them run around or stroll around a Wal-Mart or mall. Not only does eating in the car give you something “different” to do during the many hours, but it is much more economical than going out to eat. Some ideas for healthy lunches/snacks are PJ & J, lunchmeat sandwiches, cheese, yogurt, veggies, trail mix, popcorn, fruit, etc.
- For large families: your vehicle can be FULL of bags, toys, diapers, and other paraphernalia if you aren’t careful with organizing as you pack. We take a car carrier and put the biggest suitcases on top and leave other needed things in the trunk of the van such as strollers, and your display board things. Keep dress clothes together in one suitcase so you have them ready if you don’t have much time to change wherever you are going. If you are going to be in a different church for every meeting on your trip, you really only need one set of dress clothes (probably 2 would be best for the kids if something happens to their clothes, especially for the little ones). Of course if you are in a missions conference, you will need a different outfit for every night.
- KIDS EAT FREE There are many restaurants where children eat free with adults purchase. Pizza Hut has a Book Club for school children. Homeschoolers can even sign up for it, but you have to register before the school year starts. The kids get a free personal size pizza each month during the school year for reading.
- Some things I take to help with traveling with the children:
- Portable Baby bed (they make small compact baby beds for babies up to about 8 months) It is much smaller than a pack n play and folds up very small. We take this for the baby and just ask ahead of time if we could borrow a pack n play from the church or a crib at a hotel. This is much easier for us than traveling with a bulky pack n play.
- Small bottle of dish soap for washing out no-spill cups and bottles in hotel rooms
- Jump rope, small ball, Frisbee or any other toy that your child could play with in a hotel parking lot or rest area. After sitting hours on end in the car, they need the exercise and you can spend some actual one on one time with them.
- Don’t forget anything that your baby/toddler finds comforting: pacifier, blanky, etc.
- Use the traveling time as an educational time. We talk about the state we are going through, show them on the map where we are, find license plates from other states, etc. Deputation/furlough should not be an endless “vacation”, but you can take advantage of traveling through parts of the country and stop to see interesting areas. (If you are ever in the Cincinnati, Ohio area, don’t miss the Creation Museum!) We were recently in Florida and were able to visit the Fort Myers area, and even saw alligators in the wild! These times will make great memories for your kids!
How to live more economically on the road
I’m sure others have many more ideas especially for traveling with children but these are some things that we do.
- When eating out at a sit down restaurant, smaller children could share an adult size plate (the portions are usually bigger than a kids meal and depending on the restaurant are not as expensive as buying individual kids meals for each child). Even adults can share a plate at some restaurants.
- Drink water! Water is free and if you have a family of 7 like us you can save at least $10 by drinking water. And you also don’t have to wait forever for the kids to decide what they want to drink. Plus it’s healthier. Lots of good reasons to just order water with lemon. J
- Fast food restaurants can be almost as expensive if not more than a sit down restaurant. If we are on the road and need to eat and run we don’t buy combo meals for the kids or overpriced Happy Meals. Most fast food chains have a Value Menu where the kids can get something for a $1.
- Find out about the Pizza Hut Book It Reading Programs so your kids can get a free personal pizza each month. Homeschoolers are allowed to do it also!
- We almost always travel together as a family by vehicle, but if you must fly to a church because of the distance, it may be best for just your husband to make the trip if that is fine with the pastor. Purchasing tickets for an entire family could put you in the hole for a while and most pastors understand this.
- Try to live off your love offerings and saving back your support money for when you move and start setting up on the field. Contrary to what many think, living in a foreign field is NOT cheaper than living in the United States, at least not in the majority of countries.
I hope that this has been a help to you as you travel! We know it’s hard these days for missionaries because of the rising gas prices and bad economy, but more than anything trusting in God will get you on the field if that is what He wants for your life.