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Getting 11 people out of the house and on the road for deputation meetings can present some challenges. We must ensure that everything we need for the travel, stay, and meetings are loaded up and not left behind at home. But we also want to make sure that we aren’t burying ourselves in stuff for the trip. Over-packing is extremely easy to do and doesn’t make for a pleasant trip.
Thankfully, over the past few years, the Lord has taught our family a few lessons about this part of deputation. So, in this post, we’ll look at how our large family packs for deputation meetings.
Packing for our meetings involves several key stages. We’ll be sharing tips for how we prepare for short road trips that don’t involve bringing along the trailer. For these shorter trips, we always:
- Prepare our hearts
- Prepare the van
- Plan the pack
- Pack the suitcases
- Fill the backpacks
- Pack the overnight bag
- Load the van
- Bring the food
- Make final checks
Ready to see how our large family prepares for travel? Let’s dive right in.
Prepare Our Hearts
Traveling with this many people isn’t easy. And we know that the kids are quick to reflect our attitudes right back to us. So, before we begin planning, packing, or loading the van, we take a few moments to prepare our hearts.
This includes coming together as a family and praying for right attitudes and safe travels. We remind ourselves why we are traveling and talk about ways to give God the glory even when it gets difficult or feels hard.
We’re not perfect, and some trips still involve sibling squabbles and blowups, but we are thankful that the Lord is working on us.
Prepare the Van
We were blessed with a beautiful 2011 Chevy Express 15-passenger van last year. It has been such a wonderful gift for the family. Before we head out on trips, there are a few things we do to ensure the van is ready.
First, we take out the back seat. Well, actually we only have to remove half of it. The other half is out all of the time, to make room for Owen’s wheelchair. Removing the other portion reduces the seating capacity to 11, but it does something essential.
It gives us room to load our luggage. The 15-passenger van doesn’t have any space behind the last row of seats, so by removing that row, we get much more generous cargo space.
Once the seat is out, we get the kids to help clean the van. We work together to empty it out and bring in any kicked off shoes, forgotten books, or anything else that shouldn’t be there.
Then, one of us will take the van to the local car wash and clean it the rest of the way. We vacuum it out and wash the outside. You see, we live on a dirt/gravel road. This means the outside of our van gets covered in grime.
And if we skip washing it, we know that someone will brush against it while they’re wearing their nice clothes on Sunday. And we don’t want that to happen again.
On the way home, we also stop and get gas. This way, we don’t have to worry about filling up on our day of departure. This can help make the travel day less stressful.
Once back home, we make sure all of the kids’ car seats are installed properly, in the right spot. Having a seating chart prepared in advance helps eliminate squabbles, and also ensures we can easily load and unload the kids who still need help with buckling.
We also make sure our emergency supplies are in the van. Sometimes, those accidentally get unloaded when the kids clean out the van. So, we just double check that everything we want to keep in there is still there.
Plan the Pack
Many of our children are old enough to be a big help when it comes to packing. However, they need to know the plan. Otherwise, they’ll pack the wrong sorts of clothes, or too many toys.
So, we sit down as a family and talk through our trip. We discuss:
- Where we are going
- How long it should take to arrive
- Where we’ll be staying
- What service(s) Dad will be speaking in
- What clothes we need to pack
- Where to put their clothes as they gather them
- What should go in their backpacks
Most of this is pretty straightforward. However, it really helps make the packing process go more smoothly.
We do the majority of the packing the day before we leave, so it gives us a little more time to work slowly and ensure everything is done properly.
Another aspect of planning the pack that has really helped is to create master pack lists. This way, we can quickly cross off anything we don’t need on this particular trip, and then cross off everything as we go. Having a checklist really helps to minimize the amount of decisions you have to make when packing. You can just read off the list and go instead of starting from scratch for every single trip.
Pack the Suitcases
Once everyone is on board with the plan, we begin to implement it. Typically, we have each child select their clothes for the trip and then bring them to two places. First, their clothes for Sunday go to Mom and Dad’s room. Everything else comes downstairs to the table.
They place them in piles on the table, so it’s easy to tell which clothes belong to each child and go together.
Then, we get down the suitcases and begin to pack them. We do this systematically, typically dividing up our trip into logical breaking points.
If we’re going to be doing a lot of traveling over several days, we pack a hotel bag. This is where we pack pajamas for everyone, along with clean undergarments, diapers for the littles and Owen, and spare clothes for the littles. Everyone else typically travels in the same clothes. When you’re sitting in a car all day, you don’t typically get dirty, so this works well for us.
Just in case, we do have a container that’s always in the van with one change of clothes for everyone. So, if someone needs new clothes while traveling, they’re easy to access and get out.
Then, we pack the suitcase for the days when we’ll be at where we’re staying. Everyone’s clothes go together, as it minimizes how many suitcases we need to unload at once.
When packing, we make sure to follow a system. Typically, it’s youngest to oldest. Otherwise, we discovered it’s too easy to accidentally forget to pack clothes for one member of the family. Oops. So have a system in place and stick to it each time to make it a habit.
Putting the things in the suitcase for one child at a time also gives us a chance to make sure they retrieved everything they were supposed to. Before we started doing this, we wound up leaving home without enough clothes for one child and too many for another, so this has really streamlined the process.
Once we get all of the suitcases filled, we zip them up and place them in the living room until it’s time to load the van.
Then, Bryan works on the church clothes. Any that need ironed, he takes care of. Then, we hang them up and put them into garment bags. This way, they arrive unwrinkled and ready to put on for Sunday.
During this packing time, we also make sure that everyone has a pair of matching church shoes in the church shoe bucket. This is a foldable tub that we bring along each trip. Before we started doing this, we were always forgetting a shoe, or having one child realize they’d brought one shoe of two different types for the trip. That’s not good. So dealing with the church shoes separately has been a big help.
Fill the Backpacks
As Bryan works on ironing, the kids prepare their backpacks. Each child brings along a backpack for each trip. In their backpack, they bring along:
- A Bible
- A few favorite toys
- Coloring supplies
And anything else that they think will help them have a better trip. Some of the kids will roll up a small blanket and put inside. Others have included some special treat that they’ve saved for the occasion.
Then, the backpacks get zipped up and placed next to the suitcases.
Pack the Overnight Bag
When you travel, you want to make sure you have everyone’s toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, contact solution, and other personal care items. We keep these things in a hard container that we’ve dubbed the overnight bag.
Packing this bag happens in two parts. First, we load what we can the day before. Much of the items in this bag stay there all the time, which helps. We’ve purchased additional toothbrushes, toothpaste, and deodorant that just stay there.
The day before, we verify that the things are still inside. We also add anything that won’t be needed the next morning.
Then, the morning of our trip, we finish packing this case. It is one of the last things loaded in the van.
Load the Van
The afternoon or evening before we leave, we load the van with everything that we can. The kids bring their backpacks out and place them on their seats.
In the back, we pack our meeting supplies first. We load up our projector, screen, table, and display board. Then we put in the bag that holds our prayer cards, information packets, and other supplies for the meeting.
We also make sure Owen’s wheelchair is in place, with his special backpack on the back. This has his spare g-tube, emergency seizure medicine, and a few other essentials that we don’t leave home without.
Another essential we load is Owen’s inflatable enclosed bed. This way, he has a safe, secure spot to rest at night, and we don’t have to worry about him waking up and wandering around in a strange place.
Then, we start bringing out the suitcases. We pack them in such a way that the bags we’ll need first are on top. This way we don’ have to unload the entire van in a parking lot trying to get what we need.
After the van is loaded, we typically spend some fun time together as a family to celebrate. Packing is a lot of work.
Bring the Food
On travel day, there isn’t much left to do to prepare. However, there are a few things we must do. One important one is loading the food.
Kids typically whine for two reasons. One is that they’re tired. The rocking of the car typically takes care of that on car trips. The other is that they’re hungry. So, we bring along snacks and meals for the road.
While we could eat out, that would cost a lot of money. So, we try to be good stewards of the funds God has provided and cut costs where we can. You can learn more about how we save money on food for road trips in this post.
We put a cooler in the front, between the driver and passenger seats. We also pack snacks and things underneath where Tyler sits. His feet don’t come close to reaching the floor, so there’s plenty of room there.
Loading the food into the cooler is one of the last things we do before we leave. That way, we can make sure it stays cold and fresh instead of just sitting there waiting on us.
Make Final Checks
We’ve made checklists to ensure things go properly and that we bring along the essentials. Right before we leave, we do a final check of the lists. We make sure we have:
- Owen’s medication
- Diapers and wipes (and the rest of the diaper bag, but especially the diapers and wipes)
- Garbage bags to help keep the van clean
- Our missionary presentation supplies
- The computer (for the presentation)
- Cords and chargers
- Everything else on the list
Once we have everything, we ask the kids to all use the bathroom once more. We change any diapers that need changed, and we load up and head out.
Packing for a Deputation Meeting Takes Time
With everything on our to-do list, you can see why we start preparing and packing in advance of trips. It takes several hours to get everything ready and loaded, so if we tried to do it the day of, we’d never get out the door on time.
If you’re loading up for a big trip, our biggest takeaways for you are:
- Give yourself plenty of time so you’re not rushing
- Get the kids involved where they can be
- Make lists and check them twice
And of course, even with all of your preparation, you still may arrive at your destination and realize that you forgot something.
The good news? We’ve never been anywhere yet where there wasn’t a store.
That reminder helps eliminate a lot of the stress.
Traveling on deputation is a challenge, but it doesn’t have to get you upset. Focus on God and He’ll help you get through it with grace.