10 Important Truths About Traveling with Kids on Deputation

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Prior to beginning deputation, our family didn’t travel very often. We took some fun day trips occasionally, but really didn’t have a lot of experience with long drives, overnight stays, or traveling with kids.

Now that we’re traveling to different churches to present our ministry to Missionary Acres, we’ve learned some important truths about spending more time on the road.

1. Parental Attitudes Matter

Kids gather social cues from their parents. And when the parents are getting frantic about travel, the kids will too.

The Lord has been showing us that our attitudes about travel matter a lot. If we are getting frustrated, there are nine kids mimicking us. That’s a humbling realization.

We’re learning it’s much better to stay calm, and take things to the Lord in prayer. He can give us the strength to keep our attitudes in check, and that makes a huge difference.

Even when things aren’t going according to our plans, it is okay. God is still good and He has this all figured out! We just need to trust Him more.

Key Takeaway: Prayer is an important part of traveling with kids!

2. Kids Need to Move

Sitting in the car for long periods of time is hard on everyone. But, kids especially feel the sitting still part. They need to move. They need to exercise their muscles and work out their wiggles.

Often when the kids start bickering in the car, it’s because they’re just ready to move. They have all this energy and they need a way to release it. If there’s not an appropriate method available, they’re going to figure out other ways to move.

So, we make pit stops focused on movement. If we’re at a rest stop, we have the kids run in the grass for a bit. They enjoy doing challenges, so we’ll make some up. For instance, we ask them to:

  • Run over and touch that tree
  • Do 10 jumping jacks
  • Skip to that picnic table
  • Touch your toes 10 times
  • Walk back to the car while saying your ABCs

These are just silly little challenges. But, they encourage movement. They let the kids get their blood pumping a little bit. And after a few sets of challenges, they’re always better behaved when we get back in the car.

If there’s no place to stop and you need a movement break, here are two simple ways to get movement inside the car.

  • Sing songs with movement, like Father Abraham or the Button Factory song
  • Have your kids stomp their feet, clap their hands, stretch, point and flex their toes, and do other small movements. See if they can do each one for a full minute (set a timer!)

Also, it’s really a bad idea to schedule your trips so you’re arriving at a church right after a long car ride. The last thing the kids want to do after sitting in a car for several hours is go into church and sit for a couple more.

We’re learning to leave plenty of extra time in our trips so they can move and play a little before going inside. This has helped tremendously!

Key Takeaway: Look for opportunities to get the kids moving. And join them! It’s not good for you to sit for extended periods of time either.

3. Snacks Help!

Kids typically whine when they’re hungry or tired. The moving car takes care of the tired part if they’ll fall asleep. 😀

Snacks take care of the hungry factor.

We always pack snacks when we’re traveling with kids. To keep this simple, we pack a little lunchbox for each child. Then, they are in charge of their snacks and get to self-regulate when they eat.

Yes, we’ve had kids eat everything while we’re still in the church parking lot getting ready to head home. But, most of the time they are getting really good at spreading it out.

We appreciate that we don’t have to try to monitor intake this way. Everything has been pre-portioned so we don’t have to keep track of how many cookies this kid has eaten, or try to ration out a big bag of goodies on the go. It’s so much easier to everything prepacked.

We typically fill a large container with snacks to refill the lunchboxes for the return trip. It’s nice to have different options available each time. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Beef jerky
  • Nuts
  • String cheese
  • Trail mix
  • Popcorn
  • Granola Bars
  • Cookies
  • Fruit snacks

When planning snacks for each trip, we try to include a mix of protein, sweet, and salty. That way there’s a good variety.

Each child has a bottle of water as well. We used to do Gatorade, but it’s sticky when it spills. Water is wet, but it dries without leaving residue behind.

Snacks aren’t the only part of the travel we plan. We also plan our meals and bring as much with us as we can. Someday we’ll do a post looking at good meals to bring on the road. But for now, here are some simple ideas:

  • Sandwiches (just keep the mayo, meat, and cheese in a cooler). We love these on rolls and make them when it’s time to eat.
  • Homemade Lunchables (crackers, cheese slices, meat)
  • Pasta salad in reusable containers (non mayo based dressings travel better)
  • Muffins

Food needs to be planned, there’s no winging it, especially when you’re traveling with as large of a family as we have. We do try to get our kids involved, both with the planning and the preparing. Having a cooler and ice packs really helps keep the cost down, so we aren’t stopping and grabbing all the food.

Snacks are important when traveling with kids. Our daughter is scooping cookies onto a cookie sheet and two batches of popcorn are on the stove.
Our nine-year-old daughter helping prepare snacks for a recent trip.

Key Takeaway: Bring food. And plan what you’re going to eat before the trip so you don’t have to hit the drive through if it’s not in the budget.

4. The Car Gets Messy

One piece of advice we got before starting deputation was to eat in the car and save stops for moving and playing. We heeded this advice, and believe the benefits far outweigh the negatives. But, it does mean that both of the cars we’re traveling in get messy.

However, a little mess doesn’t need to turn into a pigsty. Here are some steps we take to keep the cars from being a disaster when traveling with kids.

  • Bring garbage bags (the kids always get an empty zip bag in their lunchbox to keep their trash in and we bring larger ones with us)
  • Vacuum the car between trips
  • Limit sticky and crumbly foods (and foods that get messy when they melt like chocolate)
  • Keep baby wipes handy for wiping messes, hands, and faces
  • Encourage your kids to eat over their lunchbox (when they open they cover almost all of their lap and catches most of the crumbs)
  • Have races to see who can pick up the most trash from the car while at a gas station or when stopped for the day

These little steps really do help keep the car in decent shape. And we’ve learned not to sweat the mess. The car will clean up. And so will the kids.

Key Takeaway: Be proactive in figuring out how to deal with messes without getting mad.

5. Always Bring Extra Clothes

Since messes can happen, this lesson is crucial! Always have a change of clothes for every person. Even if you aren’t planning on spending the night, it’s essential to have something they can change into.

You never know who will spill. So bring a change for everyone. On day trips, we just have a duffel bag with these extra outfits inside. If we don’t need them, great! If we do, we’re really glad we have them.

And…if you’re going to have your kids travel in church clothes, you need to have replacement church clothes. Otherwise they may end up wearing jeans and a t-shirt to the service if their nice shirt gets something dumped on it…

Key Takeaway: Always bring extra clothes for everyone!

6. The Car Can Be Boring

When traveling with kids, you might notice they get bored. We personally don’t let our kids use screens in the car, so we always have a list of ideas to choose from when boredom strikes. Because engaged kids get in a whole lot less trouble than bored ones..

Here are some of our favorite games and activities for the car. You’ll see some links in this section that give more information. Many head to posts on Lisa’s other blogs that provide more in-depth directions for the games.

  • Singing hymns (we memorize a hymn each month, so it’s fun to see how many we can still remember!)
  • Listening to audio books (we have the Audible subscription where we get two titles each month, and it’s well worth it for us since we’re in the car so much). If you click on this link => you can try Audible free for 30 days and select two books of your own!
  • Playing math car games, music games, language arts games, or science games (and lots of other ones – can you tell we love car games? Especially when they don’t require any special materials)
  • Taking turns reciting memorized scripture
  • Saying the books of the Bible in order (or backwards order for a challenge)
  • Checking out the license plates and seeing how many states we find
  • Building with Legos (we got a My Brick Case for each car, and the kids rotate out the bricks in it. The building surface is awesome for keeping things together while traveling!)
  • Reading out loud

There are so many fun things to do in the car, it doesn’t have to be boring! Take time to play and engage your kids and they’ll be in much better moods by the time you arrive.

Our young son playing with a container of Legos in the car. These help make traveling with kids go smoothly.
Our two-year-old son enjoying the Legos on a recent trip.

Key Takeaway: Plan a variety of activities for the car. Even a simple list of questions to ask can go a long ways in helping the miles fly by without boredom striking.

7. Trips Take Longer when Traveling with Kids

When Bryan was in the service, he could drive from San Diego to Washington in one go. (Well he had to stop for gas and what not, but there were no overnight stops.)

Kids can’t do that, and you shouldn’t expect them to.

Travel with kids always takes longer. We plan on stopping every 2-3 hours, which just adds time onto the trip.

That means you must give yourself a buffer.

Along the way, someone will need to use the bathroom. Or need some extra time snuggling and being reassured. Kids are kids. And they don’t travel like adults.

Key Takeaway: Your trip will take longer than you’re calculating. Plan accordingly and give yourself plenty of time.

8. Routines Are Important

Our family has many routines in our day to day life. We have bedtime routines, Bible time routines, and routines around meals. We have chores figured out. And everyone pretty much knows what to expect.

When you’re traveling with kids, they lose that sense of routine. They’re going from church to church, never really staying anywhere long enough to really adjust.

It’s hard on them!

So, whenever possible, keep your routines. If you normally count your blessings before bed at home, do it wherever you are.

If you always tuck your kids in with a bedtime story, bring a book along and do the same.

Do what you can to give kids a sense of normalcy when everything is different. It is crucial.

But, it’s also important to take the time to embrace the different. Try something new. You never know what might become a fun family tradition. So, don’t think everything has to be done the same way. But, do strive to keep a balance of routines and newness in place no matter where you are.

Also, when you get back home, don’t be surprised if the kids buck the routine a bit. No matter how hard you try on the road, it is different. And they fall out of routine. Realize that there will be a transition period when you get back home. It’s okay to take it slowly.

Key Takeaway: Keep the routines that you can, and try new things to encourage your kids to be flexible.

9. Traveling with Kids Is a Great Time to Build Memories!

Make the most of your time on the road. Stop and enjoy the scenery.

Pull over at historic sites and have a quick homeschool lesson.

Go take the hike and see the beautiful waterfalls that God made.

Traveling with kids really is a good way to build lasting memories. So, take lots of pictures and enjoy the company of your family. We are really praying that the Lord would help us grow closer together during deputation, and it is amazing how much He is doing just that.

You don’t have to spend money to build memories. So take time to create them whenever you can.

Two girls looking down at a waterfall
A hike on a recent trip presented some amazing views! Here are our seven- and four-year-old daughters enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.

 

Key Takeaway: God made so many beautiful things. Take time to check them out – when else are you going to have the opportunity? Deputation is a great time to celebrate God’s creation.

10. Kids Need Grace (Just Like You)

When tempers flare or behavior spikes, it’s easy to snap. Especially if you’re tired from a long drive as well.

It’s so important to remember that grace is important. Your kids need it. And so do you. We all deserve God’s wrath, but thankfully He doesn’t give us what we deserve. He willingly sent His precious son to cover our sins. And in doing so, He gave us grace.

When your kids are having trouble adjusting to life on the road, give them grace. Ask yourself if it’s really disobedience, or just a symptom of being over tired and worn out emotionally. Ask yourself if the stimulation from meeting so many new people and not being home in their comfort zone is impacting this current struggle.

Be understanding. And give more grace.

Sometimes the best thing to do with a tired child who is struggling to keep it together is to put them to bed. Let them get the rest their body is craving.

And no, you don’t need to let your kids walk all over you. You do need to still have standards, even when traveling with kids.

But, it’s important to remember that this is hard. And they are still little and learning. So learn together and talk about things. Ask for their input. Kids are often able to give us a different perspective.

Grace and love will help.

And so will prayer. Pray together. Pray often.

And let your family grow closer to God as you travel from church to church.

Key Takeaway: Grace, grace….it’s necessary to make it through deputation without destroying your relationships.

Traveling with Kids on Deputation Takes Some Getting Used To

But, it is slowly becoming more normal. We are so thankful for all the important lessons the Lord has taught us thus far. We’re looking forward to traveling even more in the coming months.

And if you’d like us to travel to your church to present Missionary Acres, we’d love to! Simply get in touch and we can get it scheduled.

 

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