We are a family who 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 refuge. With all this “running around”, I’ve been questioned as to how, logistically-speaking, I manage to make 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.
Next, grab a backpack or other bag. In it, you will need jammies for each child and a change of undies 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. 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 children 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.
Next item…if you have a baby, pack a smart diaper bag. (If you don’t have a baby, pack any of the relevant items from the list below in your backpack or consider keeping a “Day Bag” on hand with these items pre-loaded into it)
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 what my diaper bag contains…
*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 Lynnette @ Dancing Barefoot 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.
*small zippered bag containing a couple of menstrual pads–these can serve more than one purpose…think nose bleeds
*a 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.
*one change of clothes for baby–once again, accidents happen!
*1-2 small lightweight blankets
*A couple of dollars cash for “emergencies”
*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.
Next, pack 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.
Now, make sure you have a First Aid Kit in the van. You can buy relatively inexpensive ones from places like WalMart 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.
Lastly, pack a Snack Bag. I recently purchased a small soft-sided cooler to put drinks and Micah’s 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 grossing out right now, but if you kiss your kids goodnight, you might as well drink after them too! lol)
A few things I always keep in the van are my Bag o’ Baby Wraps that contains all my baby carriers, a zippered blanket that functions as anything from a picnic blanket to something warm to throw over all the kids in the back seat on a cold winter night, a small tool box that contains a hammer, a screwdriver, needle-nose pliers, gloves, a flashlight, and tape and some odds and ends. These things all sit off to one corner of the back of our van. They are not used often, but they are there if we need them.
Finally, 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,
Memories aren’t made when everything goes right, but when everything goes wrong and you still have fun!