Staying overnight with a lot of children can feel a little crazy at times!
So, I told you how I travel alone with all the kids. Now to answer how we handle overnight trips.
I learned long ago how to pack on the fly. My husband is spontaneous and I rarely get much warning. I’ve had a lot of my in-real-life friends ask how in the world I manage to throw together an overnight trip on a moment’s notice. The answer is, I’ve done it so much, it is second nature.
Here’s a basic rundown of how we pack, what we pack, and how we make staying overnight somewhere as painless as possible!
Packing (half the battle):
We’ve packed a multitude of ways over the years, but the basic idea has stayed the same.
Daddy has his own bag. He’s had the bag since his military days. He likes it. A lot.
I have a large duffel bag that I use for myself and the baby and extra diapers. It is falling apart, but it still serves the purpose! I pack my things on one side and the baby’s things along with extras on the other side.
The girls have a bag or they have separate small bags. They each purchased a tapestry bag at a store in Branson in a couple of years ago that can be used for shorter trips when they don’t need to pack many things. Otherwise, they share a larger duffel bag. Since there are only 2 of them, each girl gets a side of the duffel bag as her own.
My oldest son has a backpack. Since he’s gotten older and bigger, he’s gone to his own backpack, much like his daddy. When there were fewer boys, he shared the boy’s large duffel bag with his brother.
The two younger boys share a bag or backpack. They are small enough that a backpack works for them on short trips. Longer trips require them to use the bigger boy’s duffel bag. Since extra diapers are in the diaper bag and my duffel bag, they don’t need a lot of space.
Occasionally, we pack all the children’s things in individual plastic sacks inside one ENORMOUS duffel bag. This is especially helpful when a grandparent, who is not familiar with what things belong to which child, will be caring for them.
We also pack a laundry bag similar to this one:
I usually pack 2 jammies (in case of accidents) and 1 outfit per day we will be gone unless we will be at a place we can wash, then I will pack 2-3 outfits and expect to wash. The children who are old enough to pack themselves are required to check in with me to show me what is in their bag. I neglected to do this a couple of times and sorely regretted it!
In the back of the van we have a stroller, baby slings/wraps, and a jacket or coat for everyone. We also have a lap blanket for each of the children, courtesy of my mother-in-law.
I talked about packing snacks and things for the trip in these posts, so I won’t rehash that:
Have Kids, Will Travel…Alone
What to Pack for a Family Day Trip
If we reach our destination at night, everyone but my husband and my oldest son stay in the van until the room is set up. That way those who are asleep will have the best chance to STAY asleep. They set up the room for us (even if it is at Grandma’s house), so I can shuffle children in as quickly and quietly as possible. Sometimes if it will be really late, we try to stop somewhere and jammy-up during the last leg of the trip so they can go straight to bed with the least amount of interruption.
If someone has to take the floor, we usually leave that to the little ones. Sometimes we have sleeping bags with us or we make palettes from blankets that our host family provides. If the place we are staying does not have a playpen, we will bring our own.
If possible, we keep all our family members as close to us as we can. That way, if someone gets up in the night confused by their surroundings, they don’t have to search too far to find mom and dad.
Try your best to keep the mess contained. Keep all the bags in a central out-of-the-way location and keep everything IN the bags as much as possible. I have a travel toothbrush holder made from a handtowel that we keep in the bathroom along with my makeup bag and my husband’s dopp kit. If the bathroom vanity is too small to accommodate these things, they need to go back in the bag too. A place that looks less cluttered up tends to create less stress.
Delegate chores. Yes, it might be vacation, but mama will end up doing all the work while everyone else rests if you don’t purpose to delegate chores in your environment during your stay. Even for short stays at Grandma’s, you would do well to assign them with places to tidy, dishes to wash, etc. We all make messes. We all clean them up. We all enjoy our stay.
Departing for Home:
When I had all littles, departure day usually meant I would shoo everyone out with Daddy while I tidied up. Daddy would swoop in and gather all our gear, load it, and do a once-through the house/hotel room/cabin to make sure we had packed up everything.
Now that we have older children, I delegate someone to keep the littles corralled and then assign the rest of them chores to help get things packed up. At the very last I send everyone out to load up into the van while Ty and I do a once-through and finish up any last minute things. From there, I go to the van and my oldest son comes in to help haul gear to the van.
No matter how you slice it, you or your husband will need to do some sort of final check. Don’t forget under beds and behind doors! We try to leave no trace…no small task when you have a large whirlwind of a family!
Once again, I turn it over to you! Got any great travel tips? Share them here!
And while you’re at it, go check out this blog: Live the Adventure! She has some great travel tips! (she also has a ton of homeschool field trip ideas if you are looking for an edu-cation this summer!)