We are finishing up this term in Japan and are getting ready to return to the USA to fundraise. Some missionary friends were talking about advise for new missionaries just starting out on itineration. I thought I’d share mine here. I heard some great advise during our training that I really took to hear: add in some fun things for the kids. I think I’ve succeeded thus far. My kids love itineration! In fact, after we had been in country for about a month or two my kids were asking why we didn’t go on road trips anymore!
My 12 tips on how turn itineration into rode trip fun
- Get services scheduled. Consider doing a trip or two in an open district where you have always wanted to go.
- Plan to take longer and take in the sights. Before kids my husband and I thought nothing of doing a 16hour road trip in one stretch, stopping only for gas or to switch drivers. We now appreciate taking the scenic route.
- Google “things to do in ____(location you are traveling to)”. Do the same for some cities along the way. Pick out a few things that look like fun. Ask the kids for help in choosing. We’ve been to national parks, museums, monuments, silly touristy shops, parks, hot springs, amusement parks, campgrounds, zoos, presidential libraries and beaches.
- Plan places to stay for trips that are longer. We have found missionary housing, friends and family friends to stay with, campgrounds (We like the KOA cabins. No tent or RV needed and A/C when it’s hot.) and hotels (we use these as a last resort or when we really need a break as they tend to be the most expensive option). Ask a church if they have any housing available or any recommendations. 99% of the time the church will put us up in a hotel for a night when I ask this. This really saves us money!
- Schedule in time to see friends and family. I’ve been known to schedule a service or travel a long distance on off days to make sure we get time with close friends and family. I don’t get many opportunities to see these people and I make it a point to have a least one good visit while we are back.
- Get some things to listen to on the way. We love to listen to audiobooks. Most public libraries have them available for free. Satellite radio is also sometimes worth the expense. We really liked the station that broadcast old radio shows. Adventures in Odyssey episodes can be downloaded for free or listened to live with streaming on your smart phone and of course there are the Dan & Louie cd’s!
- Pack some fun items for in the car. I give each kid a clip board with paper, a bingo like chart with things to find out the car window, mazes, coloring pages, word searches and a map (one to color when they were younger and this time I’ll give them one to follow so they will know “how much longer”). I also pack colored pencils, not crayons that melt in the hot car or markers that bleed if dropped without a lid. I like to take a notepad and pencil for myself, too. We’ve also made lists of animals we see along the way. We like to pack travel games or card games (use a shoe box for discard piles). We also play the old silly road trip games like the alphabet game, slug bug, and the license plate game. We do take a portable DVD player for when the trip gets really long. We sometimes pick up DVD’s at the library too.
- Don’t forget the snacks. We aren’t big on fast food. So I like to pack food ahead of time or stop at grocery stores along the way. Favorite snacks include: dried fruit, fresh fruit and veggies, nuts, yogurt, string cheese, wheat crackers, baked goods, salads, sandwiches and wraps. We also each have our own refillable water bottles.
- Messes happen on long trips, so it is good to be prepared. We leave big Ziploc bags, a trash bag, paper towels, wet wipes, stain stick and for younger or carsick prone kids, a change of clothes in the car.
- Take the time to get to know the people at the church you are going to. We always plan to arrive 1 hr. ahead of time. We plan to attend Sunday school if at all possible. We almost always attend lunch/dinner if invited. Getting to know people makes the trip so much more enjoyable and helps with the fundraising!
- Avoid really long road trips without a home base if possible. We once spent over 2 months living out of our car. The kids thought it was great but by the end my husband and I were so exhausted. We still love our road trips, but will break them up a little more and/or have some sort of a house as a home base for those days in between services.
- When you are just worn out give yourself a break. Splurge on a nicer hotel rooms. Leave the kids with relatives or mom instead of traveling all together. Stop the car at the nearest rest stop and stretch.
We’re getting ready for our 3rd itineration cycle. Some of the greatest family memories we’ve created were on itineration road trips. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t always love itineration. It is long, and tiring, and stressful. Still, I try to have some fun and take advantage of the time we are in the states. This next itineration we are going to see the nations capital, NYC, Hollywood, the San Diego zoo, the Grand Canyon, Manatees in Florida, visit a farm in Maine, spend time with family in the Midwest, and learn the history of our home state (Alaska). I plan to use this itineration cycle not only as a time to meet people, share our love for missions and Japan and raise funds, but also to show America to my kids, teach them about the culture and history of their passport country and build some memories along the way!