Yes, this post is going to be practical! Very practical but hopefully to the point and helpful for many missionary wives who live a revolving door life. I’m going to share some tips about the seemingly never-ending task a missionary wife on deputation does almost weekly, if not more — pack! Some people would think that getting to travel all around the USA for a couple years raising support for the mission field is an endless vacation….nothing could be farther from the truth. A vacation is fun once a year for a week or two, but most people are ready to get back home to normal life. Deputation is anything but “normal”! It is exciting and can be a great adventure as you can read here, but with the excitement come hours upon hours in the vehicle and little of a family routine.
If you have a large family, you will find that traveling with all the paraphernalia you need for even a 3-day trip can be overwhelming. With our family of 5, our trunk can be stuffed to capacity sometimes, especially when we had to travel with a “pack n play” and a stroller.
Here are a few tips to make packing easier for your family:
Keep everything you need to pack for every trip in the suitcases, even after you get home. If you need to wash everything, wash it and then pack it again to await the next trip. This will cut down the time it takes to pack for every trip, especially if you are only home for a few days in between each trip. It may mean having double of toiletries so that you have your “home” toiletries and your “travel” toiletries. This way you won’t forget everything you need in your toiletry bag. I keep a list of everything that is supposed to be in my toiletry bag so that I can make sure that it is in there before we travel and make adjustments when something needs to be replenished.
Keep a packing list
Keep a packing list handy on your electronic device so that you can recheck and make sure you aren’t forgetting anything important. It’s no fun to have to make an emergency trip on a Sunday morning to Wal-Mart because you forgot to pack your husband’s dress shoes! If you have older children print them a packing list so they can pack their own bags for trips.
Packing in a large rolling duffel bag with lots of side pockets has been a huge space saver for our big family. Suitcases are large and bulky. We use one big duffel bag packed with one individual drawstring bags (pillowcase sized) for each child in the family (pictured on the right). Their clothes go in the drawstring bag which then goes into the duffel bag and when we get to our destination, everyone can find their bag quickly. Smaller families can use individual carry-on size suitcases; we have just found that they take up too much room in our trunk. Any clothes that need to be on a hangar go in a garment bag, but that is usually only my husband’s suits. If you have room and can put a clothes bar in the back and hang up all your clothes, that is a bonus.
Don’t forget the overnight bag
If we have more than a 12-hour trip, we will usually travel in 2 days to break up the trip and plan on staying at a prophet’s chamber or mission house along the way. (Our limit is usually 8-10 hours in a day.) That’s where the overnight bag comes in. I pack everything we will need in this separately from our big “family” suitcase so we don’t have to drag everything in for just one night.
Pack wrinkle-free clothes!
Besides your husband’s dress shirts and suits, most everything else can be wrinkle-free clothes. This will cut down on time in the hotel to get ready for a meeting. I travel with Wrinkle Releaser (found at Dollar General for about $2 or make your own using the recipe in our Women Behind the Scenes cookbook! ). Another easy tip some missionaries use is to buy matching/coordinating outfits for their kids. This way they know exactly what to grab when they pack. These outfits are reserved only for meetings on the road.
Emergency items to stay in your vehicle
We stuff these in the glove compartment, side and seat pockets, etc.
- Jumper cables
- Bottles of water
- Paper towels
- Plastic grocery store bags for trash and dirty diapers!
- Baby wipes for quick faces washes before going in to a meeting
- Febreze fabric refresher (you can find a recipe in our cookbook!)
- Antibacterial gel
- First aid kit
- Hair brush
- Disinfecting wipes for the car
- Baby blanket or throw for colder weather
- Sun shades for where the babies sit
We use the blankets/throws sometimes to form a tent around the car seats so the babies can sleep during the day. If any are still using diapers, it’s handy to put some diapers, wipes and a changing pad in a seat pocket for those quick stops at restrooms.
I’m sure many other missionary wives have some more great tips on packing. I would love to hear your tips! Leave your ideas in the comments below or let us know if any of these were a help to you!