Our Families' Mini-missions Trip

by S.H.

Our favorite homeschool field trip was a trip out west which not only included educational stops along the way, but the highlight was helping a missionary family on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona!

For many, like us, this would be a dream come true educational field trip and missions trip. Only God made this possible for us! We saw the beauty of the terrain change from the mountains and horse farms of Kentucky to the beautiful mesas in New Mexico to the rims and canyons and sand in Arizona and onto the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the Great plains of Kansas.

The National Parks have absolutely wonderful Junior Ranger programs. We visited the Petroglyph National Park in New Mexico. Hiking along the rocks with the petroglyph carvings was our first national Park stop, though our first heart wrenching stop was the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial. The tokens of love and memory left on the chain link fence outside the memorial was unforgettable and will forever be ingrained in our kids' minds. This was a great conversation starter in the vehicle.

The kids also participated in the free Jr. Ranger program at the Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, and Rocky Mountain National Parks. The highlight, though, was spending 3 days helping a missionary family. We cleaned up trash, helped babysit, one daughter played the offeratory, the kids helped in the Sunday School classes, and helped to tear down a block wall. The lodging for this part of the trip was free, as the Navajo people welcomed us and took us in as their own.

The length of our trip was 11 days. We were able to stay in Comfort Suite hotels free of charge as my husband had collected enough "stay one night, get a night free" points to pay for this. We ate the continental breakfast for free and then ate from the dollar menus at lunchtime. We also only order water! For many of our meals, we would stop at a grocery store and purchase fried chicken strips, bread, and chips or peanut butter and jelly. This was much cheaper for our family of 7.

We took no video games and no movies on our trip. We talked, sang, played board games, and counted the number of "honks" we got from the truck drivers. I think the kids quit counting at 150. I read books aloud. We grew much closer during this time.

The best money saving tip would be to plan, plan, plan! After routing our trip and estimating which days we would be where, I planned the meal budget. If you have $400 saved for food, divide that among every meal you will need to pay for (hopefully you can get continental breakfasts). I then took that amount (for us it was usually $15 for each meal) and put it in an envelope for each
day. Then, think creatively!

We only took a small cooler, but this also allowed us to buy food from a grocery store and make it last over a couple of meals. Any money that is left over, you can carry over to the next meal or next day's meal. We also used envelopes and took our souvenir money we had saved and divided it among the National parks and attractions we would go to. We also had an envelope for park admission and parking prices - very important to know these ahead of time! The Grand Canyon was $25 for admission into the park.

As homeschoolers, I wanted our kids to document what they saw and experienced. I purchased notebooks/journals for each of the kids. I sometimes would ask them to draw what they had just experienced/saw or write about it. We took our colored pencils, crayons, and markers. As we left the Grand Canyon, we stopped and let them sit and draw the canyon in their books. These weren't "assignments." The kids understood the awesomeness of our blessed opportunity to take this trip, and they wanted to record it forever, too.

Another idea to help stop boredom, is to purchase and put together special treats, gifts, stickers, and activities. Hide these away and bring out one for each child along the way. Some ideas might be special stickers, markers, jelly beans, gum, bags of nuts, a book or magazine, magnet games, puzzle books, etc. We purchased a survival card game at the Rocky Mountains gift shop and enjoyed trying to guess the right answers to the survival questions! Talk, talk, talk to your family.

One more help for my husband and I when the kids were asleep. We were usually in the car for 8-10 hours on the days we were driving. I brought along MP3s from the speaking sessions at the Midwest Homeschool Convention. We shared the ear buds and listened to many helpful lessons. I still remember decisions we made from these talks that are still impacting our lives today. We also brought preaching Cds.

So, I suggest you find someone your family could help and plan your vacation around that blessing. God sure did provide for us and made this the most memorable time for our family. You will be more blessed than the family you are helping. This could be a missionary (in the states or outside) or a family who is struggling that only lives one state away. Be creative, look for state and national parks and enjoy this beautiful country God has given us. By the way, Kentucky has some absolutely beautiful state parks!

What a fabulous trip! I love this idea; thanks for sharing all your budget-stretching tips - so helpful! Our family is planning to take a family missions trip too! You have motivated me to finalize all the details! Blessings, Heather :)

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