What a trip.
At one point, us grown ups were discussing how to survive such a feat and I think it was one of the guys who said something like "I'd like to see Bear Grylls try and survive this."
So in that spirit and with the experience itself under my belt, I'd like to propose ten things you might need to survive driving almost 600 miles with eight kids ages seven and under:
1. a big van
In our case, our 15 passenger also needed a nickname, so we went with the HCV (Harper-Chaney Van, of course). By the end of the trip, the kids were referring to it as the HCV with very matter-of-fact tones.
This may seem obvious, but it's true. Pack your best patience. I actually wish I had packed a little bit more, but we're not all perfect which brings me to my next item...
You and/or your kids may get to a freak-out or panic point, so it's important to push through those moments, forgiving yourself and others often and freely. I may or may not have been the only one who really panicked.
4. a barf bag
5. a basket of fun
Again, it may be a bit obvious, but still, coloring books, notebooks, crayons, pens, and regular ole storybooks can get you far. We didn't bring a handy dandy traveling TV, but instead we went totally old school the whole way and back.
My friend Korrie is a bit of a food genius, so we ate well on roadside peaches, crunchy snap peas, blueberry yogurt covered pretzels and the like. In this scenario, it's best just to keep the snacks flowing irregardless of meal times. It helps everyone involved stay sane.
7. creative and well behaved kids
It really helps. And for the most part, between our two families we have some pretty good kids if I do say so myself. I mean... 22 hours and they really didn't complain very much at all. They did REALLY well. Surprisingly well.
This video is from the cheer that was created by our girls to celebrate each move of the van.
8. Well timed, strategic stops
We chose the White House Restaurant in Wilkes, Arkansas, population less than 500 for our first meal. Their onion rings alone put Sonic's to absolute shame. And I was able to eat vegan. Take that, fast food chains!
9. good nap times
Dramamine might be the key to good naps, but if you go that route, remember to separate your children strategically because merely sitting next to your little best friend is somehow alerting even with the most sedating drugs on board.
10. a fun mile-marking timeline thing
I got this idea from my sister and my oh my how wonderful it was. Your van starts at one end and ends at another, moving along the string every 80 miles or so. That way, you always know how far you've come and how much more you have to go. I think it helped me at least as much as if not more than the kids.
And what light we had at the end of the tunnel!