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Everything You Need to Know About Traveling with a Large Family

Well, almost.

I remember going on vacations as a kid with my mom, dad and sister. They always seemed larger than life and thrilling. We would stay in a two-bedroom condo near the beach, and maybe fly if the price was right. It seemed like we would start packing weeks in advance, and it would take a minor miracle if we had everything we needed to last the week. Travelling with two children, I learned, requires planning.

Travelling with eight children is a whole other monster. Here are some things you need to know about travelling with a big family.

Occupancy Limits

This may be a no-brainer for some, but it came as a surprise to us. Depending on the hotel, you may need two rooms due to occupancy restrictions. I recommend calling in advance to see how many children they will accommodate in a room. We have found places to be more flexible if we book a suite vs a standard room with 2 queen beds. It really depends on the hotel, your destination, and the staff.

Have we smuggled kids in before? Yep. But we’ve been prepared to pay extra if needed. Just be courteous and try to keep the noise to a minimum. Our house is usually the loudest house on the block, but in hotels, we practice courtesy. It has worked to our advantage on more than one occasion and we are welcomed back wherever we stay. We hope this paves the way for other large families on the road.

We do the same with VRBO and Airbnb. We always let the host know we are travelling with many children in tow. We have been told that their space is suddenly “occupied” even after corresponding several times, but figure we are better off in the long run. For the most part, we have been welcomed with open arms.

Group Camping

Just as there are occupancy limits in hotels and such, there are occupancy limits in campgrounds as well.

If you are camping in a National or State Park, check out the group camping spots. Generally speaking, they are spacious and away from the crowds. These sites aren’t much more than what you would pay for a single site. We also found them to be superior in views. If your crew is 8+, always ask about a group site.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Or in our case, always automobiles. Anywhere we go, we drive. And while one day we will have to fly to get across the pond, we will drive to every place we can in the Americas. Why? Because flying is expensive.

We have road trips down to an art form. But us in a confined place with other folks for an extended period of time… You’re asking for an intervention with an air martial.

Same goes for a train. In theory, it seems like it wouldn’t be so bad but after the 20th “are we there yet,” the other passengers may start to form alliances.

We will do our thing and travel by van.

Pack Light

I remember packing for a trip to the Virgin Islands when I was a teenager. I think I packed EVERY item of clothing I owned along with what seemed the entire Clinique counter. I stuffed it into an extra large suitcase and off we went. Ah! Those were the days.

Now, we travel light. Can you imagine 10 xl suitcases?! We each have a very thoughtfully planned capsule wardrobe that will accommodate hiking, travel, church, and everything in between. We take shower shoes, hiking boot and sneakers in one giant bin. Our ultimate goal is to get each person down to a backpack with all of their personal belongings. For now, it’s two kids per small suitcase.

Because we pack light, we also do laundry on the road. It’s only been a problem once. And I think it’s good for the kids to learn how to use a laundromat.

And if we forget something…and it has happened, there is always a Walmart/Target/general store nearby.

Cook Whenever Possible

We like to eat semi-healthy when we travel. We are limited to food choices due to dietary restrictions, and cooking whenever possible just makes sense. If we will only be gone for the weekend, I tend to cook before we leave and stock the cooler. If we will be gone longer, we like to have access to a cooking source. It makes travelling easy on the budget and saves us from gaining 5lbs everytime we hit the road. In fact, with all of the hiking we do, we generally end up losing a few pounds.

Winner! Winner!

We love inspiring all families, big and small, to travel more. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments!

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Team Horn’s Guide to Yellowstone

Yellowstone is on everyone’s travel bucket list, and for good reason. It is a geological unicorn filled with bubbling thermal hot spots, geysers, and some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet. It’s also HUGE and can be overwhelming. We’ve put together a guide of sorts to help you navigate your trip. If you have been to Yellowstone and notice we’ve forgotten something, please add your tips to the comments!

Book your trip early and be prepared for the crowds.

Remember, Yellowstone is on everyone’s bucket list. Any given summer, you will be sharing Yellowstone with over 2.5 million of your closest friends.

Camping is possible within the park, but fill up quickly. They open reservations 6 months in advance. For the most part, the campgrounds resemble shanty towns. We tent camp and are partial to the tent only loops which are a good size and close to the lake. There are also hotels and the Yellowstone Lodge within the park and plenty of options in Jackson.

Along with limited lodging, you might run into limited parking at popular spots and even heavy traffic. In fact, plan on it. Be prepared to have an obstructed view of Old Faithful. It will look more like this:

That said, crowds decline sharply after dinner. So, enjoy a nightcap at the Yellowstone Lodge before heading over to Old Faithful, or enjoy a sunrise at Grand Prismatic Springs. Then you can spend the rest of the day looking at bison. Which takes us to the next topic.

Respect the Wildlife

Repeat after me: I am a guest. This is their home.

Check out the movie at the visitor’s center. The wildlife in Yellowstone might seem cute and cuddly but they are huge and everywhere. And they need personal space or they will hurt you. We saw more than one person trying to take selfies with bison. Don’t be that person. And be prepared for tons of elk in Mammoth!

Animal induced traffic jams are a common occurrence. There could be a herd walking down the road or twenty cars stopped in hopes of spying a bear in a field. Please be patient and respectful.

Yellowstone is a Fragrant Bouquet of Rotten Eggs

To put it mildly, it smells.

Bubbling sulfuric acid is stanky. And around Yellowstone, it’s an acquired appreciation. And it’s bubbling sulfuric acid…so keep your distance. This stuff has the PH of battery acid. Look but don’t touch.

The Pretty Stuff is Bacteria

Just make it a rule. Keep your hands to yourself. Yellowstone is dangerous. All of those magnificent colors you will see in places like Grand Prismatic Springs are BACTERIA. Very adaptable bacteria along a delicate landscape. And they steam because it’s HOT.

Don’t be one of those people who touch it. There are signs everywhere and you will watch people burn themselves. Just don’t do it.

It’s a Dead Zone

Yellowstone has very limited service. Chances are if you see folks pulled over on the side of the road, there are either animals in the distance OR cell service.

You can download apps like GyPSy that sync with your GPS and don’t require a connection to provide you with an awesome guided tour of the park.

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Photo Credit: Gypsyguides.com

If you work remotely and require reliable access, you can drive into Jackson or ask a ranger where the best place for service is in the park. We had service near the lodge but it was very hit and miss.

Enjoy the downtime. Plan on a break from social media and go off the grid for a few days. Take in the sights. Spend time soaking in the history and wonder of Yellowstone. It is like no other place on earth.

 

Featured

How to Entertain Eight Kids on a Roadtrip

We spend a lot of time in the van when we travel. And while we try to keep our stops 5 hours apart, sometimes that takes our family 8 hours. As you can imagine, this leads to endless cries of “are we there yet?!” We have learned that the more entertained they are, the easier our drive becomes.

As a mom of eight, I prefer ease. The difference between a content 8-hour drive and one that makes us looks like the Duggars meets Married with Children is often a well-timed podcast and snacks.

Here, in no particular order, are our favorite things to listen to while we are in the car.

1. Brains On

This educational, science-based podcast is thought-provoking and entertaining.  There are often children who help host, intriguing content, and even a mystery sound. We tend to shuffle a few episodes in on shorter stretches.

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Brains On, NPR Photo Credit: BrainsOn.org

2. Story Pirates

The format is simple. In their own words, “Kids write stories. We act them out. Kids write more.” I saw this explained as Drunk History with kids’ stories and it’s kind of a perfect description. Everyone is entertained and we love binge listening to these, as well as revisiting our favorite episodes.

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Photo Credit: Storypirates.com

3. The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel & The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian

I am lumping them together because they are both Sci-Fi stories but appeal to different ages. My older elementary kids like Mars Patel, and the younger ones tend to gravitate towards Finn Caspian. That said, we really enjoy them both. If you have a geek in your car, you can’t go wrong.

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Photo Credit: Marspatel.com
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Photo Credit: FinnCaspian.com

4. Musicals

This spectrum is wide. We listen to everything from Wicked to Hamilton. If you happen to run into us at a rest stop or even see Big Green on a highway, chances are pretty high that we are singing along to something by Lin Manuel Miranda. We have found musicals for free on Hoopla and through Amazon Music. 3bc38d8b4d01a8c33a22dfca77773ad5

5. GyPSy Guides

There are several GPS tour guides to choose from in the app store but our favorite is GyPSy Guides. We have found GPS tour guides particularly useful when going through National Parks and Monuments. They are quick to point out scenic views, history of landmarks, and points of interest along the way. They sync with your GPS, so they work even if you have no service in places like Yellowstone.

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Photo Credit: Gypsyguides.com
Featured

Guide to Planning the Ultimate Road Trip

Two years ago, we started to plan our first family road trip. We knew that we wanted to travel west but we really had no plan. John and I had never travelled across the country in a car. In fact, the only time we had ever been west was the year before when we flew to Vegas. We consulted our friends and family who were experienced travellers, and even though they were well travelled, they had never travelled with seven kids in tow.
We made a rough route with a handful of destinations in mind, and we filled in the rest. We gained helpful insight but for the most part, we winged it. We made a plan that seemed right for us, and the only way to see if it would work was to actually do it. So, we did.
Fiverr.Trip Planner (4)
The good news, IT ACTUALLY WORKED!!
The better news, WE MADE A PLAN THAT YOU CAN FOLLOW!!
The best news, IT’S FREE!!
Our goal was to inspire others to get out of their comfort zone and explore. We hope by giving you this guide, you will travel with your own family! We have used this to plan our road trips and cross-country trips for others.

Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point State Park, located just outside of Moab, UT, is one of the most scenic state parks that we have visited. And probably has one of the most unforgettable names.

Have you ever seen Thelma and Lousie? Their final stand at the Grand Canyon was actually filmed at Dead Horse! The Colorado River goosenecks in the canyon, carving an iconic landscape.

It’s often overlooked by visitors who visit it’s National Park cousins, Arches and Canyonlands, but Dead Horse Point can definitely hold it’s own. With views that rival the Grand Cayon, this park is a must see!

A Thousand Times Yes

We started our Instagram feed in the fall of 2015. It was our very first camping trip as a family. Ever. Philip was 8 weeks old. I only remember this because everyone we saw asked how old he was. One of us would answer and undoubtedly meet the same response, “you are camping with an 8 week old?!” And John or I would say with a shrug, “well, he has to be 8 weeks old somewhere. He might as well be here.”

philip1 Our First Pic on Instagram, Philip 8 weeks old[/caption]

We weren’t sure how things would turn out, but we decided to give it a go. We over packed on supplies and food. We took two cars. It took us an hour to set up two tents and about an hour and a half to start a fire (that was mostly smoke). To put it mildly, we were novices. John had been camping twice in his life, and my camping experience was limited to the Girl Scouts and random weekends with my family when I was a kid. We took what limited experiences we had and figured if anything went wrong, we could get home in under two hours. We posted on Instagram because we thought it would be fun to keep a few of our friends and family updated on how things were going.

noah indiana Yep. We were the weird family.[/caption]

Much to our surprise, we survived. We were undoubtedly “that family” at the campground. Our kids freaked out in the shower, we couldn’t make a proper fire, and everything about our family stuck out. Still, we survived. And it was then that we decided, if we can camp in Versailles, Indiana, we could camp anywhere.

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So, we did what any sane family of 9 would do. We went home and planned a month-long camping trip across the country. We spoke to friends who travelled, followed family and outdoor blogs, and devised a trip that would take us through 11 states.

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We didn’t think about the consequences of what we were doing at the time, or how it would radically change us. We didn’t know that by stepping out of our comfort zone and saying “yes” to an adventure would make it easier to say “yes” to more things. We also didn’t foresee the effects it would have on our children. By saying “yes”, we have watched our children become explorers and revelled as they developed an appreciation for life beyond our cul-de-sac.

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The stone we cast was a camping trip. Its ripples have been unintended adventures and opportunities for a life that we never knew was possible.

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Here we are. Two and a half years (almost to the day) and a thousand followers from when we started. We are now a family of 10 whose travels have stretched over 29 states, 3 shorelines, and countless adventures. Thank you for being a part of our journey. Thank you for bearing witness to all the “yeses” that are to come.

Bryce Canyon

Despite postcard views, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. I will always look back on our stay in Bryce Canyon as a time when everything went wrong. We were dirty, out of clean clothes, out of cash and in desperate need of sleep…so we abandoned our site for the night and got a room in Tropic.

Looking back, it was a great testament to our resilience as a family and the magic of Utah. It makes us go back.

Litter Patrol

As you wander, make sure to leave every place better than you found it. We always take a garbage bags with us.

We have found everything from spray paint cans to condom wrappers.

What’s the craziest piece of litter you’ve seen?

Road Trip Essentials

Top Five Road Trip Essentials

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1. Entertainment – We could not have driven across the country without music, podcasts, coloring books, and Kindles. I would have gone absolutely bonkers. We have an amazing car charger that can charge four electronics. It’s kind of the best thing ever. We were always quick the Kindles once the kids started to fidget. It bought us many extra hours on the road. Never discount the power of distraction.

2. Atlas– Call us old fashioned, but there is nothing like a good Rand McNally road atlas. We used this to plan.

Food– As the head car chef, I can tell you that snacks are crucial. Being hangry in a car with eight other people is no bueno. While we did a lot of snacks type food, we also made sandwiches and ate tons of fruits and carrot sticks. Just be sure to have a place for garbage.

Pillows– There is nothing worse than napping with your neck in a weird position. I highly recommend a good travel pillow.

GoPro– We have driven through some of the most breathtaking scenery on the planet. Capture it. We mounted a GoPro to the dash, and record as much as we possibly can.

What are some of your road trip essentials?
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Butterflies

For Christmas, the girls received a Butterfly Garden from Insect Lore. It was a magical way to learn about the lifecycle of a butterfly.

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We weren’t quite sure how this would turn out. There are two types of Butterfly Gardens offered by Insect Lore, one contains live caterpillars, while the other contains a voucher to redeem for live caterpillars. We received the livings ones. If you have been following along, we were leaving Chrismas night for the better part of two weeks. Much to our delight, the caterpillars seemed to thrive in their cups and had plenty of food to sustain them while we were gone. After careful inspection of the instructions, when we returned, we would have to immediately remove the lids from the cups, with chrysalis intact, and place them in their position to emerge. So that’s what we did.

The girls spoke of their butterflies throughout the trip, wondering which stage they were. They were anxious to get home. Since they were missing key points of metamorphosis, we promised we would get another cup of caterpillars in the spring. This seemed to ease their minds a bit.

Once we returned home, we were pleased to find that we had six chrysalides dangling from the lids. We followed the instructions and prayed they would open.

Five days later, we saw our first little friend! image1

I can’t fully describe the excitement and enchantment that was in our home for the next several days. The girls sat on the top bunk for hours watching their butterflies flutter about their habitat.

Release day was met with mixed emotions. They couldn’t wait to watch their beloved pets fly about outside, but they were also saddened by the thought of not watching them every day.

We waited for unseasonably warm weather for the release. It was absolute magic.

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The girls giggled with delight as their butterflies danced around them, warming up their wings.

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They were able to observe the eyes and proboscis up close.

What this Butterfly Garden was able to convey through observation and experience was more than I could ever teach with printables and lessons. We are already planning our next cup of caterpillars! The great thing about the kit is the reusable habitat. We already have everything we need for our friends in the spring!