The Duggars’ announcementTuesday on “The Today Show” that the family is expecting its 20th child really shouldn’t raise eyebrows. Just about every time parents Michelle and Jim Bob have a “surprise” to share, it’s the same “surprise."
But here’s what is surprising: Nobody gets left behind when the brood hits the road, whether it’s a road trip to the West Coast or a goodwill trip to El Salvador. For someone who rarely checks luggage, I am riveted by the Duggars’ packing routine.
For Duggar newbies, the family is a fixture on TLC, where the reality-TV show “19 Kids and Counting” (which used to be “18 Kids and Counting,” “17 Kids and Counting,” --you get the idea) chronicles the goings-ons of the Arkansas family whose children’s names all begin with the letter “J.”
I first tuned in to the show in 2009 when the Duggars embarked on a monthlong vacation in a 33-foot used motorhome, which towed a trailer that served as the boys’ dorm. The family was taking its first vacation in six years: a road trip from Springdale, Ark., to Los Angeles.
At the time, there were only 16 kids. Still, they packed 80 outfits (five days of clothing for each child), 17 pillows, 18 blankets, six large packs of diapers and a mind-boggling amount of canned food. Mom Duggar quips in the TLC episode that they would need a refrigerator car along if they wanted to bring fresh food. (Check out the first episode of “On the Road With 16 Children” (above); six other episodes are available on YouTube.)
The Duggars also visited Manhattan in 2009 and got stuck for four hours in Newark Liberty International Airport on the way home. This episode really shows the toll travel takes on weary children and parents. One of the kids goes missing in the airport -- a TLC cameraman hears the announcement about a lost boy named “Jackson” -- and even Dad’s cheery response fails to allay how shook up Jackson was.
Since then, the Duggars have gone to El Salvador and Malaysia; they’ve visited Dollywood and met Dolly Parton. Now some of the older Duggar children are married. And yet, the packing list hasn’t changed much. On a recent nine-day trip to the ski slopes, the pack list included snow suits and 100 pants, 200 shirts, 300 socks, 56 pairs of shoes and more.