In many aspects of life, getting kids off to school, chauffeuring them to activities, counseling them on navigating friendships, and helping with homework- having a large family is not very different from a smaller-sized family. It's just a bit busier! But when it comes to traveling for a family vacation- having a large family definitely makes a difference! Here's how to travel with a large family!
Where to Stay When Traveling with a Large Family
Once you get past 3 kids, booking just one hotel room isn't really a (legal) option. Perhaps for just one night, you might decide to sneak in a few of your kids through the hotel's side door, and not come clean with the front desk on how many people are in your room! But whenever I do that, I am worried that at some point there will be a knock on the door from the hotel manager asking us to leave!
If we need to stay in a hotel room for more than one night, our preferred hotel chains are Residence Inns and Springhill Suites because they have more room. But even these hotels rarely allow for 8 people in one room.
Most of the time we stay in a rented home or a condo so that every person has a bed for the week (even if 2 kids have to share a bed). And renting a home or a condo can actually be a less expensive option than staying in a hotel for 7 nights. The downside is that there is no daily maid service, but the upside is that you can bring food in and cook some of your meals, which saves you money too.
And since our family also enjoys camping as an activity, campsites are a great way to travel as a large family and stay very inexpensively. Of course, often when we travel to visit our families in Michigan and in Florida, we stay with them for free and just bring lots of sleeping bags and pillows for the kids.
If you are looking for hotels that will work for larger families, check out Six Suitcase Travel, a website that allows you to look up listings for hotels that allow up to 8 guests in a hotel room.
Getting to Your Destination with Your Large Family
When most families travel more than a few hours from home, they typically consider flying to their destination. But when your family has 8 people, flying is a much more expensive option. At a low-average of $350 per ticket plus luggage fees plus the cost of an oversized rental car when we arrive at our destination- we've already racked up thousands of dollars in vacation costs, and we haven't yet seen or done a thing!
So we tend to save our vacation dollars for the attractions and choose to drive everywhere we can. Of course when you drive a big Mommy bus, as I do, there is plenty of room for everyone, including all of the luggage that we bring along, and it makes for a very comfortable trip.
And don't forget my favorite tip for road tripping with kids– leave early in the morning and gets hours of driving done before they even wake up!
Dining With Your Large Family While on Vacation
Vacation is supposed to provide a break from the chores we do every day! And while we certainly enjoy dining out while on vacation, it can get pretty expensive. So we try to balance eating out at restaurants, and on-the-road fast food, with some home-cooked meals whenever possible.
We also pack snacks from home to eat during our travels and to satisfy an over-tired child who has been dragged to a few too many attractions on any given day.
An idea we use often to save some dining dollars: consider eating lunch out rather than dinner. Menu prices are generally lower and restaurants are less crowded.
How to Travel with a Large Family and Visit Attractions
I like to direct the bulk of our vacation budget towards the attractions- because when it comes down to how everyone will remember this vacation, it will be based on the fun things that we did. Not where we stayed or how we got there!
But there is always the issue of a balancing price against the fun. For example, a trip to a museum might be a cool thing to do, but if we are paying $17.95 per adult and $13.95 per kid, we are shelling out $120 for that attraction. So it should be something that everyone will enjoy, or at least learn from, and should entertain us for at least several hours.
I also try to mix in some free activities each day. Hiking in local parks, visiting a beach, and walking around a city costs nothing, and the kids love doing these things just as much as (if not more than!) visiting a museum!
Hands down our very favorite thing to on a family vacation is to visit a national park. An annual pass that is valid for all of our national parks is just $80- an amazing value!
Since we have family members that live in Orlando, we can stay for free while there. But taking the kids to a day at Disney is a serious vacation investment- admission alone costs our family of eight $960! And we'll spend at least another $200 on food! and that's for just ONE DAY! Yikes! So visiting Disney is not something we do often!
When Traveling with a Large Family- It Helps to Plan Ahead!
It is tough to be spontaneous with a large group. You can't just show up at a restaurant with 8 people at 7 pm and expect them to easily seat you. So it makes sense when traveling with a large family to plan ahead in all areas of travel- make hotel reservations, reserve campsites, buy tickets in advance for attractions, make dining reservations, etc.
Research online before you leave home to take advantage of specials and discounts at places where you will be staying, visiting, and eating. For restaurants, you can usually view menus and make sure that the places that you are selecting are truly “family friendly”, and fit into your dining budget.
Have a definite itinerary with back up ideas for things to so. Again, since spontaneity can be hard with a large group, and with varied opinions and interests, it is much better to tell the kids the activities that you have planned each day than to solicit suggestions while on the road!
That's not to say that our schedule isn't flexible, and we won't change it all up when we find something appealing right in front of us, or if the attraction we are visiting is not any fun. It's just good to start off with a game plan!
Planning a Family Road Trip?
You might want to check out these other posts that offer tips and advice on planning and packing for road trips:
- Printable Road Trip Planner– a free printable and planning guide to help you plan your next road trip!
- Free Printable Road Trip Packing List
- How to Plan a Great American Road Trip
- Packing for a Road Trip: How to Pack the Inside of Your Car
- The Best Car Coolers for a Family Road Trip
And if you are looking for some cool family road trip destinations:
- 10 Great Things to Do in Atlanta with Kids!
- 10 Great Things to Do In South Dakota with Kids!
- Things to Do in Williamsburg with Kids!
- Things to Do in New Smyrna Beach Florida with Kids!
- 5 Reasons to Visit Mammoth Caves with Kids
- 7 Great Things to Do in Lake Placid with Kids
How about you? Do you find that there are unique challenges to traveling with a large family? Or just with kids in general? Please leave a comment and tell us about it!