In many aspects of life, sending kids to school, chauffeuring them to activities, counseling them on navigating friendships, and helping with homework- having a large family is not very different from what life is like in 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 why:
Where to Stay on a Family Vacation
Once you get past 3 kids, staying anywhere in just one hotel room isn't really a (legal) option. Perhaps for just one night on your way to your final destination, you might decide to resort to sneaking in a few of your kids through the hotel's side door and avoid traipsing the family through the lobby at all costs! 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 hotels are Residence Inns, and Embassy Suites because they have more room so we are not so on top of each other. But even these hotels rarely allow for 8 people in one room.
Often we try to stay in a rented home or a condo, so that at least 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 at no cost, 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.
How to Get to Your Destimation
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 $250 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.
Dining While on Vacation
We certainly enjoy dining out while on vacation, but it can get to be 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 to save some dining dollars: consider eating lunch out rather than dinner. Menu prices are generally lower and restaurants are less crowded.
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 visiting a museum!
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 8 $684! And we'll spend at least another $200 on food! and that's for just ONE DAY! Yikes! So visiting Disney is certainly not something we do every time we visit our family in Florida!
It is tough to be spontaneous with a large group. You can't just show up at a restaurant with 8 people 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, 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”.
Have a definite itinerary with back up ideas of 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!
If you enjoyed this post you might want to check out these two posts on taking family road trips:
And if you are interested in some destination inspiration, you might want to check out:
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!