When it comes to having a growing family, normal and everyday aspects of life like driving them to activities, helping with chores and homework, and making dinner are just a tiny bit more complicated with a larger family.
One of the areas that gets incredibly complicated as a family grows in size is traveling out of town – whether on a vacation or for family obligations.
It’s really hard to define a large family – for some, having 3 kids might seem like an incredible challenge. Although I don’t consider 5 kids to be anything too extraordinary, our kids usually invoke random thoughts and responses from strangers if and when we travel out of town. I know some people have 8 or 9 kids, and that’s even more of a challenge.
Given that the average number of kids is 2 or 3, anything more than that involves creative methods for some of the most common tasks of life. Taking kids to their sports practice and meets, helping them conquer their homework and assisting them with chores are all relatively easy – it’s when we travel out of town for a family obligation that it becomes an incredible challenge.
To Drive or Fly to your Destination
Most families tend to book an easy flight for a family vacation – after all, it’s so much easier to just hop on a plane and be at your end destination within a few hours. However .. when you have a family of 7, flying is not a cost-friendly option.
After combining the average cost of a flight ($300/ticket), fees, parking or van transport, and luggage fees, with the cost of a rental car at your vacation destination, it can be upwards of $3 – $4,000 before you have even .
If at all possible, we prefer to save by driving everywhere we possibly can, even if it means switching off every 5-6 hours to allow each other to sleep. A recent trip to Minnesota by huge SUV was thousands less than what it would have been to fly all 7 by air. We saved money without the need to rent a car at our destination, not to mention the kids learned quite a bit along the drive.
Lodging at your Destination
Having a family and vacationing out of town can be relatively easy for a family with 2 kids… but once you get past 3 kids, lodging is an entirely different beast. Staying in one hotel room is definitely not an option … since most hotels have a max capacity of 4 or *maybe* 5 to a room.
If we need to stay at a hotel, then we will usually look for a hotel that allows a higher occupancy rate – our go-to is usually Chase Suites, since they have a suite that has 2 bedroom areas, 2 bathrooms, a living room with a pull out sofa, and a full kitchen.
Residence Inn, and Homewood Suites often times have a larger occupancy rate with rooms that can accommodate up to 8. If a large suite or room isn’t available, we’ll try to find out if they have adjoining rooms (though that’s always pretty rare). Since we are military, the Armed Forces Vacation Club has been helpful too, provided we know our travel plans in advance.
Six Suitcase Travel is a pretty incredible resource to help us find hotels that allow travel for up to 8 guests staying together.
Feeding your Family on Vacation
With one or two kids, eating out on vacation wasn’t a huge burst to the budget – however, with 7 of us, it can get incredibly expensive. We avoid eating out at restaurants multiple times a day, and instead, make alternative plans:
- Packing food from home for our road trip and keeping a fully stocked cooler with sandwiches, nuts, fresh fruit and lots of water.
- Staying at a hotel suite (like Chase Suites) with a full hot breakfast and encouraging everyone to get up and dressed to eat a heavy breakfast that’ll help tide them over through lunch.
- Visiting a grocery store for healthier snack alternatives to pack in mom’s purse or our travel bag for snacking on during the day.
- Enjoying one meal out each day at a family friendly restaurant that won’t allow us to break the bank – splitting plates and being cautious on what we choose from the menu.
If we are visiting family out of town, we’ll commonly eat with them and bring food to throw on the grill from the supermarket for a less costly alternative to restaurants.
While cost is usually always a deterrent from eating out, sometimes the cost isn’t as much of a factor as it is having 7 people to fit at a table. Many restaurants don’t cater to large families and in some cases, it’s ultimately much too busy to drag 5 kids in a restaurant and have to deal with tired, cranky attitudes.
Local Events and Attractions on Vacation
The best part about taking off on a trip with the family is the opportunity to see new places, and experience new things. While that might be less costly and overall easier with a family of 3, or 4… when you have 7, it can get quite high – especially when admission topples $20 – $25 (or more) at attractions.
We always try to incorporate things that everyone will enjoy by planning for the smallest child – and looking for activities that are naturally free:
- Spending time on the beach
- Walking the city
- Touring a local museum
- Touring a local farm, maybe even U-Pick
- Visiting a local park, or even a local zoo
- Scouring Groupon and LivingSocial for additional family offers
Most of those cost little to no money and can entertain kids for hours – then give them the chance to snooze on the drive back so parents can have some peace of mind. I prefer to visit places that allow me to sit down frequently to nurse, so that we aren’t restricted to a strict tour that’ll wear out kids and little legs.
Always Plan in Advance
One of the best ways to save with a large family is planning ahead – it’s incredibly hard to be spontaneous when you have a gang of kids.
When it comes to lodging, feeding hungry bellies or keeping kids busy, doing extensive research ebfore your trip is one of the best ways to have a successful trip out of town without breaking the bank.
Kids want to have just as much fun as you do – and it’s incredibly important to always have their best interest in mind. Ask them what they would like to see and do before your trip begins so you can incorporate their wishes into the family happenings, rather than asking them during the trip (when you are less likely to be able to save).
If you found this helpful, you might want to read these, too:
- Common Myths About Traveling with Children
- Helpful Tips for Traveling with a Large Family
- 10 MUST Have Items to Carry in your Car when you Have Kids
- 5 items to Carry in your Arizona Summer Vehicle
Do you frequently travel with a large family? Do you have any tips for saving?