Written by guest contributor Jaymi Fillier
I’ve always been a traveller, and that didn’t change when I started my family, nor did it change when I added, and added, and added again to that (now not so) little family. Travelling as a family of 6 comes with some unique challenges, but I’ve learned a lot of little tricks along the way. Here are some of my favorites:
Stretch Those Vacation Dollars
Having a large family means making the most of every vacation dollar. Over the years I have learned many tricks to save. Travelling in shoulder season is one of the easiest ways to save because not only does it mean lower prices, it usually also means much smaller crowds, which translates into much smaller waits at attractions and food as well, which makes a big difference on how much fun you can fit in.
When it comes to resorts, cruise ships and hotels, it definitely pays to be flexible. Most hotel rooms are designed for 4 people, and while there are plenty of accommodation options for larger families who want to stay together, they command a premium price and tend to sell out quickly. Instead of a family suite, consider booking adjoining rooms, or even rooms across from each other to save a significant amount of money.
Let’s face it, you’re already going to be dealing with a larger than normal number of bags just to bring along the basics, the last thing you want to do is lug around any more than you have to. Young babies will need 2-3 outfits a day, but there’s no reason your older children need that much. Have a list of all the necessities and stick to it. Consider re-wearing some basics like jeans or sweaters, or research whether there will be laundry services available at your destination.
If at all possible, consider driving to your destination. Not only do you not have to worry about renting a car big enough for your brood, and all the necessary carseats and booster seats to go along with it, it also gives you a lot of extra packing space. For road trips longer than 12 hours, you can always break it down into multiple days, but if you have at least 2 drivers and really want to get the miles behind you, consider leaving in the late afternoon, that way most people can sleep through the first hours of the trip.
The secret to easy flights is simple: bribery. Tablets, new coloring books, movies, and favorite shows are some of the easiest ways to keep kids still in their seats. Don’t be afraid to use them, even if you don’t normally allow that much screen time. Pack snacks and water bottles that can be filled up before getting on the plane as well.
Another great way to ensure good behavior is planning your flight times. I love red eyes with kids because the dim lights and late nights often mean mine are snoozing before the landing gear goes back up, but if you don’t think your kid will sleep on the plane, it may be best to avoid sleeping times at all and instead schedule mid morning flights to ensure best behavior.
I’ve always thought that cruising was one of the best ways to travel with children. 24 hour food (usually buffet, always a bonus with kids), new ports every other day, and non stop activities means that no one will be bored or hungry, and trust me, that’s something you can’t put a price on. Most ships are equipped with kids clubs for babies right up to teens that mean mom and dad can escape for a romantic meal as well. Add in the fact that cruises are usually a lot more reasonably priced than comparable resorts and you have everything you need for the perfect family getaway.
Pack your patience
When you’re travelling with kids, everything takes longer, from security lines to bathroom breaks, so make sure to pack your patience, and plan for slower days.
Travelling with a large family can have its challenges, but it brings along memories that you will cherish forever.