Wondering how to plan a holiday if your family doesn’t fit the 2 adults + 2 kids formula? We love nothing more than hitting the road with my six little wildlings and finding new places to explore, it’s kind of our thing. As a family of eight now, we have to be clever about how we spend our money to enable us to continue doing what we love best.
If you’re a ‘larger than average’ family who are trying to get away for a night or a longer trip, check out my top tips on how to plan a holiday and see if you can get away on a tight budget.
Top Tips: How to Plan a Holiday
Plan in Advance
Firstly, booking a holiday a few months or even a year in advance could save you a fortune and it gives you more time to budget, plan and book extra activities at your chosen destination.
Look for Alternatives
When booking a family holiday we always tend to look for hotel offers – but unfortunately, when you have more than two children the amazing deals we see advertised don’t tend to apply.
And not everyone wants to be stuck in a hotel room after the kids go to bed anyway, which is why it’s a great idea to look at alternatives accommodation, such as villas, apartments, camping, glamping and even mobile homes.
Eating out in crowded restaurants isn’t always sustainable when you have a larger family. For starters, even the basics will end up being expensive for a larger group, so you need to be wise about how and where you will spend your hard-earned cash. It’s also unrealistic to expect to have a relaxing meal out, especially trying to keep younger children entertained.
When booking accommodation, a kitchen is essential if you want to stick to a budget. With a self-catering holiday home or an apartment, you can eat breakfast before you leave and prepare a picnic for lunch, in turn freeing up money for extra activities, day trips, treats and more.
No matter where your holiday destination is, there are plenty of free things to see and do with kids, so make the most of them while you can.
Research as much as possible ahead of your trip, check for upcoming events and festivals, and have a look at offer sites (e.g. Groupon) for discounted days out.
It is also a good idea to sit down as a family to discuss the proposed activities – it could save you a small fortune on admissions if some children aren’t bothered going on a particular day out.
I’m not necessarily advising you to take your kids away during school time, but realistically it’s the only way of getting the best deals if you’re a larger family.
Consider destinations that do not take school holidays at the same time as your area does, as well as making the most of bank holidays and in-service days at school.
Never Rule Out All-Inclusive
If you are considering heading off to a resort or hotel, it is always worth checking out the all-inclusive offers. While it may seem like a higher cost initially, if you don’t have to individually pay for every drink, ice cream and half-eaten sandwich, it may actually work out better value.
Don’t forget to check whether the restaurant opening times suit your needs and if the menu caters for your family’s tastes and dietary requirements.
Add More Time
When you have extra mouths to feed and bums to wipe, it is important to allow additional time for delays of any kind, including traffic, toilet breaks, meltdowns and general wrangling.
If you’re travelling by car, boat, plane or train give yourself an extra 30-60 minutes so you’re not stressing.
When you have more hands than you can hold, it can be hard to keep your eyes on them all at once. Make sure each child is aware of their surroundings and knows what to do if they get lost. Older children should have your mobile number memorised and invest in reusable wristbands for little ones to display your contact details clearly.
Travelling with young children (or partners…) can be a challenge – take a look at our sanity-saving family travel tips and get prepared for your next adventure!
Be Open to Separating
If a hotel has an unmissable offer for an average-sized family, consider if it is worth booking two rooms. Although make sure you request the rooms to be next to each rather than on different floors on the opposite side of the hotel.
Don’t Be Shy
If you’ve found a good deal online, it’s always worth checking in with the hotel. They may add on an extra person or two for a small surcharge per night.
Keep Everyone Happy
It’s also worth noting that you may have to separate and split forces for days out or at theme parks, for example, in order to get the most out of your time there. Older, thrill-seeking kids will want to ride the bigger attractions which may not be suitable for younger ones. Similarly, little ones may need a break to chill out in the playground, rather than traipsing around for hours. Trying to have everyone do every activity is often unrealistic, and just ends up putting pressure on you to keep everyone happy.
It’s easy to want to fit as many activities in as possible, but try to only schedule one big activity per day. The last thing you will want is tired, worn out kids acting up out of exhaustion.
Also, by not filling every minute, you can leave room for exploring little playgrounds, parks and other activities spontaneously.
Pack Like a Pro
You can never be too prepared when heading on vacation as a larger family. If you travel regularly, make a master list of your packing essentials, from favourite teddies to chargers and medication. Keep your list someplace safe so that you can pull it out for each trip and be super organised!
I like to pack everyone’s swimwear, PJs and underwear together – it saves vigorous rooting when it’s time to hit the pool, or get everyone ready for bed for that matter.
Make a List – and Check it Twice
Dedicate a list to each member of the family to make packing bags easier – and remember you can never have too many nappies, bibs or underwear for younger children.
I usually pack the kids’ clothes in one large suitcase, while myself and my partner share another large bag. Each child then has their own backpack with travel entertainment and spare clothes.
Expect the Unexpected
Things happen and plans change, so be prepared. Pack extra clothes, bring Calpol and always have a Plan B in case the heavens open up and your day’s activity needs to be revised.
Stock Up On Snacks
Regardless of where you are travelling to, bring plenty of snacks to save your sanity when the kids become peckish. If travelling by plane, make little snack packs with non-perishable foods that they can nibble on throughout the flight. The cost of snack items and drinks is significant when buying multiples of everything, so a little advance prep can really make a difference.
My top tip for travelling as a larger family is to bring plenty of entertainment! Whether you are hitting the road in the car or flying high in the sky, the journey will feel never-ending if the children don’t have some form of entertainment to occupy them.
Our favourites are:
- a pack of cards (you can teach them some great card games in advance)
- some movies or programmes downloaded on Netflix or other streaming service
- activity packs like colouring pages and word searches
- toddler busy books
- books, audio books and podcasts for kids
- lots of paper and pens for games and drawing
A great tip is to keep some items back and don’t give all the entertainment options in one go. That way there will always be something ‘new’ to keep little ones amused.