Aside from our family cruises, our family has never done an international family vacation as a large group. London was our first, and it has definitely taught us a lot about international travel as a [large] family. We learned there are things we should have done before leaving The States that would have helped use our time efficiently while in the U.K. They say hindsight is 20/20, right? And a blessing in every lesson, which means you get to benefit from our mistakes. So, we’ve compiled a list that will help make your trip planning easier, but also ensure your vacation runs smoothly.
Plan Ahead for your Family Vacation
As it states in Habakkuk 2:2 “Write the vision and make it plain…” Setting a plan and itinerary prior to leaving for your trip is crucial when traveling with a large group. This ensures everyone gets the most out of the time spent at a particular destination.
Do your research on things to do, dining options, getting around, etc. TripAdvisor is our best friend when it comes to researching places. You should also schedule any reservations necessary prior to your arrival to your destination because it is hard to be spontaneous with a group of 10 people. Trust us. It is better to have planned, a full itinerary with additional backup things to do than to be at a standstill for 30-minutes while on the road. It is not fun and can be a complete waste of time that can otherwise be spent doing something fun or seeing something new and exciting.
When your family vacation consists of a large group, it is important to keep in mind that not everyone will want to do, see, and eat the same things. Split up!
Figure out who wants to do/see what, and group together the people who have the same interests. Of course, kids, especially the smaller children should stay with their parents. No one gets left behind, and everyone gets to do and see what they want, and then people are not stuck doing things they do not want to do.
Be sure to agree on a meeting time and place before splitting up. We want everyone to return safely. It also helps to have at least one person in each group having a cell phone to communicate with everyone else.
Choose Practical Accommodations
Unless you are open to booking multiple rooms or spending thousands on high-end suites, it is almost impossible to find traditional hotel accommodations that allow occupancy for 10 or more people. For us, Airbnb worked. Everyone had their own space, we were able to cook when we wanted, and do laundry. Best of all, it was affordable.
Limit Dining Out on Family Vacations
Both my husband and I are foodies. One of the things we enjoy most when traveling is experiencing local cuisine; however, dining out can become costly while on a family vacation, especially with a large group. What worked for us was balancing dining out at restaurants with home-cooked meals. We all chipped in to cook breakfast, dinner, whatever. We did not make all of those trips to the local Sainsbury’s for nothing.
For the smaller children, you should also pack snacks and water to drink. Usually, those things are priced more, especially in tourist areas. And since kids get cranky when they are hungry, having [healthy] snacking options helps to curb hunger.
One of the best usages of our time during our family vacation to the U.K. were guided tours. The Black History Walk in Trafalgar Square and the Big Bus Tour in Paris allowed for us to use our time efficiently. We learned a great deal and saw a lot during both tours.
Make Time for your Spouse
Yes, family vacations are about spending time making memories with your family, but you should also plan to set aside some quality time for your spouse, especially if you are visiting somewhere for the first time.
This could be something as small as taking an early morning walk, grabbing breakfast and/or dinner, or even spending the night out. Just know that it is important to make time for yourselves as it can be a huge difference between having a relaxing, stress-free trip than not. Plus, being able to make new memories with your spouse in a new place is always pretty awesome.
Just remember that family vacations can be fun if things are planned out accordingly to meet the needs of everyone in the group as much as possible, and as much as the schedule allows. Remember, it is a vacation so go with the flow, explore and do something you have not done before, even if it is not something you do not think you would like because you just may end up loving it.
Armed with these tips, we hope your next family vacation is an enjoyable one.