Friday, March 8, 2013

Travel Tips for Large Families

The red Globus bag is the toiletry bag

Because this past year involved so much traveling (I estimate I traversed at least 10,000 miles) I thought I would post a few travel tips.  These are especially for those of you with large families.  A smaller group may have different ways of doing it.

I, however, have a family of seven, none of whom are small (only one is still shorter than 5'8", and I expect that in the next couple of years he will have surpassed that height as well).  Because of our large number and size and small budget, most of the time we are driving, although we have had one occasion that involved us all flying and then renting a car.  I did make one flying trip alone last year when I stayed with my mom.

These tips are in no particular order and are not hard-and-fast rules, but things that over the years I have found (oftentimes the hard way) to be helpful.

TIP #1:  Each person should have his/her own suitcase.  It is also much better if those suitcases are carry-on size and have wheels.  That way EVERYONE, no matter their age (or lack of it), can be responsible for their own luggage, they actually can transport their luggage without personal strain, it will all fit in the back of the car (if you are driving an SUV, which you probably are if you are hauling around seven adult-sized people), and if you do fly you will pay no extra fees for checked baggage.  It is SO much easier to keep organized if everyone has their own bag.  When traveling by car, I do pack one extra bag just for toiletries.  When flying, you will not have that luxury.

TIP #2:  This applies to car travel:  Everyone needs to have their own filled water bottle.  Desperate situations can be avoided by having water available to drink.  It does need to be water; anything else can leave a sticky mess in the car and doesn't truly quench thirst.  The water bottles can be refilled for free at rest stops, restaurants, and hotels, so make sure everyone has one.

TIP #3:  Keep some extra blankets in the car so that people who are cold can wrap up while people who are hot can still have the air conditioning on (you WILL have both types of people at the same time and they WILL complain simultaneously).  Also bring a few pillows.

TIP #4:  Pack lightly, but pack at least one thing you can wear to something dressy (think:  church clothes).  My kids also always pack a bathing suit just in case we get to stay at a hotel with an indoor pool.

TIP #5:  Choosing a hotel:  if possible, choose one with an indoor pool and free breakfast.  If you are a large family, that free breakfast will save you a lot of money (and time).

TIP #6:  After eating your free breakfast, only stop for snacks at one of your gas station breaks.  Eat only one big meal a day when you are on the road.  This way you will save time, money and calories.

TIP #7:  Audiobooks are great for long car trips, provided you can find something your whole family will enjoy.  We listened to almost all the Harry Potter books that way.  Otherwise, expect people to be listening to their iPods, etc. with occasional group listening going on.

TIP #8:  Bring the following medicines:  ibuprofen(for headaches or fever), benadryl (just in case for allergies), dramamine (for motion sickness), TUMS (for stomach upset), a few bandaids (for cuts).    Also, keep a canister of wet wipes in the car, along with a couple of plastic bags for trash or wet clothing.  At some point you will need all of these things.

TIP #9:  Don't forget chargers for your electronics, money, keys, sunglasses, prescriptions, eyeglasses, etc.  Think about what your family needs for this particular trip.

TIP #10:  This is not necessarily a travel tip, but make sure everyone in your house has something in their closets they can wear to a wedding or a funeral.  When my mother-in-law died, we actually had to go shopping for clothes for my four sons.  They don't normally have to wear anything dressy, and because they are all different sizes and are always growing, they had hardly anything appropriate to wear.  As the seasons change, check your family's wardrobe and take care of this BEFORE you have to.

TIP #11:  That many related people in that close quarters for that many hours (in our case, usually 18+) will NOT get along that whole time, so expect there to be some bumpy times and a few meltdowns.  This is why I do not want people other than my immediate family in the car with us -- every once in a while we need to be free to yell at each other.

TIP #12: This may only apply to my family, but before you leave the house, check to make sure everyone has shoes (see here for what can happen if you neglect this tip).

Traveling is a lot of work, but my whole married life I have had to do it because we've always lived far away from our families, and we do the traveling at least 95% of the time.  I will say it gets a little easier as your kids get older (we no longer have to make sure we stop at a playground, for instance), but it's still hard.  To be honest, getting ready for a trip actually makes me feel sick because there is so much to do.  But once we are finally on the road, I relax. In fact, I am usually happy because my family is all together under one (car) roof.  We've certainly made a lot of memories over the years.

I hope you find this list helpful.  And if you would like to add some tips of your own, please do so.


  1. Great tips! I especially like the water over soft drinks or fruit one needs the stickies in the car.

  2. I love your travel tips Angela and although I only have a small family, much of them apply anyway. I SO longed to have a large family like yours - even the yelling at one another because there are too many in too small a space sounds wonderful to me! Sorry, you probably think that's crazy but it's true! One tip I would add is encouraging everyone to pack for themselves! I have always packed for my husband who claims he can't but I have drawn the line at H and lo and behold!, by now he's more efficient than me! A few omissions early on like toothpaste and underpants, but never repeated! I haven't told him about your shoe story - he might take it as precedent!! E xx

  3. Angela, you have certainly provided some great tips...and the voice of experience! I think that lots of these ideas are adaptable to the smaller family too. I am going to come back and read these before our next road trip! :)

  4. The red Globus bag makes me wonder if you took a tour? If you did where did you go and would you recommend it?

  5. Softie, That bag is from a tour of Scotland that my husband and his father went on back in 2000 (it's hard to believe it was that long ago!!) What they did was go on the tour (which was about 5 or 6 days) and then they rented a car and stayed in Scotland another 4 days. This is a good way to do things: the tour can hit the major highlights and get you somewhat familiar with the area, and those extra days allow you to go back and explore in more depth the things that interested you. My husband had a great time, in fact he wanted to move over there and would have except for the little problem of finances:)

    1. That does sound like a good way to do a trip. Thanks for answering my question!


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