Does it sound too good to be true? Since moving to the South East, we have increased our travel quite a bit. When the kids have a break from school, the first question I ask is “Where do we want to go?”
Traveling with 7 people is not always easy. Someone always forgets something. There’s always some grumpiness. We can’t get 100% consensus on anything. And our car always looks like a nuclear explosion has gone off by the time we get home.
Exploring and building memories with my family is one of my favorite things to do. But stressing about travel is NOT!
I’m not saying everyone wants to travel like we do, but if you are wondering how we manage taking 5 kids to some pretty cool places without killing each other or breaking the bank, then here’s the scoop!
- VRBO: (Vacation Rentals By Owner) allows you to rent a house. The sizes vary from studio apartments to 4-5 bedrooms. VRBO is usually the first place I check to find a place for us to stay. I love having a kitchen so we don’t have to eat out every meal. Even just taking our family through a fast food drive through can be upwards of $70. So every meal in helps save money. And as a side note, we feel better not eating junk for days on end. It’s also nice having a home where there is some space to spread out. It takes away the stress of trying to keep kids entertained in a hotel room if you have bad weather. And it makes it more enjoyable to be the one staying home with little ones during nap time.
- Priceline Express Deals: I am a notorious last minute traveler. I would probably stress most of you out if you knew how close I can push those last minute plans. But, sometimes planning last minute really works better for families. You never know when someone is going to get sick and vacay with a sicko is just no fun. Priceline Express Deals are FANTASTIC for the last minute traveler. You can book the day before, day of, or even while you are driving to your location. The last minute nature can get you some great deals. You don’t know exactly what hotel you are booking for, but you can see the amenities, general location, and how many stars it is rated. My favorite with kids are 2.5-3 stars with free breakfast. These hotels will be clean and mainstream enough for safety. But they are not so fancy that people are uptight when you bring 5 little boys to the breakfast buffet line. I’ve gotten rooms for some pretty deep discounts!
- Don’t overplan. The most stressful vacations are the ones where you expect everyone to be on the go 24/7. I’ve learned that sometimes seeing less, but enjoying more go hand in hand. The first morning of our trips, we get together and do a google search of all the things to do in the area. Then we choose what we want, and we do our best to see what we can. If we run out of time, we run out of time. Keep it simple!
- Choose 1-2 paid activities and google free for the rest! We try to keep our activities balanced between free and paid. Everywhere we go there are some pretty great things you can do for free. They may be a little outside of the tourist areas, but they are worth looking for. We love free beaches, free hiking trails, free parks, free museums etc. But, we also choose one place we really want to go that costs money. In Washington DC, we went to the Spy Museum and it was my kids absolute favorite! In Panama Beach Florida, we went to Wonderworks and spent an entire rainy afternoon inside doing science experiments. It was fantastic! Be willing to spend, but make sure you are spending on the high value activities. They will appreciate them more!
- Keep bedtime pretty consistent for little ones. Tired grumpy kids is the worst on vacation. If we keep our little ones up late at night, the next day is a nightmare of meltdowns and fighting. So after dinner, we usually head back to the hotel and we have kids in bed on time. The older kids can watch movies and netflix or go to the pool. Sometimes we have our teenager babysit and we go back out. But we definitely don’t pack it in so full that everyone is exhausted the next day. Rested kids are much more fun!
- Keep the perspective. Remember that these trips are about building memories and spending time together. Be flexible. Be willing to adjust. Don’t try to control the fun too much. It has a tendency to ruin it all together!
- Find the right length for your family. I love 4-5 day trips for my family. Longer than that and it gets stressful. Shorter than that and I don’t feel like I really got the full experience. Even if we have 7 days for a vacation, my kids like to have a couple of days off just being at home. They are usually a little sick of each other by day 5 and arguing starts to sneak in.
Happy Traveling! Now go out there and have some fun!