Vacation Tips for Larger Families

Have a big family? Use these tips from Alamo's Audrey McClelland to take the headache out of planning your next family vacation.

Our family loves to travel together.  Finding new places to visit, explore and fall in love with is a priceless gift for our family of seven.  As our family has grown throughout the years, our travel habits have definitely had to change and adapt to our larger needs.  It’s funny -- once you max out of a standard hotel room (max out number is five), travel is never the same for you.  We’ve done our best over the years to make travel easy, manageable and fun with our large family.  Our five kids – William (11), Alex (10), Ben (9), Henry (7) and Victoria (2) – think of traveling as the best adventure ever and we absolutely love that for them.

I know it’s not easy to get everything planned and off your “travel to-do list” with a large family. Everything from choosing the perfect destination, to travel plans and lodging, to transportation once you’re there, to packing for everyone, adds up to a hefty amount of work.  My favorite challenge is when each of my kids wants to bring their OWN suitcase filled with random items!  They aren’t happy when I say, “No!” – but I need everything to be efficient and organized. 

Don’t let having a large family hold you back from traveling and experiencing amazing vacations together. 

Here are five tips to keep in mind when planning your family's next vacation:

Fun-For-All Destinations

Vacationing with a large family usually means that there are many different aged kids traveling with you. In our family, we have five kids under the age of 11. When choosing destinations for vacation, keep in mind that you want to find a place that will be fun for everyone. You don’t want to pick a place that will just be good for the little ones or just be good for the older ones. We’ve discovered gems by really looking high and low for places that everyone will be happy visiting – Hershey Park, Cape Hatteras, NC, Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh, PA, Lost River Caverns and Cape Cod beaches, to name just a few. We always plan ahead and make sure that everyone will have something to do and will enjoy the trip.

Plan Ahead

Since traveling with a large family can be expensive, it’s important to make sure you plan ahead. We plan (at least) 6-9 months in advance, especially if we need to fly somewhere. If you wait until the last minute, you’re at the mercy of what is available and these options usually have set prices.  We really make sure we take the time to find the best airfare deals, best lodging deals and best ticket deals. If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout the years, it’s that last minute travel, as fun as it is, does come with a price!

Bring An Extra Set of Hands

With five kids, traveling can be a little chaotic for me and my husband. There are only two of us, so I’m constantly counting heads and making sure we’re all together. The best thing we started to do was bring a set of grandparents with us on vacation. The extra set of hands and help has been priceless. If you’re able to bring someone with you to help out, I highly recommend it. It does make family travel a lot less stressful and more manageable. Plus, if you’re bringing family, it’s a wonderful way to bond.

Kid-Friendly Lodging

Save yourself some stress and make sure you’re staying some place that is kid and family friendly. We made this mistake once a few years back when traveling to Cape Cod. We found a fabulous deal online, so we grabbed it. When we arrived, we realized very quickly that we were the only ones with kids. It made for a very awkward trip because nobody appreciated kids splashing around in the pool or our family dining at their hotel restaurant. Lesson learned. We now book places that are family friendly and have good family reviews. Also, a quick suggestion: when booking, ask if they have a family suite available. Usually, we have to book two rooms that connect, but we’ve had success in requesting family suites. It’s much easier to stay all together than in two separate rooms.

Organized Packing

When I travel alone for work, I’m a huge over-packer. When I travel with my family, I’m about as streamlined as can be. I lay out clothing for everyone, for every day.  I put the clothing in plastic bags and label the bag for that designated person.  When we wake up in the morning while on vacation, everyone has his or her outfit and essentials readily available. I also don’t like traveling with lots and lots of bags; I like to fit all five kids in one large suitcase.

Take the time to travel with your family and enjoy the beauty of a wonderful adventure away. My best memories from childhood come from trips that I took with my family.  Make these lasting memories for your family, too!

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About the Author

Audrey Mclelland

By: Audrey McClelland, Alamo Chief Travel Mom and founder of

The Alamo Chief Travel Moms are a council of lifestyle bloggers and mothers who have partnered with Alamo Rent A Car to inspire and celebrate family travel while sharing their personal experiences and tips they’ve learned along the way.