Julie Cole's Family - Tips for Traveling with a Big Family

Welcome to our new series featuring guest posts from moms and dads who are re-defining what a “traditional” family looks like. Some of these parents face unique challenges when it comes to travel; others offer an interesting perspective when it comes to venturing out into the world with kids in tow.

In this series we’ll take a look at the role travel can play in different types of families and the benefits and challenges of taking a trip.

First up, we are so pleased to gain the perspective of blogger, business owner, friend and mom of 6, Julie Cole. She’s sharing what it’s like to travel with her large family, and offering some tips that families of all sizes can benefit from.

Traveling with a Big Family

Julie Cole headshot - roundBy Julie Cole

Traveling can be challenging for families of any size, but as a mother of six kids I have certainly encountered my own unique issues. I’ve learned a few tricks along the way to make travel not only less painful but actually enjoyable.

Getting from Point A to Point B:

Traveling to your destination can often be the most challenging part of the trip. I vividly remember a time a few years ago when we flew to Australia with 5 children. The youngest was five weeks old, the oldest was six years old. To add to the fun, I was just weeks out of my fifth C-section. After surviving that trip, here’s what I learned is really important:

       Be organized. Pack appropriate snacks, keep extra clothes in Ziploc bags, and have a bag full of tricks including stickers, crafts, surprise toys and activities. Have a few lollipops on hand to help with popping ears.

       Withhold all electronic devices for a month before travel. As you board the plane, hand over gadgets to your tech-starved kids. With any luck, they’ll keep their heads in those for most of the flight.

       Don’t cheap out. If you can, buy a seat for your toddler. It allows you to bring on the car seat, keeping them safe and comfortable for meals and sleeping. I know it’s tough to cough up the money on an extra seat, but you can’t put a price on sanity.

       Keep your cool. If anyone shoots you the stink eye because your toddler is crying, hold your chin up high and REFUSE to let it get to you. Keep your focus on the family and away from Judgy McJudgersons. Remind yourself that it is a limited amount of time that you will be on that plane. While I was traveling to Australia, I repeated in my head “It’s just ONE bad day. I’ve got this”.

Julie Cole's Family - Traveling with a Big Family (2)

Travel Pals:

There is much to be said for traveling with other people. Consider spending time with the following:

       Other families with small children. I know it sounds chaotic, but I have found putting kids together means less work. And the more there are of them, the more kids seem to entertain themselves. It also allows you to share the workload. Without sounding too “Sister Wives”, you can take turns making meals, or make them together. There is nothing I love more than getting dinner together with a girlfriend while sipping a glass of wine. It makes a regular boring chore a fun social event!

       Granny. If there are grandparents around, they can be a welcome addition to family travel. They get to spend time with the grandkids, you might get a free pass for a date night with your spouse, and you might actually experience an actual break while on holidays!

Where to Go:

       The cottage. We own a cottage, so we find the main advantage is that we can leave all our stuff there, allowing us to avoid a big packing job every time we go. Having said that, we rough it at the cottage – there is no dishwasher, washing machine or any of the other amenities we are used to. Be warned! The cottage is a destination where you’re doing the same hard mommy jobs in a different location, without the conveniences of home.

       An all-inclusive resort. Believe it or not, I have never done one of these. I’m not really a lounge-at-the-beach type, so the thought of that lack of activity seems a bit boring to me. But you know what’s not boring?  Someone entertaining your children at the kids’ camps, someone else feeding and cleaning up after every meal and actually returning from a holiday feeling rested and refreshed.

       Disney. Clearly, families love Disney and there are a million reasons why. My only advice if you plan a trip to Disney is to remember that EVERY SINGLE DAY you will be going non-stop from sunrise to well after sunset. As such, be sure to give yourself a few days when you get home so you can unwind and recover. You truly will need to go home for a rest.

If your family is of bigger than average size, try not to let the thought of travel intimidate you. With some organization, planning and a great attitude, your crew will gain invaluable opportunities and experiences traveling as a family. Your kids will create amazing memories that will last a lifetime – and they’ll create them together.

Do you have a story you want to share and tips from your family’s perspective? Tell us in the comments below or to be featured in this series, contact us.