I recently visited Guatemala with my entire family (and then some). The pics were amazing, more importantly, our vacation was beyond memorable. From us doing handstands in front of Mayan temples, diving into natural spring pools, feeding giraffes, to zip lining and having an overall wonderful time.
What the photos don't tell you is what it is really like to travel with three children: 9, 5 and 3. To be honest, it is total and complete chaos. My children are wonderful human beings, so before I rag on them, I must admit -- I'm utterly grateful for their existence and the memories of our amazing journey abroad.
Now, here's where things get real. There was a fair share of sibling squabbles, yelling matches, and tantrums everyday of our trip -- yes, everyday. Kids will be kids so there was a lot of bickering and even the hubby and I got into a spat. Tensions, even on vacation, can be high as we wrangle 5 people and traverse plenty of ground. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat, but I wanted to warn all parents venturing out to plan ahead to minimize the chaos.
Helpful tips to travel with a big family:
1. Pick hotels with breakfast included (there's one less decision to think of daily). If you can afford all meals, go for the all-inclusive deals, but read reviews to make sure meals are suited for picky eaters/kids' palettes. We stayed in a family home so we made sure to prepare meals all could agree on. We ate a lot of the same meals, but this kept our tribe generally happy.
2. Pack a "fun travel bag" per child. Make sure they can carry their own load (by the way). Include snacks, books, art supplies, headphones, and electronics.
3. Pack dark colored shoes, sweatshirts and anything else that will get repeatedly used. You don't have the ability to necessarily wash over your break and so darker tones are best. I'd also travel light, but who are we kidding, that's too hard with a large group. And on that note, dress in layers. We froze our butts-off on an overnight bus ride to the Mayan ruins. Lesson learned!
4. Ask for discounts. Don't be shy and ask everywhere. Kids of course get discounts routinely, but even when not specified some patrons may agree to reduce fares for children.
5. Take time to regroup. There's so much running around on vacation, ironically. So make time for peaceful quiet reflection. This is essential to balancing the energy of the daily hustle and excitement that is vacationing!
Share your family travel tips, too! Comment below!