Featured in YMC.ca Life & Travel: Travelling with a Big Family is Hard; These Travel Sites Will Make it Easy
Now that the Back-to-School crunch is over, my attention has shifted from camp schedules and cottage-going to hockey schedules and homework routines. Daydreams of a break from it all are beginning to creep in and whether a family vacation over the holidays is feasible with my large brood.
When we had our fourth babe, something we heard from pretty much everyone was, “travel will be tough!” My initial reaction? Pfft. Challenge accepted. “I’ll show you,” my stubborn side screamed. That was back before I tried to research accommodations for Winter Break and March Break. It turns out those people were totally right. Sigh.
Despite my relentless search so far, I can confirm – the family amenity world is very much suited for families of four when it comes to travel. Once you key in a party size of five or more, your search results go way down and the price tag soars. You’re basically forced to upgrade to a pricey suite or add another room to your booking. Neither of these options thrill me.
There are plenty of other deterrents to large family travel. When looking to book a hotel room for a hockey tournament out of town last Winter, I quickly discovered that most hotels will not guarantee adjoining rooms and ask families to wait until check-in to find out if this request can be honoured. This isn’t practical for large families—organization and preparation is our lifeline.
Here are a few of my other travel pet peeves:
- The “extra person” charge, plus crib or cot rental fees. Most occupancy restrictions are imposed to meet building code and safety policies, which I get, but still. If hotels want to appeal to young families, regardless of size, offer amenities that relieve the load instead of hitting us with a bigger bill.
- Added package inclusions, like waterpark passes, for example, are typically for a limited number of family members (usually four) and you have to pay extra for the incentive to extend to each additional person.
- The long wait time on the phone to discuss unique travel requirements is a huge pain. There’s a lack of information and access on most company websites, which creates barriers to completing travel bookings when wanting to purchase vacations online. Some online travel sites ask you to call the booking centre when arranging travel for more than five guests—it’s a huge nuisance for web-savvy and eager online customers and busy families. I once waited 45 minutes to talk to an agent, and then had to pay a $20 administration fee for booking with a live person instead of online! Not cool.
All this grumbling aside, it seems some travel companies are starting to get with it and cater to the larger family dynamic, devoting space on their sites to international travel destinations that accommodate large broods. This trend is a welcome offering as a family of six. It excites me so much that I wanted to save you, my fellow super-sized families (or even smaller families travelling with grandparents in tow or in groups), some time and share this list of resources and travel portals (most of them Canadian) I’ve uncovered so far in my search for our upcoming holiday getaway.
Here are my top 7 picks for large family booking sites:
Family Vacation Critic features reviews of family-friendly hotels, resorts, destinations and attractions. The site is packed with ideas on where to go next, highlights the best family travel deals and provides advice for travelling with kids of all ages. Most importantly, every review on Family Vacation Critic is written specifically with families in mind.
After a search of great hotels on Family Vacation Critic, we head to Expedia for most of our family bookings. We appreciate that you can enter more than 2-3 kids in the search parameters (most sites have a kid limit) and that we can narrow down our search by selecting “Family Friendly” under Trip Type. Giving affordability challenges when you’re a large family, we also love that we earn Expedia points that can be applied to future travel bookings.
A dream resource for big broods, Six Suitcase Travel’s hub will save you oodles of time scouring cyberspace for places most-suited to large families. They actually find hotel rooms that fit up to eight people, which is awesome.
Sleeps5 lists accommodations for families of five-plus. Hotels, apartment-style rooms, suites and hostels are included, with room rates for the budget conscious to luxury-type travellers. Focused mainly on European accommodations, you’ll also find family-style hotel rooms in exciting cities like New York City, Sydney, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Chicago and many more.
From standard guestrooms that sleep a family of four to luxury villas that can sleep up to 10, Beaches Resorts offer a plethora of room and suite accommodations. Mix in its all-inclusivity, with numerous land and water activities and dining options for all palates, to all ages amenities like water parks, Xbox lounges and Sesame Street entertainers, it’s no wonder Beaches Resorts are a favourite for large families.
This site does a roundup of the top 10 resorts that accommodate families of five, all with 4- to 5-star ratings.
It’s one of our favourite online travel pages to visit—Transat Holidays not only breaks it down for “Big Fun for Big Families” but also acknowledges family diversity with other sections like “Single Parents” and “Multigenerational Travel.” We love their inclusivity!
Understanding many of these offerings are still quite expensive, we also share how to get the best value from your family travel bookings HERE!