Large Family Traveling Logistics – Controlling the Chaos

Posted: August 15th, 2011 under Traveling with children.
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Gathering luggage – St. Croix airport, 2007

 

 

In May my husband and I succeeded in traveling to seven parks in nine days with our nine children and a babysitter.  It was no small feat, and every previous family vacation was a rehearsal for this “big one”.  How did we do it?  I hope to share a few bits of wisdom.  I wish a had more pictures to share of things we did to simplify the complications, but at those busy times, photography was the last thing on my mind.  Instead, I shall fill in the white spaces of places we have traveled with children.  Yes, it can be done!

 

 

 

 

Grand Cayman, 2007

1.  When navigating an airport, I dress my children all in matching shirts.  You would think the older children would balk, but they actually seem to possess, instead, a “team spirit”, making the whole ordeal more fun.  The shirts allow me to quickly find children who might stray from the group, but they also enable others to identify us as a group traveling together.  One of the benefits of that is having your family singled out and moved to a shorter line for quicker processing.  That has happened more than twice.

Rum Point, Grand Cayman, 2011

2.  All domestic airports require you to remove your shoes for security screening.  Allow your younger children to wear quick, slip on shoes such as Crocs.  There is nothing like tying ten shoes or needing a shoe horn to dampen your spirits and increase your stress level.  Oh, and make sure your children can walk comfortably and quickly in the shoes they wear.  Airport transfers routinely require lengthy and brisk walks.

Island hopping with son, Bonaire and Curacao, 2007

3.  For domestic flights, allow at least one hour between connections.  Even small delays can make it impossible for you to disembark from one flight and get to the next gate in time.  For international flights, allow at least two hours.

Magic Kingdom, Orlando, FL 2011

4.  When you arrive at an airport, go immediately to find your gate.  Do not buy lunch.  Do not browse for magazines.  Do not try on sunglasses.  Find your gate and check your departure time. Sometimes, for different reasons, flights are moved to a different gate.  You do not want to wait until boarding time to discover that the flight you expected to leave from A 12 is now leaving from C 28, and you will have to get a bus to transfer you there.

Edison Winter Estate, Ft. Myers, FL, 2008

5.  Pack each child’s clothing into a carry-on sized bag and specifically limit what they are to bring.  Our trip to Utah and Arizona required us to change hotels often.  We did not possess the time or space to empty and repack the contents of a suitcase each day.

Wilhemstadt, Curacao 2007

6.  Make a specific list of what children are to pack. Be specific:  9 pairs of socks, 9 pairs of underwear, 1 rain jacket, 1 warm sweater or sweatshirt, 2 pairs of pants, 1 pair of shorts, 3 short-sleeved shirts, 2 long-sleeved shirts…

Dayton, TN 2009

7.  Lay the clothes out together and make sure there are outfits that match.  Expect multiple wears out of clean clothing.

George L. Smith State Park, Metter, GA 2009

8.  You will probably want to take photographs of your children when you travel, so you may want to make sure they selected clothing that actually looks good.  My boys all seem to have favorite shirts that they want to live in and somehow the older ones seem to smuggle them into their bags.  At least I can limit the choices for the little ones.

St. Croix, 2007 (I was six months pregnant)

9.  Pack each child’s socks and underpants into individual bags and LABEL THEM.  While the 3-year-old may have no qualms about wearing the 9-year-old’s underpants, the older child will likely be unwilling to squeeze into the younger child’s size 2T Superman undies.

Brevard, NC 2008

10.  Check as many bags as you can.  We flew Delta to Las Vegas, and because we have a Delta card, we were able to check up to 9 pieces of luggage without additional charge.  That made it a lot easier to board our aircraft and to make our connection.  We didn’t have to expend the time and effort getting carry-on pieces out of the overhead bins.

Turtle Farm, Grand Cayman, 2011

11.  Because checked luggage can easily be lost or delayed, pack one outfit for each child into a backpack to be carried onto the plane.

Tybee Beach, GA 2010

12.  Make a  detailed list of your luggage and to whom it belongs:  1. Blue Samsonite – Catherine, 2. Black LL Bean – Andrew, etc.  List also what bags will be carried on, including handbags.  When you are amassing a heap of luggage at the airport, it is tough to keep a count of the bags.   And you can not expect little ones to accurately recollect that their bags have arrived or remember what they looked like.  Check that list!  Then re-use it every time you change hotels.

"King of the Mtn." on an anchor, Beaufort, SC 2010

13.  Identical ribbons or strips of fabric tied to luggage handles make bag identification simple.  Do you have any idea how many identical black bags there are on any given flight?

Ziplines, Roatan, Honduras, 2009

 

14.  Airports are designed to ease the rapid transport of large groups of people. For that reason, there are lots of signs.  Take a moment to explain to your children how to read the signs.  Engage them in actively looking for the right path, whether to the next gate, the luggage carousel, the parking lot.  This is an important skill, and will greatly reduce traveling anxiety if they should ever need to fly alone.

Scuba diving, Marathon, FL 2006

15.  You will undoubtedly encounter various clerks with a wide range of competency levels.  Sometimes you will need to “educate” them about the plan you have purchased.  Always, always bring a paper copy that spells out of terms and conditions of  your purchase.  For our 20th wedding anniversary, my husband flew us business class via KLM to go hiking in France.  The airline representative in Nice had never before seen anyone checking baby items (stroller, car seat, back pack) on business class and was quite clueless as to our allowance.  Paper-proof brought quick order to the situation.  Furthermore many airlines and hotels offer specials online, but don’t communicate what you purchased with the reservation.  I had the misfortune of having to stay in three different Courtyard by Marriot hotels in a five week time period.  In each hotel, the front desk had no record that I had purchased a breakfast buffet with my room.  Having to dig up proof each time was wearisome, to say the least.  Finally, the last hotel clerk explained to me, “We have no idea what specials they run online. No one ever tells us.”  The burden of proof may be on you.  Print it off and bring it along!

Hiking in Provence, France 2010

16.  If you require special accommodations at a hotel, call them when you are en route to communicate that you are on your way.  Perhaps you require wheelchair accessibility or a baby crib.  My older daughter plays a harp, and so when we travel with her harp, we request ground floor rooms in hotels with stairs.  There was nothing quite like arriving in a Courtyard by Marriot a few years ago without my husband,  with 8 children and a cooler full of food and discovering upon arrival that not only had they given away the suite with a refrigerator that I had reserved, but also they had placed my children and me in rooms on separate floors!  Now I make it a habit to call:  “Hello, I have reservations, we are on our way and will be arriving after supper time.  I reserved a baby crib.  Could you make sure that a crib is saved for me?  I will have a car load of very sleepy children…”

Kauai, Hawaii 2006

17.  Traveling can be stressful. Connections can be missed, flights cancels, luggage lost.  The people we encounter across the desk spend all day dealing with anxious and angry people.  It is a tough job, and I wouldn’t want to do it.  Treat them with courtesy. A calm voice, a genuine smile, and a kind “thank you” are the right way to interact with clerks, competent or otherwise.  It is the right thing to do.

Because we are a large family, many people observe us that we do not ourselves notice.  Our behavior is a testimony of whom we serve.  It is my hope that people will see how much we love Christ by how we love others.


 

2 Comments »

  1. My friend Barbara Rustine sent me your way because we are taking our 7 kids to Swaziland, Africa, this coming summer.

    Comment by Elysa Mac — September 4, 2011 @ 9:17 pm

  2. Wow, that is terrific! Work? Fun? Ministry? I certainly hope you document your adventures. I would love to follow you! I am one of those rare people who actually LOVE to see other’s vacation photos and hear about their travels.

    Barbara Rustine is a jewel, and our family misses her family terribly!
    Cyndi

    Comment by admin — September 5, 2011 @ 7:49 am

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