Tag Archives: travel tips

Why We AirBnb

Traveling with a bigger family can be expensive.  Obviously buying six plane tickets or train tickets adds up, but we also have other added complications because of the size of our group. We almost always need advance dinner reservations if we want a table at peak times because it’s hard to squish six extra people in.  That means we always have to plan dinners at least a day or two in advance, which isn’t always possible. We can’t rent a standard size vehicle because they only have five seat belts, so we always have to upgrade to an SUV or van, which is, of course, more expensive.

The worst thing though, is that we can’t usually fit in a single hotel room — the limit there is almost always five people as well — so we need to rent two rooms.  Obviously doubling the cost of accommodations is a big hit to the wallet.  We’ve also run into difficulty where hotels don’t have adjoining or even adjacent rooms, which means Matt and I separate and each take two kids.  That’s a pain in the butt, to say the least, and when coupled with the significant additional expense, it makes hotels not very appealing.

Before moving to England, we’d never used Airbnb before, but now we use it almost exclusively.  It is THE BEST source for family accommodations, in my opinion.  For far less than the nightly cost of two hotel rooms, we’ve rented entire apartments where every kid has their own bed and there are two bathrooms and a living room with couches and a television, and the best part — a full kitchen. 

My kids wake up hungry, but when we’re staying in a hotel we have to all get showered, dressed, and ready for the day before we can go eat.  Having a full kitchen means the kids can be eating breakfast while Matt and I get ready and by the time we leave the room, we’ve already eaten and can start whatever that day’s adventure is straight away.  It also means that Matt and I can usually get a cup of coffee in before we head out, which makes everything easier to handle.

The other great thing about Airbnb is that the hosts are usually really happy to help us plan our travel.  Our hostess in Rome arranged the van that picked us up at the airport and had treats for the kids and bottle of wine for Matt and I awaiting us on our arrival.  Our host in Praiano arranged the car service that drove us from Naples to the Amalfi coast and back and gave us restaurant recommendations for our stay.  Our hostess in Edinburgh stocked the kitchen with croissants, yogurts, fruit, coffee, and milk so we’d have breakfast on our first morning because we were arriving very late and no stores would have been open.  Our host in Chamonix coordinated our ski rentals with the shop in French so we didn’t have to deal with the language barrier.  We’ve had really great experiences and excellent assistance from our Airbnb hosts. 

We don’t even look for hotels anymore when we’re traveling because we’ve had such success with Airbnb.  Our one bad experience, when we couldn’t get in to the apartment near Disneyland Paris, was a complete fluke and we were compensated for the night we weren’t able to be in the apartment. 

Another bonus is that, with an apartment, you have a little more space to spread out than you do in a hotel room.  When we were in Edinburgh, one afternoon was really cold and wet and we were all hungry but because the weather had turned quickly, every restaurant nearby basically filled right up with people escaping the cold. After trying 3 or 4 places and being told there was a 45 minute to one hour wait, we walked to a take-out place and got food to go, hopped in a cab, and went back to our apartment.  We ate at the kitchen table, snuggled up on the couches in the living room and watched a movie, warmed up, rested a bit, then went back out that evening to the Christmas markets.  If we’d have been in a hotel room, we’d have been crammed in with little space to relax and would have had to eat basically sitting on the beds or on the floor.  Apartments give families more flexibility.

Plus, the places we’ve stayed have been SO MUCH COOLER than a boring old hotel would be.  Our apartment in Rome had two lofted bedrooms, and the coolest entrance ever — that’s it in the first picture at the top of this post.  Our place in Naples had the funniest entrance ever — basically a tiny hobbit door in the immense full-size door that even the kids had to duck to get out of.  Matt could barely fit! 

Our place in Edinburgh had a gorgeous view from the kitchen window.  Our place in Praiano looked right out on the Mediterranean and we ate breakfast on the patio every day.  Our place in Chamonix was directly below Mont Blanc.  We’ve had way cooler experiences in these quirky places than we ever would have had in a hotel room.

Traveling with a big family can absolutely be complicated and stressful, but Airbnb has absolutely made our travels more fun and for far less money we’ve had better accommodations.  I can’t imagine we’ll ever go back to hotels!

If you use this link to book your travel on Airbnb as one of my friends, you’ll get a travel credit for your reservation!

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Packing for Italy

kids posing

Although I’m used to it by now, packing for six people for a trip is a PROCESS.  Partly because it’s just a lot of stuff to bring, and partly because I tend to overcomplicate things; I am a little OCD, a little anal-retentive, and so I cannot just throw stuff in a suitcase and call it a day. 

I like to think my organization pays off in the end.

I also always involve the kids in the process, for three reasons: 1) it’s a lot of work and I don’t feel like doing it by myself because it’s really not that fun, 2) they can’t complain about what they have packed if they helped pack it, and 3) eventually they’ll be able to pack themselves without my help because they’ve done it so many times. (Although Bridget is 11 and we’re not quite there yet, so I’m not sure when this will actually happen.  That could also be because I am a control freak though.)

Here‘s a detailed description of how we pack!  It’s a system that has worked for us for years — it works with 2-yr olds and it works with 11-yr olds.

This trip is a little easier to pack for than normal.  Because we’re going somewhere where the weather is so much warmer than it is in England, the clothes going into the suitcases are not at all the clothes we need to be wearing in the week leading up to the trip. 

And here are some more great packing trips from two of my favorite blogs —

Cup of Jo family packing

Hither and Thither packing for a toddler

And here are my tips for making travel a bit easier–all of these will come in handy for this particular trip!

Do you have any packing or traveling advice?


Also, do you have separation anxiety when you travel without your kids?


 

Four Tips for Easier Traveling

in the airport

We’re doing a fair bit of travel these days, and I’ve got four important tips for making any trip easier, whether it’s a day trip into the city or a ten-day family excursion to a different country.

Charge your devices in advance!

When we left for our big trans-Atlantic, moving-to-England flight, we somehow managed to get to the airport with all 6 of us needing to charge a device.  Matt and I had our iPhones, and all four kids have an iPod Touch.  And all six of us were low on batteries and had a 2-hour wait in the airport before we could get on the plane.  We basically took turns standing at the charging station at Dulles Airport and rotating which device was charging.  Bad planning. 

B and Dad in the airport

With that annoying experience seared in my mind, I make sure to collect all the kids’ iPods the night before we’re going anywhere and charge them all.  Then I hand them out when we actually need them — and not a moment sooner, otherwise at least two kids will have killed the batteries already.

Cook (and maybe freeze) a meal before you go away that you can easily heat and eat when you return

My family is very food-centric.  When we get hungry, we get cranky (or hangry, if you prefer).  All six of us.  And a house full of six hangry people is a recipe for disaster.  The worst is when you get home from a trip, have piles of luggage full of dirty laundry, are exhausted from traveling, and have nothing to eat.  I’ve learned that it is in all of our best interests to have something waiting to be eaten when we arrive home — either a meal I’ve cooked and stuck in the fridge or freezer that will defrost and be ready in 30 mins or so, or something that’s quick-cooking on standby in the pantry.  Easy meals consisting mostly of comfort food are the best choices. 

Need ideas for meals you can make in advance, freeze, and cook in less than a half hour?  Baked ziti.  Enchiladas.  Meatballs and sauce.  The world’s most delicious Chili.

And ideas for meals you can have in the pantry and cook in 20 minutes or less? Pasta and sauce.  Grilled cheese and tomato soup.  Bacon and eggs.

Wear Layers, even when it’s warm out

With four kids, I can almost rely on the fact that when we’re traveling someone will be uncomfortable — too hot or too cold — at some stage of the trip.  I now make sure my kids wear layers, no matter where we’re going or what we’re doing, so that I can head off meltdowns induced by incorrect temperatures.

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Even when the kids say they’re warm, I make them bring a light sweater or a long-sleeve shirt.  When it’s freezing, I make them wear a short-sleeve something UNDER their warmer layers.  When they complain, I tell them to shut up.  (Not really, but in kinder terms, it’s basically my response.)  The temperature can fluctuate so much from the car to an airport or train station to wherever we’re actually going as our final destination.  Layers are the key to not listening to a crying child who is too hot/too cold.

Take a photo of where you parked your car and text it to your Husband/Wife (you think you’ll remember, but you won’t)

We took the kids to Disney World a few years ago, flying out of Reagan National Airport in D.C. in January.  We parked the car in long-term parking at the airport.  When we arrived back in D.C., exhausted after 6 days in Disney World and freezing as we stared at the snow and remembered the 75-degree weather we’d just left behind, Matt took the parking lot shuttle to get the car while I waited in the airport with four exhausted and insane children and all our luggage.

A half hour later, Matt was still not back.  The kids were a hot mess of complaining, hyper, exhaustion, I was short-tempered and annoyed, and Matt was wandering around the enormous parking lot full of snow-covered cars hitting the panic button on the key fob in the hopes that the alarm would go off so he could find our vehicle.  It was not awesome.

Now we take a picture of the parking lot sign indicating where we parked the car and we make sure we each have the photo on our phone.  Live and learn.

What tips do you have for making travel with or without children go a little more smoothly?


Also, here’s how we made it through the airport with four kids and twenty-three bags when we moved to England!


 

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