Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Part 1: How to plan a vacation with a large group

The beach, right outside our door.
 Fresh off my best family vacation ever, in which we traveled and stayed with three other families, I have all sorts of advice to offer on making a vacation like this happen. I really feel blessed and so lucky that we have these friends and the opportunity to give our kids these memories. I want to share the love. So here are a few things I recommend doing to plan your own mega-family vacation with friends.

1. Find your group. 

For us, this was easy. We've been meeting as a playgroup since Luke was 4-months-old. This group began through the hospital parenting program. It's a fantastic program, and one I wish every hospital had. They match you with other families who have babies around the same time, and you begin meeting every other week when the babies are a few months old. At the first 12 sessions, the hospital arranges for a speaker on everything from feeding babies to infant massage to baby sign language. There is also time at each meeting for socialization. Our group began with 12 families. Through time, families drop out. We are now down to five core families, and we now meet once a week in the evenings. It's my favorite time of the week -- and Luke's favorite time, too. 

I realize I am quite lucky to have this offered here. But I think almost any area has something you can join. The key is just that -- join something. Whether it is a MOPS program or a Moms' Club or just a group of moms you see hanging out at the park. My advice is to put yourself out there. Strike up conversations. Arrange the play-dates. Attend them regularly. It takes time -- in our case, three years --  to build up to the point where you feel you know one another well enough to vacation together. But you're never going to get there if you don't make an effort.

2. Start the conversation.

Someone has to bring up the idea. Once you have an inkling that your group is tight enough and comfortable enough with one another, why not mention the idea of taking a vacation together? In our group, a dad brought it up one night, and all of the rest of us admitted we had been thinking the same thing but had been too chicken to bring it up. Silliness! We'd been having a blast at playgroup for so long. We trusted one another, we enjoyed spending time in one anothers' houses, we meshed as parents. Our kids adored one another. It made sense for us to give it a try.

If you have all of that going for you, too, bring the topic up. Find out what your friends' vacation desires are. For us, we all shared the same vision -- a week at a huge house right on a beach in Northern Michigan. Then we talked numbers and found a price range that worked for everyone. After that, we found one week we could all get away. Once all those variables were agreed on, it was time to start hunting for our house.

3. Look and book early. 

Your best bet is to schedule as far in advance as you can. We hatched the idea to vacation together in March. We made it happen, but it took lots of extra work. Here in Michigan, the best lake homes are all booked by March. Since we were a large group and had only one week of the summer we could all get away, finding a place that late in the year took hours and hours of combing the internet and investigating lots of dead ends. The house we finally found was very nice, but more than we wanted to pay. We bit the bullet and paid up for this year, knowing that in the future we can hopefully get the cost down by having a wider selection by starting our search sooner. We're starting that search now.

If you want a house for your getaway, the best bet, (if you don't have a connection to some perfect beach house), is to try Vacation Rental By Owner. You can search by city and scan through hundreds of rental properties. The site usually includes photos, a long description of the house, and a calendar of availability.

Other sites to try that are similar are:, Homeaway,com, and 

Some things to talk about with your group: what is the least number of bedrooms you need? What about bathrooms? Where will all the kids sleep? What is a deal breaker? For us, we wanted one bedroom and one bathroom per family, and at least one more bedroom as an option for kid sleeping. We also wanted a beach right there -- no walking. Not a block away, not even across the street. We wanted our own beach. This proved to be a very smart decision, as it allowed us to relax and not be constantly packing up to go to and from the beach. Especially handy with potty training toddlers!

Relaxing at the beach with a book, watching the kids play in the water. Heaven!

Once you've got this far, it's time to plan and organize your trip! I will have a second post about that later this week! And then it's back to sewing, I promise.

Linked up!
Weekend Bloggy Reading


  1. Hi! Am your Newest Follower! Nice to meet you - visiting from the Serenity blog hop!

    Love your brave group trip planning!!! Yowza! Great tips to have an enjoyable vacation!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Happy Weekend - looking forward to part two!


  2. What a great idea for a series. :) I wish we had friends close enough to vacation with. I've been part of my MOPS group for 5 years now, but don't have any friends close enough to travel with. That's awesome. :)

    Thank you so much for joining my Weekend Bloggy Reading party, and also for linking back. :)