Going on large family trips are often a combination of fun and chaos. While it's great to be able to spend time with your extended family and go on a trip together, the sheer logistics involved in planning, coordinating and keeping everyone happy throughout the trip can be a pretty daunting task. The larger the group, the bigger the challenge to get everyone to agree on where to go and what to do ?
At HHWT, we are big believers in going for large family trips (and family trips in general!) - they allow for multiple generations within a family to bond and spend some time together, it's a totally different experience from solo, couple or small-group travels, and they bring about a sense of unity and warmth within the family. We acknowledge they require good planning to execute though, and that's we're here to help! Here are some of our best tips for planning large family trips.
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The cardinal rule
A quick note before delving into the tips: the fundamental principle when it comes to large family trips, and the one that underlies our tips, is to understand that you are (most likely) catering to multiple different generations and age groups, with each having their own requirements as well as preferences (for example, older relatives may be less mobile, or travelling with pregnant relatives may restrict flight travel). It's important to bear this in mind as you are planning your trip, as the aim is to strive for a middle ground that can keep most, if not everyone, happy. The other key thing to note is the size of your group (which can go anywhere from 6 - to more 50 people, depending on how big your family is or trip is meant for the entire kit and kaboodle or just one or two sub-families), and remembering that the facilities throughout your trip have to be able to cater to that size.
And with that, let's get into it!
1. Have a trip organizer
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Every herd needs a shepherd, and the same can be said for family trips ? The larger the group, the harder it is to coordinate everyone's preferences and ideas as well as make decisions regarding the trip. Hence, a trip organizer is crucial because they can help keep track of details of the trip, propose recommendations and corral everyone to agree on a decision.
Trip organizers tend to be members of the family that are organised (they can stay on top of the various trip details), can easily communicate with the family (so that everyone going on the trip are comfortable with sharing their preferences and requests with this person), and are also persistent and firm enough to get responses from everyone when it comes to decision-making. How many of us here have put a suggestion in a Whatsapp group chat only to receive half-hearted/non-commital responses? ?♀️ Well, trip organizers are usually the ones that make sure the family can come to a resolution!
While planning the trip can and should be a shared activity (it's a group trip, after all!), having a shepherd of sorts can help pin down details more efficiently, and he/she can also help in terms of delegating tasks to other family members throughout the trip. Do bear in mind that not everyone will have the same level of involvement in the planning (for example grandparents or elderly members), so the trip organizer should also be making sure to keep their interests in mind.
2. Have transparent communication, as well as discussions about budget
This is probably a good place to talk about the next tip - being active and open in terms of communicating plans and budget for the trip. This is extremely important for several reasons - it helps to have a trip everyone will be happy to partake in (with everyone involved in the planning) and it is vital for coordinating and ensuring everyone is on the same page in terms of logistics. It also helps to clear the tricky matter of deciding how this trip will be financed - whether it's through splitting the costs evenly, having different families cover different costs, or agreeing to split meal and activity costs while each family pays for their own transport and accommodation - there are many ways to slice it, and so it's important to have this discussion to avoid misunderstanding or conflict.
Sometimes the budget itself determines the destination and activities of your trip - in cases where family members decide upfront how much they are comfortable with spending and contribute to a collective budget pool, that amount of money can, in turn, help narrow down locations and activities that suit that budget.
Either way, it's something that needs to be discussed and coordinated. Having a Whatsapp group chat is a common method for this, and having a trip organizer also comes in handy here, in terms of mediating discussions or holding the reins of the budget.
#HHWT Tip: While Whatsapp group chats may be sufficient for short getaways or trips that are meant to be free and easy, for trips involving further distances, longer periods of time, or more structured itineraries, these may require more involved tracking tools, such as using an Excel spreadsheet to tabulate everything. Google Sheets are a really handy resource as they are similar to Excel spreadsheets but have the added advantage of being a collaborative document that several people can view or make amendments to).
3. Choose a suitable destination
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This is probably one of the largest factors when it comes to family trips (besides accommodation, but we'll get to that in the next tip!). Given that large family trips usually include multiple generations of the family, per the cardinal rule, the logical tip is to choose a destination that is suitable for everyone. Suitability can refer to:
- Proximity and ease of getting there: Takes into account the distance, whether it will require air travel, and whether members of your family will be able to handle the travel time it takes to get there (particularly for the elderly, or babies and small children).
- Length of trip: Consider whether you're doing a shorter trip such as a weekend getaway (which would mean your destination would be much closer to home), or a longer trip (which makes sense for international destinations)
- Accessibility: Takes into account whether your family members will be able to manoeuvre throughout the destination easily. For example, certain cities like Kyoto or Seoul may not be the easiest destination if you're travelling with kids that use strollers or elderly relatives that use wheelchairs.
- The type of trip your family wants: Are you looking to explore a city, or are you looking for a laid-back trip where it's more a matter of spending free-and-easy time together (i.e. parking yourselves in one location for the weekend)? Would you like to spend time at theme parks or visit attractions such as nature parks or zoos? Or are you planning a family day-type event where you plan your own activities (such as sports matches or playing in a pool)? Perhaps you want to do a large family road trip?
- Activities available: Closely linked to the type of trip that you're aiming for, choosing a destination that has suitable activities for everyone is also important. While the older family members may prefer more laid-back and less strenuous activities, the younger generations may need something more stimulating. Having a destination that can cater to both would be a great way to ensure everyone can enjoy themselves.
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Choosing the right destination will be a balancing act between what the family desires for the trip vs. what's practical. If your family has never done extended family trips before, it might make sense to start small and choose destinations that are nearby and are already familiar, so there are fewer uncertainties throughout the trip.
4. Choose an accommodation that meets your family's needs
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Accommodation is another huge factor that often makes or breaks a large family trip. When it comes to choosing a place to stay, you should consider:
- The different options available: As a larger group, staying in regular hotels or results might not always be the best option, especially if those establishments don't cater to large groups, or have restrictions on the number of guests allowed per room. Luckily nowadays, accommodations that cater to larger groups have become a lot more commonplace, with homestays, villas, and Airbnb listings becoming available (check out the Malaysian accommodations that are perfect for large family getaways we recently rounded up!). A lot of these places cater to the needs of large groups and have various onsite facilities (such as swimming pools, barbeque pits and access to beaches) as well as offsite attractions (such as hiking trails, proximity to nearby shopping malls and theme parks, etc.). What makes these sorts of accommodations ideal are the fact that everyone can stay together (i.e. the accommodation can fit everyone and has a common space where everyone can spend their free time together), and that they tend to be a cheaper option than paying for several hotel rooms.
- Accessibility: Similar to choosing your destination, if you have elderly family members or those that are infirm, do make sure to check that the accommodation is suitable (e.g. has elevators, whether it's wheelchair accessible and/or child-friendly, etc.).
- Adequate facilities: It's always a good idea to check that the accommodation you choose has sufficient bedding for everyone, and don't forget to ensure that it has an adequate amount of bathrooms! While it may not seem like an obvious factor, but having to share one bathroom amongst a large number of people (especially in the mornings and evenings where everyone wants to bathe) is never fun ? In addition, if it's a trip where everyone is driving to the accommodation, do check whether it has sufficient parking space. If you're planning to cook most of your meals, it's best to make sure the accommodation comes equipped with a fully-functioning kitchen.
- Proximity to activities: As mentioned above, the type of trip and the activities you want to do will determine your destination, and the same goes for accommodation. It may make more sense to choose accommodations that are located close to the activities you want to do (P.S: if you're interested in a laid-back trip, check out this list of accommodations in KL that are connected to shopping malls, awesome for shopping, eating, and fun activities the whole family can enjoy).
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#HHWT Tip: If you're looking up accommodations on Airbnb, you can even filter by the number of bedrooms and bathrooms required. Also, if you're opting to stay in hotels or resorts, do note that during low seasons, some hotels that have restrictions on the number of guests per room may allow up to a higher number - it doesn't hurt to ask when you're scouting out locations!
5. Plan for meals and snacks
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Having meals while travelling is always a big deal, but combined with large groups, it can become a lot more complicated so it's little wonder that they should be taken into planning consideration.
Depending on where you stay it may make sense to cook your own meals (it'll likely be cheaper and easier to cater to the family's tastes and preferences) or bring them from home (some families go potluck style for short weekend trips). Alternatively, you can consider whether you can get external catering delivered, or some accommodations may also have in-house catering services available at an additional cost. Remember to be mindful of everyone's dietary requirements and coordinate with them to make arrangements accordingly.
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If you are planning to go out to eat, remember to research restaurants ahead of time (especially if you're travelling somewhere where halal food might not be as accessible) and book restaurants in advance where you can, as it may be more difficult to find restaurants that can easily cater to large groups.
Another handy tip: pack plenty of snacks! Someone's bound to get hungry at any given time, and having snacks on-hand will be able to tide people over between meals.
6. Plan your itinerary and activities
After you've sorted out your destination and accommodation, you'll need to plan an itinerary. Even for free-and-easy trips, having a rough guide of what the family will be doing on any given day during your trip is very helpful. For those that have more structured activities (such as trips involving exploring a city, excursions to different locations, or family day-style trips), an itinerary becomes all the more necessary.
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While we've addressed the advantages of choosing a destination and accommodation that can cater to different needs of different family members, another key thing to consider is including rest periods during the day - especially where you have elderly relatives or kids that might need some downtime to recharge. Don't have the day packed with chock full of activities, as this might not work for everyone and be taxing to some. Instead, scheduling in some free time (such as in the late afternoon) may allow those who need to rest to do so, while others have the flexibility to do other things during this time.
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It's also worth noting that you don't have to spend the whole time together and can also consider incorporating flexibility into your itinerary - an example of this is having different families travel separately, meet up for a duration of the trip, and then go their separate ways again. This might be a good option for those that are looking for both family time as well as extended family time.
However you plan the itinerary, remember that it's always a good idea to prepare games and activities for the spare time when the family is gathered together, such as after meals. Things like board games, cards, and other easy games such as Charades and Heads Up always go down a treat.
7. Know how you'll get there and how you'll get around
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Planning how you'll get to your destination and accommodation is a given (be it flight, bus, boat or car, depending on the destination), but don't forget to consider how the family will get around during the trip, particularly if your trip requires going out and about (vs. staying in one place for the trip). For large groups, it may make sense to book private transportations like vans and buses. This will make it easier to get around then to round up a big group and rely on public transport or rideshare, while also likely being more comfortable to older relatives. It may also be more ideal to do this in places where language may be a barrier - you'll be able to rely on the driver to help ensure everything goes smoothly.
#HHWT Tip: If you do take public transport, do make sure to research transport passes for the destination you're heading to, and make use of concession passes for children/elderly.
8. Remember to take family photos
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One of the best things about large family trips is the fact that everyone is gathered together - which is why it's the perfect opportunity to take family photos! It's an awesome way to commemorate the trip and to have something to look back on (especially as the family grows and expands over the years).
Thankfully, in this day and age of the smartphone, everyone can be photographers (and we all have those family relatives who are enthusiastic about making sure everything is documented via Instagram). But it's a worthy reminder to take at least one large group photo - even if it's a pain to gather everyone and make them stand still for long enough ?
9. Encourage everyone to be mindful travellers
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This tip may sound a bit left-field but is actually a very important one, and can be the difference between a good trip and a great one. Where we say mindful we mean it both inwardly (i.e. within the family), as well as outwardly (i.e. towards other people).
Inwardly, we mean being mindful of each other throughout the trip. Travelling together in large groups means accommodating everyone's needs, and it's important for family members on the trip to remember to be understanding and helpful. If everyone strived to be present and helpful each other throughout the trip - such as being mindful of each other's needs, not complaining when things don't go to plan, or taking advantage of the trip to really spend time together (rather than just spending time on our phones) - it would make the trip that much more meaningful ?
Outwardly, it's good to be conscious of how your group may affect other people, especially when it involves going to places where you are not the only guests or visitors (such as tourist attractions, shops, train stations etc.). While travelling in a group is fun, it can sometimes also get quite rowdy, especially when it's a large group with many kids. It's good to be aware of the noise you make (especially is quieter places like museums or onboard trains), and make sure you are not bothering or causing discomfort to other people.
And that wraps up our tips! Planning a large family trip may be challenging, but that shouldn't stop you from going for it - these trips are the kind to build memories like no other, and strengthen the bonds of your clan ? We hope these tips help you have many great family holidays ahead!