So, it’s happening. Dan and I are recognizing a long held dream of taking a Family Trip To Europe with 10 of our 12 kids. The research at the beginning was so overwhelming because there is zero advice for Big Families. Everything out there is legitimately geared to folks with 1-2 kids and to the rogue backpacker. We needed to figure out how to do a family holiday in Europe On a Budget.
As all big families know, not one bit of advice that is applicable for average sized families can actually apply to us. Our Big Family Trip To Europe is nothing like anyone else’s. Ours is Europe On a Budget on steroids. I mean, we cannot stay in a hostel, ya know? We can’t take the “affordable” train through Europe. Absolutely nothing that charges per person is doable for us. No transportation, no lodging, nothing.
We also can’t book 11 tickets on Kayak.com. Did you know that you can only book 9 people? Even if the plane is empty? So, as we plan and figure everything out, I decided to put together a plan for my friends with bigger families who hope to take a Family Trip To Europe On a Budget.
Below, I spell out the trials and tribulations as well as the solution. I explain the reasoning behind our seeming madness. Rest assured this is a comprehensive guide to taking that Big Family Trip To Europe On a Budget! First things first …
If you are planning a Family Trip To Europe On a Budget, you need plane tickets. This seems like a no-brainer, eh? You track tickets and you purchase when they hit a price you can deal with. For a Big Family this isn’t so easy. It doesn’t matter where you purchase tickets from, the max you can buy at once is 9. And this is true on the phone as well as online. When you are traveling with more than 9 people, you are screwed. I know this because I was sent to the group help desk. Don’t even bother because tickets as a group are nearly double what you can find online. Dumb.
We were told by the airline’s help desk to buy the 9 tickets and immediately go back and buy two more. Great theory, but the flight we got 9 of us on wasn’t available when booking two. So, now Kenny and Kady aren’t on our flight. This is unacceptable because the whole point is that we are taking a Family Trip To Europe. The whole family together, on the plane. Nothing was working. I was frustrated. Dan tried for 3 hours to find the same flight, to no avail. Kady was searching. It simply wasn’t available for two travelers. I called the airline again and they could do nothing for me.
So, finally, I did what any Social Media Savvy person would do … I tweeted and tagged the airline. Within 5 minutes I received a request to message them and they would help. And help they did. I provided them with the confirmation number of our 9 travelers and in a time span of 45 minutes they had added Kenny and Kady to our very basic economy flight! Our Big Family Trip To Europe was happening.
Here’s the lowdown. We are driving to LAX, one of the cheapest airport in the US right now on flights to Barcelona. And, we are only bringing 1 carry-on per person and 1 personal item. We are experienced travelers now and traveling light is second nature. I wasn’t worried about layovers or anything, I love airports and the chaos that goes with it, so the only thing we took into account was price.
How To Get Around Europe
Despite what you’ve heard traveling around Western Europe can be expensive for even smaller families. Airline tickets, high-speed trains, overnight trains, ferries, even bus passes — they all eat into your limited and precious travel budget. Any form of travel that entails paying per person is out of the question for big families.
We compared the various forms of travel from trains to the various bus services like Flixbus and Megabus. Even the cheapest form of travel costs over $3000 for us for just two weeks. And, we would not have the flexibility we are accustomed to. We had to find a better form of travel for our Family Trip To Europe, that was affordable!
As you know, we are all about freedom. Having an imposed itinerary based on where buses go and when is not our ideal way to travel. It was certainly not going to be how we travel in Europe. Our Family Trip To Europe has to mimic the same spontaneous fun that we enjoy in North America. Especially when cost is taken into account.
Sooooo, we rented a 9 passenger van. I know this is the right decision because the minute we booked the van, I breathed a sigh of relief. Having our own transportation is more than freeing. It is a safety net. It takes a lot of the concerns about where we are staying, how we are getting around, etc out of the picture. We will never be stranded on a bench at 2 am, trying to figure out where and what to do. We will always have the stability of having a vehicle at our disposal for all situations.
We found Alamo via Kayak.com. We pick the van up right at the airport in Barcelona, so it’s super convenient and easy. Dan does need an International Driver’s Permit (fee $20) which we picked up at AAA in Kansas City, MO when we were visiting Grady.
Where To Stay In Europe
Funny thing. When I first started researching for our Family Trip To Europe I thought backpacking was a thing. As in, you strap a backpack on your back and your kids backs and go. I figured we’d just pitch tents along the way. But, that’s not what backpacking Europe means. Backpacking Europe means taking buses or trains around and booking hostel rooms. Not exactly the cheapest way for a family of 11 to travel, because, again, we would have to pay per person per night. Let’s say, $25/night. Crazy cheap for one person, right? But $25/nt times 11 is $275/nt. SO. We had to find our own way.
Our own way turned out to be in the form of apartments! It’s unfathomable that staying in apartments is cheaper than hostels but that shows how utterly different Big Families are from the rest of society. LOL. We did a lot of comparisons between Airbnb, Booking.com and VRBO. By and large, Booking.com has consistently been cheaper. Click on this link to get $25 off your next Booking.com reservation. You are welcome! 🙂
The cool thing about apartments is you can save a boatload of money by shopping at grocery stores and cooking at home. We have to eat at home as well, so our food budget pretty much stays the same. Although, rice and beans will be the staple food around here for the next couple of
months, errr years.
The other super cool thing about an apartment is you get a feel for the vibe of the area. You are intermingled with locals, unlike when you stay in hotels. Learning about the culture, meeting locals, etc is one of the biggest draws of travel for us. So, apartment living across Europe is 1000 times more awesome than hostels or hotels! Boom.
We found a 2 bedroom apartment in the middle of Sort, Spain, in the heart of the mountain town for a fraction of what we’d pay elsewhere. It has a full kitchen, two bedrooms, sleeps 6 adults and additional kids are more than welcome. This is key … additional kids are both welcome and FREE. We will just blow up air mattresses and call it done.
The apartment is within walking distance to the river, the wave, the grocery store, etc. It has both an indoor and an outdoor pool.
Now, it’s true, we are financing this entire trip on our own. We made this commitment last year and voiced it out loud, sending this affirmation into the world. We are taking a Family Trip To Europe, come hell or high water. We are going.
This document will serve as cornerstone material. As we journey through each new planning stage, we will add to this document. It will link to our itinerary which will link to individual cities as we make our way through Western Europe.
Follow #BigFamilyTravel and #KelloggShowGoesToEurope. This is just beginning, stick with us and we will show you how you too can do this!!! xoxoxoxo