Think doing an overnight flight with one newborn is hard? Matt and Alison Lumb and their four children, Solomon (9), Xander (7), Nikki (4) and Sienna (2) are expatriate Australians living in Asia and have travelled all over the continent to beaches in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. But being a large family means that vacations are not always a relaxing or easy experience and there are six opinions to take into account. They tell suitcases&strollers about the logistical gymnastics of travelling with a large family of four kids.
What makes a good holiday destination for a large family?
Good accommodation options (clean, big, reasonable price), good activities for the kids across a broad age range, not too long a travel time and good food options. Some things we need to look out for are the size of the rooms and the size of the transportation. Cost is also a factor because it costs us thousands just to get there.
With six people, how do you take into account everyone’s preferences when choosing a family holiday destination?
We just have to pick a destination that has something for everyone. And that's not hard at all. Everyone loves the beach or a theme park. Two years ago we had a family meeting and asked the kids if they would prefer Bintan, Indonesia or Sentosa and Universal Studios Singapore. There was disagreement but they knew mum and dad would have the final say. We had a wonderful staycation weekend at sentosa.
Is it possible to travel as a single parent with four kids?
Alison did a trip to Sydney by herself with the 4 kids and found it almost impossible without the help of strangers and airline staff. She ran out of arms just way too quickly! It’s logistically quite a challenge and quite expensive which is why a staycation can look really appealing. [For more travel tips on travelling as a "single parent", see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
How do you organise cars? Where do you fit all the luggage for 6 people?
With great difficulty. We are not able to just have someone stop by and pick us up from the airport. We normally hire a car from a major supplier that has pickup from the airport itself. (Once we hired a “cheaper” option which was a little way from airport and that was not good…). We get the biggest one available but normally that doesn’t fit us and our luggage so if we are flying to Australia Alison’s parents meet us at the airport and fill their station wagon with luggage.
Last year we borrowed a Toyota HiAce (12-seater mini van) from an organisation we are close to and we still filled that. This year we are going back to Australia in September for a wedding and Christmas so we are actually looking at buying a big car in the next few weeks back in Australia (like a Toyota HiAce) and just leaving it with the in-laws and then sell it after our Christmas trip. For smaller trips around Asia we can fit the family into the car.
We normally get to and from the airport in a special “maxi taxi” and we pretty much fill that…
How do you coordinate accommodation to sleep everyone?
When we go to Australia we are lucky to be able to stay either with Alison’s parents or my mum as they both have houses with extra bedrooms that we can fit into (with some juggling/logistics). We have also found it helpful to hire a holiday house for a week (we have done this twice up the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia) so we have extra space and also can have people pop in to see us.
We go camping each Christmas and have a large tent that sleeps all 6 of us (and our helper, Myrna, if she comes too) – it’s a 5 room tent! If we go other places (like beach resorts in Southeast Asia such as Rawa, Phuket or Bali) we typically hire a suite with minimum 3 rooms (2 bedrooms and a common living room) though it helps when we have a 3 bedroom apartment or villa.
How much does a holiday for 6 cost?
A lot. It depends on where we go and for how long.
Each trip to Australia from Singapore is about SG$15,000 to $20,000. A shorter trip around Asia costs about SG$5,000 to $10,000.
· Flights To Australia SG$5,000 to $6,000 (the kids become full-paying fares at quite a young age); to Asia SG$1,000 to $2,500
· Car Hire AU$2,500 to $4,000 including extra booster seats, reduced excess insurance etcetera (we don’t need this for Asian resort holidays)
· Petrol AU$500 to $750
· Accommodation SG$2,500 to $3,500
· Food SG$1,500 to $2,000
· Spending SG$1,000
Travelling with 4 kids is a huge expense and sounds like it requires a lot of planning. Is it worth it?
It is so worth it. It creates wonderful memories. The kids feel loved. We spend time together. They go on holiday like all their friends. It enriches their lives and experiences. They learn about people from other countries. It creates excitement in life. It bonds the family together.
Where to next?
Our next planned trips are skiing in Japan, Phuket and Shanghai.
To read more about what it's like to travel with a large family, see the suitcases&strollers interview with Antonia Kidman (who has 6 kids!) here.