A friend with one adorably cute daughter and several other very precious children has gone from three children to six children via adoption in the course of one year. We went from four children to seven in a year as well. I know your joy, and pain. It’s nuts! In the best of ways, of course. When we made the transition from our U.S. four to our international seven, we had to accommodate in the most surprising of ways. Vacation was one of them.
Honestly, before that, we had still been able to squeeze into one hotel room. Yes, I know, six people in a hotel room isn’t totally legal, but two of our kids were under the age of three at the time. Adding our three amazing Ghanaians made it so that is totally impossible. So is flying anywhere. So, we drive. And drive, and drive to get anywhere for vacation.
It’s a 20ish hour car ride from where we live to Disney World. Our kids do great. They’re entertained by my allowing unlimited electronics during this period. It is the only day of the year, other than Christmas Day, that this is ever allowed. They actually look forward to the car ride. “MOM! I’m going to beat SO many levels in Pokemon!” Alrighty then.
We break the ride into one long day, a stop overnight, and then one shorter day. We stay in a not too bad, but certainly not five star, hotel overnight. Honestly, living at the orphanage in Ghana left me with not so high standards. So, as long as the place doesn’t reek of smoke and there’s no one outside selling narcotics (or themselves), I’m okay staying there. We have a boys room and a girls room, since our numbers are even now, and the child that is currently most annoying to his brothers and sisters (sorry Giganto and Bubbly) is relegated to the floor on an air mattress. We read reviews online and find a hotel that’s somewhere in the $60-$70/room range. I look for free breakfast too. My kids can do some damage to a hotel’s free breakfast.
We are Disney Vacation Club members. Yes, we bought a timeshare in Disney World. Remember when I said we could no longer fit in a standard hotel room. Well, when Dolly exits baby mode, we’ll no longer be able to fit in two standard size hotel rooms. We also need a washer and dryer. So, we saved and saved and saved and then FPD and I had quite a few spirited discussions (arguments) about the purchase. It’s a lot of money. Eventually, it will expire. It will never accrue value. We are locked into vacationing here nearly annually (unless we rent out our points).
We make priceless memories in the only place in the world our kids really want to go.
We choose the least expensive of all the DVC resorts and go at the least expensive time of year. This has us staying at Old Key West Resort in January. It can still be chilly in Orlando in January, but since it’s 50 degrees warmer than where we came from, we don’t care. We stay in a Grand Villa. There are three bedrooms, four bathrooms, a kitchen and a laundry room (this saves HUGELY on space taken up by packing). DVC isn’t the only good deal on renting a condo. We have friends who have a large family as well and are staying in a condo on International Way. You’ve just got to scout the deals. For a large family, you’ve got to have the kitchen and laundry room though.
So, we’ve got transportation and accommodations. What’s left? Tickets and food. These can be pricey. I got a great deal on tickets through Disney’s Youth Educational Series. Our kids are doing a behind the scenes tour of the rides at the Magic Kingdom this year. This, and their tickets, were gifted to us this year as a gift for their bravery in regards to Dolly. She’s too young to qualify for an actual Make-A-Wish, but several folks still came through big time. You can buy the class my kids are attending for relatively cheap and this gives you a major discount on tickets. The only other ticket outlet I use is Undercover Tourist. They consistently have a buy three days, get the fourth day free deal. That’s a huge deal. We NEVER buy park hopper tickets. Don’t do it. You waste way too much time in transit between parks, and when you’ve got as many kids as we do, transit in general is really hard. Stay in one park for the day, live it up, enjoy. Don’t overdo it!
Food. It’s a HUGE deal for our kids. It’s not that they demand garbage all the time, but some of them were deprived it in their early life, so knowing that it’s always available is a big deal for them. This is where my Make-It-Monday schwag comes into play. It saves us so much money on food. I made each of the kids a backpack.
Well, I decorated them anyway. They were free backpacks that once held Similac formula samples. Ah, the perks of being a peds nurse.
I decorated water bottles. There names are on the other side of them in a cute Disney-esque font.
And, I made some really cool lunch bags using this tutorial. Yes, they really are stapled and lined with duct tape.
Each of my kids carries a backpack through the parks. It contains special snacks and a lunch that will last them the entire day. We don’t eat meals in the parks. Ever. The food for kids isn’t that great. It’s the same crappy chicken nuggets and hot dogs at every restaurant. To be honest, our kids could care less. They want to move. They want to see the shows. They want to ride the rides. I load their backpacks with stuff they don’t ever get to snack on at home, like a pudding cup. Oh boy, A PUDDING CUP! You should hear the squeals of delight. FPD and I will buy them each an ice cream bar in the parks at some point. At almost $4 a piece, just a round of ice cream costs us an arm and a leg. We’ll spring for that though. FPD and I also eat our way around the World Showcase every year. A chocolate crepe in France. Yakitori in Japan. A beer from Germany. We will occasionally share, but not often (and never the beer). Our kids don’t care. They’re happy with their pudding cups.
We go back to our condo in the evenings with many very happy, but very tired children. We eat dinner here. They kids are in bed by 9. We do it all again the next day, until, somewhere in the vacation, we spend a couple of days outside the parks. On those days, we enjoy the warm weather and the playgrounds, maybe even the pool. We shop for souvenirs. The kids spend their Christmas money. They’re wise spenders though, and they don’t ask for a lot of junk. We don’t buy loads of stuff.
I couldn’t resist making family t-shirts this year too. I have always wanted to spend a day as one of those matchy-matchy families that you see and roll your eyes at. This year, we’re doing it.
I also couldn’t resist making this for Dolly. She doesn’t have a backpack, so a diaper wipe holder will have to do. Her name runs down the middle in the same Disney-esque font as the kids’ water bottles, but I had to blur that (boo to internet stalkers!).
All in all, we make it work on the cheap. We’re very blessed to get to do it at all. And, every night our kids gather around our big dining room table and pray. Every time they do, they thank God that we’re all here…together.
who can’t wait to eat another chocolate crepe. Sheesh…I shouldn’t have mentioned it.