4 Tips for a Harmonious Group Vacay in Hocking Hills


“Are you going anywhere for Spring Break?” my son’s teacher asked.

“Yeah, we’re spending a long weekend in Hocking Hills. With 27 people. In one house. Half of them are kids.”

The woman next to me gasped. She has six kids, but this crazy idea made her shudder.

I couldn’t blame her reaction. As the dates crept toward our end-of-March excursion, I began to wonder what we were thinking. Six families with 15 kids ages 11 and under? Sounds a bit unwise.

And you know what? Our Hocking Hills trip went surprisingly well.

In case you’re considering a similar trip, here are a few pre-trip tactics that made this multi-family excursion a fairly smooth experience.

Assign rooms before you arrive.

Our house was a dream, but it sure took some searching to find the right fit. We discussed all the sleeping preferences in advance, including which kids were sharing rooms with parents, who could tolerate sleeping in an “active” bunk room, and bedtimes. The nine bedrooms slept 29 people, and a little Tetris-like planning allowed us to walk in the door and drop our bags in our assigned rooms, with just a few tweaks.

Create a flexible kid-friendly itinerary.

A quick Google search helped identify the kid-friendliest hikes, accounting for both safety and ability levels. Old Man’s Cave, Conkle’s Hollow (lower rim) and Rock House fit the bill, with early spring beauty and boulder climbing for all to enjoy. We chose to trek one trail in the morning, break for packed lunches, and wander another trail in the afternoon.

Our plan for a stop at Hocking Hills Winery was pre-empted by another kind of whine. So, we rerouted to Coffee Emporium for a midday boost and headed back to the lodge. Two hot tubs – one with kid-friendly temps and one for adults only – a basketball court and arcade games awaited us and entertained the majority.

Sign up for potluck meals.

Our friend set up a SignUpGenius for all the breakfast and dinner provisions. She even assigned two families to each meal to cover setup and cleanup. The meals were simple, too: crockpots of already prepared chili, salads, pans of mac and cheese, and meat for grilling. Each family brought supplies to pack lunches so we could eat on-the-go (remember to bring lunch bags, water bottles and ice packs). We also had snacks, drinks and desserts to keep spirits up and hangry-ness at bay.

Bring extras and often overlooked items.

After staying at Airbnbs over the last few years, we’ve come up with a list of items we forgot or didn’t know we needed. This includes: leftover containers, Ziplock bags, extra trash bags and paper towels (some places stock these, some skimp), tissues, napkins, paper plates, a good sharp kitchen knife, swimsuits for the hot tub (year-round!), bed railings for young sleepers, and a baby monitor, especially if the house is large and you’re far from your sleeping kids.

A little bit of planning allowed us to focus on cultivating conversations and relationships instead of scrambling to feed and entertain our mini army. Whether it’s just your immediate family, a trip with grandparents and cousins, or a gaggle of friends, Hocking Hills is a beautiful nature escape, where you can feel “away” without too long of a drive from Cincinnati.


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