I wanted to record distilled advice for anyone crazy enough to do these kinds of trips. After seven trips in eight years with a group of 12- two families with four kids each, the youngest kids being two years old on the first trip and the oldest being 15 on the most recent trip- here is what has worked well (in no particular order):
1) Find bike paths. They have no cars and it makes the biking so peaceful. The kids can bike ahead and have a little independence. We like the Schuylkill River Bike Trail, the Greater Allegheny Passage, the C&O Canal bike trail, and any Rails to Trails we can find!
2) While riding, meet up every three miles or so. We found this to be a good way to allow some independence but keep the group from getting too dispersed. It is also excellent to help be aware of tantrums, mechanical problems, berry patches, interesting scenery, changing plans, anything that could affect the trip.
3) Don’t worry about having the best gear. One family slowly added lightweight tents, panniers, etc over the years and that is a great way to do it. That said, not having these things should not prevent an enjoyable trip. Neither family has specialized bikes, for example. Enthusiasm for the trip is more important than gear!
4) Consider tag-along bikes and trailers for younger riders. The trailers are great for hauling gear when the kids can bike more on their own. For a couple of years we had the twins take turns riding on a bike then resting in the trailer. When they both were too tired, they could both rest and we fastened the bike to the top of the trailer with a bungee cord. The trailers, even inexpensive and used ones, can take a lot of abuse and still remain functional.
5) Vary the schedule. Take a day or two to see local sights and do less biking. Spend a night at a hotel rather than camping every night. Go to a restaurant for lunch. It isn’t the cheapest way to go, but it improves morale and gives variety to the trip. 6) Make plans, but allow for spontaneity. True of any trip. Figure out how far you want to bike and how you willl break it up, but don’t make too many commitments to this schedule (like hotel reservations, etc.).You will find unexpected things! See the sights along the way, but look for other distractions. We have stalled the troops for wildflowers, snakes, creek walking, berry picking, interesting rock formations, etc. Similarly, we have cut out some plans when weather or fatigue have interfered. 7) Share things! We organize group meals since it is easier to cook one big breakfast than two or more. The non-cooking adults get a nice break. We also take turns riding with/encouraging the slowest riders. Sometimes mixing it up helps everyone’s mood on an 8-hour day of biking. Sharing other things, like camp stoves and repair tools, literally lightens the load with economy of scale, which you will appreciate as you pedal uphill.
Those were some of my thoughts as I biked along on our latest trip, which may have been the best yet! Watch for posts coming soon!