Is long-term international travel a viable option for families?
This is a question I have been asking myself for over a year now. As internationally minded bloggers and blog readers I figure you may have asked yourself the same question. And, if not, maybe it’s an idea you would be interested in considering. Just what should we consider when we weigh our options with long-term family travel?
Through my research and my personal experience I have found that there are a few very common concerns families have who are seriously considering their travel options. Are they issues that should keep us from doing something exciting and adventurous? Only you can answer that for your own family. Maybe this post on international travel and families will help you to consider some things you hadn’t thought of or even answer some questions you’ve already been asking yourself.
This is the big one! We aren’t just flying solo so where is the money coming from to support travel for the entire family? There are four in our family and the thought and planning of costs is a little overwhelming to us and I know many of you reading have a larger family than ours. Here are some of the main areas you need to consider when making a budget for your long-term travel.
The world is full of different places to explore and they vary greatly in cost. What does your family want to see and experience? Is the location less important than the experiences you are sure to have while you travel?
Going to places in Southeast Asia will cut your costs in half or more. Visiting European countries or the United States will cost you quite a bit more. However, if you want to see Europe on a small budget you can research what times of year there is less tourism which means lower costs for travelers. You can make your long-term travel route based on the off-seasons of the countries you’d like see therefor having attractions to yourself and spending less money as you go.
Accommodations and Food:
There are many price ranges to consider when traveling. You can find places to sleep for free through WWOOF, Our Whole Village, Couchsurfing (not quite as family friendly as it is for singles) and house sitting. Then, there are low-budget places to stay such as hostels. Or, you can travel in style and stay at hotels that cater to travelers with a little more pocket change. All of these options are equally viable so once you make the decision that is right for your family you’ll want to add that to the budget.
Remember to budget in your daily food costs. Where the accommodations are high, most likely the food is too. One idea to make traveling more affordable is to choose an accommodation that offsets the food costs. Maybe in Italy you would try to find a house sitting opportunity rather than a hotel so you can indulge in the amazing food. Or, perhaps you skip the more expensive countries all together and travel where accommodations and food are more affordable.
What main tourist attractions do you really want to see and which ones interest you less? It’s an obvious choice to save money on the attractions you can live without seeing. However, if you are choosing to do long-term family travel don’t miss your opportunity to see and experience the things that really matter to you. Enjoy your time with your family and make the time special!
Whatever you decide on as far as countries you might want to visit just make sure you’re budgeting in your daily expenses per person per day to help you to stay on target. Remember, just like a budget at home you can change it as you go, cutting costs in one line item when you see another line item is exceeding what you had planed.
What do we do to educate our kids on the road? It is obvious that our kids need to continue to be educated. What are your options? How do you go about “homeschooling” on the road?
Being a former homeschooler I know how overwhelming the thought of educating your kids can be without full-time travel involved. I can tell you from experience that homeschooling can be as simple or complicated as you make it. You can choose to hand pick curriculum in the different areas of study or you can choose a boxed curriculum where everything is already set out for you in a concise way. There are other less traditional forms of homeschooling such as “unschooling.” Most of the homeschoolers I have met do a variation of methods. You really can blaze your own trail with resources and books you find along the way! Be creative and do what works for your family.
It isn’t as scary as it feels once you do a little research. World Travel Family is by far my favorite blog to go to for “worldschooling” advice and ideas. Here is one of Alyson’s pages that explains exactly what they do. I love it!
This one has been pretty high on my list of concerns. Each of my family members has challenges with health in one area or another. My health problems are the most significant in our family. I have epilepsy that, when treated, affects our lives very little but I need to keep up with the necessary routines to make a break-through seizure less likely. In order for me to remain healthy I need to get regular sleep (a definite challenge with time changes), I need to keep my stress to a minimum and take my medication on-time. I have questioned whether or not this should affect our decision to travel long-term and what I come to time and time again is, NO!
At any time anyone can have a problem with their health. Other than seizures, which affect many millions of people, anyone could have a fainting spell, appendicitis, malaria, parasites, kidney stones, broken bones, etc. You name any problem or ailment in the world and it could cause a problem for you during travel. It is a risk we all take and there are many options for travel insurance out there. Read this post from The Nomadic Family titled “Dying on the Road- Who Needs Health Insurance?” When you search for your options make sure you are searching for travel insurance from your homeland as they all differ from country to country.
Let’s say you sell it all and begin traveling the world. Re-entering the workforce is a concern for many people especially when there is a family involved. There will be a big gap in my resume, how do I explain that in interviews once I return home? I have been out of my given profession for X amount of months / years, what latest technology or studies do I need to get brought up to speed on? With the job market being what it is, what if I simply can’t find a job?
These are questions many people ask themselves when considering long-term travel. If you are uncomfortable with unplugging entirely there are ways to work on the road. There are many people who call themselves “digital nomads” (check out the Digital Nomad Family) who find work they can do from remote locations. All you need is internet access and a computer! In that vein, your current employer may let you telecommute. I personally know people who didn’t think their company would allow it but once they asked them they found it was an option after all. Then, there are those who decide to throw caution to the wind and decide they will worry about that when they get home, if they come home! They believe that things have a way of working themselves out.
Any way you roll, there are so many outside-of-the-box options that you haven’t even dreamed of yet. Be creative and research, research, research. There are many, many families out there making this work in a number of different ways.
Fear of Different Cultures
Let’s face it, leaving everything behind to travel to cultures entirely different from your own is a scary thought. How am I supposed to get from point A to point B or order a meal when I cannot speak another language? What if we offend another person whose customs are different from our own without even knowing it? Will that make us unwelcomed and therefor uncomfortable in their country? How do their transportation systems work differently than ours?
It’s true that there are many unknowns when it comes to traveling. You will find yourself pantomiming with people whose language you don’t speak. You will run into problems from time to time with transportation. You will offend people by your innocent ignorance to their customs. You will, at times, feel uncomfortable in another culture. I think by facing these realities and doing some research before you leave can lessen the blow when you do run into less than favorable situations. Remind yourself that you will deal with issues as they arise as a family. I believe that when we live in fear of the what-ifs we don’t truly live. Think about all of the things we would miss out on if we let fear drive every one of our decisions. It would hardly be a life worth living.
Yes, there is crime in other countries as there is right where you live. Often times you hear about theft being a companion of the overseas traveler. These things do happen and most likely will happen at some time if you are traveling long enough. There are things you can do to keep this to a minimum like wearing a passport / money holder underneath your clothes. Be smart about what you bring and what can leave at home in storage or with a relative or friend. Be offensive about protecting yourselves from crime rather than dealing with the problem after it happens.
Those are some of the considerations and mental blocks I have experienced with pondering the idea of long-term international family travel. They are all important things to think about. Here is a blog post written for the purpose of sharing a list of Red Tricycle’s top 30 favorite family travel blogs. Somehow the list missed my two all-time favorite family travel blogs and they are World Travel Family and The Nomadic Family. You will find all kinds of posts on their blogs with family travel tips and so many inspiring posts that answer other questions you have.
You may be wondering if we come to an answer for our family about this yet. Are we planning a RTW (round the world) trip? No. We are still weighing all of the options and spending time considering it deeply. It is possible that this will remain just a dream that we have or that our dreams will change. And it’s possible that it may become a reality for us. Either way, to me, doing the research and feeling inspired is worth the time. I leave you with this quote from…well…my mom.
“Where there’s will, there’s a way.”
I truly believe her timeless (and stolen) words apply so well for following our dreams and maybe yours is long-term international family travel?
Have you been considering long-term international family travel? Stop by my blog, Our Global Home and tell me about it!
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