Ever dream of quitting work, renting out the family home and taking off to explore the world long-term? It’s a step that plenty of parents would love to take but the thought of planning such a mammoth trip can be daunting – especially when it takes all your energy just to get the kids out the door. It’s easier than you think. Determined to make your family travel dream a reality? Here’s our guide to the basics.
Make the decision and stick to it
There are positives and negatives to a round-the-world trip with kids at any age: travelling with babies or toddlers is cheaper – and there’s no school to worry about – but they’re unlikely to remember much about the trip; older children will form longer-lasting memories but you’ll need to keep up with their studies; and while teenagers can handle more intrepid undertakings, close friendships and looming exams may mean they’ll take more convincing..
Choose a travel style to suit your family
While travelling with babies and toddlers needn’t preclude adventurous travel, some destinations – Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, for example – are more tot-friendly than others. With older children and teenagers you could explore more challenging options such as a camping safari in the African bush or hiking in the Himalayas. Don’t forget: a round-the-world adventure needn’t involve a multi-stop plane ticket and a backpack; travelling overland in a campervan is a fun and flexible way to travel, or you could even try cycling across a continent or navigating the oceans in a sailboat…
Stay healthy on the road
Looking after your family’s health is of course a top priority. Before you go, arrange the requisite vaccinations and antimalarials in plenty of time, and remember that some jabs (eg typhoid) can’t be given before a certain age. Carry a good first aid kit and discuss in advance what to do in an emergency; comprehensive travel insurance is a must. While it pays to be prepared, with all the fresh air and exercise you’ll likely be getting on the road, plus new, varied foods and plenty of mood-boosting family time, chances are you’ll all be healthier than ever while you’re away.
Pack light and stock up on the go
Will you be lugging around baby paraphernalia, or are you travelling with older kids who can carry their own stuff? Will you be backpacking or driving? Do you need to worry about seasons or will you stick to warm climates? Whatever your plans, pack as little as possible. You can buy nappies, baby food and even clothes as you go along – and you may well need to anyway, given the rate at which most children grow. Must-haves include a comfort object or two for small children, a lightweight sling for babies and toddlers, and a tablet or laptop loaded with games and movies for when the inevitable cries of boredom strike.
Budget, budget, budget
Running out of cash halfway across the world is best avoided, so work out a maximum weekly budget and stick to it – with money put aside for emergencies and occasional splurges. If you’re on a tight budget, spend the bulk of your time in cheaper countries. You’ll blow through money faster in North America and Western Europe than you would in Southeast Asia or India.
To save cash, try camping or staying in hostels (many of which are family-friendly these days), and cooking your own food rather than eating out for every meal. Couchsurfing (couchsurfing.org) or housesitting will save you money while allowing your family to experience life as the locals live it.
Let travel be their teacher
Travel with school-age children and you’ll have to educate along the way. As well as setting time aside for formal study, draw inspiration from the world around you. Learn about art and history by visiting museums and ancient sites; use a trip to the market as a simple maths lesson; study maps to understand the geography of the countries you’re visiting; or encourage your kids to interact in the local language.