Traveling the world is a blast.
You get to explore new places, experience foreign cultures and eat all kinds of tasty ethnic cuisine.
But there’s only one thing better than an extended international foray: one with your entire family in tow.
Ernest Hemingway said it best: “Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.”
And I’m willing to bet there isn’t anyone you love more than your family.
However, I won’t pretend it’ll all be smooth sailing.
There’ll undoubtedly be times when you want to scream and pull your hair out. (And trust me, you’ll all want to pull each other’s hair out, too!) Nevertheless, a global adventure with your loved ones could well be the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.
Why travel the world with kids?
We all want the best for our kids. And for many of us, that entails piling on extracurricular activities and homework to ensure they have the best chance of academic success.
But what if I told you experiences could educate better than a classroom?
To quote the famous American banker David Rockefeller, “I am a passionate traveler, and from the time I was a child, travel formed me as much as my formal education.”
Exposing your children to other cultures will enable them to take on an international outlook from a young age. What’s more, you’ll all have a heck of a lot of fun together along the way.
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Issues you’ll face as a traveling family
But I never said it would be easy!
Domestic disputes will intensify, temper tantrums will multiply and financial hardships will become exponentially more stressful. And throughout these tough times, you’ll dearly miss your support system back home, as will the kids.
But with a little patience, a lot of communication and a strong focus on teamwork, you can overcome all of these obstacles.
Yes, It’s Possible! Learn How to Travel the World with Kids
How to make traveling as a family work
Saving up a travel fund and settling on an itinerary are the easy parts. The real challenge is evolving into an adventure-loving, nomadic family unit.
Every family has a unique dynamic, and for some, the tribulations of travel may be more manageable than for others. Nonetheless, there are a few things you can do to maintain harmony and minimize conflict while on the road.
Take it slow
Ever done a whirlwind tour of too many destinations in too little time? Stressful, isn’t it?
Now imagine doing that indefinitely with your impatient children constantly at your heels. Not going to work!
One of the keys to traveling amicably as a family is taking it slow. After all, you’re on a round-the-world trip, not a two-week summer vacation. No need to hurry.
Avoid rushing between attractions and take the time to savor each destination instead. This way, you’ll all feel excited when it’s time to move on.
But how long is too long?
If the whole family falls in love with a location, consider hanging around for a few weeks or months. Otherwise, try to spend at least four days in each place to minimize travel-related stress.
Treat the children now and then
Whether you like it or not, the kids are your most significant obstacle to achieving long-term travel bliss.
So for you to be happy, they need to be happy.
Thankfully, (most) kids are pretty easy to please. Ice cream and pizza are a good start, while the occasional trip to a kid-friendly animal attraction will work wonders at keeping those temper tantrums at bay.
Of course, you should get to see things that interest you, too. So if you’re in Paris for the week, reward the kids for their patience at the Louvre Museum with a trip to Disneyland the next day.
Make a budget and stick to it
Whether you have three months or a year to spare, budgeting is an essential component of any round-the-world trip. And much like your beloved offspring, budgets have a tendency to run wildly out of control.
To keep your finances in check, draft a month-by-month budget for the whole time you’ll be away. Obviously, some destinations are more expensive than others, and you must factor this reality into your plan.
When creating your budget, keep big-ticket items like long-haul flights and travel insurance out of the mix. You should purchase those before you hit the road, so they aren’t part of your monthly plan.
And if you do happen to overspend once in a while, don’t beat yourself up. Simply make up the windfall by penny-pinching a little more the following month.
Remember, spreadsheets and regular bank statements are your best financial friends.
Educate the kids on the road
Travel might be wonderful for your children, as Mr. Rockefeller has told us. However, they’ll still need to know how to conjugate verbs and multiply numbers.
Thankfully, this can all be done on the road through a relatively modern and novel concept known as “world schooling.” Essentially, it’s homeschooling on the road.
Look into downloading apps like Math Ninja [iOS / Android] and Spelling City [iOS] so you can easily teach the kids on a tablet. Add in a few workbooks, such as the renowned Carol Vorderman series, as well as the occasional private tutor for optimal results.
Studying a language is essential to any curriculum. If you expect to spend a lot of time in countries with a common language, consider making that language a course for your kids.
For example, maybe Bolivia, Mexico and Costa Rica are all on your list. Spanish would be a valuable part of their education!
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FluentU takes a huge collection of language video clips from real-world sources—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and uses it to generate personalized lessons for each learner.
One FluentU account gives you access to all nine of its languages. Perfect for a family that will be traveling to multiple countries and hearing numerous languages!
The number of hours your kids study is ultimately up to you. But remember, the whole idea of world schooling is that they’ll pick up most of their knowledge while exploring the globe.
They’ll learn geography by visiting capital cities, math by helping out with the budget, science by exploring natural wonders and history through seeing landmarks and museums. Just ensure you make every travel experience an opportunity to learn something.
How much does it cost to travel the world as a family?
To put it simply… It depends.
The answer varies widely on where you go, how you travel and how quickly you move.
Some traveling families have reported spending as little as 35,000 USD per year. Granted, they stuck to the developing world and opted for the cheapest possible food, accommodation, transportation and activities.
Realistically, a novice traveling family might spend somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 USD in a year, throwing a few developed world destinations into the mix.
How to travel on the cheap as a family
Despite what some die-hard bloggers might tell you, there’s no magic formula to traveling on a shoestring. Above all else, it comes down to having the discipline to forgo luxury.
Not only will slowing down improve your experience, but it’ll also shave large sums off your monthly expenditures.
Lingering longer in each destination will mean:
- lower transport costs
- long-term accommodation discounts
- more self-catering opportunities
For the best deals, give those hotel booking sites a miss and suss out some local options instead. Family-run guesthouses are available throughout most of the world at very reasonable rates.
Airbnb often presents savings, especially when accommodation allows self-catering in the kitchen.
However, for longer stays of a month or more, local real estate listings often advertise cheaper furnished apartments than you’ll find on Airbnb.
Taking a bus or train between cities and countries usually works out cheaper than flying. Plus, the travel time gives the kids some time to catch up on their workbooks. Whenever possible, travel overnight to save on accommodation.
Of course, you’ll want to avoid the cheapest and most uncomfortable forms of transportation for the sanity of all involved.
When you do need to fly, book as early as possible and be flexible with your dates. Look out for the cheapest season to fly and sign up to hear about airfare specials. Flying with low-cost carriers can save a ton of money, but watch out for those ancillary fees.
Limit your restaurant outings to special occasions and opt to explore the local street markets instead. Just ensure hygiene standards are up to scratch by frequenting popular stalls where vendors cook fresh food right in front of you.
Self-catering at your accommodation is a great way to save cash while you indulge in the food you miss from home.
Pick your tours wisely
Jumping on an organized tour to each attraction may be easy, but it’ll quickly eat into your budget. Download free or cheap city guides or Wikipedia articles of each attraction, then encourage the family to take turns role playing as the tour guide. (This is an awesome world schooling opportunity for the kids!)
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for family discounts, which can offer serious savings.
Use public transportation
Taking public transport is usually way cheaper than hailing a taxi. Use an app such as Google Maps to work your way around the local system with ease.
Of course, sometimes the bus is super inconvenient. So don’t be afraid to flag a cab from time to time!
As you can see, gallivanting around the globe with your family is easier than you may have thought. All you need is some savings, a bullet-proof budget and the will to go exploring together on a whim.
All that’s left to do is pick where to go.
Thankfully, FluentU has plenty of tips and guides for traveling the world… from Argentina, to Germany, to Portugal, to Japan. Start planning your biggest family trip yet!
Harry is a South American-based freelance writer who covers travel, the arts and culture, among many other things.
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