Taking your kids on a round the world adventure is the dream of so many parents. There are parents who understand that travel had a tremendous value and impact on their children's education and future success. I know many parents who have done it and all would agree it was one of the high points of their entire life.
An idea like a trip around the world can be quickly be dismissed because it feels overwhelming and impossible to attain. Big dreams are often put up on a shelf, just out of sight and left for "someday". We go back to settling for our normal, comfortable existence.
Consider what would happen if we put our big dreams in plain sight, made them a priority and focused our attention on them. Imaging how that would impact our children's lives? What lessons would they learn? How would it make you feel to turn "someday" the reality of your tomorrow?
With some dedicated planning, some guidance and a blueprint, we believe the dream of traveling round the world with your kids is very possible. We've helped several families achieve this dream and would like to offer a blueprint to help your family as well:
Have the Right Mindset
Straight out the gate, when you start to share your dream of taking your kids around the world with others, many people may not share your same enthusiasm. Many people will think you're nuts!
There is a good chance you may even get some strong push back from those closest to you. You may be a very world minded person with lots of intrepid traveling experience. Your spouse, partner, co-parent and fellow travel may not share your same perspective.
Planning an around the world itinerary normally takes long term planning for most families. It requires dedication and determination. Often sacrifices for the greater good need to be made to make the dream come true. Collaboration with a partner, especially a future travel partner is important. Often compromises may need to be made so that different goals can be aligned. It's important to have open conversations about shared goals, comfort levels and priorities very early to avoid potential disappointments down the line.
If you, and your partner and family are all share in this same dream or can find common ground on which to compromise, then together you will all find a way to make it happen.
Relatives and friends not actively participating in the journey do not have to share your same dream. Do not let their negative opinions interrupt your vision of the future. Respectfully agree to disagree with them and move on towards your goals.
Know Your Travel Style
Some intrepid families can go with the flow, embrace experiences like using public transportation in developing countries and feel perfectly at home sharing accommodations in a foreign hostel. Other families require private jets, guides and luxury homes. There may be situations where travel partners and their children need to discover a compromise somewhere between these two travel styles.
Setting the right expectations is important very early in the planning stages. This is also a good time to take realistic inventory of your family's needs. For example, if a family member has any serious health issues, it may not be safe for your family to visit very remote areas far from emergency medical care. You'll need to plan your route to accommodate this important need.
Timing is Important
Of course children benefit from travel at any age but parents often ask how old children should be to take a round the world or extended trip. The "sweet spot" for kids would be when they are between the ages of 7 and 12. Younger children may not be old enough to remember this adventure. School age children are also independent enough to care for themselves which will make life on the road a bit easier for parents. Often teens in high school have more academic and social demands making an extended trip like this a bit more difficult.
Timing is also an important factor that can impact your budget. High season and holiday travel rates can increase your costs by as much as 75%. It's something to bear in mind when it comes to planning your specific itinerary and departure dates.
Set a Realistic Budget
There are some families who can simply pay out of pocket for this kind of adventure. Other families may come into an inheritance, sell a house or business, win the lottery or enjoy another type of financial windfall. Like college financial planning, most families will need to put some long term savings plan in place to realize this dream.
Many families who have embarked on such a dream return to report that full time traveling is actually cheaper than maintaining their current lifestyle. A large majority of families willing to embrace this world travel adventure will sell or rent their homes, change jobs and homeschool to make it happen.
Still, you need to have some sort of money goal in mind so that you can budget accordingly.
How do you come up with even a "ballpark" budget for a family trip like this?
Costs will be determined by the length of time your family will be traveling and the level of style. At today's current prices:
Airfare: $2,500 - $4000 for coach flights per person regardless of the amount of time you'll be traveling
Food: In developing countries it can be as little as $5-$10 per day, per person. In a city like Zurich, Paris or Tokyo it can cost between $50-$100 per person, per day.
Accommodations: Once again, costs can range from a hostel or campsite at $20 per person, per night to a luxury home rental worth hundreds per night. Costs will be impacted by the amount of time your family will be traveling.
A good average "ballpark" figure to save for would be between $20,000 to $25,000 per person if you plan to travel for an entire year.
This would seem to be a good target to save for when you compare around the world cruises on a premier cruise line Holland America or Cunard. Their prices start just around $20,000 per person. This rate includes your transportation, accommodations and meals.
The world is a big place. It gets even bigger when you start to plan out a trip like this.
Even if you plan to spend a year or more traveling, you probably won't be able to see and do everything on your wish list. Many families do not have that amount of time and may want to plan this type of an adventure during summer school break. To plan and budget wisely, you'll need to prioritize wisely.
Many families dream for many years of the places they will go and things they want to see on a trip like this. You may already have a short list of "must do" destinations. It's also important that you include the kids in these conversations. Travel planning is an excellent learning and life skill opportunity. Having a voice in the travel planning talks helps to make kids feel invested in the experience. Having some age appropriate decision power, whether it be a specific destination choice or an afternoon itinerary will make even young children feel empowered.
You should have a fairly solid destination list nailed down about 2 years to 18 months prior to the start of your departure.
Work With an Experienced Travel Agent
2 years to 18 months prior to departure is also an excellent time to begin collaborating with a travel agent partner. You'll want to be sure to work with a Travel Agent that is experienced in the destinations you plan to visit and especially airline ticketing. There are so many different types of ticket options, loyalty point programs, airline alliances, stopover and even around the world fares that can be leveraged so that your family gets the most value. In addition, you'll want them to be a certified Family Travel Specialist to make sure the needs of your children are properly addressed.
Researching this type of itinerary and analyzing the best options will take a good deal of time, even for an very experienced agent who specializes in this type of complicated itinerary. This is because every family is unique and their itinerary requirements will vary. Travel Agents will charge a service fee for this type of research and will let you know in advance. Again, this is based on research time invested and is separate from any commissions they may earn booking accommodations, sightseeing and other forms of transportation.
Partnering with the right travel agent on a venture like this can prove to be invaluable. Your agent partner will help prevent problems, be there to help when and if plans change and offer can offer insights as well as personal connections around the globe that can greatly enhance your overall experience.
Plan Your Family's Extended Time Off
Some parents may have the type of careers and support in place where taking a sabbatical or extended time off isn't a big deal. If you work virtually, then anyplace with decent Wi-Fi can be your office. Many careers may make it difficult or nearly impossible to take an extended time off from work. Taking a "gap" year to travel may actually require quitting one position and finding another when you return. Whatever your particular circumstance, allow yourself plenty time to hopefully get employers on board with your plans or determine your best course of action.
The same holds true when it comes to your child's education. For homeschool families, time off may not be as challenging as it will be to create an itinerary that includes as many learning opportunities as possible. Some school districts may be more accommodating that others. Extended travel may require your children to repeat a year in school. Just know, advance preparation is required to explore and hopefully negotiate the solutions that are best suited for your family's individual circumstances.
Get Travel Documents in Order
Make sure everyone's passports are current with expiration dates that extend at least 6 months beyond your return date. Blended families may require notarized letters of permission from co-parents. Some situations may require legal intervention to obtain this permission. Destinations that you plan to visit may require a visa or other paperwork that may take some time to obtain.
If parents plan to work while visiting and living in certain destinations during their journey, you will need to obtain the necessary documentation, visas and permits. This may include visiting foreign embassies here in the U.S. prior to your departure. It's important to do your research at least one year prior to departure so that you can create an actionable timeline while avoiding last minute stress.
Make Health & Safety Plans
Many developing have illnesses and diseases that we normally do not encounter here in the U.S. Travelers will often require vaccines as well as prevention medications to help stay healthy and safe. The CDC Traveler's Website offers global information, alerts, recommendations and requirements. Determine what health precautions are necessary based on CDC recommendations. Make appointments with your family's physicians and pediatricians to discuss your travel plans, get necessary inoculations and other tips to help keep your family health during your adventure.
Travel insurance is critical for a trip like this. Normally travel insurance is broken down into 3 main components....cancellation, medical care and trip interruptions. For long term travel the most critical of these three components are Medical insurance and trip interruption coverage. The good news is that travel insurance companies do offer "annual" policies that cover extended travel or multiple trips at very affordable rates compared to typical vacation coverage for a 7 day trip to the beach. Often these policies come with additional perks like 24 hour English speaking support services and even translations help in an emergency.
Bear in mind adventure travelers have a statistically higher risk of injury than travelers who simply plan to live like locals and visit museums. If you're family intends in participating in activities like zip-lining, bungee jumping, rock climbing...even skiing, injuries and accidents resulting from these type of activities may not be covered by typical travel insurance policies. Again, your travel agent partner can put you in touch with insurance specialists who can make sure your properly protected and give you peace of mind while traveling.
Book Your Flights
If you've planned appropriately and have done all your necessary homework prior to this point, this is when the dreams begins to take shape. Generally airlines published their schedules and rates about 300 months prior to departure. If you work with an experience agent who is an airfare expert they will be able to find you the best options based on your plans. There are many types of airfares that may come into play here like consolidator flights, tour flights, stopovers, local carriers and even around the world ticketing. Again, it all depends on the specifics of your trip and this is where your agent can help you get the most value based on your budget.
Book Your Accommodations
Once your flights and transportation between destinations has been established, next it's time to book your accommodations. This can mean an apartment rental for a long term stay, hotels, cruise or even connecting into guided tours that offer accommodations as part of the package. it may mean all of the options mentioned here. Again, this is a very customized itinerary and there is no one size fits all.
Most families travel the world for the education and experiences it teaches their children. These first hand experiences generally come with full immersion into a culture and living like a local. Generally these are the type of experiences a majority of our clients crave. It's also important to remember that traveling like a tourist can be more expensive - staying in hotels with housekeeping services, eating in restaurants etc. compared to living local, shopping, cleaning and cooking yourself.
Have Daily Plans
This is where a plan of your priorities will pay dividends. You'll definitely want to spend the time and money to visit the places that top your lists. Having an extended period of time to stay in each destination will give you more time for immersion. You won't have to see every major tourist attraction in 4 days. Often the best experiences and memories are created from serendipitous moments that organically happen while just "being" in a certain place. It's these little priceless moments along the way that can really put such a big adventure into perspective.
This type of a family adventure is guaranteed to be life changing in so many different and positive ways. From families that we've worked with, we've heard some interesting feedback upon their return.
One important point parents need to realize is that the scope of your around the world adventure may not impact your children immediately. Children will "go with the flow". They may not appreciate the sacrifices being made for their education and character. They may miss family, friends or their favorite foods from back home. It may take a few years and a few more trips for children to be mature enough to see the world from a different perspective.
All those people who thought you were nutz in the beginning will most likely not want to hear about all of your amazing adventures when you get back home. First of all, you proved them wrong. Secondly they simply won't be able to relate to the experiences, situations and all the things you and your children have learned. While a trip of this nature will bond your family closer together, it may separate you from some of your current relationships.
The last important point to remember is that the travel bug affects every person differently. After returning home we have some clients that simply want to enjoy being home again. Many have to knuckle back down to careers, school and regular responsibilities. Some kids may just want to hit a theme park on their next vacation.
I will say the majority of our clients who travel around the world call us immediately upon return to plan their next adventure. Often an around the world trip doesn't satiate those who are explorers at hear but simply creates a stronger drive to visit even more places.