The idea of waving goodbye to ‘real life’ and heading out on the road for a world tour with the family is an exciting one. But organising it all can feel daunting. More and more families are choosing to take a family gap year, driven by a desire to spend more time together and to learn about the world through experiences rather than textbooks. If you’re considering setting off on an adventure then there are a few things to consider first.
How to plan a family gap year
As tempting as it is to hand in your notice, lock up the house and jump on an airline, in order to have a successful family gap year, there needs to be some careful planning.
Disclosure: This feature is an advertorial in collaboration with SafetyWing. All opinions are, as always, my own.
Plan your route
Travelling with kids means that you need to be a bit more organised than if you were heading off solo. There’s no need to plan ever single day of your family sabbatical before you leave home but knowing where you are going to be and when will help – particularly with booking flights.
- Where do you really want to go in the world? If you’ve got a bucket list then now is the time to start acting on it!
- Ask your kids where they would like to go and get them involved in the planning.
- Consider destinations where your money will go further; South East Asia is much cheaper than the UK for example.
- Factor in the weather; exploring India in the height of summer can be challenging but visiting Finland in winter is magical.
- Are there any festivals or events that you really want to experience?
- Consider when high season is; you’ll save money visiting a destination during low or shoulder season.
- Remember that diseases such as Dengue fever and malaria are prevalent in some destinations. This doesn’t mean that you should rule those destinations out but get expert medical advice before travelling, avoid visiting during the rainy season, and take extra precautions (such as using mosquito repellant).
Financing & Budget
Possibly the biggest thing to consider when planning your gap year with the family is how you’re going to finance it. Many travelling families save for a year or more before embarking on their adventure – this family planned for five years before they set sail around the world.
- If you own property are you going to sell it to fund the trip? Or, if you rent it out, will that help to finance your trip?
- Consider using reward credit cards to help buy flights; we used an airline specific credit card and gain air miles for money spent.
- If your job allows it, do you plan to work while you are on the road?
- Work out a daily allowance for accommodation and food and try to stick to that while you are away.
- Consider balancing cheaper destinations with more expensive ones; remember that US$100 a day will go much further in Asia, for example, then it will in the United States.
- Think of ways that you can save money on accommodation; house swaps and house-sitting are two options to keep accommodation costs down. Homestays are another great option and offer a unique insight into life in that destination.
Health & Vaccinations
Getting sick while you’re on the road can seriously hamper your travels. Unfortunately, however, no matter how prepared you are, there’s not foolproof method to protect against getting sick.
- Visit your doctor before you travel and make sure everyone’s vaccinations are up-to-date. The CDC is a good resource for vaccinations needed.
- Invest in a good travel first aid kit and stock up on any essential medications.
- It’s worth making a note of travel clinics in your destination before you travel or upon arrival. The International Society of Travel Medicine has a good worldwide clinic database. Check your embassy website in destination as well as they usually have a list of recommended clinics.
- Consider taking a first aid and CPR course before you head off on your family gap year.
As the old saying goes, “if you can’t afford travel insurance then you can’t afford to travel.” Insurance is a vital part of any successful trip and you must make sure you have a policy that covers everything that you need. Look for an insurance policy that covers medical expenses and situations such as travel delays, lost checked luggage, emergency response, natural disaster and personal liability. SafetyWing offers competitive and comprehensive insurance for travelling families at very affordable rates. Note that if you have pre-existing conditions or plan to engage in high risk sports then you’ll need to look for a specialist provider.
Schooling on the road
Even though I firmly believe that travel is the best education, kids still need to be able to read and write! Taking a gap year with the family inevitably means finding a way to teach your kids while on the road. There are various schools of thought on this. Some families follow an online curriculum from their home country; others take a ‘worldschooling’ approach whereby the family’s travels are used as the basis for their curriculum; and still others adhere to an ‘unschooling’ philosophy, allowing the children to learn and develop at their own pace. There are plenty of Homeschooling groups online for tips and inspiration as well as great apps and websites to help with learning.