family gap year

Family Gap Year: Round the World With Kids


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When I was a teenager, my family took us traveling for a year (which turned into another year).  We sailed our boat from Canada down to the Bahamas and spent many months enjoying the gorgeous islands.  Many family and friends questioned my parents’ decision, although we met many families doing the exact same thing in that year.

Once we had our own kids, I started hearing more about families taking a year off to travel: a family gap year.  At first it just seemed like the odd one, but over the last five years we have followed and met many families on the road.  These travel-loving families don’t want to wait until retirement to see the world; they want to do it with their kids.    Many save up and plan their trip for years, others are more impromptu .  Some are transitioning between new jobs, some are motivated by the death of a loved one or a health scare and some just need a break.

This week on our Travel More Case Study Series we are going to meet a family that I have been in touch with for the last year.  Melissa and her family are currently on a year-long trip around the world (RTW) and chronicle their adventures on their blog, the Family Voyage.

One of the things I love about the way they are traveling is the pace.  They are not rushing around the globe to visit every country.  They tend to base themselves in a place for a few weeks and explore from there.  Their itinerary is flexible too, which has allowed them to make adjustments as they go.  Melissa has really wise advice for families thinking about a family gap year.

Meet this Gap Year Family

The Family Voyage in Queensland, Australia

1. Tell us a little bit about your family and your history with travel.

My name is Melissa, and I am currently traveling with my husband Ronnie, 6yo Jacob and 3yo Shoshana. I originally hail from Virginia, but spent the last 17 years in Los Angeles and the rest of my crew are native Angeleno’s. Ronnie got the travel bug during his college semester abroad, but I really didn’t travel all that much until he and I started dating! We have now visited 18 countries on six continents with our kids (though, truth be told, I’m not a country counter and had to look at a map to figure it out).extended family travel

2. When and how did the idea of a Family RTW trip come about?

We had casually discussed the idea for a few years as something to do when the kids were much older. But as time went on we started to feel like the time was right for us to relocate from our comfortable, settled life in Los Angeles – we were both ready for professional changes, and the high cost of living and fast pace made it difficult to foresee a solid future there. Since we were looking to relocate and change jobs anyway, it seemed like a great opportunity to enjoy some quality time together exploring the world.

3. How did you prepare?

We spent a few months plotting and planning to get us through our first six months of travel. We also had a rough plan for the second half of our trip, but waited to make those arrangements until we were out in the road.

4. Take us on your journey so far.  What has been the highlights?

family RTW

Family fun in Argentina

We’ve seen so many amazing places, almost all of them new to us! We all really loved our four days of trekking in Argentine Patagonia and our roadtrip from Melbourne to Sydney was amazing!

5. What has been the biggest challenges of your RTW trip?  How have the kids adapted?RTW with kids

Our biggest challenge as a family has been having a moody, sensitive child. Of course, that could be a challenge at home or away! But the moodiness has been enhanced by homesickness. We’ve tried to be sensitive by allowing plenty of downtime playing at our GuesttoGuest apartments and FaceTime sessions (or sometimes just video exchanges, depending on time zones) with family and friends back in the US.

6. The question everyone wants to know, is how do you afford this?

Isn’t that the question? We’re doing it the old-fashioned way by burning through savings. We worked for a decade and saved up to buy a house in Los Angeles that we just never found. So now we’re using some of that to travel and hoping to re-settle somewhere less expensive. We’ve saved a lot of money on accommodation through GuesttoGuest home exchange.

Buenos Aires Cooking Class

Cooking class in Buenos Aires

7. What about your jobs?  Your house?

As I mentioned above, a catalyst for the timing of our trip was desire for professional changes and relocation. So we quit our jobs and gave up our apartment too!

8. Your kids are fairly young, but what do you do about schooling?Australia with kids

Jacob is doing kindergarten on the road and doing great. We use a combination of workbooks, in-context experiences like wildlife encounters or visiting historic sites and even “unschooling” – letting the kids learn what they can from everyday experiences around them. Get all the details about our worldschooling adventure here.

9. What type of budget do you have to have to do a family RTW?

It really depends on where you’re going! The consensus in conversations in Tiny Globetrotters over on Facebook is that a RTW trip costs $20-25k USD per person. If you only visit Southeast Asia you’re likely to spend far less, as everything is cheaper (even regional flights are only $50 USD sometimes). On the other hand, we spent a total of three months in pricey New Zealand and Australia. We knew they’d basically be budget-busters, but they’re very far from our base in the US and we decided to take advantage of having such a huge chunk of time to really explore them properly. As a bonus, we managed a total of six GuesttoGuest exchanges in that region and we were hosted by friends and family for more than two weeks of our time in Australia.The Family Voyage

10. Do you have any tips for those wanting to do a family RTW trip?

  • Don’t try to squeeze in to much – it’s better for your budget and sanity to take it slow and just enjoy the time together as a family, even if you won’t see every Trip Advisor top 10 attraction.
  • It’s hard, but don’t bring too much stuff. The clothing doesn’t add up nearly as much as the small stuff and the shoes. Check out (some) of the (many) mistakes we made when packing for our trip around the world.
  • Let the experience change you. It’s impossible to do something so fun and different and then not feel differently by the end!

travel with kids

11.  You have been on the road for 6 months now, what’s next for your family?

We’ll be traveling internationally until late June or early July. After that? Stay tuned to our blog, we’ll let you know when we figure it out!

Connect with The Family Voyage

Melissa has tons of great articles and destination guides on their blog, The Family Voyage.  Head over and be inspired by their beautiful photography and great tips for traveling families.  You can also follow their adventures on Instagram and Facebook.

If you enjoyed this post, check out our other family travel case studies:

Is this something you would like to do with your family?  What would be your dream itinerary for a one-year family gap year?  I would love to hear about it in the comments below.  

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How to take a family gap year Family RTW trip

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