20 May 2008

How does one plan an extended family trip? Talk amongst yourselves.

I was so fascinated by Nancy Sathre-Vogel's family's plan to spend a year bicycling from Alaska to Argentina that I asked her how they managed to plan such a trip, or to even attempt such an undertaking. Surprise, surprise -- I'm not the first one to ask! She's written several blog posts on the topic, all of which inspire me to take a closer look at my family travel dreams.

Have any of you taken an extended trip with your family -- the pull-kids-out-of-school kind of trip? Care to share your experiences? How have you managed it? Any books or sites you'd recommend? Do tell. If you've written about your experiences on a blog, include the link in the comments so we can visit.


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My husband and I took a six-month trip through africa, the middle east, and south-east asia back in 2001.

Now that we have two kids, we've taken several trips that were a little longer than a month (but nothing as long as 6 months)

For us, there was a tipping point with each trip where we realized that we would regret not making it happen. After that, the planning and everything else (including putting work on hold) fell into place.

It might seem daunting to plan a long trip, but remember that you don't have to plan the whole thing in detail before you go. For our six month trip we planned the first month before we left & had a rough itinerary for the other five months. Once we were on the road, we appreciated having the flexibility to change plans.

Now that we have kids, I plan out vacation rental apartments in advance, but not much else. We tend to stay in each place for a week or more and use it as a home base as we explore the region. That way the kids have time to get comfortable and we're not constantly packing and repacking.

Debbie
http://www.deliciousbaby.com

There's a book called Family Sabbatical Handbook, by Elisa Bernick, that is comprehensive and readable. I picked it up on a whim (didn't realize I had any interest in such a trip!) and devoured it.

http://www.familysabbatical.com/

If your definition of extended family trip includes 3 weeks of driving across the country then I've got a few suggestions.

I've taken my girls on several cross country car trips. We always pick several major destinations (for example: Chicago/Yellowstone/Denver) and then fill in the gaps. The kids search for weird tourist attractions on RoadsideAmerica.com and we stop at as many as we can. We also stop at anything that catches our fancy (Russell Stovers Outlet!!).

To stay organized, I dedicate a large manilla envelope to each night's stay (I make hotel reservations in advance) and stuff maps, tourist info, etc into that envelope. For sanity we also take books on CD. I want the kids to SEE their country so no portable DVDs. The girls can listen to Harry Potter as they watch the cornfields roll by. We've seen a lot of Americana and had a lot of great experiences. I highly recommend family roadtrips.

Never done it myself, but I know that my former colleague Tom Andrus did and blogged the experience: http://www.sixintheworld.com/

Also, I think the awesome Anne Collier of NetFamilyNews.org may have done a trip like this.

I stumbled across the Ashtons blog a few days ago... you can read about how they picked up their kids and exchanged houses with a french family on the cote d'azur.

It made me want to live vicariously through them!

We have been traveling as a family for almost 2 years and are on an open ended trip around the world. We have been blogging about it at www.soultravelers3.com

I am at an internet cafe and running out of time, but I address these issues on my website and will answer more as soon as I have better connection.

We find that we can travel the world much cheaper than living at home and only 25K total expenses a year and live large on that.

It has been a spectacular education for my child and a great bonding for our family and I think more could take extended trips which are easier than short vacations and much cheaper.

Check out:
http://www.armageddonpills.com/

Supposedly it's going to be a book someday, but there are lots of excerpts and great stories from the family's trip around the world.


Here is our proper site link:

http://www.soultravelers3.com

Short montage video of our 1st 18 months of our open ended family world tour:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wn9rDTZj-m4

When I first posted in Cadiz, Spain, I was in one of those horrible, expensive coin operated internet cafes with a foreign keyboard where I could not find half the keys. LOL! One of the joys of life on the road.;)

It was a great spot though & today we are in Portugal. Along with great pool, playground, tennis courts, beach etc for 8 euros a night, we have great wifi from our RV, so I can answer more fully.

I was so inspired by the questions that I just wrote a whole post ( as we drove) on this topic and will have it up in a few days. We have learned tremendous amounts about budget family travel, homeschooling on the road, mobile living & more and highly recommend this free lifestyle!

I agree that the hardest part is making the decision to do it, but it is actually easy once one does that. Wow! I was amazed to find out that we lived on less while touring Europe by RV, staying at some luxury hotels & renting out a beautiful ocean view home in the winter that the Vogels did touring the US on bikes. Our total costs for a family of three was 25 thousand for our first year & we will maintain that level or less.Thus we can travel the world, live large on MUCH less than we lived on at home.

Travel does not really costs that much, maintaining stuff does. If we did not like luxury so much, we could actually live much cheaper.The key to cheap travel is staying longer and living like a native. Weekly rentals are good, but monthly off season rentals are even better for families. Long flights cost a lot, so why waste the money by pretending to be a 2 week millionaire?

In the winter we spend no money on gas as we can walk to everything or take mass transit. We have been from Amsterdam to Marrakesh, Madrid to Istanbul, Prague to Santorini, Paris to Rome etc and yet, we also have not put that many miles on our RV, nor is gas a very big expense. Slow travel is so much less expensive than fast travel.

The folks at Armageddon pills thought it necessary to spend a minimum of 100K a year for each person to travel the world, but that has not been our experience at all. So much depends on how you do it and how you plan your trip. We like a French family of 4 who traveled the world for 4 years via RV and spent 1500 euros a month ( 2002 to 2006) total costs.RV's are a fabulous way for families to travel.We are shipping ours to Africa next, then South America.

I want people to know that the dream is very doable for everyone and easier today than it has ever been before! We are just an ordinary family and not rich. I list tons of people and families on our website who are doing it...even a family of 8 from NZ. It really begins with opening one's mind to the possibilities.

I list books we like on this topic on our website, but here are a few to wet your appetite:

Vagabonding, Adventuring with children, 4 hour work week, Escape 101, Exotic Travel Destinations for Families

The bonding, shared adventures, and education of such family travel is priceless and the freedom feels like the way life is meant to be lived.Read about others and fashion your own dream, it is so worth the effort. Carpe Diem!

It's amazing how many families actually find ways to take extended vacations - and the variety of things they do is quite inspiring.

We're about to leave for a year-long round the world trip.

Our story is at: http://thewidewideworld.com

Our site has links to about two-dozen families who have enjoyed extended travel - and each family has a unique and interesting story to tell.

What I've learned: Don't be afraid to think big. And get out there with your kids.

Quick question...for these extended trips, how does one keep making income? Did you already work from home, or are your jobs very flexible? Or did you save up for years first?

@jillian

There are lots of ways to deal with the income issue and surprisingly one can actually save money and live on less while doing extended travel.

I just finished my detailed post digging deeper into this topic with lots of links ( including one leading here) that should answer most of your questions:

http://www.soultravelers3.com/2008/06/how-to-do-exten.html#more

One of our many memorable trips with our kids was in easter 2011 my partner and i with our 6 year old and 3 year old took off for 21 days through eastern europe by train and bus. we travelled through 8 contries starting in lithuania and went through ukraine and finishing in zagreb croatia. it was fantastic we did 5 overnight train trips on the old exsoviet trains ...now that felt like real travel......the slowness and the rattle of these trains were nostalgic,and magical, the lady attendents still had long soviet looking grey coats on and were beautiful, there was lace dolies on the tables and the windows and the toilets definitly reminded us of their age lol.

we travelled with one pull- along case and one backpack, i pushed a phil and ted pram(its great with youngsters for when your out and about late into the night or for long walks, worth the exta inconveniance) and the kids shared a little kids pullalong with their toys in. I will always remember the look of the taxi drivers faces at the thought of getting our stuff into a car when we got of trains in early hours. we just had to be confident that it would fit, then squeese the big bag on to andys lap. (we never planned to travel to far by car as even though we had travel seat belts, when your getting a taxi at 3 in the morning its the last thing you think about with sleepy kids, and would have taken to long to set up, bad but true....
i always say what you take on holiday for two weeks is what you would need for a whole years travel...

Except when we booked our first hotel at home, for the rest of the trip we booked hotels either the night before or the morning we were to travel, internet makes it very easy now and all our hotels were very helpful with using their computers. we booked our next out bound train trip when we arrived in each place with no problems,

we have decided that when we travel long term next year 2013 we plan to take a note book computer and a I-pad for homeschooling and conveniance in talking to family.

the kids handled moving from place to place with no problems and we're very adaptable and easy going. they loved sleeping on the trains as we did. it was great and well worth doing x

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