Planning a round the world trip with children
If you are planning a round the world trip with children then you’ve come to the right place. I have a guest post from Michelle – a compulsive explorer, translator and English teacher who moved to Abruzzo in Italy in 2012. In 2018 she and her family embarked on a huge adventure: a world trip spanning 365 days.
Here, Michelle is sharing what you need to consider when planning a round the world trip with kids in tow. You can read more about their travels and life in Italy on Me, the boys and our travels.
Over to Michelle for this epic guide to what to do before your world trip, essential planning tips and what to pack when you are travelling around the world.
When we had children we realised our days of simply packing a rucksack with the bare essentials and heading out into the wilderness were on hold. But that didn’t mean our travelling adventures were too. We simply travel differently these days.
Travelling the world with kids takes a little more thought and a little more planning than turning up in a place and finding somewhere to stay, as we once would have done. But if you’re up for an adventure, travelling the world with children isn’t as difficult as it might first seem.
Hopefully these tips will help make it even easier for you and encourage you to take the leap:
Top tips of what you need to do in advance
These are all the things we took into consideration when planning our round the world trip with children:
How long will you travel?
One important factor in planning is deciding the length of your trip. The longer the trip the more thought has to go into it.
We went travelling for a year with a 10 and 12-year old, homeschooling as we went. So we had to look into homeschooling requirements as well as the general travel planning. We contacted both of the boys’ schools, laid out our plans and obtained permission for homeschooling.
Where to go
Now this is a biggie. We had so many places on our bucket list that we realised very early on that there were too many to visit in a year…I know, crazy right? But honestly, believe me, a year really isn’t long enough!
There were several factors involved in how we came up with our itinerary, which warrants a blog post of its own, but a brief synopsis would be this:
- the places we definitely did not want to miss out
- the people we wanted to catch up with
- and when it was ideal to travel to the countries we had chosen (we wanted to follow the sun for a year – it helps with the packing light).
From this we came up with a pretty coherent itinerary. It was still evolving in the weeks before we left and even during the trip, but the bulk of it remained the same.
So, our advice here is have an itinerary in mind but stay flexible. As you travel and talk to other travellers you are bound to hear of beautiful places you didn’t know of.
Allow some flexibility in your itinerary to not miss out on those places.
Define your budget and test it
You don’t want to come back from travelling penniless. But neither do you want to travel on such a tight budget that you don’t do or see anything as you travel around, otherwise you may as well not go. It’s all about finding a realistic balance and sticking with it.
To help us determine our budget we searched on the internet for other people’s experiences and information from other family world travelers. We set what we thought would be a sensible budget for us.
Then…and this is the key…we took a mini trip and travelled Europe for a month to try it out.
We were lucky, our budget was working for us so we didn’t have to make any significant changes, but it was a great way of giving us the confidence that we could actually achieve our aim, particularly as Europe is one of the more expensive places in the world to travel – if we could make it there we could make it anywhere. Did Frank Sinatra come to mind or is that just me…?
Bear in mind the different costs of living in the places you’re travelling to and adjust accordingly. We had an average daily budget that we knew we would save on in South East Asia and Central America.
The savings would then be carried over to the more expensive countries later in our trip: Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada.
To book or not to book?
We’re quite independent travelers and used to booking things ourselves, but a long trip visiting several different countries in several different continents was a new ball game.
Although we were confident that we could book it ourselves and get good prices, it would have taken a lot of time and a lot of additional stress. There are agents out there that specialise in round the world travel for phenomenally good prices, it’s what they do best. So both reason and the attraction of simplicity got the better of us.
Once we had determined our rough itinerary, we used UK agency Travel Nation who specialise in round the world travel to book all of our flights in advance, and at prices on a par with or better than we could have got if we’d booked them directly ourselves.
We opted to book accommodation ourselves as we went through various popular booking sites, giving us the flexibility to decide precisely where we wanted to go and for how long once we reached a country. It worked out to be the perfect combination.
Check which vaccines and medicines you need for travelling to the countries you have chosen.
Make an appointment at least four weeks before your departure date to see your doctor/nurse. They will also be able to give you the latest advice about malaria medication and whether it is required.
We and the children only had to have one vaccine in addition to the standard vaccines we already had. The areas of Asia we travelled in had a very low risk of malaria, so we only had to take precautionary measures.
Don’t go mad with the packing
Just like when you go on holiday, overpacking is so easily done and when you have to carry your stuff around the world you really don’t want to have too much – you’ll be carting it with you for a long time!
We decided to follow summer for a year partly because we like the heat, but it also meant that we didn’t have to pack big swathes of bulky clothing.
We limited ourselves to one rucksack each for all of our clothes, including snorkel and fins, hiking boots, walking kit.
I can happily report that we used everything that we packed, but did not feel as though we had too much. We judged it pretty well.
We picked up a couple of bits along the way and replaced a couple of well-worn items too.
Our initial plans was not to take hand luggage, but we soon came to the conclusion that it would be unrealistic. We did start off with only two hand luggage items between four though, so not bad going.
Trial pack: we trial packed two weeks before we left to give us a good idea of weight and space. It also let us make adjustments too. Take a look at our full packing list.
The requirements for every country are different, so our advice is to check each of the countries well in advance of leaving for your trip.
Before we set off, we researched visa requirements for all of the countries we were visiting. Luckily most of the countries we visited either have an agreement with the UK that no visa is required for stays of less than 30 days, or a visa on arrival is available.
The visas we had to think about in advance were for Australia, an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) for the United States and an eTA for Canada (electronic Travel Authorisation).
Remember to take into account visa costs into your budget – they vary from place to place and they can certainly all add up to a considerable sum depending on where you are planning to visit. UK citizen visa and entry requirement information for most countries can easily be found on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.
How to access your money when you go travelling without having to pay outrageous exchange fees or carrying large amounts of cash can be a worry.
Happily, there are some easy steps you can take to take the stress out of it. As with everything, the best way to tackle this is advance research.
We’re not credit card people, but for hiring cars or needing something in an emergency credit cards have their uses – I would certainly advise you not to travel without one. We used the Barclaycard Platinum Travelcard and it was an absolute godsend.
You can use it to withdraw money from cashpoints across the world with near to commercial exchange rates and no UK banking fees or exchange rate fees. The only fees we paid were if the foreign banks made a charge. When this was the case the fees were nominal (between 0.5% and 4% of our withdrawal amount). The card literally saved us hundreds of pounds.
Check with your bank what their charges are for debit card withdrawals. There are banks accounts available that offer reasonable rates for overseas withdrawals – it may be worth opening a new bank account for your travels if your own bank’s charges are high.
Also, carry some US dollars with you when you travel across borders. It is not always possible to get your new currency as soon as you get through a border. If we came unstuck, most times we were able to pay for transport or a visa in US dollars if we haven’t been able to get local currency straight away.
Travel insurance for a round the world trip is an absolute must. It is also quite a big expense (particularly if you need cover for the U.S.) but I certainly wouldn’t have been happy to leave home without it.
The insurance that we had covered us for medical insurance, cancellation, theft to name but a few of the necessaries. Most standard travel insurance policies will only cover you for up to 60 or 90 days, but there are companies who specialize in long term travel insurance too.
With a bit of research on the internet you can find information fairly easily. We shopped around, but ended up taking insurance through our travel agent as it was the most cost effective for a great level of cover.
One other insurance we have invested in was a worldwide, annual hire car excess policy. Although we love to take public transport as much as we can, sometimes there are places where a hire car just makes much more sense.
The annual excess policy meant that we were able to get some excellent deals on car hire in several countries without having to pay extortionate extra excess insurance fees. It’s definitely worth thinking about if you are going to be hiring a car for any length of time on your trip.
Mentally prepare yourselves and your kids
Although last, this is possibly the most important thing on my list.
Going on a round the world trip with your family is certainly exciting, but it can also be quite daunting, no matter how much adventure you are up for. This is particularly true for children who will be leaving all the things they know – family, friends, routines – for what can seem to them at the time to be forever.
Talking about the trip, getting the kids involved in the planning, talking about missing friends and home, how birthdays, Christmas and school would be very different, were all really important in preparing them and us for the year ahead.
So, if you dream of travelling the world, whether it be for a month or a year, or longer, go for it. With the right measure of planning, the world truly is at your feet.
Thanks so much to Michelle for sharing her tips for planning a round the world trip with children. Breaking the preparation down like this makes it sound much less daunting. Don’t forget to check out her blog for more tips and experiences from this year-long family trip.
If you’d like to read more tips about going off the beaten track with your family take a look at this guest post about adventurous travel with kids by Jenny from Travelynn Family.
Planning a big trip with your family? Why not save this post for future reference.