What are the essential steps for planning long term travel with kids? Not an easy question. As we took all the steps necessary for leaving with our family, we hope we can give some useful tips. Our goal is not to pursue everyone to undertake a trip like this. We are realistic, it’s not always easy and getting everything sorted out before you leave is a big hassle. But for those of you who are doubting to go on a long term trip or have already decided it and want to know how we did it, this is just the post for you. Even if you don’t have children, you will get some useful information out of it.
By the end of August 2018, we were leaving for our big trip to Asia and Oceania. And who knew what other destinations would come across our path once we were travelling. An exciting, exhilarating feeling, even a bit frightening. Booking a single flight, not knowing where from and when your return flight will be.
Read more: check the travel diaries of our trip
When we told our friends and family we were leaving, we got different reactions. Some said they would never want to do something like this, others said they have dreamed of it but don’t dare to take the necessary steps and just a little few start the real planning and leave as we did. Having gone through the whole process, here are our tips if you want to plan a long term trip with (young) children.
1. If you are doubting to undertake a long time trip, just make the decision and stick to it
The moment we told friends and family, they immediately said they weren’t surprised. If there was to be one family nearby to take on a mission like this, they would have picked us.
We were thinking about this for a long time. But there are always doubts. Is it the right thing to do? Is this the time? Will we and our children be happy? Will our budget be sufficient? Are our children the right age now? More questions than answers. Questions you probably have too when you are thinking about taking a trip like this.
Be as crazy as we were, just cut the cord and make the decision. One evening at our house, we came across a cheap flight to China. Should we or shouldn’t we book the flight. Nothing was arranged, a lot of things still needed to be sorted out. And then we looked at each other, just pushed the button and there it was. We would leave by the end of August 2018 for a long term trip with our children of 7 and 8 years old.
2. Get the kids involved
No need for babies or even toddlers, but once the kids start to realise what is happening, you really need to involve them. When we told Yuna and Hanne about our big plans, they reacted quite enthusiastic. A good tip is to bring on the news in a few steps, not hitting them immediately with all the consequences such as renting out our house, leaving school, …
First, we told them we were going on vacation for a long time. Nothing to worry about there as far as Yuna and Hanne were concerned :-). Travelling, being our children, is something they already knew and were happy with. Later on, they started to understand they would miss school (and their friends), other people would live in our house and worst of all, they wouldn’t see our family for a long time. We told them to talk to us, give us their concerns or happy feelings, cry if there was a difficult moment. And by the time the date of departure came close, they couldn’t wait any longer.
Get them involved in the process of preparation as well. Buy the new backpacks together, show them pictures of the countries you will be visiting, explain why some things can’t come along on the trip. Our girls got excited about deciding what clothes to bring, buying the new headsets they could choose in their favourite colour and the new camera they got for their birthday. They even organised a yard sale with old toys and other stuff, which brought them a nice amount of money they could use to buy digital books and movies.
3. Give yourself some time to adjust to the idea
We needed some time to adjust to the idea of leaving. Time to arrange everything, but also time for us, our friends and family to get used to the fact we were going away. Certainly, when you are leaving with kids, people tend to be more emotional about it.
When you leave for a long time, it has some major implications for your life. One of the biggest things was of course that we rented out our house and needed to sort out all of our stuff. Seemed we had collected a lot over the years :-). Throwing away wasn’t easy, as it turned out to be. But as the deadline of moving out came closer, it became more easy to decide what to keep and what needed to go. And over time it got more easy to get emotionally detached of all the material stuff.
Making decisions on what to bring for the trip was even harder. Getting an entire house into some backpacks seemed quite impossible ;-). But is was a good thing. Over time we realised it was a liberation to get rid of all the excess material stuff, just pack the essentials and live with less. Memories are definitely valued more over possessions.
4. Go to the doctor
Don’t underestimate health issues when travelling for a long time, especially with kids and when you are heading for Asia, South America or Africa. This is not the time to be tight on your budget. All our vaccinations and travel medication we brought along for our big trip cost us about €1000/$1150 or even a bit more when we would consider everything.
For long term travel, especially with kids, consult an expert on the issue. In our home country Belgium, we went to a specialised institute of tropical medicine
where they have a more comprehensive knowledge of these specific issues than a regular doctor. They gave us good advice on which vaccinations where necessary, had lots of good tips and the latest up-to-date information on health issues and the spread of certain diseases.
Try to find a similar institution in your country and be thoroughly prepared. One downside, however, our children really didn’t like this process of vaccinations, even more, because a lot of them needed to be repeated 2 times. Not a big success and hopefully it is forgotten by now :-). On the other hand, it is an investment in the future as they will be immune to some diseases for the rest of their lives. Looking at the bright side :-).
Next, to the vaccinations, we also brought a quite extended travel pharmacy. I know some people don’t bother, but considering we have our young children with us, I prefer to have the basics with me. We brought some antibiotics, antihistamine, basic wound care and other usuals such as painkillers, against insect bites and so on. Forewarned is forearmed!
5. Get all the official paperwork done
Aarrgggh, the paperwork. Not our most favourite part I have to say. But nevertheless important… So prepare yourself, get informed and make sure everything is correctly sorted out.
Here a brief list of most of the things we took care of:
- International passports
- International drivers licenses
- Vaccination booklet
- An official application for homeschooling our children
- Travel insurance
- Both get a credit card if that is not yet the case
- Check which bank has the best rates for withdrawing money worldwide
- Making sure all our bank cards can be used worldwide
- Get an official authorization for a relative or friend so he/she can sign official documents, collect your mail, have access to your bank accounts, …
- In Belgium, we are obligated to vote, so we also needed to arrange an authorization so someone else can vote for us
What we took along with us:
- Extra passport photographs
- Copies and digital backups of all our passports, licenses, marriage papers, vaccination booklets, …
6. Rent out or sell your house
Selling our house was a bridge too far. We like the idea of being a digital nomad, but also being able to return to our own place if necessary. So renting out the house was the solution for us. You do have to look up what the regulations are in your country. In Belgium, they turned out to be quite complicated (as almost everything when it comes to government legislation :-)).
7. Arrange homeschooling
We are lucky that in Belgium children do not have a duty to go to school, but they do have a duty to learn. So you can teach your children yourself or with a private teacher, instead of sending them to school. An ideal solution for us.
Once we knew we were going on a long trip, we contacted their school. We didn’t know how they would react, but hands up for the management and teachers. They all were very supportive and enthusiast! They helped us with their school books and gave us good advice! Thank you so much for that, as we were a bit afraid the reaction would be more dismissive, as we were taking our kids out of school after all.
8. Plan your budget – work and travel
The budget, something we worried about a great deal. We aren’t rich, as most of you. So how to fund a journey like this? It is simple, there are two major streams of money. The incoming stream and the outgoing stream. We had to make a plan to maximise our income and minimise our expenses.
As we were independent, we didn’t need to walk out on any job. We had our web development company, so we already generated some income through our online business. However, this company still needs to grow and we are working on other ways to earn money online, in order to create more active and passive income streams. One of the best ways to ensure you have a stable income is to generate it through different businesses or projects.
Because we rented out our house, there is another income but that is used to pay off our mortgage.
Concerning our expenses, we try to travel on a low budget. We are constantly getting information on different ways to save money. Either when we use transport, when we eat, when we plan activities, … Of course, we are still on vacation, so we will plan some expensive stuff occasionally. But with some simple tips and a lot of research on the internet, you can save huge amounts on your travel budget.
9. Get the right gear together with some comforts from home
A difficult exercise… what to bring on a long term trip with children. Before we left, we read a lot of articles on the best travel gear. There is so much out there, so what is necessary and what is additional?
We decided to take along the following backpacks:
- We bought one backpack/trolley, the best of two worlds! We absolutely love our Kathmandu Hybrid 70L! Next, to that, we used a trolley we already had and we bought shoulder paths so he can put it on his back when necessary.
- The kids both have their own backpack (25L) en daypack (15L).
- For all our camera gear, laptop and our drone, we bought a Lowpro camera bag
- As we are digital nomads, we needed another backpack for the rest of our digital gear and selected an Osprey 40L backpack.
Being on the road now, we even think it could be less. So maybe, somewhere along the road we will make somebody happy with clothes or a backpack :-).
Later on, we will be posting a lot of travel gear articles, but here some other things we took along:
- Mosquito nets
- A travel hammock, not necessary but a bit of an extra :-).
- A sleeping bag
- Packing cubes, so easy to arrange all your clothes
- Good walking shoes
Since we are leaving for a long time with kids, we decided it was important for them to have some of their familiar stuff with them. So they each brought their stuffed animal, a little bit of Playmobil and lego and some games.
10. Be digital
Being digital nomads, homeschooling our children and on a long term trip, the digital aspect and gear have become very important.
As we also want to blog and focus on photography, we had to bring along a lot of items:
- Two laptops as working is a part of our trip
- Two tablets, very useful for the kids on travel days
- Two e-readers (love our Kindles), as books are way too heavy
- Two cameras with 4 lenses and a tripod
- The girls also have their own waterproof camera from Nikon
- A DJI Mavic Pro drone with extra batteries
- Two smartphones
- A power bank
- A smartcard reader
- Two external hard disks
We like to read a lot and want our girls to do the same. So we brought along a Kindle e-reader with some books on it. Also very handy for the digital versions of Lonely Planet.
We have all the books for homeschooling our children in digital versions, readable on every device.
The kids earned some money with a yard sale before we left and could use part of the money to buy some movies. We can play those on the tablets and laptops.
Hopefully, we helped you out a bit with preparing a long term trip with children. If you have any questions or remarks, please leave a comment below this article.