How to Plan a Family Gap Year
More and more families are taking the plunge and getting away for months at a time, en-masse, in the process discovering amazing experiences and parts of the world they had only seen in books and on the TV. Sometimes they also discover a lot about each other too. But as with any great project success will always lie in the planning. Getting the foundations right is key and considering all the eventualities will help create an adventure to be cherished and remembered for ever. Plan the trip as a family
Involving the whole family in planning will not only help build excitement about the trip but can also create some really good ideas - we’ve just booked a round the world package for a family where the majority of destinations were chosen by their nine year old!
Start early and be realistic about your budget and ambitions and always begin be thinking about what you want to achieve, or get out from your trip rather than just focussing on specific destinations or activities.
Whether travelling for two or eighteen months, and there is no right or wrong amount of time to travel for. Take into account factors such as your budget and the amount of places you want to fit in during your trip.
Whilst no one can tell you where to go, there are several factors we recommend you think about as you are planning:
- Take the age of your children into account as you plan destinations, whilst two teenage children could adapt very well to a self drive through Africa, the realities of doing something like this with two under five’s could be very different
- Always research the best time of year to visit specific countries to avoid travelling during times with prohibitive weather conditions.
- Countries like Australia or New Zealand can be good for offering familiar culture as well as interesting sites – hearing the sound of familiar languages being spoken around you can prove a break in itself
Travel broadens the mind and there are lots of ways to encourage them to learn as you travel, including learning and practicing linguistic skills, however, we’d always encourage parents to speak with their children’s teachers when planning a trip to discuss the trip.
- Suggest they keep a travel journal or even a travel blog where they can record all they have seen, done and the people they’ve met - lots of families frequently do this as a group
- If encouraging children to learn a foreign language, spend more time in countries speaking that chosen language
- Speak to your bank to arrange internet and phone banking facilities and let them know where you are going.
- Take a spare credit card for genuine emergencies only
- Give your account number and sort code to a trusted family member, that way if you are in dire need of cash or in a sticky situation and need cash fast, you can ask them and they can easily wire the money to you
- Pay for some elements of your trip such as vehicle hire, internal transfers and some accommodation before you leave – this can reduce cost and make
- Regularly check the Home Office website it’s important to keep fully up to date with anything that could affect your families safety
- Research family accommodation before you go, for example hostel chains such as the YMCA are increasingly family friendly, offering family rooms and discouraging large groups of rowdy backpackers from staying there. If you plan to camp, or hire a motor home, make sure you research and arrange this before you go
- Talk to other families who have done the same thing, or your travel consultant, you will gain much greater insight into places hearing first hand experiences than you will from any guide book. If not, speak to a company like Round The World Experts where we book lots of this type of trip
- Cross pack your bags, mixing people’s possessions in each suitcase so in the event of a missing item of luggage everyone will still have some of their belongings.
- Let each child take a small backpack – it will add to their feeling of excitement and also means they can take a few possessions of their choosing with them
- Travel wash and super absorbent, lightweight, microfibre travel towels are always a must!
Think through your finances
Plan ahead and plan for emergencies. Make sure you have a budget for each month or leg of your journey and separate your funds into spending money, food and sustenance, accommodation and contingency to avoid falling short.
We generally advise that a single low-budget traveller should allow £9,500 for six months including flights, there will be economies of scale to be had, but keep this in mind.
On big adventure trips there will be opportunities to do and see things you many never get the chance to do again so keep some budget aside so that you can make the most of these opportunities.
If you give the children an allowance at home, keep this up! This will allow them to decide what treats and souvenirs they buy along the way, and they will also enjoy using all the different currencies.
There are also a number of banking essentials to complete before you leave for your trip.
Health and safety preparation is essential
This is a vital make sure your travel insurance covers the whole family and any sports activities you may be planning. With all outdoor activities you may do, such as sailing, off-road driving, be sure you’re fully trained, experienced and know the risks involved. Also, research what medical services are available in every country you visit.
See your doctor at least six weeks before you travel, as you will need to allow time in-between taking some vaccines.
Be in the know about visas and documentation
Most countries insist on visitors having an entry visa or travel permit and will refuse entry if you can’t provide the correct document. Check with your travel consultant prior to leaving the UK to arrange these. Some places, such as Australia, offer family visas, which will work out cheaper than buying individual ones for every member of the family. Also, be aware of the changes to US entry which will be introduced on November 1st and require giving three days notice before entry.
If you are travelling with step children, or as a single parent, customs have sometimes been known to ask for proof guardianship, so prepare accordingly.
Always duplicate your documents, copies with wider family / close friends create digital versions you can access online and even post some to a set destination like a hotel you will be visiting towards the end of your stay.
It is key to ensure none of the passports will expire over the duration of your trip, and be aware that some countries require 6 months validity to allow you into the country, such as Mexico.
Think about renting your house when you are away
Not only will you be able to put the extra money towards your trip or provide free accommodation through a house swap, but you know that someone is taking care of your house when you are away.
Packing for a whole family can be very daunting! Here are some tips from us to help make the task a little bit simpler.
Let Others Take the Pressure Occasionally
When travelling with kids it is good to factor in a few rest days every now and again. For example after doing a tour or a couple of weeks of driving take 3 or 4 days just in one place afterwards and just relax.
Organised family adventure tours are a good bet as kids can meet other kids and parents other parents – and everyone can relax a bit for the duration of the tour. Keep moving and let someone else take the strain and do all the work etc
Look into some resorts that have kids clubs as well – a chance for the parents to relax and everyone to get a bit of time out. It can be a lot to be in each others faces all the time, and some resorts will have kids clubs with activities so the kids get a chance to hang out with other children of their own age, and Mum and Dad can enjoy some (I am sure) much needed R and R and perhaps even a dinner alone while the kids watch a movie or have a babysitter! This may be good in between any particularly hectic travel periods to diffuse tension.