Have you ever dreamed of traveling long-term with your family? In 2013 we made that dream our reality and we have traveled full-time ever since. We love sharing our adventures with others and are often asked questions about how we do it. So, we sat down and collected all the questions we’ve gotten over the years and answered them for you, right here.
How do you support your family?
Before you quit your job, you should know that we, and most other full-time travelers, continue to work, online or otherwise. Rich is a software engineer and is able to work online. When we started our journey, Rich worked contract jobs. He found them on websites like Upwork, and by networking with former co-workers. It seems like many of our nomadic friends work full-time online. Jobs like graphic designer, writer, copy editor, website design and virtual assistant are common. Others teach English in the countries they travel to or find a job teaching at an online school. Others start online businesses or work for call centers. We even met a really wonderful woman from Amsterdam that was a hair stylist. She supported herself by offering haircuts and shaves to travelers in hostels. To get started, have a look at sites like Upwork and Hire My Mom.
What did you do with your house?
If you are already leasing a home then leaving is as simple as giving your notice, but home owners have a big decision to make. We originally rented out our home in California. It worked well in the beginning but presented a challenge when our renters moved out and we were not nearby. Finding a replacement from overseas was a challenge so we decided to sell. It was a better situation for us. We do know several people who are able to collect enough rent to cover their mortgage and traveling expenses. It depends entirely on your situation and housing market.
What about your belongings?
When we left we donated and sold the majority of our belongings. The remainder are in a storage unit. Amazingly, we found that we don’t miss our stuff. One of our favorite things about traveling full-time is discovering what we really needed and didn’t need.
What about school?
We call ourselves worldschoolers. We mix and match online classes with the experiences that we have while traveling. For example, while staying in Mexico, the boys did online courses in Math, writing and Mayan History. We also enrolled them in a local Spanish class and studied the history, culture, religions and aquatic life. When we stay in one place for longer than 3 months we give our boys the option to attend local school. We let them decide. Currently we are in one place for 6 months, so our oldest is attending a local high school, while the twins homeschool.
If you are not already homeschooling, be sure to research local homeschooling laws. Each state has different laws about pulling your children from school so be sure to do it the right way for your state.
What about socialization?
We are a really tight family unit and have a great time together as a family. Our boys left some amazing friends back home and thanks to Skype and social media our boys can talk to and play with their friends and family members no matter where we are in the world. We also try to connect when we can with other traveling families. It’s fun to meet other traveling families who share our lifestyle. They are easy to find via Facebook groups and expat boards. The boys also play with local kids in parks and at the beach. When you’re young and building a sand castle, communicating is pretty easy, no matter the language barrier.
Where do you stay?
We spend most of our time in vacation rentals that we find on VRBO.com, Holidaylettings.com, Flipkey.com and through local agencies. When we stay in one place for more than 3 months, we negotiate with vacation rental owners for a long-term rate. You can get amazing deals, especially in off-season. We also stay in hotels and resorts.
How do you decide where to go next?
We all have places that we really want to visit. Right now Jen’s dreaming of Jordan, Rich is researching Iceland, our oldest wants to return to London and the twins can’t decide between Nashville, Tennessee and Tokyo, Japan. But where we land next is usually decided by flight costs. Flying with a family of 5 is really pricey!
What about medical insurance?
Standard U.S. health insurance is only useful within the U.S., or to fly you home in the unlikely event of a serious incident. For us, a better alternative was trip insurance, which can be purchased month-to-month through various online services. InsureMyTrip is one site to look at. For routine medical needs, we found to our surprise that outside the U.S., doctor’s visits and prescriptions are both inexpensive.
Do I need a Visa?
That depends on where you from and where you are going. US citizens are lucky in that you can visit most countries with just your passport, getting a tourist visa on arrival with no requirements. The EU allows 90 days, Canada and Mexico 6 months, and most of Central and South America have similar rules. Other countries’ visa requirements vary, and you may need to get a visa before you leave. You should check with the State Dept. website for the latest details, or with your country’s department of state if you are not from the US.
How much money do you need to travel for a year?
We get asked this question all the time, but it’s the one question that we can’t easily give an exact answer to. Everyone has different travel styles and budgets. Different countries, and cities within countries, have very different costs.
To help break this down, in general you should plan to spend about half your travel budget on housing, about 25% on transportation, and the remaining 25% on food, insurance, and incidentals. We are careful not to buy lots of souvenirs, as you might if you were on a quick holiday trip, or book expensive tours. If you’re aiming for a year of travel, you need to travel light and live like a local as much as possible.
We like to rent cars and stay in vacation homes, so our budget is higher than friends who take the bus and stay in family hostels. It also depends on where you are traveling: Paris and Rome cost easily 10 times more than Mérida, Mexico or Chang Mai, Thailand. Our best advice is to think about these questions and figure out what you can live with, and budget your time and choices accordingly.
There are so many choices! As we mentioned above, we tend to stay in rental homes and hotels. Here are some tips on accommodations:
Housesitting – If you are willing to take some time searching for the right fit and don’t mind caring for someone’s home and beloved pets, then house sitting might be a great choice. You get to live like a local in someone’s home and you don’t pay a dime! Many homeowners welcome families with multiple children.
Family Hostels – Family hostels are popping up all over the world and are a great choice for the budget minded traveler. Many offer large private rooms with dorm-style bunk beds and self catering kitchens.
RV or Motorhome – Another great option for full-time travelers is to rent or buy a RV. RVs are a great way to travel around for families. Make sure the countries you want to visit have decent roads though. Costa Rica’s roads are not the same as Germany’s!
We created a PDF guide all about finding accommodations for families who travel. If you sign up for our newsletter, we will send you a free copy.
We often rent a car because we like to explore without too much planning ahead. Also, Rich loves the challenges of driving in a new place. When we visit large cities, we skip the car rental and use public transportation. We have also found that services like Uber SUVs and Lyft are great for large families and their baggage!
If you get around by car, are you bringing your own, renting or buying in the place you are traveling to? Do you need insurance? Many countries are restrictive about insurance to non-citizens, so you might be stuck with rental car daily insurance, which can be rather expensive (*cough* Mexico *cough*).
Not bringing a car? Will you travel by bus, train or regional flights? Research your options and compare costs vs. time/trouble.
- What part of the world are you visiting?
numbeo.com is great for researching the cost of a given country. You can also get a good idea of how far your dollar will stretch by looking up local restaurants and hotels. Yelp and TripAdvisor are also great for doing research! You can find the cost of an average meal, hotel and excursion. It’s also a great way to figure out what part of town to stay in. That inexpensive rental on the outskirts of town may sound like a good deal until you add in parking or cab fares, and take 2 hours out of your day.
- What monthly bills will you need to pay from home?
If you sold your home and paid off your debts, this may not be an issue, but remember to add in other expenses including storage units for the items you keep, mail services and forwarding, and state and federal taxes. If you plan to keep your US health insurance, include that into your budget.
We hope that this has been helpful for anyone considering extended family travel. It’s so rewarding, we hope you can find a way to do it yourself. If you have further questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below!