A Family Year Out, sometimes called a Family Gap Year, is a year where the whole family stops traditional work and school and travels together. It can also be called a Family Sabbatical.
A Family Year Out can look very different for different families. Some families are able to continue to work remotely. Some travel the world, while others focus on specific regions or countries. Some families include grandparents for a multi-generational group trip. At its core, it means the whole family travels for six months or more, together.
A Family Year Out lets you take a break from the routines you’ve established, and spend time connecting as a family. It’s about having adventures, learning, and exploring together.
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Should We Take a Family Year Out?
Only you can truly answer that question for your family, but we say- if you can make it work, why not?
2020 changed how we interact with the world in so many ways, we feel that our girls have had so little interaction with the community in the last year, there’s even less to pull them away from.
We look at this as taking a year of retirement early- why wait to travel until we are in our 60’s? Right now our kids are young, they love to spend time with us, and our bodies are still strong enough to hike mountains and haul heavy packs up and down flights of stairs.
Will people say you are crazy to leave behind the stability of your jobs and homes? Sure, some people will, and some people will be your biggest champions. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we don’t know what might be around the corner- so we’re going to enjoy this time with our beautiful, healthy daughters while we explore the world together.
Read more on Why I Travel.
Read Next: Full-Time Travel with Kids: 3 Month Report
What About the Kids’ School?
Most people who choose a family year out, or a family gap year, pull their kids from school and either “homeschool”, “worldschool” or even “unschool” them. This will be our first experience with homeschooling- thus far our kids have been in traditional public school. We are planning to use a mix of programs: The kids will have a curriculum on their tablets for math, language arts, science, and social studies. They will have a separate app for Spanish, and we will work on handwriting, writing skills, and journaling on paper.
What is the difference between Homeschooling, Worldschooling and Unschooling?
These are complex topics, but in very basic terms, a homeschooling family has the intent of keeping the kids on track with the standards of the state or school district they are leaving and may return to. Some states require this if the kids are not in public school. It is generally a standardized curriculum that the kids follow either through workbooks or online.
Unschooling focuses on child-led learning based on a child’s natural interest. Worldschoolers expand on this- they do not follow a standardized curriculum but use travel experiences and the world around them to educate their children without concern for state standards.
For example, we will have a 2nd grader when we begin our Family Gap Year. According to the State of Connecticut, second graders should learn about the Constitution as part of their social studies curriculum. A homeschooler would include this as part of their studies, while a world schooler would recognize that the best time to learn about the Constitution may be during a trip to Washington DC, regardless of whether that trip coincides with the second grade year.
Check State Regulations
Regardless of your teaching philosophy, make sure you check the guidelines of your state of residency. What each state required varies widely. For example in our home state of Connecticut, homeschooling is allowed without notifying or registering with the public school district, and no assessments are required. There are four required subjects of study. By contrast, in Colorado parents are required to keep attendance records, and record at least 172 days of instruction. Students are also required to take standardized achievement tests.
What is the Best Age to Travel with Kids Around the World?
There is no wrong age to travel with kids! Children of different ages will gain different things from the travel experience.
Infants, Toddlers and Pre-School Children
These younger children may not remember everything, but they will learn openness, flexibility, and be exposed to different cultures, people, and foods. You will also be dealing with nap times, diapers, and tantrums, just like you would at home. At this age, you can go on multi-day hikes, or stay out late if you are willing to carry the kids.
These kids will soak up experiences but may have a harder time leaving friends and established routines. They may not have the context to process some of the historical sites they visit. They will be more vocal about what they are interested in, and when they are ready to leave a site. They will also need to keep up with schoolwork if they will be re-entering school on their return.
Our kids will be 4 and 7 when we leave- some of what we love about this age is they still have an amazing capacity for wonder, and they love spending time with us! There are some limitations to this age- for example, we will not be heading out on multi-day hikes or visiting emotionally intense sites like the Cu Chi Tunnels.
Preteens and Teens
Middle school kids and older will absorb the most culture and history. They are able to participate in all activities and can handle rough overland transportation. They are also under the most pressure to keep up with school credits, tests, and college prep. They also tend to be the most entrenched in after-school activities and friendships, often wanting to spend more time with peers, and less with their parents.
How Age Affects Cost
There is a +2 -12 rule- meaning the golden age range for balancing cost versus benefit is when the kids are over 2, and under 12. Children under 2 are less expensive to travel with. They can fly for either free or a reduced fare, they are free on trains and at most tourist attractions and don’t require additional space in a hotel room. Under 12s will generally qualify for a child ticket to attractions, and will cost you about half of what you will pay for an older child. Once a child is over 12, they will cost as must as a traveling adult.
Is it Safe to Travel with Children in a Post-2020 World?
2020 definitely complicated things and changed our notions of “safe”. Who would have guessed two years ago that a simple trip to the grocery store would be cause for anxiety?
However, as we are now seeing in New Zealand and Australia, feeling “normal” again is possible. In those countries with incredibly low transmission rates, restaurants are open, and people are moving around in large crowds without worry.
By the time we leave, both adults will be fully vaccinated (the US is doing “two jabs” for everyone), but most likely there will not be approved vaccines for the kids.
We will travel as safely as we can (masks, eating outdoors, social distancing when we can), and be ready to change our plans as community transmission numbers change, and border requirements change. These concerns also make it important to choose a route that “follows the sun” so we can be outdoors as much as possible until vaccines become available for the kids.
It is still unclear which countries will welcome visitors, and what the quarantine requirements will be when traveling with unvaccinated children. We are hoping for clarity over the next few months, but have also accepted that we will have to make changes and decisions as we go.
On the positive side, we are hoping to find reduced crowds, and destinations excited to welcome back tourists.
First Steps in Planning a Family Year Out
So where do you start? Planning a Family Year Out is a long process. Follow the steps below to get started.
Talk it Out
Have a conversation (or seven) to get everyone on board. What are the concerns, how will you handle things that you will “miss”? This could be anything from Christmas with grandma to the Junior Prom. Talk out the pros and cons.
This is the fun part- brainstorm what a Family Year Out would look like for your family. Is it a year, more, or less? Are there destinations that each member of the family has on their dream list? Will you move slowly, staying a month or more in one place, or move every few days? The answers to these bigger questions will depend on your preferences and your kid’s ages.
Get inspiration from The Ultimate Family Travel Bucket List: 100+ Adventures Around the World.
Start to think about the logistics of making a Family Year Out happen. Will you give up your lease or sell your home, or will you rent or sublet? Store your car or sell it? Whether you will be coming back to the same place or not will determine a lot of what you’ll need to do to get packed up and out the door.
How will you pay for this trip? Can one or more of you work remotely? This will partially determine how fast (or how slowly) you move around. Can you sell the house or belongings to finance the trip? Most families self-finance the first year of travel and then find a way to earn money on the road if they choose to keep going.
Set a Start Date
Planning a Family Year Out is a long and overwhelming process. Set a date for your departure and work backward to figure out all the things you need to do before you leave. Declutter your possessions, pack up, and get ready to hit the road. Many families set a date a year or more in the future to allow time to save and plan.
Right now, we live in a world where planning ahead is really tricky. So instead of setting a departure date, we’ve set multiple possible dates and sketched out multiple possible itineraries based on which borders may open when. We are planning to start with an epic cross-country road trip since we are reasonably confident that travel around the US will be open this summer.
How Much Does a Family Year Out Cost?
How much will this crazy trip cost? How much should you save? This is a really tough question to answer- it depends on the size of your family, where you go, what is “comfortable” for you, and how quickly you will be moving.
How Much Will You Move Around?
Transportation costs can add up quickly. If you stay in Airbnbs they offer significant discounts for stays over 30 days. This also allows you to cook at home (self-cater), saving on dining out. The faster you move, the more you will spend.
Consider your Level of Comfort
Does your family love camping? or are you more comfortable in an upscale hotel? This will factor into what will be a realistic budget for your Family Year Out. While one family can comfortably camp out for months at a time, that would be a miserable experience for another family.
Choose Locations Wisely
The locations you choose also play a huge role in cost- for example, Southeast Asia is much more economical than mainland Europe, likewise, Eastern Europe is much cheaper than Central Europe. Be realistic about which destinations you choose and how long you plan to stay there.
The Actual Number
So, that all makes sense, but you still want a number, right? The average cost for a one-year, round-the-world trip is about 20-25K USD per person. This includes a mix of more and less expensive destinations (Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia). However, I’ve also seen families post that they managed a full year for about 33K, for four people. Thus, there is clearly a wide range.
Family Year Out Ideas
When considering what your Family Year Out will look like, keep geography in mind. You want to avoid backtracking and crisscrossing the globe more than necessary. Think about what your family enjoys most- museums, hiking, beach time?
Some ideas to get you brainstorming:
-Drive a Land Rover overland in Africa.
-Explore Asia, traveling overland when possible.
-Circle the globe, choosing one cardinal direction.
-Choose 4 locations to spend 3 months each, and explore from those bases.
-Choose 12 locations to spend one month each.
-Make a list of dream destinations and then string them together in geographic order the best you can, following the sun.
-Alternate long road trips with shorter stays in cities. The United States, Australia, and New Zealand are great candidates for long road trips.
-Visit top sites around a theme (ex. Roman ruins around the world, battlefields, great temples, UNESCO sites)
-Travel to every continent, including Antarctica!
-Sail a boat around the world (or a region).
12 Families Who Made it Happen
Need more inspiration? Adventure and Sunshine wrote a great post about 12 different families and what a Family Year Out looked like for them. It helps to illustrate just how unique each family’s experience can be.
There You Have it!
Now you know what a Family Year Out is, how to start planning for one, and whether it’s something your family might consider. Excited yet? We’d love to hear your plans.
Ready to jump into the nitty-gritty of planning? Read How to Plan a Family Year Out in 2021. Let us know if you have questions!