Planning Your Adventure
Planning a world trip with children
As if a simple trip to the supermarket wasn’t hard enough (at times), you’re now considering uprooting your family; leaving behind your worldly comforts and embarking on a round the world trip (children and all)!!!
It’s certainly not an easy decision to make and not one that we made lightly. There’s a lot to gain from the security and routine of day to day life, but for us that just wasn’t enough. And so it was decided:
1 year – 1 toddler- 1 world tour
Committing to the idea was easy, what better then to live 'care free' (term used lightly!) for an entire year without any work, home or family commitments. Living the dream was however much more challenging than we thought.
Although we’d planned for every eventuality (all those that we could think of), there were of course moments of utter despair!! Having said that, we (3 of us) managed for the most part to giggle our way across the globe and made some incredible memories along the way.
Here are our top tips on planning your trip:
On top of everyone's list is money!
Round the world travel isn’t cheap, but it’s not as expensive as you think either! It’s likely that your biggest expense, travel will significantly decease as you move shorter distances between neighbouring countries. That said, around the world trips do add up and so you need to spend wisely.
You’ll need to consider whether you’ll be working whilst travelling? This is a great opportunity to claw back some of your expenditure, but ensure that you have the correct visa if this is your intended plan.
For those of us travelling with children, working whilst travelling is not really an option or certainly not an easy one. Working remotely is a great way to generate a little extra income permitting your job allows you to do this. If you don’t intend on working a tourist visa should suffice.
You’ll also need to consider your savings and whether you can top up your expenditure through working. Once you’ve got a better idea as to what your plans will entail you’ll need to apportion a budget for travel.
As a family of 3, in Asia our expenditure was minimal, approximately $50 per day or less, however, Rio, Miami, Japan, and especially Australia and New Zealand saw our expenses sky rocket. We would easily incur costs of approximately $80 per day and for the most part this was just on accommodation.
Your savings will take you along way but only if you spend wisely:
As novice travellers we began booking apartments though Airbnb and cheap hotels with kitchenette facilities. Our first hostel stay was a bit daunting to say the least. Hostel accommodation is of course completely the norm for backpackers but was it for a family of 3? As it turns out, hostel accommodation is now our preferred choice of accommodation these days. They’re cheap; offer private rooms with en-suite (which we always booked); are affiliated with most tour companies and agents and best of all you get to meet people.
Other big expenditures, food and alcohol. If you have cooking facilities use them!! We stayed in a whole host of accommodation offering kitchen facilities and some even free breakfast. In fact we cooked throughout Australia and New Zealand as the cost of eating out, although tempting really does add up. Having said that you should always allow yourself the occasional treats! But if you’re planning a trip to South East Asia, rest assured that eating out really won’t be a problem. There are plenty of cheap, local eateries, and you’ll be dining like Kings and Queens!
Alcohol will double if not triple your food bill, we all know it but we all still knock them back and why not providing it’s not a daily occurrence! We made the mistake of retreating back to ‘holiday mode’ whilst in Rio and ended up with a whopping $150 dinner bill (full credit here goes to Ricky, who like always turned a simple dinner into a group social)!!
Needless to say, we’d learnt our lesson. If like us you enjoy a drink at the end of the day or with dinner perhaps, save on costs and buy it in or best yet just wait until you hit South East Asia where your beer is cheaper than water!!
Choosing your route can be overwhelming! Especially when you don’t know what there is to see in each country.
Sit down and write up a list of the place on your bucket list but be realistic. Our first attempt at this left us with a very enthusiastic 40 something countries on our initial list! In theory this was great, we’d have ticked of almost every country we’d ever dreamt about visiting but practically, it would’ve meant we were constantly darting from one country to another.
Take your time to enjoy the different cultures and new lands but be mindful of the fact that your route is likely to change & like us you may end up in places that you’ve never even heard of, but turned out to be the best decision of your life.
Once you’ve put together a list work out how much time you’ll need. Is it feasible to fit in so much?
Have you given yourself enough time to really experience that country?
Have an idea of what you’d like to see in each place and work out the number of days you’ll need accordingly, per country and per attraction.
Rio – no trip to Rio would be complete without a visit to the iconic Christ the Redeemer . However weather plays a major factor in this trip. You may need a day or so either side to ensure you have the right weather to actually catch sight of this impressive figure.
China – the Great Wall of China was one of the highlights of our trip, and although we managed to visit on a good day, bear in mind that the smog levels in China really are as bad as you see on TV. You may need a day or so to best pick your day of travel.
Australia – the Great Barrier Reef has been our dream for as long as we can remember! Unfortunately for us the weather was not on our side, but we weren’t going to leave without at least attempting to get there. We ended up weather watching from Port Douglas for about 3-4 days before we managed to pick the most favourable weather conditions.
We took out one precious year from our lives and set off on the understanding that we would travel and see as much as we possibly could. Then return to our favourite countries to further explore at a later date.
We managed 18 countries in 8 months before returning to the UK for a short break.
Our advice, don’t rush! It’s likely that you’ll only get this opportunity once in your life time so take your time, live it, love it and embrace every moment.
East or West
The main factors that will influence your chosen route are:
Cost – Factor in festivals and national holidays, both will significantly bump up your expenditure.
The majority of RTW tickets travel West to East so it can work in your favour to follow this direction as the frequency in flights is likely to be most cost effective.
We however chose the opposite route and mainly because of possible health implications, such as Zika Virus. We wanted to give ourselves some peace of mind of travelling to the most affected Zika areas at the beginning of our trip. It is always best to get the most up to date travel health information before you plan any trip.
Weather – you can’t predict it, what will be will be! Although our route and time of year was initially designed to chase the sun, as it happened we found ourselves shivering in Brazil, stripping off whilst visiting the Glaciers in Ushuaia, Argentina and being followed for the most part of our trip by a cyclone in Australia and New Zealand.
For those planning a RTW trip, it’s simple, you’ll have to accept that no amount of planning will ever guarantee the best weather. Whatever card you’re dealt with, you just have to make the most of it.
When travelling with children, vaccinations are essential. The few seconds of pain and tears at the doctors are well worth avoiding those sleepless nights in the event your child (or you) gets sick.
Allow enough time to speak with your travel nurse, most appointments take between 4-6 weeks. If you’re pushed for time then book privately. We used MASTA Travel Health. Although a little pricey, we found them to be reliable, efficient and very informative.
Once you’ve sought professional advice, consider which vaccinations you really need. Some vaccinations although recommended may be for those intending to head off the beaten track. We chose to have all of the advised vaccinations for ourselves with the addition of Rabies for our son Nathan.
Your travel nurse will be best suited to advise you on this.
For most European and American nationals obtaining a visa isn’t an issue. Most countries will process a 30-90 day tourist visa upon arrival.
Some countries however will require you to obtain a visa beforehand, such as mainland China, Australia, America (ESTA), Canada (ETA). Whilst most are easily obtainable through online submission, we were required to make a trip to the Chinese Embassy whilst in Vancouver. Check with your embassy as to specific visa requirements.
Not essential but worth having are passport photographs. Some embassies require one for visa processing. Whilst it’s likely that you’ll be able to have your photographs taken at the Embassy you’ll be paying a premium to do so.
Be mindful of the fact that some countries require proof of onward travel for visa purposes. Countries such as, New Zealand, Bali, Philippines, China, Japan, Cambodia. You’ll need to check with your embassy what the requirements are prior to travel.
Some airlines will refuse to board you if you don’t have proof of onward travel.
Something we weren’t aware of before we set off on our travels was the notion of ‘departure tax’. Whilst most airlines incorporate the cost of departure tax into your ticket price some airports don't. And so before you can even set foot into that departure lounge you’ll be required to pay up. There’s no getting out of it.
Always carry American dollars to cover the cost of this tax as we learnt that some airports simply refuse to accept card payments but you’re guaranteed that no matter where in the world you are, someone will always be willing to take your dollars!
Unless you’re a seasoned traveller, we wouldn’t recommend that you travel to an unknown country without having accommodation booked in advance. Finding accommodation is easy, there is an abundance of accommodation available to suit pretty much every budget.
We stayed in a combination of Airbnb, hotels, motels and hostels. Good hostels tend to get booked up quickly, but with so many on offer it’s hard to choose the right one. We used, Hostelwolrd.com and Hostels.com to book our hostel stay accommodation and booking.com, trivago.com or hotels.com to book most of our hotel stays. Whilst the pictures will give you a good indication of the type of accommodation you’re getting, don’t forget to READ THE REVIEWS, that’s where the real truths lie!
Also, don’t over book, you might not like where you’re staying but if you do there is usually an option to extend your stay.
Hostels by far being our preferred choice of accommodation these days. We always booked a private room with en-suite as we were travelling with our son and you’d be surprised at how child friendly some hostels can be.
Hostels also tend to be in good locations and affiliated with tour and travel agents (often at cheaper prices).
Most have cooking facilities and common rooms and cliche but it really is the best way to meet people. When travelling as a family, you can sometimes become isolated, living in your own little family bubble. But hostels offer you the chance to get to together with people from all walks of life and best of all you’ll get first hand advice and experience of what to see and where to go.
Activities and Tours
Have an idea of what you want to see in each place but be open to the fact that your plans are likely to change after having spoken to fellow travellers.
We used Lonely Plant, Trip Advisor WikiTravel as our first point of call. If you’re in one place for a few days, search itineraries or things to do, that way you can pack in as much as possible.
We often found that hostels offer tours at slightly cheaper prices and tended to book through them. That said, whilst in South East Asia everything is negotiable and so make sure you haggle, especially if you’re booking more than one tour! But don’t forget to compare prices, as the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
If you’re a confident driver, ensure you’ve applied for your International Driver License so that you can hire a car and effectively do the trip at your own pace, cutting out all of the unnecessary stops. Alternatively, see if you can get a group together and either haggle a better price or rent a car and split the costs.
Many city tours can be done on foot on your own. Simply pick up a map (most hostels & hotels offer these for free), ask them to mark out the main attractions and set off. This is what we did for most of the cities that we visited. You’ll be surprised at how close attractions sometimes are.
Allow enough time for eventualities out of your control such as weather. Some activities or tours are weather dependant. Make sure your tour agents are flexible on this.
Cash and Electronics
Not wanting to incur conversion charges in each country we obtained a Revolute bank card. Travelex offer a similar card. These cards work on a pay as you go basis. Simply, top up your card online or through the app; head to the cash point and draw out your money in local currency without incurring any conversion charges!!!
Always carry American dollars in cases of emergency. No matter where in the world you are, you can guarantee that you’ll be able to pay in dollars.
Also, take an additional bank / credit cards in case of emergencies. It’s worth having a buffer fund in a second account for if you really do need it.
Don’t forget to inform your bank of your travel plans. Our cards were blocked on at least two occasions.
Don’t forget your camera to documents your once in a life time trip! Although now a days phones have excellent camera and can be equally as good.
Mobile phones, in our opinion are essential when travelling with children. Although you’ll need to keep them safely tucked away, they’re worth having in case of emergencies alone.
Laptops / Ipads / tablets – are great to have especially if you want to log your travel on the go, but you’ll need to keep them safe. Unfortunately theft is something you’ll need to accept, it can happen anywhere, even at home.
Electronic tablets can be a life saver for longer car journeys especially with younger children and so whilst we’d say take one, it’s probably only worth investing in a basic one.
GoPros are ideal for taking those action shots, they’re shock and water proof and so definitely less stressful when in your precious child’s hands. But again, another item that you’ll need to keep safe.
Don’t leave without taking out Gadget Insurance. Most insurance providers offer this as an ‘add on’ and won’t cover electrical items in theft claims without this additional cover.
Plugs and converters – save yourself the headache and buy an international converter. If you have the room take an extension wire too as one socket is never enough!
If like me, your prone to mosquito ATTACK, It’s also worth investing an a mosquito repellent plug. You simply slot in a tablet and let it do its magic. Ours definitely offered us some peace of mind when our toddler kicked off the sheets during the night.
Don’t scrimp out here! Travel insurance is the one thing that you can't buy abroad!!! (Unless you're happy to pay a premium). Save your money for this invaluable purchase! Make sure your insurance covers all the activities that you intend to do and includes emergency evacuation. Consider whether you are willing to pay an excess every time you need to claim. If you choose to limit or remove any excess charges, you are likely to pay a higher rate of insurance. We chose this approach and after 4 hospital visits, a stolen bag and medication costs, we were thankful that we did.
Most solo travellers meet people along the way and together they embark on their journey across the globe.
For travelling families however, that dream isn’t as far off as you think. Just because you’re a travelling family doesn’t mean that you can’t embrace the social element that travel brings.
Who you chose to share your adventure with is up to you, but do share it! If not all of it, part of it.
We met some incredible people along the way, most of whom we are still in contact with. Sharing your experiences and vice versa really is the best way to see the world.