Are you wondering how to travel long term with kids? Turns out a lot of people are! People often ask how we can travel perpetually with a child. Most find the prospect of full-time travel daunting, but when there are kids in the mix, some view this kind of life as darn near impossible.
We’ve been traveling for two years and whenever we meet people and tell them that we travel full time most look pleasantly surprised. Then, they look at Mak, and a mix of confusion and intense curiosity becomes apparent. They’ll stare for a moment, narrowing their eyes slowly.
We can see their wheels turning as an awkward silence fills the air. We watch as they struggle to find a socially acceptable question.
Then the floodgates open…
So do you have teaching degrees? What about a huge savings account?? Do you make a bunch of money blogging???
The answer is “no” to all three of those questions.
We aren’t certified teachers, we didn’t start traveling with a huge amount of money in the bank, and the blog is not a huge money maker for us.
The truth is, we’re still trying to figure out a lot about long term family travel!
We do know a few things, given our brief experience living this lifestyle. And, we still rely on information and advice we get from other well seasoned long term travelers as well.
Because people seem so curious,
I thought I’d put together a list of the most popular questions we’re asked about our nomad life. I’ve included the bits we know, and for what we’re not quite clear on, I’ll refer you to the pros, the blogs we rely on for help too.
1. How do you earn money traveling?
The thing people want to know most is how we make a living traveling perpetually. They know we house sit a lot and that does help make our money stretch a lot further. But people also recognize a regular paycheck is needed to keep us moving and food on the table.
When we first set out we only had a map and a plan for making money online. We had absolutely no online income coming in. Now, we make our living from freelance writing and helping blogs and businesses with S.E.O. (Search Engine Optimization). Rob also helps maintain WordPress websites and does WordPress training for clients as well. We learned most of the skills we needed to perform these types of jobs through tons of reading and quality courses offered online.
If we could start all over again,
we would have learned marketable online skills before we left. Waiting until we had a few paying clients online would have been a better idea too.
We are just starting to earn enough income not to need to supplement with savings. Getting to this point has been quite the learning curve. We focused so hard on creating content for the blog in the beginning and this did end up being a good thing but not for the reasons most people think. The blog makes very little money.
The Expat Experiment is kind of like our business card at this time. A vehicle to get to know people interested in the kind of things we’re interested in and a place where we can help and hopefully inspire others to travel more. The networking and promoting we’ve done for The Expat Experiment has helped us connect with the majority of our customers. All or our SEO and WordPress maintenance business come from networking and word of mouth.
We do earn a little advertising income from the blog through affiliate revenue for products we use and love and sponsored content that we write to promote quality brands that relate to how we live or travel. But The Expat Experiment really serves more as a stepping stone to other paid freelance writing opportunities. Right now, I earn most of my freelance writing income through P.R. and content creation for other publications.
The thing we know for sure is,
making money solely from a travel blog is HARD, It takes a lot of time and hard work to grow and build a blog into a viable business for most people.
Here’s the bottom line,
perpetual travelers work hard at a lot of things to make this kind of life sustainable. And, most of the best paying online opportunities don’t come from blogging alone.
There are people who set out to travel with next to no money and are still traveling after years on the road. That wasn’t us, we started out with a decent financial cushion. We wouldn’t have gotten very far if we hadn’t had some savings. And, if we didn’t work hard to develop the skill sets we did we have we wouldn’t get much further.
There is no magic formula to make long term travel financially sustainable.
Money making opportunities vary depending on experience and skills. The key is to find something you enjoy doing, then work hard to find a way to make it into a location independent business. Need help with ideas? Here are two great resources that offer a bunch of ideas for location independent work options.
- Sean Ogle quit his corporate job back in 2009 and moved to Thailand to build an online business. Since then he’s gone on to help others learn skills to become location independent. One of those people was me! His site, Location Rebel, offers courses and support to help anyone build a location independent business.
- Nora Dunn, The Professional Hobo, is an authority on how to financially sustain full-time travel. There is a whole litany of financial travel tips and resources on her site. Her unconventional guide, Live and Work From Anywhere offers valuable information about many forms of remote work.
2. So, how do you educate your Son?
We started traveling when Mak was five and thought we would unschool instead of homeschooling for his education. After about six months on the road, we decided it would be better if it was a bit of a blend.
Unschooling is child-directed (interest led) learning, we see incredible value in educating kids this way but we felt it would have the biggest impact if Mak could read, write, and do basic math first. We didn’t think Mak could lead his own learning without a firm grasp on these basic skills.
Right now Mak works on reading, writing, and math (basic building block stuff) about two hours a day. We aren’t trying to replicate school and we don’t follow a rigid curriculum, so there’s a lot of flexibility in our schedule.
The truth is,
There are so many good reasons to travel with kids, doing so teaches things they just don’t learn in school. learning happens all the time, and especially so traveling. Mak is exposed to different language and customs because of our nomad life. He is learning to relate to all kinds of people and developing confidence and coping skills that we think will help him find success throughout life.
There is so much written about ways to homeschool and unschool, deciding which educational course can be overwhelming. We found blending both to be the best for Mak. Home educating is not without its challenges, of course. One thing I can say for sure, there is so much information and support available online we have an almost unlimited amount of material to educate Mak and travel full time too.
3. How do you pack everything your family needs?
We try to pack all the right things, but we never do. And, I think it’s impossible to carry everything you may need when you travel long term with kids! We try to travel as light as we can, but “stuff” we rarely use (or never use) still makes its way into our bags from time to time. Instead of going into great depth on what we pack I’ll break it down this way-
Here are the methods we use to stay light(ish) and organized in our bags and the few indispensable items that we need and love.
- For staying organized- we all use packing cubes, the bags are our dressers and the cubes are the drawers.
- For staying light(ish)- We use quality luggage. Eagle Creek bags are tough and light. I love the durability and functionality of their Switchback 58 liter wheeled backpack and Rob uses the Gear Warrior 89 liter wheeled duffle. It’s roomy but not heavy and bulky like most wheeled duffles. We also don’t travel with everything we may need in our bags. We buy consumable items when we arrive at our destination when it’s convenient to do so.
- The items we’re always so glad we have in our bags are the Bodum Insulated Plastic Travel French Press and Tea Mug. When we don’t have access to a coffee maker this little baby is the best. We need to pack for four seasons and Mountain Hardwear compressible down jackets fit great, pack small (into their pockets!), and work as a pillow if need be as well. Merrell minimalist shoes are light and multifunctional. I hike, walk, and run in mine and I love them so much. Rob has a pair too and he loves the fit and coolness of his minimalist trail runners. They are incredibly light and comfortable.
- The biggest thing we’ve learned about long term travel with kids is travel days are way more stressful when you have lots of heavy bags. Make sure what you are carrying doesn’t prevent you from supporting your kids when you need to. Keep the things your kids are responsible for transporting easily manageable for them.
We don’t travel with only carry on luggage but we know some family travelers that have! The Soultravelers3, a family of three, traveled for years with only carry-on luggage. Their top tips for long term travel are absolutely inspiring. If you’re more like us, Boostnall.com has an awesome resource for long term travel packing. Their Ulitmate Guide to Packing For a Long-Term Travel Trip is delightfully detailed.
4. How do you plan where you’ll go?
Two things influence where we travel most are house sitting opportunities and low cost of living destinations that interest us. Safety and culture also play roles in our decision making. And, when we don’t have any definitive ideas on where to go we derive inspiration from different long term family travel blogs.
- The sites we consult for the cost of living research are Numbeo.com and PriceOf Travel.com.
- We read a lot of long term travel blogs and in doing so, have devised a system for choosing potential travel destinations. I wrote about our travel planning methods in this post.
- Bootsnall.com is a one-stop long term travel guide. There is a ton of information available about planning long term family travel on this site!
5. How do you make accommodation affordable without signing a long-term lease?
The modes of accommodation we use most are Airbnb entire place rentals and house sitting. We prefer longer term stays in both cases. Some Airbnb hosts give a discounted weekly rate if you book for a month or longer so we usually book at least four weeks at a time.
With house sitting, accommodation is free but there are still costs for transportation. The flights to get to and from the house sitting destination need to be reasonable and we always choose assignments that don’t require a car. Location plays a big part in keeping our accommodation costs low, we don’t rent cars so we need to stay in areas that are walkable or convenient to public transit.
Generally, we spend anywhere from $25 USD to $60 USD per night with Airbnb and reduce our average costs even further with house sitting. Here are a couple of articles detailing our systems for choosing rentals and house sitting assignments that best meet our needs.
- We save a lot of money staying in self-catering accommodations. Here’s How we Feel at Home Traveling With Airbnb.
- We love house sitting but we also know When to Say No to a House Sitting Job.
6. How do you deal with chronic illness on the road?
I have rheumatoid arthritis and I manage it with a low dose of medication and diet. I have had no trouble seeing doctors or finding the medication I need as we’ve traveled. I have been able to buy my prescribed medication over the counter in most countries. Eating gluten and wheat products makes my symptoms much worse so avoiding foods that contain those ingredients is really important.
I wrote this article about how I deal with a gluten sensitivity traveling. A great gluten free eating resource I use is written by Jodi Ettenberg at LegalNomads.com. It has tons of information and support for gluten intolerant travelers.
7. How hard is it dealing with language barriers?
Language barriers were more challenging when we first started traveling and not so much now. We are accustomed to dealing with new environments on a regular basis and recognize that people know we are visitors or tourists. We don’t try to hide that fact. I guess we’re more confident in uncharted territory now. We use phrase books, smile a lot, and never hesitate to ask for help when we need it. Generally, local people are eager to help and we always seem to get our point across.
We always work to learn basic phrases and greetings in the local language the places we visit. We rely on Google Translate and Duolingo to familiarize ourselves with local words and pronunciations. This article, 40+FREE online language learning resources has lots of other great suggestions as well.
8. How do you all make friends traveling?
One of the most rewarding things about long term family travel is all of the wonderful people you meet around the world. House sitting and staying with Airbnb has helped us get to know local people in the places we visit.
We’ve made friends of Airbnb hosts, house sitting homeowners, and friends and neighbors of both as well. Staying in places a month or longer also helps us get to know people. Many shop and restaurant owners have made us feel at home and some treated us just like family because of our repeated patronage. The truth is we have more friends now traveling than when we left at home.
9. How long will keep traveling?
We have no definitive answer to this question. We will continue to travel until we don’t want to or until we can’t anymore. Makai’s comfort and development influence this decision the most. But, we all need to want to continue to live this way.
The surprising thing is,
right now, traveling full time is a lot cheaper than living back in Canada for us. It enables us to work online and homeschool/unschool our son too. Settling down somewhere in the world has always been the plan and when the right opportunity presents itself, we will. For now, we’ll just continue to enjoy the search.
These are answers to questions about how to travel long term as a family from our perspective,but there are many long term travelers that have been doing this for years! Worldschool adventures put together a great list of family travel blogs loaded with long term travel tips.
Do you have a question about how to travel long term with kids that wasn’t listed here?
How about an answer or helpful resource link to help our curious readers (and us, we still have a lot to learn!)? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.