A lot of people want to travel with their family but assume it will be too difficult and complicated. I have met countless families on my travels who attest that, actually, to the contrary family travel is great and they couldn’t be happier that they decided to bite the bullet and go. Since I don’t have children I’ve brought in an expert who is much better placed to tell you about how to ensure happy family travel, top family travel hacks and alleviate any concerns you may have around it so you too can fulfill your travel dreams.
Enter Monique Alvarez.
Let’s make sure we’re on the same page right out of the gate. I’m not talking about going on vacation with your family when I say family travel. I believe these are two very different subjects. What I’m talking about is full-time or long-term family travel. With such a variety of facets to address I’m going to start with what I believe is actually the most important component to successful family travel:
That’s right, the success of full-time family travel really hinges on our happiness as parents. I can guarantee you that your kids will adapt quickly, sleep well, be content, socialize and thrive just about anywhere as long as they feel their parents are settled and doing well. They pick up on our energy, our stress and our vibe. In addition to all of this, they observe us. Would you love to have kids that are flexible, open-minded and eat anything? Model it for them.
The 6 Secrets To Successful Family Travel
There are six key areas that parents must create strategies and structures for to enable successful family travel:
- Money ~ How are you going make it?
- Location ~ Where is a good fit?
- Schedule ~ When are you going to play and work?
- Flights and Transportation ~ How hard is it?
- Education ~ What model is for you?
- Support ~ Who backs you 100%?
1. Show Me the Money
Let’s start with the first thing that most people need to figure out. How on earth can we afford to travel with a family? If you are used to making money in a way that feels hard, don’t continue that work and carry that stress across the border with you. Really, it’s not worth it. What experiences, education and knowledge do you have lots of hours in, enjoy doing and can offer to others? Do work that feels good. Remember it’s not all about making the money. If you desire a traveling lifestyle, it’s likely you value a high quality of life.
[Chantell: Note that at high quality of life here doesn’t refer to financial wealth and the material possessions you have. A high quality of life should be thought of in relation to all aspects of you life: how enjoyable it is, how happy you are, whether you are living the life that you and your family want to.]
Full-time travel insists on efficient, joy-filled work that feels like play.
If you are drawing a blank on how you can become location independent it may be that you need someone to reflect back to you what your options are. The solution is often right in front of us. Sometimes it’s so obvious we dismiss it. The goods news is this – you can hire a coach or purchase a course that will help navigate you through this until you are feeling good about the direction you are moving in. And guess what? You don’t have to make big money to enjoy long-term family travel. In fact, you’re likely to need to earn a lot less to support your family while traveling than you did back home.
2. Pick Your Ideal Country
I say start with a country because I like options and seeing as you’re reading this and are interested in family travel, you probably do too. For example, my family is in Mexico. We spent three months in San Carlos, Sonora, and when we had our fill there we had so many amazing options because Mexico is huge! Once you know how far from your birth country you’d like to be, your budget, the kind of weather you prefer, the food you want, and the experiences that excite you most, then you are ready to choose a country and then a city.
Wondering how you can find out what it’s like to live somewhere before you ever even visit? Get online. There are more Facebook groups and forums than you have time to explore. Ask questions. Make sure you talk to people who have lived where you want to go so you can get accurate information about accommodations, prices and experiences. Whatever you do, don’t obsess on this step. There are no perfect places and most of the world is perfectly safe to travel to. Honestly, if you end up not really liking where you land, keep going.
[Chantell: If you’re on this blog that’s already a great start at researching locations. This blog, and others like it, can provide you with detailed information on locations so you know what to expect before you arrive. Make use of all the free information out there.]
3. Create a Routine Within Travel
Most people completely misunderstand family travel. It is not this frantic experience – moving from country to country while collecting passport stamps.
With a family, it’s really important to establish a schedule almost immediately. When we moved to Guanajuato two months ago we stayed at an Airbnb for the first week while we looked for a long-term rental. And even before we found a place we established nap time. I find that with a one and two year old this is most important, otherwise we have some cranky little ones and everything else goes sideways. Once nap time was established that created space for work. My husband, Derek, paints on the iPad with the boys as they nap, and I work online. After the boys wake up, Derek works on the computer and I do snacks and playtime. It may sound incredibly simple and it is. The key is to not get caught up in the excitement and forget that you must create time for work and play. I highly recommend setting these times and keeping them the same every day. Step one in this process will be much easier if you consistently work on your business. Feast and famine is never fun and it’s really not fun when you’re traveling.
[Chantell: If you book your first stay with Airbnb by using the link here or the one above you’ll get £36 in travel credit (full disclosure, so will I but we both benefit so seems like a pretty good deal to me!]
4. Flights and Transportation with Children
My toddlers took their first plane trip a couple of months ago. We had already been in Mexico for three months, so I wasn’t uber stressed out about it and I wasn’t about to pack everything under the sun for the kids, either. I told them we were going on the plane for a week or so in advance and I packed one bottle each for comfort. I packed an extra set of clothes and diapers and that was it! We got snacks in the airport and in the air. I wasn’t weighed down and guess what? They did amazingly! There was no crying. No meltdowns. It was a great experience for all of us. So how hard is it to handle transportation with kids? I believe it is as hard as you insist on making it. You know your kids. Pick options that suit them best and most importantly… stop worrying about other passengers. They are adults, they can handle one bad flight or bus trip if it happens. It’s not the end of the world. I highly recommend taking direct flights and splurging on transportation when you are able to if it means you’ll enjoy it more.
[Chantell: As a traveler without kids, it is annoying if there is a screaming baby on a flight next to me but I still recongise that they’re a baby. Yes it lowers my personal enjoyment of the flight however I know that babies cry. I am in no way judging the parent for their screaming child. It happens. Get on with what you’re doing and don’t worry about anyone else. If another person on a flight becomes upset because of your screaming baby, they’re a d**khead and the one with the problem. Don’t worry about them.]
5. School Age Kids
Obviously, this is something I’m not consumed with yet as my boys are still so young. What I have learned from other traveling families is that you have to do what works for you and your kids. Deciding on an unconventional lifestyle such as travel will most likely mean that your kids are educated in unconventional ways, but it doesn’t have to. There is world schooling, homeschooling, private schools, online schools, and un-schooling to name a few. Once again, go do your research, talk to other parents who are traveling, and find out how they do it. Don’t be afraid to try a few different things. There is no right or wrong way to educate your children.
[Chantell: I have met so many families whilst traveling who use various options for educating their children while on the road, from homeschooling to international schools. The thing that’s always stood out to me in these interactions though is how happy the children seem. They are getting so much more of a varied upbringing than if they were at school in their home country the whole time. Plus it’s a great way to bring your kid up as bilingual since they will no doubt make friends with other children from whatever wonderful county you’re in. As someone who speaks four languages, take it from me; being able to speak other languages is an incredibly important and useful life skill.]
6. Find Your Supporters
Last and certainly not least, we must have a circle that absolutely adores us and celebrates our decision to have a family and travel the world. Without this the news-watching naysayers will eventually knock the wind out of you and your plans. Join groups online and take it a step further. Start conversations and create relationships with other traveling families that jive with you. Share your lives. Be real. Have people you can call in the middle of the night when your grandma or friends from high school are hurtful and are giving you guilt trips about the life you have created. Being a traveling family doesn’t equal isolation. Be deliberate about this one and think about ways you can support other families like yours.
You are on your way.
When you look at this list, break each area down into action steps that you can take each day. If you are serious about making full-time family travel a reality, it will require daily attention. It takes discipline and you may need to rearrange your priorities and how you spend your money before you leave. I can tell you this, whatever it takes and how ever long it takes, it’s worth it!
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Monique Alvarez is on a mission to share her love of the world with the world. She is currently enjoying slow travel across Mexico with her husband and two toddlers. Monique is hosting a Family Mastermind in Guanajuato, Mexico November 3rd-6th 2016. She will be sharing the strategies and structures that have allowed her family to enjoy slow travel across Mexico since May 1st . For more information click here
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