It is becoming more and more common for families to feel stuck in a rut, daily pressures are at an all-time high and the current economic situations mean people are looking for a way out. With this in mind families are increasingly choosing to take a family gap year. A family gap year is when families decide to leave their current lives behind for months at a time for an excursion, perhaps for example to go trekking in the Amazon or to drive across America. Families are feeling the benefit of not only learning about the world through books and films but experiencing it for themselves.
You can read all about the Sistine Chapel and even find out all the facts and details, but knowing what it smells like and what the air feels like on your skin can never be replaced. People who are choosing family gap years appreciate this and with the right planning are making it work!
The most essential thing you need to do is plan and plan: by failing to plan you are planning to fail. This can be a really fun activity especially if you can involve the whole family; ask the kids where they fancy going too. Some main considerations when planning a family gap year are:
- Choosing a travel company
- Destinations and what can you do when you’re there
- Age-appropriate activities
- Vaccinations and health implications
- Life and travel insurance
- Education for the children
- Work implications and what happens when you get back
Finances: why it pays to think
Whilst planning, look at how you will get to your country of choice, how long you will stay there and what the living costs are. Potential outgoings include money for food, places to stay, flights and of course money for emergencies. If you work all this out for each country it should enable you to get an educated total.
It is generally thought that as an individual traveller you should budget anywhere between £7,000 and £12,000 depending on length of stays and the countries you visit. You may find you will not need this amount each as family accommodation is often cheaper than individuals paying separately but it’s a good idea to keep these figures in mind. It must also be noted that when traveling the world there are going to be many chances to experience once in a lifetime opportunities. Make sure you keep some cash for these sorts of expenses.
When thinking currencies, get the best deals whilst at home and always try to get a commission-free credit card to avoid all those charges! Talk to your bank, see what they can offer you and just let them know where and when you are traveling. The last thing you need is your card getting declined in an emergency!
Remember by buying online before you go, you can save a lot of money on things such as accommodation, car hire and insurances.
Where to go?
Important considerations here are things such as the ages of your children. Trekking through the Sahara desert may suit a teenager, but not a toddler. Here are some examples of where to go and what to do:
Hiring an RV and driving across America
This is suitable for all ages, with so many things to do and places to see. From Disney World in Florida and the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, to shopping till you drop in New York skyline, or the great sights of the Grand Canyon. If you rent an RV and visit the sights, you can appeal to all ages and interests.
Multi-stops on the Eurostar
With the Eurostar becoming more popular you can easily navigate across Europe in a couple of days. Have a character portrait in Paris, experience standing on both sides of the Berlin Wall and finish with a gondola ride in Venice!
Part or full-world cruise
If your family enjoys a bit of luxury and is not so keen on flying, then maybe a cruise is the answer. With many now sailing for one, three or even nine months you really can see as much of the world as you wish. In one trip you can explore Kegon Falls and go to a beach party in Hawaii; the world really is your oyster!
Health and safety planning
One of the most important considerations is the health and safety of your family. Even when all necessary paperwork such as visas and passports have been sorted, it is important that you get the right insurance because if the worst should happen you need to know your family will be safe and won’t need to worry about money. After some research it is recommended not only to have travel insurance in place but also life insurance. Travel insurance is great if you get into difficulty whilst abroad and you would be covered, but if the worst happened your family would need the extra support that life insurance cover provides.
If you’re careful, fully plan and know where to go in an emergency you cannot go far wrong; planning is key. Don’t forget to check passports and visas; make sure they are valid for the entire journey and remember some countries require six months left on a passport when you leave their country.
Why not rent your house out while you are away? Not only would this be an income for you, but it will help keep it safer if occupied – but don’t forget to check your right to let if you have a mortgage as not all providers allow this.
Thinking of the impact on the education of your children can bring some uncertainty. Weigh up how much they could miss out on at school against how much they will learn traveling the world, seeing new cultures and speaking new languages. You could also consider online classes and revision sessions for them with an online tutor to carry them through the gap year.
So if you’re all ready for the trip of a lifetime, here are some final tips:
- Use the Home Office website – it contains a lot of important information
- Do your research and book what you can before you go
- Sort out your finances – don’t leave yourself short
- Ensure your house is left in safe hands – you could even try a housesitter service
- Arrange travel and life insurance
- Leave a travel plan with someone trusted at home including details of flights, accommodation, insurance and your passport numbers
- Plan your trip thoroughly
Lastly, make the most of every second and enjoy!