Traveling with Kids: Planning and Preparation
Due to circumstances outside of my control, my posting has been sporadic lately. A big part of that reason is that we’re getting ready to go on a huge 3 month adventure! We’re heading to Europe! With our three little kids! Who are four and under! And yes, I’m nervous and excited at all at once!
In just under three weeks, my husband and I will be fulfilling a dream we’ve had since we got married (and I’ve had since I was 15) and going on a three month international trip, centered in France and the United Kingdom. Hopefully, this will be the first of many as, long-term, we would love to provide travel to our kids as part of their regular education. A lot of decisions have come together to make this trip a reality: from job choices to even how we live on a daily basis.
Starting today, I will be doing a series of posts on traveling: from planning; packing tips; flying tips; things we learn along the way; tips on making traveling with children successful and rewarding and the tools we used to achieve this.
Keep reading to find out how we are making this all work!
First Step: Planning and Preparing.
Our planning really started over two years ago in mid 2015 as we planned on doing this in 2016. However, due to a number of factors, that fell through and we had to put it on the back burner. Another opportunity came sooner than we expected and we started planning again for 2017, this time with another child in the mix.
But Isn’t Traveling Expensive?
Answer: Yes and No. It can be more affordable than many people think if you know how to plan and where to look.
I’m a HUGE fan of Airbnb for affordable, amazing places to stay! If you plan early enough in advance you can find beautiful places for a much lower price than a hotel or bed and breakfast. Going this route will also save a lot on food costs, as you can rent a place that has a kitchen so that you can make your own food versus eating out all the time (which can quickly add up!)
If our kids were older or it was just us, we’d probably skip a car and just do a train pass. However, not only do we have three kids, but three of our siblings are also tagging along (more on that later). As such, we definitely needed to rent a car. Normally, this would be very expensive, but Renault allows you to do a long-term lease of a car for a reduced price, which makes it much more affordable. For the amount of people we had this ended up being a huge saver for us.
Although there are some airlines (WOW and others) that give you CHEAP prices for flights, we chose not to go that route for a couple reasons:
- Length: Often cheap flights have very long layovers. With three little children, we really wanted as short as possible.
- Other charges: Cheap tickets mean they charge for everything else: luggage, food even water. Even though we are traveling fairly lightly, the number of people we have still means a lot of stuff.
That being said, we were able to find cheaper deals using Hipmunk and Expedia and picking economy flights versus first class.
Choices in day-to-day life:
We have found that renting is better than a mortgage if you want to travel. We don’t yet own a house but instead have lived in different rentals. Although this does has some downsides it provides a huge amount of flexibility if we want to travel. We’ve outgrown our current rental so for this trip we’re putting our stuff into storage and will find a new place when we get back. Not having to pay a monthly rent (or mortgage) while we’re gone, makes things much more reasonable as our airbnb payments are just slightly above what we’d normally pay to rent at home.
This can be quite tricky and definitely limiting depending on your field. This was certainly a factor in us not going when we originally planned. So what changed? My husband switched jobs in his field and became a contractor. While definitely having its downsides (hello self-employment tax and paying for your own health insurance!) it does give us a huge amount of flexibility. Because his work is mainly on a project-basis, he can simply choose when to take on a project. Coupled with a couple side projects that provide us with a small passive income, and our propensity and obsession for budgeting (YNAB is amaaazing, people!) and saving and we’ve been able to make this work!
How Old Will Our Kids be:
At the time of traveling, we’ll have a 4.5 year old, an almost 3 year old and a 6-9 month old.
How Are we Making it Work:
- Investing in some well-researched products that will make travel with kids easier (I’ll write on these in my next post).
- We had the opportunity to invite a few of our siblings to come along as well. Although they aren’t coming as babysitters or nannies, they’ll be able to help in different moments which will make three small children easier.
- Staying longer in places. Part of our current plan is to travel around the United Kingdom. Because of our kids we’ll need to move at a slower pace than we would if we were just two adults, so we’ve extended our time in each area (average is app. 10 days) to allow for greater freedom and opportunity to see everything.
- Flexibility. Flexibility. Flexibility. We are very willing to have a flexible schedule depending on naptimes and other factors to make this enjoyable for everyone. We encourage activity in our kids (or they encourage us!) and foresee that they will have a bunch of fun exploring. We also plan on throwing in different sites that are very kid-oriented for their enjoyment.
Check back soon for other posts on how to pack for long-term travel; flight tips; and posts during and about our travels and what we learn on the road!