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In June 2017 we announced our decision to pack up our family and travel the world for a year!
The truth is we started talking about it in January and shortly after the planning started! Initially we wanted to leave right away, however we decided to act as responsible adults and actually plan things out.
Where do you start in planning something like this?
Oh my gosh, the truth is that we were clueless!
First we googled a lot on the topic and read lots of blogs. We also bought a few books about traveling and budgeting. One of our favorite was How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Revised: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter. It was helpful in pointing out a lot of things that we needed to consider while planning this adventure. For example, plane ticket options, accommodation options, possible discount cards and so on. It was really informative. Of course the book’s budgeting is based on a solo traveler, there wasn’t much information for a family of 5. One common thread we noticed between books and blogs was that everyone that decides to venture around the world, sells everything and leaves.
But what are the logistics of planning all the process? How do you decide where to go? How do you figure out your budget for a family of 5? Which is the best way of traveling? I’m going to stop here with the questions, there are many more but I don’t want it to feel too overwhelming, lets answer them one post at the time…….
First dilemma: where should we go?
Initially we wanted to go everywhere and more! Logistically and economically it just wasn’t possible, so we created a bucket list and divided it in:
- Places we have to see
- Places that are worth seeing for the kids now
- Places we would love to see but should postpone because the kids are too young
- Places we might consider moving to
You have to be realistic and accept that as a family of 5 you might have some limitations. Plus if you see everything right away, what are you going to do in the future?! So we started penciling out what just couldn’t be done in the year.
In order to include a little more actively our kids in the process of picking our destinations we bought The Travel Book: A journey through every country in the world (Lonely Planet Kids). This book dedicates a page to each country and gives you a few tips and information about it. We got lots of inspiration from it and our kids love to go through it. They look at the pictures and continuously add new places to our list! They didn’t get the part where we explained that we can’t do everything!
After 7 months of picking and changing we have our final list! We have a clear idea of where we want to go and how long to stay in each place. There have been routes planned out and then changed multiple times. We had long discussions on what to leave in our trip and what to take out. There have been many different dilemmas: weather issues to consider, visa restrictions and costs to keep in mind while deciding our official stops. But I will leave a few secrets about our route for the year to come…..
Second dilemma: what type of ticket should we buy?
We started wondering how to solve this one. In fact in some countries you have to show your ticket out in order to get in, so we couldn’t just buy tickets as we go. We found 2 possible options:
1. Round the world (RTW) tickets. In this case you pre-book all your tickets in advance and by purchasing them in bulk, you save money on the total price of the ticket. There are only two airline alliances that offer this type of ticket: Star Alliance and Oneworld. The Star Alliance is based on how many miles you travel and they offer passes in 29,000, 34,000 or 39,000 miles increments. With 29,000 miles you will roughly get 3 continents (outside of the United States). With 34,000 miles you will get you 4 continents and with 39,000 you will get 5 or 6 continents. The more miles you do, the more destinations you can see and vice versa. Each pass allows up to 15 stopovers (a stopover is considered 24 hours in one destination) and you can get the ticket in first, business, or economy class. Star Alliance requires passengers to start and end in the same country, not necessarily in the same city.
Oneworld offers two different pass options: one that is segment based and the other that is mileage based. There are three levels: 26,000, 29,000 and 39,000 miles in economy class, as well as a 34,000 in business and first class. All miles are counted, including overland segments.
The downfall for RTW tickets is that they have many rules and stipulations. They aren’t meant to be changed. Moreover, RTW ticket seats are only allocated in a limited number, so if you do change your seats, you may find yourself traveling sooner or later than you had hoped due to availability. If you know your travel dates, destinations and don’t plan on changing your trip very much, RTW tickets will save you a lot of time and a bit of money. However they cost a lot, but if you pick one of the popular travel routes, you will save money in the end.
2. Airtrek. This company pieces together individual airline tickets based on the lowest available fares they find. Their tickets also come with less rules and restrictions.
The secret in both cases is to plan carefully and buy the ticket well in advance. We have decided to go with Airtrek . We are also happy to confirm that we have already started working on our route!!! Departure date: June 10th, 2018 right after attending a beautiful wedding in Boston!!!!
Third dilemma: how do we figure out our daily budget?
We have come to the conclusion that we will figure that one out as we travel, depending on the place we are in. I know it might sound crazy to be a little clueless on such an important topic. Unfortunately we haven’t found any book, blog or person that can tell us how much we will spend daily in each place we visit with a family of 5.
So that is where the route planning is important. We are carefully taking in consideration every country we will stop in. Checking what the cost of life, food and accommodation is. This will help us understand what our daily budget will be. Also the length of our stay will be conditioned by by these costs. Our plan is to alternate some affordable, but of course safe countries to some more expensive but still worth visiting.
For example, our budget on food. In some countries I’m pretty sure that all of my kids are going to eat mainly white rice (so our bill won’t be too high!), spices are not their favorite. However in others they will be more adventurous and try more. In some places we are going to rent homes, so we can prepare our meals, in some we are going to rent camper vans so we can travel and sleep wherever we want and eat under the stars. In some places everything will be included, because that is the only way you can see the country, in others we will have to figure out every moment of the day.
One of our biggest lessons this year will be to LEARN TO ADAPT. It might be a struggle at times but we are a good team and we will manage. So once we get back I will be for sure more detailed on how to budget, for when you want to do a crazy adventure like us!
Wow this is a lot to say for now……more dilemmas coming your way very soon as the planning continues!!!!