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Family Gap Year: Traveling the World with My 8 Year Old

I am travel obsessed. The more I travel, the more I want to travel. In 2004, I set off on a round the world (RTW) trip, but got ‘stuck’ in India with my now husband. Ever since my first attempt at traveling the world, I have ached to try again. This desire to have a family gap year has only gotten stronger as my son has grown each year.

We travel a ton as it is, but it never feels like enough. Each summer we take 4-6 weeks to travel, just the two of us, and I am never ready for it to end. We have spent time in London, Denmark, Sweden, Brazil, Borneo and all over the western US visiting national parks.

This past year was a little rough for my son at school, so we began entertaining the idea of taking the next school year off to travel. The seed was planted.

Soon I realized that 3 back to back trips scheduled in the first weeks of school would take my son away for a month. It felt like the perfect opportunity to extend it further and just take the whole year off.

Reading that back, I realize my extreme logic! You broke your toe, so we cut the whole leg off! I know, I’m crazy! This is what happens when you become obsessed with travel.

The positives for doing it now – my son is in 2nd grade which is a great age to travel with, an age I can still assist with homeschooling and he still wants to hang out with me! I’m sold.

Family Gap Year with an 8 Year Old

Taking a family gap year to travel with a kidI won’t lie, I am excited, but as the date approaches I’ve been filled with nervousness, doubt and trepidation. Can I really do this? Can I take my son away from his friends, his wonderful day to day life and plunge him into a world of unknowns. A world where it’s just me and him most days. Where we will have to travel on a stricter budget than we ever have. Where we won’t speak the same language as our hosts. Where…

The short answer for him is yes, yes we can do it. He is OK leaving his comfortable life, his school, his friends and his pets. It is I who continues to test his resolve asking him almost daily if he wants out, if he wants to shorten the trip, or do it another time.

I’m scared. What if I can’t handle keeping up with my blog, while also homeschooling and solo parenting (my husband will join us occasionally when he’s off work).

Well, I guess the what if is, we will find out. And then we will adjust. We will be a work in progress, just like we are here at home.

So off we go into the world of unknowns. Our final day of school is Tuesday. Then we have 4 days to organize homeschool placement tests, get curriculum, figure out how the program works, pack our bags and head off on the first trip of our gap year adventures.

What About School?

Ideally, we would have loved to unschool or worldschool for the year, but my son also acts. In order to keep his acting work permit up to date for jobs during our time at home and for next summer, we have to be enrolled in a formal school or homeschool program.

We will be working with a local public school here in Los Angeles that will allow us to homeschool on the road. They provide expertise on what to study and which curriculum to use as well as feedback on what we can do differently. I’m nervous this will end up being more work than we anticipate, but I am also excited to keep him academically on grade level with his peers.

In addition to the homeschool work, we are also continuing to work with my son’s current classroom on the theme for the year which are the elements (air, water, fire, earth). He has lots of great ideas on how to be the class’s international explorer sending back information from the road about these topics.

Family Gap Year Itinerary

planning a family gap year with kidsOur gap year itinerary is not the typical round the world itinerary that most families do. We have been to a ton of places already and like I mentioned above, we had some trips already planned which sort of dictates some back and forth.

We have clear ideas of places we want to go (too many to be exact!), but we are trying to keep things somewhat flexible for the moment in case opportunities to meet up with friends or fellow travelers arise we can adjust. My goals for the year are to expose Cian to more Spanish. His goals are to visit Patagonia and Madagascar! With these thoughts in mind, our current itinerary is outlined below:

Ireland – Booked

Iceland – Booked

Wisconsin – Booked

Turks & Caicos – Booked

Home for Halloween

Belize overland to Guatemala (for Spanish immersion classes)

Costa Rica for Thanksgiving

Panama – December

Home for Christmas

Perú to Buenos Aires – Jan and Feb 2019

(or maybe Vietnam to Thailand)

India – March 2019

Northern Africa (Egypt, Morocco?) – April 2019

Madagascar – May 2019

Europe (France, Spain, Portugal or Italy?) – June 2019

Home for Summer Camp – July 2019

I really want to get to Vietnam to visit a friend who lives there, as well as to New Zealand, however I am not sure we will have the time to go everywhere! Who knows where we will end up. We are trying to stay flexible to meet up with friends along the way, but also in case we are just done with the international travel and want to come back home and explore more National Parks in the US.

Right now we plan to be back home for some of the summer so Cian can take his favorite summer camps and connect with friends again before returning to school. Perhaps he will want to come home earlier or stay longer. Time will tell!

Family Gap Year Budget

The first question people ask when I say we will be heading off is ‘How can you afford this?’. The truth is I’m not sure! We hope with the money we normally spend on tuition at his private school and at home participating in after school classes, eating out, shopping, etc that we will have enough to get by on.

I will try to be as transparent as I can on what we are spending. Ideally, we will stick to a $100 a day budget for the two of us, but it’s been a long time since I stayed in budget accommodation, so let’s see how that goes!

I do plan on working with different companies and hotels along the way as well as checking out the amazing Guest-to-Guest home share program which will help us cut down on some of the biggest expenses.

For flights, I will use my Southwest miles and companion pass when possible as well as utilize our Chase Sapphire Reserve points for flights or hotels.

Stay Connected With Us

Planning a family gap year with kidsJoin us on our journey into the unknown! I will definitely post on Instagram frequently, including Stories as well as on Facebook so make sure you are following us there.

I have dreams of writing quick and easy journal style posts like this one to keep you up to date on the latest happenings as well as my regular more detailed destination posts.

If you want to follow along, click the #gapyear tag above to see all of the posts I have written on our trip. And, if this inspires you to get out, come meet us anywhere along the way! We love to share adventures with friends and are always ready to meet new folks too.

And off we go!! The day after my son’s 8th birthday we depart on the first of our fun adventures.

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Planning a family gap year with kids - where to go, schooling and more!

This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. This is so impressive and inspiring! I can’t wait to follow along and see all the cool places you are going to explore. What does your husband think about all of this and how are you planning to stay in touch with him?

    1. Thanks for the message Ranjana. We will be back and forth in the fall so he will get to see us every few weeks with either him joining us or us being home. The spring will be the harder part. He plans to meet us when he can since he is freelance, but he just wants to wait and see how the months are looking work wise. We typically do FaceTime every day when we are away, so we will still get lots of chatting in. Often at home we can go days without seeing him much due to his long work hours, so we envision it won’t feel too much different, but we will see!

  2. Laughing – kinda sorta – about the addition of WIsconsin!! That’s awesome. I line northwest Chicagoland, the WI border is a hop-skip-jump from us. Just loving that it is on your “around-the-world” itinerary 😉

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