family travel- a selfie of my kids and I
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How Hard Is It To Full-Time Travel With Kids?

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Let’s get real about the top five challenges of full-time family travel. New to our blog? We’ve traveled the world with five kids for over two years. When we left, we have five kids 9 and under!

family travel- all 7 of us with our luggage at the airport
Arriving in Singapore

Maybe you want to pack it all up, leave it all behind and travel? Awesome!

First Come The Questions About Full-Time Travel

Getting to this decision of traveling full-time as the adult is half the battle. It’s no small feat to decide to take the plunge into full-time travel. We talked about this for more than five years before we finally jumped off.

How To Afford Full-Time Travel

Many questions swirl as you consider doing this, but if you are a parent, the biggest one usually centers around how to afford it. You can find out how we afford to full-time travel here and see how some of our travel family friends afford it as well!

How To Full-Time Travel With Kids

Next concern: the kids!

What will you do about school? See what we do here.

Maybe your kids are too young for school. Many families travel before their oldest is in first grade.

How will the kids handle leaving all their comforts and doing something so drastic? What will be difficult and what might surprise you?

While I’m no expert on your kiddos, I do have five of my own and a few years of full-time travel under my belt. I’m going to give you the low-down on my thoughts and what I’ve observed in my kiddos.

Five Biggest Challenges of Family Travel

If you are like me, you want to anticipate what will be hard.

family travel- my daughter playing with a friend her age
Lucy with one of her travel besties. We met this sweet family while traveling!

Challenge #1: Leaving Friends

No matter the age of your kiddo, if they are pre-K or older, this will probably be their BIGGEST challenge when transitioning to full-time family travel.

Even my 6-year-old still spoke of his old friends back at preschool a year into our full-time travels. Maintaining a friendship long-distance is hard for adults. I’d say it’s pretty much impossible for kids (at least the younger ones).

We’ve sent postcards, emails, phone calls, and texts, but it’s really challenging. You get into new time zones and your dinner time may be while they are sleeping. Their after-homework time might be when you have to run errands at the start of the day.

My Suggestions

  1. Marco Polo. The best method I’ve found to keep up with old friends if phone calls or Facetime is proving too challenging? Marco Polo. It’s like a video text message, so it can be done when the time is right for you.
  2. Make new friends! We’ve made friends around the world. Some travel full-time like us and others live in the places we stay.

How do my kids handle this challenge?

My boys are young enough to not really care much. They mention cousins or old friends occasionally, but rarely. They are each other’s best friends.

Lucy, our oldest and now 13, has had the hardest time with this. She is at a point where she would be making friends and building those bonds right now. This worried us, often, while we were still full-time traveling and as we plan to set out again this summer.

We try to talk with her A LOT about it and gauge how she is feeling. We tell her (and we mean it) that if it gets too much for her, we will stop. So far, she doesn’t want to stop. That doesn’t mean it is easy for her, but she learns how to re-focus back on her siblings and us to find those connections for now.

Challenge #2: Adjusting to Homeschool

This is going to be a challenge for the adult who is now a teacher as well, but it’s a big adjustment for the kids.

They aren’t exactly sure what constitutes as “school time” anymore because it is constantly changing. The environment is changing, the time of day is changing and usually, the amount of hours varies day-by-day.

Even after 14 solid months of homeschool, my kids still seemed genuinely surprised when I’d say it’s time for school! They’d still whine and argue about the tasks, they’d still push back and it drove me bonkers.

I cried at least once every 60 days over homeschool and would want to throw in the towel. Maintaining the momentum of school, for me, is HUGE drainer and one of the hardest parts of full-time family travel.

My Suggestions

  1. Plan it out with the kids. We would have planning meetings on Sunday nights and I would discuss the days we would do school. It goes a LONG way for them to know roughly when school is happening, even if it’s totally different from the week before.
  2. Don’t do it. Maybe you take a year off of school. Sounds ridiculous, but it’s not. Lots of families do! Your kids will catch up surprisingly fast.
  3. Scale back. Stick to math, reading, and writing.
  4. Online tutoring. In my homeschooling guide, you can find plenty of online schools to do the teaching for you. This may or may not impede your schedule.

How Do My Kids Handle This Challenge?

I wish I could say it was easy for me. It’s not! However, it got a lot smoother as we went.

The kids know they will fall behind if they don’t keep up on their school and this does motivate them to keep it going. They fudged to me about their school on a fairly regular basis, so I’d have to keep checking and having the same conversation over and over.

Challenge #3: Missing Stuff and Space

Even if you aren’t crazy enough to have five kids like us, your kiddos are going to be used to their surroundings.

Even a baby is used to the smells and sounds of your environment. Big kids have this too.

My kids each have a few “comfort items”, which do help, but they all miss more. They talked of the toys we had back in storage. They all missed their little safe space, be it a bunk bed, a closet hiding spot, a bookshelf.

Our environment changed weekly or monthly with our constant family travel and so does their bedrooms. They never had a space that was truly their own. This also wears on mom and dad 🙂

My Suggestions

  1. Unpack as soon as you arrive somewhere new. Even if we are only staying a week, we unpack it all. It will add touches of familiarity to your stay.
  2. Have comfort items. If you didn’t pack them at the start, grab some as you go.
  3. Keep special items safe. You determine where the “special items” go for your kiddo. If, like in our family, you have a sibling that likes to snoop and break valuables, keep special stuff in mom and dad’s room. These items are even more important as you add such instability into your child’s life through constant travel.
  4. Take turns having alone time. Let one kid be in the front room and another in the bedroom.

How Do My Kids Handle This Challenge?

It depends on the day (and the kid).

They still constantly wanted to buy stuff, even though they know it will be saying goodbye in a few days or weeks.

Grant cried over stuffed animals nearly daily. He wants about 153 stuffed animals and would have his entire room stuffed with them if I would let him. It’s really hard for him to not be able to have more than he does.

The kids all daydreamed of the day they would have a permanent bed, toys, and save spaces for their treasures. Now that we’ve been in Utah for over 6 months in a home we own, they miss travel! Overall, the kids learned to be more flexible and less attached to “things”.

Challenge #4: Too Much Time Together

Sibling time can go too far.

One of the great benefits of having five kids is they can rotate in their associations to other siblings. If you have just two or three kiddos, they are going to fight!

Mine fight some, but surprisingly not as much as they did before we left. Being together 24/7 is a MAJOR adjustment for everyone. It’s hard to feel like you aren’t smothering each other.

My Suggestions

  1. Schedule individual time. We take each child on a date once a month, just like we did before we left on our world adventures. We also take 1-2 on every errand.
  2. Make assignments. We assign siblings to play with each other sometimes! The older ones have to take turns with the youngest, keeping her busy. This gives them a legit break from politics between older siblings.
  3. Force a time out. We value alone-time and protect that when needed. If we send a child for some alone time in a room or outside, we make sure to enforce that with the other kids. Usually, 15-20 minutes is all they need to reset and be ready to play nice again. Not that different from mom, although my reset time usually includes some dark chocolate as well 🙂

How Do My Kids Handle This Challenge?

Honestly, better than I could have ever dreamed.

This is one area I can say full-time family travel has greatly improved our lives. They are literally BEST FRIENDS. They love each other so much and play, play, play together. I hope these strong bonds will continue long into their futures.

family travel- my kids making sill faces in front of a colorful elephant statue
Harry making faces at his big brother in Bangkok

Challenge #5: Uncertainty

Depending on your situation, you may have an end date in mind before you leave for full-time travel, or you may have no end date (like us). Both options are hard.

It’s hard to fully embrace and settle into full-time travel with a deadline looming (I would think). vIt’s also hard to have no end-date as it prevents any real planning.

My kids want to plan their future a lot and I have nothing to tell them! The amount of variation and lack of schedule and uncertainly about the future can be hard for some kids. They may react through more tantrums or becoming irrationally attached to something (a bed, item, person, etc).

Kids are extremely resilient, but they still appreciate knowing their future to some degree.

My Suggestions

  1. Planning meetings. We keep our kids in the loop to what we are thinking and planning for our future family travel adventures. If we are planning out the next quarter, we let them know what we are considering. We ask them what they would prefer. We ask where they would settle if they had to choose today. Give them some say in your planning and daydreaming- it will empower them.
  2. Give the kids enough voice. Getting that one-on-one time, like mentioned above, provides the perfect platform for voicing concerns and easing them. Allow them to speak without interruption.
  3. Keep things as consistent as you can! In this post, I give some ideas on how to create stability in your new, unstable life.

How Do My Kids Handle This Challenge?

Lucy (age 13) had the hardest time with this. She had some of her own dreams, like building a treehouse and decorating her future room. These dreams weigh her down emotionally when she doesn’t know when or where it will be. I feel her; we all have that to some degree.

We try to keep a good dialogue going with her on her desires and if it’s getting too hard. Grant (age 10) daydreams a lot too about our future house, but it doesn’t seem to wear on him. He loves the exploration still of going to live in new places all the time. The younger ones aren’t really bothered by it at all.

The flip side of these family travel challenges is great benefits and a life we all truly love. We are closer as a family, my kids are so much more flexible and we, as adults, are truly happy. I hope these challenges don’t scare you off but empower you to see that you can do this too!

Much love,

Leslie

Additional Reading

AIRBNB VS HOTELS INTERNATIONALLY: WHERE TO STAY FOR FAMILY TRAVEL

FINDING TRAVEL BABYSITTERS: HOW TO DATE AROUND THE WORLD

BATHROOMS AROUND THE WORLD: MY DIRTY LOW-DOWN

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