HOW DO I TAKE A FAMILY GAP YEAR? sustainable travel family

How Do I Take A Family Gap Year?

How do I take a family gap year? Do I quit my job and homeschool the kids while we travel, what about money and savings. How to plan a family gap year? I have added in the cost of the whole trip further down the post, brace yourself!

How To Plan A Family Gap Year

You see everyone is taking a family gap year. Long gone are the days of gap years only being taken by students before starting university. Gap years are now a thing that families are increasingly choosing.

How do I take a family gap year?? How is it possible, you need a job to pay the rent and bills, the kids are at school while you work. Financing the gap year. Planning the entire trip for a family.

How do I take a family gap year - Sustainable Travel Family

How do Families Afford to Travel the World?

How do families afford to travel the world? How can I take a family gap year? Here’s how; We took our first family gap year during my maternity leave in 2017 to 2018. currently planning another for 2019.

Taking a family gap year during maternity leave was the perfect scenario and it worked well for us.

I was still employed and had my job when I returned, still getting paid (even if it wasn’t much it still helped cover the rent and bills back home). I had already saved for a few years for something like this. It was always a plan of mine.

It made complete sense to take a family gap year and it worked out just fine. Now I’ve decided to truly quit the day job (currently working part-time) so I can fulfill my lifelong dream of sustainable travelling. More about that later.

Planning a Family Gap Year – How to go about it

Halfway through my pregnancy I decided it would make perfect sense to travel during my maternity leave. I wasn’t in a position to quit my job permanently and it would give me a taster into longer term travel.

I decided it would be a good time to leave the UK when Rosa reached around 4 months old. I always wanted to go to South East Asia, with flights being so long, around 16 hours, we would decide to stay there for several months – 4 to be exact.

Joshua who was 9 when we left for our family gap year was deregistered from school by me. He never liked it anyway and travel in my humble opinion can give a child a rich education far more than any classroom can offer. What about the social aspect? Kids are forever being told they go to school to learn and not socialise, remember that, and I know what I’m doing.

Family Gap Year Destinations

I started looking at flights to Kuala Lumpur, it felt like a good choice for us to start. I booked the flights 2 months before flying. I knew I really wanted to visit Thailand too, who doesn’t?

When I planned the gap year I chose the first 2 months would be spent in Kuala Lumpur (for around 1 week) and then Thailand for next 2 months. Those flights I booked before leaving the UK. We applied for a 60 day tourist visa at the Royal Thai Embassy in London before departing. Malaysia required no tourist visa for British passport holders.

While in Malaysia I found it would be better if we had onward flights from Thailand before we entered. I booked flights to Vietnam the night before leaving to Krabi. Vietnam was a definite choice for me, by far one of the best countries I’ve visited with the kids. We spent 1 month in Vietnam starting in the north and ending down south. You can read about that here.

We still had over a month of travel left before returning back to the UK. The hardest part was deciding where to go next. I looked into many options, some where too expensive and others would be too difficult planning the logistics of getting around and travelling with a baby.

The last month was spent in Indonesia, I researched the Gili’s and knew there and then that would be amazing to visit and it also meant I got to see my Indonesian friend which was a highlight of our visit.

How to afford a family gap year in Thailand with costs

Steps of Planning a Family Gap Year

Packing everything was a nightmare, I had backpacked around Peru when Joshua was 4 years old so that gave me some experience but nothing prepared me for this family gap year.

In all honesty, looking back I would have taken half the clothes and double the amount of SD cards for my GoPro and cameras. Clothes are heavy and SD memory cards aren’t cheap abroad, clothes are.

I took way too many baby clothes, what was I thinking. I knew she would grow fast, buying clothes are cheap in Asia (just avoid the branded stores like h&m). At the 6 month mark she outgrew half her clothes, but I took a range of ages. I remember giving bags of clothes away each month, yes bags!

I took my stroller with me, and a car seat. Would I do it again? Yes to the stroller, no to the car seat. The car seat was too bulky and a pain to carry around. The pram was brilliant, I could carry stuff in the basket and my baby was protected from the sun on hot days with her sun shade and she didn’t have to be attached to me 24/7 in a baby carrier in 38 degree heat.

Muwan Beach in Indonesia was my favourite beach in Asia. The beach was in a cove, the was was deep, easy to swim with crashing waves, further out you could surf. The kids loved it.
Muwan Beach in Indonesia was my favourite beach in Asia. The beach was in a cove, the was was deep, easy to swim with crashing waves, further out you could surf. The kids loved it.

Travel Insurance and Medical

Travel insurance was purchased 1 week before departing and chose a gold service. I never once claimed on it. We did visit the hospital twice with Rosa when she had a cough in Thailand. Hospital fees were affordable at the Bangkok International Hospital in Chiang Mai. Would I buy insurance again? Yes, always, you never know what could happen. I even bought natural disaster cover, you know, just in case.

A medical kit is a must when travelling as a family with kids. I had everything, it was heavy to carry around and most things I could have bought as and when needed but I wanted it organised before I left home. It was a peace of mind.

Sun lotion is very expensive in Asia, twice the price you would pay back home. Make sure you take enough, I took more than needed and came back with a whole bottle. Next time I’ll go easy on the lotion.

Mosquito repellent, again this is not cheap abroad, I got mine from Amazon. I bought it in bulk, I have enough to last me another family gap year. I bought some that were in glass bottles, it dropped and smashed all over the floor, next time I’ll reconsider using glass for this reason.

Getting around with kids in the Gili Islands
This is how we role, I was lucky to leave some of my luggage at a hotel back on Lombok, I’d died to thick if I’d carried the car seat and the rest of my bags to the island, maybe I would have sunk it with the amount we were carrying around with us.

Getting Around with the Kids on a Family Gap Year

Getting around Asia with kids is generally tolerable. Airlines in Asia are great with taking care of families. We can board first and they let us keep our stroller until we board the plane, they even take great care of it unlike in the UK.

In Asia you can use a taxi app called Grab, at the time Uber was also thing, it’s now owned by Grab. Grab can be downloaded to your phone, It’s a game changer. We used public transport such as buses, public coaches, boats and trains but sometimes you need a taxi to get around when public transport isn’t available.

In Asia kids are kids until the age of 12 years old. That meant we got cheaper rates on accommodation (1 child is free, so that would be Joshua who was 9 and then babies under 1 are free anyway) Buses and coaches babies travel free on your lap, I always bought an extra ticket for my baby. She had that car seat that needed some use anyway!

Tours with the kids were fine, we saw and met many travelling families. Kids (not babies) are generally 25% cheaper than an adult ticket, I always haggled to get it at 50% sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Worth a try for some of the more expensive tours like Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.

Money - How much does a family Gap Year Cost?
Some things can’t be paid with card so having cash on you in several places at all times is essential.

Money and Bank Cards on a Family Gap Year

Before we start, I want to be clear, I never use credit cards and never used one abroad but I did take one just in case. I took 3 debit cards. One bank with two separate accounts so I had 2 cards and could transfer money around when needed via online banking. Another account I set up just for travelling which offered free cash withdrawals and payments with rates set by MasterCard. I saved lots on transaction fees. I never carried all my cards together in the same place.

Cash was carried at all times, usually enough for 3 to 4 days at a time. Some things can’t be paid with card so having cash on you in several places at all times is essential. For example long tail boat tickets in Thailand which can be expensive was always paid with cash, same with buying food during the day. If we needed a snorkel set I would use card.

Accommodation in Phu Quoc
Vela Phu Quoc Resort – This was an amazing hotel close to the beaches of Phu Quoc island Southern Vietnam. Everyone here was really kind. I didn’t know until I came home that TUI offers package holidays here, no wonder we saw so many European tourists!

Booking Accommodation – How Do I Take A Family Gap Year

95% of all our accommodation was booked through Booking.com, it was easy and after so many stays we now get an additional 10% off every nights stay around the world. I used AirBnB twice, found it good. Booked a few stays directly with hotels, was able to haggle a better price by walking around and asking. Another time I used Expedia, the experience wasn’t very good, I won’t use them again unfortunately.

We stayed in a wide variety of places all over Asia, 5* resorts, budget hotels, mid-range hotels, boats, home-stays several times which were amazing, rustic lodges by the beach (too many mosquitos), high-rise block with locals in the city. Hostels with a private bathroom, not for me though.

Family Gap Year Itinerary – What we did and saw

Thailand – Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. Oolong tea plantation, the white, brown and blue temples in Chiang Rai, The Golden Triangle which is the boarder of three countries; Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, we went to Laos for an hour across the Mekong River. Monkey Cave Chiang Rai. Tiger Cave temple in Krabi, how do I take a family gap year, Hong Island lagoon, Koh Lanta Island, Emerald Cave near Koh Lanta, Old Town Koh Lanta. Chiang Mai night safari, Chiang Mai zoo and giant pandas. big Bhudda temple and the 9 tier temples in Chiang Rai. Railay Beach, Prah Nah Cave and beach. Chiang Mai old town and the lively night market, Maya Mall, Central Festival Mall.

Vietnam – Hanoi Old Quarter, Hanoi prison (museum), Ha Long Bay, Dodging trains at Hanoi Train Street. The Mekong Delta Farm stay, Ben Tre Mekong, Ho Chi Min Mausoleum, Ho Chi Min City, Saigon Centre Mall, Phu Quoc Island, Pearl farm, One Lang Beach, Ho Chi Minh Zoo and Botanical Gardens (not recommended due to poor animal welfare), Ho Chi Min City War Remnants Museum.

Indonesia – Lombok, The three Gili Islands, Swimming with Green sea turtles, Snorkelling and seeing coral reefs, a shipwreck and underwater monuments, Fishing in the Gili’s onboard a private ship. Muwan beach, Selong Belenak Beach (surfing), Riding horseback on the beach.

Malaysia – Petronas Towers, Batu Caves, KLCC Aquarium, Shopping at Suria KLCC, Central market Kuala Lumpur, China town, Berjaya Times Square, KLCC park and playgrounds.

That’a a lot on things to see and do with 2 kids, one of which was a 4 month old baby, I don’t know how I managed all of that. If you work hard for what you want to achieve it can be done. What does it cost, how do I take a family gap year?

How Much Did a Family Gap Year Cost?

You’re still thinking, how can I take a family gap year. In brief heres the break down by country and month in GBP of how much a family gap year cost me. 1 adult, 2 kids. This was never intended to be a budget shoe-string trip. All flights included the additional cost of 30kg luggage allowance. The trip lasted for 4.5 months.

Food was expensive in Indonesia when we went to the Gili islands, same with Koh Fanta in Thailand, in general all islands are fairly expensive. Thailand wasn’t as cheap as I thought it would be. Vietnam was much cheaper, outbound flights were not. Accommodation took a large chunk of money as expected.

I think I could have done better with money If I ask myself now how do I take a family gap year, I would have planned better and booked further in advance (most stays were booked 1 or 2 days before hand) I never knew where I’d be from 1 week to the next so we had complete freedom but I had a 4 month old and sleepless nights (at times) to contend with, I wasn’t going to drive myself crazy penny pinching.

One thing that sucked money was how long we stayed in Krabi in Thailand around the new year. Accommodation skyrocketed even for the most basic places. Renting longer term with slower travel would knock down the costs further.


Malaysia – Duration: 1 Week Costs

Accommodation£160
Food£90
Excursions£62
Train£12
Grab and Uber£45

Total £369


Thailand – Duration: 2 Months Costs

Air Asia Flights £431
Expedia£280
Uber£18
Grab£42
Baby Toys£52
Food£720
Accommodation£1,400
Excursions£650
Hospital Fees£79
Dental£79.30

Total £3,751.30


Vietnam – Duration: 1 Month Costs

Accommodation£590
Food£360
Futa Bus £17.73
Air Asia Flights£460.56
Viet Jet Air flights£72.07
Jetstar Airways£130.95
Vietnam Visa Pro Online Application + Visa Costs£17.39 + £60
Excursions Incl. Ha Long Bay 2 days 1 night Tour£386.27
Shopping£269

Total: £2,233.97 (Including flights to Indonesia)


Indonesia – Duration: 1 Month Costs

Accommodation£390
Food£612
Air Asia Flights £328.22
Excursions£380
Grab£67

Total: £1,777.22 (Including flights to Kuala Lumpur)


Malaysia – Duration: 1 Week Costs

Accommodation£120
Food£105
Aquaria KLCC£87.97
Grab£32
Hairdressers£17.49
Shopping£280

Total £642.46


Grand Total: £8,903.95 for 135 days

£65.95 per day – 4 Countries – 4.5 months – 19.2 weeks of travel for a family of three, 1 adult and two kids aged 9 and 4 months old. Now you know your answer to “How do I take a family Gap Year”.

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