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How to Budget for a Family Gap Year

by Megan

Traveling the world is something so many people long to do. But how many actually do it? My family and I have been traveling full-time for a year, and now I’m going to share the specifics of our family gap year budget and show how you can afford to travel the world. If we can do it, so can you!

How To Afford Full-Time Family Travel

How can anyone afford to travel full-time? There are a couple of ways to do it.

If you haven’t read it already, I recommend starting with my overview post here: How To Take A Family Gap Year.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume you’re not a millionaire, because if you are then you probably wouldn’t be reading this post. Therefore, I see two different options.

Option #1: You’re going to save up money ahead of time and basically take a year-long vacation. This obviously requires you to make enough money to cover your current lifestyle, plus put enough money away to travel and NOT be earning money next year. You will likely need to sell or rent out your home while you travel, since the idea is to replace your mortgage payment with paying for lodging while you travel. In addition, you have to be comfortable with leaving your job for a year, usually without the guarantee of being hired back when you return!

Option #2: You’ll be working on the road. The trick here is that, of course, you have to have a job where you can work remotely. Luckily, these days those kinds of jobs are in high supply. Again, you will likely need to sell or rent out your home, and then you are basically just swapping a mortgage or rent payment for paying for your lodging while on the road.

The third option is to put everything onto a credit card and go into debt for your travels, but that’s probably not the best idea!

My goal is to show you how we were able to travel full-time with our family, so I’m going to focus on option #2 and share all of our family travel budget tips!

traveling with kids
Just a cool, travelin’ kid!

How To Budget for a Family Gap Year

How much does it cost to travel the world with a family? I’m going to give you some overall tips and then go into the specifics of how and what we budget for.

1. Work remotely

You may already have a job that you can take on the road- even if you don’t know it! Think about everything you do and whether or not you could do it from afar. Never hurts to ask if you can take your show on the road!

If that’s a definite no, then you might need to find something new. With the internet at your fingertips, there are so many remote job options! You can be a freelance writer or photographer, a virtual assistant, online customer service, and so much more. There are one-off, part-time, and even full-time jobs that can be performed completely online, so spend some time browsing and see what you can find.

Be aware of scams. If something sounds too good to be true (“We’ll send you a sign-on bonus check and all the computer equipment you’ll need.”), it’s probably a scam.

Sign up for alerts from a few different job posting sites and see what comes your way!

2. Sell or rent out your house

Traveling full-time can mean giving up the security of having a house to go back to. Most people can’t afford a mortgage or rent payment, plus paying for lodging on the road. If you want to go back to your home at the end of the year, renting is a great option.

Once you no longer have a monthly house payment, you’ll also no longer have house-related bills such as: water, electricity, cable, internet, HOA, housecleaning, pest control, repairs, and the list goes on. You may have local memberships, such as to a gym, that you’ll be canceling. Once the house went, most of our bills went along with it!

And while I’m speaking of bills that disappeared…think of all the little things you’re paying for all year long while your kids are in school. Field trip fees, book fair money, school pictures, class parties, club fees, fundraisers, etc! ALL GONE! Of course you’ll still buy school supplies, books, and whatever else they need, but you only have to buy what you want!

3. Figure out what your income will be

Before you can decide how much you can spend, you have to know what you are making! If you’re freelancing, this can be a little tricky, and you may have to adjust month-by-month. If you have a steady income, then you know what you have to work with.

I already had a job that could be done remotely, and my husband took on part-time remote work with another company. We decided to use the income from my remote job to budget with, and his income was reserved for fun extras and covering any overages.

If you have the flexibility, it’s nice to not budget every bit of your money. If you have a second income or side hustle that you can use as-needed, that will help you to stress less!

Our family gap year budget

4. Plan for your expenses

Fixed Expenses

Once you know how much money you have to budget with, it’s time to look at what your expenses will be. First, look at anything that is a fixed expense.

For us, after eliminating the majority of our bills with the sale of our house, what remained was our cell phone bill, car insurance, the monthly fee for our storage unit where we stored our belongings, medical prescriptions, and the ever-important Netflix and Hulu subscriptions! These totaled about $300.

Living Expenses

Next, figure out how much you need for living expenses. This basically means food and maybe gas, if you’re driving around. We budget a very modest $200 per week (and often go over- these kids are eating more and more!). This is why it’s good to have that extra, unbudgeted income- we do like to dine out, and that doesn’t usually fit into our living expenses budget!

Lodging

Once you have your fixed expenses and living expenses covered, what’s left will inform how much you can spend on lodging! You may also want to set some aside for gas/transportation to new locations or further-away trips.

Read also: Where To Stay On A Family Gap Year

Hotel rooms and Airbnbs can range widely, so once you know how much you can spend on lodging each month, then you can choose your stays! We usually look for something around $1500-$1800 for four weeks, but occasionally we find great deals that are under $1000 for four weeks, and occasionally we spend more, usually when booking a more popular location during a popular time (such as New York in June and Maine in July).

Boy in the ocean

A few money-saving travel tips

I go more in-depth about these tips in this post, but I think they are worth a mention here as well.

1. Use credit card rewards

Our credit card points count twice as much toward travel-related expenses than if we redeemed them for cash! If you can trust yourself to pay it off each month, use your credit card for all of your purchases and reap the benefits! At least use it for your big expenses, like your Airbnbs, so you get lots of reward points!

2. Use the same hotel booking site

I always use hotels.com when booking hotel rooms, because you get a free night for every 10 that you book!

3. Utilize long-term stay discounts

This is a huge one! If you’re wondering, “How can I travel the world for cheap,” Airbnb is your answer!

A lot of Airbnb renters will discount their rates when you stay for a week, and even more when you stay for at least 28 nights. Often these discounts can be as high as 50-80%! This fact alone has been the reason why we could afford to travel full-time for a year!

4. Eat at home

Seems obvious, but it’s amazing how much you can save. I can feed our family of 6 for as low as a couple of dollars on pasta night, whereas it can easily cost over $100 for us to eat out for one meal.

5. Just explore

Take advantage of free activities like visiting parks and playgrounds, the beach, wandering around a new town, window-shopping, people-watching, taking long walks, using the hotel pool if there is one… As my mom says, “free entertainment is everywhere!”

I hope this post has convinced you that you can afford to take a family gap year! I can’t wait to hear about your adventures!

If you've ever wanted to travel the world with your family, here's how you can afford full-time family travel! I'm sharing our Family Gap Year Budget along with some great money-saving travel tips!

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