Ever since I announced that I would be travelling the world next year with my partner and three children, everyone has been dying to know: how on earth could a family afford to travel long term?
I must have lots of money stashed away, right?
It can seem like a massively expensive exercise, resulting in many families staying put where they are, believing that long term family travel is impossible on a low to medium budget.
When I talk about our plans, some people react with negativity and bitterness, saying things like, “Well, it would be nice if you’ve got a lot of money or you’ve won lotto, not all of us have you know!”
The sad thing is, many of us have grown up surrounded by negative messages about money and finances. It’s kept us stuck in a love hate relationship with money, which we allow to control our lives. “Money doesn’t grow on trees you know!” Sound familiar?
You can probably think of other messages you’ve heard which reinforce that your biggest dreams are not possible in life, unless you inherit it or acquire it in some way – or work to the point of exhaustion. Sadly, working a job 9-5 just keeps people trapped where they are. You’re capped with time and earnings, so it’s easy to see why it can look so hard from the outside… but it’s not difficult to change. Your mind is the biggest hurdle of all – and I was there once, so I get it.
If you become fixated on worrying about how you’re going to afford long term travel, rather than learning about how you can make it work, your exciting and entirely possible dreams can quickly turn into dust, resulting in no travel.
Here’s the thing: when people think about world travel, they usually start calculating the cost based on what they would normally spend if they went on holiday. If you worked out what an overseas holiday would cost your family in 2 weeks, then multiplied it by how ever many countries you want to visit, it’s easy to see why so many people think it’s not possible. But it is. Best of all, it’s nowhere near as expensive as you think too.
Long term world travel isn’t a holiday. It’s a new way of living that you need to budget for, just as you would back home. If you want to stay at all the posh hotels, then yes, it’s going to be hugely expensive and impossible unless you have won lotto or are insanely wealthy!
I encourage you to write down all of your monthly expenses on a piece of paper, or type them into a spreadsheet. When you look at the long list of expenses in front of you, you need to realise that many of them will be eliminated. You wont have your costs you have now, plus family travel costs.
The Two BIGGEST Costs
The two biggest expenses people usually have is the house and car. There are several ways to approach this.
Some highly motivated and committed world travellers sell their house and car, so they have a nice bank account balance to fund their travels (i’ll talk about planning for life when you get back in another article). They value experiences, not things, so it’s not a hard choice to make.
Don’t panic if you don’t own one or both of these, as I have plenty of other suggestions for you in this and future articles.
Personally, we’ve decided not to sell our house, but we are selling our family car. That alone immediately frees up a great deal of cash and ongoing expenses right there. We don’t see the point of having a car sitting idle in storage for 12 months, and by selling it, we’ll free up money while we travel. We’re also selling goods that are better to get rid of (e.g. items that don’t do well in storage, age quickly or are affordably replaceable) and we will repurchase either new or used when we get back. Some examples are the refrigerator, washing machine, dryer and others.
As for our house, we’re able to rent it out at an amount that will just cover the mortgage and the associated costs, e.g. rates and real estate commission.
If you’re renting the home you live in, you can eliminate your monthly rental payments while you are travelling. You can wait until the end of your lease before travelling, or if you really wanted to, you could break your lease. Please make sure you check what costs are involved before you do that, as you may be up for advertising fees, re-letting fees, and rent for the period of time the house is vacant.
Reframing Your Monthly Expenses
Here is a run down of most of the major money expenses we will save by travelling. As you can see, it’s quite significant when you put it on paper – you can really see where your money is going. Most of these costs are approximates.
Mortgage – covered by rental income
Council rates – covered by rental income – $500 per quarter or $166.67 a month
Electricity – $420 quarterly or $140 a month
Gas – $200 quarterly or $66.67 a month
Water – $200 quarterly $66.67 a month
Petrol – $100 per month
Car registration, insurance, service, tyres, repairs etc – $250 per month (at least!)
Childcare for our toddler and school fees for 2 children – $2070 (a fair swag of this is childcare)
School costs (uniform, camps, excursions books etc) – $150+ a month
Fortnightly house clean – $135 a month
Internet – $90 a month
Mobile – $200 a month
This is not including miscellaneous expenses such as throwing birthday parties for the kids (they end up in the hundreds these days!) and other costs like clothing, shoes, kids toys and games… the list goes on. Also, this year we have four children living with us, but only three are coming on the trip. So the figure we are saving is higher considering expenses involved with schooling and caring for an additional child.
While we’re going to be down one income, we wont be spending over $5,000 a month. That equates to more than $165 per day. We realise we are not taking a 12 month holiday – we’re going to be living for 12 months and need to budget accordingly.
Before I go on to the next point: I can see it now – some people will get frustrated because they don’t have $5,000 a month to spend on living expenses. But travel is still possible for you if you want to learn how, rather than get defences up and be angry at all the money in the world. Heck, you may not be in a position to travel in the next 12 months or even 24 months, but life and situations change.
Make it your mantra that your situation right now isn’t permanent – nothing in life ever is – even us. I’ve lived through years of wanting to give it all up too, because I was sick of trying to make ends meet. But with determination and desire to learn, you can do it. It’s how anyone ever did anything. Lots of people will stay where they are, because they refuse to even believe, or learn all they can until they find a way to achieve their dreams. Our trip didn’t fall into my lap. I put effort and time into making it happen, by learning all I could. It’s the way I do life. How badly do you want something? Go get it.
Costs We Don’t Have That You May Be Able To Eliminate
Think about other things you currently pay for that you will be able to eliminate when you travel.
- Do you use cable TV?
- Do you have any subscriptions to any services that you wont need?
- Gardening or rubbish services?
- Sports fees?
There could be a great deal of expenses you haven’t even thought of that you’ll save on if you travel. If you have fewer than three or four kids, lucky you! Your expenses while you travel will be even less than ours. As soon as your children turn 12, they will be classed as an adult. Even the more reason to travel while they are young!
Do You Receive Child or Family Payments?
If you live in Australia, you can receive family tax benefit as per normal while travelling; but after 12 months it may change. You can find out more here.
If you receive child support, there is no reason for this to stop. As long as your ex-partner is supportive with the trip, it shouldn’t be a problem. Although I do sympathise with those who do not receive child support, I know it happens and I have been there. But it’s not all doom and gloom. I know single mothers who travel, and while some months are really tight, they make it through. There are lots of opportunities to earn money while travelling or to minimise your costs significantly, but I will talk about that in another article.
We will still have my income, as well as child support, which we are very grateful for.
Embrace Minimal Living
Not only is it utterly freeing and invigorating, but having a massive spring clean and yard sale will help with travel expenses and your emotional ties to your home.
We’ve realised, like many people, we hoard far too much junk. With four kids in the house, there is so much wasteful plastic – toys they don’t even play with any more. There are so many clothes we own that never get worn. Everyone has their staples that get reused often, while a heap of other clothes just hog the space of draws and cupboards.
Even our garage is looking amazing! My partner has cut the cord (finally) and been enjoying cleaning that out too. So, as many world travellers often do, we’re going to have a yard sale and sell everything we don’t need. It’s clutter, and with each item that gets thrown out, sold or donated, we feel SO much lighter. It also means less of our stuff going into storage, which costs money.
One thing I gratefully realised in one of the travel books I read was that the more stuff you have, the more you’re attached to it. The less you own when you travel, the less you worry about – and the less emotionally tied you are to your home. Keep the sentimental stuff, for sure. But break out of your comfort zone and deal with the clutter and noise in your home.
Plan For Slow Travel
Flights can be one of the biggest financial considerations when travelling. The more places you want to see, the more you will have to fork out for flights, and the more expensive accommodation will be (it’s cheaper if you stay long term).
Pick some places you are really desperate to see, and plan to stay there for a while. Especially with children, 3-4 weeks in one place is really the minimum you’d want to consider, not only for costs, but flying around frequently will take a toll physically and emotionally.
Research Your Locations
By keeping tabs on flight and accommodation deals where you want to go, you’ll know how much to expect your trip to cost. It’ll also show you what the better prices are and what the higher prices are. Find out what sort of events or festivals happen at certain times of the year, which can make it busier or more expensive.
We’ve chosen to avoid peak seasons where we can to make it much more affordable and less busy.
An Open Mind Is A Gift – And Essential When Travelling
I hope you’re beginning to see, it may not be as difficult as it first seems.
For around six or seven years, I have immersed myself in personal growth and development. Without it, BellyBelly wouldn’t be where it is today, and I wouldn’t be where I am today. As the saying goes, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Harsh, but true.
I think it’s so important to work on yourself while you’re waiting to travel – especially if you feel angry, upset or bitter about your situation. Feeling that way just attracts more of the same feeling, and more of the same situation you are in. The biggest, most valuable thing you can do, is to get learning.
Books and Programs To Help With Money Matters
I highly recommend the following for those who are seeking financial freedom, escape from toxic beliefs about money and lots of helpful mindset information:
- Escape 101: The Four Secrets to Taking a Sabbatical or Career Break Without Losing Your Money or Your Mind is specific to long term travel, which goes into detail about where people get stuck, roadblocks and overcoming your own unhelpful beliefs.
- Harv Ecker’s program is also fantastic, which is all about getting unstuck from the bad and negative habits that we tend to get stuck with. I’ve attended one of his seminars and he has awesome information, tools and tips for getting out of the vicious negative money mindset people have. His well known, best selling book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth is the book based on the seminar I attended – a brilliant read.
- I am a huge fan of Robert Kiyosaki’s work. It’s just brilliant, and will give you the information and mindset you need to find freedom. He talks about what his poor dad would say, and what his rich dad would say – both entirely different messages that are either helpful (rich dad) or unhelpful (poor dad). I love his plan for getting out of debt, it’s the best I have seen. Grab a copy of at least ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad,’ you’ll be so glad you did.
- Other books in my article 6 Travel Books For Families Dreaming of Extended Travel
At the end of the day, you can choose to believe long term travel is not possible for you and kill your dream. Or, you can believe it is possible for you (even if not right now).
But today can be the day you decide to begin planning and preparation for your dreams of family travel. Who cares if it happens in 12 months, 24 or more. The important thing is what path you decide to take, and taking that first step to learn and plan is a massive one.
Keep an eye open for more of my articles on ways you can earn money while you travel, as well as my best tips to make family travel happen fast. I can’t tell you everything in one article, so hang in there, and more pieces of the puzzle will slot into place.