Do you dream of taking time out from the everyday? Perhaps you have a desire to see the world? We did too and decided to gift ourselves with the time to disconnect from our regular life, explore new places, challenge ourselves and most importantly, spend more time together. You could call it a family gap year.
If you are looking for family gap year ideas or are planning your trip around the world right now, here is our complete rtw itinerary for some inspiration.
Time: 12 months
Distance: 125,000 kilometres (78,000 miles)
Countries: 30 (including stopovers)
Commenced: January 2017
As you can see from the map below, we did a full 360 degree loop around the world, heading westwards from our home in Australia. See more statistics on our family gap year here.
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When we decided to embark on our trip around the world there was one snag – we had already booked a skiing holiday to Japan in January. No matter how much we tried, we couldn’t change our flights to continue on from Japan without it costing us an enormous amount of money. Plus we had bags full of ski gear and winter clothes.
So after an awesome week skiing with friends in Myoko Kogen and a week exploring Kyoto and Tokyo we flew home to Melbourne, Australia for one night. That’s right, one night! Just enough time to store our ski gear, change our luggage and fly out again!
Initially a layover on our way to India, we decided to explore a little more of Singapore and hop over to the island of Koh Lanta, Thailand for some planning and beach time to officially kick off our family gap year.
Singapore, while expensive, is very family friendly with plenty of fun activities to keep the kids busy. Koh Lanta was a low key, pretty beach destination with mostly low-rise bungalows on the beach. It was a great spot to relax and plan our next steps.
Our 4 week overland adventure in Rajasthan was unlike anything we have experienced before. We explored ancient forts, meandered through colourful markets and ate delicious vegetarian food. Overall we loved traveling in a country so different from our own. It is one of the main reasons we love to travel!
At times travel in India was challenging. The driving distances were enormous and the bustling cities and dusty towns started to take their toll. Of all the places we traveled on our family gap year, India tops the list in terms of difficulty and challenge.
But saying that, I have no doubt we will visit India again. There is much more to see and it is a very unique country to travel to. There are many reasons why India with kids was a rewarding experience.
Mauritius was another layover that we converted in to a stopover when we flew from India to South Africa. Layovers really are the best for adding countries to your rtw itinerary that you might otherwise skip over. We dreamt of white sandy beaches, French inspired food and snorkelling off the beach.
Unfortunately, we all spent a lot of the week in bed recovering from what I can only guess was a bad case of Delhi Belly.
While we didn’t have the opportunity to explore many of the activities on offer on this lush island, we loved what we did see. Crystal clear water, friendly people and a unique opportunity to go underwater walking made this a great stop before heading to mainland Africa.
Botswana was by far the most adventurous destination on our family gap year. We desperately wanted to experience a safari in Africa but were put off by the exorbitant prices of organised tours.
We settled on a short self drive safari. After picking up our 4WD in Johannesburg we travelled quickly through Botswana on an epic 8 day overland trip. By renting a 4wd camper, keeping the duration short and booking tours independently at each location we were able to reduce the costs significantly.
The experience was challenging, exhilarating, life changing. I have no doubt we will return to Africa.
Johannesburg > Drakensburg Ranges > Aliwal North > Addo > Plettenberg Bay > Oudtshoorn > Cape Agulhas > Franschhoek > Cape Town
After swapping our 4WD for a regular car in Johannesburg we set off on a road trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
We had no idea until then how diverse South Africa was. From hiking and ziplining to wine tasting and farm stays, South Africa was a memorable and rewarding addition to our trip around the world itinerary.
One of the benefits of long term travel is the opportunity to explore far away places at a slower pace. Europe is a long way from Australia and it is a difficult destination to visit on a 2 week vacation. We decided to spend a significant portion of our family gap year, 5 months to be exact, in Europe.
Due to the high cost of travel in many European countries we decided to purchase and travel by campervan to reduce our costs and give us more flexibility. It was a great decision, particularly traveling with kids. As we probably visited hundreds of places in our tour around Europe we have listed the major highlights in each country.
Our England stop was by necessity as I had applied for British citizenship. We spent time catching up with relatives and friends, visiting London, attending passport interviews and exploring a little of the English countryside.
Matt also flew to Amsterdam to pick up our campervan and we spent these weeks settling in to our new home on wheels and adjusting to life in a van before we caught the ferry back over to the continent in search of warmer climes.
You can’t go to Europe and not visit Paris! This city was on Amelie’s must-see list. Matt and I had spent time in France many years ago when we lived and worked in London before kids. So after a mandatory stop in the beautiful city, we made our way south in search of new destinations.
On the way, we enjoyed visiting the Dordogne Region with outdoor activities galore and ancient rock paintings to admire. It was also close to the famous Bordeaux wine region for a little wine tasting.
We spent 6 weeks exploring the north and east coasts of Spain and Portugal. Portugal was a treat. Lisbon was one of our favourite city stops on our trip around the world, the Algarve coast was as delightful as everyone says it is and it was a relatively cheap country to travel around.
We loved hiking in Picos de Europa in the north of Spain but had to abandon our plans to explore inland Spain. We were caught out by unseasonably hot weather in early June. With temperatures soaring to 40 C (104 F), life in our non-air-conditioned van got tough.
We detoured via the coast as we made our way north to Barcelona. Seville and Valencia were wonderful stops and we still hope to explore more of Spain one day.
How did we skip from Spain to Montenegro in a campervan? By car ferry! Two, in fact. One from Barcelona to Rome and one from Bari, Italy to Bar, Montenegro. Why? To save time – we arrived in Montenegro just four days after leaving Barcelona. We were keen to explore a little of Eastern Europe and this was our first stop.
Montenegro was one of our favourite destinations in Europe. Far cheaper than other European countries, we explored medieval castles, Venetian palaces, hiked in spectacular mountain ranges, ogled at aquamarine lakes and went white water rafting on the pristine Tara River.
Croatia is overflowing with must-see destinations. The famous walled city of Dubrovnik, stunning coastlines on the Orebic Peninsula, pretty islands, beautiful waterfalls at Krka National Park and the foodie Istrian Peninsula, there is enough to do in Croatia to keep you busy for months.
In summer it does get incredibly busy, and hot. Many of our plans were again thwarted by sizzling temperatures. We would love to come back and explore more of this country when it is a little cooler.
A detour back to the south of France! We crossed the north of Italy in a single day to catch up with friends from home, staying in a gorgeous villa in the pretty town of Cotignac.
We swam, we ate and we ate some more. The kids were overjoyed to play with their friends we all enjoyed some time out of the van hanging out with friends.
On our drive back to our next destination, Austria, we stayed with family friends in Switzerland. We were lucky to celebrate National Swiss Day with the locals, spend some time on the lakes and plan our next part of the trip.
Austria and Slovenia were two countries that took us by surprise on our family gap year. They were wonderful countries for easy outdoor adventures. Slovenia had some of the prettiest rivers and mountain scenery in Europe.
Peppered with glistening blue lakes, well mapped hiking paths, cable cars, and well organised tourist agencies, there was so much to do and it was very easy to plan.
We spent our time hiking, kayaking and even did a multi-day cycle trip along the Danube River. Interspersed with these activities was the occasional cultural fix in beautiful old cities like Salzburg and Vienna.
This is also where I came off my bike and ended up with a few staples in my knee (thanks World Nomads for covering the cost) and where we had our one and only (minor) accident in the van (thanks again, World Nomads).
We planned a brief stop in Czech Republic to visit the renowned city of Prague. This city has been on our bucket list for so many years and we couldn’t pass up the chance to visit while we were in Europe.
Prague didn’t disappoint and despite the huge number of tourists it was one of the most beautiful cities we visited on our family gap year. It was also popular with the kids due to the availability of trdelnik – a pastry that has taken the city by storm.
As we made our way back across Europe to return our campervan to The Netherlands, we explored the pretty little town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, detoured to visit the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart and relaxed by the Rhine River in Oberwesel.
Our final weeks in Europe were a little chilly but we enjoyed moving at a slower pace while we planned our next big adventure: the USA.
After being bedazzled by Niagara Falls, catching up with friends in Toronto and squeezing in as many sights in New York City as possible, we flew to our main destination, the USA West Coast.
We spent nearly 5 weeks exploring California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona and were completely in awe of the beauty of the National Parks. The kids had their best day ever at Disneyland and we made a pact to return to explore more of this spectacular coast.
Taipei > Jiufen > Taroko Gorge (Hualien) > Yuki > Tainan > Taipei
Taiwan was never on our radar when we were planning our family gap year. But when looking for flights from the USA to Asia, it popped up as a possible stopover. After doing some research and reading countless glowing reviews, we decided to add two weeks in Taiwan to our trip around the world itinerary.
It was a good decision. Friendly people, stunning temples, spectacular scenery and amazing food would sum up our trip in Taiwan. We pretty much ate our way through the country. The food is delicious and the night markets and street food stalls meant food was readily accessible. We had some of the best food on our family gap year in Taiwan.
It was our first time visiting Vietnam and we spent 3 weeks making our way south from Hanoi to Phu Quoc. We loved the bustling chaotic city of Hanoi, the famed Ha Long Bay and the “Ha Long Bay on land”, Ninh Binh.
We were a little disappointed with the beautiful but touristy town of Hoi An and the rampant over development on the island of Phu Quoc. Overall we enjoyed Vietnam. We loved the food, activities were reasonably priced and I have no doubt we will return one day to explore more of the country.
After making our way back to the mainland from Phu Quoc we crossed the border in to Cambodia to meet my sister and her 1 year old twins for Christmas. We relaxed in the sleepy town of Kep before heading to Phnom Penh for a non-traditional, family Christmas.
Hong Kong was the final overseas destination on our trip around the world. Again, we didn’t have Hong Kong on our family gap year itinerary, but after searching for cheap flights to get home we found a route via Hong Kong which meant we could use some of the frequent flyer points we had accumulated over the year.
Hong Kong is a fun city to visit. We shopped the markets in Kowloon, hiked on Lamma Island, enjoyed the views from Victoria Peak and celebrated New Years Eve with the masses on the waterfront as fireworks lit up the sky.
As we still had a few weeks until the tenants vacated our house in Melbourne we stopped on the northern NSW coast to visit family. It was a lovely way to spend the last few weeks of our trip before finally heading home.
Our days were spent lazing on the beach, hiking in the Gold Coast Hinterland, swimming at Byron Bay, catching up with family and organising our life back home.
Then a short flight home, the overwhelming feeling of unpacking all our belongings and settling back in to our regular life.
Our best advice for anyone thinking about a trip around the world is just do it! You will not regret it. If you are worried about the amount of planning required, don’t. We left with a one way flight to India. The rest we worked out along the way.
The reality is there is never a perfect time to take a family gap year. If it is something you want to do with your family, just commit, prioritise it and start planning! If you are looking for some tips on how to travel the world with kids, click here for more advice.
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