It has been nearly 12 months since we returned from our trip around the world with kids. I have been reminiscing a little about the trip lately and thought it would be great to share stories from others who have taken a family gap year with kids.
What amazes me when reading this collection of inspiring family sabbatical ideas is just how many different options there are for taking a break from work to travel the world with kids.
If you are thinking of taking a career break, wondering what to do in a gap year, or just love reading about world travel with kids, you are in for a treat. Here are the stories of 12 families who chose to step out of the everyday for a family trip around the world.
- 1 What Is A Gap Year?
- 2 Family Gap Year Ideas
- 3 Travel The World With Kids
- 4 Family Sabbatical In Africa
- 5 Trip Around The World With Older Kids
- 6 A Family Gap Year with Kids
- 7 World Travel With Kids
- 8 (Half) A Gap Year At Sea
- 9 Living Abroad For A Year With Family
- 10 Gap Year in Asia
- 11 World Travel With Teenagers
- 12 Taking A Career Break With A Toddler
- 13 Travel During Maternity Leave
- 14 A Gap Year In Europe and the Americas
- 15 Family Gap Year Off The Beaten Path
What Is A Gap Year?
Taking a gap year, also known as taking a sabbatical or simply taking a break from work, is at its core, taking time out to do something different.
While it is classified as a year, for many people gap year travel may be 3 months, a six month sabbatical, 12 months or 2 years!
So what is a sabbatical with kids all about? It is about stepping back, taking a break or trying a different path. For many people they take the opportunity to travel, but even this can take many forms, as you will see in the stories below.
As the nature of work continues to evolve and more people find themselves changing careers multiple times in their working life, the opportunity to take a career break and plan a family gap year becomes more possible.
Family Gap Year Ideas
Naturally the first question that pops into your mind once you start thinking about a gap year with kids is what to do during a gap year?
Some families travel around the world, many take a long, slow lap of their home country. Others work overseas for a year, some take a family gap year volunteering or enjoy living abroad for a year with family in a new country.
The family travel options really are endless. Which is why I asked families from all around the world who have taken this special journey to share their family gap year stories with you.
What is so great about these stories is that it quickly becomes clear there is no best age for a family gap year and there is no limit to family gap year destinations.
So grab a cup of tea (or a glass of wine), settle in and enjoy reading these round the world trip ideas. And let us know your thoughts in the comments below too!
Travel The World With Kids
Nicky from Go Live Young
Length of Trip: 9 Months
Age of Kids: 8, 10 and 12 years old
In 2016/17 we undertook a nine month round the world trip with kids as a family of five. Our three boys were 8, 10 and 12 at the time of travel. We spent just three months planning our trip and organising our lives in the UK.
Our route took us from the UK to China, and then on to SE Asia through Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Bhutan, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia. From here we travelled on to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, before heading home via the USA, South Africa and Mauritius.
It was the most amazing trip: 15 countries visited, 28,000 miles and countless memories made. We stayed in all manor of accommodations, including hostels, guest houses, homestays, boats, and trains..
Transport was varied, including the obvious planes, trains, buses and boats, but also a camper van for a month in New Zealand, a yacht in the Whitsunday Islands in Australia and even camels!
We moved around a lot, spending mostly two or three nights in a place, although we did stay for a week or more, in certain locations around the world. We had a lot to see in our nine months away!
Our trip was all about family time and exploring the world together, building life long memories. We had some of the most amazing experiences, trekking with Komodo Dragons in Indonesia, walking the Great Wall of China, seeing the Big 5 on safari in South Africa and hiking to Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan.
We have since returned to the UK and are now settled back home in Wales. The children have all gone back to school, and work and “normal activity” has resumed.
We are tremendously lucky to have had this opportunity and look back on our trip as the best time together we’ve had as a family.
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Family Sabbatical In Africa
Jenny from Travelynn Family
Length of Trip: 3.5 months
Age of Kids: 2 and 4 years old
With money from a voluntary redundancy, our boys not yet in school, and a random opportunity to rent Land Rover at a discount, the stars had aligned for a true adventure of a lifetime.
So in March this year, we left our home in Bangalore (where we had been living as expats) and set off for 101 days to overland Africa in a Land Rover Defender. Our boys were just 2 and 4 years old at the time and we had no 4×4 experience whatsoever.
Our journey started in South Africa, and took us through Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, and back to South Africa again.
We were all up to date on travel vaccinations from living in India, and took anti-malarials for the entire trip.
We slept in roof tents on the Land Rover, self-catered, and always camped in secure campsites. There were some seriously challenging moments with corrupt officials wanting bribes and deteriorated roads from a severe wet season.
But the incredible experiences we shared as a family along the way – wildlife encounters, epic landscapes, meetings locals, and camping under the African stars each night – made for the best experience of our lives.
Check out our post – FAQ: Self drive Africa overland with kids – to get the full low down about this trip.
After our African adventures we returned to the UK, but moved to a new area and set up a new life in the Peak District. We’re currently enjoying lots of shorter trips throughout Europe, but already plotting the next big adventure…
Trip Around The World With Older Kids
Kellie from 4 Worn Passports
Length of Trip: 5 months
Age of Kids: 12 and 14 years old
We took a family gap (half) year when our girls were in middle school. We knew we wanted to take them to every continent except Antarctica before they finished high school.
Once we really got to looking at all the places we wanted to go and the optimal times to visit (Australia and New Zealand in the North American winter months), we knew two-week vacations just weren’t going to cut it.
So we withdrew our girls for half of their 7th and 8th grade years for a whirlwind trip around the world.
Our destinations spanned 10 countries across three continents–Europe, Asia, and Australia. We stayed in 44 different places over 131 nights. That averages 3 nights per location. We were on the move!
Although our girls normally attend public school, they “world-schooled” during our big trip whenever we had free WI-FI. We met our state homeschooling requirements by doing the following:
- Math & Science—online curriculum
- English & Social Studies—they read historical fiction and biographies based on the countries we were visiting, and wrote & published articles on our blog about all the things they were learning.
Middle school is the perfect time for a family gap year. The kids are old enough to engage, appreciate, and REMEMBER the adventure, yet young enough to manage being away from friends.
Although, our 14 year old was convinced we were “ruining her life” at the time, she is now a freshman in college and will be the first to say it was the greatest gift we ever gave her.
Our younger daughter is now a senior in high school, and we’ve decided to do it once again. She will miss seven weeks of school in January and February for one last epic family trip. To see where this adventure takes us, be sure to follow our blog, 4WornPassports.com
But most importantly, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the world with your children while you can!
A Family Gap Year with Kids
Our family gap year was a reaction to the endless loop of work and not enough play. After many years of short trips slotted in around work we were desperate to set off with a backpack and plenty of time.
So last year we packed up our lives, left our jobs, rented our house, sold the car and set off on a trip around the world with our kids who were 10 and 8 years old.
In 12 months we visited 30 countries on 4 continents in a RTW trip. Our major stops were Japan, India, Botswana, South Africa, Europe, USA and Vietnam. We worked out that on average we moved every 2.5 days! You can read more about our family gap year itinerary here.
We travelled by campervan in Europe, 4wd in Africa, RV in the USA and tuk tuk in Asia. We stayed in all kinds of places, watched sunrise at the Taj Mahal, admired Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower and stared in awe at the Grand Canyon.
On returning home we took time to explore the amazing Australian Outback and can’t wait to return. The gap year changed us all in different ways but one thing that hasn’t change is our desire to explore more and travel whenever we can.
World Travel With Kids
Melissa from The Family Voyage
Length of Trip: 13 Months
Age of Kids: 3.5 and 6 years old
Our family left our home in Los Angeles in September 2017 and we’ve been (mostly) traveling every since! At the time of our departure, our kids were 3.5 and almost 6.
Our travel speed varied as we went but generally got slower the longer we traveled – there’s only so much you can compress into a few days when you’re going for a whole year, there’s a ton to plan and we got a little tired of re-packing our backpacks every few days.
While we stayed in hotels now and then, we mostly stayed in GuesttoGuest home exchange properties – all the comforts of home with none of the costs.
We planned out the first half of our family gap year itinerary before our departure, but left the second half open to give ourselves flexibility as we went.
We kicked off our travels by driving cross-country to visit my family in Washington DC, with plenty of stops to visit family and friends along the way.
When we left the country we headed south to spend two months in Panama, Chile and Argentina – Patagonia was a real highlight of our travels!
Our longest flight on record took us all the way across the Pacific to New Zealand, where we spent six weeks road tripping the country from north to south, and then to Australia for seven weeks in which we visited five states.
Once we felt confident that temperatures in the northern hemisphere were warming up again, we spent several weeks in Thailand – we had initially planned more time elsewhere in Asia, but had to shift our plans and headed to Europe.
The great thing about traveling around Europe these days is the availability of low-cost flights and we used that to our great advantage. We spent our spring in Barcelona, Morocco, Rome and Greece before hopping to Israel for six weeks.
Why six weeks in Israel? First, because there’s so much to do; second, we have a deep network of family and friends there and it was a wonderful opportunity for the kids to connect with them and for all of us to slow down and soak in the experience.
We wrapped up our international travels with a week in Switzerland and three weeks of road tripping around France (primarily to visit friends that we met in New Zealand and then reunited with in Australia and Thailand).
After returning to my family in DC and spending several weeks there, we drove back across America and spent several weeks visiting National Parks of the west. We returned to LA 370 days after our departure!
(Half) A Gap Year At Sea
When I was a teenager in the ‘90s, my parents took us out of school for a couple of years to sail between Canada and the Bahamas. It was a life changing time for me that showed me that there was a world beyond the rat race of life and planted my love for travel.
Fast forward to 2015, when I decided I wanted my own children to experience life living aboard a sailboat. Luckily for us, my parents had continued with the sailing lifestyle and had a small (42 foot) sailboat in the Bahamas.
Our family of 5 (kids aged 3, 5, 7) were able to borrow their boat for 6 months and had a fantastic time exploring the beautiful islands of the Bahamas.
I had to re-learn how to sail, navigate, anchor and my husband, who had no sailing experience, gamely took on learning the ropes.
Aside from spending days in the beautiful gorgeous Bahamian water, walking the endless beaches and meeting other salty sailors, living aboard allowed us to spend tons of time together as a family.
Our days were spent outside, we had to be self sufficient in producing and conserving our own electricity and water, and living in a small space forced us to be minimalists.
We have travelled all over the world with our kids, but the time we spent living on the sailboat was my absolute favourite. Our 6 months was a trial run to see if we wanted to continue with that lifestyle and it was definitely successful.
Living Abroad For A Year With Family
We spent 13 months on a family gap year with our two kids (and a third cooking by the time we came home!) who were 2 and 4 when we left home in Melbourne, Australia.
We realised from the beginning that travelling all the time was not for us. We had travelled with the kids previously and knew it could get quite full on. Our oldest is also very social and we knew she would want friends.
In addition to this, we were also wanting to build our blog into a business and we knew we needed kid free time for that to happen.
So we decided to make a home in Penang, Malaysia that we would travel from. It was perfect for us. When we were in Penang, we had a somewhat normal life with work, preschool and a nice home.
However, it was still a life that was very different to being at home with great food and many different things to do. We travelled regularly including a stint in the middle of 3.5 months in Europe over their summer.
We also made it to many other countries and had a fabulous time. This was the perfect balance for us and is exactly how we would do it again except with maybe 6 weeks as longest period we would travel for.
The best part is that it really gave us a taste of what it is like living in another country and gave us the time to come home with a successful business.
The whole year was a win in every way and now we have the perfect souvenir with our third child!
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Gap Year in Asia
Lisa from FlipFlopGlobetrotters
Length of Trip: 10 months
Age of Kids: 17 months
In March 2015 we packed our bags for a year of long term travel with family. Our little boy was 17 months at the time. We’ve always had the dream of traveling for a longer period. Of course, there’s never a ‘good’ time to go, jobs always get in the way.
But in 2015 the stars finally aligned. Not only did we plan to travel, but we actually wanted to do a test run and see if full-time travel was an option for us.
Because we love the region and because our budget would last longer, we decided to travel around South East Asia.
We started our trip in Dahab, Egypt where we own a holiday house. The time right before our departure was quite stressful with working a lot and packing up our house. Dahab is our second home, so the perfect place to relax before heading off to South East Asia.
Bali seemed like a safe place to start. We spend two months there and then moved on to North Sulawesi, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Thailand, with a few short stays in Kuala Lumpur in between.
Our little boy thrived during our trip and we had a blast too. We chose to spend at least a month per country and between 5 days and 2 weeks per location. It never seemed enough!
We did one house exchange on Bali and the rest of the time we stayed in Airbnb apartments or hotels.
Family circumstances reduced our year of travel to 10 months and are now forcing us to keep The Netherlands as a home base.
So currently we travel around Europe on shorter trips and keep dreaming of becoming a digital nomad family in the future. And we’ll always remember our 10 months of travel, it was the best decision we ever made!
World Travel With Teenagers
Liz from It’s a Drama
Length of Trip: 12 months
Age of Kids: 14 and 16 years old
Last year I had what can only be described as a mid-life crisis. I persuaded my husband to sell his business, we rented our house in New Zealand and we informed our two teenagers, then aged 16 and 13, that we would be backpacking and travel the world for a year.
Due to the fact that we had limited funds, we became part of the online community of Couch surfers for the majority of the trip.
As you can imagine my teenager’s first reaction was not one of joy. Especially my daughter who, after only ever having known her princess and the pea bed, was now expected to sleep on a strangers couch in a foreign country.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Couchsurfing, it looks like this: You sign up to the Couch surfers website, you pick a country or city that you wish to visit and from there you use the filters to choose a host.
You might choose someone who also has kids or who hosts with similar interests to you. Couchsurfing is wonderful! It is a fabulous way to meet local people and to visit a country without feeling like a tourist. And of course, it is free.
If you would like to read more about the dramas we experienced Couchsurfing the world with our two kids you can read my post Couchsurfing with teenagers. The good, the bad and the bucket. I warn you though, some of it isn’t pretty!
Travelling the world with our two teenagers for a year has been the best thing I have ever done. In my life.
My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. Yes, there were hormones galore and no; I didn’t always keep calm – but hey! That’s what makes the travel life as exciting as it is!
Taking A Career Break With A Toddler
Leona from Wandermust Family
Length of Trip: 4 months
Age of Kids: 18 months
At the start of 2018 we took a natural break point in our careers as we moved countries to do a four month round the world trip with our toddler.
Our trip covered China, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific, US National Parks and Iceland. I have to say we didn’t set our itinerary in the most practical way – everywhere is on our list so we didn’t have set places we had to go to.
Therefore both my husband and I picked one place off our bucket list – we couldn’t have picked further apart. Wandermust Daddy picked New Zealand and I picked Iceland. Not the most logical way to plan a round the world trip but it worked for us!
The speed of our travel was probably slightly quicker than we would have liked but we only had a limited time to do our trip.
One of the unique things we did was take a cruise from New Zealand to Hawaii! This was so we could see as many of the Pacific islands as we could and also to reduce jetlag for our toddler.
We really like having a room to call our own for an extended period and it was great for my toddler to come back to the same place for awhile! For our next bit trip (date tbd) we would like to do it in a RV for the same reasons.
For us some of the best parts of our trips were being outdoors as a family and our favourite things including walking the Great Wall of China, visiting national parks and chasing waterfalls in Iceland!
For our next trip we definitely will be prioritising outdoor adventures and getting even further off the beaten path!
Travel During Maternity Leave
Tina-Louise from Single Mum Travels
Length of Trip: 4 months
Age of Kids: 4 months and 10 years old
I’m Tina-Louise, the author and writer of Single Mum Travels. I like to pick up the kids and go globetrotting for weeks and months at a time to all kinds of destinations around the world.
This year we backpacked throughout Asia and Africa for 4 months. I took the family travelling during my 1 year maternity leave where I work as a product development manager in London. The kids were 10 years and 4 months old at the time.
We adventured in temples and played with elephants in Northern Thailand, hopped across to Vietnam travelling North to South, then over to Indonesia swimming with turtles. We then travelled to Laos, Malaysia and Cape Verde in Africa.
We stayed mainly in hotels and travelled by plane and boat. On average we spent about 1 week in each location before we moved on, and spent an average of 3 weeks per country.
I always save for my travels, it’s something I’ve always done throughout my life. I adventured into the Amazon rain forest and Macchu Pichu when my son was 4 and had the wildest adventure. We’ve been to over 29 countries, including the Middle East.
Travelling pushes you out of your comfort zone, trying new things and new experiences is a lively way to live. You get to interact with so many kind and helpful people from all over the world. This is our life and were looking forward to doing it all over again in 2019!
A Gap Year In Europe and the Americas
Lori from Fitz5 on the go
Length of Trip: 12 months
Age of Kids: 3, 6 and 10 years old
Late in 2016 my husband and I started looking over some of our bills and we realized it was cheaper to travel and not live in our home town – so we decided to travel for a year with family and take a gap year with our kids age 3,6 and 10 in tow.
We rented the house (for a little profit), pulled the kids out of school and set off on a year long adventure.
To save more money we spent our summers with family (that just happened to live at the beach). Starting in August we took 2 weeks camping and traveling up the Oregon Coast finishing just north of Ladysmith Canada. We found a wonderful waterfront condo to spend the month.
Next we flew down to Costa Rica for 6 weeks (5 days in La Fortuna, 5 in Tortuguero, and 1 month in the mountains of Pursical).
After a short break we were off to Copenhagen for December, 5 days in Morocco, 5 days in Lagos Portugal then 6 weeks in Olvera Spain (that we used as a home base to explore Seville, Cordoba, Ronda and Granada).
We took a short ski break in the Sierra Nevada mountains then off to Lisbon before flying to Ireland. In Ireland we spent 3 weeks near the ring of Kerry and Killarney and 3 weeks on Hook Head Peninsula.
We saved money by eating mostly at home and by staying a month at several places then shorter stays at the more expensive locations.
We lived off of my husband’s project management income as he worked while we travelled. As long as he could get internet access he could work. He would log in 2-10pm which gave us plenty of time to explore in the morning.
I gathered some great resources for homeschooling but mostly the kids learned from museums and hands on activities.
We have plans to do it again (may be even better next time). It’s an experience that I recommend to everyone and I can’t wait for our next journey.
Family Gap Year Off The Beaten Path
We left our home in Canada in July 2017, when our girls were 5 & 6 years old. We’d been dreaming up this trip for almost 5 years by the time we left.
When we started talking about it we know our girls would be young, so we wanted to choose places that were culturally very different from our own. We also knew we’d be traveling on a budget! So, we came up with a country criteria; non-English speaking & non-Western (so no Europe or Australia!).
Our gap year-and-a-bit took us through 31 countries on 5 continents.
It started in Asia, where we spent 7.5 months traveling as far west as Uzbekistan, and as far South as Indonesia. We went scuba diving in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, walked on the Great Wall of China, hiked the Himalayas, learned about Buddhism in Bhutan, marveled at the Taj Mahal, and shed tears over the Partition at the border of India & Pakistan. And, we ate the most incredible food!!
From Asia we ventured to the Middle East for 6 weeks. We visited with friends in the UAE, swam in Wadis (oasis) in Oman, pretended to be Indiana Jones in Jordan, celebrated Easter in Israel and climbed inside the pyramids in Egypt.
We broke our rule once on the trip, with a stop-over in Germany on our way from Egypt to Mexico. Germany felt like a different dimension compared to where we’d been, and we all marveled at being able to drink the tap water and throw the toilet paper in the toilet!
The year ended back in the Americas. We made our way overland from Mexico to Panama, visiting every country in Central America except Nicaragua (due to civil unrest).
Our adventures continued through South America. We spotted blue-footed boobies in the Galapagos Islands, climbed Machu Picchu, fished for piranhas in the Amazon, froze on the Bolivian Salt Flats, enjoyed the street art in Valparaiso, Chile, and ate our way through Lima.
We traveled quickly, sometimes maybe too quickly, but we had an absolutely incredible year. The kids (and us parents) pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone and were rewarded with the most amazing experiences.
How would you spend a family gap year? Let us know in the comments below!
For more inspiration browse all our long term travel posts here