If you’ve spent any time on Pinterest or Instagram, you may have seen the happy-go-lucky photos of families who’ve decided to eschew the responsibilities of life, transforming into nomadic world travelers and influencers. They homeschool their kids, providing them with what they describe as world school experiences. And we say, more power to them! Of course, many families can’t make this type of arrangement work long-term.
Nevertheless, if you’re a fan of travel, which I’m guessing you are since you’re reading this article, then this lighthearted approach to life and experiencing the world is not without its captivating charms. Fortunately, a family sabbatical offers a way to split the difference, enjoying extended travel experiences together while still maintaining roots.
If you’ve ever thought traveling around-the-world with your family sounds spectacular, then check out our six tips for planning a successful extended travel stay.
Whether you decide to go on a three-month-long or year-long sabbatical with family, let’s get one thing straight. This type of long-term travel requires an intense amount of logistical planning. In other words, it’s not something that you can expect to pull together last minute.
It involves many moving parts, from knowing who you’ll be traveling with to where you’ll be staying and for how long. For example, some parents choose to go individually with each of their children once they reach a pre-determined age. Others bring the whole family along each time. Your decision will depend on your obligations at home, as well as the resources available to you.
That said, when planned and managed well, sabbaticals often represent the highlight of a family’s time together. As a result, many families are now finding ways to plan five to eight travel sabbaticals every year.
There are countless reasons that people decide to go on extended family travel experiences. These include coming into money early, often the result of selling a company. Others work in a field where extended leaves are mandatory. (Sabbatical policies have become especially prevalent for professionals such as accountants and lawyers). Still others are between jobs with some downtime before taking up their new responsibilities. Finally, some families choose to go on sabbaticals in response to a health crisis or other life-changing event.
What many of these travelers have in common is the feeling that they’ve somehow missed out. Although they may have achieved wild success in terms of their career or financial situation, they’ve inadvertently neglected aspects of family life in the process. They may even feel emotionally detached from their family, and they long for a way to reconnect. There are few more profound ways to bond with family than through shared travel experiences. What’s more, setting aside the time and resources for long-term family travel represents the ultimate way to put your loved ones first.
Before you make any serious plans, you need to sit down and have a long conversation with each member of your family. During this conversation, discuss your concept for a family sabbatical, and why you’d like to take it. Once you’ve laid out your cards and explained your position, listen carefully to what your loved ones have to say.
Unlike a short road trip or weekend spent camping, committing to a family sabbatical requires 100 percent buy-in — from every member of your family. If you read the last sentence and thought, “Who doesn’t want to travel?” think again. For one, your kids may object. After all, what you’re proposing involves life-altering changes.
Your littlest ones may not fully understand what they’re committing to, or they may feel afraid to go so far from their room, toys, and daily routine. Older kids may feel anxious about leaving behind their friends, or stepping outside of their comfort zones. These are common concerns that should be explored in a loving, understanding way.
Just because you encounter some initial resistance, though, doesn’t mean your travel plans are over. In fact, expect some hesitation. Listen and appreciate how they feel. Then, address their concerns and answer their questions. Once everybody has a better concept of what you’re proposing, and you’ve reached a consensus, let the planning fun begin!
If you’ve got a pre-determined period of leave from work, then you already understand your most significant time constraint. Other factors include your vacation budget, your children’s educational needs, health conditions, and more. Some families go on sabbaticals for just a few months while others head out for six months or longer. You’ll also need to work with your child’s school to develop a curriculum so they can continue their education around the world. This process often involves the services of one or more tutors, too.
As for your children’s ages, some travel experts argue that any age is the right age to travel with kids. That said, some stages do prove more problematic than others. For example, while there are many developmental benefits associated with infant travel, don’t expect a baby to bring home vivid memories. As for teens, older ones may feel far more compelled to hang out with their peers than their parents. Are we saying this should stop you from taking them abroad? By no means! But it will impact how you travel together and the activities you plan for.
Many travel experts consider the range from eight to 14 years old to be the sweet spot for family sabbaticals. Why? Because kids are old enough to process the experiences and encounters they have. They retain fantastic memories, too. Yet, they’re young enough to enjoy spending time with you.
Of course, all kids are different. So, you’ll need to decide “when” based on conversations with your children and a thorough understanding of their personalities.
Enlisting the help of a travel planner is also highly recommended at this stage. The best luxury family travel companies will craft itineraries structured around your family’s varied ages and interests. That way, there’s something for everyone.
Although organizing a trip of this magnitude is possible on your own, working with a reputable travel company will guarantee exceptional outcomes. After all, the right travel company has the expertise, knowledge, and connections to bring your trip to life. When it comes to a sabbatical, you want it to be customized and captivating. This type of unique experience demands bespoke travel options. Don’t settle for anything less.
What if you’ve read through this article, and you’re feeling a pang of rising guilt about the environmental costs associated with extended travel? After all, doesn’t tourism contribute to eight percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally? While this is true, it’s also important to remember that tourism supports 10 percent of the global GDP.
Nonetheless, simple changes to the way you travel can help. For one, always choose direct flights to cut down on carbon emissions. Also, consider offsetting the carbon emissions associated with your travels by contributing to a reputable charity in each destination. Or you can donate to websites such as Carbonfund and Cool Effect.
When you work with an eco-friendly, sustainable travel company, they can provide other suggestions to help you offset your carbon footprint. After all, a family sabbatical is much more than a collection of fun memories. It requires traveling responsibly and ethically. Fortunately, there are many ways to do this. They include selecting destinations that are less prone to overtourism and only participating in voluntourism activities [include link to previous voluntourism article once published] with a proven track record. Again, enlisting the services of a travel company who’s well-versed about family sabbaticals will help you explore the world in an earth-friendly way.
Are you ready to find out more about taking a family sabbatical? Great! We’re here to help.
Global CommUnity offers luxury family vacations to 35 global destinations. Each customized itinerary comes in both 4- and 5-star price points. Your family will enjoy opportunities to interact with a destination’s culture and people in profound ways. Explore Global CommUnity’s itineraries now and open the door to a compelling world of luxury family travel possibilities.