Year out tips for travellers with families
Taking your family on a crazy gap year is not the most sensible thing you could do. But then, that is probably exactly why you are thinking of doing it! Kids and travel can be a stressful combination, and you are definitely not planning a holiday here - this is a year out, not a year off. There will be times when you think it would be easier to have stayed at home and at work! But again, easy is boring, sensible is boring, and one thing your crazy family gap year will NOT be, is boring.
Planning a year out with kids
The obvious thing is school. Most schools in the UK will consider requests for 12 months off, but they will not necessarily guarantee the childrens places when you get back, particularly if the school is oversubscribed. All of this depends on the school policy, the headteacher, the local authority, the pupil numbers and many other variables that make it impossible for us to generalise about this. Before planning anything, talk to your school. Be prepared to plan in study time for the children, and if possible, internet access so they can access homework and projects online while they are away.
What age is best to travel with children?
Travel with babies
People who have done long distance travel with young babies say that in some ways they are easy. Babies spend a lot of time sleeping, and when they are not sleeping, as long as they can feed and are not too hot, cold or uncomfortable, they are happy. However, anyone who has been sat on a long haul flight with a crying infant will probably contradict that! The other thing is, that babies arent old enough to really get the benefit of travelling long distance, or to new countries. They are also unable to tell you what is wrong if they feeling unwell, and if you are in a country with basic medical infrastructure, you may be concerned about your babies health and water, food and heat.
Travel with toddlers
This is often the most challenging age for travelling with children. Too old to sleep for long periods or to be placated with a bottle, but not old enough to understand that they need to sit quietly on the plane, not eat anything they can get their hands on, think twice before trying to cuddle stray dogs and not wander off in a souk or busy market place! Anyone who lives with a toddler knows they are full of fun, and usually mischief. They are high maintenance and demand a lot of attention. They also need to be with their parents or siblings and get separation anxiety if they are not. On the other hand they are old enough to remember and enjoy new places, foods and experiences, and pick up words of a foreign language.
Travel with primary school aged children (4-11)
Once your kids get to 4 years old, they become more independent, and able to express themselves clearly. They absorb new languages and experiences like sponges, and are happy to be with their family wherever, although older children may miss school routines and friends. A year out with children of primary school age is probably the easiest in terms of travelling long haul or going to strange new countries. They will be able to really enjoy and remember their experiences, to learn new skills, try new food and become more confident. They will also enjoy experiencing new cultures, meeting new people and seeing how different (and sometimes how similar) peoples lives are in different countries.
Travel with teenagers
Oh dear. Most teenagers have intense friendships and support networks at home and at school that they value very highly. They will not see the appeal of spending a year with their parents and siblings, living on a budget, and on many occasions unplugged from the Internet and TV. Older teenagers will need to keep up with their GCSE studies if they mean to resume them when they come home. They may be tempted however with the promise of no teachers, sunshine, beaches, exciting tours and adventure and the kudos of doing something completely different.
So in conclusion, every age has its pros and cons, but primary aged children are probably the easiest to travel with. The key thing about travelling with your family on your year out though is that you have to relook at your relationships, and you could bond and become closer to your children whatever age they are, which is surely worth the hassle.
Check out our adventure section, our travel essentials and destinations for more year out and grown up gap year ideas for older travellers and people who want to travel with their children on their year out.