Kids enjoying the beach time at the Mai Khao Beach in Phuket, Thailand
Many people ask us how we are able to afford to travel as a family of five. The answer is simple – it usually requires a lot of planning and being flexible with our plans. Usually we start out planning a trip with a certain budget in mind and see how far we can go with that budget. Sometimes, we find special deals on sights like flyertalk, but usually the deals like that require lightning-fast decisions whether we want to snap those plane tickets up or not. Quite often, even if the destination wasn’t on our bucket list, we decide to go if the deal is good enough, because new places are always fun to explore. Sometimes, though, even when the plane ticket price seems relatively good, by the time you multiply it by 5 people, it becomes out of our reach.
Another way to save on the airline tickets for us is quite often choosing to fly low-cost carriers. We have done that in Europe, Asia, and in Canada, and even flew on Air Canada Rouge internationally from Vancouver to London during our most recent trip to Europe. I am planning to write up a separate review-comparison type post about the various low-cost carriers we have flown, so for now I’ll just say that our experiences have mostly been positive ones, as long as we were willing to put up with smaller seats that do not recline, no checked luggage requirement, tiny carry-ons, sometimes seats not all together, and snacks/water being sold to you on board; it was ok.
After we decide on a destination (or sometimes multiple ones), we check out a lot of guidebooks and general informational books about those countries from the library and do a lot of research online to decide what specifically we want to see at each place. Since we homeschool, very often a geography unit study happens organically in this manner, based on the destination we are researching. It allows the kids to get excited about the trip, to learn all about the country and the culture of where we’ll be going, and gives them highlights to look forward to.
Visiting Singapore, Marina Bay Sands
Next step is figuring out where we will be staying, once we’ve decided on which countries and cities we’ll be visiting. Quite often our choices are limited by the hotels where we happen to have free nights or points accumulated (another separate post about that will be coming soon), but we are usually not picky, and are used to sleeping in small quarters while traveling. After all, we are there to enjoy the destination, and hotel room is mostly to just lay your head down at the end of the day. Sometimes, though, European and Asian hotel rooms are so small, there’s hardly even room on the floor enough to stretch out. 🙂 We try to, as much as possible, to either get a room with two beds or sometimes a bed and a fold-out couch for the kids. There were cases in the past, when the rooms were so tiny, we had to get two, but then we usually try to get connecting rooms to still be close to the kids.
Fun day at the Taman Mini-Indonesia Indah in Jakarta, Indonesia
If we are staying at one of the chain hotels (like IHG or Marriott, where we have points and elite status from staying there often) we try to get the cheaper hotel within the chain, that has breakfast included as well, because then it takes care of one meal already each day 🙂 Sometimes with having elite status we do receive upgrades to larger rooms or sometimes club access (internationally, nicer hotels within the chain wouldn’t typically have breakfast included, but the club room usually has breakfast in the morning and sometime snacks during the day/evening).
Exploring Tulum-by-the-Sea ruins in Tulum, Mexico
As for the other meals, we typically try to go out to eat for lunch, rather than dinner, since it’s cheaper usually, and quite often we share meals, too. Since, while traveling, we don’t usually want to take leftovers back with us to the hotel room, and restaurants provide giant portions these days, that usually works out pretty well. When we do go out to eat in the evening, it’s typically a smaller meal.
Edward’s handstand by the Monas National Monument in Jakarta, Indonesia
As for the attractions at each destination, it is usually a mixed bag. Of course, there are some, that are iconic to each destination, and we try to visit those as much as possible, but sometimes high costs and long lines do not justify our time and cost, and we opt for some cheaper or even free options, like self-guided walking tours around the cities or visiting parks or cathedrals, that still have a lot of historical value, but are typically free/inexpensive. Kids love visiting various museums, especially science-related ones, so we try to do those as well, if a certain destination has a really high-rated one and we usually make a full day trip out of that.
Enjoying a beautiful sunny day in Kremlin, Moscow, Russia
We know we are blessed with the kids who are excellent travelers, love to see new places and try new foods. Each of them has now been to 19 countries already (some of them more than once), and they loved every minute of it.
Watching the ships go through the Miraflores locks of the Panama canal
Although it may seem daunting and challenging to travel the world with the children and completely out of reach financially, I would encourage you to try. It allows the lessons they get from the pages of the books to come alive, they get to see the beautiful world around them and expand their horizons. And it’s not as scary as it might look at first! 🙂