Most people take a year off to travel either in their early twenties or after retirement. When you’re mid-career with kids and a mortgage, ageing parents and volunteer commitments, it’s hard to imagine taking a whole year off. However, that is just what my friends Claire and Tom did!
They are the adventurous, think-outside-the-box sorts of people who recently bought a 1970’s mansion with another family. And a few years ago they took a whole year off to go travelling with their kids. While it might seem like they must be amazingly rich, they actually are just really good planners. Like my friend Bernie, they live a pretty small lifestyle and are really good at saving.
I recently met up with Claire to chat about their year of travelling. She had a lot to say, and I’ll be sharing her wisdom over the next few months.
The logistics of taking a year off to travel
The first question I asked her was what they needed to do ahead of time to get organized for their trip. Tom and Claire had careers, a small townhouse and kids in grades 4 and 6. Pulling away from all their responsibilities took quite a bit of planning and work.
They had been planning their trip for a really, really long time. They spoke with their bosses about one year before their planned departure. And they went into the conversation fully prepared to quit if their employers wouldn’t let them have the time off.
Luckily, their employers were understanding, and they were both able to return to their jobs. Giving a whole year’s notice meant that it was easier for their employers to organize for Claire and Tom’s replacements.
Claire and Tom owned a townhouse in an older strata. And they needed to sublet it as a furnished rental to help cover their costs. In the end, they had two different renters to cover the whole twelve-month period.
Claire shared are a few pieces of advice that helped to make the whole process of renting out the house easier.
- They packed all of their personal belongings into a few large closets. That included all their clothes, photos and anything they couldn’t bear to have lost or broken. Everything else, including the artwork and dishes in the kitchen, was left out for the renters to use.
- Everything was left in absolutely the best working shape, so Claire and Tom wouldn’t have to deal with arranging for repairs while away. That meant replacing their dishwasher, fridge and toilet before they otherwise would have. The appliances were still technically functional but had chronic issues that a renter wouldn’t want to deal with.
- They rented their house out for slightly below market so they would have lots of interested renters and would be able to pick people who would take good care of their home.
- Claire’s parents acted as a local contact person in case of emergencies. Luckily all they had to deal with was meeting the renters to exchange keys and conducting a walk-through of the townhouse.
- By advertising on craigslist, Claire and Tom were able to find and interview potential renters even though they were 9 timezones away.
Saving up for their year of travel was probably the most difficult part. Claire and Tom made the decision to start saving when the kids were young and they just went from there. It meant living a frugal lifestyle for a number of years.
- They are a car-free family.
- By juggling their work schedules (starting early or working late) and doing childcare swaps with friends like me, they were able to avoid paying for childcare.
- They cook from scratch, rarely eating out.
- They don’t spend money buying things they don’t need.
- Not afraid of DIY, secondhand stores or free piles.
- Their townhouse was relatively affordable, given the local market. It was in an older building, in a more affordable neighbourhood and had a view of the strata parking lot.
Cost of Travel
The cost of travel really depended on where they were. They travelled to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Iceland. Their daily budget for the trip, including flights, all travel and insurance for their family of four in 2018/19, was $300 per day.
However, the budget really depended on where they were and how long they stayed there.
- Staying in one location for a month or two was much cheaper than constantly travelling.
- Visiting friends and family was really affordable (and a great way to get an insider’s look at a culture).
- Scandinavia was the most expensive location and cost about $300/day.
- Western Europe cost about $200/day.
- Eastern Europe was around $150/day
- Turkey cost about $100/day.
- Egypt was about $150/day.
- Isreal was about $250/day because accommodation was more expensive.