Wondering what it’s like to spend a year backpacking with kids? Here’s some practical advice from a family who traveled around Eurasia.
Are you wondering what it would be like to spend a year backpacking with your kids? Tom and Claire took their two kids (ages 9 and 11) for a year-long trip around Europe and the Middle East.
Here’s a bit of what it was like to spend a year backpacking with kids.
A Weekly Routine
Pretty early on in their travels, they developed a routine that worked for them. It was built around one-week visits to each of their destinations.
- Accommodation was cheaper when rented for a weekly rate rather than a daily rate.
- Whenever they spent only 3 or 4 days in place it felt rushed and blurred. Spending a week meant they really got to know the neighborhood, grocery stores, and transit.
- It meant only one day of travel per week.
- Every week also included one “do nothing day”. The kids would mostly stay home, read and relax. And Claire and Tom would each get half the day to explore on their own.
They traveled with more luggage than they would have, had they just been two adults traveling on their own. Kids need certain comforts, like stuffed animals and toys.
The adults each had an 80 L backpack, with a 40 L backpack for their older child and a small rolly bag for their younger child. The adults also each carried a smaller bag, one for electronics and the other for their food and water.
They found eating out to be a challenge. While Tom and Claire were happy to eat anything, the kids were a bit more particular. So they always made sure that their accommodations had a kitchen.
- Deciding which restaurants to eat at took time and negotiation. Where two adults might happily wander into any restaurant, the kids wanted to see the menu first.
- They occasionally ate out at lunchtime, because the food was cheaper and the options were more kid-friendly.
- Picnic lunches were even easier. Then they could eat whenever they wanted, wherever they wanted.
- The main reason why they usually cooked dinner was because the kids were pretty worn out at the end of a day of sightseeing. They just wanted to relax.
Claire and Tom bought travel insurance, which, as Canadians traveling in Europe and the Middle East, was not expensive.
That is in part because the Canadian Government-funded Medical Services Plan will cover the cost of healthcare in other countries, up to the amount of what it would cost for the same services in Canada. Unless you’re traveling in the USA, the cost is pretty much the same or cheaper than what it would be in Canada.
(For example, Max’s ER visit in Dublin cost us an additional $60. However, his ER visit in Budapest was completely free. He was a bit accident-prone as a preschooler.)
Luckily Claire and Tom didn’t need to go to a doctor, though they did do a bit of self-diagnosis and went to the pharmacy a few times. (Clearly, they weren’t traveling with Max!) They also carried a fairly decent first aid kit.
On the whole, Claire and Tom found that traveling with their kids was fun and rewarding. However, there were a few unavoidable difficulties that were just part of the travel experience.
- As anyone who has gone backpacking knows, things don’t always turn out as planned. Dealing with tough and unexpected travel problems was a lot more stressful with kids in tow.
- There was a real bout of homesickness around Christmas time. They decided to rent a house in Cypress for 3 weeks, got a tree, baked cookies, and made eggnog. In the end, it was listening to their local radio station online that got them through the loneliness of Christmas without friends and family.
Regardless, it was an amazing experience that brought them closer together. They saw amazing sights, learned a lot about history and geography. And made memories that will last the rest of their lives.