A Year of Adventure: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Travelling with Children.

Traveling with your children is sure to be an incredibly rewarding experience for you all. Embarking on a year-long adventure together will allow you to bond as a family, experience diverse cultures, encourage a deep curiosity about the world, and create memories that will last a lifetime. However, Kirsty and I quickly discovered traveling with children requires that much more consideration and preparation than when we traveled solo or even as a couple.

When we decided to travel as a family we were very nearly overwhelmed by it all at the start. It took us some time to really build an understanding of what we wanted from the trip and what it would mean for our family lives. Looking back, it could not have been more different to planning a year away as a single 20-something where the biggest decision was how many pairs of shorts to pack. Really, when it comes to traveling with children there are two extra complications. Firstly, every decision has to be made on the basis of what is best for your family. Secondly, the odds are if you have children you are that bit older, have that much more to worry about and your life is that bit more complicated!

After much trial and error and more than a few false starts we have created a plan that will be an amazing, educational experience for our children and will see us take in some of the most beautiful places on the planet. We have distilled our experience and lessons learned below and we hope it helps you along the path towards an amazing adventure.

What to Expect as you Start Plan your Trip. 

Planning Travelling with Children.
Just to be clear, planning looks nothing like this picture. This was the best we could find on a stock images site. We did most of our planning in our pyjamas while drinking rum!

Without wishing to sound like some tedious management textbook, thinking back there was definite evolution in our plans over time. Broadly speaking, it moved through three stages:

  1. Early Stages – Very high level planning – These are the real broad questions that took us maybe 6 months of on and off planning to answer – What do we want from this trip for us and our children? What is our budget? Which continents & countries do we want to visit? How long do we want to be away for? 
  2. Mid Stages – Refining – This is where we start to firm up exact plans and takes maybe a month to achieve with the help of a specialist travel agent – What specific flights are available and what do they cost? Should we book a round the world ticket or individual flights? When is a good time of year to visit these places?
  3. End Stages – Highly Detailed – This is down to the day to day level and is ongoing the whole time we are away. – We will be in this city for 4 days, what should we see? Where should we stay? Where is a good place to eat?

We have tried to structure the blog post in a similar way, moving from the broadest questions to the detailed. 

The Most Important Question: What are your Travel Goals When Planning Travelling with Children.?

Before even picking up a guide book you need to decide what you want from this trip as a family. Consider where in the world you would like to see, the experiences you want to have, and the things you would like your children to learn. What type of travelers are you? Are you looking for adventurous experiences, city buzz, or a chilled time on the beach? Are you looking to experience ancient cultures or modern metropolitan life?  These points will form the foundations of everything that happens on the trip and setting them out clearly at the start will ensure you are making the most of this incredible opportunity. By the way, it is perfectly reasonable to answer “yes” to all of the above questions! 

For us as a family, our main goal is to experience the wonders of the world with our children in a way that enriches their understanding and appreciation of these unique places. We want our children to experience other cultures and build an understanding of other ways of life. We want to make memories with our children that will last a lifetime. And finally, we all want to have fun! We are a pretty active family and clearly have 2 little daredevils so some adrenaline is a must for us!

Setting a Budget.

Time is money, and never more so than when making a budget for traveling! Setting a budget for such a long journey is not an easy task but we found splitting our spending into five categories was very useful:

  1. Shutting down expenses – These are all the costs of shutting down your life to go away. Everything from storage costs if you are emptying your house to any health care costs for final eye tests or trips to the dentist. 
  2. Pre trip purchases – This is all the things you will need to go away with, from a new backpack to suncream.
  3. Pre trip bookings – This was mainly our Round The World ticket but covered any “big ticket” item paid for before we left the UK such as our travel insurance and passport renewals. 
  4. On the trip expenses – Firstly we put a chunk aside for an emergency fund, then divided the rest of the funds by the number of days we planned to be away. This is a little simplistic as the amount you can spend can vary so much depending where you are in the world (On my last Round The World trip I spent more in four weeks in Australia than I did in 3 months in South East Asia) but it is a good starting point.
  5. Coming home fund – What do you need to set your life back up when you are home? This will vary mainly by how long you are away for. 

Once you have done the above you should have a good idea of what you can spend which will inform where you go, how long you are away for, and what you do while you are away.

Setting a budget is one thing, sticking to it another! We go into more depth on managing your money while travelling with children here.

How to Organize all the Information?

As you start to plan, you are going to be scouring dozens of different websites, from travel blogs like this one to hotel and flight booking sites. It is easy to get overwhelmed or for a vital bit of info to get lost. Believe me when I say that it is very frustrating to know you have read a great blog and then to be totally unable to find it! There may even be two or more of you helping with the planning, so how best to exchange interesting finds and to organize it all?

We have tried just about every travel planning website and app there is and quickly found most of them are far too detailed for the early stages of planning. Worst still, many constantly push you through annoying pop-ups to book hotels or excursions. We found that in the early stages simple is best and these tools to be the most useful:

  • Travel Map – Far and away the best tool for visualizing routes. The free version is great for high level, country to country, planning and we found it was just as useful for creating an overview of more local itineraries as well. When you are further along with your planning there are paid versions with road mapping, blog functionality and other bits but the free version is great when you start. One limitation is that the search function can’t be used to find specific hotels.
  • Travel Mapper by Blue Planet – This paid plugin for Google Sheets is designed to be an itinerary manager and we found it the best way of planning dates and timings for legs of the journey. For example, if you know you need to be in the Galapagos Islands by March and you want to know how many weeks that gives you in Patagonia then this works it out.
  • WhatsApp Groups – Kirsty and I set up a “Family Travels” whatsapp group which has been invaluable as a way of highlighting useful info to each other and as a record of useful websites we have visited. Also web.whatsapp.com is really useful for moving info between phone and PC
  • Google Sheets – When it comes to keeping track of what blogs or web pages you have visited that had great information then chucking a link on to Google Sheets is a really easy way to keep info organized, especially as the sheet can be easily shared with whoever is helping you with the planning. 

When you know what you want to achieve on your trip, how much you have to spend and how you are going to organize all the information it is time to start the planning! This is such an involved process that, if you are anything like us, you will go through multiple iterations of your itinerary before you land on something that covers everything you want to do and fits within your budget. Generally we found that the information can be roughly grouped into:


There are some brilliant blogs out there written by passionate family travelers which have been and continue to be an invaluable inspiration to us! Our favorites are:

Word Travel Family – Our go to source for travel information, tips, and guides and education. 

The Backpacking Family – A great resource for education tips and putting experiences above possessions,

The Family Freestylers – A great, sport & adventure focused family blog

Practical Wanderlust – Not specifically focused on family but lots of good blogs and itineraries for all over the world.

Plains, Trains and Automobiles

Skyscanner – When it comes to working out what is possible for individual flights (how easy it is to fly from Manilla to Bali? Where can I get to from Ushwai?) then Skyskanner really is the go to. It gives a clear overview of price and possibility, its only real limitations are some airlines don’t include baggage costs upfront and you can only look about 11 months ahead. One area that does not work for Skyscanner is if you are planning a round the world ticket. More information on that below!

Rome to Rio – This website was an absolute game changer when we discovered it for our Costa Rica trip! Rome to Rio shows all the bus and coach connections, journey times and rough costs. Invaluable when you are planning an epic South American coach trip!


It feels a bit old fashioned to say it these days but Rough Guides and Lonely Planets are worth investing in. They have well researched sample itineraries which are a great starting point for early stages planning and then you have them to hand when things get more detailed later on. When it comes to travel books we love physical copies as you can have fun just riffling through them but we made sure we got the e-books as well. Honorable mention to Neat Reader here – our favorite cross platform e reader!

It’s Time to Speak to the Experts.

So you know roughly where and when you want to go, you know roughly how much time and money you want to spend in each country. Now, how to make it happen? 

If you are going to book every flight separately then it is more than possible to do it yourself. However, you may find that round the world (RTW) tickets are much more cost effective and for that you will need an expert! I won’t go into the details of a mechanics of a RTW ticket here (check out these great blog posts by Nomadic Matt and Thrifty Nomads for more info if you are interested) but when we were planning we found that a RTW was about two thirds of the cost of booking flights separately but with the trade off of having slightly less flexibility on flights. We felt the savings (nearly £3,000) were worth it. 

There are some online tools to look at options of the RTW tickets but we found them all to be pretty terrible. We reached out to four different UK based travel agencies for a quote (two of which never got back to us!) and by far the most helpful was Travel Nation who worked with us on our ideas and really found ways to make the flights work for us. Certainly, being able to approach the travel agent with a rough itinerary and approximate dates made working out flights, costs and options that much easier.

We also went along to a Destinations Travel Show in Manchester which opened our eyes to a lot more ideas. There was a mix of suppliers there who specialize in international travel and tour companies who specialize in specific regions. The tour companies were a great source of inspiration although we found with a bit of leg work we could put together much of what they were offering ourselves. 

Adding More Detail to the Plan.

So you now what you want from the trip, have a rough itinerary, and you know what your budget can cover. It is time to start filling in the blanks.

Get the Kids Involved

Nothing will get your children more Involved and excited in the trip than letting them research where you are going and give ideas on what they would like to do. This did lead us to having to explain to Georgia that at 8 years old she couldn’t do a skydive but other than that it worked brilliantly! Getting Georgia and Eva involved in the planning also helped them adjust to what they were leaving behind.

At the start of planning we found that the questions being asked are just too broad for our children to really have an understanding but once we had settled on specific countries and regions it was the ideal time to get them involved in the research. It was amazing how many things they had learned at school that they are excited to see in real life, like The Great Barrier Reef and Christ the Redeemer.

Also, encourage them to keep a journal or start a travel blog to document their experiences, fostering their creativity and writing skills.

Timings and Flexibility

Here, our number one tip when traveling with children is to build flexibility and breathing space into the schedule. On past trips we have put ourselves and the children under pressure by cramming too much into a day. We now have a (sort of) rule where we only visit one destination or do one activity per day unless it is part of a prearranged tour. This is because we have discovered the hard way that rushing to finish one experience so we can get to the next kicks all the fun from it. It is a bit of an art form, and certainly not one that we have yet perfected, but striking a balance between planned and spontaneous activities is also important.

Leave Room for Fun

The above raises a very important question – how ‘planned’ do you want your trip to be? After much trial and error we have come to the conclusion that you can definitely schedule the fun out things. More than once we have arrived somewhere and discovered some incredible experience that we couldn’t do because we had already filled our days or not left enough time. 

Our approach now is we like to have a rough plan for an area with approximate itineraries to know what is achievable/how much there is to do; but not to book much and tie ourselves down before we arrive.  In our experience, one of the best parts of traveling is talking to other backpackers to find the hidden gems and tips; make the most of our time in each place. With more time away, there is less need to plan everything.

Health Preparations

Depending on how long you are planning to be away you will need to get some healthcare checks done before leaving. Eye tests, trips to the dentist, and general health checkups are worthwhile. Also, depending on where you are going you might need vaccinations.

Putting together a comprehensive first aid kit to take with you with all the usual things like plasters and Calpol is also important. Don’t forget any essential medications and any specific items your children might need.

Finally, don’t forget to research local healthcare facilities and emergency contact numbers at your destinations.

Travel Insurance

An absolute must-have when travelling with children. Unforeseen circumstances such as flight cancellations, medical emergencies, lost baggage, or even natural disasters can disrupt anyone’s plans. Your travel insurance is your safety net, so if things do go wrong, it can make the difference between a minor problem or a major setback.

The price you will pay for your insurance will vary depending on where you are in the world and where you plan to go but there are plenty of providers so be sure to shop around. Our top travel insurance tips are:

  1. Normal annual cover travel insurance is probably not suitable – Most “annual” travel policies only cover you for 28 days out of your home country in one trip. If you plan to be away for longer periods, you need ‘Backpacker Travel Insurance‘ or ‘Long Stay Travel Insurance’ which can cover you for single trips of up to 18 months.
  2. Check if you can upgrade your existing policies – Many bank accounts or other services bundle travel cover but with the 28-day limit mentioned above. It is worth a phone call to find out if the policy can be upgraded for a fee as this may be cheaper.
  3. Read the fine print – Some travel insurance policies exclude things you expect to be covered, like if you get injured on a moped, kidnapped, or fall sick at high altitude. Check that the coverage you buy covers everything you need.
  4. Consider Travel Resumption Cover – For many policies, if you use them to fly home (for a family emergency, for example), the moment you return to your home country your policy ends. If you want to carry on travelling, you have to pay for your flights back and new travel insurance – expensive! Travel Resumption Cover will fly you back to where you left off once the emergency is resolved and keep the travel policy active. We considered it to be worth having.
  5. Some bolt-ons are worth having – We got gadget cover, CDW excess cover and travel resumption cover for a much lower cost than if we had bought them separately.
  6. When applying for your travel cover, make sure you declare all pre-existing conditions, no matter how minor. If your kids are anything like ours, they will have either been to the doctor or A&E at least every six months, so we requested our full medical history from the NHS to ensure we didn’t miss anything. The reason to declare everything is that if you don’t, it can be used as an excuse by your insurers not to pay for medical treatment. We declared nearly ten different treatments over the last two years, from sprained wrists to ear infections, which did not increase the premium.
  7. Some insurers have a reputation for not paying out on claims or burying claims under ridiculous requests amounts of paperwork. Ensure you read independent reviews on any insurer before signing on with them.
  8. Due to the barbaric nature of healthcare in the United States, travel insurance will be significantly more expensive if you plan to go there.  
  9. Due to the barbaric nature of some governments, some countries are excluded from most cover (North Korea and Afghanistan for example).

All that being said, there are plenty of providers in the market so take the time to consider what you need, compare policies, and read the fine print before committing. 

Staying Safe Online

While you are away you will be relying on open WiFi connections at hotels and airports and this can leave you vulnerable to people stealing your personal information. Before you fly, consider using a VPN for your devices.

Check out our post on using a VPN when travelling with kids.

Backing Up Your Pictures and Videos

If you are anything like us you will be taking hundreds of photos while you are away which can be tricky to keep safe. You are also sure to quickly use up any free storage you have in your Google or iCloud account. We have put some thought into the best way to get all your precious memories into the cloud.

A quick word about WhatsApp – It is now pretty much the universal way outside of the USA for getting in touch with people; on our trip to Costa Rica we used it for everything from booking trips to ordering room service. If you haven’t already, download and register your account before you leave!

Final Thoughts

Well, that is just about all the lessons we have learned over the last 6 months condensed down. We hope the above information is of great use to you!

If you have any suggestions, tips, ideas, or great websites you want to recommend then please drop a comment below – we would love to hear from you!

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About the authors

Our lives have been intertwined with a passion for exploration and a shared love for travel. Our adventures began long before we met, as we individually embarked on daring expeditions across the globe. Our paths finally converged, and we soon realized that our adventures were much more meaningful when shared!

After a brief hiatus to start a family, we eagerly embarked on a new chapter of our travel saga. Determined to instil in Georgia and Eva the values of discovery and open-mindedness, our goal is to embark on exciting escapades and explore breathtaking landscapes, bustling cities, and remote corners of the world. From hiking through mist-laden forests to snorkelling in turquoise seas, every adventure is an opportunity to create lasting memories as a family.

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