With 2 Kids in Tow is another one of my favorite family travel blogs. What I love about this blog is that they don’t let having children in tow stop them from having adventures like hiking rice terraces, checking out hanging coffins, and getting off of the beaten track AND they do it on a budget. They are true backpackers in every sense of the word!
Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
We’re an Aussie/Canadian couple who love backpacking and are good at doing it on a budget. In 2011, with just 2 backpacks and our 2 pre-schoolers in tow, we are going to SEA, Sri Lanka, India and points in between.
Tell us your travel plans. How long do you plan to travel for? What countries have you been to? What countries do you still plan to visit?
Our plan is to travel in SEA and India exclusively, except for 3 weeks in Vancouver, Canada for Christmas and New Year, as this will be the only way that we can afford to travel for so long. So far, we’ve spent a month each in Bali, Thailand (north only), Cambodia, and Vietnam, 3 weeks in the Philippines, and a week or so in Malaysia (so far). Still to come is Sri Lanka (1mo), India (south, 3mo), Hong Kong, and Vancouver (3 wks). There’s room for a few more destinations to be added in the itinerary but still to be decided.
Can you explain how and why you made the decision to travel long term as a family?
My husband has been a long-time traveler, and he and I met while backpacking in Turkey. Together, we’ve done 2 RTW trips. After we ‘settled down’, we’d always hoped to be able to travel again with our family, but before our children became ‘school-aged’. For us, we enjoy long-term travel, particularly to ‘developing countries’ to experience their cultures and we hoped to be able to do this as a family.
How have the children adapted to life on the road?
The children have adapted surprisingly well to life on the road. We never hear any complaining about the long bus trips, nor about the constant changing of our locations. Coping with the local food still remains a challenge, as does managing in higher humidity than we’re used to. But we are all adapting better to the squat toilets!
Has travel changed your family in any way?
It’s made us appreciate our children more and what wonderful, incredible, funny, resilient, smart, clever, capable people they are. Hopefully, it’s made them more understanding of the differences and similarities that exist in the world, and that the world is a big and yet small place. Traveling together has made us appreciate our strengths as a family, that we are actually doing this together.
Is there any part of family travel that has not lived up to your pre-conceived ideas of it? Any part that has surpassed your expectations?
At the start of the trip, my husband probably had a harder time dealing with ‘dream vs reality’. When you think of it, usually dads(and sometimes moms) don’t get to spend a good continuous stream of time with the children due to work commitments, etc. (I only worked 2 days per week). On a trip like this, we are all together 24/7 and young children especially can be quite demanding to be around on these terms, without distractions or ‘relief’ like work, daycare, babysitters, friends, and family.
What has exceeded our expectations has been how quickly the girls have adjusted to life on the road and how well they continue to handle the demands of traveling.
What items are in your luggage that are for your children? (toys, art supplies, extra snacks, etc.)
70% of our luggage is the kids’ stuff—if it weren’t for that, we’d probably be able to fit everything into 2 big day packs!! The kids have more clothing than we do as they get more dirty and need more frequent changes on hand & they have more shoes as it’s easier than trying to buy them good quality footwear while overseas in Asia. They carry their own art supplies, teddies, and miscellaneous items in their own day bags. We carry the snacks, but we would have anyway even if we didn’t have kids!
Have you found traveling with kids makes it easier to bridge any cultural gaps with locals?
No, but traveling with kids we are noticing other cultures’ attitudes towards children. So far, Thailand’s been the most impressive as they are the most respectful towards children and families. They even have special ‘fast track’ lines at immigration for families! Most recently in Manila, we were on a special segregated carriage just for families, pregnant women, people with disabilities and the elderly on the commuter train during morning rush hour. While the rest of the carriage and train were like sardines, we had seats and room to move!
How are you financing your trip?
While we have rented out our house and have about 2/3 of the rent to use towards our budget after the mortgage is paid, we also have a line-of-credit to use if necessary (which is at a lower rate than a credit card), which of course will have to be repaid one day!
Do you have a monthly budget that you try to stick to? Can you give us an idea of how much a trip like this costs a family of four?
We try to stick to $50-60 USD per day so as not to blow out the line-of-credit too much and have found this to be achievable even factoring in souvenirs, occasional side-trips, all local and ground transportation, food, accommodation, taxis, general expenses like laundry, even bottled water.
All of our plane tickets are not included in this, although we purchased all of our flights including forthcoming ones to Sri Lanka and India, almost 1yr ago by taking advantage of a couple of AirAsia’s seat sales. For all of our plane trips, with the exception of Canada, we spent just under $2,900 AUD for all 4 of us; we do not have a ticket home yet though.
Travel vaccinations can take up a large part of your costs, but we were able to minimize this by getting most of our injections done overseas (Bangkok, Thailand)—this saved us over $1,000 AUD
Travel insurance, storage insurance and home insurance were also big ‘pre-tip’ expenses that have to be factored in.
We’re hoping to do this trip for about $35,000 AUD/USD, including Canada and pre-trip expenses We also have other expenses relating to our house such as storage insurance, house insurance, property tax and water rates that still have to be paid with this amount too hopefully. Being a homeowner brings with it added ‘overhead’ expenses during this year.
Do you have any advice for families who are thinking of doing long-term travel?
If it’s what you are dreaming of, then just try to make the decision to DO IT. That’s the hardest part. It’s easy to think of reasons why you can’t do it. But it doesn’t have to be expensive, nor complicated. Take one step at a time. Get on the internet to research and read some blogs of other families that are ‘doing it’. Start to simplify your life (your ‘things’, your expenses), organize your life (de-clutter), then start to live your life.