Money, work & squabbles: 5 common myths about traveling abroad with kids

Family travel myths want to convince you that you can’t travel. But you can.

Our family of four started traveling the world full-time in 2022. We’ve also now gotten familiar with common myths about traveling abroad with kids. During our first year alone, we’ve spent a month in Oaxaca, celebrated Thanksgiving with a Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai, visited Tokyo Disney, and driven across the USA in an RV.

When you take that in, what does that make you think about us and our lives? (It’s okay, we’ll wait.)

We get it, too. Media and influencers present travel with such a rarified, unattainable mysticism. All too often we see other people’s travels through a lens of high-end luxury. Or else we get presented with a viewpoint that the world is dangerous. Or that only “perfect parents” can travel with their “perfect kids.” It’s understandable to think that traveling anywhere, especially with kids, makes launching a starship to strange new worlds seem easy by comparison.

These travel myths are powerful.

They’re also not true.

When it comes to our own travels and things people have asked us about or talked with us about over the past year, here are some common myths about traveling abroad we want to debunk, through the lens of our own not wealthy, very much imperfect, very much safe and alive, family.

“Full-time travel doesn’t mean full-time vacation.”

Myth 1: We are wealthy.

Ha. No, we are not wealthy. And we don’t mean that the way some rather wealthy families try to play themselves off as ordinary everyday millionaires, either. Unless we have hidden bank accounts we don’t know about, we are a middle-class American family.

Myth 2: Traveling abroad with kids costs a lot.

Cost is a spectrum, and big spending is not a given. Travel can cost as much as you want it to. However, everyday travel can often cost the same or less than your regular life at home.

There is certainly no ceiling. There are always ways to spend lots of money, but there are also more ways than you might think to travel well with reasonable costs.

On the other hand, when families talk about how much they spend on supporting and traveling for, say, their children’s various school sports, there’s a good chance we’ve spent less living for a month in Osaka, Japan.

Flights can typically be your biggest expense, but even that can be managed via some travel hacking. We also spread out the cost of flights by flying only when we need to, and we use longer stays in a place to cut down how often we need to fly.

We also prioritize lower spend activities with the occasional intentional bigger spend. A neighborhood walk, nearby attraction, or meal at a local cafe helps us preserve our travel budget. At the same time, we sometimes visit places like Tokyo Disney, and we make sure we’ve budgeted for and managed those costs.

Myth 3: We just get along all the time.

Squabbles, misunderstandings, and disagreements: Our family has them too. We don’t get along all the time.

Sometimes we need space from each other, and we support each other getting that. We try to give the kids time when it’s just them, or when they can be with other kids. With the kids getting older and more mature, we build in more time for just us adults too.

Having disagreements happens. What matters far more is that when we don’t get along, we still focus on remembering the best in one another, hearing each other out, and figuring out what each of us needs, so that we can go back to getting along and enjoying our travels together.

Myth 4: Only first-class luxury travel is safe.

Granted, Anthony’s days as a grubby backpacker are long behind him, but even in his 20s, Anthony’s idea of grubby was still far more tidied up than you might think. We don’t go for high-end dining, accommodation, or first-class flights, but we don’t go for bottom-dollar options either.

We aim for safe, comfortable, and fun. In a year of traveling the world, we haven’t gotten sick, haven’t been victims of crime, and have generally felt safe wherever we are.

Luxury, first-class travel can be pretty awesome. It’s not the only option for fun, comfort, and safety though. You can still have amazing travels, and feel safe, without high-end spending.

Myth 5: We don’t work.

We own our own business making content. Our work does look different than a lot of people’s, and we have deliberately set up our lives so we can be location independent and maximize our time with our kids while they are still kids.

However, the flip side is that we don’t necessarily “vacation” in the same way either. It’s rare that we take off for a full-blown out-of-the-office holiday (so far, anyway). We work hard, we work smart, and we work together at something we both enjoy. It’s not uncommon for us to work in the mornings, then do some sightseeing in the afternoons.

The key for us is that we keep our sightseeing and work in balance.

BONUS Myth 6: We sightsee and vacation all day, every day.

Egads, no. We love sightseeing, and we build in vacation-style time off as we can. But much of our full-time travel life resembles the life we had at home in Oregon. Sometimes we have big sightseeing days. Some days we hang out in our accommodation. We have streaming evenings, play board games, read out loud, and we have days where the kids tend to schoolwork and we parents tend to business.

Full-time travel doesn’t mean full-time vacation. We love having a balance of down days, activities, school, and work. It makes travel a more meaningful part of our overall lives, and feels more everyday and “real world” than a vacation that can seem separate from regular life and living.

Your family can travel the way you want to travel

There are as many ways to travel are there are varieties of people in a family. Travel can range in cost, but you can find a way to balance safety, fun, and comfort for pretty much any budget.

Our family travels full-time. We aren’t rich. We work a fair bit. We squabble and we make up. And our travels definitely don’t look like something fancy.

But the key is? We do what works for us. Our little family travels the way we want, in the places we want to visit, where we do the things that matter to us. After a year, we’re still going strong.

And we believe that with some of these common myths about traveling abroad out of the way, your family can find ways to travel the way you want to as well.

About the author
Learners and Makers
We are the St. Clair Family: Anthony, Jodie, Connor, and Aster. As Learners and Makers, our family of four slows down, connects, and enjoys the world and each other's company. We have been traveling full time since 2022.

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