Traveling Full Time as a Family: How to Prepare Your Kids for Leaving

How To Prepare Your Kids for Leaving & Traveling Full Time as a Family

Transitions are never easy. And traveling full time as a family is a HUGE transition.  This is never an easy topic, but get excited! Because I am here to make it easy for you.

Preparing yourself is hard enough, but how do you help your kids make this transition to traveling full time? Making your way into a new kind of living? Whether you are preparing for a Family Gap Year or Full Time Travel, its imperative that you are communicative and clear with your children about your family’s travel intentions, and that you allow your children to have their feelings.

The worst thing any adult could do is minimize a child’s feelings and attempt to fix or rationalize those feelings away.  I feel so strongly about this, I think you should go ahead and read the beautiful quoted image above again. I’ll wait.

Tip: You can download my printable guide on Preparing Your Kids for Leaving & Traveling Full Time as a Family.  This course has everything you need from checklists, write-in worksheets, what to say and ask, things to remember to do before you leave, and more.

Validating Feelings. Really, Really Validating Those Feelings.

When you’re traveling full time as a family, keep in mind that you will be together all. the. time. You will all need to be aware of each others feelings and emotions, on a level higher than what you’re probably used to.

Now that you’ve read the above image quote two or three times, please try and internalize it.  You MUST believe your kid’s feelings, and allow them to feel those hard feelings. Remove the following phrases from your brain:

  • You’ll be ok/fine
  • Don’t Worry
  • Don’t cry, it will be fine
  • But you’ll get to do ____, get to go to ____, get to see ____

Instead, here are some things you can try out (couple it with a huge or back rub for maximum effect):

  • I can see you’re feeling (sad)____, thats normal to feel (sad). Would you like to talk about it/would you like a hug?
  • I can see that you’re worried about ____, what can we do to help it work out/what would make it easier?
  • Its ok to feel _____, I feel the same way. Here is something I do when I feel that way (take 3 slow breaths, write in my journal, thing of a solution, etc)
  • Thank you for telling me, it helps me understand.

Name The Feeling

Here are some feelings you may want to have written down or available when chatting with your children about traveling full time as a family:

Setting Clear Expectations when Traveling Full Time as a Family

I am convinced that, at this point, you have allowed your children to openly discuss their feelings about traveling full time as a family. If you have already used our Guide to Planning Your Family Gap Year, and read the Family Gap Year Itinerary, you are almost ready!

As a result, the next step is to set some clear expectations so your children will understand whats to come.  I say CLEAR because I was once schooled by my bestie on this.  She noticed that SoccerGal kept coming up to ask me a dozen times if I would take her to a trampoline park that afternoon. In my head, I hadn’t decided yet, didn’t really want to go, but also knew that technically we could do it. I kept waffling back and forth, saying “I’m not sure right now, maybe, we’ll see.” So she kept coming back every 5 minutes to ask. Cue the annoyed eye roll from my bestie, who said to me “You need to be CLEAR. Make a choice so she can stop asking!”

So I beg you, please be clear with your children about what your family travel intentions are and your WHY, HOW, and WHEN for traveling full time as a family.

5 Steps to Preparing Your Kids for Traveling Full Time as a Family: Setting Your Family Travel Intentions

1. Have a Comprehensive Private Meeting with Your Spouse/Partner

Discuss and be clear with your partner, spouse, or other travel adult about traveling full time as a family.  Make distinctions between a Family Gap Year and Traveling Full Time as a Family.  Are you trying it out? Is it permanent? Will you both work and what will your schedules look like? Be on the SAME PAGE about EVERYTHING (destinations, budget, accommodations, work schedules, needs, likes/dislikes, Worldschooling approach, etc)

2. Set a Time for your First Family Meeting.

Call it something cutesy if your kids enjoy that. Or just call it a Family Travel Meeting. Depending on your kid’s ages you’ll need to come prepared with a map/globe, paper/pen, clear information to communicate, and a plan.  I like to write down our WHY (why are you making this big change?), our HOW (how will be plan where to go, what to do, where to stay and how will we get there), our WHAT (what do they like to do, what are they interested in? Each family member gets a say), and WHEN (when will you leave, how long will you be gone?).

My downloadable guide, Preparing Your Kids for Leaving & Traveling Full Time as a Family, provides every single thing you must include in your family meeting, from fillable worksheets, to the specific list of questions to ask your kids, to ideas for making the good-byes happen smoothly.

3. Make Time To Say Good-bye

Before we leave, I like to have my kids list out something they’ve always wanted to do in our home-base city, something they want to do again before we leave, and people they’d like quality one-on-one time with.

Then, you’ll need to make sure you take the time to plan this. I would recommend starting to make these plans about 2 months out. The last few weeks before leaving can be incredibly stressful and hectic. Be sure you plan specific dates, times, and activities well in advance to be sure each family member gets the good-bye that they need.

I also recommend having one larger get-together, if you can, with those who don’t necessarily require one-on-one time. For example, before we left for traveling full time as a family, we decided to have a big family BBQ.  Our extended family in our home base of Atlanta is well over 30-40 people, including cousins, aunts/uncles, grandparents, etc. We decided to have a big family BBQ the week before leaving so the kids could see all their cousins and we could spend time with the adults in our family.

Tip: Take LOTS of pictures, print a few, and sneak them into your children’s travel packs. They’ll love looking through them while you’re away.

4. Be Prepared to Re-Hash Their Feelings, Questions, and Needs Over and Over

You can read more about how our family decided to world travel and worldschool.  Traveling full time as a family was not a decision we made lightly. We gave ourselves about 9 months from when this wild idea popped into my brain to actually leaving. This allowed us to sell our home, save some extra cash, finish out our children’s homeschooling commitments in our home-base, get our work life in order, and then go!

Throughout this 9 months, SoccerGal and NatureGal re-hashed parts of our plan, and even questioned our WHY, almost weekly.  Especially as the time got closer.

Be sure to be a supportive ear, a gentle hug, and a validating listener. Use the phrases I mentioned above to work through each conversation and each feeling.

5. Be Over-Prepared With Your Travel Gear

You may wonder why I put this on the list of how to prepare your children for leaving and traveling full time as a family. It is purely selfish, and comes directly from my own experience.  STRESS can ruin everything. And explosive interactions due to stress are horrible for everyone. For you, your kids, and the whole family. I am an obsessive planner, note taker, and organizer. However, stress can easily get the best of me and turn me into a monster. The packing timeline below will help. You can also download our packing lists here.

Here are my recommendations for keeping the pre-takeoff stress to a minimum:

  • 6 months out: purchase travel packs/luggage, finalize your first 3 months of travel plans (transportation, accommodation), decide on the medical and travel insurance you will be using, have your First Family Meeting.
  • 3 months out: Purchase your dry toiletries and test them out for all family members, purchase any specialty clothing items you will need for all family members, do a practice packing with your travel pack for all family members, choose the tech gear and other gear you’ll bring, confirm transportation and accommodation plans, confirm medical insurance/travel insurance options, begin planning your Good-byes.
  • 1 month out: confirm all travel related bookings, be sure you have the correct shoes and sizes for your growing kids (this is so important!!), focus on fun, seeing family/friends, and doing your last good-bye list tasks. Print those sneaky pictures for your kid’s travel pack surprise!

Want more help preparing your kids for leaving and traveling full time as a family?

More specific and comprehensive checklists can be found in my downloadable guide Preparing Your Kids for Leaving & Traveling Full Time as a Family. 

Other posts you might find useful:

How To Keep Kids Safe While Traveling

Planning Your Family Gap Year & our downloadable Guide: How to Plan Your Family Gap Year

Travel Mistakes Novice Travelers Make

Volunteering Abroad with Kids