5 Ways Long Term Family Travel is NOT a Vacation


This photo was taken on a random Saturday outing to the nearby town.  It may LOOK like
we're on vacation…but we're really just exploring the local area near our rental home.

When most people think about travel, I think they imagine life is like a permanent vacation.  But there is a fundamental difference between vacations and long term travel.  With a vacation, you have a "home base" you return to.  Long term travel for us means having a home base we live in that is often in a vacation setting.

Here are some other things that distinguish long term travel is not like a vacation.

1.)  A hotel room is not "home sweet home".

We like to say that "home is wherever we all are" and if we stay somewhere as short as 3 nights, we do often refer to our hotel or vacation rental as "home" when referring to where we rest our heads at night.  But as a general rule, we live in a home and have all the responsibilities that come with living anywhere. 

2.)  Restaurants are a "bonus" not regular occurrence.

When we go on vacation, cooking is generally left for someone else to handle.  I have cooked meals while on vacation when we're in a rental home with a full kitchen, but usually we sample local fare.  With long term travel, I plan meals, buy groceries, cook and clean up the kitchen, with the help of my oldest 2 girls.  We do have access to more unusual ingredients and lots of cheap fresh produce, but overall, meals are pretty close to what they were in the US.

3.)  Clothing is stored in dressers and closets, not in suitcases.

Unless we're on vacation for about a week or more, I generally do not like to unpack our bags completely.  But since we travel slowly, all of us have dressers or shelves in closets for all of our clothing.

4.)  Working and paying bills are part of daily life.

Vacations are normally a time to "take a break" from normal life, bills are taken care of before leaving home, you add an "I'm going to be away from the office" automated reply on your email account, and generally don't work.  But we do work (email clients,Skype with graphic designers, contact writers for Real Family Travel Magazine) and pay bills.  Same stuff everyone has to do.

5.)  We go through the same emotional highs and lows and everyone else.

Something tends to happen when we're on vacation.  Mom and Dad are more relaxed.  The kids seem to get along better.  Everyone is in an overall better mood than when we're in our normal routine.  Maybe it's because we're willing to let go and have more fun that we do when we know there's an email that needs to be sent, laundry that needs washing and those mystery dishes that appear and need washing even aft\er we thought they'd all been done.

While we do try to take breaks while we're living abroad, we, too, get stuck in daily routines and have to push to break free from them to enjoy the beautiful surroundings were in.  Everyone has up and down days, the kids get bored, we make each other mad.  It is truly NOT a vacation.

Long term family travel is just like life in your home country…just in a totally different culture, living among locals (for us, anyway) and MUCH more affordable than your average vacation.

For example, our family of 7 lives on a very modest $2000 a month, give or take a couple hundred.  Now, for our family to fly round trip somewhere for 4 nights, stay in a hotel, pay for food and any attractions we might want to see, that budget *might* work.  Maybe.

So, the next time you're setting aside some cash for your next vacation, imagine if instead of going for a week, how that same amount of money could last you for an entire month…or more…if you were traveling long term.

Food for thought.

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4 Responses to “5 Ways Long Term Family Travel is NOT a Vacation”

  1. Annie Andre Says:

    Loved your list of 5 reasons why long term travel is not a vacation.  
    I wanted to add that travelling long term is a whole lot cheaper than a vacation and in our case cheapter than living in our home country. Forced to carry what we buy, we don't buy anything any more. except what we really need. And as you said, cheap produce is abundant. ..

  2. Mom Says:

    Absolutely! It really is amazing to live in places people think we’re vacationing in for LESS than we’d ever imagined possible. Have to get out of the vacation mentality.

  3. Shayna @ Adventurous Soul Says:

    Love it! I want to print this out and give it to everyone who, upon hearing I live in Brazil, assumes that I do nothing but lie on the beach and drink coconut water all day. Of course the nice thing is that after a long week of work, I have the OPTION of relaxing with the aforementioned beach and coconut water  ;-)  which was not the case when I lived in NYC!
    My husband and I don't have any kids yet, but long-term family travel is definitely one of our future dreams, so I'm glad I discovered your blog  :-)

  4. Mom Says:

    Ha ha ha. Sometimes I don’t mind when people think all we do is play all day, but we both know it’s just not reality. I’m going to check out your blog to learn more about Brazil. I’ve heard great things about Brazil and the strong economy there. Thanks for stopping by!

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