Image of a beach at sunset with a small boat just off the shore

Our total budget for a family gap year (2024)

One of the things I found extraordinarily difficult when planning our year away was trying to figure out exactly what it might cost us. How much did we need to budget for a family gap year? Knowing how much you need to save/earn/budget for is a pretty big deal breaker when it comes to considering where in the world you can go, what you can afford to do while you’re there, and how long you can stay for!

I read through a slightly staggering number of online travel blogs in the planning phase for our trip, lots of which were incredibly helpful in so many ways but very few include details of the costs involved and/or overall budgets and spend (at least not for families anyway). And where these costs are included, they vary widely (and I mean by tens of thousands!). 

So in the interests of transparency – and hopefully helping other families out there plot their way to long term travel – I’m going to share exactly what we budgeted for the trip and how we came up with these figures. And then when the year is up I’ll add to this with an update on whether our budget turned out to be realistic!

How we figured out how much to save for our family gap year

This is a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation – you can only figure out where you can go and how long for once you know how much cash you have to put towards a trip. So our starting point was to try and figure out when we wanted to go away (specifically which school years we were most comfortable with the boys missing) then we worked back from there. We had a plan to save my entire wage each month towards the trip, so totalling up the number of months we could save this amount gave us an idea of how much we might have to spend.

A collection of Lonely Planet guide books lie on a black and white floor rug (including Mexico, Indonesia, Malaysia, Costa Rica and Vietnam)
A young boys sits in a kitchen holding a 20,000 Indonesian Rupiah note in front of him

Our budget for 12-months of family gap year travel

So, without further ado, this was the budget we came up with for 12-months of full-time travel for two adults and two kids.

ItemBudgeted AmountNotes
Flights£5,000Long-haul flights only
Travel Insurance£2,000Two blocks of long-term travel insurance
Travel Vaccinations£500Full rabies course for the boys; booster for me and Steve
Travel Costs£37,500All accommodation, travel on the ground, short-haul flights, food and everything else PLUS a term of international school fees
Costs at home£5,000Mortgage, bills and on-going subscriptions
Contingency£5,000For emergencies and/or stuff that we’ve failed to account for!
GRAND TOTAL£55,000

Some of these costs were much easier to plan out than others – it is, for example, pretty easy to get an accurate quote for travel vaccinations and insurance, a bit trickier to figure out the costs for accommodation/daily living in any given country!

Having this total amount as a guide meant that I could then figure out where we could actually afford to travel, initially by looking up accommodation prices for a family of four on booking.com and airbnb.com. I read through endless travel blogs that estimated the daily cost of living for various countries (although these are usually stated for either couples or solo travellers, I couldn’t actually find one for families) and tried to come up with a ballpark figure for different countries that would give us enough per day for food, snacks, local transport and the odd activity.

How much we budgeted for each country

We had a vague idea of countries that interested us, so I looked at accommodation costs in places across these countries to average out what our cost per night would be. I used this to compile our overall family gap year budget.

I also read through all of the Lonely Planets and came up with a list of days out/activities in each of these countries that I thought we might want to do and added the cost of these for all four of us to a separate list. I really wanted to separate out the ‘bigger’ ticket activities so we didn’t include these in our daily budget and therefore felt we had enough money to do these.

COUNTRYTOTAL BUDGETNO. OF WEEKS
Mexico£5,0003.5
Costa Rica£6,0005.5
Singapore£1,0001
Malaysia£2,8005
Indonesia£4,7008
Borneo (Malaysian)£1,8503
Thailand£2,5004
Cambodia£1,9003
Vietnam£1,9003
Europe (in the campervan)£5,5006

We also factored in another £1,000 for our time back in the UK over Christmas and £1,500 for internal, short-haul flights (to give us some budget to do this when land travel was too long/difficult with the kids). International school fees were on top of this – look out for a whole separate post on the cost of international school coming soon!

How is it going?

At the time of writing we are about halfway through our trip, and I’m pretty chuffed to report that we’re pretty much on track money-wise (at the moment at least!).

We will be sharing our spending breakdowns for different countries on here so check back for updates.

Planning a family gap year or long-term family travel?

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