Though prevention and diligence go a long way, of course, there is no foolproof method against misadventure on the road. Should sickness catch you off guard, the best response is to humbly accept these things as a part of life and plan accordingly.
The most important measures include pre-travel immunization, implementing appropriate safety measures at all times especially during outdoor activities, motor vehicle safety and mosquito bite prevention.
Travel Medical Kits for Families
Although I prefer packing my own medical pack there are several pre-assembled starter kits on the market. This one is my personal favorite:
[easyazon_image align=”left” cloak=”n” height=”112″ identifier=”B0026MRZSK” locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”http://www.gapyearfamily.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/51xj2BzDkS0L.SL160.jpg” tag=”gapyearfamily-20″ width=”160″][easyazon_link identifier=”B0026MRZSK” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”gapyearfamily-20″ cart=”n” cloak=”n” localize=”y” popups=”n”]Adventure Medical Kits World Travel Kit[/easyazon_link] contains the supplies you need when traveling to remote locations where medical assistance may be hours or days away. Recommended for travel to developing nations, international relief work, or adventure travel involving high-risk activities, the World Travel Kit provides you with a full complement of wound care supplies as well as medications to treat common travel ailments including stomach upset, dehydration, pain, and allergies.
Mosquito Repellent for Families
[easyazon_image align=”left” cloak=”n” height=”160″ identifier=”B00D6O6Y48″ locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”http://www.gapyearfamily.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/51sZiTQDvL.SL160.jpg” tag=”gapyearfamily-20″ width=”160″][easyazon_link identifier=”B00D6O6Y48″ locale=”US” tag=”gapyearfamily-20″]3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent Lotion:[/easyazon_link] This is the one product you can rely upon for you and your family in mosquito country, up to the point where the hoards of High Sierra mosquitos are thick in the air (and you bust out the Jungle Juice). It’s very effective and lasts a long time. This one’s well worth the money.
[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”160″ identifier=”B001ANQVZE” locale=”US” src=”http://www.gapyearfamily.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/415imqY8BZL.SL160.jpg” tag=”gapyearfamily-20″ width=”92″][easyazon_link identifier=”B001ANQVZE” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”gapyearfamily-20″ cart=”n” cloak=”n” localize=”y” popups=”n”]Sawyer Products Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent:[/easyazon_link] As a treatment for clothing, Sawyer Permethrin insect repellent does not harm fabrics and is odorless after dried. Use Permethrin on clothing by itself or with skin-applied repellents to create the ultimate protective, armor-like insect barrier. Permethrin-treatments on clothing are non-toxic to humans and are registered for use by the U.S. EPA
The Department of State (www.usembassy.gov) can help travelers locate medical services and notify friends, family, or employer of an emergency.
The International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) maintains a directory of health care professionals with expertise in travel medicine in almost 50 countries worldwide. Search these clinics at www.istm.org.
The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) maintains an international network of physicians, hospitals, and clinics that have agreed to provide care to members while abroad. Membership is free, although donations are suggested. Search for clinics at http://www.iamat.org/doctors_clinics.cfm.
Embassies and consulates in other countries, hotel doctors, and credit card companies (especially those with special privileges) may also provide information.
Supplemental medical insurance plans acquired prior to travel will often enable access to local providers in many countries through a 24-hour emergency hotline.
Travel health books
CDC Health Information for International Travel 2014 edited by Gary W. Brunette MD MPH (Oxford University Press, 2013, Kindle and print) Updated biennially by a team of over 200 health experts, this is the definitive guide to travel medicine, including easy-to-read disease risk maps, information on where to find health care during travel, advice for those traveling with infants and children, a comprehensive catalog of diseases, and detailed country-specific health warnings.
The Rough Guide to Travel Health, by Nick Jones (Rough Guides, 2004, print) Includes a section on pre-trip health planning, an encyclopedia of health problems, and an international section dedicated to specific countries’ health risks.
Where There is No Doctor (Hesperian) Designed for aid workers and missionaries, this classic public-health text has meant survival for thousands in the Third World since the early 1970s. This series includes books on medical and dental care, women’s health, and other topics. PDF, e-reader or print available.
Travel and Health Insurance
There is quite a bit of overlap here so I am going to explain this a bit and help you make this decision painless and easily.
Choosing the right travel insurance
Buy it! Not having it is not an option.
Look for coverage for:
Strife in countries visited
Take pictures of the stuff you own before (or during) your journey.
Keep receipts for everything.
World Nomads (This is definitely the best option for families)
Let’s be honest, finding accommodations as a solo traveler or as a couple is a cinch. Add 2 kids into the mix and things just became a lot more interesting.
Some hostels will not accept kids, often the pricing can be astronomical, and our American children tend to be too noisy to sneak past the hotel lobby front desk staff. Trust me we have tried.
Then there are concerns such as how complimentary breakfast is handled (if at all) and sharing beds and bedding.
Over the past year, we have booked 100’s of family-friendly accommodations all over the world. Because we have been traveling with a rough itinerary most of these (if not all) have been fairly last minute bookings.
When traveling with kids booking hotels can be complicated. In South Africa, for example, a price might look amazing until you realize that the price quoted is based on a per-person pricing structure. All of a sudden a budget accommodation has turned into the same price as a 5-star hotel.
And books like lonely planet can be extremely hit and miss (often miss) when it comes to recommending family friendly accommodations.
When I search using traditional routes this is usually my plan of attack:
Booking.com – Great for Europe and North America and becoming a lot better in Asia. One of the largest collections of hotels of any booking site. Helpful reviews from confirmed guests.
Hotwire.com – Hotwire will often land you 5 star accommodations for 2-3 star prices. It takes some bravery, but this often pays off with big comfort and amazing accommodations which can be great, specifically for families.
Don’t spend hours searching for a hotel room. Prices don’t fluctuate that much so it’s not worth the time to do so.
Booking a cheap hotel looks like this:
Start off with Priceline, Expedia (affiliate link), Travel Pony, or your favorite booking site.
If you are booking in Asia, use Agoda(affiliate Link). They are hands down the best site for the region.
Double check a few more sites just to cover your bases.
Cross check with Tingo. They have a very cool price match guarantee (See Below or click here)
Book a place.
Go on with your day.
What is the Best Way to Save Money on Hotels?
Start your hotel search as early as you can. The longer stretch of time you have to search the better deal you’ll likely find. Often, early bookers get the best rooms too.
If your dates can be flexible then compare different date ranges for the best rates. Hotels can fill up for a big convention or big event. Busy and expensive one weekend. Empty and cheap the next.
Flip-flop weekends and weekdays. Hotels target different types of travelers which will have very different weekday and weekend routines. Hotels that have a large business clientele can be very quiet (with large discounts) on weekends. Hotels that see more leisure tourists will be packed on weekends but cheaper on weekdays.
Think upgrade: book the least expensive room through a booking website then contact the hotel directly to inform them of special requirements or enquire about any available upgrades – if the hotel is quiet they’ll often be free or for a nominal charge.
When is the Best Time to Book Hotels?
Here’s a huge generalization that works pretty well for most situations: For hotels that have a business clientele the last week to 10 days will get you the best deals.
For hotels and resorts that have tourists as their primary guests then booking 2 months to 6 months prior to your stay is likely the best.
Why? Business travelers are much more likely to arrange and make last minute (or last week) travel plans. A month before a given date, a hotel in the financial district of London might not have many bookings but will not start discounting those rooms yet. It will still expect to make a lot of bookings in the week or two before that time frame.
Often it’s not just about the price. Early booking will get you the best rooms at a similar price to the less coveted rooms. E.g. A huge family room that is only a little more than a cramped double room.
A hotel in Cancun, Phuket, or Bali that has a lot of openings in a month will start to worry. Most of its guests should have already booked those rooms so the hotel will start to aggressively discount those rooms.
What Day of the Week Has the Best Hotel Deals?
It depends what type of hotel you’re booking.
Business hotels will offer bigger discounts on the weekends (when business clients are at home). Budget hotels will have empty rooms (and discounts) through the week because the people that stay there (weekend shoppers, concert goers, university students) come on there weekends and return home Sunday night.
Why Do Hotels Use Booking Sites Like HotelsCombined or Booking.com?
Here’s where it gets tricky for hotels. Yes, they want to fill some of those rooms. Even if a guest is only paying half the rack-rate it’s still a lot more than zero. At the same time hotels do not want to establish the practice of rewarding guests that wait the longest to book. Then everyone will book last minute expecting (and probably getting) discounted rates.
Hotels offer those rooms to hotel consolidators so that the price discounts don’t reflect directly on the hotel itself. A hotel guest that learns from another guest that they got a 50% discount by booking through HotelsCombined.com would probably shrug their shoulders and try to remember the name of the website. But if that same guest learned that their friend simply booked through the hotel’s website and got a vastly cheaper rate, they’re likely to be upset and displeased with the inconsistent way the hotel charges customers.
As well, when guests book through 3rd party websites they often book other travel options (travel insurance, airfares, rental cars). These serve to obscure the true cost of the hotel room so a direct comparison to the rate another guest paid can’t easily be made.
What’s Included and Are There Extra Fees?
When you’re comparing different rates from different websites be sure to check what’s included in the quoted price. Are there extra fees and taxes?
Extra costs could include an of the following:
City, State, and Country taxes
City, State, and Country surcharges and other fees
Booking service fees (often disguised as hotel charges)
Hotel energy surcharge
Hotel resort fee
Spa or swimming pool fee
Phone or internet availability fee
Short stay surcharge or room cleaning fee
Credit card surcharge
Clearly it’s not easy to compare 2 rates with all these extras to consider. Taxes and booking fees are the biggest ones so if you’re feeling overwhelmed focus on those and you should be fine.
If you’re staying at a big resort it might be wise to check the hotel’s official website to look for extra fees that may be applied (e.g. a charge for using the spa).
Most websites have search options for the following specifics:
Swimming Pool (Indoor and Outdoor)
Location (and vicinity of the airport).
Rooms or Facilities for Disabled Guests
Be sure to use these if you’re looking for a hotel with special features or characteristics as in my experience they’re accurate.
A final tip, is to check whether breakfast is included. When you arrive at the hotel you can even ask (with a tone of voice that expects that it is included). It’s often of little cost to the hotel to serve another buffet breakfast but this can be a huge savings for you especially over the course of a week or extended stay.
The Essentials for Finding and Booking Hotels Online:
This is the cheat sheet for booking hotels online.
Imporant! – Like airfares, hotel prices go down and go up. Unlike airfares, you can (usually) cancel hotel bookings and book a different hotel – or book the same hotel through a different website. So if you see a decent deal book it. And then keep looking for a better deal.
Important! – Verify directly with the hotel after booking through an online booking website (e.g. booking.com). This is easy to do and well worth it. Occasionally, you’ll get an even better room than if you hadn’t contacted them. For example, if you send an email saying something like this, “I had just wanted to confirm my booking with your hotel. We’re a family of 5 so really need this to go smoothly. Thanks.” At the very least it lets the staff know you’ll need a bigger room. Maybe it won’t change anything but occasionally some of the time it will.
Important! – If you belong to a hotel loyalty program and want to get points by booking directly through the hotel you can still benefit by using 3rd party hotel websites. Simply look for deals for your chosen hotel then phone the hotel and state exactly the deal you found online. They’ll often offer you the same price on the same room. (Though not always, as sometimes they have sold these hotel rooms as a block and are not looking to discount the remaining rooms they still have booking access to.)
Print your confirmation email (or have easy access to it on your phone) to show at reception. 9 times out of 10 you won’t need it but on occasion the hotel might not have received the reservation info and the confirmation will help.
If you’ve already decided on the datess of your hotel stay then you’re starting from a disadvantage. Sometimes you have to travel on specific dates but if you can swing it, try to book hotels before you’ve settled on your dates.
Check multiple sites before you book: the hotel’s website and at least 2 hotel booking sites.
If you’re looking for a specific hotel and see that it’s full on the nights you need then be sure to check a second or third website as this can simply mean that the first websites’ allocation of rooms has sold out, not that the entire hotel is booked full.
If possible contact hotels directly to ask for deals or enquire about special offers. This is a pain and it’s become less and less effective as the online deals have become so competitive but it’s still worth a try. It can be especially effective if you’re staying for a week or more. Hotel booking sites won’t be able to offer special deals based on length of stay.
The biggest risk with reserving through a hotel booking site isn’t that you’ll be scammed out of your money by an illegitimate business (all of the websites that I list in here are reputable) but that they will overbook your hotel and you’ll get an email a few weeks before your stay saying that your room is not available. This is very rare, but it does happen. Contacting hotels directly after you book (I’m mentioning this twice since it’s so important) makes this scenario much less likely.
If you book a non-refundable hotel (read the fine-print) you will never be able to cancel so be certain before you reserve it.
The more particulars matter to you (e.g. special room requests, king or queen sized bed, bathtub, space for cot) the less well booking sites will suit you. That said, many sites are very good at passing along your specific requests when you book, so be sure to include any necessary needs or preferences when you place the booking (there’s usually a form when you can add extra information).
For budget hotels it’s often better to book directly with the hotel. Usually they won’t be listed in the hotel booking sites anyways.
If booking an apartment or family run B&B through a site (e.g. Venere) don’t assume that the same apartment will be payable using a credit card. Confusing I know. The initial credit card is used to reserve the room with Venere, but when you arrive (and need to pay) the owner might only accept cash.
What are The Best Hotel Websites for the most most popular destinations?
Here are direct links for some of my favorite places:
Couchsurfing.org – Find hosts to stay with in over 100,000 cities and connect with travelers from all over the world.
Pros/Cons to Couchsurfing:
Couchsurfing pros: free, live like a local, interact with locals, kitchen access, take more than one traveler.
Couchsurfing cons: privacy, boring host, must trust people, not luxurious, be prepared for anything.
FREE Hospitality Networks:
Be Welcome: Step inside and invite travelers to your home, find hosts all over the world, and become part of our multicultural hospitality community. We are not-for-profit, open source, and exclusively run by members in a transparent and democratic way.
GlobalFreeloaders.com: is an online community, bringing people together to offer you free accommodation all over the world. Save money and make new friends whilst seeing the world from a local’s perspective!
Servas: it’s a different way to explore the world 14,000 Servas members in over 130 countries will welcome you into their homes Servas is an international travel network whose members want to promote peace and understanding through contact with people from other countries
Home Exchanges are a Good Option – If you own a home!
trustedhousesitters: TrustedHousesitters.com provides a simple solution to a very common problem: They connect home and pet owners who need a sitter with trustworthy people who want to housesit; reliable pet lovers and experienced home minders who are willing to live in your home and look after it while you’re away (usually for free).
mindmyhouse: Home owners join for free. House sitter memberships are the cheapest on the web at only US$20 or equivalent per year. Dual memberships are perfectly respectable.
Housecarers: Get help you with tips and guides on how to Land the housesit, and give yourself the best exposure to our high traffic dedicated House Sitting Site. They have been Securely Matching House Sitters since October 2000.
Home Away: Find and book your perfect vacation rental with HomeAway. Rent everything from cabins, condos and castles to villas, barns or farm houses.
Vacation Rentals By Owner VRBO: Find and book over 620000 vacation rentals around the world on VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner
WWOOF: Italy, France, NZ
Monastery or Convent Stays
Hostels, Hostels, Hostels
5 Keys to finding the best prices
Know The Market – Predict if you should book now or later.
Just like airlines, it is possible to predict prices for your hotel stays.
The Web-based price predictor feature on TheSuitest forecasts how room prices are expected to fluctuate for the next month-use it to find the right time to buy in any market.
Better yet, Guestmob offers similar discounts if you let it choose one of four predetermined hotels for you (all in the same part of town).
Try Your Luck – It’s Not As Risky As You Think
You gotta love Priceline’s Name Your Price auction tool, which lets you propose a rate to properties you’re considering.
Equally worthwhile is BackBid. Use it to submit the details of an existing, refundable reservation, and similar hotels will try to outdo one another on savings.
You can also win big with Roomer: like StubHub for hotels, it’s a resale marketplace for nonrefundable bookings-sold here at rock-bottom prices.
Procrastinate – Early Birds Don’t Always Get The Worm
Same-day booking apps such as HotelTonight (free; IOS) and Booking. com Tonight (free; Android,IOS) yield up to 70 percent off regular rates, if you’re willing to wait until the last-minute. Thanks to their popularity, there’s plenty of inventory to choose from daily. Pro tip: the deepest discounts surface on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, and right after holidays.
If you ever doubt your decision to roadschool remember this:
What you are doing is what schools try to replicate in the classroom but fail miserably.
Traveling for a year with your family, especially if you have school age children, requires some planning.
It means you have to become a teacher, and if you are like us, you may not have been a teacher before.
It also requires paving the road for a healthy transition away from the world of traditional school then back into school when your children return from your grand adventure.
For our family this has been difficult.
We had won a prized spot in a community lottery for our daughter to attend an excellent free public charter school near our home.
She was headed into the second grade and our 4-year-old son was guaranteed a spot in kinder. The thought of losing our spot almost kept us from taking the trip.
But like all things, if you find yourself saying “we can’t because…”, it is best to reframe your question and instead ask “how can I make this dream a reality”. “Can I do this and that”? What steps are necessary?
Roadschooling Resources and Apps
Over the last several years the resources available for roadshcoolers have grown exponentially.
But one resource still rains supreme. What is the best resource for roadschooling families?
The open road!
That being said I am still compiling (and refining) a list of resources we are finding helpful that I will share here:
Top Ten Road Schooling Quick Tips
Read books on the subject before, during and after and adventure.
Buy a special book for sketches.
Give them their own camera.
Ask for family tours or kid’s tours or pick guides who are good with kids
Make it fun
Prepare for your visit, build anticipation & take your time once there.
Buy a small souvenir, book and/or postcards.
Encourage kids to keep a journal, scrapbook or both.
Nothing beats reading, and nothing beets Amazon.com’s Kindle Unlimited. At 9.99 per month you can downlaod all the Lonely planet guidebooks your heart desires and tons of free childrens books to boot!
Free Educational Videos
khanacademy.org (free educational and training videos on various subjects, beginning to advanced)
iTunes University — free video and audio lectures and lessons. Not so great for little children.
Free Language Learning Done Well
Again the key here is to pick one and stick with it:
Duolingo – Free language education for the world, and it just keeps getting better. They have an amazing iPad app.
Busuu and memrise I have heard are excellent options as well but I have not spent much time with them.
Get Lost and Get Smart
Open Culture – Self proclaimed to be the best free cultural & educational media on the web it is almost a bit overwhelming but they have a great k-12 section.
Libravox: Offers volunteer-read books that are in the public domain. Libravox is now working in partnership with Project Guttenberg, so you can find a majority of these books in the previous listing, but not all.
Splash Math – Just starting to give this a try but it looks amazing. Also available as an iPad app. Keeps track of your child’s progress and sends you auto-generated email reminders.
Children’s Bookshelf: This part of Project Gutenberg is designed specifically for kids. Choose from tons of books in anthologies, fiction, history, fairy tales, and much more.
Teaching Kids Programing
MIT Scratch – Teach Kids to Code – Scratch is a programming language and an online community where children can program and share interactive media such as stories, games, and animation with people from all over the world. (ted talk)
iPad Apps We Love
MeeGenius – Read Along Library of Childrens Books – for $4 you get a MeeGenius Reading Club subscription, turning your mobile device into an expansive library of digital books for children up to 8 years old. All MeeGenius books are available with read-along word highlighting, rich illustrations, and engaging story narration
High Frequency Words – This app uses a very logical and kid friendly approach to learning high frequency words based on age and learning level.
Paper by Fifty Three (Free) – Capture your ideas as sketches, diagrams, illustrations, notes or drawings and share them across the web.
Google Hangouts – Why not just keep in contact with your family but instead have a reading or instruction night with the Grandparents. Hangouts is an absolute must for keeping the kids connected while you are away.
Lets Do Math – Keep kids busy for hours with 15 different types of exercises in three categories and 50 word problems that focus on addition and subtraction. The app can be used either as flash cards or as a series of puzzles to teach basic concepts. (Ages 6 and up; Free; Android)
Kindle Free Time – Free Time Unlimited ($2.99 a month for one child, or $6.99 for a whole family with an Amazon Prime account, $4.99/9.99 without), you gain access to a massive library of hand-curated movies, television shows, and books that are constantly updated and require no extra effort from the parents to maintain or curate.
Fill Your Kindle for Free – Mike wrote a post on his travel site that details a few ways to specifically fill your Kindle with articles, blog posts, and the what-not you want to read but don’t have the time to process in front of the computer. (Bonus, his post also outlines a handful of these book sites too!).
You don’t need a lot of gear, you just need the right gear (unfortunately I have a lot of both!)
Sharing your laptop connection
This is my new favorite Windows-only app called Connectify.
The free version allows you to share both wired and WiFi connections, while the Pro version adds the ability to share a 3G/4G modem connection as well.
I have been using the free version regularly for several months and recommend it, it has allowed our entire family to share a single WiFi metered connection among the entire family and all devices. I couldn’t live without it.
The Smart Phone
Unlocked iPhone (I have an older 4s and it works just fine)
Although there are other options (and probably better) now on the market I still like my (semi old) unlocked iPhone. If you unlock your smartphone you can buy cheap SIM cards (about $2) and plans for well less than $10 a month to use on the road. This helps when meeting up with other travelers and calling guesthouses to book ahead. Also, the cameras and social sharing features are fantastic and mean you don’t always have to carry your bigger camera when your little one takes 5 mega-pixel photos! If you are heading to SEA, my techie friends put together a great list of SIM card advice for Southeast Asia.
Some quick tips on phones:
Get an unlocked phone.
Or buy and toss local phones as you go.
Nexus 5 is a great if not perfect option, but for me there was just no reason to upgrade
Read this article on Sim Cards and Mobile Phones if you are going to South East Asia.
Finding The Right Case for Your Phone
I currently use the speck case. I keep some cash and one of my cards in it for easy access the rest goes into my money belt.
The Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 – Ultrabook
I debated for a long time between going “all in” with a Mac Book Air (since I own an iPhone and an iPad) but I just think Windows is a better and more versatile travel laptop.
While the Yoga Pro 2 doesn’t have the 12 hour battery life that makes the Air so darn tempting, I love this laptop because it combines everything the family man running an online business could dream of.
It works great as a convertible tablet for watching movies or browsing travel books and has perfect tech specs (see below).
It will set you back about $1,000 but it is the best investment I have made for my business on the road.
Compared to the iPad Air you get a convertible touch screen tablet with all the Windows programs that you have pirated purchased over the years. 🙂
Check out these important Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 travel tech specs That I think make it a great laptop
I waited for years to buy an iPad and this year in January (before I knew we were leaving on our trip) I took the leap.
It is a great tool but I still couldn’t live without my laptop. Coupled with the amazing FabricSkin Keyboard Folio it makes for the perfect travel companion for families.
We also just purchased an iPad Mini for my wife and kids for $199 without the Retina display.
The advantage of the iPad is really it’s battery life, durability and simplicity.
If I didn’t own this I would jump in line pretty quickly for a Google Nexus Tablet which is also an excellent option.
Finding The Right Plug
This might not seem like such a big deal but a good travel plug is essential.
This plug is great it has a surge protector and two high speed USB charging ports. It is a bit big (my only complaint) but I have found it so useful I am taking it again on this trip. My only complain is that this is a three prong plug which is not always an option in many countries. But that is Ok because we have a converter.
I bought two, both the Kensington all in one and the MAXAH® Surge Protector All in One.
Cannon Digital Rebel SLR Camera
I have an older Canon Digital Rebel XTi (here is the new one) that is basic and compact. I tried to provide enough reasons to upgrade for the trip but there just weren’t any. My wife fought me on this one but I am bringing it with just it’s small 50 mm lens so that I don’t have a lot of weight and bulk.
This cheap 50 mm lens got me all my great photography through Peru so I am counting on it for our trip and if we are going around the world I just can’t resist having my nice SLR.
Quick Photography Tips:
Set your phone to automatically upload to Google Plus to backup all your photos. Other options are Facebook and Flickr but I am loving the Google Backup because it will also backup all the pictures on your laptop.