Our 2014-2015 Family Gap Year Month by Month Itinerary (August 10 – July 18)
Traveling around the world in one year is possible. But, when traveling with kids it is best to take it slow.
As a general rule, if Lonely Planet says two weeks in a particular country, it is better if you plan for three. If a travel guide has you hitting three destinations in one day, if you are traveling with kids you most likely will make it to one (if you are lucky).
Below is our “one-year” family gap year itinerary. Or to be exact: It is 343 days from the start date to the end date, or 11 months and 9 days.
We purchased our airline tickets through Indie for the first leg of our trip from Africa to Thailand. Once in Thailand we found travel cheap using discounted South East Asian airlines so we ended up spending a lot of time in Asia.
As grossly uninsured US citizens we purchased our family health and travel insurance through World Nomads which ended up being a (literal) life-saver!
Our 343 Day Circuit from South Africa to Japan
1. South Africa (Aug 10 – Sept 11) 31 days
Starting in South Africa in August we had some rain and some chilly temperatures in Cape Town but once up to the Garden Route things were getting quite nice. This time of year accommodation options were plentiful and often nicely discounted.
Cape Town → Hermanus →Oudtshoorn → Wilderness → Plettenberg Bay → Jeffrey’s Bay → Addo Elephant Park → Chinsta → Coffee Bay → St. Lucia → Durban
2. Bali Indonesia (Sep 12 – Oct 22) 31 days
On September 11′th, we flew to Bali where it was dry season until October. It was hot and humid and the kids let us know quite often that they weren’t happy about it. Luckily, Bali is an Island and the hotels have beautiful pools and the ocean is everywhere which means it really isn’t that hard to find a place to cool off.
Jimbaran → Kuta → Sanur → Balian → Pemuteran → Ubud → Kuta.
3. New Zealand (Oct 22 – Nov 25) 35 days
We jumped down for springtime in New Zealand for 5 weeks. We had some rain and it was still quite cold on the southern island. Flowers are just starting to bloom, crowds are minimal and prices at accommodations are discounted. f you travel during this time make sure to pack some good winter jackets and some rain gear. You will be good to go.
Auckland ( 4 nights) → Bay of Islands (3 nights) → Ahipara (2 nights) → Raglan (4 nights) → Waitomo (1 night) → Rotorua (5 nights) → Lake Taupo → Wellington → Nelson → Kaiteriteri → Hokitika → Franz Josef Glacier → Haast → Queenstown → Dunedin → Omarama → Mount Cook → Lake Taupo → Christchurch → Hamner Springs
4. Australia (Nov 25 – Dec 28) 34 days
We spent summer in Australia for 34 days and enjoyed an Aussie Thanksgiving and Christmas on the Great Barrier Reef and the amazing Daintree Rainforest. Accommodation options at this time of year are just about perfect and the weather is great. Starting on Dec 28 you better get out though because unless you have pre-booked your entire Aussie trip there is literally nothing available and prices double or even triple. We had plans to extend our trip for another week or 2 here, but it was impossible.
Melbourne (4 Nights) → The Great Ocean Road (1 night) → Lakes Entrance (1 night) → Merimbula (1 night) → Pretty Beach (3 nights) → Sydney (5 nights) → Port Stephens and One Mile Beach (5 nights) → Port Macquarie (2 nights) → Coolangatta “COOLY” (3 nights) → Burleigh Heads (3 nights) → The Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation (2 nights) → Port Douglas (6 nights) → Flight to Bangkok
5. Thailand (Dec 29 – Feb 15) 49 days
By late December, the climatic conditions were just right to begin our journey through the heart of South East Asia. We started in Thailand where we were “sucked in” and managed to spend the next 49 days tramping around the peninsula and its beautiful islands.
Bangkok (8 nights) → Hua Hin and Dolphin Bay (4 nights) → Koh Tao (13 nights)→ Krabi Town (3 nights) → Railay (6 nights) → Koh Lanta (10 nights) → Bangkok (again) – 3 Nights→ to Cambodia and Vietnam then back to → Bangkok (wife needed surgery) → Chiang Mai.
6. Cambodia (Feb 15 – Feb 27) 13 days
We traveled from west to east toward the southeast border then over to Vietnam by bus. We spent 13 days in Cambodia and wished we had more in this beautiful country.
Siem Reap (7 nights) → Phnom Penh (4 nights) → Sen Monorom and The Elephant Valley Project (3 Nights)
7. Vietnam (Feb 27 – March 15 ) 17 days
We met up with my dad in HCM City and our plan was to work our way upward to Hanoi and beautiful Halong Bay and Sapa. We made it as far as Hoi An. My wife was hit by a moped within an hour of arrival and she was airlifted a day later to Bangkok for surgery.
We began in Vietnam’ s liveliest metropolis Ho Chi Minh City → continued north to idyllic Mui Ne Beach → Enjoyed some beach life in Nha Trang → Then pushed on to charming Hoi An → then we had a trip interruption (see highlight above).
*We will be back to finish up Vietnam to see the sights and experience Hanoi’s unique street life. Tour incomparable Halong Bay and Sapa then take in the extraordinary caves and karsts of Phong Nha. and Hue.
9. Thailand # 2 (oops we had an accident) (March 15 – April 16)
Back in Thailand (see above) we made our base in Bangkok near Bumrungrad Hospital where my wife spent 2 weeks having surgery and recovering. Because my wife is one tough woman (and World Nomads is amazing!) we decided to continue the trip by making our way north to Chiang Mai and spending some time “relaxing” and recovering. Well, as usual, didn’t relax much we instead took up arms in the famous Thai New Year’s water festival.
Bangkok → Chiang Mai
10. Hong Kong (April 16 – 23) 7 nights
We had plans to visit Lao but the heat in South East Asia was pretty unbearable. Since my wife was healing well we continued our trip and decided to spend a week in Hong Kong. The weather this time of year was wonderful, Hong Kong was beautiful and we had a great time.
11. Peninsular Malaysia (April 23 – May 13) 22 days
We enjoyed Hong Kong so much we began planning a 1-month itinerary to visit mainland China. Unfortunately after getting our hopes up we discovered it would be $1,500 as US citizens to obtain visas to mainland China from Hong Kong through an agent. Although the visa would be good for 10 years we decided this wasn’t in our budget and made the decision to head back down to Malaysia to jungle trek with Orangutans, dive in the famous blue waters of Sipadan and make a trek to the top of Asia on Mount Kinabalu.
Kuala Lumpur (5 nights) → Cameron Highlands (4 nights) → Penang (4 nights) → Perhentian Islands (6 nights) → Borneo (See Below)
12. Singapore (May 13 – May 21) 8 days
On transfer from peninsular Malaysia to Borneo we decided we had to make a stop in Singapore to see what all the fuss was about. We spent a week here enjoying this beautiful, modern city.
13. Borneo Malaysia (May 21 – June 6) 12 days
We spent our time on the west side of Malaysia in Sabah. It was hot this time of year but uncrowded. We were able to book all our activities on the go and we had very little rain and very little crowds.
Sepilok (3 nights) → Kinabatangan (2 nights) → Sipadan Diving (6 nights) → Kota Kinabalu Mountain Climbing (5nights)
14. Taiwan (June 6 – June 30) 25 days
Taipei (3 nights) → Toucheng (2 nights/3 days) and the Toucheng Leisure Farm→ Hualien and the Taroko Gorge (3 nights) → Yuli (2 nights) → Tatung (1 night) → Kenting (1 night/2days → Maolin Recreational Area (2 nights) → Guanziling and the Dongshan Coffee Road (1 night) → Sun Moon Lake (3 nights) → Taipei (5 days)
15. Japan (June 30 – July 18) 19 days
Our Family Gap Map