Traveling Abroad for Less than the Cost of Summer Camp
By: Joy Schoffler
Last summer I did something I have never done before, I took the summer off with my kids. A back packer in my previous life (e.g. pre-kids and pre-career) I traveled solo through SE Asia. While, my days of hostels and packed buses are long behind me, this summer taught me an amazing lesson. Traveling solo with kids is not only possible for parents but the rewards are many! The best part—if you travel to places where the cost of living is low and you play the airline card game, you can do so for less than the cost of many kid’s summer camps.
Use Airlines points to Buy Tickets
After picking a location, I looked for the best days to travel with our airlines points. While we have flown to Hong Kong and Thailand using as little as 15,000 American Airlines points for each ticket, each way. I have been loving my SW Airlines card lately as they fly to a number of international locations for as little as 8,000 points each way.
Rent A House with Kitchen to Prepare Meals
My next step was booking a house. This is key as housing can be the most expensive part. We choose a condo in the beautiful beach community of San Juan del Sur (SJdS), Nicaragua. We choose a higher end condo at $1,800 a month—which was one of the bigger expenses of the trip. However, you can find housing for as little as $800 -1,000 a month in most parts of Nicaragua on a number of shared housing sites. We also made sure to book close enough where we could walk into town, to save on taxi expenses.
Renting a house, we had a full kitchen to prepare meals. With so many amazing fruits, veggies and fresh meats we were able to eat like kings for around $10-15 a day when we prepared meals at home. When exploring town we looked to see where the locals were eating. Not only was the food better, the prices were often half to a third less than the tourist places.
Connect with The People within The Community
Staying in one place allowed us to really connect with people within the community. Prior to traveling to SJdS, I joined an expat-mom’s group on Facebook. These amazing moms were beyond sweet, inviting us to a great 4th of July party, doing play dates and offering amazing advice. Strong expat communities often remind me of military communities. Something about living in a closed eco-system, especially over-seas breads a closeness and sense of community that is hard to find in the real world. The other cool part is we got to book tours with those people, turning surf and paddle-board lessons into opportunities to hang out with new friends.
Looking back on my adventure with my two children in tow, I am grateful most of all for the experiences money could not buy. While, the stereo-typical fighting that any siblings spending long periods of time together definitely occurred, they also became closer than they have ever been. Modern life, with its constant activity and necessity for childcare does not allow for summers together for siblings.
At this point in the article, many of you may be thinking—I would love to travel with my kids, but I have to work!
Plan Ahead and Reasearch for Better Deals
While, not every career will allow it, you may be surprised at your boss’s willingness to allow for remote work or a flexible schedule for a month or two—especially if summers are slow for your industry. As someone who was still working part-time through the vacation, I arranged surf-camps and had part-time help with the children. While, I did not end up using them I also located a day camp at an international school that had amazing activities for the kids for ½ the cost I would have paid for a US camp.
Create a Passive Income Streams
I additionally set a few investments in motion to allow for passive income streams to come in while I was away. Upside Avenue is the one that I use but there are many options to slowly start building cash-flow.
If a summer is not do-able spending a Christmas over-seas is one of the most amazing gifts you can give your kids.
For the last few years my family and I have skipped the presents and holiday parties and opted for international travel. Using points we typically ended up spending little more than we would have for the typically Greswald style Christmas’s that used to be a staple of our holidays. One of the other perks of holiday is my husband and I often lose weight instead of packing on the holiday pounds.
The point is where there is a will there is often a way. Travel with children, even solo-travel if one parent cannot make it is possible if you set the goal and work towards it!
P.S. At the time of writing the article Nicaragua was very peaceful. Unfortunately, it has since had some political unrest. With that said there are countless destinations around the globe where your dollar can go far and you can make life-long memories for less than the cost of summer camp!