Summer Plans – Travel The World?

Summertime, Fun Time

The Root of Good family has already started planning big summertime activities.  We just signed the older kids up for summer camp for one week in June and two weeks in August.  We preserved a big five week block of time in the middle of the summer for potential long vacations.

The only scheduling issue for the summer is Mrs. Root of Good’s job.  Even though I’m retired, Mrs. Root of Good is still employed full time.  Why is she still working if we are financially independent?  One big reason is the three month paid sabbatical her company offers to high performing employees.  The sabbatical combined with vacation days and holidays means she only has to work around seven months out of the year in 2014.

If she is approved for her sabbatical, that is.  Apparently there are approvals required by the boss, the boss’s boss and the boss’s boss’s boss.  So far the first two levels of bosses agreed to the three month sabbatical request.  The uppermost level of approval is still pending, so we are in summertime fun time limbo at this point.  Possible outcomes for Mrs. Root of Good are a full three month sabbatical, a partial approval for a month or two, or an outright denial.  In the latter case of a denial, it might mean Mrs. Root of Good exhausts her vacation time this summer and then quits.

What might we do this summer?  We have five weeks between the kids’ summer camps.   Or we could cancel one or more weeks of camp and stretch our time off to seven or eight weeks.   Five weeks should be plenty of time (or maybe too much time!) for a grand adventure.  There are three big possibilities:

  1. Asia – probably Thailand and Cambodia at a minimum
  2. Latin America – Mexico?  Central America?  Peru or Ecuador?
  3. Driving trip up the east coast of the US and into Canada

We’ll be traveling with a 2 year old, so that impacts our choice a little.  The flight to Asia would be painful at roughly 24-30 hours.  Driving up the east coast or flying 3-5 hours to somewhere in Latin America sounds much more appealing.

Between Mrs. Root of Good and I, we have the language skills necessary for long term stays in Asia or Latin America.  Since we will be traveling with our three kids, we will probably be looking for weekly rentals (or longer term) for most of our trip regardless of where we end up.  We will have around five to eight weeks for our trip, so we can travel a little slower than a normal vacation.  I like the idea of setting up a base camp at an apartment or house we rent for multiple weeks, and then traveling around the area where we are living.

Riding a real live* elephant in Thailand.
Riding a real live* elephant in Thailand.


I don’t think we can do any kind of worthwhile “around the world” trip in eight weeks or less, so it makes sense to focus on one area of the world and not spend every third or fourth day traveling from city to city.  If it was just me and Mrs. Root of Good, we might take on a little more adventure, but with a two year old and two other kids under age ten, I think we’ll be aiming for a little less ambitious journey!

In our retirement budget, we have $5,200 per year devoted to vacations.  We might set aside $1,000 for a week at the beach in late summer, which will leave us $4,200 or so for our big adventure.  Is it possible for a family of five to travel for a month or two on that tiny sum of money?  Our friends at Go Curry Cracker manage to live it up in Mexico for around $2,000 to $3,000 per month that includes rent on a sweet 3 bedroom house.  We could comfortably live on the same amount (or a bit more) for a month in Mexico or elsewhere in Latin America or Asia.

To help hold costs down, we could use some of the Starwood hotel points and airline frequent flyer miles we accumulated in 2013 and earlier.  Just like we did when we got free airline tickets to Uruguay and Argentina.  I have also been thinking about getting a pair of Barclay’s Arrival cards for me and Mrs. Root of Good.  The Barclay’s Arrival card offers a bonus of 40,000 miles that you can redeem toward any $400 travel purchase.  A Barclay’s Arrival Card for me and Mrs. Root of Good would mean $800 off flights on any airline or rooms at any hotel brand.

Between the frequent flyer miles we have on American, British Air, and United, we could get to and from Asia or Latin America for almost free.  And with the Starwood hotel points, we can spend a few nights here and there at nice Sheraton, Four Points, or Aloft hotels across Thailand, Mexico, Central America and South America.  We actually have enough points to spend up to fifty (!!) nights at any of the Category 2 hotels in the Starwood Preferred Guest hotel program.

We could probably free up even more money for our big adventure by cutting some other areas of expenditure.  After all, when we are traveling far away from home, we won’t be at home spending money on groceries, dining out, entertainment, gas, or most utilities.  While traveling, we will still be buying groceries, dining out, and having fun, but I would categorize those expenses as “vacation” expenses.  Checking out our budget, I figure we will avoid around $1,000 in home based expenses while on the road.  So our $4,200 vacation budget grows to a little over $5,000 if we skip a month of expenses at home in the U.S.   Or $6,000 if we are able to get away for two months.

Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat, Cambodia


This whole trip is just a loosely outlined idea right now.  The timing isn’t perfect.  Who wants to travel the globe with a two year old?  But the timing will never be perfect.  Even after Mrs. Root of Good quits her job, we still have schedule constraints like the kids’ school calendar and other optional summer extracurricular activities.  We have considered homeschooling for a semester or a year but the kids don’t seem interested and us parents aren’t that interested either.  And we like being at home, too, so we aren’t quite ready to adopt the nomadic lifestyle of a perpetual traveler.  Yet.

As cool as we are as parents, eventually our older kids might not want to explore ancient Khmer or Mayan ruins with us or lounge in a beach front hammock in Thailand or Mexico.  What teenager would want to do any of that boring stuff when they can sulk at home and text their friends all day?  This summer is as good a time as any for our big adventure.  It won’t be our last big adventure, after all.  Two year old Mr. RoG Jr. won’t remember any of this trip, but he’ll have another chance to see the world on a later trip.

I’ve been following two other families that are into adventuresome travel with their kids.  Buck at Bucking the Trend is planning on moving to Granada, Spain for a year with his two kids that are about the same age as my daughters.  We aren’t up for a full year abroad right now, but if he can make a year overseas work, surely we can swing a month or two.

Ali and Pat at Bumfuzzle have trotted the globe for around ten years now, and they had two kids along the way.  For a while they lived in Mexico with their kids.  And it seemed to go well overall.  How hard can it be for a month or two, right?

As you can tell, we are pretty excited about the trip.  Hopefully we can make it work with our schedules (and three kids).


Are we crazy to attempt a month or two of traveling with a two year old and two other kids?  Does anyone remember taking a long trip like this as a kid?



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  1. Sounds like a few very cool possibilities! Also, if your wife’s boss’s boss’s boss doesn’t approve the sabbatical after two people who work more closely with her DID, that would just be cruel. Best of luck!

  2. Hah! Sounds like an adventure brewing. I think it’s fantastic that you get to spend time with the kids enjoying the world. Never too soon to start the wanderlust . I am pretty sure they will approve her sabbatical. If not, it will be their loss of a valuable employee. Have fun planning!!!!

  3. Very cool. Obviously I say go for it! All 3 very different but great options. How do you envision narrowing down the choices? Will it mostly depend on timing and costs?

    1. So far Mrs. RoG has nixed the east coast USA/Canada idea. As for Latin America vs. SE Asia, there’s a few factors in play. Costs, availability of frequent flyer flights (and us having enough points), timing, and the chance that my wife’s brother and family might also go to Cambodia this summer (so we’ll have a native Cambodian speaker to help us out in addition to a Thai/Laos speaker). We’re hoping to hear about the sabbatical approval relatively soon, so once we know what kind of block of time we have, we’ll progress to “where to go”. I actually don’t mind blowing the “vacation” budget for this trip since we probably won’t make a major trip like this every year. I’m leaning toward Latin America. Shorter flights, more familiarity with the language.

    2. Oh and the kids are saying they want to hit up France and Italy, so maybe we’ll stop by to see you guys in Granada on our way to Asia. Mrs. RoG also mentioned stopping in London. Maybe we’ll just turn this into a grand European vacation. As you can tell, we are doing a particularly poor job at narrowing down the options.

  4. My iPad ate my longer comment, sigh, but here’s what I basically wanted to say:

    7-12 is probably the sweet spot. My family took an epic Wisconsin to Seattle and back road trip when I was 7 and my sister was 11. Memories of that trip absolutely DOMINATE my childhood memories.

    My oldest are 7 & 8 so I’m hoping we’ll be able to do something similar soon.

    The 2 year old will be rough, because they’re big enough to walk but small enough she’ll get tired quickly and you’ll need to schlep a stroller or a backpack for her. Choose a vacation with a really good “basecamp” that you can return to to let the kiddos recharge. They need a place that feels like home, even if it’s not THEIR home.

    1. Agree on the 7 and 8 year olds (that’s what we have, too). The 2 year old is the one who I’m uncertain about. He’s still in diapers but that may change by June/July. He’s great at walking and has no problem walking 0.5-1.0 miles at a time on fairly even terrain. So there’s a chance we could do some serious exploration on foot with him.

      I know what you mean about a base camp. I’m thinking of spending a week or two in each place we go just so we aren’t spending so much time traveling. And programming in plenty of free time to explore where ever we end up at a slower pace.

  5. Not crazy at all – I would love to have started accumulating stamps in my passport when I was 2. And like you said, you should take the opportunity to travel when you can.

    I used my United miles to fly to London for $200 last fall, and my husband and I got enough United miles to fly to Japan this summer for $40/person. That would’ve cost us at least $1,300 per person if we paid for it out of pocket though. Miles are the only reason why we could take the Japan trip AND a Europe trip this summer. Love credit card miles and points.

  6. Sounds awesome! I totally agree with your approach to picking one or two areas and spending a few weeks there. After about a week in one place, you can really start to get a feel for the rhythm of the place. You figure out where to buy your groceries, where the good parks are, etc. It’s a totally different and way more rewarding experience than zipping from place to place taking a few pictures of the tourist attractions. Can’t wait to hear what you decide!

    1. That’s what I’m thinking. So far I’ve been doing a little snooping on airbnb or similar sites to see what kind of weekly rentals we can get. I have been pleasantly surprised at the options, amenities, and affordability even in a place like London.

      We don’t necessarily have to stay in the middle of tourist central since that’s not always the best location to really experience a city.

    1. The 2 year old is the only thing that really worries me about traveling to the other side of the world. I think he will do fine as long as we set our expectations very low and just accept the fact that he’ll need frequent rest breaks and won’t be as mobile as the rest of us.

      I also hope we can avoid food poisoning. Not good with a 2 year old…

  7. DO IT! As a kid, I had friends who went on month or two month long vacations and I’d always be jealous! We were lucky to get a one week vacation to the Dells! HA!

    South America is top on our list. I’ll pull for that one!

  8. Sounds like some exciting trip ideas. We have a 7 month old and we have friends who travel with little ones but we don’t know how they do it. The trip to Asia is pretty long…I had a rough time (I need to sit in first class using points next time!), my back was hurting, I was fussy…don’t know how I’d deal with a long flight plus a baby. Can’t wait to hear what you guys decide to do. If we travel this summer, I’m thinking we’ll do something near where we are on the east coast.

    1. I’m not sure I can handle a solid day (or more) of air travel. And you are right – with a little kid it is going to be even harder. Which makes east coast USA/Canada or S. America more appealing due to no flights or “only” a 5-10 hr flight.

  9. Yes, you are crazy! But I look forward to following along on the blog… Our kids don’t remember all of the trips we did with them, but we have lots of cool pictures. And if you survive this, it only gets easier….

  10. Cambodia and Thailand sounds pretty great (your daughter looks so cute on that elephant!!), but flights to Asia are so long. I’ve only flown from the US to China once, but it was 14 hours and really tough for the 4 year old little boy in my row. When I was that age, my mom would knock me out with Dimetapp as we went from Chicago to France.

    Ecuador/Peru is much more manageable with a 5 hour flight out of Miami. Running around ancient ruins is really fun, but altitude is a consideration. It’s hard to breathe for the first 2 weeks in the Andes; after that, it gets much better.

    I’d save Europe for a time when your youngest kid can walk a lot. I went to France approximately every 2 years from when I was 4 to 19, and it’s a ton of walking in London, Madrid, Paris, etc. I love public transportation, but it’s a challenge with someone barely out of diapers.

    1. I think 14 hours is probably what we would face, and possibly as much as 17 hours depending on beginning and end points. In addition to a connecting flight or two (or three if Cambodia is one leg of the flight).

      The relatively short flight from MIA is a strong reason to choose Chile, Ecuador, or Peru (or perhaps 2 of those countries). We’ve done the RDU-MIA-Argentina flight before. 9 hours from MIA to Argentina is still a long flight (to me) and I don’t know how our kids will handle it. I was going stir crazy in my seat (couldn’t sleep well), so I can’t imagine the kids making it (unless they sleep the whole time). Maybe I’m just wussing out.

  11. I would recommend Mexico or Central America because of the small distance and no jet lag for the kids. I am partial to Guatemala which you can easily explore by renting 3 houses, one in Antigua, one on the beach somewhere and one in the Northern jungle for 10 days each and cover most of the country with short drives from those spots.
    Costa Rica is a good option too, the other three Panamá Nicaragua and Honduras have less things to see. In Mexico you could stay in three cities too but distances are longer to move from one place to the other.

    1. Sounds pretty awesome! Keep track of the civil unrest in Thailand, and make sure it’s not mayhem in the streets before you head over. We’ve seen some ugly videos out of Thailand lately, but I don’t know how pervasive the violence and unrest is (or how long-lived it will be).

  12. Hi,

    I have a 4 year old son, and my partner and I discussed if it would be wise if I took him with me in Thailand for 3 weeks this fall…. The flight from Montreal takes 27 hours total (longest flight being New York – Tokyo 15 hours). We concluded it was not worth it given his age and the duress it would put him through (and we’re not even talking about the current situation in Thailand!) . At his age and just wants friends, a pool and a beach. We are also going to Florida in June (130$ round trip!) so that will be the family vacation.

    My only concern about summer in Mexico would be the excessive heat.

    I have traveled a lot in my pre-kids life, and worked abroas as well (Switzerland, Australia) and one of th country I can’t wait to bring my family to is Guatemala. I rented a house on the shore of Lake Atitlan when I was 26, stayed 2 months and learned spanish, and I had such a great time and many people there were families with kids. Central America has beaches, jungles, volcanoes, which can be very interesing for kids aged 7-9. Of course if you decide to climb a volcano one of the parent must stay behind with the 2 year old.

    Congrats on attaining FI at such a young age. I am aiming to reach it @ 45 (currently 36). I spent most of my twenties abroad working and travelling, and having a great time, and managed to accumulate 450K net worth by myself. Now that I am working and in accumulation phase it is much easier to see the net worth grow. My partner does not work so it is a one income family, taxes in Canada are a big burden but once you set your sights on a goal, the only thing that can prevnt you from reaching it is yourself.

    Did not expect to write for so long (currently watching hockey and between periods!) Keep up the good work with the blog!

    1. Florida will be way easier to get to with a kid than Thailand for sure!

      But the heat and humidity in FL will be as bad as many parts of Mexico. Much of the inner part of the country is at a high enough elevation such that the temps stay moderate in the summer (Mexico City and surrounding areas). Coastal MX tends to get a lot hotter and more humid, and the areas near the border (like Monterrey).

      We finally decided on Canada as a good compromise of ease, convenience and awesome things to see and do (with a 2 year old). We’ll be in Montreal for 8 nights in July. Staying in the Plateau neighborhood near Baldwin Park.

      We’ll have our car the whole trip, so that makes it a little easier to haul his stroller and all the kids luggage (plus ours). And we get the bonus of hitting up some East Coast USA cities that we have wanted to visit with the kids but didn’t feel like making a trip out of it by itself (Philadelphia, NYC).

      Way to go on the net worth – looks like you’re making great progress!

  13. Quick question regarding all the new credit card offers.. Does opening all these new cards negatively affect your credit score in any way?

    1. Very little. I’ve heard that a new credit card application can drop your credit score by 5 pts, but it’s hard to tell from my credit score history. My FICO score is 823, Mrs. RoG’s is 825 (checked for free through Barclay’s credit card site). Over the last year, my score has ranged from 817 to 827 and I can’t notice any pattern to the variation. My score increased over the last three months by 5 pts from 818 to 823, while over that same period of time I applied for 3 cards that I can think of. In fact, having more credit cards can help your credit score by increasing your available credit and decreasing your credit utilization ratio.

      My only warning for applying for multiple new credit cards is to be careful if you’re about to apply for a new mortgage or refi or car loan. Take it easy ~6 months before trying to get one of these big loans. You want to make sure your credit score is as high as possible to get the best rates and it would be a shame if a human underwriter saw 4-5 credit card apps and decided you were too much of a credit risk for top notch prime credit products.

      Otherwise, apply away!

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