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:
- Asia – probably Thailand and Cambodia at a minimum
- Latin America – Mexico? Central America? Peru or Ecuador?
- 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.
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.
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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