Are you wondering what is the best age for a family gap year? In this guide we will discuss the pros and cons of each age group for families planning on taking a family gap year. We will look in detail at the benefits and pitfalls of doing a family gap year with babies, toddlers and preschoolers, younger kids and teenagers to help you decide when it is best for your family to take a gap year.
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Things to Consider about the Best Age for a Family Gap Year?
Before you commit to taking a family gap year you may want to think about what the best age for a family gap year is for your family.
Now I personally don’t think there is a wrong age to travel with kids of any age however each age will bring their own challenges and benefits
Things to consider before committing to an age and year to do your family gap travels are:
Money and Employment
Although it would be lovely to just drop everything and up and travel with kids but it does take some planning. And one of the areas you will need think about most is in terms of money and your employment.
If you are taking a family gap year you will need to have a nest egg and savings put aside to prepare you both for your year of travel but also so you have money ready to re-establish your life once your travels have finished.
Alternatively if you can undertake some digital nomad work then you should consider how much work you want to do while you are traveling as while this adds some additional stability and income it will eat into your travel time.
For more information on ways to save for a gap year in your 30s check out this post.
Why are you taking a family gap year?
Also before you start planning where and when to take your family gap year we recommend digging into exactly why you want to take a family gap year and what is important to you.
Everyone who takes a family gap year while be doing it for different reasons. There is no one right reason for taking a family gap year but it is important to understand why you and your family will want to do this as it will affect the best age for a family gap year.
If educational and learning experiences for your children are top of the list, you will want to make sure they are a bit older before you travel. However if it is for you to make memories and bond with your children away from work and everyday life then there will be no one best age.
Depending on where you want to travel will depend on what vaccinations and medications you are going to need to take.
Therefore if there are some vaccinations you need that have a minimum age to take this will obviously affect the age you should go.
Perhaps the biggest consideration if you are traveling with older children is their education. Now unless you are already homeschooling, you will need to inform your children’s school and school board about removing them and traveling.
This may mean that you need to de-register your child from their school, and depending on how long you are going for and what your school area subscription rate is will depend on whether they will get back in.
For instance, in London and New York most good schools are oversubscribed. Therefore if you take your children off the register there is a strong possibility that they will be unable to get back into their original school.
You will also need to make a plan for how to keep educating your children while on the road. Many parents who go on a gap year with kids will decide to world school. Using their travels to scaffold their little ones learning.
However depending on the age of your child will depend on what learning outcomes they will need to reach by the end of the year and whether or not you feel equipped to teach them.
For instance children in reception and year one or grade one or two will need to master phonics. Therefore you will either need to teach them phonics or subscribe to a service that can teach them the basics.
If you plan on sending your children back into mainstream education at the end of your travel I would recommend finding out what learning outcomes they are expected to meet by the ends of your travel and coming up with a plan for this before you leave.
Therefore you will need to consider both how you are going to keep up with their studies on the road and what you will do for education once you get back.
So now we have given you some food for thoughts about taking a family gap year
Is your family Complete?
You may also want to consider whether your family is “complete” or not. For instance are planning on doing your family gap year with your first baby? And if so would you like to. have more children and are you thinking about doing more than one gap year?
I personally don’t think there is a problem with doing a gap year with your first baby – we did. But some people would prefer to wait until they have finished having children so they can do a gap year with all the family members rather than doing multiple trips.
Decide if you want to do a full gap year
While a full gap year as a family is appealing it may not make financial or practical sense for your family. But there is nothing that says a family sabbatical has to be a full year. You could consider traveling for 3, 6 or 9 months for instance and doing long term travel with kids even if it isbns’ a full year.
Best Age for a Family Gap Year?
Taking a Family Gap Year with a Baby
Taking a family gap year with a baby is very popular. One of the reasons for this is because in many countries (not the US) women get a year’s maternity leave or are able to split parental leave between parents.
This makes it a great time to travel as you already have negotiated time off work.
Not only that but you will be traveling more cheaply as babies don’t require their own seat on the plane or additional room in hotels or accommodation.
However the only downsides to traveling with a baby or doing a parental leave gap year is that your child may not have had all of their vaccinations – as vaccinations are done at intervals throughout your child’s first two years of life.
Therefore you may be worried about traveling with your baby when they haven’t had their full suite of vaccinations and may have to be planning on stops in your travels to keep your baby up to date with your home country vaccination schedule.
Also, when traveling with a baby, particularly if you are traveling with your first baby you don’t know how you will cope and what type of traveler your little one will be.
For instance, your little one may not sleep well or suffer from colic. This can happen wherever you are with your baby but it is certainly more stressful having to deal with this on your travels than at home.
Also you don’t know how labor and your postpartum period will be. While no one expects or want to suffer from post natal depression, this can happen to anyone anywhere. It is much harder to deal with this on the road away from family than it is at home.
And the final negative of doing a gap year with a baby is that you are away from family. Family is so useful particularly in that first year so it is worth noting that you may miss this support system if you decide to travel with a baby.
And finally while it is possible to do minimalist travel with a baby, it is much harder to do so than with older kids as babies do require more. For instance you might need a stroller, carrier and a raft of other baby travel essentials with you.
If you do decide to do a family gap year with a baby you may also want to check out our other baby travel guides:
Taking a Family Gap Year with a toddler or preschooler
When we took our family gap year we did so with a toddler. The reason we decided to take a family gap year with a toddler we did so because we felt the benefits outweighed the cons.
One of the benefits of taking a family gap year with a toddler over a baby is that they have already had most of their vaccinations so that takes some of the worries and logistics of traveling with younger children away.
Also as a toddler, your child will not be in formal education already so you don’t have the logistical challenges of talking to school boards and organising lessons and learning plans while you are away.
However one of the main cons of doing a family gap year with toddlers over older ages is that your little one will not have memories of your travels.
For instance when we did our family gap year we hiked Fushimi Inari with kids, walked the Great Wall of China, toured Australia and New Zealand and saw beaches around the world from Bora Bora to Iceland.
While me and my husband have great memories of this experience, my little girl has no recollection.
Taking a Family Gap Year with kids (4-11)
Taking a Family gap year when children are still in primary school and in the ages between 4-11 is one of the best times to travel with kids.
The main pro to traveling with children on a family gap year at this age is that your children will have the stamina to travel well but also will make and keep their memories on their trip. They will also be able to partake in educational experiences and partake in worldschooling while you travel.
However the main downside to this is that you will have to negotiate and potentially deregister your children from school if you are traveling with kids at this age.
Taking a Family Gap Year with Teenagers
In some ways I think taking a family gap year with teenagers can be the easiest and the hardest time to do long term travel with kids.
It is one of the easiest ages because teenagers are more self sufficient than younger kids and will be able to carry their own packs and take some responsibility during their travels however we all know that teenagers moods can be challenging.
Add to this them missing their friends more than other age groups who seem to make friends easier and who are happier in the company of their parents and siblings more.
And on top of that depending on which teenager years you go, you will also be thinking about exams such as GCSEs, A Levels or Sats depending on where you are from. This will also out additional pressure on you as an adult to ensure their education provision is good enough for them to slot back into education and reach their potential in their exams.
Overall what is the best age for a family travel
I think I have demonstrated that there is absolutely no one right age for a family gap year. Each age will come with its own challenges and benefits. Only you can decide truly what is the best age for YOUR family gap year.
Having said that we would love to hear if you are thinking or indeed have done a family gap year. What age are you thinking about going or did you go? We’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.