Travelling with 3 kids - Short notice

Hi - We are a family of 5 (6yrs, 8 yrs and 10yrs) and totally sick of the daily grind and missing out having family fun due to the everyday stresses. After reading some of the threads we are very seriously discussing packing up and travelling for min 6mths with the kids to experience life and creating lifelong memories.

My questions are:
Is there a lot of pre-planning that should take place or is it a matter of making the decision, packing up our belongings, renting out the family house and going with the flow..
What is the best way to tackle the schooling issue. How hard is it to school the kids on the road or are we best to do minimal schooling other than school based apps and journals and repeat the kids when we get back.
We have a soft floor camper trailer which we are looking at getting a hardfloor camper for ease of setting up or a windup camper. Would love to hear peoples thoughts please.
Thank you in advance.
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Reply By: Bushranger1 - Tuesday, Dec 15, 2015 at 21:01

Tuesday, Dec 15, 2015 at 21:01
G'day Mel,
In the mid 90's we took our girls aged 6 & 9 out of school & hit the road in a Hilux & soft floor off road camper for 2 years.
We went seriously off road remote camping for most of the trip & used the Victorian Distance Education system thru the mail for their education. We did not do school work every day but would find a real nice camp spot to do a few days straight with swimming in between school work. They just slotted themselves straight back into the standard school curriculum when we came back & settled down.
Sold our house & put the money in term deposits (oh for 14% interest again!). Put our belongings in long term storage which was much cheaper than 24hr access self storage.

Would we do it again? Hell yea!

AnswerID: 593844

Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Tuesday, Dec 15, 2015 at 21:52

Tuesday, Dec 15, 2015 at 21:52
I've never done it, but humans are meant to be nomadic, not tied down with the base of a home / mortgage (for life !) / rip off utilities etc.
I'm the other side of 50 now, the kids grown, seriously thinking of doing this permanent now, both here in Oz, and overseas even.

If renting out the house, get a good RE management crew to do this.
Too much heartache getting no hopers in there, druggies etc, don't need the worry while away.
Pay a good whack of rent payments for them to really manage it, regular inspection, and not get any rude shocks while away or on return.

I'd do it for 12 months in your situ, you'll need it.
AnswerID: 593846

Follow Up By: Member - John - Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 01:23

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 01:23
Les, have just retired and plan to tour Oz/house sit after selling up, oh and live in Thailand for 6 months a year with my new Thai wife, buying a house here............... Sept-Feb in Thailand, then Oz for the next 6 months. I think it will work............. fingers crossed.
John and Jan

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Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 05:24

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 05:24
Stick with your soft floor or get a wind up camper/ Jayco style dirt road pop up caravan. There are no hard floor camper trailers that I know of suitable for a family of 5 which don't involve spending time with zip on annexes. We love our hard floor for the two of us, but no way it would have coped with 3 kids as our previously soft floor did
AnswerID: 593851

Reply By: Crusier 91 - Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 06:19

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 06:19
Changing Education Paradigms, must watch
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Reply By: The Landy - Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 06:22

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 06:22
It sounds like a great idea and many people have done it, and are doing it right now.

But be careful that travelling and packing up every other day doesn't become the "new daily grind". Travelling can have its own associated stresses...

Good luck with it...Baz - The Landy
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 08:09

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 08:09
That's a really good point Baz, and one that needs to be worked out to ensure their trip works.

I read another post once in similar vein, where the couple was going to drive a couple of days to roughly pre planned places they'd researched would be nice to base at for a week or two, drive out and explore every day for a few hours, or every second day, and school (I think it was) 2 youngsters in a more stable stationary setting while stopped at each location.

This has the benefit of both being able to intricately explore a region, and makes bases that are a lot more stable and settling for both parents and kids.

It would be near on impossible if touring, and driving every day, or even if stopping for a couple of days, no routine would be easy in that setting, and kids would soon get tired of the passenger / constant movement scenario.
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 08:11

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 08:11
Just re-read Stus post (bushranger1) above, much like that :)
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Follow Up By: Sigmund - Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 11:13

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 11:13
Among long-term travellers I've observed a kind of travel fatigue setting in at about the 3 month mark. This is just a heads-up, re the strains of travelling.

A family constantly in close proximity needs good relationship skills.

You will need to develop your own rhythm and much of that will be dictated by the kids' needs. Don't forget how much they'll be giving up by your pulling up stakes - particularly teenagers.
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Reply By: TomH - Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 08:14

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 08:14
Be aware of the costs We found that just for the two of us it cost us about a $1 a km travelled for a years trip.

We did always stay in van parks and didnt stint on tourist trips.

You have to feed 5 and keep fuel etc in vehicle so work it out carefully.

I wouldnt go unless I had the funds to do it, unlike some friends who would get stuck with no funds until next pension day..
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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 08:33

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 08:33
Mel, you mention changing to hard floor for ease / speed.
Maybe if doing the basing thing more (up to a week or two) this might not be as important and the soft floor you have (and know) will do you all.

Otherwise, if you do change to a hard floor, and didn't want to set up all the bells and whistle awnings etc, using a tent like the plan by another member in this post Lightweight tent would be an option to set the kids up in next to the camper ?

Personally I feel the soft floor would be great for setups of a week or two at a base, before packing up and moving on.
AnswerID: 593858

Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 10:44

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 10:44
6 months is definitely not enough to even get half way across the country and back.
The real value in this is to meet others along the way and to get to know how they live. That takes time.
And think very carefully about renting the house. As attractive as it seems, it is something you may regret, especially for a relatively short (less than 5 year) period. It is necessary to empty EVERYTHING out and find somewhere to put it. Then you need a GOOD property manager. I have never met one.
Those concerns aside, this will be a positive life changing experience for all of you. Do it.
Stay OUT of the cities and caravan parks. Smaller, more remote communities are best.

OKA196 Motorhome.
AnswerID: 593861

Reply By: RBH - Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 11:04

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 11:04
G'day Mel,

I love hearing of parents who recognise the value of time invested in their kids. Congratulations on getting that far - lots of people never realise that - let alone pack up and escape the rat race!

Obviously, everyone is different but I'll share some of my thoughts for you to consider. To put myself in context, we are just a bit behind you in family stage (3 kids - 8, 5 and 4 months) and have a fair bit of Australian travel experience both pre and post kids.

1. Pre-planning.
I think that depends on your experience so far. If you have done enough weekends away and short holidays to know what sort of travel experiences your family likes, and you have a reasonably well sorted 'setup', then it is a pretty easy transition to longer term travel. On the other hand, if you have only ever holidayed at tourist caravan parks and now you have aspirations of remote desert trips for example, well that is a bigger leap. Be realistic - remember your goal is to enjoy life together as a family, so don't necessarily get sucked in to thinking that you have to tick any one else's boxes - eg. you "must" do the Simpson, or the Kimberly or Cape York or you aren't "real" travellers. If your family loves fishing or bushwalking, or history, or just sitting round a campfire; plan your adventures to maximise those experiences, rather than worry too much about the destinations. The best pre-planning you can do is figuring out what works best for your family. We happen to love deserts and mountains, but other people love the coast. We prefer isolated bush camping, but others prefer more facilities. We never eat out, others love experiencing local cafes and restaurants. Both are perfectly legitimate, but we wouldn't enjoy some people's idea of a great trip, and they wouldn't enjoy ours.
It can take a while to figure out what is your "thing". If you can do that before you pack up the house and head off I reckon you will be off to a great start.
I won't comment on the logistics of house/possessions/finances/etc as I imagine that could be completely different for each person.

2. Schooling.
We homeschool our kids for a whole bunch of reasons and LOVE it! It's not the primary reason, but one of the fringe benefits is that their schooling isn't a restriction to travel. In fact it becomes a motivating factor because the world is their classroom. If you are willing to engage with your kids and love learning yourself, don't worry about your kids "falling behind" if you travel. Rules for homeshooling vary between states (we are in NSW) so it's hard to know exactly how that could work for you. We don't use any specific curriculum or resources from a particular organisation - it is more of a collection of different bits and pieces that work for us. Happy to comment more on that if you want.
We know a local family that started homeschooling their kids for a 6 month trip a few years ago and loved it so much they have continued to homeschool when they returned.
It is a big commitment - we are a single income family (I'm a public servant on an $85k salary) but we prioritise things other than the accumulation of "stuff" and keeping up with the Jones's, and we manage very comfortably.

3. Camper trailer.
Since having kids we use a soft floor camper trailer. I am incredibly nomadic and we rarely stay in one place for long. During an 8 week trip with a 4 year old and 18 month old we stayed in 3 places for 2-3 nights. Every other place we moved on after just one night. And I would NOT do that if it was complicated! Our setup has evolved to become a very simple system that works really well for us and our style of travelling. Typically we can be set up and have dinner cooking within 15 minutes of stopping, and can be on the road (having had breakfast) within half an hour of waking up if we need to. I just don't like wasting time fiddling around so we have a system that works for us. Happy to comment more on that if you want.
My point is though, that a soft floor camper isn't necessarily a limiting factor. If you have one already, and it works (or can be made to work) for your style of travelling, save your money and use what you have.
I definitely agree that a hard floor camper wouldn't work for a family - floor area is too small.
A wind-up camper might be perfect for your needs. We travel with friends that love them and they can make life easy. Depends on your style. We love being outside, so there is little point in having a kitchen, table, chairs, cupboards, etc inside the camper for us - we wouldn't use them anyway. Unless we were spending significant time in Tassie or on the south coast in winter!

So, those are my thoughts. Sorry about the lengthy essay, but I hope some of it helps in your discussions.

Perhaps you could plan a transition year (or 6 months) to help clarify your options. Homeschool the kids, maximise family time, do lots of local trips and weekends away, extricate yourself from the rat race (psychologically), simplify your life, spend less, relax, rediscover your kids and your marriage; then see what happens from there.

That might be enough for you?? If not, it would make transitioning to the next step much smoother.

Good luck,
AnswerID: 593862

Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 12:00

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 12:00
Good feedback Richard, and much the OP could use..

Older kids though (6, 8, 10) will have different needs to keep them entertained and not burnt out.

This series of articles might give some ideas too . . .
Travelling with kids 5 - 12, and related links below that article
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Reply By: Member - John and Lynne - Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 14:17

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 14:17
We think that it would hardly be worth the organisation involved to only do this for 6 months and you certainly won't be able to keep up the rate of travel to get as far as you might like. Allow a year and don't start by drawing up an itinerary of "must sees'! You will need to feel your way and settle into a style of travel and camping that suits you. Children of those ages could have a wonderful time and are old enough to understand what they are experiencing and build great memories. Schooling is a legal obligation so you do need to do quite a bit of preplanning and you must be able to convince the relevant bodies that you are able to make a serious and organised effort. Relying on repeating the kids won't wash and would surely lead to considerable unhappiness so is best forgotten. That said, schooling need not be a great burden. You can cover basic material more quickly than in a classroom so you don't need formal schooling every day but you do need to set a routine and make sure the kids accept the deal. It can be hard being teacher as well as parent. There will be lots of opportunities for learning along the way if you take advantage of them and kids can keep diaries, scrapbooks etc as a record and something to take to school to share when they return. Many people find the State Distance Education materials very helpful, especially if they are not confident about planning a course. Home schooling works for others but takes more organisation, especially with three kids.
Renting your house would really need at least a year to get good tenants and agents (both do exist). Just remember there will be expenses involved and you won't make a lot of money out of it so beware if you are hoping to pay off a mortgage - get good financial advice.
Otherwise go for it! Lynne
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Reply By: Member - Odog - Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 15:12

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2015 at 15:12
G'day Mel, wife and I did an 8 week trip, Queanbeyan to Perth and back, limited time due to work, had a ball, but could easily have taken 6 months to do same trip.. No kids, and didn't splurg, but did buy coffees, and stuff along the way, the odd take away n dinner out occasionally, when in town.. Worked out we spent $1000 per week.. We were in a hard floor ct, was comfy, only thing if camped in the open,gets a bit of flapping, but this I think wouldn't be any different from a soft floor ct.. We had made a couple of bookings in advance, just with Easter and another spot, which we wanted to go to. Every 3/4 days we would stay in a van park, just to charge up batteries in the ct, and have a shower, do a bit of washing n stuff.. Can't wait for next trip!.. Good luck, and hope it all comes together for you all.. Happy travels.. Odog
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Reply By: Mel G - Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 at 21:29

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015 at 21:29
Firstly, thank you to each of you for taking the time to give me some very helpful advice. After reading all your comments and careful consideration, we have decided to take a month off and do a small trip down the coast to see how we survive with living in our existing soft floor camper and to also see what we need to do to prepare ourselves. We are now planning for 3 mths time (After our wet season) to pack up and head off on our adventure as spending more quality time with the kids is our priority while they are young and actually want us to be in their space. I would love to know more about the protocol for approaching the schooling dilemma (QLD catholic ed). How to go about it, which department to discuss our options but i'm hoping to be on the road after the naplan testing has been completed. I especially loved reading your post Richard, it was full of great advice and things to think about. Thank you again to each of you.
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