How to plan a worldtrip
Two years ago, Gregor had the idea to do a trip around the world. With the kids. As a family. And he had already thought about the perfect time slot: after Sophia’s elementary school, before or at the beginning of high school. We would take one year off, at a time and in a constellation that would not be possible in this way again.
We started the intense planning, with all applications (eg school exemption, educational leave, …) the route planning and actual preparations about six months before our planned departure at the beginning of October. Admittedly we booked the flights quite short term, because we have tinkered along on the route for ages to have as few flight miles as possible, so we did not know our exact departure date until the beginning of September. Find out here what to consider when planning and booking the Around The World Ticket.
For a long time the project trip around the world did feel very unreal. In fact, it only became tangible at the end of June with the first visit to the Tropical Institute and the first major financial investment in vaccinations for the whole family. The advice given by the on-duty doctor was individual and relaxed and despite the crowded waiting room, she took the time for questions and concerns on our part, exactly oriented to our itinerary.
What about school?
Figuring a way to home/world school Sophia and exempt her from school wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. We got the information about homeschooling from friends living in other parts of Austria. From this we concluded that “we would simply sign up for home schooling, drive away, study with Sophia, come back, do the grading examinations and get into the next grade”. Nope. In Vienna things are a bit different. Sophia would have to be registered at a special school for homeschoolers, appear every two months for examinations and stay in Austria ¾ of the school year. Therefor this was no longer an option for us and a first bitter setback, after all, the school year was already coming to an end and the planned start of the journey was getting closer and closer.
We had already talked to Sophia’s school principal, who not only gave us full understanding of our plans, but also incredibly great support and valuable tips. We met again for a discussion, then phoned various departments of the Vienna Education Directorate and finally learned that we should apply for Sophia as soon as possible to get a long time exemption. In mid-July, within a week of the request, we received the positive notice that Sophia would be exempted from school for almost eight months.
Sophia’s teachers were also very supportive. Together, we went through the curriculum we would work on while traveling with Sophia and discussed the objectives and modalities of return. After all, we felt well prepared for the start of our big travel adventure.
Luckily Gregor overcame my grumpy mood and we made a packing test run five days before departure. Although we ended up with fuller backpacks than expected, but at least it has shown that it would be necessary to organize the packing of our backpacks technically different. Since Gregor and I each carry the clothes of the two children and thus share our backpack capacities, an packing system was inevitable.
We went through some other travel blogs and chose Eagle Creek’s pack-it-cubes* to organize our stuff. Since we did not know exactly how many pack-it-cubes we would need of which size despite the measurements, we purchased three pieces in Large and four in Small (we should have purchased more, and in different colors, but we did not realize that until the eve of departure). We had already been given waterproof Ortlieb* packaging bags before. Of course, these packing aids do not reduce the weight, but the Ortlieb packbags* reduce the volume as you can let the air out of the bag. Above all, the Eagle Creek Packbags* are designed to help organizing, so you do not have to mess up your backpack. We recommend buying the packing-cubes in different colors, so you don’t have to open each and every single one to find the stuff you are looking for.
Since we are traveling with big backpacks, a cover for baggage-handling at the airport was important. Backpacks tend to imposing themselves with all the straps and belts. A large cover* that you simply slip over the backpack (check out the exact volume or dimensions of your backpack so that the protective cover will fit securely) will prevent it from getting stuck and ripped.
We also decided to pack our own water bottles: FLSK bottles*. They had already proven their worth on our Interrail trip 2018: the bottle lasts up to 24 hours really cold and up to 12 hours warm. On the one hand to avoid disposable bottles and on the other hand to have cool water even at high temperatures, they came with in the backpacks.
In order to save space in the backpack, we also use microfiber towels. Admittedly, they take some getting used to because unlike terry towels, they wipe off the water rather than absorb it. But they also take up much less space, you get used to them, they dry quite quickly and the sand practically falls off (when the towel is dry again). We have micro fiber towels in different sizes and also from different brands. Since not all microfiber towels really feel good, you should either go to a shop and choose them by yourself or order them in good time before you leave so you still have time to send them back. We use two different brands: on the one hand, different sizes from Kilimanjaro and a large one from PackTowl*.
Would you take Books?
We like to read. Very much. And we have very different interests. Since we were packing for 8 months and Gregor and I had to carry most of the luggage, we did not want to take any books on the trip. Exception: Amélies travel-ready Pixi books! Since Amélie is happy to read books over and over again and again and again, until she can “read aloud” the books by herself and the little Pixibooks are not very heavy either, we took some with us (about 12).
So for Sophia and me, the idea was to take an e-reader. It was important to me to choose devices that are compatible with the different on-line libraries. On the one hand the Tolinos* of Thalia* had good reviews, on the other hand it would give the opportunity to buy a book from time to time. Important: try the thing with the libraries‘ online services BEFORE you leave. I did not do that and then got terribly annoyed that it did not work out as I thought. I had to update Sophias Tolino (which is only possible with good Wi-Fi) and then find out how to borrow the books and finally solve the “mystery” with the Adobe account to be able to open the ebooks at all. As I said, in the end everything turned out to be good, but it would’ve saved nerves (valuable parent nerves) and time, if I would have looked into it before departure.
Upcoming road trips and car hire at the destination
This topic has been hard for us. Although Sophia is already big enough to ride in the car without a booster seat, Amélie definitely still needs a car seat. So we were faced with the question: should we borrow a seat each time and thus have extra expenses and be dependent on the availability of child seats at every destination? Or should we take a car seat with us? We tended to the second option. But again, the consideration: which car seat? Our own, a combination seat with backrest and headrest? Or just a booster seat? Research has led us to the booster seat BoostApak* by Trunki*. A car seat that is also a backpack.
Advantage: We always have the child seat with us, which saves us a lot of money and we can put Amélie’s small travel backpack in it (just went that way) and thus have no further luggage.
Disadvantage: the BoostApak* seat is a relatively heavy. For toddlers, it is too heavy when packed, so we actually have an extra piece of luggage, as Amélie does not carry her backpack itself. She did not miss the chance to carry her own car seat backpack over small distances, but we couldn’t watch her carrying around that heavy backpack and took it from her quite quickly.
Really practical – or rather not?
With most of the stuff and luggage, it only became clear during the trip whether it was actually practical or not. But one of the best decisions to take it with us, definitely was (and still is) the waterproof UNO*-card game. We always have it with us everywhere we go: on small excursions, when going out to eat, on walks, on the plane, on the beach, while exploring different cities, at the pool… And wev’e actually played it almost everywhere: sitting right next to the salt-pans of the Sossusvlei in Namibia, at the beach in Indonesia, in our roof tent or our van in Australia, while having breakfast at the traditional souq in Doha/Quatar…
We had some super cozy hours between palm trees or other trees in the hammock* by Monkey Swing*, which is perfectly small, when packed and doesn’t need much space in your backpack. So if you have any space free, take a hammock with you, ours already came with carabiners and ropes.
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