Our Travel Year – Planning and Budgeting

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Our intinerary

  • Sud Vienne Poitou, France*
  • Cardiff, Wales*
  • London, England
  • Bangkok, Thailand
  • Phuket, Thailand*
  • Road trip: Melaka + Ipoh + Penang + Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Hoi An, Vietnam*
  • Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Halong Bay, Vietnam
  • Cardiff, Wales* (Christmas)
  • Sud Vienne Poitou, France
  • Los Angeles, USA
  • Las Vegas, USA
  • Sedona, USA
  • Cancun, Mexico
  • Playa del Carmen, Mexico*
  • Tulum, Mexico*
  • Havana, Cuba
  • Nassau, Bahamas
  • Miami, USA
  • Florida, USA*
  • Road Trip: Charleston + Washington DC + Philadelphia + Albany, USA
  • Buffalo, USA*
  • New York, USA

An asterix means we are staying for 3 or more weeks, usually a month, which gives us a good discount with AirBnB. The itinerary started in June and will finish near the end of the following July.

How it worked for us

We began thinking about taking a year off to travel a while ago. One of those dreams you talk about together in the evenings. We would plan routes around the world, adding dream options and thinking about when it would be possible to do it. Then we decided just to get on with it!

Timing-wise it worked well for us. We had been in our jobs for 4 years, which is a respectable length of time in an International School. Eirlys was a year ahead at school, starting reception as she turned 4, and we weren’t sure about her going into year 1 and needing to sit still and do ‘proper’ work. I had gone back to work fairly quickly after having Bertie and even though our school were fantastic and very supportive, it did feel early to go back. It would also be silly to say that both working full time jobs with three kids, 5 and under, hadn’t been hard work! Although we were lucky enough to finish work early and have plenty of holidays, it still felt like a never ending cycle of morning routines, lunchbox packing, homework, reading, laundy etc. So we started planning properly.

We began by thinking of places we wanted to see. Where did we definitely want to go? What were some of our “bucket list” destinations? Things on our list included: visiting Japan, kayaking in Halong Bay, Las Vegas and swimming on Pig Beach in the Bahamas. We also used Instagram and Pinterest, following other full time travel families, to see where they recommended. We came up with a couple of different routes and plans that we loved!

Then we looked at expense and timings to gradually narrow the plan down. We also decided that we wanted to use the year to spend more time with our families, which meant being in places they could visit us and spending longer with them in the summer and at Christmas. Once we knew that, we split the year into two parts. August-December and January – July (we are working on a school year) touching base with our parents in Wales and France at Christmas and both summers.

Slowly, the plan came together and was put onto a massive spreadsheet presided over by Tom, who loves a spreadsheet! We moved stuff around, added destinations, took some away. We took Japan off the list as it put us over budget and we didn’t want to go there and not be able to experience it properly. We also found that lots of AirBnB places offer huge discounts, often 50%, if you stay for a month. That meant that we chose a few places where we could settle down and stay put for a bit. We didn’t want to spend the whole year on aeroplanes or battling jet lag and we wanted to be able to feel like we had almost lived in some of the areas.

Budgeting for a whole year of travel is obviously a tricky task! We were lucky to be working in Saudi Arabia, where our rent and bills were covered by our company, which meant a lot of our income was technically ‘disposable’. Each time our salary came in, we spent what we could spare on booking flights and accommodation. This got the big ticket items out of the way. Tom did some private tutoring, which paid for a lot of our supermarket shops and day to day spending. We also cut back on our spending the usual ways: less eating out, meal planning, less new clothes etc. This way, most of our flights, car hire and accommodation were paid for while we were still earning. Our spending money for the year was to come from a combination of selling our car, some of our furniture and household items and our gratuity as we left school. In a lot of the Middle East, when you leave (in lieu of a pension) you receive a lump sum calculated according to the number of years you worked for the company. This gave us a tight budget, but workable. We will probably need to do some online tutoring in order to be able to afford extra treats. We also know we won’t be able to do all the activities and trips out everywhere we go, but we have to remember it’s not a holiday!

It took a lot of planning, some of it stressful, lots of it fun and at some point something will probably, definitely go a bit wonky! For the most part though it was a lot of fun and we ended up with an itinerary that we are really happy with and excited about.

To celebrate our year of travel together (and make sure we have the full ‘Vegas’ experience) we have also planned to renew our wedding vows at The Plaza Royale Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas!

Our steps for planning a long trip

  1. Make a list of your ‘must see’ places for the trip.
  2. Research flight and accommodation prices for those places.
  3. Work out a rough budget.
  4. Look at timings.
  5. Adjust the list of places to see according 2., 3. and 4.

Websites and companies we used

Airbnb – accommodation

Booking.com – accommodation

SkyScanner – flights

Kayak – car hire



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