How to Make Travel with a Family on a Low Budget Possible

How to Make Travel with a Family on a Low Budget Possible
Shepard family (Vagabond Journey)

Original article on

Ok, I'll admit, when I left the USA with my five month old baby and my adventurous traveler husband I didn't know if it was possible to do what we were setting out to do: continuously travel the world on a tight budget, $25 to $30 a day for the both of us AND a baby. When I said goodby to my mom I told her, "We'll do this as long as we all are happy, maybe this will be our life, maybe we'll be back in a month." This was what I kept reminding myself as I boarded the plane. "We'll come back whenever we want to."

Before we left, when I wondered how we would be able to get by traveling with a baby I did a blog search for other families who were doing similar things. Since Wade is a full time blogger, and friends with some good bloggers out there I figured it would be a good place to get some inspiration, support, and feel like this was actually possible.

Until I found that there really weren't any.

There are some families traveling out there. But on a budget as small as ours and with a baby as little as ours? None. We were out to break some new ground.

Wade and I were used to traveling cheap. Real cheap. Even if it meant sleeping in love motels or outside on the sly and eating rice and beans everyday. While I found many good websites about which resorts around the world were most kid friendly, this was simply not the kind of travel we were in for. We are far closer to backpacker travelers than tourists staying in resorts, and my motherly instincts told me we might have to grow up a little to live with a baby.

Here are some of the ways we have made it work:

We travel slow

This is the most important change we have made. Instead of staying in the cheapest hotels on a nightly rate, we decided to rent rooms by the month or stay in apartments. In El Salvador we paid a whopping $80 a month for rent. Even if you have to buy some things to make your room comfortable (pots and pans, cleaning supplies, a fan) it still usually ends up being far cheaper to rent by the month then by the day.

Traveling slow also means you are not paying for long bus trips or airplane rides that often. It gives you time to learn a city, learn where the cheap restaurants, cafes and entertainment is. Most importantly, however, it means you have a some time to settle in and make little homes for yourself. This has been crucial for mine and Petra's sanity.

Transitions can be hard on a little one, and stressful for a parent, and I found that if you give yourself a little time in between changing locations, it goes smoother. Being in one place for a little while allows you and your baby time to make friends. I quickly found that I needed to be around other mothers. Having someone to talk to about child development, someone to play with the baby, someone who would even look at a dirty diaper and tell me if she thought the baby was sick was essential for my piece of mind as a parent. Luckily, making friends with other mothers hasn't been difficult when traveling with a baby as cute as Petra :-)

Typically, we would aim to stay in each location for one to three months. My husband has this strange rule that says if you stay in any one place for over three months you are no longer traveling, you are living there.

Babies change everything. Whether you are at home or traveling a baby changes your life. You are not in control anymore, they are. That long bus ride you were dreading sitting through when you were just a young woman becomes that long bus ride you are praying your baby isn't going to cry through when you're a mother. The only advice I can give is to remember to relax when you can, and even if it is an awful ride, it will become a good travel story on your blog later on.

We don't live like we're on vacation

We're not on vacation, this is our life. Accordingly, we don't go out to eat for every meal, we don't go out for drinks every night, we don't visit every tourist attraction. We pick and choose what we want to do, keeping in mind our long term goal is to continue traveling — and we can't do that if we drop all our cash on gourmet meals, tours, and beach resorts. We try to live like the locals wherever we go as much as possible, and this means cooking our own meals, eating at working class restaurants, renting apartments or hotel rooms by the month, buying fruits and vegetables from farmer markets, walking instead of taking taxis everywhere, and finding forms of cheap or free entertainment rather than paying to go on tours.

We use hand me down clothing

My baby wears a lot of hand-me-downs, and not just from my family, either. She has been given hand-me-down clothes from a clerk at a grocery store in Mexico, from other mothers that we meet when traveling, and from friends on the road. Usually, kids outgrow their clothes before they wear them out, and people almost everywhere seem to love passing them between other mothers. I let them do this, and then when the time comes I pass these clothes on to other mothers in another part of the world.

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