The Year-Long Family Vacation

Have you ever had such a great vacation that you never wanted to come back, or at least continue for as long as possible? In a new article in The New York Times by Caren Osten Gerszberg, the growth in year-long family vacations is examined. Families with school-age children are beginning to take the whole gang on trips across the world more often says the Gerszberg. Here’s a selection from the article.

A growing number of American families with school-age children are turning their wanderlust into reality, say travel experts. Missions to expose children to cultural diversity and spend quality time together are among the reasons some parents are willing to exchange violin lessons and after-school sports for, say, a chance to dig for sapphires in New Zealand or to learn about land mines in Laos.

Planning a route, however, can be daunting. Should you take the smorgasbord approach, spending a little time in a lot of places, or opt for longer stays in fewer destinations, in the hope of gaining a deeper knowledge of a given place?

For Lisa and Jeff Holmstead of Gaithersburg, Md., the original conception was to take their four children — then ages 15, 12, 9 and 6 — around the world for a year, dividing the time among only four countries. “We wanted to be in places where the people spoke English for the most part,” Mrs. Holmstead said. “Our children wanted to go to New Zealand because of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies, and our son does Irish fiddling, so we put Ireland on the itinerary.” But after giving it some thought, they decided to go for a more diverse itinerary, and added Greece, India, Nepal, Thailand, Bali, Australia, Hong Kong and Mexico to the list.

Then came the question of affordability. After doing a rough estimate, they realized that the cost of spending a year away would be higher than a year at home. In March 2005, Mrs. Holmstead and her husband — who left his job as assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation just before the journey — devised a schedule. In the months before setting off, they managed to rent out their house, sell their cars, set up health and travel insurance, research home-schooling programs and meet with a travel nurse to get appropriate vaccinations. The Holmsteads designed the trip on their own, booking all their flights in advance through Air Treks ( and using the Lonely Planet guidebooks as their bible for food and hotels, which they booked as they went along. Ms. Holmstead said the price tag for their trip came to roughly $140,000, which included everything — flights, food, lodging, entertainment, insurance and souvenirs.

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