Taking the family on a gap year – benefits and things to consider

The typical gap year traveller embarks on a voyage of discovery just before entering university or the work force – a time when marriage and family are usually still in the future.  It is becoming increasingly common, however, for people to take a gap year later in life.  Gap year travellers in their mid-20s and above, are much more likely to already have a family.  Fortunately, taking the family on a gap year can be highly beneficial for all concerned, even though it does usually require additional planning.

Benefits of taking the family on a gap year

Many people find that one of the biggest challenges they experience while on a gap year is homesickness.  Indeed, some individuals become so homesick that they cut short their gap year experience, only to regret that decision in years to come.  Having the family along, however, guarantees that a gap year traveller will be far less likely to experience this.

For similar reasons, family members can provide a gap year traveller with a bulwark against culture shock.  When the food or local customs are utterly unfamiliar, those who travel with family can know that they will have someone who can share the challenge of dealing with the new way of life.

Gap year benefits for children

Human beings are hugely influenced by their childhood experiences.  Children that go on a gap year with their parents will be able to experience an entirely different culture during their formative years.  Such children can acquire innate understandings about the diversity of the world and its peoples, something that will stand them in good stead in years to come when they are expected to work and play with others from a different background.

Another huge benefit for children can be the chance to acquire another language.  Children tend to pick up languages very easily and can quickly become far more fluent than their parents – even without any formal study or training in the target tongue.

Things to consider

Gap year students who travel the world have only themselves to consider, but of course this is not the case when setting off with the family.  A backpacking gap year or one spent wandering on a whim from place to place might not be ideal for the traveller’s spouse or children.

Nor are activities the only important consideration.  Taking more people abroad will mean meeting additional legal requirements, particularly where the children are concerned.  Children have their own unique needs, of course; for most parents, removing a child from school for an entire term is not an option.  Those with school-aged children will therefore need to consider education options in their country of choice; this will almost certainly mean settling in only one or two places so that children can enjoy continuity of instruction.  Some gap year travellers enrol their children in local schools in order to increase immersion in the local language, while others prefer their children to have teachers from their home country.

Gap year travel with the family can definitely be a challenge, but this is one case where the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Top Image by ‘The Dream Sky’