This year, our family spent five weeks in Mexico.
Not surprisingly, sharing this time together as a family was incredible and believe it or not, it can be done. It simply takes some creativity and planning ahead.
My husband Dave and I have four children, ages 6, 10, 12, and 13. People often seem surprised by the length of our trip, and many say that they wish that they could have the same experience with their family.
Going on these extended adventures is more than just going on a trip for our family. There is a very meaningful and unique beginning to our story.
We have a special family in that we adopted three of our four children nearly five years ago. Helping our children to attach to our family, and to feel safe and secure with us is a challenging path.
A couple of years ago, we had the idea to travel together to Costa Rica in the hopes that our family ties would grow stronger. The plan was to spend two and a half months travelling the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, as well as a staying in the Cloud Forest.
We had so many wonderful experiences on that adventure, but most importantly, we grew closer as a family. I posted this status update on Facebook while we were there: “Things we are doing right in Costa Rica. More hugs. More eye contact. Fewer screens. Less sugar. More time. More sleep. More nature. More exercise. More learning. Fewer schedules. Fewer appointments. More books. More math. More mom and more dad. More sea and more sky. More love.”
Although you may not have the same family story as us, our lives are so busy, I suspect that many families could benefit from a chance to escape day-to-day life for a while and have an extended adventure together.
I would not call it a vacation, because although we had elements of a vacation included, we were homeschooling our children and Dave was working part-time while we were there.
More learning. Fewer schedules. Fewer appointments. More books. More math. More mom and more dad. More sea and more sky. More love.”
Planning our next adventure
For our second adventure, we decided to visit Mexico. We agreed on a five-week stay rather than a longer period of time because our eldest son is now in grade eight, and it’s an important year, academically and socially, for him to be home.
But what about school?
We contacted our school’s principal one year in advance, to let them know about our plans, and to ask permission to home-school our children for that period. She was very supportive. We have been so fortunate to have the support of the school on both our trips.
The teachers provided us with a list of topics they would be covering, and we designed our curriculum to follow that . We bought curriculum books for each of the grades, and our children also followed along with the classes via Google classroom.
Our classroom away from the classroom
Along with the standard curriculum we added units exploring Mexico’s geography, culture and learned about marine life. We found a structured approach to home-schooling worked best for us.
We began each day with 30 minutes of fitness, followed by breakfast together and then straight into the books.
Having a schedule for subjects helped us stick to it. All of us, parents included, also chose challenges that we would follow in Mexico, and we spent 20 minutes each day working on those. These included; push-up challenges, learning magic tricks, daily meditation and learning times tables.
In the afternoons we had a break period to go for a swim. We were so fortunate in Cozumel to have had excellent snorkeling right where we stayed, so our afternoon swims were magical.
We also organized weekly excursions such as: visiting a national park, ancient ruins or zip line parks.
A simple online search can help you find a place to stay, but we found that the key is finding a long term rental that you can rent for at least a month. In most cases, the cost of the property per night decreases significantly when you rent for a longer duration. Staying in one or two places has worked well for our family. Moving around to too many places with four kids can be a bit stressful – not as simple as our backpacking days in our 20s!
We like to settle in, find the markets, supermarkets and good restaurants. We aim to create a normal family life, so we look for properties that are houses or apartments with full kitchens.
Affording the adventure
To help cover the costs, we sublet our home in Toronto. We have managed to do that through friends of friends on both of our family adventures which has worked out very well for us.
Dave and I are fortunate, in that we are both in business for ourselves, and can take the time to go away without needing to arrange vacation days. It still requires a lot of organization though! It also requires saving.
There are many things that we do as a family that allow us the opportunity for this type of travel. Most significantly, we don’t own a car, and we live in a triplex where we are able to rent out two of the units to help cover our mortgage costs.
Travel is very important to both Dave and me, and we wanted to share that joy with our children. It has been something we have prioritized and it has enriched our family life greatly.
So, if you are considering a family adventure – I say, great! With some preparation, saving and planning ahead you and your family will be on your way before you know it. Bon voyage!