Dare to Drive—Yes, Long Road Trips with Kids Are Possible

People often ask us how we manage to afford traveling as much as we do.

Well, here’s one of our main secrets:

We dare to drive.

Driving is so much cheaper than flying, which is largely what allows us to fit travel into our budget.

Plane tickets just between US cities average around $200 per person (and often are even more).

(Yes, sometimes you can get cheaper flights, and yes, this doesn’t work for traveling overseas, but that’s content for another post.)

So even if you only have two adults and one child over the age of two, you’re usually having to fork out about $600, just to fly to your destination city, and that doesn’t even cover the cost of transportation around town once you get there.

That’s why driving is the answer.

We’ve made road trips across the country and back again for under the cost of a single airline ticket.

Plus, once you’re in your destination city, you have your car with you and don’t have to rent a car or pay for other means of transportation once you get there.

“But I Have Kids…”

Well, so do we!

When we tell people about the twenty-four-plus-hour road trips we’ve done with our toddler, people flat out tell us we’re crazy.

And now we’ve just completed a ten-hour trip with him and our four-month-old baby.

Too many people seem to be scared of long road trips with kids or think such a thing simply isn’t possible.

Now, we’re not going to lie; of course driving long distances with kids is a challenge, and not every moment of the drive is a blissful, jolly holiday.

But in this series we’re starting (and will contribute to over time) called “Dare to Drive,” we’ll give you various tips about how to ease the challenges of traveling long distances—especially with kids—and hopefully help you realize that you too can live a Fernweh lifestyle after all.

So stay tuned for more in this upcoming series.

What questions do you have about driving long-distance with kids? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!

How to Visit over 350 Museums for Free

One of the main parts of planning a trip when you’re travelling with kids is to find family-friendly activities.

Some of the best options I’ve found are museums where kids, youth, and adults can have fun and explore a variety of hands-on exhibits.

The only problem is that some places like that can tend to be pretty pricey, and with a family of even moderate size, that can add up, especially if you’re running on a tighter budget.

For example, last weekend my family visited the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

The cost per adult is $21.95 and for kids between ages three and eleven, it’s $12.95.

So for a family of four, that would usually cost nearly $70.00 for a single trip (depending on the age of your kids).

However, my family went there without having to drop a single dime on admission.

How’d we do it?

Well, let me tell you a little secret called the ASTC Travel Passport Program.

Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh

The Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) has over 350 participating museums—in the United States and 14 other countries around the world—and if you have a membership to any one of them, you get into all of them without having to pay general admission.

Okay, okay—yes, you do have to pay the initial membership fee for whichever ASTC museum you decide to join, so that part isn’t free. But in most cases, that fee quickly pays for itself, making it totally worth it.

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For example, our membership at our local museum only costs us $75/year (some memberships at other museums might cost more), so between how often we go there and all the other museums we’ve gone to, it has absolutely paid for itself and been totally worth it.

You can find a list of the participating museums at the ASTC website to locate which museum is closest to you, and to find out if there are any in your next family vacation destination.

Note: I am not officially affiliated with ASTC or any of its participants and do not get any kind of commission if you choose to purchase a membership at any of the locations listed.

So do I really care if you purchase a membership or not? Nope! Not one bit. But am I just a nice human being who likes to share awesome resources with others who want to travel with kids because this is an amazing opportunity you’d be a fool to pass up? Well, I’ll let you decide. 😉

Should I Set up a Weekly, Monthly, or Yearly Budget?

To travel on a budget, first you have to have a budget.

When I was in college, I took a family finance class.

The class was awesome and the professor was great, but a little old-school.

For example, he recommended having a printed copy of your budget on the fridge and updating it by pencil with each transaction so that you have a regular visual of where your spending is at.

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I get the logic behind that, and maybe that works for some people, but it didn’t for me. I much prefer doing my budget digitally (but that’s another post altogether).

Not One-Size-Fits-All

Another method he recommended that didn’t work for me was this: making your budget a monthly budget.

I tried that, but here was the problem:

At the time, we got paid every other week.

Plus, with our paid-by-the-hour student jobs, our income wasn’t perfectly consistent from one paycheck to the next.

So when I tried planning a monthly budget, I was really just having to guess how much we’d be making for that whole month.

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But too often my projections for how much we’d earn and would be able to spend didn’t match up with reality, so the budget basically became useless.

So here’s what we learned and recommend:

Base Your Budget Style On Your Pay Schedule

If you get paid weekly, make a weekly budget; if you get paid monthly, use a monthly budget.

It makes so much more sense to budget with the money you actually know you have, instead of just randomly guessing how much you might have for the whole month.

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Then look ahead at what you have going on within that time period—bills due, baby showers to attend, birthday gifts to buy—and budget accordingly.

I have found budgeting this way to be so much more effective and useful.

What about a Yearly Budget?

If you do have a predictable budget, I think it’s wise to plan a yearly budget as well.

A yearly budget better allows you to prepare and save for expenses down the road—and I mean that both metaphorically and literally. Because, hopefully, having a yearly budget will help you better be able to save up to travel.

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Why?

Well, it helps you keep the big picture in mind.

If you use only a budget for each pay period instead of for the whole year, it’s easier to say,

“Hey look! I’ve got a little extra money here after budgeting the rest to bills and all the necessities! Woohoo! I’m going to stop and grab some fast food!”

Or rent a movie. Or buy some trinket. Or whatever else you don’t really need—instead of putting it towards traveling.

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But when you’re keeping the goal of your trip(s) in mind with a yearly budget, you will remember to set aside the amount you need to allot each pay period in order to reach your goal and the cost of your trip(s).

Patience Is a Virtue

If you’re just first getting started with this Fernweh lifestyle, it might take some time and patience before you can save up enough for your trip goal.

That especially depends on how big your income is compared to how big your trip goal is.

Maybe you won’t be able to save enough this year (though you very well could!), but I bet if you budget and save diligently this year, you could totally go into next year’s yearly budget with plenty of confidence and moolah to plan and take that trip.

3 Steps to Making Travel a Priority

We’ve had so many people ask us recently how we manage to have the time and means to travel as much as we do.

Well, here’s our first tip: make travel a passion and a priority in your life.

You might say you really wish to travel, but do you actually set it as a priority?

Or are there other things that take higher spots on the shelf? How badly do you really want it?

Because when it comes down to it, you have to decide if you really do want travel as a priority in your life, or if there really are just other things that you’d rather do instead.

But if you really do want it badly enough, you can make it happen.

Perhaps that sounds like a “Well, duh; but then what?” answer; or maybe you’re thinking, “Psh, yeah right. That’s easier said than done.”

Well, here are three steps to help transform your intangible travel dreams into a realistic passion, hobby, and lifestyle.

1. Make a list of what’s holding you back

If you feel like you’re not traveling as much as you wish you could, take a few minutes and write down the main things you think are holding you back.

Is it money? Time? Not knowing where to start? Or what?

2. Be willing to sacrifice

Anything that’s really worth it usually takes some sacrifice in one form or another.

So after listing what you think is preventing you from traveling, think about what it might take to overcome that obstacle—and what you might need to give up to make it happen.

For example, if money is the challenge, look at where you’re spending and if there’s anywhere you could cut back so that you could put that money towards saving for a trip instead.

3. Take action!

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In the infamous words of both Nike and  Shia Labeouf, “Just do it!” Set a goal of where or when you want to travel next, and write it down! As they say, a goal not written down is merely a wish.

And what better time to set a goal than now at the beginning of the new year?

Then set smaller goals that will help you get to that main goal—goals like, “I’m only going to eat fast food once this month and put the rest that I’d usually spend towards travel.”

The Beginning

This was just a simple introduction to some basic steps you can implement to get you started on the path to having a traveling, Fernweh lifestyle.

We’ll focus in and go into greater detail for some of these steps later.

But for now, we just wanted to give you a place to get started.

To give us an idea of how to better help you with future posts, write in the comments what your answers are to step #1. What are the main things holding you back from traveling? Or you already make travel a priority, what changes have you made in your life to make that a reality?

Travel—Not Just for Single Hipsters or the Wealthy

I’m walking the cobblestone streets in Odense, Denmark, savoring a lakrids-flavored ice cream cone, admiring the quaint, yellow, historic house of Hans Christian Andersen.

I’m hiking the red-stone wonders of Arches National Park.

I’m scaling sand dunes and swimming Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes State Park.

Want to see some pics?:

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Surprised?

Perhaps not. We know a lot of people do things like this with kids or while pregnant. And yet, people still frequently express to us how surprised they are at how much we travel.

There seems to be a misconception out there that traveling frequently or having adventure is too difficult or too expensive—especially as a young family.

And yet we manage it.

We’re not rich. Mr. Fernweh is a PhD student and Mrs. Fernweh is a stay-at-home mom, so we’re technically living slightly above poverty level on nothing more than a student’s stipend with two kids.

But despite that fact, we’ve somehow managed to have a little travel adventure nearly every month for the past several months and frequently in general over our six years of marriage.

“How do you do it? What are your secrets?”

Those are the questions that multiple friends keep asking us. Several of them even encouraged us to write a blog to share our “secrets.”

So that’s why we’re here.

Thanks to the prompts, encouragement, and inspiration of numerous friends, we’ve decided to start this blog in hopes that we can share some tips and experiences about how traveling can be for anyone of any age or stage of life, in nearly any socioeconomic or family situation.

We may even have some useful tips for those of you out there who are the young traveling hipsters—after all we used to be those ourselves (except we always said we were too hipster to be real hipsters, since hipsters are so mainstream; but that’s another story).

We don’t claim to be experts, and we’re  strong believers in the fact that something that might work for one individual or family might not work for another. We just hope what we share resonates with someone out there and to spread the Fernweh vision with anyone who wants it.

Fernweh (pronounced “FEIRN-vey”) is a German word meaning, “far-sickness” or “aching for far away,” and is also defined as “an urge to travel even stronger than wanderlust.”

We both definitely have this wonderful illness and hope to contaminate you all with it as well.

But before we get too far, our question is, what do you guys want to know about traveling on a budget or with kids, or just having a travel lifestyle in general?

Write your suggestions for future post ideas in the comments below, and subscribe to be notified when we write new posts.

Can’t wait to get this conversation rolling with you guys!