Thinking of planning a family gap year? We might be a little biased, but we highly recommend it! Your family gap year itinerary might look completely different from ours, but I hope you’ll find some good inspiration and tips from reading about where we went and what we did!
Family Gap Year Itinerary
Tips for planning your Family Gap Year Itinerary
If you enjoy lists, spreadsheets, and exhaustive research, congrats — you are the person in your family that gets to plan your family gap year itinerary! Welcome to the club.
If you are set on going, hopefully these tips will help you in your planning. And if you’re still just considering it, hopefully this gets you excited enough to take the plunge!
Tip #1: Ask yourself some important questions
Here are some of the questions you might want to ask as you are planning your route:
- Do you want to explore your own country or travel to other countries?
- Will you drive or fly?
- What locations have you always dreamed of visiting?
- Where are your favorite locations that you’ve been to before?
- Which historical sites, landmarks, or tourist attractions do you want to see?
- Are there any events that you’d like to attend?
- Do you want to be in certain places for certain holidays, seasons, or special days?
Once you answer those questions, your route and itinerary might start to take shape in your head.
Tip #2: Make a dream list.
Make a list of the places you’d love to visit, and have your spouse and any older kids do the same. Compare and plan to visit any places that appear more than once on your lists!
Tip #3: Choose your first few locations and then go in geographical order.
We haven’t been perfect about following a straight route, but the more you can avoid doubling back, the less you’ll spend on gas and hours in the car!
Tip #4: Travel to more expensive places.
Wait, whaaaaat? Yeah I said it. Take advantage of the fact that you’re not tied down with a house payment right now and put that money toward your lodging while you travel. Later on, if you do settle down and have a home base again, that’s the right time to travel to budget locations!
That being said, you can save even more money by not having a home base AND traveling to budget locations, so feel free to ignore me and go wherever you want!
Tip #5: Stay flexible.
Things can always change, so there’s no need to plan out the whole year at once. When we started, we knew where we wanted to end up about 9 months later, so we planned our route with that in mind, but we only booked places about a month in advance.
If you don’t have a long-term destination, you can always just plan out the first few and take it from there!
Despite calling our travels a “family gap year”, it’s really been years, plural, for us! We are just about to hit our two-year mark and start on year three of full-time family travel!
I hope these tips have given you a good start for planning your family gap year itinerary. Read on to learn about the places we’ve visited during our travels!
Don’t miss: How to Take a Family Gap Year
Where we went: 2018
September: Nevada, Idaho, Washington
We left Arizona and headed for Washington, via Las Vegas and Boise. In Las Vegas, we stopped at my brother’s house for lunch, and in Boise we stopped at the Westside Drive-In for Baked Potato Ice Cream!
We spent four weeks on Whidbey Island, taking several field trips into Seattle.
October: Oregon & California
We spent one full day in Portland, then drove to San Francisco via the Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park where we walked among the redwood trees.
We drove the Pacific Coast Highway over two days, ending in Santa Monica, and then headed to Anaheim for some time at Disneyland with family. Before leaving California, we stopped in LA and visited Griffith Observatory.
November: Arizona & Colorado
In November we stayed close to home and spent Thanksgiving with my husband’s family. We lived in Springerville, AZ for four weeks and enjoyed the local historic one-screen movie theatre, our electric fireplace (it was cold!), and taking bundled-up walks around the neighborhood.
Before heading to our next long-term stay, we spent one weekend in Denver, where I had never been! We stopped at Four Points on the way and stood in four different states at once.
December: Texas & Louisiana
When deciding where to spend December, my husband scrolled alllll the way to the bottom of the country, and we found South Padre Island, Texas. It was a good choice — we had plenty of beach weather there, even in December!
After our four-week stay, we headed east, stopping in Louisiana to celebrate New Year’s Eve with muffalettas and beignets.
Where we went: 2019
In the new year, we spent a couple of weeks with my parents in Clermont, near Orlando, and then we headed to an Airbnb we booked in Crescent City, Florida.
We spent two weeks in two gorgeous homes, deep in the woods of Tennessee — emerging on the weekends to explore Nashville.
March: Georgia & West Virginia
In March, we spent two weeks just outside of Atlanta, Georgia and two weeks in West Virginia, where we hiked part of the Appalachian Trail.
For the month of April, we booked a condo right on the Virginia Beach boardwalk and enjoyed falling asleep and waking up to the sound of waves crashing.
May: Washington D.C. & South Carolina
The first week of May was spent in Washington D.C. with many hours spent exploring the Smithsonian museums, monuments, memorials, the National Zoo, and touring all three branches of government, including the White House!
Then, we headed back south for four weeks of sun and sand, just south of Myrtle Beach in Surfside Beach, South Carolina.
June: New York
In June, we headed north for an exciting month-long stay in Brooklyn, with almost daily trips into Manhattan for Broadway shows and other fun activities. I even worked from my company’s office on 5th Avenue!
July: Maine & South Dakota
When we started traveling, getting to Maine in July 2019 was part of our ultimate plan. I grew up in Maine, and we love to spend summers there. We spent three glorious weeks in a cottage near the beach, and then stopped by both Niagara Falls and Mount Rushmore on our way back west.
We returned to Arizona in August because my husband wanted to see his family, and I had a surgery planned in Scottsdale. We enjoyed our time visiting family and the surgery went smoothly!
We decided to stay close to my medical team in September, for follow-up visits, so we booked a gorgeous condo in Tucson and enjoyed visiting our favorite Tucson places.
October: New Mexico & Texas
After our first year of traveling went so well, we decided we wanted to take our adventures overseas. But because of my surgery, my sister’s upcoming wedding in the spring, and our desire to go to Europe during the warmer part of the year, we decided to keep traveling the states through the winter and head overseas after the wedding.
So, we decided to revisit some of our favorite destinations, starting with South Padre Island, Texas. The timing worked out perfectly to stop by the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico on the way, which was a big bucket list item!
When we visited Florida in January, we got annual passes for Universal Studios, which were still active in November! So we took the same route and went from Texas to Florida and stayed in Kissimmee for the second half of November and first half of December, and enjoyed lots of days at the theme parks!
December: South Carolina
In December we decided to hit another favorite spot and headed up to South Carolina. This time we stayed in a condo right on the boardwalk in Myrtle Beach. It was a little cooler this time around (compared with May!) but we still had plenty of nice weather.
Where we went: 2020
We needed to be in Denver for my sister’s wedding in April, so we headed west again, this time via some new cities and states! We spent January on Dauphin Island in Alabama and had a great month bicycling around the island, visiting the beach, taking the ferry to Gulf Shores, and enjoying all the Mardi Gras parades!
February: Arkansas & Oklahoma
In February we made a couple of quicker visits, spending a few days in Bentonville, Arkansas and a few more in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
We spent March in Arizona, planning to head to Denver near the end of the month for the wedding festivities. While in Arizona, we took an RV trip to the Grand Canyon and also visited the Route 66 Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, AZ.
Read about it:
RV Trip to the Grand Canyon
April was supposed to start with my sister’s wedding in Denver and end with us flying to London to start our overseas adventures. Coronavirus had other plans. Everything got canceled, and we quarantined at my mother-in-law’s house for the whole month. A bummer, but a huge blessing that we had such a welcoming and comfortable place to stay.
May: Florida & South Carolina
In May we were itching to hit the road again, and things were looking up, so we drove 30 hours across the country to surprise my parents in Florida! We spent a week with them, and then went back to Surfside Beach, South Carolina and stayed in the same house we stayed in the year before, for almost the same exact dates!
June: North Carolina & Kentucky
In June, we wanted to hit a few states that we hadn’t really experienced yet. We spent a week in Charlotte, North Carolina, and then stayed for four weeks in Louisville, Kentucky, with a day trip to Indianapolis, Indiana.
Where we’re going next!
July: Epic Road Trip!
And that brings me to July 2020, when I’m writing this post! My sister has tentatively rescheduled her wedding for October (hoping Corona cooperates) so we plan to head back west again and spend August and September in Arizona and October in Denver. But we’re taking our time getting there and visiting several cities and states along the way.
Here’s our itinerary:
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Des Moines, Iowa
Bismarck, North Dakota
Glacier National Park, Montana
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Zion National Park, Utah
That is if we feel we’re able to travel safely, not put ourselves or others at risk, and if travel restrictions allow. We’ll be doing our research and will be extra cautious. We also plan to get tested for the virus before our final destination, to make sure we’re not putting our family members at risk.
After that? Well if we’re allowed, we could head overseas, but we find ourselves in the same position as last year, looking at going over for the winter. So we’re thinking we’ll spend this winter in the southern part of the US again and head overseas in the spring, just as we planned last year.
As long as we keep traveling, I’ll keep updating this page with our latest adventures, so check back again!
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