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How this Family of 4 Traveled the World for $130 a Day

Cliff and his family in front of the Colosseum in Rome

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a blog post on family travel on this website so today, I’m excited to introduce to you Cliff from Live Family Travel. His San Francisco based family spent ten months traveling the world on a career break. They homeschooled and enrolled their kids in schools overseas, spent time with family, saw the world, and bonded as a family. And, they did so, on a budget this nomad is impressed with. Today, Cliff is going to share how his family did it – and advice for other families looking to do a big round the world adventure.

My dream of taking my family on a world tour began in Nicaragua in the summer of 2012 with my two daughters, who were three years old and six months old at the time. Most people thought my wife and I were crazy to go to Central America with two little girls. But, for three weeks, we relaxed at the beach in San Juan del Sur, rode horses through the countryside, and hung out in the bustling town of Granada.

It was an experience we vowed to repeat.

Over the next couple of years, we traveled together to various destinations, including Puerto Rico, Peru, Argentina, and Guatemala. We enjoyed these short trips but, the more we traveled, the more I wanted to go longer – I wanted a year-long trip around the world.

In 2015, that dream became a reality as we spent 10 months traveling in 10 countries.

But to make that happen we needed to be creative with how we saved and spent our money.

How We Saved Money and Budgeted for Our Trip

Family of four while on their travels in Spain
My family lives in one of the most expensive areas in the world: Silicon Valley outside San Francisco, California. Housing prices are extremely high and the overall cost of living is higher than most cities in the United States. I worked as a marketing manager in technology companies while my wife took care our two daughters.

After our trip in Nicaragua, we decided that we would make family travel a priority in our lives. From July 2012 to December 2014, we saved approximately $40,000 USD, which equates to $1,333 USD per month. Saving that much money on one salary in one of the most expensive areas in the world was not easy. It took some crafty saving skills, but here is what we did:

  • I worked freelance jobs. I earned extra money for work on short-term marketing projects, in addition to my full-time job. Now with the on-demand gig economy, there are many great options to earn extra money, including Uber, Lyft, and Wonolo.
  • We refinanced our mortgage. With a lower interest rate for our home mortgage, we saved over $500 USD per month.
  • I reduced my 401(k) and 529 contributions. Instead of putting all of my savings into my retirement account and my daughters’ education accounts, I decided to reallocate about $500 USD per month to our travel funds.
  • We reduced our spending. We cooked most meals, capping our food budget at $1,000 USD per month. We also stopped buying unnecessary electronics, clothing, and toys, limiting our discretionary spending to $500 USD per month.

By earning more, spending less, and reallocating a portion of my savings to travel, our travel budget gradually increased to a point where we felt comfortable enough to take time off to travel the world.

But in order for this trip to really make financial sense, we needed to do something about our house while we were away. We did this by renting our house with a family found through Craigslist. Thankfully, this area is in demand and after accounting for our mortgage, insurance, and taxes, we were making $500 USD per month profit from