One of the most common questions people have about worldschooling are, “what does it cost?” and “how do you afford it?” Here are some insights from our year of travel. All figures are in US dollars.
1. First, it goes without saying that everyone’s travels are a little different, so your costs might be higher or lower than ours. We are a family of five people, and we went to over 20 countries with a focus on prioritizing educational experiences within a one year period. Five people is a challenging number for housing, as we don’t easily squeeze into cheap, two-bed places that we might find on the spur of the moment. We need to book in advance, looking for places that have at least 3 beds and can accomodate a large family. A smaller family, travelling to fewer places, and going wherever you can find housitting or workaway can make things a lot cheaper. We know of families that travel on as a little as $1500/month (often a single parent + one child) who seem to be having a grand time. So there are considerable differences, depending on how you worldschool. We can only speak to how we did it.
2. Our expenses were about $45-55/day per person ($225-275/day or $7500/month for our family of five). That includes housing, food, transportation, and other incidentals (visas, excursions, museum tickets, entertainment, carbon offsets, etc). It does not include health insurance (which is cheaper outside the USA) or what we paid for touchpads and backpacks that we took with us worldschooling. Had we skipped our two most expensive excursions (the safari in Tanzania and the guided roadtrip in Morocco), we would’ve spent closer to $6500/month.
3. Our expenses were surprisingly similar to what we would have spent to rent a place and live at home in Seattle. Because Seattle is such an expensive area, worldschooling actually saved us money on housing, food, clothing, and children’s after school activities; but we paid more for transportation (namely airfare) and other incidentals (namely excursions and carbon offsets). For those of you living in lower cost areas, worldschooling (as we have, anyway) may well be more expensive than living at home.
4. So did it really cost us nothing more to worldschool than to stay in Seattle? Not exactly… our biggest “expense” is not an obvious one: the income we gave up by not working for a year (other families have found ways to work remotely, but that wasn’t our case). This means we saved for a year’s worth of worldschooling, and didn’t earn any money in that time. For a high-income earning family, this means getting comfortable with the lost wages and savings you might’ve had, such as a year’s savings towards college or whatever else you might be privileged enough to earn. And for a low-income earning family, the challenge is being able to save up enough to travel — no easy task, we understand. Some families have found ways to work remotely to keep the money coming in; and if you’re lucky enough to own your own home, renting/AirBnB’ing your home while you travel is a great way to offset mortgage expenses at home and/or housing expenses outside the United States.
5. Worldschooling was cheaper than sending our three children to private school; or some luxurious car or home renovation project. Reflecting on that made the decision that much easier for us, as we believe the education and transformative experiences we’ve received far exceeds what any of us might’ve gotten at the best school. And numerous studies show that spending money on experiences, rather than things, leads to greater and longer lasting happiness. We can definitely attest to that too!
6. Some of our top tips on saving money with worldschooling are:
- Bookings on AirBnB for one week or longer often come with 20% savings, and 50% for one month or longer. Also, it doesn’t hurt to contact an AirBnB and let them know you love their place, explain you can’t afford what they’re asking, and ask if they’d be willing to accept a lesser amount. This can work especially during low season or when you’re filling in a last minute “gap” between reservations they already have.
- Look for places with kitchenettes to cook at home and save on restaurant expenses.
- Book flights 3-4 months in advance, especially if you’re a large family. Our family of five saves $500 each time we find a ticket that costs $300 instead of $400 a person. Those expenses add up.
- Pack light to avoid airline fees for checked luggage. Avoiding those $50/bag fees for our family of five can mean saving $250 a flight.
- Use public transportation instead of taxis or car rentals. It’s cheaper, a better way to see locals, and part of the educational experience.
7. Want more details? Below is a chart on our expenses per person per day across different continents. The details reflect our unique circumstances in different places. In Africa, our “other” expenses were quite high because they include expensive excursions in Morocco and Tanzania. In Europe, our housing costs were low because we were lucky enough to be able to stay with friends and family in Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and France (otherwise, I doubt we would have stayed there as long as we did). And in the Americas (Central and South America), our transporation costs skyrocketed because flights are expensive in Latin America compared to airfare in Asia or trains in Europe. To know what your worldschooling expenses will be, you’ll have to consider your priorities and where you can afford to spend money.