Family Sabbatical

We believe that with the right attitude and plenty of planning travelling with kids is something to aspire to. We have been planning a family sabbatical with our kids, travelling for six months following the Pacific Coast of the Americas, for a couple of years. Our ‘Grand Adventure’ was due to start July 5 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has put our Grand Adventure on hold, but we are currently working on what plans B, C and even D might look like. Keep checking back here for updates on our plans!


The world has changed since my last update in January 2020. In those heady days early this year the excitement of our trip was mounting. Prep mode was in full swing – booking elements while researching and planning others. We had a long list of mundane jobs to do, stopping direct debits, prepping the house, putting a kit list together. All that came to a juddering halt as the reality of how the coronavirus pandemic was affecting countries around the world hit. We watched as infection and death rates rose first in China, then South Korea, Italy, Spain and then the UK. We watched as the virus spread swiftly around the world and as countries went into lockdown and closed their borders.

In March we remained hopeful that travel in July would still be possible. In April we realised that, however flexible we felt we could be, our six-month trip would not be possible. After the Easter weekend we pulled the plug, confirming with family and work that we would not be flying out of the UK on 5 July.

On one of our daily ‘permitted exercise’ walks in early May 2020

So what happens now? We are holding onto our dream of travelling for six months with our children before our eldest starts secondary school in September 2022. We have identified three new departure dates – plan B, C and D. If we manage to leave on those dates, we’ll travel for six months as originally planned. Plan E is to design a series of six-week holidays (using the money we’d been saving for our six-month travel) to experience some travelling, probably within one country or small region, during the school summer holidays.

Pushing back our departure date meant we had to take a close look at our original route. The plan had been to travel from Canada in July and finish in Patagonia in January, summer to summer. Plan B is to leave in February 2021, so our route will need to be reversed.

The postponement of our trip allowed us some time to reflect on our plan. Mr P and I admitted to each other we were less sure about the Canadian and North American stretch of our trip. We do desperately want to visit these places, especially Vancouver Island and an RV road trip in the Pacific Northwest. However we felt that by travelling on the west coast of the USA in July and August (high season) we’d be spending way above our budget and finding sites very crowded. As for Vancouver Island, we would dearly love to plan a proper three-week holiday, with the budget to do plenty of kayaking and exploring. Trying to squeeze it all into a six-month journey meant that we felt like we were doing both regions a disservice. We have decided to focus our trip on Latin America, trying to overland as much as possible, so no longer skipping out so much of Central America. If we manage to leave in February 2021 we will travel north from Argentina and finish in LA. If the trip is pushed back to next July, we’ll simply reverse it so that we’re not in Patagonia during the winter months.

#POSTPONENOTCANCEL There is some good news from Costa Rica. One of the elements we were most excited about was a travelling 4×4 Land Rover camper for just over a week in Costa Rica booked with Nomad America. We emailed to confirm that we would no longer be there on our planned date, but that we still hoped to do the trip at some point in the future, so postponing, not cancelling. Their response made our day. They let us know that they would be donating our 20% reservation fee to campsites and local families to help them make through the next few months. We’re happy that our decision to postpone, not cancel, has had a direct positive effect on communities in need in Costa Rica.


2020 is here! This is the year that our long-awaited for trip will actually happen, and we are so excited. We’ve had a busy couple of months booking in a fair few things and making a few more decisions. That said, for now most of South America is relatively unplanned other than a few items on a wish list.

Our RV road trip route (Google Maps)
The far
Fly into Las Vegas from London + side trip to the Grand Canyon
Fly into Seattle
Boat to Vancouver Island
Explore Vancouver Island for nearly two weeks
Ferry over to Vancouver
Bus to Seattle, pick up the RV
RV roadtrip the Pacific North West for two weeks
Drop off RV in San Francisco
Bus down to LA
Bus all the way down Baja California
Ferry to mainland Mexico
Mexico City
Oaxaca - language school for a week
Fly to Costa Rica
Volunteer with turtles on the Caribbean coast
Land Rover camping
Fly to Columbia (yes, it's back on the list!)
Overland to Ecuador
Side trip to the Amazon
Overland to Peru
Cusco, Machu Picchu
Lake Titicaca
La Paz
Salt Flats, flamingos...Atacama

North America down to Mexico is pretty sorted, other than accommodation in Vancouver, Seattle and San Francisco. We’d appreciate any top tips of how to stay in those cities on a budget! We have a long to do list of all the boring bits and pieces which need to get sorted before we fly, from visas to vaccines, insurance, schooling. Achieving the behind the scenes tasks is our focus for now.


Changing trains in Cologne, Summer 2019

We survived our Interrail trip around Europe. We spent a total of 29 hours on trains during our two week holiday. I’ve written up our top tips of how to stave off boredom on long journeys. I’ve also written a guide to Interrailing as a family. Our trip taught us some lessons on packing and kit which will help us on our Grand Adventure next year which I’ve shared in my family Interrail post.

After much research I’m sad to say that we are no longer going to go to Alaska on this trip. It will have to stay on our bucket list a while longer. Now, with only 8 months to go until we leave, and knowing that we’re travelling through North America in their high season, we’ve started booking some accommodation and transport. We’re setting ourselves a relatively tight budget. Booking flights and even hire vehicles in advance can save us some pennies. And as I research accommodation to get an idea of what’s available in our budget I’m finding some gems, so we’re going ahead and booking those too! To find out where we’re staying follow along on Instagram (@mrsdebspatters) and Facebook (@grandadventurestory) for updates while we’re on the road.


So we’re committed! 1st flight booked. Due to the weird vagaries of airmiles and availability we’re actually flying into Las Vegas to get us Stateside. Now comes the real planning time. We were planning to detour to the Grand Canyon anyway, so now should we start our trip with this natural wonder before flying up north to travel south? Exciting decisions afoot. In the meantime we’re heading off on our summer holiday to Austria and France using our Interrail passes. We’re practicing carrying all our luggage. We’re used to road trips where we throw everything into the back of the car. This could be challenging.


We’ve spent the last month really honing down the timing of our trip. I’ve even written a blog which sets out our top-line plan. Seeing it written and published on this site makes it all feel very real! In the meantime I’ve been attending Spanish classes. I believe that even though English is widely-spoken, speaking some of the local language is the best way to get to know the people and culture of the country you are travelling in. It also may come in useful getting us out of any sticky situations!

Canoe IMG_20180815_163608
Canoeing on the Dordogne below La Roque-Gageac

We had some lovely holidays in 2018, exploring the North Yorkshire Moors, revisiting the Dordogne and the Lot in France and discovering the Ile de Re (I know, late to the party, right?). We also took the kids on a city-break to Venice which was hugely successful. Can’t go wrong with pizza, pasta and boats.

Heading for the Bridge of Sighs in Venice in October

This year will see us skiing in France again, and in the summer I’m excited to be travelling by train to Austria, and back via Paris. And there will be some camping, but we’re not yet sure where, when or who with!


We are well and truly in our research stage, while normal life carries on around us. I’ve had a look at Alaska, the Pacific Coast Highway and our vague plans for Mexico. Off line I’ve been continuing into Central America and even made a start on Ecuador and Peru. Our research has taken on more of a budgeting focus recently, and I’ll write a post up about that soon. Any tips gratefully received!

Meanwhile we continue to go on family holidays, and I’ve been writing some blogs about those too – from skiing to Spain! Travelling with our boys means that every trip feels like an adventure. All good practice for our big trips!

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