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Affording Airfare Is What Makes Family Travel Difficult

We can travel the world perpetually, but can’t afford to visit home.

I entered into a new travel strategy this past year. My family moves to where my wife finds work, the kid goes to school to learn language, culture, and for making friends, and I travel around on the hunt for material to write about. In theory, this strategy works well. The wrench in the plan is that we still can’t make enough money to visit our families each year if we are based outside of North America. So we work, scrimp, and save all year to afford a vacation to the USA.

I like to visit my family every year to year and a half. Ideally, I will do so when switching hemispheres. If I am in Asia and want to go to Central America, I will stop into Rochester, NY and see my family en route; if I am in South America and want to go to the Middle East, I will likewise run through NY. For a decade this plan worked out just fine. A year to 18 months in any continent on end is about all that I am willing to take before the urge for a big move hits.

But when this traveling operation became a “we” instead of a “me,” things got complicated. Now, this isn’t a simple run to Rochester, it’s a dirge through Maine, where my wife is from, and Rochester. With my wife and kid, this additional detour is six more plane tickets. That’s a kicker.

The weight just came down on me today when I passed my debit card over to my wife and she bought plane tickets for herself and the kid. 2,000 dollars. One way. She will stop in to see her brother in Seattle then go to her family’s home in Maine.

Early summer is probably the most expensive time to fly, and there just wasn’t enough money in the pot for me to join them while it is still up in the air as to where we will set up our next base of operations. We cannot afford to go to the USA just to turn around and come back to Asia a couple of months later. To do so, and visit both families, would cost nearly $6,000 in flights alone.

That’s a good chunk of what I make in an entire year.

In point, whatever my wife and I were able to save by both working this year is being taken out by the visit home. Which begs me to ask: If you can’t afford to visit your family are you really living well?

But then I have to follow this question up with: Who do I know who could afford paying $6,000 per year in airfare?


My brother in law makes $70,000 per year, but there is no way that he could drop six grand yearly on flights.

Our predicament is financially preposterous.

The kid is making good headway on learning to speak Chinese now, so leaving Asia for the more flight friendly climes of Latin America right now is not an option — as far as I’m concerned.

Flights. That’s the biggest challenge to family travel. Everything else is manageable. Apartments are cheap and food sells for the price of dirt everywhere. Ground transport is often affordable. If it isn’t, then I just ride my bike. But it is the cost to fly home from Asia and see our families which makes family travel expensive. It may not sound like much to have to buy one additional plane ticket, but it adds up in a huge way.

A huge way = $2000.

This obstacle means that I need other ways to make bigger money here in China. Financial pressure forces creativity everywhere in the world, just look at all the things people sell in the streets, regardless of culture. I’ve been happily able to subvert this pressure for too long. Now it’s time to make things a little more interesting.


Filed under: Air Travel, Travel Economics, Travel With Family

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 87 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3348 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Prague, Czech RepublicMap