The remote work trend has created amazing opportunities for those who want to combine work and travel. While digital nomading is more popular for singles and young couples, families can also take advantage of the flexibility that the current working environment offers – with some careful planning.
Hopping from place to place can be particularly challenging if you’re traveling with young kids, but the perks make it all worthwhile. For one, you can travel extensively without having to limit yourself to just your vacation days. Also, because you’ll likely be staying longer than a couple of weeks in one location, you’ll reduce transportation costs and be able to rent places a lot less expensive than a hotel. This lifestyle can be fun and rewarding for any person or family with a bit of an adventurous streak – and not just for the adults. Exposing children to new places, new cultures and new languages helps them learn, discover the world and flourish.
If you’re ready to give this lifestyle a try, you probably have a lot of questions regarding the logistics, including things like housing, tax implications, health care, schooling, or even visas if you want to live abroad. This guide will take you through all the essential information you need to know before you pack up your stuff and hit the road.
What to do with your home while traveling if you’re a homeowner
The answer depends on how long you’re going to be away from home. If you plan to take relatively short trips, perhaps a few weeks at a time, you don’t necessarily have to do more than ensure everything is secure and in good order before you leave.
If you’re planning to be away for long period of time – months at a time or longer – you will have more to consider. Simply locking your door and asking someone to drop by from time to time is definitely an option. Installing security cameras that you can access remotely, for your peace of mind, is also a good idea.
However, even with supervision, many things can happen to your home while you’re away. A burst pipe or a broken roof tile can go unnoticed for weeks and cause serious damage to your house if not detected quickly. You’ll also be incurring expenses on your home while you’re away – mortgage, taxes, some utilities. Considering that, you could rent your home while you’re away. You can hire property management companies to take care of things for you so that you don’t have to deal with complications while you’re traveling.
If you do decide to rent your home, putting some of your belongings in self storage is a smart idea. We’re talking about personal items, expensive furniture, appliances, artwork, collectibles, family heirlooms – basically everything you don’t want to risk being damaged or be accessible to other people.
Renting a 10’x10’ self storage unit – a size that allows you to store a few pieces of furniture plus an assortment of boxes with stuff – hovers around $132 per month nationally. However, that number can go up or down, depending on where you live. For example, this size of a self storage unit in Houston costs about $100 per month. A 10’x10’ storage unit in Jacksonville, on the other hand, is around $122 per month. Regardless of the price, renting a storage unit definitely pays off in the long run as you’ll have peace of mind knowing your belongings are safe and secure.
What to do with your home if you’re a renter
Things are a bit easier for nomadic renters than for nomadic homeowners because many renters plan to start the trip when their apartment lease is set to expire. If this is the case for you, all you have to do is notify your landlord that you’re leaving, pack your belongings and put them in self storage. A 10’x10’ storage unit can easily hold the contents of a one-bedroom apartment. If you have more stuff, or maybe a car that you also need to store until you return, then a 10’x20’ storage unit is your best choice.
Check out self storage options in some of the country’s major cities:
If you’re not ready to let go of the rental you’ve struggled so much to find, or if your apartment lease is not ending soon but you have your heart set on a remote working lifestyle, things are a bit more complicated. Contact your landlord to find a mutually beneficial solution – ending your lease early by a mutual agreement or subletting your apartment, for example.
Tax implications of the remote working lifestyle
- If working remotely in the US
As a general rule, you pay your taxes in your home state, where you live most of the time, own a home, have a car registered, vote and so on. Taxes can get a bit complicated when earning income in one state and living in another. How and where you should file your tax returns depends on a variety of factors.
Some states have reciprocal agreements, which means that you don’t have to pay taxes in multiple states. Others, faced with many people relocating in and out of the state due to the pandemic and remote working policies, recently issued new rules about taxes and remote workers.
These new rules usually say that if your job is in one state, let’s say Connecticut, but you live somewhere else, say New York, you don’t pay taxes in Connecticut. However, tax laws vary widely across states, so it’s a good idea to communicate with your employer, on the one hand, and to hire a talented accountant, if you have any doubts, on the other.
- If working remotely abroad
Multiple employment and tax scenarios can occur when working remotely abroad. You might be working for a U.S.-based company or for a foreign business, as a full-time employee, as an independent contractor or simply as a freelancer working for various entities based around the world.
One important thing to remember is that U.S. taxes are based on citizenship, not country of residence. If you’re an American citizen, you have a tax obligation to Uncle Sam, and you must file a U.S. federal tax return regardless of where you live. Some states also require that you pay state taxes after moving abroad.
If you want to reduce your U.S. federal tax bill, you need to spend at least 330 days per year working abroad – in which case you can then claim a tax benefit. You might be required to pay some taxes in the country you’re working from though, depending on factors such as local legislation, bilateral agreements between the United States and the country you’re working or living in, length of stay, type of visa/work permit, the entity you work for and so on. All in all, taxes while living abroad are notoriously difficult to navigate, so the best course of action is to hire a specialized accountant.
Visa/work permit implications for people working remotely from abroad
Before relocating outside the country, ever temporarily, you first need to secure the consent of your U.S. employer. Not all companies are okay with their employees working abroad, as it can create tax and work legislation implications for them as well. For independent contractors and freelancers, however, working from abroad is usually not an issue.
U.S. citizens are usually able to work remotely from another country while keeping their tourist status, depending on their length of stay. That length varies depending on the country, but it’s usually between 90 and 180 days.
Additionally, most countries will require you to obtain some sort of residency/work permit if you overstay the visa-free period. In some cases, restarting this period is as easy as leaving the country for a day or so. Upon your return, the visa-free period restarts. In other cases, you can only enjoy the benefit of a visa-free stay once per year or once out of a six-month window. Lately, many countries created special digital nomad visas for remote workers. Once you decide on a country, make sure you research all the visa-related implications for you and your family members.
Health care details to iron out before hitting the road
Health care is an important aspect to consider when preparing for your remote working and traveling adventure. Here are some of the things you should do for you and your family in terms of health care:
- Talk to your employer (or the health insurance company if you’re a freelancer buying your own insurance) to make sure you’re covered if you are traveling to another state or to multiple states.
- Contact your and your family’s primary care doctor (or doctors) for a checkup. Let them know you are going to travel for a while. Depending on how long you’ll be gone, your doctor might have to fill your prescriptions in the other state. This is possible in most cases and for most types of medication. Discuss this aspect with your doctor to avoid unpleasant surprises.
- If you’re planning a longer stay, identify health care options at the new location, including a new doctor, a reliable hospital that can cover a wide range of health issues, a pharmacy and so on.
- If you plan to travel to and work from another country, you can either buy health insurance from an U.S. provider that covers stays in other countries, or you can purchase health insurance locally once you get there. Make sure you research both options to identify the one that’s most convenient for you. For extended stays, you could also investigate paying for public health insurance in your country of destination.
- The websites of the American embassies generally have information about medical care in their respective countries.
- The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers is a great medical care resource while you’re abroad, as they can put you in touch with English-speaking doctors in over 90 countries worldwide.
How to make the nomad lifestyle work for children
Traveling with children, especially extended traveling during which parents are working, can be challenging for little ones. But, it can also be very beneficial. New people, foods, languages, history and culture will expand their minds and interests. Just make sure you are covering all the bases when it comes to things like education, friends, playtime and so on. Here are the main things to consider in order to enjoy a great time with your little ones:
- Don’t be afraid to try this lifestyle with small children. In fact, it’s easier to manage with children who are not in school and don’t have a lot of friends yet, as they don’t miss home as much as older kids do.
- Homeschooling is probably the best option for school-aged children, particularly if you are planning to move around a lot. Research various homeschooling programs and organizations before hitting the road to identify the one that suits your and your children’s needs best.
- If you plan to spend longer stretches of time in one place, you might also consider enrolling your child in regular school. Even if you are traveling abroad, most large cities have an international school with classes in English. Naturally, you’ll have to pay tuition for private schools. This cost can vary from affordable to expensive, depending on your location, but generally costs are way lower in other countries than they are in the United States.
- When traveling with children, one of the biggest issues will probably be them missing their friends. Make sure you help your child stay in touch with their friends by scheduling time for video calls. Obviously, preteens and teens don’t need help with that, but younger kids might need you to talk to the parents of their friends to facilitate regular chats.
Working remotely from an RV
One trend that’s becoming increasingly popular is hitting the road in an RV – and working along the way. This idea has some important advantages: you have the flexibility to choose where to go and for how long to stay in each place you visit. More than that, you’ll pay a lot less on accommodations, and you can pack more generously than you can for a hotel, which is very important for families with children.
Here are some of things you should consider when choosing your RV travel and working locations:
- Internet access is essential for remote workers, so investigate whether the campgrounds you plan on booking offer free Wi-Fi or how fast the mobile internet speed is in the areas you plan to visit.
- If you have your heart set out on a remote location where regular internet connections are problematic, satellite internet providers are a good alternative.
- Good RVing locations are located in beautiful natural surroundings, have campgrounds with all the amenities you need for an RV and have some retail options nearby. It’s a good idea to plan for your RV trip so that you have fun and all the services you need in each location.
All things considered, combining remote work with traveling offers you and your family the opportunity to enjoy and experience the world. With a bit of research and organizing before taking the plunge, you’ll be able to fulfill the dream! Happy traveling!