Diana and Darrell Reamer have two teenagers, yet the family travels 20 – 30% of the time. How do they do it? The kids attend a free online public school in Texas and can do their schoolwork from anywhere that WiFi is available! The rest of their learning comes from the “worldschooling” they get while on the road.
Although the Reamers have always prioritized travel, they picked up the pace when Darrell retired from the Army in 2019. They plan to travel as much as 50% of the time going forward.
In this interview with Diana, learn how they make worldschooling work and continue to travel year-round!
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When did you start your traveling lifestyle?
We did a little military Space-a travel while my husband was active duty and assigned in Japan and Alaska. Since he began terminal leave in April 2019, we have been growing almost no moss!
We drove across Texas, rode a train to Arizona, went Space-A out of Travis for Guam and landed in Hawaii for a week instead. Since then, we’ve tried for Italy and instead went ‘round the states, and landed again in Hawaii. Both times we wound up in Hawaii, we were blessed by friends with places to stay.
Most recently we went from Texas (my husband retired near Ft. Hood) to Seattle, took a commercial flight to Anchorage, and flew Space-A to Yokota. Returned to JB Elmendorf, and flew commercial to San Antonio to close the loop.
Our next few adventures were mostly commercial ventures (two cruises, a few days watching Formula One races, and 6 weeks in Colombia during the holidays.)
How did you decide to adopt this lifestyle? Was this an idea that evolved over time or did you decide suddenly?
When we married 27 years ago, we discussed what this time in our lives would entail. So, we saved, invested, and raised our kids with the plan to travel as much as we can, by any methods available.
Space-A flights have been a real treat for us over the years! Now that Darrell is fully retired, we make our plans up to a year in advance or longer. We like to have at least 6 months or more planned with the occasional throw-in for Space-A offerings out of either JB San Antonio or NAS JRB Fort Worth.
What did the kids think about being traveling homeschoolers at first? And now?
Initially my daughter was not a fan at all. She wants her social life, as a typical teenager. We try very hard to balance that want with our trips. Our son is very go-with-the-flow. Now they are both beginning to see the greater benefits of picking up and doing school work for 1-3 hours in Japan or Cozumel, Mexico.
They remain connected to their friends via social media, FaceTime, and other messaging formats. Less complaints now that they see their time with their friends is more quality than 5 mins in the school cafeteria.
How did you decide what homeschooling format to use?
We chose online high school after trying a more traditional homeschooling style when the kids were in 7th grade (via the B.E.S.T. program from the Fairbanks-North Star Borough). Our initial foray into homeschooling didn’t exactly pan out for three reasons: scheduling; lots of back-and-forth to their enrolled school for arts and PE (state requirement); and the inability to travel freely.
I researched online school programs on the internet and via anecdotal information, and I contacted the various schools. In order to enroll, the kids needed to have: a) attended one year of traditional schooling in the state of Texas; b) been in good standing with grades and attendance; and c) been on target to graduate.
They are enrolled in the Grapevine-Colleyville ISD iUniversity Prep High School.
All materials are provided online. The school offers a full course catalog, including four languages, and pre-AP, AP, and dual-credit classes. There are daily live lessons and all textbooks are online; the only physical materials relate to their Chemistry class.
We provide internet and computers as well as keeping attendance and monitoring progress.
Initially, we enrolled with another online high school program under K12 but found that the courses available in Texas were very limited.
Tell us about a typical “school day” while traveling. How does it differ when you’re home in Texas?
Our daily travel routine for school is up to 4 hours active schoolwork. A typical day on the road could include finding the best free or cheap internet in a port town, an airport, hotel lodging, or even an Exchange food court.
While in Japan, we utilized a pocket WiFi, with help from our host. We paid about $70 for the month of WiFi we used.
In the ports, most recently during a week-long cruise, we opted not to buy the less-than-ideal internet package offered by the cruise line. We instead bought appetizers and drinks from local establishments while our kids benefited from the available WiFi. They did 2-3 hours of schoolwork each of the three days in port.
At home they log as few as 4 and as many as 7 hours, 4 days per week. They tend to work longer to either catch up or work ahead, as needed. They also had to be physically present at Grapevine HS to take their PSAT exams.
We’ve learned to apply more directed time to school when we’re at home or during down-time when not actively traveling.
While we are at home, my daughter spends as much time with her friends as she can. My son, on the other hand, binges on video games when his schoolwork is done for the day.
They go to bed by 2200 on school nights, and we are freer on non-school nights with bedtime (usually by midnight or 0100 for special nights). Schoolwork starts at 0900 or 1100, depending on the daily schedule.
The upside of this type of schedule is really significant in the current situation [with the coronavirus outbreak] in the US with schools delaying return from Spring Break. Our kids had their normal week of Spring Break but immediately resumed classes the Monday afterwards. As such, their school year will end on time. Seniors at their school will graduate on time.
Whether they get to have a prom or physical graduation remains to be seen, dependent on the progression of illness and best practices from the CDC and WHO as they hand them out.
How do you “worldschool” by incorporating your travels into your children’s online school curriculum?
We have had the kids learn and choose things to do at each destination. For our future transatlantic cruise, they will plan out our itinerary at each stop, and while we are in Italy, we will visit Vesuvius, Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Our son has had a little Spanish practice, and most recently, our daughter had to introduce herself in French.
They have the responsibility to notify their teachers about our travels.
What have been some of the challenges with online schooling?
The only perceived challenge was the lack of internet and me stressing about course completion and assignments being overdue. There is a lot of grace and flexibility in that regard.
We will not cruise again without a WiFi package for their needs.
Tell us about your travel adventures! Do you have a favorite destination so far?
We have traveled quite a bit over the years, and some places hold a greater draw than others. Japan will always hold a significant place in our favorites! But we also love Alaska and will see ourselves in Colombia more in the coming winters (avoiding cedar season in Texas).
We are setting our sights on Australia and New Zealand, as we have great friends to see there as well. The world awaits!
How do your costs while traveling compare to what you spend while at home?
It has varied greatly. There have been $200 days (hotels, Lyft or taxis, food, or fun) and there have been $0 days (we travel with some foodstuffs, staying with friends).
At home we have access to very inexpensive food, but there is also the teenage factor where kids grow out of shoes or need a new outfit (e.g. suit jacket and tie recently — hello Goodwill store!). Our bi-weekly food budget is $300, but we are usually well within that by cooking at home more often than not.
When we are home, we operate at about $1600/month for all utilities, vehicles, food, and fun.
Away from home we save about $350-400 on that cost, averaged over our one-year expenditures. That little incentive is what makes our travel plans so fun!
What are some tricks you use to save money when traveling?
We travel with certain types of groceries (bag cereal, oatmeal packets, bread and mini peanut butter). I use grocery store apps to utilize coupons whenever we can.
When we stay in hotels, we always inquire about breakfast and room amenities and take good advantage of those. Using military base lodging is always our preference because the rooms tend to be larger, and many have breakfast options.
On the commercial side, we’d rather have a full breakfast, when possible. Helps to maintain some normalcy for the kids and us as well.
When flying Space-A, we most often buy the lunchboxes, because they usually have two meals worth of food, or enough to augment to two meals.
On certain cruise lines, the lunchtime room service menu is complimentary. We bring extra baggies, order our lunch the night before, and save it in the fridge.
Staying with friends has been the biggest cost saver. Especially when they also have time to drive us around or loan us a vehicle!
In our backpacks we always carry sleeping mats and down sleeping bags for the flights that have floor space and the times an airport floor is free for sleeping. A sleep mask and earplugs make the sleep ensemble complete.
When we fly commercial, we try to stick to airlines that have free checked bags (we are Southwest and Alaska Air credit card holders).
We tend to only buy one-way flights and have cashed in air miles for a one-way jaunt.
Longer range, we monitor one-way flights, finding the lowest possible fares. A great thing with certain fares is the flexibility to change last minute. Southwest airlines has been great for this!
We research the lowest-cost ways to travel, and now that I am AARP-eligible, we have saved on rental cars with their benefits.
We have loyalty accounts with rental car companies, and we always ask about military discounts!
Also, we listen to what flight crew and fellow travelers are finding or sharing. For example, a car rental from Lemoore, CA to San Diego Airport was going to cost us over $300 for the one-way drop off fee. However, another family that was active duty had just secured a deep military discount. We asked for the same discount, and it cost us $100 instead for the rental and drop off. It never hurts to ask.
Laundry can be another costly enterprise, depending on where you are. We carry a great laundry bar soap (Netepur by H20 at Home), a manual laundry “machine” bag (Scrubba) and a homemade 550 cord drying line with binder clips.
What are your longer-term plans? Do you plan to keep your home in Texas?
We do plan to maintain our home as a logistics base for the long range future. We own it outright, having just purchased it in August, paying cash. My husband received a full disability rating, so we will not owe property taxes, and the cost of maintaining our home is pretty low.
We love living in Central Texas for the convenience and cost of living. We have a short drive to Killeen airport, a short drive to Austin, and a medium drive to Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, or Houston airports, or the cruise port in Galveston.
Longer term, we intend to continue traveling up to 6 months total out of the year. Our initial research into where to retire was incredibly fruitful in making the decision to settle here. When we weighed all factors (retiree benefits and health care; cost of living; location; home prices and taxes; school quality; weather; and access to airports for travel, both Space-A and commercial), Central Texas was the best.
What advice do you have for other families who are thinking of doing something similar?
“Better to have planned and failed than never to have planned at all” is our working motto. Research, practice your pack- out, adapt your gear, and purchase the best gear you can afford, as it will last longer.
Be open to friendly advice, listen to what’s going on around you (e.g. when the flight crew discusses their lodging plans), and call ahead before you take off.
When flying Space-A, don’t check out of lodging/hotel until you are onboard the aircraft and taxiing. Many things about Space-A can change at the last minute.
Ask questions any time you don’t have a solid read on what is going on, and talk to other travelers. You may be able to share insight, information or more!
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There is no better education than traveling with your kids and seeing the places they are studying firsthand. It not only enriches their learning, but it provides family experiences that a brick and mortar school cannot offer! As the Reamers demonstrate, if you want to travel as a family, you can make it happen!
Have you used online or homeschooling to make it easier for your family to travel? Tell us about it in the comments!