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We Spend Summers Overseas & Here's What It Costs

Raising a child supposedly costs you a quarter of a million dollars, but it can honestly be more daunting to face the idea of spending $80 on bottle nipples in a single month. Expense Report gives us a look into the spending, scrimping, and wishing that defines parenthood, from what moms spend on birthdays, to childcare, to sleep, to self-care (we wish!), and beyond.

Summer holidays cost families $2,778 on average, per Vacasa, but how much are you looking at for a trip abroad? The Mandarin Mama travels with four kids and a husband to see relatives in Taiwan each summer, and tallied the full realm of costs.

Family: A mom and dad in their early-40s.

Location: Bay Area, Calif.

Number of children: 4 (ages 2, 6, 7, and 9)

When people find out I take my children back to Taiwan for 4-6 weeks every summer, they are always curious about how I manage to do it. (The answer is: with a lot of yelling). But most importantly, people want to know how much it costs. (The answer is: a lot of money.)

Oh, a lot of money isn’t specific enough? I was hoping that you would be unlike my long-suffering husband and accept that as my answer.

Very well.

But before I break down the numbers and you judge me across the internet, please keep in mind the following things:

  1. We do not really do any other vacations or trips in years that we go to Taiwan. Occasionally, we may also go visit family but that’s it. Sorry, husband. Your permanent “vacation” spots are Taiwan; Washington, D.C.; or Los Angeles.
  2. I bilingual homeschool my children in Chinese and English. Thus, one of my primary goals in life and parenting is to maximize any and all opportunities for my children to be immersed in Chinese.
  3. I have a severe condition my husband has named Rich Girl Syndrome (RGS). I don’t really buy a lot of things, but when I do, I go big. The Chinese thing is no exception. (The others, in case you’re curious, are Kpop global sensation BTS, Costco, Amazon Prime, and things that make my life easier.)

For this trip, my primary objective was to cram all-the-Chinese from native Chinese speakers in six weeks or less. My secondary objective was to bribe my children into compliance because I would be single parenting for four of those weeks. And finally, my tertiary objective was to eat as much Taiwanese food as human stomach capacity allowed.

The family. Photo courtesy of Virginia Duan


Since Taiwan is across an ocean and I don’t have access to a tesseract, we needed plane tickets for six people. Summer is prime travel season to Taiwan so our tickets were not cheap. Once we arrived in Taiwan, we wouldn’t be driving so we also had to pay for general transportation to and from the airport, commuting through the city, and traveling to other parts of Taiwan to visit various family.

Plane Tickets for 2 adults, 4 children: $7,287

Transportation (taxis, MRT, high-speed-rail): $693

Travel Subtotal: $7,980


I chose an Airbnb in a popular area of Taipei that was super close to my children’s summer camps as well as the MRT. If I had chosen a smaller apartment, had fewer children (I certainly wished at times to cut my losses), or lived on the outskirts of a less desired area or was further from public transportation, this would have been much less expensive. Also, I could have chosen to not go through Airbnb and strike my own contract with the landlord, but that idea gives me hives.

Also, we stayed a few nights in Kaohsiung to visit my family and thus, those nights were technically double-booked because I was not about to lug all our family’s luggage and crap on a train round-trip with four kids in tow just to save some money. RGS strikes again!

Airbnb + fees for 44 nights in Taipei: $4519

Hotel in Kaohsiung, 2 rooms for 2 nights: $770

Housing Subtotal: $5,289

As you can see, we have barely arrived in Taipei and money has already been sunk. (This is why my husband weeps softly in the corner when he thinks I’m not looking.)

Photo courtesy of Virginia Duan

Summer Camps

As I mentioned, the reason I travel to Taiwan and single parent for weeks at a time in horrible heat and humidity is because I make poor life choices and I want my kids to be as fluent as possible in Chinese. Thus, I would never do this on a yearly basis if I did not send my children to camps.

Local Chinese summer camps for four weeks, three children: $1,893

Local Preschool catering to expats for four weeks, one child: $1,390

Camps Subtotal: $3,283

Food & Groceries

Though my third goal every visit is for me to shovel Taiwanese yummies into my pie hole, unfortunately, my children and husband also required feeding and watering. I forgot that they are older now and my youngest is no longer exclusively breastfed so I severely underestimated how much food would cost.

Also, I really don’t see the point of cooking in Taiwan. Food is super cheap and most Airbnbs do not come with a full kitchen. Lunch is usually covered in the cost of camps and schools, but my third child has many food allergies so for safety reasons, I packed his own lunch and snacks.

Why then did I buy groceries? My kids love snacks and I had promised my daughter that I would get her favorite Taiwanese breakfast every single morning if she agreed to go. Additionally, I blatantly bribed my kids with popsicles and/or ice cream every night so that they would associate getting whatever they want with Taiwan and thus continue to assent to going every summer despite other obvious destinations like Disneyland.

Food: $1,464

Groceries: $316

Food & Groceries Subtotal: $1,780

A crucial expense. Photo courtesy of Virginia Duan.

Entertainment & Misc.

Since I have so many children, our family is allotted at least 10 checked bags. Because shipping to the U.S. is so outrageous, I try to maximize luggage space by buying as many Chinese books, media, and games as I can without alerting my husband. This year, I lucked out in not needing to buy as many Chinese media things because I, in my infinite wisdom, front-loaded all the costs by acquiring them in previous years. (Someone please tell my husband that I am a financial genius.)

Due to my children holding me hostage with their ridiculous demands of enjoying their summer, I wasted hundreds of U.S. dollars on their activities, miscellaneous school supplies, and other things we needed at the apartment (eg: hand soap, dishwashing liquid, detergent, etc.). I also gave some gifts to family.

Oh, right. I may have also had many massages, bought jewelry and BTS albums, attended an EPIK HIGH (Korean hiphop band) concert, and LASERED MY FACE. (Asian don’t raisin but why not help nature along? Let me live, already!)

Entertainment: $1,091

Gifts: $100

Face lasering: $373

Books: $367

Miscellaneous: $439

Entertainment & Miscellaneous subtotal: $2,370

The Grand Total

Though my children and husband never appreciate it, I ultimately trek to Taiwan every summer out of love. I hope when they are grown and we are long gone, that my children recall fondly our times there (or at the very least, bond over mutual suffering) and appreciate the results of my indomitable will as they speak and read Chinese fluently.

Total: $20,702 (*cries in delayed retirement*)

Prices and children may vary.

Feelings after the grand total. Photo courtesy of Virginia Duan.