For many Taiwanese American families, taking their children back to visit Taiwan during the summer is an (expensive) rite of passage. My family is no different.
I go back for many reasons. The primary reason is Chinese immersion and experiencing another culture. I want my kids to see that Chinese is useful beyond the classroom, and it doesn’t hurt to have my homeschooled kids experience classrooms with children their age. The second reason (and rivals the first) is to see family and friends (some of whom I only see when we all head back to Taipei), and finally, the distant third is to eat as much Taiwanese food as humanly possible.
It’s been nine years since my first summer trip back in 2014 and though I’m an old hand at preparing for the trans-Pacific trip (albeit with two additional children), my skills were a little rusty thanks to the pandemic. Thanks also to inflation and more humans in my family, I also expected the costs to rise significantly. (My last expense post-mortem was featured in Romper back in 2019 if you want to compare.)
If you’re planning a summer trip back to Taiwan in the recent future (or just curious), here’s our expense breakdown on how much it cost our family to spend a summer in Taipei.
As always, I try to provide context so that if you’re going to judge my spending habits, you will judge me accurately. So, here are the pertinent details.
Location: Bay Area, California
Adults (2): Not Yoongi and I are in our mid-40s, he works full time and I am a freelance writer
Children (5): Cookie Monster (13M), Gamera (11F), Glow Worm (9M), Sasquatch (6M), Kitsune (4moF)
Number of weeks: 8
Some other context: Taiwan is usually our only major trip or vacation when we do go. This year, Gamera really wanted to also visit Tokyo so we tacked on 5 days in Japan at the start of the trip for the older kids and my husband.
By far, the bulk of our costs were our flights. Because Cookie Monster is now over 12, his tickets now are full adult fare (soul cry). Thankfully, Kitsune is still under 2-years old so we only had to pay taxes. I have also included passport fees (which we expedited because I’d heard way too many horror stories to leave it to chance).
Plane Tickets for 3 adults, 4 children to Taipei (roundtrip): $7,555.05
Plane Tickets for 2 adults, 3 children from Taipei to Tokyo (roundtrip): $2,965.27
Transportation (taxis, MRT, day-trips, airport parking): $1.044.17
Passport fees: $1.007.85
Travel Subtotal: $12,572.34
Ok, here is where I won. I negotiated a very, very good AirBnb deal for two months. I don’t know if this is replicable, and also, no, I will not tell you with whom. We stayed in an older (and cramped) apartment in a very popular tourist area. However, because our family caught COVID, we also got hotels in an (ineffective) effort to quarantine as well as had to pay for part of the AirBnb I had rented in Kaohsiung where I was supposed to visit family.
Airbnb +fees for 58 nights in Taipei: $2,256.86
Airbnb +fees for 4 nights in Kaohsiung (non-refundable deposit): $201.85
Hotels for 7 nights in Taipei: $526.84
Hotels for 4 nights in Tokyo: $352.53
Housing Subtotal: $3,338.08
As always, even before we’ve really done anything at all in Taiwan, we have already sunk in almost $16k. Moral of this story: have fewer children or leave them at home!
This year, I promised the children I would enroll them in camps that were more fun than the more classroom-like ones they’d attended in the past. I wanted to limit their exposure to other non-native children and attempted to do only local camps. Since local camps don’t start until July, we only had 3 weeks of camps, but I did manage to get in a camp that was geared mostly for American kids. We had another week of camps planned, but COVID ruined that (although I got most of the tuition back).
While I wouldn’t say my children had a great time, they didn’t have a terrible time, either. So, I consider it a win. It will be much harder next year for me to find camps where my oldest can attend because after a certain age, local kids are in cram courses over the summer.
Local Chinese summer camps for 3 weeks, 4 children: $3,507.50
Chinese summer camps catering to expats for 1 week, 4 children: $1,690.11
Camps Subtotal: $5,197.62
Food & Groceries/Incidentals
As much as I would like to never have to buy things in Taiwan, sadly, that is not possible. We barely had a kitchenette, but we had a very large fridge, and so we bought a decent number of snacks, had leftovers, used UberEats and FoodPanda more than I thought I would once I got over my fear of Chinese (look, it is the superior way to eat Ding Tai Fung), and also, we had to buy sunblock and other incidentals.
Thankfully, since my food allergy children have now been several years in oral immunotherapy, the fear of some horrible food reaction has dissipated and I no longer provided them their own lunches! Only camp lunches for them!
Food & Groceries Subtotal: $4,139.42
Entertainment & Miscellaneous
Lastly, the most interesting portion of the expenditures, we have books, face lasering, gifts, color analysis, and whatever tours and adventuring we went upon.
Entertainment (arcades, amusement parks, games, souvenirs): $1,518.14
Face lasering & cosmetics: $757.58
Color analysis: $115.54
Miscellaneous (laundry, SIM cards, medicine): $363.53
Entertainment & Miscellaneous Subtotal: $3,006.79
Again, before you judge me too greatly, please keep in mind that this was for 8 weeks in Taiwan for a family of 7. We really don’t do anything else (please do not look at my stack of unopened BTS merch and concerts) and the primary goal is to improve my children’s Chinese because I am, if nothing else, incredibly stubborn.
If you’ve been adding it all up along the way, you’re no fun. Way to ruin the grand reveal. (Also, just pretend to be surprised anyway, okay?)
Grand Total: $28,254.25
If that number makes you want to cry, you are not alone. A little over half the costs are in the flights and housing (not that the remainder is anything to sneeze at). I know that if I had in mind to buy more groceries and cook at home, do fewer activities, as well as do fewer cosmetic enhancements and less shopping (LIES!), we could have cut the costs even more.
Sadly, even though I got a decent deal per capita on the flights, housing, and some of the camps, there really is no getting around me needing to multiply it by 4 (for the kids’ related things) or 7 (the total number of humans we have).
Would I change anything?
Truthfully, whether I lessen the number of weeks in Taipei or not, the flights would have cost the same. The AirBnb might have been marginally less, and of course, the food costs would have lowered. I was very surprised by the rise in costs due to inflation (and an extra tiny human) and while I had anticipated spending about $25k, I did not factor in surprise COVID, the Tokyo side-trip, and my propensity to be vain.
Next year, I will likely only go back for 6 weeks with Not Yoongi joining me only half the time. That may or may not cut down on food costs (because Not Yoongi really did not eat that much — it was me, dear reader) and ultimately, this is how I choose to spend my money. We will probably also tack on another side trip to an Asian country for a few days, so I doubt the costs will change that much next year. (Sorry, Not Yoongi! You knew what I was when you married me!)
And now, I leave it all here on the internet for your edification! Have fun judging my choices!!