Is a Southeast Asian vacation right for you?
First things first, if you’re travelling from the Americas or Western Europe you might have a few doubts about a holiday in South Asia with your family. Some people think that a 12-18 hour long haul flight with one or more stops in the middle might be too much, particularly for younger children. Airport lounges, ears popping and disrupted sleep are bad enough when travelling with children, without worrying about jet lag on the other side. Or maybe it’s not the distance but the destination itself that is giving you second thoughts. Don’t worry, there are plenty of options for places to travel to in Asia with kids that will give you peace of mind, and we’ve collected our top three favourites for you.
Discover the Parks in Singapore
If you are nervous about taking your kids further afield than usual, then Singapore is the perfect place to start. It’s clean, friendly and English is the first language, making South-East Asia more accessible for you and your family. You’ll never be stuck for something to do — in fact, you’ll be struggling to fit everything into one trip! At Marina Bay, the Gardens by the Bay are spectacular. With 101 hectares to explore, including flower and cloud conservatories, the dragonfly and kingfisher lake, and a skyway amongst the trees, you’ll want to make a day of this kid-friendly excursion. The evening display in the Supertree Grove is worth staying up for, even with little ones.
If you’re more of a theme park fan, you can’t miss Universal Studios, Adventure Cove Water Park or Kidzania, which is a miniature interactive world for kids where they can role-play in different jobs and earn money to spend inside the city. Curious? Check out this review of everything Kidzania has to offer. Or if you’re a zoo-lover, you won’t know where to start; head to Singapore Zoo, the River Safari, the S.E.A. Aquarium or the Night Safari, the world’s first nocturnal zoo. And if that isn’t enough, this complete guide to a family vacation in Singapore will inspire you.
Another good thing about Singapore for a family holiday is that the food. It’s so varied it will suit any cultural background. Asian cuisine usually revolves around noodles or rice and Singapore is no different so it’s not difficult to find something everyone will enjoy. If your kids are willing to try something local, you can’t leave without going to a hawker centre. This is an open-air dining space with a wide range of different food stalls.
There are plenty of family-friendly hotels in Singapore, although they can be a little more expensive than the likes of Thailand or Vietnam. On top of all that, Singapore is probably the easiest country to get to in South-East Asia as the Changi Airport is one of the busiest international airports in the world.
Explore the Wildlife of Thailand
Thailand is a great destination for a holiday with children as Thai culture is very family-orientated and safe. The reputation that often accompanies Thailand as a backpacker destination actually only applies to small pockets of the country. We suggest that you avoid Patong, but otherwise there is no need to worry. For more information, check out this blog post about how to enjoy Thailand with your family. Thailand is really accessible by plane as lots of major airlines will fly directly or with only one stop to at least one of the six international airports.
In the North, Chiang Mai is home to the famous Bua Tong or ‘Sticky Waterfalls’ in the Sri Lanna Park. Pack a picnic, explore the forest, and climb up the waterfalls’ bubble-like rocks. Another day out to plan is a trip to one of the elephant sanctuaries. Make sure it is a responsible and ethical sanctuary though as many rescued elephants are exploited. Although tempting, if you can ride an elephant or they perform any tricks, it’s best to steer well clear. For more details, read this blog post on how to find the right rescue elephant centre by The Planet D.
Another popular Southeast Asian destination is Bangkok, but you could spend a whole month there and still not do everything you wanted to. It’s also very busy and traffic makes it hard to get around, which is less than ideal when you have younger children. Phuket is always a popular alternative with more than enough to keep your kids entertained, from a bird park to water parks to the Flying Hanuman zipline which takes you through the forest canopy, 40 feet above the ground. One of the highlights if your children are older is Monkey Beach on Koh Phi Phi, which you will need to hire a boat to get to. Make a day of it by snorkelling in the shallow, clear waters off the coast as well as meeting all the furry residents.
Thai food is versatile so it won’t be hard to find something for even the pickiest of eaters. Sticky rice, grilled chicken and mango are among the staples you’ll find at street food markets, as well as familiar fast food chains like KFC and McDonalds. Check out this guide to the best food for kids in Thailand.
Uncover the Caves in Vietnam
Vietnam is an unexpected gem in South-East Asia that often comes second to Thailand but has just as much to offer. Taking a ride in a rickshaw in Hanoi is a traditional tourist activity but it gives you a great view of the capital. Kayaking allows you to see a different side to Vietnam. Take a tour around Halong Bay to discover hidden beaches and caves, including the Dark and Light Cave, that you wouldn’t be able to get to on a boat.
Head South to Hoi An for basket boat rides along one of the many waterways. Not only do they make for a unique picture, your kids will love being so close to the water and trying to row in a straight line. You can also get shoes or clothes custom made in Hoi An.
Like Thailand, it’s easy to find something to eat for every palate but if you’re stuck for ideas, have a read of this guide to food in Vietnam for kids. Chuoi Chien, a fried banana dessert, is bound to leave smiling faces around. With three main international airports in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Da Nang, it’s simple to fly in and out for your family vacation.