When traveling with family, it can be tricky to choose the right destination that makes everybody happy. Enjoyable, affordable and suitable for children of different ages, are fervently believed to be the criteria for choosing the destination. A whole bunch of Asian destinations might meet the standards, yet some careful consideration needs to be given.
Before you have kids, you might hop right onto the next plane to Vegas and never blink an eyelid when the travel bill comes along. Things are different now. You need to spend a month or two coming up with ideas that strike your kids’ fancy without compromising their college funds. But it isn’t all bad news. The truth is that there are a lot of mind-refreshing destinations in Asia that are enjoyable, affordable and suitable for your family.
Every family trip has a main goal. And most of the time, that goal is for the children. That is everything but surprising, as traveling is one of the greatest gifts that a parent can offer. Children at different ages require different skill-sets for trip planning. We have a run-down of destinations suitable for different age ranges, and reasons and tips for you to make up your mind.
For Toddlers and Small Kids (Aged 10 Months to 6 Years)
When traveling with children under 6 years old, it is important to be flexible and easy-paced. Such philosophy applies to choosing the destination, too. You may want to consider a place that is within shorter flight hours, safe, easy to get around, and offers as much convenience as possible. Think about this trip more as the parents’ getaway, with a side-purpose of keeping the kids entertained and well-relaxed. Such a destination is Japan.
Why we recommend it to you:
Direct flights between Japan and Europe or America take less than 16 hours. This is not so daunting for a writhing toddler.
Traditional culture and landscapes, remarkably well-preserved. Sushi-making class, footwear making and a tea ceremony, plenty of activities to keep both, adults and small children, entertained.
Super convenient local transportation gets you around easily. From local buses to Shinkansen bullet trains, public transportation is punctual, safe, and easy to get on and off with a stroller.
Easy and safe to walk on the streets. Cars stop 10 yards away when you try to across the street, and all sidewalks are smoothly paved so your stroller won’t be bumped.
Various dining options and 7-11s are around every corner. You can find all kinds of cuisines from across the globe. 24-hour convenient stores provide everything you need, from diapers to a bottle of sake.
Theme parks, arcades, play grounds, you name it. Take a photo with a life-size Pikachu, hop on a ride at Disneyland or spend a couple of hours at a SEGA arcade – no time to be bored in Japan!
Itinerary idea: 7-day Family Trip to Japan
Day 1- Tokyo Arrival
Day 2 - Tokyo City Highlights: Start with a relaxing morning walk at the Shinjuku Imperial Gardens and visit Meiji Shrine. Enjoy soba (buckwheat) noodles for lunch. Cruise down the Sumida River and get to Asakusa for a rickshaw ride. Walk on Shibuya Street and have a simple dinner at a sushi restaurant.
Day 3 - Tokyo to Hakone: Ride on the Romance Car to Hakone and take the ropeway up the mountain. Get on board a pirate ship to view Japan’s landmark: Mt.Fuji. Or get up to the 5th Station of Mt.Fuji. Stay overnight at an Onsen hotel with a chance to soak your body in the healing hot spring.
Day 4 - Hakone to Kyoto: Lazy morning with another hot spring bath before you leave for Kyoto. Arrive in the afternoon and take a sweet-making class.
Day 5 - Day Trip to Nara: Morning visit to the Deer Park in Nara, 40 minutes train ride away from Kyoto. Feed the deer as they roam freely in the pine forest. When you are back in Kyoto in the afternoon, delve into the bustling Nishiki Food Market.
Day 6 - Kyoto to Osaka: Morning visit to the Nijo Castle, the nightingale that was built to tweet like birds whenever anyone walks on it, will definitely fascinate your kids, of course you too! Travel to Osaka and have dinner at Kiji Umeda Sky Building for the famous Okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake).
Day 7 - Osaka Departure (possibly after a last spin at Universal Studios Japan)
Other Good Destinations:
Thailand: Great food, beautiful beaches and budget-friendly
Bali, Indonesia: Mild and beautiful climate, great beaches with affordable accommodation
Hong Kong: Direct flights, no language barrier, good food and fascinating cityscape
Singapore: Direct flights, sweet and soft food, safe streets and lots of theme parks
Related reading: How to Plan a Multi-Generational Family Vacation to Southeast Asia
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For Older Kids (aged 6 to 12 years)
Traveling with older kids is easier than with a lap child. You don’t need to pack tons of diapers or find plain spaghetti with no sauce or oil. You don’t need to worry about the long flights or them getting tired. Quite on the opposite, you might want to consider a place packed with activities and experiences that help them broaden the mind and learn about life experiences other than their own play dates. We would recommend Vietnam to you.
Why we recommend it to you:
Easy to get in and out on direct flights or flights with only one transit. Direct flights from Europe, Australia and New Zealand take less than 16 hours, less than 20 hours for transit flights.
All year round favorable weather, good for traveling. No matter what season you come, there is always a place with favorable weather, either Halong Bay for a mild winter or Sapa for a cool summer.
Light and healthy food with a true oriental taste. Smell the herbs and taste the chili; that is the first impression of the word “Orient” coming to life. Chance to take a cooking class.
Children-friendly, fun activities, will create precious memories: Squid fishing with dad, lantern making with mom, or cycling around the Mekong Delta.
Culturally engage and learn about other people’s life. Kids are more open-minded than you imagine. Get a great chance to teach them to understand and appreciate different cultures and lifestyles.
Affordable luxury pumps up your stay. Take the perks of a wide range of accommodation; a private beach villa in Danang only costs USD100 per night (only for reference).
Itinerary idea: 9-Day Vietnam Family Vacation
Day 1 - Ho Chi Minh City Arrival (possibly with an afternoon cycle ride)
Day 2 - Day trip to Mekong Delta: 2-hour road trip to get to Ben Tre; take a small sampan boat to visit an island, where your kids will see how coconut candy is made and sample some tropical fruit; chance to cycle under the trees.
Day 3 - Ho Chi Minh City to Hoi An via Danang: Morning visit at the Cu Chi Tunnels where you and your kids can crawl inside the tunnels which were used by the Viet-Cong during America-Vietnam war. Fly to Danang and transfer to Hoi An. Leave your kids at the kids club and get yourselves a spa treatment.
Day 4 - Hoi An Experience: Take an easy walking trip in the ancient town of Hoi An. Some quirky old houses hide interesting stories. In the afternoon, get a private cooking class, and your kids can learn to carve a carrot into a bunny.
Day 5 - Hoi An to Hanoi via Danang: Visit the early morning fish market out of Hoi An and take an eco trip that involves basket-boat rowing, fish catching and easy farming. Transfer to Danang for onward flight to Hanoi.
Day 6 - Hanoi City Highlights: Explore different ethnic dwellings on the ground of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. Climb into the helicopter at the Museum of Military History. Continue your discovery trip to the Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter (where you can buy real bargain toys, clothes and footwear) and have some nice ice cream.
Day 7 - Hanoi to Halong Bay: Board a one-night cruise to Halong Bay. Onboard activities might include squid fishing, kayaking (in some specific areas), an engine chamber tour, diving and exploring a cave. A quiet night to spot stars.
Day 8 - Halong Bay back to Hanoi: Finish the cruise before noon and transfer back to Hanoi.
Day 9 - Hanoi Departure (possibly return to the Old Quarter for some last-minute shopping)
Other Good Destinations:
Sri Lanka: Direct flights from the UK, well-kept lifestyles and wildlife, tea country train ride, plus free beach days.
Mongolia: Horseback riding, nights at a Ger (Mongolia nomadic yurts), help out with farm work such as milking and herding, visit the Gobi desert.
China: Direct flights from most Western countries. Profound history and rich cultures, hands-on learning experiences, visit the Great Wall and pandas.
For Young Teens (aged 12 to 17 years)
Kids during this age span are more patient yet challenge still remains. They might not be complaining about the 20-hour flight from LAX to Hanoi. But careful, they will be grumpy all day long if they know they are going to a country with no Wifi or Cheesecake Factory. So it is important to get them onboard at the first stage of trip planning (read our “How to Choose Destinations for Your Family Trip to Asia).
A good destination for teens is one that offers quality bonding time, continuous excitement of various forms, and also allows time and space to chill. Keeping their sense of ownership and curiosity alive during the trip can be achieved by factoring in different types of tasks, such as finding an Italian restaurant near your hotel in New Delhi, driving a quad bike in Siem Reap on their own, or hail a tuk tuk ride in Bangkok.
The content of sightseeing matters too. Instead of squeezing 10 attractions into just one day, you might want to consider an in-depth visit of two to four key sites. For two hours, going with a Khmer scholar along the veranda of Angkor Wat, gives your kids a chance to learn things that are not found in textbooks. Don’t be baffled by some dark and even brutally inhuman historic aspects. Your teens might be more open-minded than you think.
Spark your teens’ wanderlust with a trip to Myanmar.
Why we recommend it to you:
Go before it is too late. It is no longer a dormant part of the global tourism map. Explore Myanmar right now before the locals get used to foreigners and the landscape gets trodden.
The pure innocence of lifestyle is nowhere else to be found. Myanmar may be the first time that your teenage kids are exposed to true kindness to strangers and faithfulness to their own beliefs.
Understand history and the country’s struggle for democracy. The long and scuffling history makes you wonder about humanity and life. Your travels can actually help the country.
Absolute wonders galore: Glittering pagodas, marching monks, plains filled with ruined temples, and giant golden rocks sitting at a tiny axis… you can’t help but WOW all the way.
Give your teens a little challenge; internet is slow, no 7-11s or McDonalds, after a time away from all their electronic jujus, you will find them more communicative and understanding.
Every penny is well-spent. Local people’s genuine hospitality allows you to comprehensively overlook scarcity of luxury. Also, the experience that you can just sit and talk for a long time is priceless.
Itinerary idea: 9-Day Myanmar Adventure with Your Family
Day 1 - Yangon arrival (an evening visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda is in order)
Day 2 - Yangon City Unraveled: Hop on a vintage train and walk through a bustling market. Learn about history at the National Museum and walk on the Colonial District or get a peek at Aung San Suu Kyi’s House.
Day 3 - Yangon to Bagan: Take an early morning flight to Bagan. Upon arrival, drive to a remote village where a local family awaits. Learn some cooking skills and have lunch with them. In the evening, sit on an ox-driven cart to visit Bagan’s thousands of pagodas at sunset.
Day 4 - Bagan Highlights: You may start the day with a 5am balloon flight. Return to the hotel for a break before today’s trip starts. Over 4,000 ruined pagodas and temples on the plains of Bagan, we will pick some of them for you. Most interesting ones include Ananda Pahto, resembling a Greek cross, and possibly one of the best preserved temples; Thatbyinnyu, the highest of the Bagan temples; Bupaya, a cylindrical one with terraces leading to the Ayeyarwaddy River, and some more.
Day 5 - Bagan to Inle Lake: Once again an early morning flight takes you to Inle Lake. Spend the rest of today chilling out at your lakeside resort or go for a boat trip.
Day 6 - Life at Inle Lake: Villages on the lake shore host markets on a 5-day rotation, and today you will be taken to one of the markets and observe interesting lifestyles. Learn about how local women weave lotus fiber into clothes. Take photos of the one-leg rowers as they wait for moments to catch fish.
Day 7 - Inle Lake to Mandalay: Enjoy a crisp morning on the lake before you fly to Mandalay. Get on the road to Amarapura and visit a monastery where thousands of monks dine at the same time. We will get a boat for your family to row on the river, waiting for a breathtaking sunset over the U Bein Bridge.
Day 8 - Mandalay Experience: If you are up to the task, get up at 04:00am and attend the face-washing ceremony at Mahamuni Pagoda. Take in other highlights such as Kuthodaw Pagoda & the World's Largest Book at Shwenandaw Monastery. Free time to relax.
Day 9 - Mandalay departure (It can be connected with Bangkok or Chiang Mai directly)
Other Good Destinations:
Cambodia: Haunting history of Khmer Rouge and world-class wonder Angkor Wat. It can be easily combined with Thailand and Vietnam.
India: The origin of Hinduism and curry. Fascinating funeral cultures along the Ganges River and vibrant local life.
Nepal: Isolated yet enchanting, good place for long-haul trekking in nature and wildlife in Chitwan. Best idea is to take a 1-hour flight along the ridge of Everest.
Japan: Various cultural activities, a place for comic fans regardless of age, great food and remarkable public transportation and services.
Asia Highlights’ Suggestion for Destination Choosing
Commence your family trip by choosing the right destination and work all your way down till the day you are on the plane. Hopefully our list of suggested destinations sheds some light on your choice. However, things don’t have to be complicated if you are traveling with more than one child (as it is true in most cases). Mix and match the ones that suit the majority and allow the small number to call it shots for some days of the vacation.
One thing that cannot be stressed enough, is that everybody should be involved, as it is a big family matter. Once you decide, why not let us do the work with our expertise? We will study your interests and needs thoroughly and design a trip wrought with interesting and meaningful experiences. See our itinerary below and let us do the work for you.
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