Recently I’ve had a couple of conversations with friends about travelling with kids. We have travelled a lot since we relocated. We choose travel over having a live-in maid. Travel is our “thing”.
So, it seems that I am somewhat of an expert on travelling with kids so thought I’d write out some of the things we take into consideration when travelling.
Within Asia the flight times are usually under 4 hours and don’t require too much forward planning for those of us with older kids (meaning there are no nappies/diapers, bottle, sleeps, buggies to deal with). If at all possible I will avoid night flights, but if we do have to travel through the night I make sure we don’t have much planned for the next day in order to give us all time to recover.
In an ideal world I would fly every trip with Singapore Airlines but price usually dictates that we take budget carriers which translates as no seat back entertainment or food. My girls both have a smallish backpack that is their “travel pack”. They are responsible for stocking it before we leave with whatever they think will entertain them in transit. I’m a bit old school and don’t allow electronic devices when we are at our destination but do allow them when we are in transit, so we have a few movies and such loaded onto their ipods.
In my backpack I have a change of clothes (thin ones like a t-shirt & leggings. Leggings are totally pants when travel is concerned), wet wipes, my kindle and a camera. After being completely overloaded with carry-on luggage during my first long haul flight with the girls (to Germany in 2010) I try to carry on as little as is practically possible.
I keep all of our travel documents in a plastic zippered pouch in my handbag.
I have to admit I can happily spend days choosing where to stay on our trips. TripAdvisor is my best friend (just weed out the perpetual complainers).
There’s a few things that I consider when choosing where to stay.
Firstly, it has to be child friendly with some sort of activity for kids whether it be a pool or a kid’s club. I need somewhere the kids can let off steam as not everything we do or see on a trip is of interest to the kids. For some reason they weren’t all that interested in the history of Hellfire Pass in Thailand but we rewarded them with a long swim in the hotel pool afterwards.
Secondly, price. Despite what many think of expats we are not made of money, so price is always a consideration. We are heading to the Maldives in August and price was a huge consideration in where we chose to stay. Those picture postcards over-water villas will set you back $1300 US per night, so we are staying on land!
Thirdly, do they have 2 bedroom units or is the cost cheap enough to afford 2 interconnecting rooms? I am not a fan of sleeping in the same room as my kids! None of us sleep well when we are all together and having some extra space keeps us all happier. Most Asian hotels online booking systems are only set-up to accommodate 2 adults and 1 child in a room and prompt you to book another room if you have more than one child. Something I’ve learned is that if you email the hotel directly and ask if you can have 2 adults & 2 kids in a room you can usually do it, thereby saving you a heap of cash. (On an upcoming trip to Sri Lanka we well be staying in the one room together. I was set on staying in this hotel but it was $$$$$$$ so I had to make a compromise!)
Before you book have a look at the TripAdvisor reviews, but I always discount a few grumpy pants reviews. There are many online booking sites that purport to offer the cheapest room rates available but always cross check with the hotel themselves as often the price on the hotel’s own website is cheaper. If the booking sites are indeed cheaper you can book with them or you can ask the hotel to price match. I’ve not had a problem with third-party booking sites, but do always email the hotel before we leave to make sure that my booking has made it into their system.
We have had many different sorts of trips in the past 2 years. Some involve nothing more than strolling to the buffet breakfast and then to the pool. Some have us heading out to see stuff every morning at ridiculous o’clock. We try to balance the relaxing and the cultural, but if we are doing a trip that involves sightseeing we will always try to arrange a private tour. Yes, it’s more expensive than jumping on a coach tour but I like the peace of mind of knowing that if my kids have their cranky pants on then it is only us that they are annoying, not 45 other people on the bus. We also love the flexibility of a private tour as sometimes we might want to spend more time at one place, or head back to our accommodation if the kids are really not co-operating.
Before leaving Australia we were all vaccinated up to our eyeballs, but there’s still precautions we take. We never, ever, ever drink or use the tap water for toothbrushing. We have a small travel medical kit that contains ibuprofen, paracetamol, anti-diarrhoea meds, rehydration powders, band aids, itch cream, Savlon, bandage, saline solution, some generic antibiotics and a few other bits and pieces. We have excellent travel insurance courtesy of my husband’s work, but check your policy before travelling and purchase extra if you think you’ll need it. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Phuket (4 times), Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Bintan Island (Malaysia), Sibu Island (Malaysia), Sri Lanka, Bali, Kuching (Malaysia), The Maldives – this is the roll call of places we’ve visited in the past 2 years. There’s honestly no place in Asia I can think of that I wouldn’t travel to with my kids (well, OK, North Korea!). It really comes down to what you want to see and experience. My travel bucket list 2 years ago was Cambodia and Halong Bay, so we ticked those off in our first big trip. The kids’ bucket list was Disneyland and having their hair corn-rowed. Again, those were ticked off quickly so we are now casting our travel net wider and considering places I could barely locate on a map a few years ago. Just recently I read an article on Mongolia that planted a seed.
You can only plan so much. Things will go wrong. Planes will be late. Kids will get sick/bored/hot/cold/grumpy. Hotels will not be what they advertise. You have to be a little chilled and not sweat the small things.
Last week I asked the Big Missy if she was glad that we moved. She wasn’t particularly thrilled in the first few months here so I was interested in her answer and delighted that she gave a resounding “YES” and then provided the following (which should stand her in good stead should she ever decide to become Miss Universe):
“Because I’m more open-minded now. I used to think poor countries were a bit yuck but after I went to Cambodia, and it’s one of the poorest countries in the world, I knew that the people are really nice and kind and that’s what’s important.”
I’ve yet to go to an Asian country that didn’t welcome my kids and make them feel special (at times it seems like every second person in Asia has a photo of my girls. It seems to be quite the thing to take photos of Western kids!). There is always food available that kids (and the grown-ups!) will eat. Chicken nuggets and chips seem to be available in every country, and some of the best lamb I’ve ever eaten was in Phnom Penh.
Kids don’t care what country they are in or what they have seen they just need some room to run wild at some point during the day!
Go on! Book a trip today!