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Southeast Asia with children: everything you need to know

By Miki - The Miljian family, on updated on

Have you been dreaming about a family holiday on the beaches of Thailand for a while now? Booked a family trip to Vietnam but not sure what to pack? Wondering which destinations are the safest to visit with your little ones? And most importantly, want to know what there is to do on a great family adventure in Southeast Asia? This article gives you all the practical information you need to plan a fabulous travel experience in Asia. All the advice comes from first hand experience and is approved by other families that travel!

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1. The best destinations

Asia is the perfect destination for a family holiday. Whether you’re looking for a city-scape, a cultural tour or a relaxing time on the beach, you’ll find everything you want in Southeast Asia. Ask about the weather in advance though, since Asia is the continent of monsoons. They’ll probably be a part of your daily life during your trip. But don't worry. Most of the time they are extremely short lived and won't bother you too much, they can even be an extremely positive thing, since they mean lower humidity levels for a while after the storm has passed. Cities like Singapore and Hong Kong won't let you down if you're looking for a city break. Destinations like Bali or Thailand are the perfect combination of culture and relaxation and will certainly appeal to your children. Vietnam or Cambodia are the perfect destinations if you are looking for a family adventure.

Our top tip: No matter which destination you choose, don't underestimate the time it can take to get a visa, make sure you look this up prior to booking your family trip.

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2. Food and health

An appointment with your doctor before departure will dispel any doubts you may have. You should know that you can travel in Asia with children without any worries by simply following a few rules and your own common sense. It is important to ensure you all have had all the right vaccinations. Most countries don't require them (apart from the compulsory ones you will have already had at home), especially if you don’t plan on venturing into more remote places.

A few precautions can also prevent annoyances like food poisoning, during your trip. We advise that you avoid drinking tap water and always ask for water without ice in restaurants. Avoid spicy food if you are not accustomed to it (it is worth specifying this as spices may be part of the local cuisine). Avoid places that look empty and look for places where the locals eat! When there's a queue at the door it's usually a very good sign!

In Southeast Asia, temperatures are very hot and can vary during the day, sometimes reaching very high peaks.  Remember to always have a bottle of water with you and wear hats during the day if you plan on being in the sun for extended periods.

3. What to pack

Travel light! You'll be in a tropical climate almost everywhere all year round. Don’t bother with coats, big jumpers or jeans and instead, opt for light-weight clothing which will take up less space in your suitcase and can easily be washed (opt for local launderettes) and is suitable for wet weather. Sunscreen and mosquito repellent are essentials.

If you're travelling with young children, always take a baby carrier rather than a buggy. Asian pavements can be quite trying and a buggy won’t cope well with potholes or crowds. In supermarkets, you can find potties and nappies, but if you have a favourite brand it's better to take them with you. The quality of the products you will find isn't always the same.

Top tip: Take a cot with you for your little ones. They're often hard to find even in mid-range hotels. Make a photocopy of your passport before leaving to ensure that even if you lose anything, you will still be able to make it home when the time comes.

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Southeast Asia as a family Southeast Asia as a family Southeast Asia as a family Southeast Asia as a family

4. Transport

Travelling in Southeast Asia is usually very easy. The rail network in countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam is slow but very good. On roads, it's important to know that the same safety rules do not apply. For instance, it's difficult to find a car with a car seat available. Walking around is certainly the norm and for longer distances taxis are really cheap and can be a great solution. Don't be scared by long haul flights. The best airlines offer on-board entertainment and also provide beds for children (of 9-11 kg).

Our top tip: Always opt for night flights as they'll make it easier to adapt to the time zone and mean that children can simply sleep through what could have otherwise been a very boring flight.

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5. What to expect : culture

In all Southeast Asian countries, there is a profound respect for family. This means that you will find yourself in an extremely warm and welcoming, open environment where everyone loves children. Be prepared for your children to receive what might be considered an unusual level of attention. They may have their hair stroked, a touch on the cheek, and for the little ones, people will ask you if they can hold them in their arms. In Asia, it's normal! If it bothers you, you just have to politely say no.

Southeast Asia is extremely safe. Feel free to move around and go exploring on your own. However, be careful on the roads. Don't run or rush to cross the road. Often, there are no traffic lights, the rules on the road are very different from those in the West, and so could lead to an accident for those who don’t know.

Also wear comfortable and, if possible, lace-free shoes. In Asia, it’s polite to remove your shoes and you'll quite often be asked to do so. Apart from all that, you'll find smiling faces everywhere from people who are always ready to help you. Southeast Asia is a great destination for a family holiday. Our last top tip: Go for it!

Have a great trip!