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Southeast Asia With Children: Everything You Need to Know

By Miki - The Miljian family, on updated on

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? Read on for tried-and-tested advice to plan an unforgettable travel experience in Asia, written by parents.

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1. The best destinations

Asia is the perfect destination for a family holiday. Whether you’re looking for an off-beat cityscape, 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, monsoon showers are short-lived, and usually occur for a brief period in the afternoons, providing the perfect window of rest in an activity-packed day. 

Destinations like Laos and Bali are ideal for cultural discovery at a laid-back pace. Vietnam and Cambodia buzz with frenetic energy and are the perfect spots if you're looking for a family adventure. Top tip from our family travellers: 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.

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 goes without saying that ensuring you've had all the right vaccinations is essential. 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. Try to avoid drinking tap water, and always ask for drinks without ice in restaurants. Lay off spicy food if you and your kids aren't accustomed to it (it's worth specifying this as spices may be part of the local cuisine). Also, avoid places that look empty in favour of 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 keep a bottle of water on you at all times and wear hats during the day if you plan on being in the sun for extended periods.

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3. What to pack

Travel light! You'll be in a tropical climate almost everywhere in Southeast Asia, all year round. Don’t bother with coats, thick jumpers or jeans, and instead opt for light-weight clothing which will take up less space in your suitcase and can easily be washed in 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 from our family travellers: 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 can be difficult to find a car with a booster seat. 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).

Top tip from our family travellers: 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: cultural differences

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, just politely say no.

Southeast Asia is extremely safe for you to move around and go exploring on your own as a family. However, be careful not to run or rush when you cross the road. Often, there are no traffic lights, and the rules on the road are very different from those in the West.

Also wear comfortable and, if possible, lace-free shoes. In Asia, it’s polite to remove your shoes before entering someone’s house and you'll quite often be asked to do so. Apart from all that, you'll find smiling faces everywhere and people ready to help you. Take it from the experts, Southeast Asia is truly a great destination for a family holiday, so if it's on your radar, go for it!

Family travel in Vietnam Family travel in Vietnam Family travel in Vietnam Family travel in Vietnam

Looking for more inspiration?

Still haven't found what you're looking for? Head to our dedicated Family Travel Page to browse the best child-friendly destinations, tours, and experiences curated by our carefully-selected local agencies around the world.