Asia With Kids

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First of all, don’t panic. You can visit Asia with kids. In fact, travel to Asia with kids is pretty easy. I normally tell people how to backpack around or through South East Asia with kids, in that, I help them with planning, itineraries and travel arrangements. Today I’m going to tell you what it’s actually been like. We’ve been travelling or backpacking with kids for over 6 years now and the bulk of that time has been spent in South Asia and Southeast Asia because those are our favourite parts of the world but we have ventured into northern Asia, China, Tibet, Japan and Mongolia, The Middle East, plus the Indian subcontinent. This post looks at our experiences of those Asian countries, travelling as a family with fairly young kids to teens. We give you some tips, guides, destinations and ideas on what to expect.

Japan with kids
Japan is a great destination in Asia with kids or teens. Have you heard Japan is expensive? It’s really not. I took my teen child to Japan recently and we had a great time!

Touring Asia with kids has been fun, but there have been a few challenges. A short video will appear below, my son makes the videos and I think currently we’re showing one from Tibet, but we rotate them. Please watch and don’t forget to save to Pinterest! A bunch of different pins will appear if you use the Pinterest buttons.

Dubai UAE Asia kids
Dubai is in Asia and yes it’s a great family travel destination. My kids loved their time in Dubai.

When we first touched down in Kuala Lumpur they were 6 and 8 years old, but they’d already been to Thailand and Bali as 3 and 5-year-olds.

AngkorWat Cambodia with kids
Exploring the ruins of Angkok Wat in Cambodia, with kids.

At the time of writing, they are 15 and 11 and I love them to bits. I’m a very proud mum to two fantastic boys and I think growing up on the road and experiencing so much, with us and the motley bunch of travellers they’ve met along the way, has gone a long way towards shaping their outlooks at such an early age.

Best first place in Asia with kids Thailand
Where should you go first in Asia with kids? We recommend Thailand. Thailand is easy, cheap, and a fabulous destination for all kinds of travel

So this post is about travel in Asia with kids – let’s get into it!

Asia With Kids

What is travel in Asia with kids like? Asia is amazing and visiting much of Asia with kids is undoubtedly cheaper than staying at home.

In the early days we’d travel budget and ultra-budget but lately (since our travel blog took off) there have been plenty of luxury stays in Asia too. Mostly self-funded but a few promotional stays.

But still, even when the luxury hotels started to invite us, we’d turn up by tuk tuk in our scruffy travel clothes hefting years-old backpacks.

Backpacking is what we do. We see no point in spending on things we don’t really need or want. Other than occasionally, we do enjoy a family holiday in Dubai, for instance. (Yes, Dubai is in Asia)

Packing for Asia with Kids

This photo was taken in Asia, in year 1, we all look quite clean and well-groomed! A few hours to wait with our bags at Bangkok train station. Reading and card games as usual. We have more luggage now because the boys each have laptops and their clothes are bigger. The tiny blue and red backpacks you can see here were pretty useless, in all honesty.  You can see one of our water bottles behind D’s elbow. We used up our supply so were stuck with plastic bottles. This is something we’re really working on eliminating now.

You can see our travel gear post here, We packed clothes, toiletries, a few toys, electronics and school books. Sometimes we also packed a triathlon bike.

We dealt with luggage needs constantly changing by stashing surplus stuff when we could and by ditching gear we no longer needed, buying new when we did need it.

When Chef wasn’t in training for an Ironman event his triathlon bike spent time at airport left luggage areas, friends’ houses, the attic of our rental in Romania or at great grand nanna’s house. We’ve had to work around Chef’s training needs a lot and it’s been annoying, but where there’s a will there’s a way.

If you stay in hostels you’ll often find luggage rooms where you can leave a big backpack for a few days while you head off with just a daypack on short side trips. We’ve utilised those a few times but we very rarely stay in hostels, we prefer hotels.

We’ve generally carried 2 big backpacks, 2 adult carry-on backpacks and the two boys had their own carry on each. This meant that on budget airlines we only had to pay for 2 items of checked luggage. When the boys were small they very rarely carried their own bag, I’d hook them to the front of my harness instead as it was too much for them. Now they always ask to carry my big bag as teenage muscles kick in. It’s really nice of them, so cute.

If you want to know what we pack, see our travel essentials here.

Favourite Experiences in Asia for Kids

It’s hard to get a good quote out of these two children, but I asked them what were their favourite experiences, places and things to do in Asia. This is what my kids had to say about travelling in Asia.

Backpacking Laos with kids
If I show them this photo they’ll remember it. We used to park ourselves in this restaurant in Vang Vieng, Laos and do maths. D was learning about the 24 hour clock. They both took a shine to this little baby and the family and staff. We were here about 6 weeks and had a great room on the island for $12 / night, including TV and air-con.

D(14) says, “I really enjoyed riding around town on bikes in Vietnam and Vietnamese cuisine is amazing. but all in all I love SEA to bits its always full of adventure and you never know whats going to be next. A bit like Bertie Bots Every Flavour Beans really. I grew up travelling around Asia around adult travellers so it’s natural to me, I liked it and never wanted to stop and stay in one place. We’re about to stop now and I don’t really know how I feel about that because it would be an alien experience but I mostly feel curious.

Banh Xeo Crispy Pancakes kids favourite food in Vietnam
Boo’s current favourite food, banh xeo from Vietnam. He’s even cooked these crispy pancakes himself. His other favourite is tom kha gai from Thailand, coconut soup with chicken. He’s cooked that himself too. Feed them well and they stay enthusiastic.

Boo (11) says, “I hate being in cars and buses because I get car sick. Even though I get car sick the destination is normally amazing. My favourite place in Asia was Universal Studios in Singapore but I really liked the King’s palace in Thailand and Vietnam is my favorite country. My favourite food in Asia is ban xeo, crispy Vietnamese pancakes. I really enjoyed making ban xeo and fresh spring rolls in Hoi An.”

I think they both mention Vietnam as a favourite place in Asia because their memories of our 6 months there are the strongest and freshest.

It was our most recent destination in Asia. Remember they are kids, and you can’t expect them to analyse thoughts, feelings and memories as an adult would.

Both the above quotes are completely genuine, I didn’t write them.

The car sickness problem means we always avoid minibuses and if possible take a tuk-tuk over a taxi. I also have anti-motion sickness tablets for kids. He’s only actually vomited twice, ever, in Guatemala and in Laos, both times on a minibus on long winding mountain roads.

Car sickness is no fun for kids so we do everything we can to keep him comfortable.

Favourite Experiences of Asia by Chef, Dad

Training for Triathlon in South East Asia
He likes travel, Ironman and food. In no particular order. Here at the Blue Temple in northern Thailand, sampling the local ice cream to keep his strength up for another 100-mile bike ride. 

You all know what I think, but what does he think? “I really enjoyed being able to experience the many diverse cultures across Asia. Sharing this with my children and seeing them take their education to a new hands-on level made it all the more special.  Favourite for me was generally the food and cooking classes, obviously, but I also particularly loved the various festivals we were able to experience and share with the kids. Like the boys, my favourite country is Vietnam.  Having this freedom for the last 5 years also allowed me to train optimally and compete across the globe in Ironman triathlon events and take my family with me. Not many triathletes get to do that.”

Budget and Luxury Travel in Asia with Kids

Backpacking south easy asia with kids hotels
Our room in this guest house was $12 /night. It had air con and TV along with an en-suite bathroom. We were happy. The floodwaters came a little close…but that added to the fun. Great times in Vang Vieng Laos.

We left a 4 bedroom house with pool for 1 room in a hostel in Asia at under $50 a night. Some nights we got as low as $12 per night. Was there any hardship in budget travel in Asia with kids? Not really.

The only time we had issues with cheap accommodation was when we ended up somewhere dirty or in some other way grossly inadequate. Maybe unsafe, smokey, noisy or too hot. It happened very, very rarely.

I don’t think the boys make much distinction between cheap and expensive hotels. So long as the wi-fi is good they’re pretty happy. If there is any sort of buffet breakfast, they are ecstatic.

The worst one was a well-known place in Kanchanaburi. It was late, we were tired, so we stayed just for 1 night. It was the grubbiest place I’ve ever been. Bamboo matting walls, a rag of a curtain, oily sheets that slipped off the ancient mattress during the night, but it was OK, we survived. The one the boys always talk about was on Penang. That was our worst hostel or guesthouse experience ever and I posted about it here.

But that was only 2 nights, the rest of the trip has been good to superb, even the night we spent in the cleaner’s room at Back Home (see post above). Back Home Kuala Lumpur is one of our favourite hostels of the whole trip, by the way. Our other favourite places to stay in South East Asia are in this post.

We’ve never not done something or not bought something because we couldn’t afford it. I naturally gravitate towards the cheapest meal in restaurants (being vegetarian helps) whereas the boys don’t so much and that’s OK. They get what they want within reason and we encourage them to try new things.

If they want to do something we do it. We never had a budget that was set in stone, it was always fluid, so if they wanted a particular theme park we’d go and just try to make more money later. I’ve always said that we don’t set budgets for travel. Our goal in year 1 was $50 per day, it was achievable. But since year 1 there have been no ideal or set budgets.

In the last few years we’ve stayed at some superb hotels, some for work, some for pleasure. The sort of hotels you’d pick for a luxury family vacation. On one of those vacations you could easily spend as much as we spent on 6 years of travel.

The kids love this perk of mum’s job but it spoils the experience of travelling with my family for me. I’m on duty, I’m working, so I do it rarely and only if I think the kids will love it.

Toys and Games For Family Sanity in Asia as a Family

Monopoly Card Game, Travel Games for Traveling Families
If there is any sort of wait, we break out the cards. We’ve never carried regular playing cards. This is our family favourite, see details below.

I have two children and they are great friends but also very different personalities.

One has no interest in possessions at all, the other likes his stuff. So one child’s backpack has always been almost empty, the other’s packed with toys.

We have, seriously, transported up to 16 cuddly toys at any one time, a giant Nerf gun, various Lego sets, 3 Harry Potter Wands, 5 sonic screwdrivers and about 1 Kg of Pokemon cards. But what sees the most use?

Well, their computers obviously, they use them at every opportunity for all kinds of gaming, but the toys we’ve used most are the family card games. Uno and Monopoly Deal have kept us busy at airports, restaurants, bars and train stations. They are our go-to family entertainment and the best way of keeping kids busy if mum and dad want a drink or two after dinner or if we have any sort of wait.

The Kindles (the single most important thing we own) are important too. They read for hours and hours, huge amounts. But generally, at tables, we break out the card games. Uno for younger kids, Monopoly Deal (see links above) past about 8 years old.

Destinations in Asia for Kids and Families

Any country is Asia can work as a child-friendly or family-friendly destination if you make it so. Sometimes, rarely, there may be conflicts and natural disasters to avoid, but on the whole, I’m yet to visit a country that couldn’t work for family travel, Asia with kids is a dream for us. But you may need a few smarts.

  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Malaysia
  • Singapore
  • Laos
  • Nepal
  • India
  • China (Tibet)
  • Sri Lanka
  • Japan
  • Indonesia
  • Bangladesh
  • UAE (Dubai, Abu Dhabi)
  • Turkey
  • Egypt ( yes, it’s also a transcontinental country, part in Asia)
  • there are more…

Reader Questions on Travel in Asia With Kids

If you have any more, add them in the comments, they can go in the post.

Did we socialise more with other travellers and expats or with locals?

Meeting Locals in South East Asia With Kids
This young girl was so, so nice. We were in a town few tourists visited, in her parents’ restaurant and I think she was fairly surprised to see 2 western kids. I bet she still has their photos on her i pad. She followed our page for a while but I haven’t heard from her in a long time.

About 90% other travellers. A few expats. It’s rare to infiltrate the expat community unless you stay in one place a long time, but towards the end of our time in Vietnam and of course in Romania, we very much had our feet under the table.

I was involved with other travel professionals in Vietnam and that was a very interesting group of people to get to know. Along with their kids.

When you meet locals it’s normally in a business arrangement. They run your guest house, cut your hair, take you on a tour, teach you to cook and so on. It’s rarely a social arrangement and they’re well used to a constant stream of tourists passing through.

There are a few exceptions, like our lovely landlady and her family in Vietnam, but most of our socialising is chats over dinner or drinks and chance meetings on trains. When the kids were younger maybe playground parent chats.

We love talking to fellow travellers because they’re usually on the same wavelength and have alternate lifestyles. To be honest we keep ourselves to ourselves and don’t actively try to meet people but we do like to chat.

I think being a family actually stops people talking to you. Solo travelers may do better here, a lot of people don’t want to get involved with a family with kids. For the record, if you see us, talk to us! Some of our best friendships came about when people came over and said hi. (Yes, I’m talking about you Sue!)

I should also say that not everyone we met was nice. We met a few unpleasant people too. These people were a great lesson to the kids in how not to adult. None of these were local.

How did they cope with food and water in Asia? Were they more susceptible to getting upset tummies? How do you teach them to be careful about what to eat and not using tap water to drink / brush teeth etc?

Getting Sick in South East Asia
Fruit shake with ice? Sure, no problem. Bangkok’s Rambuttri Rd. Year 1. We had no sickness problems at all in Bangkok ever, just one time in Chiang Mai and that was likely viral.

I was worried about this, I thought they may be more susceptible to water and food-born contaminants but they weren’t. They got sick with similar frequency to mum and dad.

This probably reflects the infrequency with which we encountered these things. The sickest they’ve been in the last 5 years was with norovirus in London.

They DID get a lot more viruses than us, respiratory or otherwise, usually picked up on planes or in places where there were lots of kids. We all picked up terrible flu in Legoland Malaysia. That’s just normal childhood development, all kids do and they have to or they will never develop immunity to these bugs and just get them later.

We had a few instances of tummy upsets, I suspect mostly viral. Once in Laos, (Chef and D), in Thailand (Me and Boo)  also Boo was quite sick with something we thought could have been Dengue, but wasn’t, in Laos.

We flew him by the hospital for blood work but all was well. My ability to read fluent blood test came in handy there as the doctor didn’t speak much English. Otherwise, no sickness that I can remember in Asia.

The only sickness that I’m 100% convinced was caused by food was Chef’s illness in Laos. He ate from those terrible buffets in Luang Prabang. Cold food, hanging about in tropical heat and covered in flies. Totally his own fault and he should know better being a chef.

He was very sick. The boys and I haven’t been that sick.

I forgot to mention Bali! Bali was before our full time travel started, it was just a 2 week holiday. Boo (then 3 or 4 years old) and I, had mild to middling traveller’s tummy for the last few days. We got it checked when we got home and it turned out to be a strain of salmonella.

We were fine, it passed, nobody was what I’d call “sick”.

We didn’t really teach them anything as you suggest. You just tell them tap water isn’t OK to drink and keep your mouth shut in the shower. That’s it, done. I did have a bit of a battle with them over foot hygiene and keeping shoes and feet off everything, including each other. That’s still ongoing, they’re far grubbier in their habits than I’d like them to be, but so is their father.

From the start, we’d help them clean their teeth by pouring clean water for them and often still do. I’d always thoroughly clean the tops of cans for them and sometimes give glasses a good wipe. But I would in Australia too, with all the flies, cans are never safe to drink from.

There are rats everywhere in the world but in Asia with kids maybe you worry more. I tend to steer them away from choosing unsafe foods (like pizza) and towards local dishes cooked well, it’s no problem.

We did regularly have ice and salad if the place passed the Mummy risk assessment. Asia isn’t the place it was 20 years ago. Back then you had to be more careful.

The kids are always with us, it’s not like they’re packed off solo somewhere to fend for themselves so it’s OK. But they did learn a lot about viruses, bacteria, immunisation, the immune response, hygiene and so on from the constant chatter about this stuff. Me having a medical/science background helps.

We also did a little study on altitude sickness, read about altitude and the Himalayas here.

As I said above, I wouldn’t do this with kids or toddlers still at the age of putting things in their mouths or crawling on the floor because you can’t protect them as much as you can in a home environment. People do travel South East Asia with babies and toddlers and survive fine, just I wouldn’t, so we waited a bit.

Having been through the toddler/preschooler stage I also wouldn’t want to handle some of the sicknesses that they all inevitably get at that age while travelling. It was hard enough at home to have very sick kids.

Also, obviously, I wanted them to remember it, this is part of their education so it made sense to do it once they’d reached an age of reason. My younger one was 6 when we started and actually doesn’t remember that much from the first few years. This surprised me as the elder one has strong memories from the age of 2.

Were they freaked out by the insects / other animals eg snakes, rats etc?

snakes backpacking south east asia
Scared of snakes? That would be a no. This is at the venom manufacture facility at the hospital in Bangkok.

Not even remotely. I hate spiders, they don’t hate them as much as me. They both love snakes, D wants a pet one, and rats are just furry friends.

I remember in one train station in Thailand we had to wait hours. The boys headed off to a market opposite and happily spent some time spotting rats.  They came back to mum with a grand rat count and a description of one dead one lying on its back. Super exciting to small boys!

Another time we were sitting in our favourite restaurant in Vietnam when a rat came in, ran around a bit, took a shortcut through the family shrine and headed out the back. We all laughed and enjoyed the show as did our lovely restaurant owners. Not a big deal to any of us.

I did have a rat run over my foot once in the flooding in Vietnam, that freaked me out a bit.

I think, in all our time in South East Asia, we saw just 3 huntsman spiders and all were in Hoi An. Coming from Australia (Port Douglas, Queensland) we were well used to seeing golden orbs but had never had a huntsman in the house there.

How do kids cope with the constant change in their environment? Do you have a general routine that you loosely stick to regardless of what country you are in? Did they ever become tired of the constant changes or miss a “regular routine life.”

Routine for travelling kids
When there is no schedule, no routine, why set yourself one? Nobody has to be up for work or school so sure, you can play on the beach. Thailand, Haad Salad. We were there for 6 weeks after Chef needed emergency surgery.

Nope, not even remotely. Our routine consists of get up, get dressed, go for breakfast, enjoy the day in whatever way you want to (appropriate to the location), go to sleep when you’re tired.

We’ve always followed our bodies and never been a routine family. I don’t understand why anyone would ask this, it’s alien to me and I don’t really know what you mean.

I guess you mean things like bath time, pyjamas, story, bedtime routines. We never did any of that.

They take a shower when they need one, be it 4 times a day or once a week. That started very young because growing up in Australia they were always in and out of the pool and I’d have to shower them off afterwards.

I would read to them whenever we had time and place, which was often, and they don’t wear pyjamas. Nobody needs to pack pyjamas.

We all go to bed at the same time, no set bedtime any more.  I think all that stuff about routine is made up to sell parenting books.

We’ve never wanted to send them off to bed early or anything like that and for many years the whole family was in bed around 7.30pm. This means I’m up early (around 4am) to get some work done while they sleep on. Chef will be out running at dawn. It works for us.

We tried the routine thing when they were small  (before we left to travel) because that’s what we’d read we had to do, but quickly figured out that it wasn’t the best way for us or for our kids. They’ve thrived on it and everyone has been happy. Nobody depressed, rarely tired, no stress or troublesome bed times. 

If we have an early morning flight we’re a well-oiled machine. Clothes laid out the night before, out of bed, into clothes, head to the airport.

What kind of opportunities for volunteering, working, etc for the parents in Asia?

No idea sorry, it’s not what we do. Travelling full-time, home educating and running this website are 3 full-time jobs and there’s only 1 of me.  I don’t need another job!

Also, we’re not slow travellers, we’re backpacker-speed travellers, it wouldn’t work. I’m also highly suspicious of voluntourism.

What about the animal side of things… cruelty, eating random animals etc?

the animal side of things... cruelty, eating random animals etc.
One of the kids doesn’t like meat markets one bit. I’m the vegan, vegetarian, but as my profession involved dissecting human body parts, I’m not at all squeamish. It’s cruelty to live animals that upsets me. We just keep him away. If a cookery course involves a market visit he’ll stay in the fruit and veg section. But he still eats meat when he wants to. He gets far more upset by human suffering.

I’m the only vegetarian / vegan in the family, the other 3 like meat and will happily eat just about anything. I fully agree with that, if you’re going to eat a cow or a chicken why not any other animal? I see no difference.

I do invest substantial time into trying to change their minds about that and at home they mostly get vegan food. I win the kids around from time to time but they always gravitate back to chicken schnitzel.

Chef is a chef, so of course, he can never fully join me in being vegan if he is working (he stopped working at all 12 months ago but is about to do a few weeks to give us a nice lump sum). He has been doing very well in his Ironman training on a mostly vegan diet and hasn’t complained at all.

I have one son who is highly sensitive. Beggars, poverty, disfigurements, lepers (we’re talking more the Indian Sub Continent here, other than one time in Cambodia, maybe the bombing victims in Laos) and so on upset him tremendously and he also empathises, but not as intensely, with animals.

Luckily the only time I can remember him being very upset about how animals were treated was in relation to the poor donkeys and horses in Egypt. We saw some terrible things there.

I don’t remember the kids seeing anything too upsetting in Asia. I saw a rabbit skinned alive once in China and I still haven’t really got over it. I tend to steer the kids away from meat markets or anything that might upset them.

In Romania, he’ll happily watch the pigs being butchered though, once they are dead. The killing isn’t good to be around but it’s over quickly. It’s important to me that they know that what they choose to eat was once a friend. But none of this is Asia.

What is upsetting for him (but not acutely) is scrawny, mangy stray dogs and cats. But this isn’t specific to Asia, you can see that in Europe or pretty much anywhere really.

He doesn’t pick up on everything, like the dogs near us in Vietnam that were pets, but puppy machines. It’s best not to go into too many details. He was aware of the dog restaurants but I saw no need to tell him how they prepare the animals for consumption, it would be overwhelming for him. He can become an activist when he’s an adult if he chooses to, he doesn’t need to think about it just yet.

I also steered him away from the more graphic parts of the various war museums in Vietnam and Cambodia, it would be too much for him. His elder brother was OK with it, he was ready.

They have both eaten bugs, frog, yak and tarantula in Asia. They were both eating shellfish, squid and so on by the age of 6, so that’s nothing new. They’re Chef’s kids, they’ve always eaten out a lot.

I can’t think of any strange meats they’ve eaten in Asia. The weirdest things are stuff like crocodile, emu, camel, and that was Australian wildlife.

In the last 5 years we’ve not seen balat even once (duck embryo) but on our first RTW 20 years ago we saw it often. Likewise dog in the markets, you don’t see it so often now but I did see it once in Hoi An.

How is Travel in Asia Different, With Kids and Without?

I honestly don’t think that our travel pre-kids and with kids was really much different. It was a lot more expensive and we upgraded standards on buses and trains, but pretty much we did everything we did without kids, with kids.

If you didn’t know Chef and I took a 12-month RTW 20 years ago. We visited all of our favourite places again with the children.

Maybe we didn’t stay out quite as late, maybe we went back to the hotel to let them rest when we as a couple would have powered on through the day, I don’t know. It doesn’t feel as if we did it much differently.

We certainly had to make allowances for them in terms of feeding them more often. Chef and I would happily skip meals if taking a break wasn’t convenient, but we figured we might be arrested if we didn’t feed the kids pretty often.

We spent a lot more on cakes and ice cream too. A little sugar goes a long way in keeping kids on side. Chef and I would never have had an ice cream or cake back in the day.

As an intrepid young couple we’d take third class on trains and be perfectly happy with open windows and no air con, but once you start worrying about Dengue getting to your babies, you go for the glassed-in option.

I still prefer open train windows. It makes you feel more connected to the country you’re travelling through.

We obviously had the extra responsibility of keeping an eye on them, making sure they were safe and happy, but it was no big deal really. Once you’re a parent that’s just life.

I have suffered with anxiety on and off since peri menopause got its claws into me. Having kids in tow certainly doesn’t help anxiety. That’s possibly the only negative.

Living in Hotels, Hostels and Guest Houses With Your Family in Asia

I LOVE staying in hotels! I’ve done enough cooking, cleaning and laundry in my life to never want to do it again so somebody else making my bed, giving me clean towels and scrubbing the bathroom is my idea of a good time.

The 4 of us have shared 1 room almost every night for the last 5 years and I have no problem with that at all. It’s been great to keep us all connected.

I think now, the boys would like their own space, although they’ve never asked for it. I’ve had a lot of cuddles and I love that at night I can hear them and see them, I know they’re safe.

D says, “I don’t really have any strong feelings on this. I like staying in hotels.”

Boo says, “I didn’t like the really hot hotels.”

It’s me that now needs my own space. I need to get to sleep much earlier than the boys these days so I’m actually looking forward to having my own room and some peace and quiet. But I’ll miss them.

Food in Asian with Kids and Picky Eaters

We don’t have picky eaters. Except for mushrooms. Boo hates mushrooms. Aubergine too. But that’s not so bad. Food really hasn’t been a problem.

The kids’ preference would be to live off cereal, pizza and cake and sometimes, in hotels with buffets or cruise ships, they’ve been able to knock themselves out with junk. But mostly they’ve eaten really well.

In Asia we pretty much always eat in restaurants, I don’t remember ever self-catering other than very rarely while we lived in Hoi An, so noodles, rice, plenty of veg, it’s all been good food and they’ve experienced so many cuisines. Both are slim and healthy and always have been.

They’ve cooked too, around 8 years old we started taking them to cooking classes and they’ve tried their hands at Cambodian, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Nepalese and Thai Cuisine. They love cooking classes! It’s a great thing to do as a family and so good for their culinary know-how and confidence.

D says the food tour (by bike) which we took in Vietnam is one of his favourite things. Generally, if eating is involved, they’re game.

Nepalese food is D’s favourite,  food in Hoi An Vietnam was Boo’s. I prefer Thai food.

If you’re worrying about chillies and hot food, don’t. It’s very easy to avoid hot curries in Asia, that only gets tricky in India, maybe Sri Lanka. Real Sri Lankan food is very spicy but most restaurants cater to tourists. We did have a few food issues in India when the kids were younger. Asia with toddlers would be much harder.

Which Asian Countries are Cheap, Which Expensive to Travel with Kids

Generally, Malaysia and Singapore are expensive, with Singapore being far more expensive.

Everywhere else in South East Asia is pretty cheap. But it varies, a big city like Bangkok will cost you a lot more than country areas of Thailand. Resort places like Phuket, or anywhere with mass tourism will cost more. You’ll also find it much harder to find authentic, cheap, food. Tourist food is generally bad.

India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Tibet (China) are, we think, more expensive than Thailand, Vietnam etc. Tibet cost us a lot because you can only really visit on an organised tour. Find out more at our Tibet travel blog.

Bhutan was crazy expensive. Not many families take their kids to Bhutan because of the cost it’s probably the most expensive place in Asia to visit with or without kids.

We think the cheapest country to visit is probably Vietnam, with kids, Thailand was just a touch more expensive but a lot depends on the individual and how they spend.

Costs and budgets, of course, depend on you. No two people, certainly not families, spend in the same way.

We found that out of every country we visited in Asia, our dollar went furthest in Vietnam, Thailand came second.

I should say here that we haven’t been to every country in Asia. We’ve only been to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Mongolia, Tibet (China), Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, UAE, Malaysia, Bhutan, Singapore, Indonesia and Cambodia. We WILL be back in Asia soon, we have more to see and do!

Asia with kids destinations and experiebnces

Best Countries for “Worldschooling” in Asia

There is no “best” country for Worldschooling, every country has something to offer. As a guideline, the countries most different to the child’s home country offer the best worldschooling opportunities.

Where did they learn the most? Where did that “worldschooling” thing happen?

I actually don’t refer to us as worldschoolers very often, I’m not a huge fan of the term. Some of our learning comes through the real world and our travels, sure, but one heck of a lot of serious learning comes from interest, YouTube, questions that arise outside of travel, books, courses and so on.

I actually wrote a whole paragraph on this and somehow I’ve deleted it. I usually say we are homeschoolers, but the travel is a very necessary part of the kids’ education and the boys’ learning is a big driving force in our plans.

Of course there is much to learn everywhere in Asia. Climate, history, peoples, human geography, physical geography, there is so much to learn. I think the biggest pieces of “hard” learning must be the Vietnam war history (and its effects on other countries in the region) and what happened in Cambodia with Pol Pot. My favourite topics usually revolve around ancient history, religions and movements of peoples, so I find Khmer heritage fascinating and we also did a lot of work on Thai history.

There weren’t many museums that we visited in Asia, there was one in Malacca that related to the spice trade, and of course the Vietnam War Museums, but we visited every historic site we could. Including Angkor Wat, Thailand’s ancient cities and Mi Son.

Then you have to start looking at the more modern stuff, Hoi An, for instance, its origins as a trading port and the cultural influences there, similarly Malaysia and its blending of religions and cultures, then there is Singapore, a modern triumph over absent resources. It’s all fascinating and it’s all learning.

The “soft” learning, the development of self-belief and confidence, understanding of people, can happen anywhere, along with basic maths, English and science. We never set out to study languages on this trip, but we all know a few words in most of these languages, just to be polite. We took a Vietnamese class but just learned a few key phrases and got our heads around pronunciation. Our guide at Cu Chi Tunnels was very good at explaining Vietnamese culture and society too.

World Travel Family Backpacking With Kids
I adore them. Every stinking lanky inch of them. It’s been a joy. And Chef is alright too. Waiting for a train in Thailand, age 51, 13 and 11.

Asia With Kids Blog

This page is an Asia with kids blog, but really, about half of our site is just that, a travel blog from Asia with kids. We really did spend the bulk of our time in Asia and still today it’s our favourite part of the world to explore.

If you’re looking for our full Asia archives they are here, either detailed posts on countries, cities and attractions in Asia, and what it was like to explore them with kids. There are loads more photos and videos in these individual posts.

Is Asia a Good Place to Take Kids?

Asia is a very good place to take kids and it would be good for most kids to spend some time in Asia. If you’re anxious about travel to Asia with kids start with the easiest places to travel. Dubai or Thailand would be good first places to travel in Asia with your family.

All of the above is personal opinion, of course (which is why I prefer fact-based guides, nobody will pick a fight with me over those), but our opinions and experiences are formed over many years with kids between 6 and 18. Would I visit Asia with much younger kids? No, absolutely not. My choice is based on being a parent and knowing what to expect. Would I do it again? Oh yes! Loved it, every sticky, sweaty minute of it. OK,so that’s a lie, there were bad times, but in my memories, it will always be a big, fat, amazing and brilliant family adventure.

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We also suggest you take a look at this company to get a quote for all kinds of the more tricky adventure or extended travel insurance.

Try Stayz / VRBO for an alternative way to find rentals on homes/apartments/condos in any country!

About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

21 thoughts on “Asia With Kids”

  1. First off, I think what you and your family have done is amazing! I really enjoy your site, it’s really informative, great links within the text to get extra info. My wife and I have also travelled during our youth and now we are planning a 1 year sabbatical with our soon to be 11 year old son. One thing I have not read yet on your site is food allergies. I’m assuming none of you have any. We are planning on splitting our time between Europe and Asia. Having been to Asia, I remember eggs being everywhere, and since my son is allergic to them, that is my biggest fear. If you can impart any advice on this, 25 yrs after I was last in Asia, it would be greatly appreciated! Keep up the good work!


    • No, we have no allergies, but we were vegan for a while. Eggs are very common in Asian food, but I think should be easy to avoid. Now if it was peanuts or seafood you’d have a really hard time! I honestly don’t think you’ll have too much trouble avoiding eggs unless they have anaphylactic reactions to even a trace of egg and need food prepared under conditions where even a trace of egg would be dangerous, in which case they would be better off in vegan restaurants, there are plenty now. You’ll need to avoid all processed food of course, but that’s easy enough, anything where they may sneak some mayonaise in there, that sort of thing. I’d also use a translate ap and get a little message to show on your phone saying ” I cannot eat eggs. ” in the local language. I’ve done that for MSG in Vietnam. I may have worded it far more strongly than that. Good luck!

  2. Brilliant!! Thanks for sharing your travel experiences. We are planning a family backpacking holiday to Vietnam this summer.
    My children are 10-16-18 and one of my main concerns is safety, theft and accommodation.
    It would be our first back packing holiday and I wanted to ask you for advise, dos and donts.

    • Safety – nothing stands out to worry about, other than bike / scooter incidents and helmets. Theft – we had a card skimmed in a 5 star hotel in Hoi An once, nothing else, accomodation, lovely places available. We usually book a family room for 4 or now two singles or best yet ajoining rooms. For 5 it will be a bit more tricky. You can stay at any kind of accom. Home stays are usually small hotels or guest houses in Vietnam, they’re often very modern and nice. Just look on Agoda or Booking. See if the photos appeal to you. Never book anything below an 8 in the reviews, know that a lot of reviews are fake (especially on Trip Advisor – don’t use that) , just common sense, you should be fine. Any specifics email me, but I’m on the road now so a bit hectic. And use our links to hotels/tour bookings, it’s appreciated!

  3. Pretty inspirational, thanks for sharing.

    How about anti-malaria meds? Did you take these? In advance etc?


    • You haven’t needed malaria prophylaxis in most of Asia for about 20 years. We used to. I think north east India you still do, the Burmese border, but no, never taken them in 2 decades, they’re not even advised. We took doxycycline in Vietnam in 2001, that was the last time. And my doctor neglected to tell me that the drug massively increases your skin cancer risk. Also never take Doxy on an empty stomach … I felt sooo bad driving from Sapa to Hanoi when I skipped breakfast. I think Pakistan you might have to. We used to have to start on malarone and the other one, larium? Can’t remember, a week or 2 weeks before departure, and then you could only take them for a few weeks max. But that was almost 30 years ago.

  4. I was wondering what travel vaccinations, if any that you family had?

  5. I always enjoy your posts! Your point of view is refreshing and spot on.
    Thank you for continuing to foster the excitement we feel about the idea of world travel as a family. We are currently in the planning/debt clearing stage with hopes of taking our first trip in a year or two.

  6. Lovely summary about five years of your travel life. I agree about travelling with toddlers. Our youngest is 2,5 and I struggle. The older two (8 & 10) miss out on lots because of her and my level of anxiety is at peak levels 99% of the time. We have to make the most of it because the opportunity to travel is now and we still create wonderful memories, but I’ve wished her older too many times already. Enjoy the settling down process. That’s going to be a lovely experience for your family too.

  7. Monopoly deal is what we travel with too! Oh the number of hours we’ve spent sitting on airplane floors plying it 🙂 priceless memories. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been so reluctant to do SEA so thanks for your insight.

  8. Wow, 5 years of a lifetime in one post … “Chapeau, Alyson!”
    It’s been a while since I last wrote a comment. I obtained my PhD, stood by my Dad in his last months, arranged the funeral … I’m dealing with heritage issues and changing jobs right now, which leaves me little time for writing comments (I do read you though – it’s my decompression valve!)
    I can imagine you guys sort of freaking out with the prospects of getting into some kind of sedentary life in Oz.
    Let us know how it goes and enjoy !

    • Hi Talitha. Glad you’re OK and sorry about your Dad. I’m in a hotel, just arrived, flying tomorrow, 6 weeks in London, 1 week in Wales then Nepal, then Australia. Pakistan next spring. Sedentary? NEVER!!! Not going to happen.

      • Good on you ! Does it feel different to relocate your base to Oz ? I mean, in my eyes, your base was Breb for a few years – does it feel like going back, or does it feel like moving on ? Or maybe it just feels like non of these…
        Enjoy London (maybe London is your base, no ?) !
        Anyway, I don’t know why I’m ranting about this base-thing. In my worldview, you need to be rooted somewhere, but you seem to be doing wonderful with no roots other than your common history as a family. That’s enormous!
        Wow … Pakistan sounds daunting to me –
        We were in Namibia last spring – Southern Africa is my place-to-be, I wouldn’t mind having that region as my base ;-)))

        • We HAVE to do more Africa soon and Namibia is top of the list! Jealous. Also the boys are now begging for the Gallapagos after watching a documentary. We’ll see. It’s very sad to leave Breb, yes, but it was time to go. We were bored. But I’m missing those wonderful people, I can see their faces in my head. Are we shifting to Australia…we don’t know yet. That is partially out of our hands too. But I’ll tell you that the Lego collection is no longer in Romania, it’s in London and the plan is currently to take it to Australia in December ( but that is also partially out of our hands). Home is where the Lego is.

          • ;-)))
            Do go to Namibia, preferably in the off-season! I think Botswana must be awesome too.
            We’ve been to South Africa several times. It’s very different and it can be hard to mix with the local (black) people, as there is still quite some mistrust, depending on where you are going. But, honestly, I think everyone should get acquainted with the history of apartheid, and its consequences.
            The Galapagos … it’s a loooong way to go! But that wouldn’t scare you off, would it! Don’t think you would take your Lego there, though.

    • It’s not necessarily cooked to a high enough temperature to kill anything and generally, if you’re in Asia, order the food they know how to cook well. Which is the local food. Also I’m mean and don’t like them eating junk too often.

      • True enough … but when that cheese hits the roof of your mouth and burns …. ouch ! It seems “hot”
        ( I let my kids have pizza for lunch in Greece just to get some FOOD in them … but I guess bread and cheese is a Greek thing! I miss the cheese already! No good cheese in Turkey )


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