SD › Southeast Asia with Kids
Updated: March 2, 2020
Family Travel in SE Asia
Southeast Asia is an incredible destination for kids and families. I’ve been all over the region and have a good feel for the places to go and the over-rated destinations to avoid. There’s lots to see so let’s take a look at some of my favorites places in southeast Asia.
One Essential Tip
I could give lots of tips for traveling to Southeast Asia with kids but I’m going to mention just one here because I think it could make a huge difference in planning your trip.
Try to arrive and depart from different cities. For example, fly to Bangkok, visit the islands of Thailand, then Penang and Kuala Lumpur, before finishing in Singapore and flying home from there (instead of wasting time and money by returning to Bangkok to fly home). Of course, this advice is less likely to apply if you’re doing a short one-week holiday, but if you’re there for a longer stretch of time it’s close to essential.
Southeast Asia lends itself to this open-jaw method of traveling. The typical must-see cities, attractions, and resort islands stretch along single routes of roads and rail. The most visited places – from Bali to Singapore up to Bangkok and over to Vietnam and onto Hong Kong – form a sort of crescent shaped route for travelers.
Where to Go in Southeast Asia – The Highlights
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Bali is great for families. And to be honest the kids would probably enjoy one of the beaches (Jimbaran, Sanur, Nusa Dua) more than Ubud. But travel should be about compromise (primarily for my kids, then my wife, rarely me) and if there’s one cultural destination in Southeast Asia that works really well with children then it’s Ubud.
Most of the Balinese shows (dancing, singing, theatre) are bright, loud, energetic – and outdoors – making them perfect for children. The climate is cooler than the rest of Bali and the high number of expats ensures there is lots of good food – and great bakeries – that kids will enjoy. Most mid-range and luxury hotels have a swimming pool and a range of walks and hikes – from easy to more challenging – that weave in and out of the local rice paddies.
- Family Friendly Hotels in Bali
- Enjoying Balinese Dance In Ubud
- Yoga In Ubud
- Best Beaches in Bali
- Best Luxury Hotels in Bali
- Best Time to Go to Bali
Singapore is loaded with fun activities for families. It’s easy to get around, has colorful neighborhoods, and a mind-boggling array of food, shopping, and entertainment options.
Kids will be most interested in the Night Safari, Sentosa Island, and the Science Centre but you could spend a week here and not be bored.
Somewhat like Singapore but smaller and friendlier, with a more Old Asia feel. This is a place you could easily spend several weeks or a month to relax – settling in and getting to the know the local people, customs, and slow pace of life.
Food is important in Penang so this is a place to explore different cuisines with a open-minded and fun curiosity.
This is my favorite beach in Southeast Asia and it’s a perfect destination for kids. (Actually, there are 2 beaches here – both are fantastic and very kid-friendly.) Railay is only accessible by boat from Krabi or Ao Nang which ads some drama and sense of adventure to your arrival. (Luggage often has to be carried overhead as you hop from the boat into the shallow waters of the beach.)
There are no cars within the town and it’s crisscrossed not by roads but sandy paths leading from one beach to another. Kids love it here.
Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand
The perfect Thai island that offers a bit of everything at a slower pace than nearby Koh Samui. Haad Rin is party central – renown for Southeast Asia’s biggest Full Moon Party – but get away from there and things change dramatically.
The nicest beaches can be found along the north coast of the island. It requires a bit of a trek by car or pick up truck to get there but if you’re looking for what Thailand was like 20 years ago this is as close as you can get.
- Best Family Hotels in Koh Phangan
- Koh Samui With Kids
- The Complete Guide to Diving In Koh Tao (a nearby island)
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Bangkok meets mountain village. Chiang Mai is a hip urban destination – with many expats wandering the streets – but with great outdoor excursions just a short drive away. Do a collection of day trips or take a longer tour through one of the many trek operators found here.
Riding an elephant is usually at the top of most kids to-do list (it was for mine) and that’s easily accomplished in the Chiang Mai region. The overnight train ride from Bangkok is another sure bet to be popular with the whole family.
- Best Family Hotels in Chiang Mai
- The Best of Chiang Mai – A Roundup
- How To Get Between Chiang Mai and Bangkok
- The Temples of Chiang Mai
Southeast Asia’s most exciting and dynamic city. From fantastic street food to gritty canal trips, from stunning palaces to the ultra modern sky train, Bangkok flat out wowes you.
You could spend a week here doing fun family-friendly attractions and day trips so don’t dismiss the nation’s capital as just another dirty busy transit hub.
- Bangkok with Kids – Best Things To Do
- Family-friendly Hotels In Bangkok
- Best Time to Visit Bangkok
- Best Things To Do In Bangkok
- Travel Prices For Bangkok
- Visiting The Dreamworld Theme Park in Bangkok
- The Grand Palace With Kids
The Mekong Delta, Vietnam
A great region for getting off the beaten track, traveling like the locals do, and seeing true Vietnamese life. You can criss-cross the delta by bus, boat, or even bike (it’s so flat that this is a popular destination for touring on 2 wheels).
The stunningly beautiful Phu Quoc islands rests just off the Mekong’s west side and makes a great detour for some family beach time.
- A Cruise down the Mekong by Boat (about Laos but gives a good overview of river travel)
- A Month in Vietnam with Kids – likes, dislikes, and how much we spent
- The Mekong Delta by Bike
The tangle of lanes and narrow streets that makes up Hanoi’s old quarter is the stuff of asian legend and will likely make for a day of adventurous exploration for older children. A (very popular) water puppet show, kid friendly parks, exotic markets, numerous ice cream shops, and a waterslide park that looks out over rice paddies are some of the many highlights.
The overnight train ride to Hoi An or a night or two touring Halong Bay by boat are enticing sidetrips from the city.
- The Best Family Hotels in Hanoi
- Getting To Know Hanoi – A Mini Guide
- Things To Do in Rainy Hanoi
- The Old Quarter of Hanoi
Hong Kong, China
Not truly in SE Asia but it’s a popular stopover and gateway city for people heading farther south so I’ve included it here. The city has an amazing array of attractions that are kid-friendly, uniquely Asian, and easy to explore from the city center.
- Best Hotels in Bangkok
- Best Hotels in Chiang Mai
- Best Hotels in Koh Samui
- Best Hotels in Phuket
- Best Hotels in Singapore
- Best Hotels in Sentosa
- Best Hotels in Hong Kong
- Best Hotels in Bali
- Best Hotels in Lombok
- Best Hotels in Kuala Lumpur
- Best Hotels in Penang
- Best Hotels in Siem Reap
- Best Hotels in Phnom Penh
- Best Hotels in Hanoi
- Best Hotels in Hoi An
- Best Hotels in Ho Chi Minh City
- Best Hotels in Fiji
- Best Hotels in Dubai
- Best Hotels in Sydney
Hiya, Great recommendations and advice and very informative. Me and my partner along with our teenage daughter planning a 2 week vacation to Bangkok, Malaysia, Singapore, and Bali. Does this seem too much or would you drop a destination and how many days would you suggest spending on each destination and which should be the starting point and fly back home to. Thanking you for your suggestions.
I would drop Bali. It’s great for kids but deserves its own two-week visit. Bangkok, Malaysia, and Singapore is a lot in two weeks but it’s doable. You can start or finish in Bangkok or Singapore then visit Malaysia, Phuket, and Koh Samui in the middle. The order doesn’t matter at all.
Hi – we have two kids ages 11 and 8. We are thinking of traveling in July/August for two weeks to Hong Kong, Koh Samui, Bangkok, Singapore, and Tokyo (in that order). We just need to start and end with those destinations because we are flying with points. How many days would you recommend for each city/destination? We would probably like the longest stay in Koh Samui so we can relax a bit. Do you think stopping Singapore is too much considering we only have two weeks? Thanks so much!
Yes, I would probably drop Singapore from the itinerary (though it is wonderful for kids, you don’t have enough time for all 5 destinations, it’s the most out of the way, and I think Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Singapore will all blur together for your kids – and you – if it’s just one full day then off to the airport). For the remaining four destinations I’d do 3 days in Hong Kong, 5 days in Koh Samui, 3 days in Bangkok, 3 days in Tokyo. If even that feels too busy a nice break if you’re feeling hurried is to stay at the Novotel at the Bangkok airport. Fly from Koh Samui to Bangkok in the late afternoon, have a relaxing evening at the Novotel pool (super nice), train into Bangkok (without any luggage, obviously) in the morning and spend the day touring the city, return to the Novotel for more swimming and a quiet evening. Then relaxingly get your flight to Tokyo the next morning. Of course, you are missing out on staying in Bangkok (which is a great city) but it might give everyone a little re-charge mid-trip if the flights and moving about are getting too much. It also buys you a little more time for the other 3 destinations.
Hi David, our kids are 4, 8 and 10. We are considering a family holiday in Singapore or Hong Kong. We originally considered Hawaii too but decided there wouldn’t be enough to do with the kids there. Would you suggest one country over the other for our family?
Both are great destinations. Singapore is definitely cleaner and more polished – but it still has plenty of great cultural attractions and a wider range of great food. Both have theme parks but Singapore has better water parks and beaches. The weather can also be very different. Singapore is similar to Hawaii, hot and humid year-round. Hong Kong gets a winter season when it can be chilly, mild shoulder seasons, and summer months that are uncomfortably hot. It’s just a 4 hour flight between Singapore and Hong Kong and there are lots of direct flights – if you have 7 days or more I’d do both.
We’re a family of 4, with 2 girls ages 8 and 11. Three years ago we took a 10 week trip around Phuket -> Phi Phi -> Ngai -> Koh Jum-> Krabi -> Penang (Super!) -> Samui and Koh Tao -> Kuala Lumpur -> Bali -> Gili Air -> Hong Kong. We have the opportunity to go for 5 weeks in February and March. We really wanted to go back to Gili, but the recent earthquakes have us thinking again. My wife wants to see Halong Bay and Hoi An. Do you have any suggestions for destinations in combination with Vietnam, we like the 4 days city/4 days beach rhythm?
Yes, the three Gili Islands suffered terribly from recent earthquakes. Tourist authorities hope that facilities will return to some sort of normalcy by November (as long as there are no more earthquakes). If you do return, you could be disappointed that your favorite cafés and hotels have been damaged beyond repair, but crowds will be thin – especially in the off-season of February/March – and hotel rates will be low.
Halong Bay is one of the most extraordinary places on earth – best enjoyed on an old-fashioned junk boat for one or, preferably, two nights. Hoi An is also very charming, with so much history. Both are very busy (with increased numbers of Chinese tourists these days), but shouldn’t be too bad when you go.
There is enough to see in Vietnam to last 5 weeks using the itinerary below. But a side trip by air to the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia from Ho Chin Minh City (Saigon) is cheap and easy to organize and heartily recommended.
So, perhaps your 35-day schedule could look like this. Remember that flying within Vietnam is extremely cheap, but also research the cost and hassle of getting Vietnam visas, which usually last 30 days. You could easily spend 4 days in each of these places.
1) Ho Chi Minch City and around – including Mekong Delta tour for one or two days
2) fly to Siem Reap in Cambodia for tour of Angkor Wat
3) fly to Phu Quoc from Hoi Chi Minh City – gorgeous island with magnificent beaches
4) train, bus or fly to Nha Trang – best city beach in Vietnam
5) easy bus to Da Lat – adorable town in the highlands, with so much to see and do
6) fly from Da Lat to Danang – excellent beach, and only 30 minutes by taxi/bus to the charm and history of Hoi An
7) bus to Hue – an amazing old city with fantastic river cruises
8) fly or overnight train to Hanoi – incredible old town, with numerous lakes
9) take a cruise with transfers from Hanoi to Halong Bay, and add in Cat Ba Island
Then, fly out of Hanoi.
Hi Dave, I’m thrilled to have found your travel guide. We are a lesbian couple hoping to travel to SE Asia for 1 month with our daughters who are 11 and 14. For the most part, it looks like most of the countries are gay-friendly, except maybe Singapore. Do you have any thoughts or insights on extra precautions we may want to take or places we made want to avoid? Thanks so much!
Some places in South East Asia are intolerant and even downright hostile, about homosexuality, but any hostility and laws are overwhelmingly aimed against local gay men. As a foreign lesbian couple with children, it’s extremely unlikely you will come across any problems at all.
Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and parts of Indonesia outside of Bali are certainly more conservative. To avoid any possible unnecessary questions at airports entering these countries, I’ve heard of parents joining two separate lines at the Immigration Counters and enter the country as two separate ‘single mothers’ with one child each. I think this is unnecessary and creates more problems than it solves (who and where is the other parent? getting kids to lie about their parents) – but I throw that out there so you’re aware of the possibility. The only other people who may question your personal situation could be staff at the hotel reception, but this is less likely at better hotels frequented by tourists. If you all want to share one room, you can pretend to be friends if that’s easier. (Once again, I don’t recommend this but if you find yourselves in an uncomfortable position it’s good to know the options.)
But some other places are far more tolerant and welcoming, particularly Bali, where gay men travel for holidays without problems; and all of Thailand (especially the islands), where transvestite men are an openly accepted ‘third gender’ and no-one cares about anyone else’s sexuality. I hope this is some help. I say, go, have fun, don’t worry too much about it. But, of course, I’m saying this as a straight male who is likely unaware of some/most of the challenges that could arise.
We are planning a trip to Singapore and Phuket in July. But I heard it’s really hot during July. We’re traveling with two kids (10 and 2). Is there anywhere else you’d recommend for better weather in Southeast Asia?
Bali has great weather in July. If you do go to Thailand the east coast (Koh Samui and Koh Phangan) usually have better weather than the west coast (Phuket). Singapore is pretty consistent year-round so not a huge difference for there.
We also are planning a trip from mid july to mid august to SE Asia, but we read different things about the weather (rain season). Our lonely planet (travelling with kids) tells us not to go to the south of Thailand (Phuket, Krabi), because it will be to hot over there. With two girls of 3 and 6 years old, we want to avoid the really hot weather, but also the (heavy) rain (we would better stay at home if we want some rain!). First we were thinking to go to Thailand (nature in Chiang Mai) and Malaysia (beach), but Singapore looks very nice to (to start with with the kids, so the culture shock is not too big). Travelling up to Malaysia and the north of thailand and flying back from Bangkok seems like a lot of travelling (we want to stay at the different stops for at least 4 days, but better 5 or 6 – slowtravelling) and actually we want to end the vacation at the beach. Another option is to combine Singapore and Indonesia (Bali?) because the weather should be better in Indonesia, but it also would be crowded. What do you think is the best option for us (with the 2 young girls)? Thanks in advance for your answer!
Greetings from Belgium!
Wouter & Ann
Fly to Bangkok then overnight train ride to Surat Thani (great experience and starts trip with something unique and fun), ferry to Koh Samui, fly to Singapore (there are direct Samui-Singapore flights), then finish in Bali which should have great beach weather.
We’re planning to take a family trip to Lombok in November. We’re traveling with our by then 17 months infant.. But we have concerned with the weather as you mentioned during those time it would be wet season. From your personal view where is the best child friendly holiday destination in Asia in November? Your help is very much appreciated! Shasha
I would go to Bali – the rainy season technically begins in November but it’s usually still pretty nice with nightly rains but clear days. Lombok is typically a little wetter in November.
Hi, I will travel in two weeks to Saigon, Hoi An, Hanoi, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Pha Ngan, Railey, and Ko Phi Phi.
I´m taking my 23 months old toddler who weighs around 15/16kg. I´m considering buying a baby carrier, but most of those are for babies of up to 15kg. Alternatively I could buy the hiking ones, but they are quite big and I may need to pay extra baggage in most flights.
Do you think taking a baby carrier is a must? or should we be fine just with a stroller?
I personally would not bother with a baby carrier for a child over 15 months.
Thinking of doing a asian trip with the family the end of may for about 2 weeks. I have two kids 8 and 6. What countries would you suggest? We would like to do about two to three countries. Andrew
Bangkok and Singapore have lots of connections so using those at the beginning and end of your trip would make life easy. Could fly into Bangkok fly (or train/boat) to Koh Samui, then fly to Kuala Lumpur (to visit Malaysia) or directly to Singapore. Could also add Bali if you wanted one more destination (lots of Singapore/Bali flights).
You seem to have great knowledge of SE Asia. We are planning to go for 5/6 weeks in March with a 2 year old and 2 month year old. Currently planning to spend 2 weeks in phuket in villa with friends but can’t decide where we should go to next… either stay in Phuket, travel around Thailand or travel to another country.
We been to quite a few places on your list before we had kids – in fact all other than China, Mekong Delta, Bali, Penang and Railay, and traveled to Thailand (Koh Samui and Koh Tao) with our 6-month baby before so we know we enjoy being away as family and enjoy thai culture and food.
However we can’t seem to land on plan. We never done more than 3 weeks and had previously always done 2/3 days in each place before we had kids.
Thoughts very welcome on traveling with 2 kids one very young?
Should we try and do a few different places in Thailand or stay put in Phuket and take things slow? or will we get board?
Where do you think might complement Phuket if we traveled elsewhere – Thailand we know is very cost effective – and as we are going for 5/6 weeks we need to find places that are quite cost effective.
6 weeks in Phuket is too much. Yes, you will get bored there. 6 weeks in Koh Samui, or Koh Phangan, or Koh Lanta – that’s doable, but Phuket is too touristy to get that settled-in feel. I would do 2 weeks in Phuket, 2 weeks in Koh Samui (Mae Nam is popular with expats and long termers, or Bophut if you want something a bit more lively), and 2 weeks in Chiang Mai in the north.
Hi I have a q: Malaysia; Singapore; Australia; Thailand; Bali; Florida or California? Where to stay and work as an expat from Europe ? I work on my online business and I seek: Sun; reasonable taxes; good food; safety; easy to connect with expat entrepreneurs; good place for kids to grow up; good internet connection ; beautiful females ; easy flights to Europe ; and a place where visa stuff and paperwork is not crazily difficult?
Malaysia is probably the easiest considering your criteria.
Do you recommend buying the train tickets for Bangkok – Chiang Mai online or directly at the station?
If only, which site would you recommend?
This is a dilemma no matter which way you go. Pre-booking online is a pain and you’re never confident that your purchase went through or that you’ll get your train tickets until you arrive and get them in your hand. But waiting until you’re in Bangkok to book means not being certain of when you’ll get to travel. If you’re on a tight time schedule you likely won’t be able to make it work as trains within 1 to 4 nights are usually fully booked (longer in high season). I wish I had a better answer for you.
Hi David, I´m planning about 4 weeks in Vietnam and Thailand with my wife and our 2yo boy. We are considering the following itinerary:
– fly from Melbourne, Australia, to Hanoi via KL.
– 2/3 days in Hanoi
– night train to Da Nang and spend 4 nights there
– flight to Ho Chi Mingh (2/3 nights including Mekong Delta)
– flight to Bangkok (2 nights)
– rest of the time go down and visit Koh Tao, Koh Phi Phi, Railay, Koh Pha Ngan and Chiang Mai
Do you think it is a reasonable itinerary? would you consider another transport instead of plane between cities?
How do you move from one place to the other one in Thailand?
Great info in this site!
That sounds like a great itinerary. Flying is the easiest way to get around Thailand (and cheap if you book in advance). Doing one overnight train is also fun (Bangkok to Chiang Mai maybe, then fly from CM to Phuket or Koh Samui) though since you’re already doing an overnight train in Vietnam you could easily skip it as they have much the same feel in Vietnam and Thailand.
Hi David thank you for a great article. I travel full-time as a solo parent with my 3 kids for 6 years already, mostly in South East Asia and you have mentioned here two of our favorite places – Vietnam (we try to visit every two years) and Singapore, which is my 10 year old girl ‘s absolute dream place..
Yes. Very different places but both great for kids.
So happy to stumble across your blog! My kids are older 16, 14, 10 and I would like to work towards a 3 week trip next summer… or Christmas. I have briefly visited Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Hong Kong and while I would like to take them to all of these places, I just don’t think we have the time. I am looking to put together a trip with some adventures ( Cycling/hiking/kayak) and eating street fod and also a little chill time. I’m tempted to put Thailand/Cambodia together but I am wondering how we can best spend our travel dollars given that it’s expensive just flying there from Vancouver, BC. I wonder what your suggested itinerary would be for an epic family adventure. My kids are pretty great travellers so I’m not worried about culture shock – they have been to Europe, New York, Africa , Mexico….
I would appreciate any and all suggestions you may have!
One of my favorite trips in SE Asia is traveling from North Vietnam to the south (i.e. from Hanoi to HCMC) by train (with a few side trips with bus or hired car). You can extend this into Cambodia by taking a boat up the Mekong. And then keep going (by bus and train) to Bangkok though not sure you could do the whole route in 3 weeks. We did just the Vietnam portion in 4 weeks and that what perfect.
We are planning a trip (for a week between 24th December to New Year) to either Hong Kong, Bangkok, Seoul, Singapore, or Pnomh Penh. However, we have a 7 year old child who needs to be entertained! We also don’t want to travel too much. Still cannot decide which city holiday would be more fun as a family. Please help!!!
Of those cities Singapore has the most kid-friendly entertainment (zoos, parks, water parks, and beaches).
We have 10 weeks in SE Asia beginning in mid-February and are flying into and out of Bangkok. We would like to visit Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma and end up in Bali (big plans and we could scratch something if needed). We have two sons, ages 10 and 13 and would like to park it in at least a few places for a few weeks rather than just traveling the entire time. It is so overwhelming to want to visit so many places! If you could recommend a sample itinerary, I would be most appreciative!
I would do something like north to south Vietnam by train, river boat up the Mekong to Cambodia, Siem Reap to Bangkok, train to Chiang Mai, fly to Koh Samui, fly to Bali (via Singapore or Kuala Lumpur).
Warm greetings from Siem Reap, Cambodia- site of the Angkor Wat!
I represent a beautiful resort and wellness retreat in Siem Reap called Navutu Dreams. Since opening, we have always had families with young children and young adults staying at the resort. For Easter this year, we had 36 children staying at the resort. For this coming New Year, we are expecting 42 children. The appeal of the resort for families has always started with the resort’s design – small villas on a hectare and a half of gardens, with 3 swimming pools. We would welcome the opportunity to be featured on site. Would be pleased to hear from you if there is any possibility or opportunity.
David – This blog is excellent. Thanks for your great recommendations.
We have two small children (3.5 and 1.5) and are looking to travel in December and January. We’ve talked about just renting a place in Singapore for those two months as our base and then making shorter 3-4 day trips from there to Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Bali. My questions for you are 1) would you recommend making Singapore the home base and traveling to and from there? and 2) given that our kids are fairly young, are there any places you wouldn’t recommend going to from a health / safety standpoint?
Singapore is a great base for SE Asia and more kid-friendly parks, playgrounds, activities than most Asian Cities. That said, if budget was an issue then Bangkok is a great choice as you’ll get a lot more for your money in hotels (large suite, large pool) than in Singapore. I’d be fine going to any of the places you mentioned as long as it’s not too far off the beaten track (e.g. the far north of Thailand where malaria is an issue).
My family and I (we have five small children) are traveling to Bangkok, Thailand for a visiting professorship in November for 4 weeks. We plan to stay another 4 weeks and travel southeast Asia. Your posts have been extremely informative and helpful! I was wondering however, if you have ever spent time in the Philippines? More specifically Coron, or Palawan? Any information you might have on this area would be appreciated.
I have not been to the Philippines but have heard wonderful things from families that have traveled there.
There are so many places to go here in Philippines. If you prefer nature relaxation trip (beach bumming, island hopping, etc.). We have so many places to offer.
I hope you don’t mind yet another question, just really keen to get your thoughts!
I am heading to Hong Kong in November for a week and wanted to add on another 2 weeks ‘somewhere’ (!) in asia (probably not Bali, as you can’t get direct flights back to London). I will be with my husband and 2 1/2 year old son.
We have been to Thailand (including Chang Mai, Koh Chang, Bangkok and erawan falls) and absolutely LOVED it. We would like to experience something similar, though with much more chilling. We were thinking Malaysia or Vietnam, but are not keen on long coach / car journeys. An over night train would be super exciting. Any thoughts?Recommendations? Sorry maybe this is too vague?1
Thanks in advance!
Sophie & co. xx
Fly to Hanoi and take the overnight train to Hoi An (awesome town with great restaurants, tailors, and nearby beaches). When it’s time to fly out of Vietnam go through Saigon (don’t retrace your steps to Hanoi).
Hi, we are New Zealanders considering a trip to southeast asia in June/July for about a month. We see from your site that it is possibly not the best time to go to the likes of Vietnam, Laos etc due to weather so we were more looking towards going from Chiang Mai down to Bangkok, then to Penang then Singapore. Possibly with an additional week of R&r at the end in Bali as it looks like Phuket etc might not be great due to weather.
We have a 4 1/2 year old and a nearly 7 year old, both girls. we havent yet travelled anywhere challenging with the girls and the younger one is not hugely keen to walk for long distances so we need to keep that in mind, but we are keen to do something beyond the beachy type holiday. Is there a particular route that you would recommend (we would like to do the overnight train between Bangkok and Chiang Mai but otherwise have no particular preferences) or places you recommend we spend time at around these areas that would work given the time of year?
Thanks for your time and for providing such an informative site, it makes thinking about doing a trip like this much easier!
Koh Samui has good weather that time of year (though can still get several consecutive days that are overcast). Bali has some of the most consistent weather in SE Asia. It’s always enjoyable and central Bali is very good if you want to escape the heat. That said, I wouldn’t overthink the weather. Go to the places you’re most interested in – it always seems to work out. Kids love those huge downpours!
I want to say thank you because of your blog we decided to go to Vietnam, Malasya, Singapore and Qatar with our one year old son and we had an amazing experience. Thanks to your advice with we have an unique experience, so thank you and thank you. You don´t imagine how much you had helped us !!!
Hi David, Great site – it’s full of useful tips and inspiration. We are planning a 3 week trip to Thailand in March/April with our two boys of 7 and 4. Our basic plan was Bangkok, Chiang Mai and probably Krabi, but maybe Ko Pha Ngan…not sure in which order, though we will be starting and finishing in BK due to flights in and out. If you had three weeks, would you stick just to Thailand…I have started thinking it would be lovely to see Hanoi too, would this just be too much in your view? Maybe that’s for another trip..!
It’s easy to get distracted isn’t it? I’d stick with Thailand as even with 3 weeks you’ll be pressed to narrow down your choices. I’d try to find a direct flight from Chiang Mai to somewhere south – and let the flight schedule dictate where you’ll go next. So whether it be Krabi or Samui/KPN go there first then hop over to the other coast and take the train or a flight up to BKK – or just stay on one coast and cut some travel time off your itinerary. (There are flights between Samui and Krabi too. Taking the bus and ferry will take up a full day so good to fly if you can find a cheap flight.) Good luck.
Thanks! I think you are right and that we’ll spend our three weeks in Thailand. Plently of choice there anyway. The flights are booked now, so it’s happening!
Wow! I am so happy to have found your website. It has been so informative and helpful. Like all the others, I would love some recommendations on our trip. My husband, 15 year old daughter, 13 year old son and I will be traveling in Thailand and Singapore from July 23 – Aug. 14. I think I am now somewhat prepared for the fact that we may have rain for most of the time – but it was the only time we could go. We start in Bangkok for 3 days, fly to Chiang Rai for 3 days, go on an overnight trek then stay in Chiang Mai for 3 days. We then want to see the southern part of Thailand – Phuket, Krabi, Ko Lanta? My husband wants to “wing it” (no reservations any where) and I’d like to have somewhat of a plan. Would you please suggest a 6 – 7 day itinerary for this area, including the best way to get around? We will fly down from Chiang Mai and at the end of this week fly to Singapore for 4 – 5 days there. I have loved all your recommendations and input. I look forward to hearing from you and you have revived my travel bug! Many thanks. Betsy.
Hi Betsy. I would make my decisions based on what flights are available. It is, of course, easier and quicker to fly directly from Chiang Mai to either Krabi or Phuket. So check what’s available with those flights (and your onwards journey) and, perhaps, let that dictate where you go. Winging it at this time of year is fine. As I often suggest, booking the first night after your arrival in a new town is a good compromise, so at least you know you have something for the first night. Then search for another hotel after you arrive. Also consider that getting back and forth from Koh Lanta can be tricky at this time of year due to decreased boat schedules and canceled routes (due to bad weather). The most natural route is to fly to Phuket, spend a few nights there, then boat to Ko Phi Phi (2 or 3 boats a day do this route) and from there to to Ao Nang (1 or 2 boats a day). Railay has a fantastic beach and is only 15 or 20 minutes from Ao Nang.
Thank you for the reply. It really helps to hear from someone who’s “been there, done that.” I didn’t realize schedules would be reduced due to the weather at that time of year. Really appreciate the input!
Thanks for including my link on what I ate in SE Asia! Great food in that part of the world. I’ve heard of people being concerned about their kids not being able to eat the spicy food in SE Asia, but there is plenty of great stuff to eat that isn’t spicy. And the people are so friendly, definitely someplace good for families with kids, not just the backpackers.
I am thrilled to have stumbled upon this information – and happy to see you are a fellow Seattlite :) An avid traveller myself I have yet to bring along my daughter, who is now 5. I am anxious to get her traveling and hope she catches the “bug” as I did at a young age. However, I have to say am I bit wary when I read warnings and advisories against travel in certain areas. If I was traveling without my young one I would pay less heed to these warnings, but planning this vacation has been difficult. At first we were considering Bali, but everything I was reading said there was unrest, terrorist attacks etc. We then considered India, but I am reading the same thing. It is so frustrating because I never had this nervous mentality about travel before – much less ever paid attention to these warnings. Is there any advice you can give? Also, have you been to India with your little ones? And did it feel generally safe? Thanks so much for all this information – I’ll definitely been visiting this site often! Cheers
Hi Kimberly. I consider Bali to be very safe. There hasn’t been a terrorist attack since 2005 (though there were recent arrests relating to a planned event). And if there ever was another attack you could profoundly lower your risks by avoiding popular tourist restaurants, shopping malls, and attractions. In any case, your biggest risks when traveling in a foreign country will almost always be driving and traffic accidents. So if you’re worrying about terrorist attacks (about which you have no control) then you’re worrying about the wrong thing. I have been to India 3 times but not with the kids. It would be a much more challenging destination with kids (or without kids) than Bali. Bali is a piece of cake and a great introduction to family travel. India would be wonderful but it’s taxing even for single backpackers so not sure if it would be the best first step for a kid trip. Not to discourage you, but just know what you’re getting into.
we recently spent 1 month in Bali and 3 months in South India with our 2 kids, then aged 3.5yrs and 5yrs. As David said, the threat of terrorism can exist almost anywhere these days and as its out of your control, why worry about it (or else, don’t leave home, but then again it can also happen at ‘home’ too). Also as he said, traffic accidents are probably your most likely cause of strife, and again, that risk is high at ‘home’ too.
avoiding overly touristy areas, particularly if it is aimed at foreign tourists, is also possible, or at least being aware of your surroundings while visiting them.
but overall, we absolutely did not have any problems with security in either of those countries. India in particular was much more fun with lots of activities on offer for families particularly with young children such as terrific zoos and amusement parks, all for so cheap! the middle class is a large market in india now, so lots on offer for them. but of course, that’s the thing about india too–the large contrast between the have’s and the have-nots. our kids went well there, but you do need to be mindful of the heat and the food, both which can be too hot at times, but you can work around it with a little bit of effort (eg air conditioned rooms, and eating egg omelettes with rice!). While we enjoyed Bali, there really isn’t a lot of activities for families with young kids (we found 1 park the entire 4 weeks we were there), except for playing on the beach.
have a peek at our blog for a feel of what it was like for us to be in india and bali (and SEA for that matter), backpacking on a budget, with 2 kids in tow. and feel free to email me directly if you have anything else more specific you’re wondering about.
Post on India.
Post on Bali.
oh, and i’d also throw Vietnam into the mix as a great destination in SEA to visit with kids. There’s a terrific variety of activities for the whole family, and in particular for kids from 2+ upwards. Big country though, so allow lots of time in order to see it all properly!
Wonderful round-up! I’ll be heading through several of these places with my niece soon! Thanks for the mention as well :)
Thanks for all the fantastic information on your site.
We are planning a family holiday in Railay, Krabi in January or February. At that time we will have a 2 1/2 year old and a 6 month old.
I was wondering if you can offer any suggestions for good quality mid-range family accommodation in the area?
This is an good site for finding great deals: hotelscombined.com.
Thanks for the write up, very useful!
We are a family from London currently six months into a year-long global adventure (www.facebook.com/ouryearaway). We’re in New Zealand at the moment and after our next stop (Australia) plan to travel to SE Asia for around 2.5 months. We leave Cairns for Singapore at the end of February and Hong Kong for London in early June but apart from that haven’t decided where to go.
Staying in Thailand for a while is an obvious choice but my wife and I have travelled the country before (and loved it) so we think Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam etc may be worth looking at. One fly in the ointment is my wife’s pre-existing heart condition: she has SVT which is basically an electrical malfunction of the heart where it beats 2-3 time faster than it should. If she get’s an episode she may need to get treatment at a medical centre so we can’t stay in remote places, as least for too long.
A friend has suggested going further north and spending time in South Korea, Japan and China but we’re not sure about this – SE Asia is our first choice.
Where do you think we should go?
Hi Danny. With 2.5 months I’d start in Singapore and work my way up through Malaysia and Thailand, then through Cambodia and/or Laos to Saigon, and then move north through Vietnam to Hanoi. But more than anything stay flexible and don’t commit to anything that will constrain you if you want to change your plans. I hope that helps. Have fun.
You have linked back to my article about the monkey forest in Ubud (thanks!) but please note. You wrote monkey forest ROAD, but there’s a big difference between the monkey forest and the monkey forest road. The former is a beautiful forest filled with monkeys, the latter is a street filled with shops selling junk to tourists!
Fixed. Thanks Denise for catching that. We loved the monkey forest but could do without Monkey Forest Road. Cheers.
Love your site. We are planing to travel to Sth East Asia for approx 4 – 5 weeks. Travelling from NZ we will land in Singapore as i think this would likey the cheapest option . We would like to cover Phuket/Koh Samui Chaing Mai. Vietnam. Do you have any ideas on what the best direction would be to travel in would be. We will have 19 month, 4 year old and 7 year old. We are very flexible. But would like a iterinary that would be easy travelling for our kids. We are thinking that a week in each spot? Just hoping for reccomendations and flights we should look at taking between cities etc Also if you have any better ideas for travelling around this part of the world ie: places we should go i would welcome anything. Many Thanks Kym
Hi Kym. Sounds like a fun trip. I would think about flying directly from Singapore to either Phuket or Samui and then skipping the other one. You’ve got a lot planned for 4 or 5 weeks and Phuket and Samui have many similarities – just do one. You’ll probably end of flying out of Bangkok to Vietnam so if you could get to Chiang Mai directly from Samui or Phuket that would be a good use of time too. The kids will love the overnight train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok so I recommend that on the way back to Bangkok. The highlights of Vietnam are Hanoi, Halong Bay, China Beach, Hoi An, and the Mekong Delta – but you’ll be pushed for time so I’d recommend Hanoi with a side trip to either Halong Bay or Hoi An. Good luck.
Hi Kym (and David!)
We too are from NZ and planning a family trip for 6-8 weeks during the middle of this year. We need to cover Vietnam, Bangkok, KL and Bali. I would love to hear more about what your itinerary involves as our wee ones will be 4 years old and 22 months. (no 7 year old as well for us!!)
I have to travel to vietnam for business as we are having apparel made for my boutique, so need to try to head there first.
David, would you recommend Bali as the final destination – for the chill out factor? and Can you recommend any kid friendly places to go/stay in Bangkok as I have never been there and it is a tad intimidating what I read (as I try to imagine my cherubs with me!)
Thanks so much for your time
Hi Jess. I love the Amari Watergate. Beautiful pool, very good restaurants, and close to a lot of fun stuff – so you don’t waste your time in a taxi getting across the city.
Bali is a great final destination. You’re right, very chill out, relax. It will seem a world away from Bangkok and Vietnam.
Great selection of destinations in SE Asia. I’ve visited all of the places you selected and I feel they’re perfect places not only for families but for anybody thinking of touring the region.
If you had to choose between Bali and Thailand which would you go for? Thx.
Hi Harpo. If you’re looking for beaches, great food, or a very active vacation (i.e. kayaking, rock climbing, trekking) then Thailand. Bali – for me – is more a place to chill out and spend an extended period of time. Biking is also great in Bali. Lots of culture, performances, painting, and a strong expat scene. Not that Thailand doesn’t have those things but they seem a bit more dispersed there. Mind you, I’m comparing an island with a country. I hope that helps.
Hello, I am very interested in “A Month in Vietnam with Kids – likes, dislikes, and how much we spent” but blogspot is blocked in China and I can’t access it from here. Is there any other way I could get that report?
Hi Jose. I just emailed you a text version of the article – it’s a good one. Good luck.
Thanks David for including a link to our blog! Highly recommend India too!!
I would love the report as well!
Just sent it to you Shalini.
Hiya, Thanks for including the link to our Hong Kong to Hanoi post – grateful for that! :-)
Also, would def second Barbara r.e. Laos – a fantastic place and really child-friendly, esp the 4000 islands region – Dhon Kon was like never never land – so many cute kids, you’d have thought they were running the island!
I have been to Hong Kong a couple times. My friends there took me out to quite a few places. One of them is Ocean Park: a fun place for family where you can see panda. It is so convenient to travel around Asia. Thanks for the guide.
Hi David: Thanks so much for including a link to my article on cruising down the Mekong River. Very much appreciated. I notice you didn’t include Laos specifically in the list. If you ever get a chance to go, grab it. Laos is fabulous.
Wow, what a great compilation of resources. We don’t have kids but it’s still useful for us too. Thanks for including our Hong Kong guide.