This post is part of our family travel month, during which we explore the amazing options for family travel across our destinations in Asia. For more inspiration, hints and tips from our staff and customers, take a look at our dedicated family page.
As dad to four-year-old Florence and two-year-old Colum, Inside Asia’s Co-Director Simon is no stranger to long-haul travel with children. Here, he explains why parenthood doesn’t need to spell the end of wanderlust – and why the benefits far outweigh the negatives of travel with toddlers.
Despite having lived in Asia for several years, I still had my worries about taking my daughter Florence there for the first time at the age of one-and-a-half. These fears will be very familiar to any parent who has considered long-haul travel with a toddler: will she eat the food? How much should we pack for her? What will we do in the evenings after she has gone to sleep? And so on. It is enough to make any parent pack it in and settle for a week in a caravan in Cornwall. No offence to Cornwall – or caravans.
The reality is really not that bad. Yes, travelling with children can be challenging, tiring and, at times, infuriating – but the huge benefits outweigh any negatives.
The long-haul flight
This is the first hurdle, and the biggest for many parents. Trapped in a small space with a toddler and hundreds of strangers for 10 hours plus? You must be joking. We were actually pleasantly surprised by our flying experiences with Florence. Our tactic – and it is one that I highly recommend – was to bring a succession of small presents to whip out as soon as we saw a storm brewing.
Food is another big concern. The good news is that Western-style food is widely available in Asia these days, and you will not have to go far to find a burger or pizza in almost any Asian town. Burma is the notable exception: although tolerable Western food is available in some places, I would certainly recommend bringing a stock of snacks from home for emergencies.
Is it safe, and is it clean?
Having lived in Japan, probably the safest and cleanest country in the world, I was not worried about this with Florence. In Southeast Asia, things are a little more rough and ready, but by no means cause for concern – and hospitals are of an excellent standard if the worst were to happen. People are generally have no hidden agenda in their desire to help, and at times it can seem as though you’re travelling with a mini celebrity!
They won’t even remember it, anyway.
How much do you remember from that trip you took ten years ago? Travel is a massively mind-opening and stimulating experience, encouraging your kids to build up an interest in other cultures and nurturing a desire to learn more. No, they might not be able to remember every second of it in five years’ time, but sometimes that’s not the most important thing.
Simon’s top tips for travelling with toddlers
- If possible, travel before your tot turns two! They’ll travel for free on planes & trains and cost virtually nothing at hotels.
- Avoid one-night stays & give yourself time to settle in. Two-centre holidays work well.
- Don’t expect to do as much as you would on your own; one area/activity per day is usually enough.
- Bring a baby carrier & pushchair – great for naps on the go. They’re free to bring on planes, too.
- Vaccinations are required for some areas of Southeast Asia. Speak to a travel nurse to find out more.
- Don’t worry about planning special activities for your toddler. Everyday activities like catching the train, going to the park, or just spending time with Mum and Dad will be excitement enough!
This article first appeared in issue #1 of East, the InsideAsia Tours magazine. To download past issues or sign up to receive your own (FREE) paper subscription, click here!