Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia

Follow Us

Asia travel and leisure guides for hotels, food and drink, shopping, nightlife, and spas | Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia

The Guide to Family Travel for Every Kind of Family


No matter how your family travels, this guide offers fun for everyone. By LINDY ALEXANDER.

Published on Jul 23, 2019

 

For Nature Lovers
Taking time to teach your kids to connect with the earth and all its beauty is one of the joys of traveling as a family. Hours will slip by blissfully in these mountain, jungle and island retreats.

Families can feed the fish at Neds Beach, on Lord Howe Island.
Families can feed the fish at Neds Beach, on Lord Howe Island. Destination NSW.

KOTA KINABALU, MALAYSIA
Set among 161 hectares of lush jungle and forested mountains and fronted with picturesque coastline, the Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort & Spa allows guests to experience Sabah's rich natural wonders right from their doorstep. Children can become a ranger for the day and learn about the rainforest's indigenous species, such as the long-tailed macaques, bear cats and pangolins. Night walks (complete with night-vision goggles) will also be a hit. shangri-la.com; Deluxe Family room from $230.

KHAO SOK, THAILAND
The towels folded intricately in their namesake shapes in the lavish tents at Elephant Hills are just a hint of things to come. At this ethical camp in Southern Thailand, adventurous families can opt for a four-day nature safari in the region's mountainous Khao Sok National Park and see the elephants in their natural environment. Trek the jungle alongside the pachyderms, canoe among the mangroves and explore the karst-filled Cheow Larn Lake in a longtail boat. elephanthills.com; four-day safari from $825 per adult, $412 per child.

LORD HOWE ISLAND, AUSTRALIA
This pristine, World Heritage–listed, crescent-shaped island is only a two-hour flight from Sydney, but, as home to the world's southern-most coral reef, it feels like another planet. Check into Capella Lodge and follow the resident naturalist through the island's subtropical rainforest, or head to the crystal-clear waters for a snorkeling trip to spot some of the 500 colorful fish species in the island's abundant preserved reefs. lordhowe.com; Makambo Loft suite from $896 per person per night, all inclusive.

             
   EXPERT ADVICE 
Ryan Mckie, Family Product Manager, Intrepid Travel

 
             
   GET ACTIVE
Children can get "templed-out" quickly. Seek more hands-on experiences or physical activities like biking or kayaking to keep kids occupied.
  RAIN READY
Traveling after the rainy season ensures the landscape is lush and green—perfect for framable snaps.
  KEEP IT BREEZY
If your child hasn't experienced high humidity, I recommend traveling with a small portable fan to keep them cool.
 
             

 

For Wilder Escapes
Being active together is a wonderful way to bond. Whether it's carving down a mountain on skis, riding rollercoasters or pedaling through ancient villages, these trips bring the thrills.

YANGSHUO, CHINA
Explore the stunning landscapes of southern China on Backyard Travel's Yangshuo Family Tour, which offers a sweeping adventure that explores this beautiful region in Guangxi, from Guilin to Yangshuo. Climb the "Dragon's Backbone" by scaling a staircase of  hand-cut rice terraces, cycle along the Yulong River surrounded by citrus groves, and go rock climbing in Yangshuo. backyardtravel.com; seven-day tour from $1,275 per person.

Cycle through the landscape of Guilin and Yangshuo.
Cycle through the landscape of Guilin and Yangshuo. Courtesy of Backyard Travel.

HONG KONG
There's a sense of discovery at the Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel, with its 16-meter-high lobby aquarium, family-themed rooms, sprawling central lagoon pool and organized scavenger hunts. Next door is Ocean Park, where kids can take a seat on adrenaline-pumping rides, see the city from up high on the cable car, and get up close to animals and marine life from around the world. marriott.com; Whiskers Submarine room from $260; oceanpark.com.hk; adult tickets from $61, child tickets from $30.

The kids corner at Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel.
The kids corner at Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel. Courtesy of Ocean Park Marriott Hotel.

HOKKAIDO, JAPAN
Step into your very own fairytale: deep, soft, white snow blankets high mountain peaks and twinkling white pine forests at the five-star, ski in/ski out Hoshino Resorts Risonare Tomamu. As well as generous suites, saunas and jet-baths, Tomamu offers easy access to some of the best skiing in Japan. The GAO Snow Academy teaches both adults' and kids' skiing lessons (private lessons are also available for families), and has a nursery that allows little ones to play in the snow. Adventure Mountain provides a snow escalator for kids too small for the ski lifts. hoshinoresorts.com; Mamarakuda suite from $412.

Winter fun at Hoshino Resorts Risonare Tomamu, in Hokkaido.
Winter fun at Hoshino Resorts Risonare Tomamu, in Hokkaido. Courtesy of Hoshino Resorts Risonare Tomamu.

             
   EXPERT ADVICE 
Carlah Walton, Head of Product & Marketing, Wendy Wu Tours

 
             
  DON'T DRIVE
Walking or cycling around a new city, village or region is a great way to interact with locals, to find hidden treasures and shopping spots, and to people watch.
  MAKE FRIENDS
Accepting invitations into people's homes is a great way to connect. It's amazing how much can be said even when you speak different languages.
  GET COVERED
Kids hurt themselves easily and if you're doing adventurous stuff on your trip you increase your chances of needing medical assistance. Make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance for the entire family.
 
             

 

For an Easy Escape
Going on vacation shouldm't be a complex project. These spots were made with families in mind, so while kids a re busy having fun, parents can truly switch off.

CRUISE
The Explorer Dream from Dream Cruises launched in Shanghai spring and Tianjin in summer of 2019 for a range of Japanese itineraries, before beginning weeklong cruises in Australia and New Zealand for the winter season. It's perfect for multigenerational trips: the on-board Little Dreamers Club has a kids-only area with games, workshops, costume parties and a DJ booth; teenagers can step into another world at the ESC Experience Lab with virtual and augmented reality experiences; while adults can unwind at the Broadway-style Zodiac Theater, or the on-board spa. dreamcruiseline.com; three-night Japan cruise departing Shanghai from $406 per person.

The Explorer Dream pool deck is ideal for families.
The Explorer Dream pool deck is ideal for families. Courtesy of Dream Cruises.

PHUKET, THAILAND
Many kids dream about living in a tree house, and at Iniala Beach House, dreams do come true. Luxury suites, 24-hour service, wellness and water sports will meet the adults' standards, while kids' bedrooms are made to look like jungle canopies and caves. Costume shops and a theater will also keep young ones entertained while parents put their feet up. iniala.com; $2,902 per night, all-inclusive.

The kids room at Iniala Beach House.
The kids room at Iniala Beach House. Courtesy of Iniala Beach House.

SINGAPORE
As one of Singapore's first nature-inspired resorts, D'Resort both enthralls and entertains. The enormous complex features an integrated water park, a six-hall cineplex, a 32-lane bowling alley and an immense indoor playground. The proximity to Pasir Ris, the longest stretch of beach in Singapore, makes it the ideal city chill-out location for seaside lovers, too. dresort.com.sg; Rainforest Family room from $185.

             
   EXPERT ADVICE 
Angel Llull Mancas, Managing Director Asia Pacific, Booking.com

 
             
  IN THE CLUB
For parents with very young children, look for accommodation options with a kids' club or varied activities.
  STAY YOUNG
Choose a destination that makes you feel like a kid again. Letting your inner child run free can be the break you need.
  TEAM EFFORT
If you are traveling with extended family, get everyone involved in planning to ensure all members get a say.
 
           

 

For a Culture Trip
Meeting the locals, learning traditional crafts and tasting authentic food can make a one-of-a-kind way to learn about a region.

CHINA
Explore a lesser-known side of China with Abercrombie & Kent's 12-day Family China and the Yangtze tour. This trip is made for kids: toboggan down quiet parts of the Great Wall; in Xian, learn to make traditional dumplings, see the Terracotta Warriors then craft your own clay soldier at a local pottery factory; head to Chengdu to see the giant pandas; cruise down the Yangtze, and visit an underwater museum; and finish with a kung-fu lesson in Shanghai. abercrombiekent.com.au; 12-day tour from $7,800 per adult, $7,270 per child.

Explore the Great Wall with Abercrombie & Kent.
Explore the Great Wall with Abercrombie & Kent. Courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent.

BURMA
Join a two-, three- or four-night Strand Cruise that travels between Bagan and Mandalay. It's suitable for kids aged four and up, with off-board experiences including a tour of the imperial capital of Ava by horse and cart, and exploring exquisite pagodas and historic temples. There's no cabin fever on board: a pool with sun deck, spa and fitness room make cruise time a breeze. thestrandcruise.com; The Strand suite from $1,063 per night.

The Strand Cruise immerses guests in traditional customs.
The Strand Cruise immerses guests in traditional customs. Courtesy of Strand Cruise.

MACAU
The St. Regis Macao knows how to look after families. In addition to babysitting services, child-sized robes and slippers, outdoor pool toys and Macanese cooking classes, there is the Macau Photo Tour, which gives families a Polaroid camera and photo album to capture special moments as they tour the area's heritage sites, like the ruins of St. Pauls, the ornate A-Ma Temple, and the iconic Lord Stow's Bakery in Coloane Village. marriott.com; Deluxe king room from $293.

Macau's historic St. Paul's ruins.
Macau's historic St. Paul's ruins. Leigh Griffiths.

             
   EXPERT ADVICE 
Lilani Goonesena, food and travel blogger, eatdrinklaos.com

 
             
   RESPECT TRADITIONS
Giving alms to monks and going to temple on religious days can make inroads to understanding the local community.
  DRESS UP
The Lao people love kids and delight in "falang" (foreign) children wearing traditional dress as it means they are getting into the spirit of things and embracing their culture.
  JOIN THE PARTY
Don't be afraid to walk the street during Pi Mai (new year in April, celebrated with water splashing). Or float a homemade coconut husk boat down the Mekong during the boat-racing festival, Boun Suang Heua, in October.
 
             

 

For Mindful Memories
Travel gives us the opportunity to give back to the communities we visit. Responsible tourism not only helps the planet, but also teaches kids valuable lessons along the way.

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA
A stay in this historic Khmer town offers much more than just temples. Make the whimsically designed Shinta Mani Shack your base, and let the hotel's staff craft an itinerary for you: choose from farm tours, market visits, a night at the Phare circus, a bike tour, and more. A percentage of the room rate goes to the non-profit Shinta Mani Foundation, which supports local communities through education, training and small-business loans. Families are encouraged to visit the villages where the foundation works to see how the resort collection embraces responsible tourism. shintamani.com; Poolside king room from $150.

Dining at Shinta Mani Shack’s Khmer restaurant, Kroya.
Dining at Shinta Mani Shack's Khmer restaurant, Kroya. Courtesy of Shinta Mani Shack.

LUANG PRABANG, LAOS
Nestled beside its own private waterfall, Rosewood Luang Prabang's design-led suites and hilltop tents reflect the area's history, from its hill-tribe heritage and colonial legacy to its Buddhist traditions. Riverside rooms can be joined together for bigger families. Venturing out of the resort, Rosewood's curated experiences take you on more-authentic-than-usual alms-giving excursions, chanting sessions with novice monks, forgotten temple treks along the Mekong River, swimming in the azure Kuang Si waterfalls and playing with MandaLao’s happy and healthy rescued elephants. rosewoodhotels.com; Riverside room from $665.

River views at Rosewood Luang Prabang.
River views at Rosewood Luang Prabang. Courtesy of Rosewood Luang Prabang.

BALI, INDONESIA
Offering everything from pirate yoga and improvisation dance to martial arts that focus on the mind, body and spirit, the BaliSpirit Festival in Ubud has a huge line-up of arts, crafts, dance, music and storytelling workshops designed for families and children. In keeping with the festival's ethos of celebrating health, harmony and the environment, funds are donated to local community projects including HIV and AIDS education at schools, and bamboo reforestation programs in the island's driest areas. balispiritfestival.com; kid explorer pass from $70, teenager pass from $250, adult abundance pass $850, all for seven-day access.

Getting tricky at the BaliSpirit Festival.
Getting tricky at the BaliSpirit Festival. Courtesy of BaliSpirit Festival.

             
   EXPERT ADVICE 
Jeffrey Smith, Vice President of Sustainability, Six Senses Resorts

 
             
   GET THEIR HANDS DIRTY
Our Grow With Six Senses program helps kids reconnect with the natural world. At Six Senses Samui, young guests can help out at Farm On The Hill, feeding our resident goats or collection eggs.
  DO YOUR RESEARCH
Look for hotels or your companies that display information about commitments to the environment, sustainability or local communities on their websites.
  NO WET WIPES
Disposable wipes are actually made of plastic and wreak havoc on septic systems. In most cases they end up in the ocean with negative impacts on wildlife.
 
             

 

For Foodie Families
One of the most fun ways to get to know a country, region or town is through its food. Traveling works up an appetite, and tasting local cuisine is the perfect way to fill bellies and hearts.

VIETNAM
On this two-week journey with Black Tomato Tours, explore Vietnam from north to south, with plenty of culinary finds along the way. Stops include Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Saigon and Con Dao (or Phu Quoc if you prefer). Visit bustling local markets and sample regional specialties such as the capital's pho cuon rolls. In the ancient town of Hoi An, float along the coconut-palmed waterways in a traditional bamboo basket boat. blacktomato.com; two-week tours from $5,230 per person, all-inclusive except for international flights.

Preparing pho on a Black Tomato tour in Vietnam.
Preparing pho on a Black Tomato tour in Vietnam. Courtesy of Black Tomato Tours.

KATHMANDU, NEPAL
Learn to master the art of the momo (the Nepali-style dumpling) in an intimate cooking class with Backstreet Academy. This community-focused, peer-to-peer travel platform connects guests with local hosts, in this case, part-time electrician Purna, who invites you into his home to teach the delicate craft of momo dough pleating. The best part? Feasting on your creations after you've made them in a family-style meal. backstreetacademy.com; from $18 per person.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
Learn all about Malaysian cuisine on a half-day journey with Food Tour Malaysia's Off the Rail Food Tour. This train tour pauses at different roadside stands and villages along the rail line where you can try teh tarik, nasi lemak, blue rice, char kway teow and kuih cakes. Stop off at a local market in a Malay Reserve village, and wander the streets and family-run shophouses in an Indian Muslim neighborhood before a traditional nasi kandar. foodtourmalaysia.com; four-hour tour $62 for an adult, $31 for a child.

             
   EXPERT ADVICE 
Raffles Laight, the 10-year-old star of boyeatsworld.com.au

 
             
   MAKE A DEAL
The best tip I can give to parents is ditch kids'menus and encourage their children to eat what locals eat. Make a pact for your kids to eat at least one thing they've never tried before each day—they may end up loving it.
  BE PATIENT
Always join the popular queues at street markets, because locals know best.
  EAT UNEXPECTED
Though I found the fried tarantulas in Cambodia kind of bland, I can't resist a killer seafood laksa or khao soi curry.
 
             

 

 

See All Articles...

Related Articles