5 Family-Travel Trends for 2015
From laid-back retreats to adventures of a lifetime, there are more options than ever for intrepid families. AIMEE CHAN, the founder of Suitcases & Strollers, an online family travel magazine that provides tips and inspirations to wanderlust-struck parents in Asia, shares the latest and greatest ways to embark on a journey for the ages—for all ages.
Published on Oct 28, 2015
1. REAL ADVENTURE TRAVEL
Traveling with the little ones doesn't need to be a snooze. For the bold and the brave, there are still bucket list-worthy trips that you can tackle even with mini adventurers in tow.
View the world’s highest peak with tiny travelers. Courtesy of Plateau Photo Tours.
VISIT EVEREST BASE CAMP
Yes, you read that right. You can actually drive to Mount Everest Base Camp from Tibet, a far more child-friendly approach than attempting to hike from the Nepalese side. Along the way you will pass glorious mountains, valleys and monasteries. Note: travelers into Tibet must always be accompanied by a licensed guide. Jamin "Losang" York, who co-runs Plateau Photo Tours, is a father of two himself, and suggests that parents wait until the wee ones are at least three or four before they attempt to conquer these legendary slopes at such high altitudes.
RIDE THE WIND-SWEPT PLAINS OF MONGOLIA
For every kid who always wanted a pony, mounting a sturdy steed and galloping across endless expanses of wilderness is the next best thing. Mongolia Horseback Riding organizes tours that trace the steps of Genghis Khan and visit nomads living the way their ancestors did.
LIVE LIKE LOCALS IN BHUTAN
See a whole new side of one of the world's happiest nations. Bhutan Homestay can coordinate visits in which you spend 80 percent of your time interacting with a local family, learning their traditions and experiencing their lifestyle.
2. TREKKING THE JUNGLES
Asia is rich with natural beauty, and hiking around the wilderness is fast becoming a popular family pastime.
Strolling through the canopy at Taman Negara. www.imagesbyhafiz.com
The lush greenery just outside of George Town provides many beautiful walks and the trails of Penang Hill are the most family friendly—though only recommended for children 12 years and older. There you will find ample easy paths that only take an hour or two to complete. Or head to Taman Negara, a 130-million-year-old rain forest and Peninsular Malaysia's largest national park, for rare wildlifespotting, spelunking and a canopy walk over Indiana Jones-worthy rope bridges.
Beyond the skyscrapers, this isle offers a surprising number of hikes suitable for every level of skill and sense of adventure. If you're just looking for a quiet stroll, try Yangmingshan—kids and parents alike can regain their stamina at the many natural hot spring rest stops along the way. The Four Beasts Mountains offer spectacular views of the Taipei 101 tower. Teens might enjoy the rope ladders and exposed cliffs of the trails around Pingxi. Taiwan Adventures offers guided day hikes at Yangmingshan, Four Beasts Mountains, Pingxi and more.
Ditch the urban jungle and head to Lamma Island, popular with locals for the famous Family Trail. This winding walk is easy on little legs and offers spectacular scenery for relatively minimal effort. The vistas along the way vary from beaches to wind farms, traditional fishing villages to hilltop outlooks. Best of all? The whole thing can easily be done in a day trip before you head back to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. If you've got the time, you can walk the whole island to experience more of its charms. walkhongkong.com; provides 7.5-hour Lamma Island Hike.
3. LENDING A HAND
Traveling with kids is about introducing them to the world outside their little bubble. Rather than checking the obligatory tourist traps off your list, use your next trip as an opportunity to teach compassion, empathy and true global citizenship.
Getting your quokka quota in the Western Australia. Courtesy of Biosphere Expeditions.
BUILD A HOUSE IN CAMBODIA
Gather a few families together to construct a home for those who don't have one. Tabitha, which has been organizing aid for the Khmer people for two decades, keeps its overhead costs low and makes sure most of the funds get to the folks who need them the most. It's hard work, but you and your children will know that you've made a real difference.
MOTHER MARSUPIALS IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA
It's not all about the 'roos, mate. Quolls, quendas and quokkas—also known as the Walpole Wilderness Area's most adorable inhabitants—need your help. You and your teammates will be responsible for radio tagging the trio of curiously alliterative marsupials. Accommodations are cushy and these furry-faced critters are sure-fire kid-pleasers. biosphereexpeditions.org; next available trip January 23-31, 2016.
HELP MAINTAIN AND PRESERVE THE KOH TAO REEF IN THAILAND
Kids 14 and up can don scuba gear for a good cause. By building artificial reefs with Kaya, you and your family will bolster damaged dive sites by encouraging coral growth. You'll also receive ISS dive certification while tending to giant clams and monitoring seahorses. Two-week Koh Tao Island Marine Conservation project; projects is open year round, except from October 15 to January 1, due to the Monsoons.
4. BREAKING A SWEAT
These days, Iron Man champs aren't the only ones getting their heart rates up on the road. More families are incorporating fitness goals into their vacations, making it more fun than ever to stay in shape.
Shooting hoops like a pro at JumpStreet in Kuala Lumpur. Courtesy of JumpStreet.
COMPETE IN A TRIATHLON IN THE PHILIPPINES
Drag your kids away from the Playstation and let their competitive streak shine at Alaska IronKids Philippines. The events have categories for kids who are in it to win it as well as those who are just starting out.
BRING YOUR BABY TO YOGA IN INDIA
Normally, moms head to a yoga retreat to breathe deep and get peace-and-quiet time away from the kids, but Ayurveda Retreat in Coonoor, India, will allow babies into the practice rooms provided they are calm. Bring your own mat and let bubba chill on the floor while you channel your inner Zen.
BOUNCE ON A TRAMPOLINE IN MALAYSIA
If 800-squaremeters of trampoline madness doesn't sound like kid-heaven, we don't know what does. At Kuala Lumpur's JumpStreet, every age group can burn off steam by jumping into a foam pit or joining gravity-defying games of basketball. It's one of the only places where they can literally bounce off the walls.
5. SIPPING THROUGH AUSSIE WINERIES
Think long, languid, boozy afternoons on a family vacation are out of the question? Think again. These wineries have plenty of diversions to keep the kids out of your hair while you sample this finest vintages.
Little ladies at Whistler Wines. Courtesy of Whistler Wines.
ALL SAINTS ESTATE,
Inside the cellar door is a play table to entertain little ones as you taste the many varieties on offer before you head into the fine-dining restaurant. All other times, children are welcome to play football, throw their own Frisbees or feed the ducks in the large grounds outside.
BAROSSA VALLEY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Kangaroos, puppies, swings, toys, lots of open space and even treasure hunts keep the kids entertained while you try the famous reds. Entry is free to their events. All you need to bring is your own chair and an empty stomach.
In the tiny town of Milawa, spend the afternoon lazing around over tapas-style sharing portions at the café sipping the white, sweet and sparkling wines while the kids run on the grass or play in the safely enclosed playground.
VILLAS VERSUS RESORTS
Courtesy of Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket
+ Privacy. It's enough having to handle your own tiny tots—why listen to other people's?
+ Five magic words: The. Nanny. Can. Come. Too.
+ Choose what you want to eat, when you want to eat, without fear of exasperating other diners in a stuffy restaurant.
+ No need to "shush" the kids. There's no one else to disturb at your private beaches and pools.
+ A safe haven from the cheesy "family fun" they push at many resorts—no singing cartoon characters at brunch!
+ There are always plenty of kids to play with on the property and, if you're very lucky, a kids' club stocked with games and crafts.
+ Everyone wants to babysit in Asia—whether the hotel's official child minders, or the munchkin-loving general staff always ready to coo over your kid.
+ You never have to worry about picky eaters. Just open the hotel's dictionary-size menu.
+ Lots of entertainment—think camel rides at Grand Nikko Bali for wannabe explorers and a waterpark with swimming pools, slides and waterfalls galore at Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket.