Personal travel manager Frances Cream caught the travel bug at the age of 11, and has travelled extensively ever since. South East Asia holds a special place in her heart: she has visited the region as a backpacker and more recently with her family. Here, Frances shares some of her top tips to ensure that your family falls in love with this destination too.
Our family loves travelling to Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Vietnam: in fact, anywhere in South East Asia. It offers great value for money, has something for everyone and it’s not too hard to travel to and get around. Speaking from personal experience, the perfect adventures take a little planning: something which your personal travel manager can help you with.
Fly a full service airline from Australia
Although low cost airlines may seem cheaper at first glance, by the time you add all the additional costs such as meals, entertainment, blankets, luggage and seating, you will often find better value with a full service airline such as Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qantas and Thai Airways. They’re great with kids: kids’ meals are served first and there are plenty of inflight entertainment options, giving parents the chance to enjoy a wine and a movie.
Pack an electronic device
Of course we don’t want our children to be glued to a device all day, but there are times when they can be extremely handy when travelling. If you pre-load your iPad or tablet with games (preferably ones that don’t need Wi-Fi), a couple of movies and a few other activities, you’ll find that it keeps the children entertained while on a long journey. It certainly helps minimise the ‘when are we there’ questions too!
I find picking the right hotel is one of the most crucial aspects to ensuring a successful adventure. Think about what is important to you and ask your personal travel manager to find hotels that meet these criteria. I always look for hotels which are centrally located to activities, walking distance to local restaurants and cafes, have a swimming pool, air-conditioning, breakfast included and free Wi-Fi. Breakfast is another big factor: often cafes in South East Asia do not open particularly early so if your little one is hungry early, a hotel breakfast can be a real lifesaver.
Stock up on snacks
Stock up on snacks at the local convenience stores. These are often a lot of fun to visit as you can find snacks and treats from all over the world . Fill a bag of treats/snacks that the kids can easily enjoy while travelling around or at the hotel. Many of these convenience stores also stock your forgotten basics such as toothpaste, as well as beer, wine and spirits.
Plan your transfers ahead of time
You may remember the days when you were travelling solo, with a backpack and the freedom to travel wherever and however the wind took you. With kids in tow, a little bit more planning is required. If the idea of trying to negotiate a taxi or find a local bus stop no longer sounds like fun, your personal travel manager and can pre-book a private transfer, or check whether a taxi or a local train is the best option. Knowing ahead of time how you are going to get to the next place will save you time and stress, and will save you from lugging the kids around endlessly and pointlessly. On our recent visit to Cambodia, we had pre-booked a private car transfer for every move. It was just so easy, that we didn’t need to worry about how much it was going to cost, any language barriers or uncertainty. And it was a great way to enjoy the scenery in comfort.
Spend some time in a resort
Spend some time selecting your must-do activities first and have your personal travel manager tailor an itinerary that places the adventure aspect first, so that you can reward yourself with a nice resort and some relaxation at the end. By the time you have zip-lined in a rainforest, explored ancient temples, shopped at night markets and travelled by local train and bus, you’ll be ready to treat yourself and your family to some downtime in a resort. Resorts in Thailand in particular offer amazing value, with activities that will keep the kids going all day while you enjoy a break.
Keep the kids involved
Ok I admit, my son is a little addicted to our device, so I have to control when he can use it; but I have learned to use this to my advantage. Have your children involved with the photo-taking, or get them to write a journal of their experiences. Hunter is often in charge of taking photos, or searching for the nearest store/market is on Google Maps. This helps keeps the children engaged, gives them access to their device and lets them feel part of the process.
End your trip with a City Stay in an executive room
When it’s time to catch your big flight home, you will have to transit a big city in South East Asia, so you might as well have a stopover for a couple of nights. Definitely do this after the adventure so that you don’t have to cart around your shopping during the trip. Cities such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumper and Singapore are great value to stay with the family in a club (or executive) room on the Club level. These rooms provide access to a lounge (usually with panoramic views of the city) which includes breakfast, all day snacks, soft drinks and coffee and a two-hour happy hour each evening, including canapes and wine/beer and sometimes spirits. After a long day of sightseeing, the happy hour provides an opportunity for the kids to unwind, giving you a chance to enjoy the views and a drink without the need to step out. With so much added convenience, the club floor is worth the extra cost. Some hotels do not permit children in their executive lounge, so check with your personal travel manager as to which hotel is best.
The old saying: pack your bag and then unpack half of it is certainly true here. In our family, each of us has our own four-wheeled suitcase and a small carry on backpack, and everyone is responsible for their own luggage. Laundry is cheap and easy to have done within 24 hours so there’s no need to pack weeks of clothes. Also, consider how much shopping you are going to do. On our recent trip to Cambodia and Thailand, Hunter spent all his money on soccer outfits at the markets and only wore them for the remainder of the trip, while many of his packed clothes where never worn.
Finally, just enjoy the journey. Travelling can be unpredictable with flight delays, interesting food and unexpected events: it’s all part of the journey. Your family will be off their normal daily schedules, but that’s part of the experience. You will be surprised by what your kids remember, and the stories they retell will be a great starting point while they wonder silently; ‘when is our next adventure’.
For more great tips and advice or to get in touch with Frances, you can view here web profile here.