Family Tour, Chiang Mai

Asia Family Vacation Planning 101 (by Explorient)

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For the vast majority of us, taking the family to Asia probably isn’t at the top of the list, especially when traveling with little ones — the killer long flights, the jetlag, different foods, the costs, the list can go on and on. Having two young children of my own, I agree with those concerns wholeheartedly. However, with proper planning and the right mindset, a trip to Asia can be extraordinary for travelers of all ages. The Far East offers sounds and sights unlike anywhere else on Earth. And for the foodie, it is simply paradise.  My boys have been traveling internationally, including a few tripsOldQuartersHanoi to Asia, since they were 6 months old, so I can offer some veteran advice, both personally and professionally, on how to plan and execute not only a successful family vacation to Asia, but one that will leave memories of a lifetime. So where do we begin?

Doing It Right: taking the family to the Far East is no small feat. Unless you’re seasoned traveler to Asia (not just anywhere given the language barrier, logistics, etc.), the DIY approach won’t cut it – no matter how much time is spent on TripAdvisor and the like. To do it right, find a professional outfit that offers “white glove” service where you simply board that plane and the rest is taken care of — making your long awaited journey completely worry free. While group tours are plentiful in the marketplace and generally less expensive, they don’t bode well for families. We each have our own schedules, interests, tastes, even quirks when traveling so being thrown on to a busload of strangers of varying ages, backgrounds and nuances can be, quite bluntly, risky. When traveling with the family, a private tour is really the only way to go. You (your kids more than likely) dictate the pace – start and end time, what and when to eat, sights and activities you want to see and do. At Explorient, our tours are always private. You have your very own designated guide, vehicle and driver at your service, helping you get the most out of your trip – the way you’d want it, not based on someone else’s idea of a perfect family vacation. Your guide is there for you from the moment you land until you catch that flight or train to your next city. A private tour. Comfortable. Personalized. Exclusive.

Pace: Asia is a big continent and a kaleidoscope of amazing sights, exotic culture and fabulous cuisine. With so much to see, it’s awfully tempting to “squeeze” as much as possible into a two-week AoNangKrabitrip. After all, you’ve gone all that way to get there and you’re probably never going back. Right? Not so fast, literally, particularly when taking the young traveler along. Going off on a tangent here, even though first time travelers surmise traveling to Asia is an once-in-a-lifetime occurrence (prior to their trip that is), a good fraction of our travelers (~40%) end up booking their 2nd or 3rd trip with us within 18-24 months of their return. Astounding but true. Reason? Simply said, travelers are hooked from the moment they arrive (the foods, the people, the sights, and oh…the value of the Dollar!) and by the end of their trip, they realize there is so much more to experience – and they want more. I’ve had a family while having breakfast at the Surin Resort in Phuket contact me to book their next Thailand vacation over Christmas – in just 4 months away! Yes, the Orient is THAT alluring. So, before trying to cram tooP1210649 much into your itinerary, take a step back and make sure you give yourself enough time to relax, enjoy and soak up all that each destination has to offer.

OK, back to the kids. Having said the above, the pace of the trip will be key to a successful holiday experience. For the young traveler, it’s tough to be dragged in and out of airports, temples and museums day-after-day. Generally speaking, three nights in each city is a good starting point. This is especially important for the first port of call given jetlag and the considerable amount of time getting there. In the case of a two-week trip (including flight time), which equates to about 12 or 13 nights hotel stay, we suggest packing no more than 4 cities. At least three nights or more should be considered if a beach destination is a part of the trip, which I will discuss in greater detail later on. On sightseeing, half day tours are great since you’ll get to see the cultural sites and still have the afternoons to relax and jump in the pool, something my kids view as their “reward” for being patient doing the touristy stuff. Unless the tour is very activity-centric (fun stuff like zip-lining, elephant trekking, whitewater rafting, cooking lesson, snorkeling, etc.), try to limit scheduling full day tours on consecutive days. The time of year you will be traveling will also have a bearing on determining the proper pace of the trip. Much of Asia gets very hot and humid during the summer months so those full day temple-hopping tours can be quite exhaustive for the adult and little ones alike.

Now, the FUN part. Surely, taking a trip all the way Asia ought to have some education component to it – learning about each country’s history and culture and coming home with a more profound perspective. But one must not forget that FUN must be an integral part of the trip. If you’re traveling to a region where nice beaches are accessible, why not incorporate that into your itinerary. There are very few things in life better than spending a few days in one of Southeast Asia’s beautiful beaches. After all, a beach vacation in Asia isn’t just about the beach (unless, of course, you choose an isolated resort such that there is nothing else but). The over-the-top resorts, the night markets, the thatched-roofed seafood shacks on the beach, the laidback yet playful atmosphere will absolutely overload your senses. If you’re considering whether the beach should be included – just do it. You can be sure it will be a big hit for the family.

P1210715Besides the beach, there are also numerous unique and amazing adventures throughout Asia. Like spending a few days in the Borneo Jungle in Malaysia to observe and learn about wildlife and the elusive Orang-utan; “own an elephant for a day” at Chiang Mai’s Patara Elephant Farm where you learn to bath, feed and ride (bareback!) these gentle giants; hike the un-restored sections of the magnificent Great Wall to trace the footsteps of China’s thousands years’ history. No matter which destinations you decide to visit, be sure to inject FUN into your trip.

Money Matters: We won’t trivialize the economics of taking a family of 4 or 5 to Asia, or anywhere internationally for that matter, as we know first hand it isn’t cheap. But here are some insider’s tips on planning a trip that can be a little easier on the wallet.

1.        If possible, avoid traveling during the peak season. Airlines are smart. They know exactly what each geographic area’s school schedules are, and price their fares accordingly. For that same reason, airfares are the highest during the summer months and Christmas holiday period – by a magnitude of 50% to 100% percent or more higher than other months of the year ($1,800 – $2,500+ vs. $1,200 to $1,400). If such a trip can be squeezed in during other school holidays such as Easter break or winter break, there can be significant savings on the flights (likely the most expensive component of your trip). If summer is the only time you can travel, which is the case for most of us, book early. How early? At least 6 to 8 months out to get the lowest fares. Last-minute airfare discounts on flights to Asia is a myth. The longer you wait, the higher the fare. There is no magic formula to that.

2.        Hotels. As new hotels are being built everyday throughout most of Asia’s popular tourist and business hubs, older hotels must continually keep pace with the newer, bigger and better properties. That’s great for the consumer as accommodations just keep getting better. Generally speaking, hotels in Asia are considerably more deluxe than those in North America and certainly in Europe while rates are significantly more affordable. At Explorient, our selection of hotels start at 4-star (by international standards), the ranks of Marriotts and Hiltons, all the way up to the super-deluxe, Mandarin Orientals and Peninsulas of the world. Even at our entry level, these superior category (4-star) properties are more than adequate for most travelers. So unless you want to spring for a more luxurious and indulgent experience, you can save a bundle by choosing the less expensive hotel package without sacrificing comfort and convenience. No matter which option you choose, all of our chosen properties are “vetted” thoroughly from top to bottom, giving you the best value and comfort in their respective class.

3.        On the ground spending. The Dollar goes very far in most of Asia. Probably with the exception of Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, meals, entertainment and transportation costs will equate to around 40% of what we spend here in North America. There is no sales tax on goods and services (except on hotel rates), and outside of fine-dining establishments or hotel restaurants, whereP1210283 many will impose a 10% service charge, there is no compulsory tipping or sales tax added on to your food bill. So a good dinner for four at around $50 or less (out the door) at a local restaurant is not at all that uncommon. Moreover, all hotels featured in our itineraries include daily buffet breakfast/brunch that boasts a huge spread of Western and local fare, thus eliminating the cost of a meal or two each day. Comparing to a typical daily spend for a vacation in the U.S. or the Caribbean’s (forget Europe!) at say $200+ per day for a family of four, you will easily cut that in half or more in Asia. To that end, once you get past the initial cost of getting there, on the ground spending can be very affordable. Moreover, not having to keep tabs on how much money you’re spending on each snack, drink or taxi ride greatly reduces the financial stress, giving you a carefree, let-your-hair-down holiday experience.

In conclusion, while Asia isn’t the easiest vacation destination to get to, a family trip to the Far East can be richly rewarding for travelers of all ages without necessarily costing a fortune. Since much of this region is SO different from life in the Western Hemisphere, the “intangibles” of such a trip can be immeasurable, with impressions and perspectives that will last a lifetime. With proper planning and the help of Explorient, you simply get on that flight and let the experts do the rest.  For ideas and more information about planning a trip to Asia, feel free to browse through our Asia Family Holidays page. Happy vacation planning!

Explorient sports a wide selection of private, luxury and active Asia Family Tours that cater to all interests. Here are  just a few suggestions:

– China Family Spectacular: China Family Tour featuring the Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors, countryside & city

– Japan Family Spectacular: meticulously crafted Japan Family tour featuring Sumo, Snow Monkeys & Culture

– Thailand Family Adventure: private Family tour featuring Adventure, Elephants & Beach

– Malaysia Family Adventure: action-packed Malaysia family tour featuring the Jungles of Borneo 

Comments (5)

  1. Linda Woodward April 2, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Wonderful Blog! Congratulations on introducing your family to the wonders of Asia! What great memories they will have. I love your photos, too, as well as the way you’ve kept your 101 complex enough for others to appreciate all the planning & care that goes into such a journey.

  2. Phunawa April 25, 2014 at 2:59 am

    I love the pictures. Thanks for the tips. I’ll keep them in mind I have also been to the beaches in phuket . mainly in kharon, where did you stay there? I stayed by hotel.

  3. sheen April 29, 2014 at 6:23 am

    Thank you for the very interesting read, really enjoyed your post 🙂

  4. meshack July 17, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    An incredible read. nice reading your post on this blog

  5. meshkogo July 17, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    Asia is very beautiful than you can imagine .visits to Asia are memorable. i love the pictures. excellent post