As well as rounding up some of our favorite Asia vacation spots for families, we’ve thrown in some insider tips from our HomeAway® parents in the know—ones based either in or with in-depth knowledge of the destinations.
With glittering skyscrapers and the ease (and sheer fun) of getting around by MTF train, ferry, cable-car, or tram, this former British colony is a must for all ages. With younger ones, make a beeline for Disneyland Resort or Ocean Park, with its marine animals and rides. All kids love the trip up to The Peak for views over the city and beyond, and to remote Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island, with its 112-foot Big Buddha. On Sundays, the place to be is Kowloon Park with its kung fu displays and lion-and-dragon dances. Food is another highlight, whether you sample dim sum aboard one of Aberdeen Harbour’s floating restaurants or stick to family-friendly global favorites.
Super safe, relatively compact, and easy to travel around on any budget, Singapore is much more than just a layover destination. Sentosa Island is top of the list for Universal Studios (avoid weekends if you can), the 30-foot Merlion (a half-fish, half-lion you can climb inside for 360° city views), MegaZip Adventure Park, Adventure Cove Waterpark, and the SEA Aquarium. Elsewhere, take a boat-ride on the river; wander around the Arab Quarter, Little India, and Chinatown; and check out Singapore Botanic Gardens with its children’s garden.
Our man on the ground Joseph, formerly based in our Austin office, also recommends Gardens by the Bay with its “Super Trees” (kids love the free evening light show) and splash pad area, the view from Marina Bay Sands, the permanent Future World exhibition at ArtScience Museum, and eating out! There’s plenty here to tempt both picky and adventurous little eaters—Joseph’s 7- and 3-year-olds love Genki Sushi, where dishes are ordered via tablet and delivered by miniature trains; dim sum at Din Tai Fung; and Satay by the Bay, an upscale hawker center (a food court) serving specialities such as chili crab, stingray, roti prata (Indianized pancakes), and steamboats (Chinese hotpots).
Though clean and safe with efficient public transport, Tokyo can seem overwhelming, so get your bearings from the top deck of an English-language Hato Bus or from the Tokyo Tower. (Yes, that’s Mount Fuji in the distance!) Culture abounds at the Imperial Palace, Senso-ji and Meiji Jingu shrines, and Happo-en Gardens with its traditional tea ceremonies and ancient bonsai. But don’t miss the very modern delights of the neon-lit shopping and entertainment districts Shibuya and Higashi (east) Shinjuku, or Harajuku’s hip shopping. Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are on hand for theme-park fans, or take a waterbus to Odaiba island for the seabird sanctuary, spring cherry blossoms, the National Museum of Maritime Science, and the Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (the Miraikan), where displays include data from national seismometers.
It’s not an obvious choice with kids, but China’s biggest city is a compelling mix of the historic and the hypermodern, with plenty to occupy families. Get an overview from a Huangpu River cruise and/or from the 88th floor of the Jin Mao Tower, then watch locals perform tai chi on the Bund, the former British colonial riverside with its period buildings. By evening, catch a performance by the famous Shanghai Acrobats. Other days out include Shanghai Disney Resort, Happy Valley theme park, Ocean Aquarium, Shanghai Wild Animal Park with its giant pandas, and Dino Beach Water Park.
Krabi Region, Thailand
With inhabitants known for their hospitality and love of kids, great-value accommodations, and cheap and easy travel by plane, train, bus, boat, long-distance taxi, or chauffeured or rented car, Thailand is more child-friendly than you may think. Our Marseille-based content marketing specialist Olivia, mom to kids aged 4 and 8, recommends Ao Nang in the Krabi Province, 90 minutes from Phuket by speedboat.
Here, Olivia and her family enjoy island-hopping and snorkelling; spotting macaques on Railay Beach; and relaxing in hot springs and in the Emerald Pool. Food options for kids who don’t like Asian food include pizzas, grilled cheese sandwiches, fries, and fresh local fruit. But for an easy introduction to local dishes, Olivia recommends the not-too-spicy (“nid noi”) pad thai or pad see ew. Avoid the monsoon season (Apr.–Oct.).
Photos from Olivia:
With kids treated like royalty here, and with rental properties so reasonably priced, it’s hard to think of reasons NOT to bring your brood to Bali. And it’s not all about the beach—other highlights include Bali Treetop Adventure Park, Waterbom Bali with its waterslides, Seawalker Tours (where special helmets let you walk on the ocean floor), Rumah Pohon pyramidal temple and treehouse, the ancient water palace at Tirta Empul, and Pirate’s Bay oceanfront playground. But wildlife is the real star of the island—don’t miss Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Bali Bird Park, Elephant Safari Park, Bali Safari & Marine Park, and Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple with its monkeys. For eats, international dishes are easily available for those not tempted by Balinese specialties. Don’t miss a tour of—and tastings at—Tree Farms Bamboo Chocolate Factory.