Thursday, August 01, 2013

Travelling South East Asia With Kids

We spent three weeks travelling through the Philippines and then went to Chiang Mai, Thailand with our three kids. What were our highlights? Low lights? What would we do differently? What is important when travelling with kids?

Traveling in the Philippines and Thailand with three young kids. What should you bring? What to avoid? What are the highlights?

Highlights first:

Philippines (Cebu, Moalboal, Bohol): snorkeling, visiting friends, good food, ocean, walking on the beach, sleeping in a treehouse.

Thailand (Chiang Mai): pool, meat skewers, feeding elephants, night market, Thai massage.

What would we do differently?

1.  Bring a few more toys for the kids (like a ball) and toys for the pool.  We brought a life jacket which wasn't necessary as they just wore water wings.

2. We were in Chiang Mai for 6 nights and this was too long. We would've stayed in Chiang Mai for just 3-4 nights and then either gone to another city OR stayed at a place outside the city. It was really hard to be with the three kids in middle of the city. There was nowhere for them to run around freely and every time we went out we had to have our hands on them because vehicles were rushing by everywhere. Also, we could have seen all we wanted in four days and then spent three days elsewhere. Another flight would've been tricky with them so maybe staying outside the city would've been good. Or, we had a really nice place in Bangkok andI could have stayed there another night.

3. We wouldn't have let the kids eat outside of the restaurant for health reasons. We all contacted some illness from the food. Gary also had a bad bout just before coming home and this made him unable to care for the kids for 24 hours which made it harder on me. His food poisioning came from eating at one of the food stalls. It's one thing for us to get sick but my heart hurt so much for our kids (each one vomited at one time or another on the last day of our trip).

4. I would have slathered the kids in mosquito repellent. We tried the bracelets and a mosquito repellant fan and they didn't work very well. We were covered in mosquito bites in Chiang Mai and that is where Kai got Dengue Fever. He had a high fever, major fatigue and vomiting which hit him on the flight home.

Important things when travelling with kids:

1. Age: Koen and Kai were easy to travel with as they are four and six. Nya (age 1) was really tough to travel with. She needed naps in her bed, she screamed and she kept us up at night. If your youngest is 4, easy peasy. On planes the bigger kids just watched movies and ate food–they loved it.

2.  Down time: Have down time  each day. When Nya napped the boys would watch a movie or  play video games. It was usually during the the hottest part of the day and about one hour. 

3. If travelling with a baby/toddler: a stroller is useless in these areas. An Ergo is awesome. Get a great travel crib (we have the Phil and Teds) and a good travel high chair (we used a cloth seat that rolled up and fit in my purse!). Breastfeeding is ideal because then you don't need to worry about preparing bottles in a sanitary way or getting bottled water for them etc. Also the milk tastes different because it treated at very high temperatures.

4. Snacks: have a lot of snacks. We bribed them with mango smoothies each day which kept them hydrated too. We always had oreos (or `creamos') and crackers on hand.

5. Stick to bedtimes. The heat is exhausting and they will be tired. In order to get over the jet lag, you have to try to get to a normal schedule asap. If you want to be able to do a lot each day, you need well rested kids!

6. Spending Money: let them have a small amount of money to spend as they wish. They really want that milkshake or keychain? Okay! 

7.  Get time away: We were with our kids 24/7.  In the same room. Always. My highlight included a Thai massage not only because it was good but because it was one hour just for myself. Gary had one too. 

8.  Take transit: We are a family that loves to walk. However, when you are in another time zone (14 hours ahead) and it's 34 C, it's just smarter to take transit. If you are doing a longer trip, take an air conditioned taxi. We rented one for four hours for the elephant conservation and it cost $50 which was so worth it. Otherwise, a tuk tuk ride through the city is just $1. 

9.  Pool: Our kids have a lot of energy.  There are really no parks to run around in where we were (although we realized there was one within a tuk tuk ride the day we left).  A pool was very important to help them get rid of all of their energy and it also kept us nice and cool during the day. We only went to the pool once in Thailand and looking back we would've gone more had we thought of it sooner.

10. Toys: each boy got to bring a backpack with their favourite toys.  We kept a lot of things in ziploc bags which was key due to spills and just keeping stuff organized. They loved their cars, Pokemon cards and Nintendo DS. This was great for down times during the day (usually 1 hour) and especially waiting in airport terminals.

11.  No white shirts: clothes get dirty fast and we had mango juice stains everywhere – yellow was actually a great colour for Koen to be wearing! We had them wear their clothes two days in a row usually so darker shorts were also key. 

12.  Sunscreen and hats: we were outside every day in 30 C weather and only Koen got a minor sunburn on his face (Gary and I did get our backs burnt a bit while snorkeling). Our kids had big dorky bucket hats but it totally kept them safe!  

13.  Visit someone you know!  It was so great to spend time with Jen, Andrey and Ella in their home.  We were able to get over jet lag in a comfortable environment and they could show us the ropes.

What did we miss?
The kids didn't really miss anything.  Gary and I really missed our alone time.  It was really hard being with them all the time, especially with Nya getting up so much at night, I was exhausted. I think had we stayed in Bangkok (our only place that had two rooms) for one more night, that would've been really good.

Overall, how was it?
It was great.  We had a good time.  I was impressed with myself and how I was relatively calm most of the time, although the kids definitely had me swearing a time or two. We won't go back to SE Asia as a family but I'm glad we went. It was totally safe (well, maybe not food/water/mosquito wise) and it was very family-friendly. Everyone was very nice to us. Every day I did think about all the romantic and fun things Gary and I could be doing (like oh boy, I think we missed out on some seriously amazing snorkeling) but at the same time, every day I saw my kids LOVING what they were doing.   

No place like home.
Every time I go away and come back, I am reminded of just how amazing Vancouver/BC is. I love it here. I look forward to just exploring more of BC with our family.  I love our home and our bed. Love having our own bedroom. Why do I keep talking about that?!  

Random side note:
The most comfortable thing to wear?
Yoga pants.

Other random note:
Koen is very friendly.  He would go up to anyone anywhere and start a conversation. Usually they had no idea what he was talking about but he would get hugs and high fives from them. Once in a restaurant I lost sight of him and where was he? He was sitting with a couple and chatting with them because the man had an Angry Birds shirt.

And now....what should we do next summer?!  Ha.  I think we will be doing the Oregon Coast again. We love that trip.


1 comment:

  1. Quite the adventure you embarked on, and it's awesome that you're sharing all your tips on traveling the area with kids :)
    hope you get some answers, relief and restored health for Kai soon!