Family-friendly holiday destinations in Asia

Asia is home for me, and yet, there are so many countries left unexplored here with my family. And when I collaborated with Travel Bloggers for ideas on 12 best family holiday destinations in Asia for a vacation, the result was pleasantly surprising. This post on Best holiday destinations in Asia for family is a mix of culture, relaxation and introduction to new experiences.

I have had a lovely family trip to Sri Lanka and Vietnam in the recent past. But would love to explore more of this vibrant continent where culture, people, landscapes, food, history and traffic collide in a unique way. Yes, for some it might be quite a culture shock but some of the best hospitality options exist in Asia to give you a wonderful family break.

China: Beijing

China’s capital Beijing has a great mix of traditional Oriental architecture and a modern skyline with high rise buildings. The city also boasts of 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is on the radar of most cultural travelers. Not many people think of it as a family-friendly destination and tend to think that kids will get bored at the historical sites. But Beijing has a lot of things to do for kids of all ages, as my toddler and I recently discovered during our long layover in Beijing.

The key to planning a Beijing trip with kids is to plan each day with many activities and use the opportunity to teach them about ancient chinese culture. That alone can turn a boring day among temples into a day of historical adventure. The wide expanse of open places in the city, palaces, and temples is sure to delight kids and keep their energy in check.

Family holiday destinations in asia, best holiday destinations in Asia for family

You should start your visit by visiting the Great Wall of China first. I chose to visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall with my toddler. It is the most well-preserved section, has a lot of guard towers which are great for the kids to explore and there is a giant toboggan slide on the way down.

My son enjoyed riding the cable car to the top and walking atop the Great Wall. He befriended quite a few cats and dogs along the way and our entourage aroused a lot of interest and amusement among other visitors.

He also liked the Nine Dragon Wall and jade dragon motifs at the Forbidden City, the bright red Chinese lanterns lighting up the city, and the Beijing rickshaws. He enjoyed walking about Tiananmen Square and was excited throughout our visit.

Contributed by Ketki Sharangpani| Follow her on Dotted Globe and Facebook


China: Shanghai

China may not be what leaps to mind when you are thinking of a family-friendly destination in Asia, but Shanghai is great for those travelling with kids. Despite it being one of the most populated cities in the world, Shanghai is surprisingly easy to navigate by subway, and taxis are cheap and readily available (always have your destination written down in Chinese to show the driver!). 

Family holiday destinations in asia, best holiday destinations in Asia for family

As Shanghai is a huge city, there are hundreds of family-friendly hotels. Hotel chains like Holiday Inn, Ibis and Mercure are popular with families, and there is also more local accommodation. You could even use Airbnb to find a great value apartment for you and your family!

When it comes to eating, Shanghai has the best selection of western restaurants in China. The French Concession, which is a great spot to learn about the history of Shanghai’s multiculturalism, is home to plenty of European-esque cafes and bars. If you’re after something for dinner and your kids are reluctant to try Chinese food, there are all sorts of Western restaurants, from Italian eateries to American-style diners. 

Of course, you didn’t come to Shanghai just to sleep and eat, did you? There are so many attractions in this amazing city, most of which are great for kids.

The futuristic Bund will inspire and amaze people of any ages (make sure you see it by day and night!) and the Yu Garden is pretty enough to keep even young kids entertained during a visit. 

Shanghai’s temples – Longhua and Jade Buddha are the most famous – aren’t too big, so the architecture is enough to impress little ones for a while. Kids will love the feel of Nanjing Road, which is reminiscent to New York’s Times Square. The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel takes you underneath the water, which many children will find cool, and if they’re not scared of heights they’ll enjoy soaring to the viewpoints of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. 

And when you’re after just a kiddies day, why not treat them and take them to Shanghai Disneyland? There’s no better way to round off your Shanghai trip with kids!

Read more: What to pack for China

Contributed by Claire Martin| Follow her on Claire’s Footsteps and Twitter


India: Kerala

Look out of the airplane window, all you see is a green patch of land. No whites, no browns, no blues, just palm-shaded greens. India being such a diverse country has lots to offer but Kerala has something for everyone. The god’s own country is flanked by Arabian Sea on the west and Western Ghats on the east making it home to a variety of natural sights.

Family holiday destinations in asia, best holiday destinations in Asia for family

The best way to soak in the beauty of Kerala with your family is by visiting the 3 most beautiful and popular places namely Munnar, Alleppey and Thekkady. These 3 destinations provide different experiences altogether.

Alleppey, also known as the ‘Venice of the East‘, is an ideal destination to experience the Great Backwaters. Go for a one-night houseboat cruise in the most unique water stretch on earth. The cruise takes you through Vembanad lake and the picturesque village of Kuttanad. Alleppey is an idyllic destination for a backwater cruise in India.

Then, head to Munnar to witness nature in its pristine self. Munnar is a captivating hill-station that offers fantastic options for a good holiday with friends and family. The hills of Munnar bathe in never-ending expanse of tea-plantations providing unadulterated beauty. Almost every resort here offers free tea-plantations tours.

The green city is also abode to majestic waterfalls and the highest peak of South India – the Anamudi Peak. Breathe the crisp clean air and enjoy the panoramic views of the hills.

Thekkady – only 100 km from Munnar – is a perfect place for the ones fond of wildlife. It is a small town known for the famous Periyar National Park and traditional Kathakali dance. Spend some time feeding the elephants and spot tons of other species including tigers. Explore the cardamom hills or boat your way through the lake at Periyar! End your evening by watching the spectacular Kathakali and Kalaripayattu performances at famous dance centers in Thekkady.

Kerala has something to offer for every generation which makes it an excellent destination for families.

Contributed by Neha Parti | Follow her on Trippindian and Instagram


India: Rajasthan

Rajasthan represents India in a beautiful way: with all its colour, great hospitality, local cuisine and stunning forts at display. It a lovely destination for couples, but offers a great deal for a family vacation as well.

For a first time visit to Rajasthan, my recommendation would be to go to any of its big 4 cities – Jodhpur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer or Jaipur – depending on the time you have. Barring Jaisalmer, all the cities are well connected by air. And if you have been to the top cities already, there are many smaller ones to explore – Bikaner, Chittorgarh, Bundi, Mandawa to name a few.

Family holiday destinations in asia, best holiday destinations in Asia for family

For the culturally inclined, Rajasthan has more stunning forts and palaces than any other state in India. Kids will have a great time exploring these majestic forts / palaces while you take in the stunning architecture and exhibits at display.

Most of the big hotels also organise a traditional Rajasthani dance and music show that is quite enjoyable. If you are a wildlife enthusiast, you should pencil in a trip to Ranthambore national park for the tigers. And a night stay in the Thar desert sleeping under a thousand stars is a great option for the entire family. 

The top cities offer a wide range of accommodation options from uber-luxury to budget. Try the local Rajasthani cuisine on your trip for sure. Your hotel or restaurant will tone down the spice level at your request. The big cities also have enough options for north Indian and international cuisines, when you are looking for a change.

Hospitable people, the range of accommodation options, good road, rail and air connectivity all go a long way in making this a hot spot for tourism in India.

Contributed by Shweta Singhal| Follow me on Zest In A Tote and Instagram


Japan: Kyoto

When you are in Japan, the obvious destinations to be visited are Tokyo, Hiroshima, Osaka and my favourite, Kyoto. Kyoto is a city that actually takes you back in the ancient era of Japan and lets you enjoy the local life more than any other part of the country. It is a city which has preserved its historical structures.

Kyoto was the imperial capital of Japan and also served as an emperor’s residence for more than 1000 years. The city was destroyed by many wars for centuries but got dropped from the list of atomic bombings because of its historical importance. You get to see a lot of temples, shrines and other ancient structures in the city today.

Family holiday destinations in asia, best holiday destinations in Asia for family

Kyoto is a great destination to travel with children of any age for cultural immersion. Apart from temples and shrines, Kyoto houses attractions like Kyoto City Zoo, Kyoto Railway Museum, Kyoto Imperial Palace Park, Kamogawa Riverside and Kyoto Botanical Gardens.

The best time to visit Kyoto is during Cherry Blossom period, when children and parents can go on a picnic in garden full of cherry blossom trees like the locals.

Also, if you are ready to travel to surrounding places, you can reach Nara – a 45-minute drive – for its famous Deer Park, where you see hundreds of deer roaming freely. Osaka is an hour drive where you can visit the Universal Studios of Osaka.

This is one city where you can enjoy wearing a kimono – the traditional dress of Japan. Kimonos are available for all age groups and for both male and female. The best place to do so is Kiyomizudera – The Pure Water Temple. Yet another attraction the city holds is sighting the Geiko and Maiko – the famous Japanese artists who perform in Japanese tea houses especially in the area called as Gion district. Other major attractions include Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Nijo Castle, Golden Pavilion.

Contributed by Mitali Deshmukh | Follow her on Mitali’s Travel Diary and Instagram


Japan: Tokyo

When it comes to destinations that children will love and remember just as much as their parents, Japan takes home the medal, in my opinion. The country as a whole is one of the friendliest places we’ve ever visited. The people are welcoming, polite, and helpful, which is greatly appreciated when you are dealing with the stresses of traveling with children.

Of all the cities in Japan, Tokyo is perhaps my favorite to visit with kids. Children will love the neon lights and bright colors in districts like Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Akihabara.

But beyond the general aesthetics and excitement of the city, Tokyo also offers a wide array of activities that specifically cater to families. From theme parks to fun restaurants like the Hello Kitty-themed Cafe de Miki. Tokyo, at times, feels like it was designed for childhood amusement. Disney lovers will enjoy exploring DisneySea, the only aquatic-themed Disney park in the world.

Family holiday destinations in asia, best holiday destinations in Asia for family

If your child is more into video games and comic books than Disney princesses, head to Tokyo’s Akihabara district instead. You’ll find 4-story arcades, an array of comic book and anime shops, and numerous animal cafes suitable for older children and teens.

Finally, if you’re looking for a more educational experience for your children, the numerous temples and shrines in Japan offer a fascinating, interactive learning experience. The most popular temple in Tokyo is the Sensoji Temple located in the Asakusa District. Kids can receive a fortune and learn about Buddhist rituals by actually participating in some. It is a memorable, hands-on way for children to engage with and appreciate the culture and customs of the country.

Contributed by Melissa Smuzynski | Follow her on Parenthood and Passports and on Instagram


Laos

When people think of Asia there are a few countries that instantly come to mind. Laos isn’t typically one of them! Of the 13 Asian countries I’ve visited (12 with kids), Laos tops the list as being the most family-friendly. For a long time, travelers thought about Laos as a place to party while floating down the river in Vang Vieng, but Laos is so much more.

The people are incredibly friendly and adore kids. And, unlike many of its neighbouring countries, they aren’t fast to pull out a cell phone and snap a selfie. The kids are able to relax and enjoy the attention of the friendly locals without being constantly bombarded by eager photographers.

Family holiday destinations in asia, best holiday destinations in Asia for family

Traffic in Laos is significantly less hectic than that of Thailand and Vietnam, and there are even sidewalks! I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when traveling as a family, sidewalks are important.

The streets of Luang Prabang are peaceful and beautiful, with stunning colonial architecture. Sidewalks allow parents to relax enough while walking to actually enjoy the scenery!

Laos has an incredible amount of variety. From busy Vientiene, to sleepy Luang Prabang, the 2 main cities are vastly different and offer a multitude of options to all types of travelers. Luang Prabang has some great playgrounds, as well as family-friendly cooking or craft classes for hands-on activities.

Or, if you’re a nature lover, head to Nong Khiaw. It’s a beautiful little town beside the river, nestled in the mountains, where you can hike or kayak along the river to explore the countryside from the water.

If you want to introduce your kids to the local way of life, you can spend a night in a minority village. There are plenty of options around the country, many of which are sustainably managed. Tourists can spend a night or two in a local house. There’s no better way to experience village life than to live it and no better lesson for kids than to learn that people can be happy with significantly less than what we’re used to at home.

Whatever type of vacation you’re looking for, Laos has it all. I was pleasantly surprised by this under-rated country, and I know you will be too!

Read more: Things to do in Luang Prabang with kids

Contributed by Kyla Hunter| Follow her on Where is The World and Instagram


Malaysia

Malaysia has an endless amount of things to do. In particular when it comes to family friendly things to do. My brothers live in Bali, a place some people may consider paradise, but they still ask to come to Malaysia on holiday!

In the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, there are a variety of educational and fun activities. Kidzania is a place where kids can pretend to be in the real world, getting their license or becoming a pilot. Petrosains is where the family can learn about dinosaurs, fossil fuels and other scientific activities. Sunway Lagoon is a theme park filled with so many rides and things to do, that one day might not be enough! 

If the city is not your thing, fear not! There’s something to do as a family in almost every state. Legoland in Johor boasts a large number of lego oriented rides, including my nephew’s favourite: Ninjago! The Lost World of Tambun in Ipoh is a great place for parents to relax in some natural hot springs whilst the kids play in the water park next door.

Family holiday destinations in asia, best holiday destinations in Asia for familyCameron Highlands in Pahang is somewhere for the whole family to relax and immerse themselves in nature. Visiting tea plantations and picking strawberries are just some of the things to do and views can rival the rice fields in Bali. Of course, there are natural attractions here too.

The beaches of Malaysia are some of the most beautiful in the world. Everybody loves the beach, and one can be found in every single direction. My favourite? Perhentian!

Contributed by Nadia Crowe| Follow her on Nomadic Nerd and Instagram


Singapore

Growing up in Kuala Lumpur, we went to Singapore almost every year for our family vacation. Back then Singapore wasn’t quite the powerhouse it is now and we enjoyed weekends filled with shopping and food with the occasional visit to Sentosa.

As the years have gone by, Singapore has upped the ante and my, what a family-friendly destination it is now in Southeast Asia.  And I love the fact that now that I am a parent, I’m able to take my daughter to Singapore for our family travels from Australia. 

We love Singapore for numerous reasons. Although Singapore’s national language is Mandarin, everyone speaks English. It’s a small island country so it is easy to navigate. It is one of the cleanest countries not only in Asia but in the world (chewing gum is prohibited in in Singapore). It has a plethora of family-friendly activities and attractions.

Family holiday destinations in asia, best holiday destinations in Asia for family

No trip to Singapore would be complete without a visit to Sentosa Island. It has revamped itself into an entertainment hub and now houses Universal Studios, Trick Eye museum, one of the wold’s largest oceanarium, and the super fun Luge. There is also the Night Safari, the world’s first nocturnal zoo and Gardens by the Bay which houses about 1 million plants and has the amazing night sound-and-light-show at the Supertree Groves.

Singapore is one of those destinations you can visit as a family regardless of the age of the children as there truly is something for everyone. Particularly useful if you have kids of varying ages. The food scene in Singapore is worth the mention as you hunt down the best chicken rice balls or head to the East Coast for the some of the freshest seafood in Asia. For the shopper in your tweens and teens, there certainly isn’t a shortage of shopping malls or the edgier indie boutiques on Haji Lane.

If you’re looking for a gentle introduction into a Southeast Asian country, Singapore would be your best bet.

Without too much of a culture shock yet enough to satiate your curiosity, it’s a fantastic family getaway.

Contributed by Amy Chung| Follow her on Family Globetrotters and Instagram


South Korea

Korean culture emphasizes the importance of family and community, which is a huge blessing when traveling to Seoul. We were fortunate to move to South Korea when my daughter was just 2 months old, and I was immediately blown away by the hospitality and love shown to my child.

It is not unusual in South Korea for female owners or employees of restaurants to come and play with your baby or toddler, so that the parents can enjoy their meal in peace. So don’t be alarmed if you’re out eating and a strange Korean woman comes over to carry your baby around.

The Korean love for children is everywhere. Kid cafes, which are extremely inexpensive, indoor play places for all ages, line the streets. Usually multi-level, kid cafes typically provide the child with a juice or snack, and coffee and Wifi for mom and dad, while children can play and learn for hours on end. 

Family holiday destinations in asia, best holiday destinations in Asia for family

Seoul is also home to the famous Trick Eye Museum, where families can have fun photographing each other in front of hundreds of optical illusion art pieces. If you’re looking for outdoor activities, Seoul offers a wide variety of options, from zoos to outdoor festivals and amusement parks. There is the Korean village which provides a fun look at traditional Korean history. This includes mazes, entertaining shows, demonstrations and models from throughout history, and rides and attractions even the littlest travelers can enjoy.

Seoul offers a unique contrast that is hard to find anywhere else. Amid some of the most advanced technology this world has seen, families can explore ancient temples and historic villages that have survived for thousands of years. It allows parents and children to get the best of both worlds. Families can go from walking through one of the fastest-growing and progressive cities, to hiking up a mountain or ziplining through the forest all in one day.

Beach-loving families are never far from the coast, while others may opt to cruise down the Han River or splash in the splash-pad alongside it. Seoul’s uniqueness, endless list of things to do, history, and amazing love for family and community make it a top family-friendly destination in Asia.

Contributed by Christina Ropp|Follow her on Littles, Life and Laughter and Instagram


Thailand: Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai in Thailand is the perfect, family-friendly city in Asia. Having spent 2 months there, we feel it is a great destination for families with kids of all ages.

ChiangMaiThe city itself has so much to do. You can do your usual big city activities like going to the cinema, bowling, rollerskating. And then there is so much culture hopping to try! Chiang Mai has hundreds of temples to visit. The most famous – Doi Suthep – is on top of a mountain and is well worth the hike up the many steps to get to the top.

The wildlife is also incredible. Try visiting an ethical elephant sanctuary while you’re there.

Although they are located a couple of hours outside of the city it is worth a visit to see the beautiful elephants up close. (Please do look for ethical sanctuaries. Anywhere where you can ride an elephant is NOT recommended). We also visited the Siam Insect Zoo and had a great time looking at and holding the exotic creepy crawlies.

Food in Chiang Mai is delicious and affordable. If your kids aren’t keen on spicy food then it’s easy to find milder dishes or western restaurants. I recommend families to try mango sticky rice – it is the best I’ve had in the world! The mangos in Thailand are so sweet.

Overall Chiang Mai is a friendly, affordable and beautiful city to visit. Get your bags packed!

Contributed by Suewan Kemp|Follow her on RTW Families and Instagram


Thailand: Koh Samui

Of all the places to visit in Thailand with family, Koh Samui is right at the top of our list. We enjoyed an amazing family holiday there back in 2016. We’ve spoken with many friends and fellow travellers, all of whom have shared the same positive feedback about the island being one of the best holiday destinations in Asia for family.

As Thailand’s second largest island, with a well established tourism industry, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for here.

Whether it’s lush rainforest, beautiful sandy beaches, temples or a dash of traditional Thai culture, you’ll find the perfect spot on Koh Samui.

Those seeking rest and relaxation can explore some of the many luxurious spas. If you’re after a more active break, why not take a 4×4 tour of the island’s highlights or enjoy a boat trip to nearby Ang Thong Marine Park. The snorkelling here is fantastic and taking the speed boat across the bay can be an adventure in itself! As always in South East Asia, or anywhere really, be sure to use a reputable tour agency which keeps its boats well-maintained.

KohSamuiWith a thriving tourist scene, options for food and accommodation abound – great for families who might be trying to cater to various tastes. For traditional Thai street food you can’t go wrong at the Bophut Fisherman’s market, which every Friday transforms into a hub of food stands and market stalls. It is busy, so be prepared if taking young children, but it’s a great place for all the family to sample the local delicacies. If food to cater to western tastes is required, most if not all restaurants offer plentiful options at reasonable prices.

The variety of accommodation in Koh Samui is also not to be sniffed at – families can enjoy a peaceful retreat in a private villa or choose to enjoy a livelier atmosphere at a hotel or resort. There really is something for everyone, and in spite of its status as a tourist hot spot, it’s not too tricky to find places that are more off-the-beaten path.

Contributed by Sarah Edwards |Follow her on Not Another Travel Blog and Instagram

 

Also, read – Best Family Holidays in Europe for a spring/summer break


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Author: Shweta Singhal

Hi! I am Shweta, the zest behind this blog . I play several roles – parent to a 6-year old, adventure enthusiast, travel blogger, generally open to trying out new things in life. Besides travel, I love books and theatre and art. I would love to hear from you; do drop a comment. Join me on Instagram / Twitter @zestinatote.

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