During the first 9 years of our marriage when we were childless, we travelled far and wide.
Back then, we were undergoing assisted fertility treatments and made a simple ‘promise’ to ourselves that if we were ever blessed with kids, we would bring them everywhere we travel.
Now that the wish is fulfilled, we have brought both our kids to more than 13 countries. We would be first to admit that travelling with kids is tough but yet, we will not stop doing so. We are often asked, “How do you guys manage it? How do you engage your kids when your trips involve visiting monuments, parks, castles and cathedrals?? You make it look so simple to travel with kids, any tips?”
We sum up how we build a meaningful holiday for our kids in 5 ways:
1. Go Green:
Environmental conservation messages are loud and gaining traction. Even Buddy’s learns about deforestation and the ill effects of trash in the ocean from his preschool. What better way to sensitize our kids to the urgency of environmental conservation than to have them see, touch and feel the rich heritage of our earth for themselves during oversea travels.
We incorporate nature elements in our itinerary such as walking among the hundred-year-old cedar trees in Hakone, Japan, riding snow huskies in the Lapland (in -25C), walking behind the mighty Niagara Falls in Canada, touching ice-bergs in Iceland and most recently, snorkeling in the Indian Ocean in Maldives. We are heartened that after our Maldives trip, our kids have become very conscious about reducing single-use plastics and not killing sharks for sharks fins as they want to preserve the beautiful marine creatures. Do not belittle the impact of these outdoor immersion.
We also try to include at least 1 outdoor activity per day which appeals to the kids’ sense of adventure and adrenalin such as cycling, skiing, horse-riding, flying trapeze, paddle-boating or roller-coastering in theme parks. The temptation to be glued to our smart devices is strong as it is. So we make use of holidays to get the kids to enjoy what the great outdoors have to offer.
2. Go Read:
We get the kids interested in the trip by loaning library books for them to read about the places we will be visiting. Whether it is Angkor Wat, Cambodia or Hamlet’s Castle in Denmark or even New York’s Statue of Liberty in USA, we would read, and watch documentaries on these places of interests before we travel.
We loaned an abridged version of the Shakespeare’s Hamlet from the library for Dana to read before our Copenhagen trip and she was thrilled to see the play being performed LIVE at the Castle. Because she knew the plot, she was able to interact with the cast intelligibly. That encounter became one of the highlights of our Scandinavian trip for her.
For Buddy, we browse picture books on the interesting wildlife he will see at each different country we visit. That usually makes him excited as he’s such an animal lover. There are tons of good books available in our local libraries. Reading is such a fantastic way to get young kids psyched about travelling.
3. Go Speak:
Nothing bridges cultural gaps better than language. Travelling is an excellent way to get kids interested in a foreign language even if it means using simple greetings and functional words. The kids’ faces light up when they greet a local in their local native tongue and the local responds. What joy!
Dana and Buddy enjoy using this interactive website by Lonely Planet Kids to learn simple phrases (Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin): https://www.lonelyplanet.com/kids/first-words
4. Go Mingle:
The only form of shopping David allows on our travels is shopping at local craft markets. So I will always include them in our itinerary. E.g. Night markets in Taipei, Taiwan (street food heaven!), Chatuchak in Bangkok, Thailand or the Christmas Market in Tallinn Estonia.
We love to mingle with the locals, and engage local guides in different parts of the world to show us their country through their eyes. Walking and mingling with the locals bring out the character of the places. We love to hear their stories, try their food and listen to the history of the places we visit. Through these cosy interactions, our kids get to appreciate how intricately connected we are to this globalised world.
5. Go Plan:
With Dana more internet savvy and opinionated about her preferences, I try to involve her more in our holiday planning. For our upcoming year end trip, I’ve decided to enlist her help to plan part of our itinerary to Japan. She was stoked and started browsing ‘Klook’ for day tours and attractions for the family.
She likes it that Klook is very user-friendly and she can find many tour options easily to build a holiday that meets the needs of each family member. Here are what she has chosen:
Dana’s Pick For Buddy
[Limited Offer: Discounted Package] Legoland® Japan 1 Day Pass
Knowing that her little brother loves lego and sea animals, she picked this Legoland + Sea Life Nagoya Combo Day Pass (2 Adults and 2 Kids) from Klook’s website. This 1 Day Pass, purchased via Klook, is at a special promotional discount of 27% off, and comes with instant confirmation. It allow us to:
- Enjoy a priority lane which makes our waiting time shorter when redeeming our ticket booked through Klook!
- Experience over 40 attractions including plenty of rides, shows, and interactive experiences in Legoland® Japan!
- Explore the parks themed zones such as Knight’s Kingdom, Pirate Shores, Miniland, and build our own Lego creatures at the world’s first Bricktopia!
Dana’s Pick for Daddy & Mommy
A Day in Shirakawa Village and Takayama
Knowing that her Dad is a history and heritage buff and Mommy has always dreamt of visiting this UNESCO village, Dana included “A Day in Shirakawa Village and Takayama”. I’ve read that getting to Shirakawago via public transport can be very troublesome with kids as it involves multiple changes of trains and buses. So for convenience, this tour is a wise choice. It will bring us to:
- Visit Shirakawa Village, a UNESCO world heritage site, to see the snow capped traditional houses
- Explore Takayama, a beautifully preserved old town in the mountainous Hida region
- Savour a delicious buffet of over 40 dishes for lunch
Dana’s Pick for herself
Hedgehog Home and Café in Shibuya (ちくちくCAFÉ) – Cute Hedgehog Experience
Dana has heard from her classmates about this Hedgehog cafe so she was excited to include this into our itinerary!
- Feel the excitement to pet hedgehogs of all sizes
- Fall in love at the sight of the themed doll houses, home to over 30 friendly hedgies for us to feed and hold
- Drink our fill of coffee, tea, green tea, and oolong tea for free
Klook is launching many 1 for 1 promos and bundle-deals each week. It’s still not too late to follow their FB and IG accounts to get the best dibs for building your own holidays for kids! P.S. I’ve bought the JR Passes for this trip during Klook Travel Fest and saved couple of hundreds. If you’re travelling DIY like we do, don’t miss this opportunity to stretch your dollars.
Hi… it’s so fascinating to read your article. I’ve 2 school-going children myself. And it used to be difficult to engage them on some of our travels. I’m thinking of Japan but I know it’s kinda late now. Could you give me advice on when the best time to book airfares n accommodation for year-end travel in Japan? If I want to travel from Tokyo to Hokkaido, what is the best transport? I want to stop at the cat island n is there a fox village? So many questions. Appreciate your tips n advices. Have a safe n enjoyable trip.