Southeast Asia can be a wonderful place to travel with children. Children are the focus of life for most people, and they're warmly welcomed in restaurants and other public places.
Dedicated children's menus are rarely available, but most countries offer simple dishes such as fried rice and grilled chicken that will appeal to less adventurous palates. Kids will also love Southeast Asia's abundant and varied tropical fruit.
Challenges include health concerns (particularly due to hygiene and mosquito bites), difficulties with public transport (long journeys and no safety features for children), and the climate, which can sap energy from younger travellers. It pays to be conservative about how much ground you can cover, and to stick close to water – the sea, hotel swimming pools or waterfalls – to give children somewhere to cool down. Bring plenty of sunscreen and mosquito repellent and put children to sleep under a mosquito net.
Thailand is far and away the most child-friendly destination in Southeast Asia, but Malaysia, Indonesia (particularly Bali) and the Philippines also have good family-friendly beach options. Cities tend to be less child-friendly, in part because of the high levels of atmospheric pollution. Be wary of travelling with children at times when forest fires are blowing smog across the region.
Be sure to investigate the health considerations for children, including any required immunisations. For more tips, see Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
- Child seats are rarely available locally, so bring one from home.
- Hotels can usually provide an extra bed, but cots for infants are harder to find. Consider bringing a travel 'pod' infant bed with an integrated mosquito screen.
- Restaurants rarely have high chairs or children's menus, except in major cities.
- As well as simple local dishes such as fried rice, Western-style fast food is easy to find in cities and tourist areas.
- Disposable nappies are easy to find, but nappy-changing facilities are limited; however, no one will bat an eyelid if you do a change in public.
- Sunscreen and mosquito repellent are easy to find. Carry an antiseptic cream and antihistamine cream to stop itching and prevent mosquito bites from becoming infected.