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The original world nomad "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." - Confucius.

Tips for travelling with children

VIETNAM | Monday, 6 February 2006 | Views [16128] | Comments [17]

Sigh. Now we are back home.

Apart from Bali and various round-the-world trips to see family, this was the first time we have travelled extensively as a family. We are a family of four with two children aged 1 and 3. We were quite disappointed with the Lonely Planet book on travel with children: it seemed to be a collection of 'look we did it, isn't that great' stories and anecdotes rather than any particularly helpful advice on what works, what doesn't and why. Maybe everyone has such a different perspective that this isn't possible, but, for what it's worth, here are our tips and lessons learned:


We were surprised at just how resilient our children could be. Even on the difficult travel days that left us exhausted, we didn't have any whinges or tantrums. They seemed to love the whole experience of travel, with all its boats, planes, tuk-tuks, jumbo's taxi's , buses, smells, languages and people. Nothing seemed too hard for them and they seemed quite disappointed to be home and back to normality. We met almost no foreign families on-the-road in Vietnam, but heaps in Laos, particularly in the 2 - 5 year age bracket, which is probably a result of a country with almost no traffic. Having said that, we also met a few people in Laos with very young babies ... which we didn't (don't) believe is a very good idea as they are definitely more vulnerable.

book ahead

For most of the trip we used the net and email to find accommodation and book ahead, even if this was just 24hrs ahead. The few times we didn't, it all works out as it inevitably does, but it is difficult to scour a place for somewhere to stay with two young kids in tow!

get the largest room you can

We found it was well worth the extra expense to get the largest room available, preferably a suite of two rooms. A bathroom ensuite was, in our view, and essential with two young kids. When you have just arrived and are getting sorted, the ability to have the kids look after themselves without getting in the way for half an hour was a godsend.

take a changing mat

When you gotta go you gotta go. Funny how adept you get at changing nappies in the park, on the bus seats, in restaurants, on the beach and everywhere else with no privacy. Changing rooms? Public toilets? Not a chance.

antiseptic hand wipes

We took small packs of Detol antiseptic handwipes. These aren't your common variety but are specifically antiseptic. Priceless when you have kids playing with other kids in the river or in the dust getting absolutely filthy ... and then the food arrives. Hard to get once you are away from home so use sparingly. We took two packets and could have done with three, for the 4 weeks we were away.

Sun protection

We found a small collapsable umbrella invaluable, especially in Asia. Apart from hats and sunscreen, it provides easy protection for a baby in a backpack on a bus or when a baby needs a nap (everywhere and anywhere).

talking about 'home'

We found very early that 'home' simply became wherever we were staying that night, so there was never (ever) "Dad, I want to go home", which is pretty amazing when you think about it. We just said, "Let's go home now" and went back to the guesthouse or hotel.


We took a small bag of trainset components. We found this highly useful because, apart from a familiar and comfortable connection with his home world, the boys had to construct the thing anew each and every day and had hours and hours of fun with it. Which is really useful when you want a day off and are getting hotel staff to look after your kids.

how to remain mobile

We took two strollers and a baby backpack and found both essential at different times, even if they are a bit bulky to travel with. We found in some places both kids used the strollers but in others, strollers are nigh impossible (Old quarter of Hanoi, hiking up to temples) so then our 3 year old had to walk and out came the baby backpack. Couldn't have travelled as well without either. Having said that, our 1 year old is already walking quite well, so this is probably the last time we'll take the baby backpack.

take a good first aid kit (& travel insurance of course)

Food allergies. Cuts. Burns. And all the other stuff that might have happened! The bottom 25% of one rucksac was our medical kit. Priceless. And travel insurance. The weird thing about travel insurance are all the situations you get into that you can't possibly think of in advance and have never thought of until they happen. In our case, apart from the minor bill from the hospital for our younger son's burn't hand, we might have been well and truly stuffed if we couldn't have then taken our flights to Vietnam or got home quickly. It would have cost us thousands. As it turns out we didn't need to, but the point is you don't even imagine such a situation until it happens.

Tags: adventures, cyclo, family, hoi an, memories, transport, travel with children




Greetings to the whole family from the Czech Republic!

I really appreciated your Tips for travelling with children! Thanks for that!

I'd like to ask a question, though, which I hope you might have an answer to.

In two weeks we are going with our 9 month old son to Australia. I am desperate for some information on how to try to prevent him to get in contact with their on-flight and arrival disinsection spraying. I got to the proper research only now and what I have found scares me:(. I thought during your travel through some countries you may have gotten into similar situation and you also seem thoughtful enough to bother about this.

I will really really appreciate any info.

Best luck to your family on and off the road:).

Best regards, Zuzana

  Zuzana Jul 21, 2006 9:18 PM


Hi there,

Thank you for your helpful hints on travelling with young ones. We are a family of six, 4 kids between the ages of 13 and 2. We are planning on travelling to Luang Prabang and Siem Reap during the rainy season next year. I was curious if you had given your children any anti malarial medications while travelling. If so, which one and how did you manage to get the little guys to ingest it? Thanks in advance. Joe

  Joe Fiorante Aug 11, 2006 5:25 AM


should we book accom and tours and accom ahead or book when there.should we travel by train again book befor or when there

  katie Sep 5, 2006 3:27 PM


Hi Katie,
we found that booking accommodation in advance with young kids in tow wasn't absolutely essential but certainly made the whole experience less stressful! Everything else we booked once we got there. All the hotels and guest houses are so well organised these days, booking tours, trains and buses is a breeze.

Where are you going?

  simon_monk Sep 5, 2006 8:57 PM



I have found your tips very interesting an valuable. We are thinking in traveling to Vietnam with our 6 and a half year old son and 15 month (in Jan) daughter this coming January 2007. We are afraid that the weather will be too hot for our daughter and especially that she will still nap twice a day, how can we go anywhere?
I am curious to know if your 1 year old napped and if so, was is on the stroller? and how about the food? We are also afraid that my 15 month will have a stomach ache since the hygiene is different in this country.

Thanks in advance and we would greatly appreciate any comments or links

Thank you,

  Leanh Ngo Sep 8, 2006 2:15 PM


we live in Sydney so the weather, while hot, wasn't too far off the mark and January is the coolest time of the year (we have watched the temperatures there over the summer ... 44 degrees ... and that would be pretty unbearable in say Hanoi.)

Trying to remember back, I don't think we found the napping an issue. Our youngest has so much energy and seemed to find everything so wonderful ... he got pretty crabby towards the end of each day but tended to sleep on the way back from places late afternoon. We found it easiest to base ourselves somewhere and then use that to head out on day trips, but we did take strollers and they are great outside the cities.

Food? No trouble Vietnam is pretty clean and our two love noodles and rice and spring rolls. Just make sure they only drink bottled water. A couple of other food tips: take plenty of wet clothes so you can wipe grubby hands and several packets of anti-bacterial hand wipes are priceless!

Otherwise, have fun. It was a hoot!

  simon_monk Sep 8, 2006 2:25 PM


My husband and I are traveling to Lima, Peru in october with our 1 year old and we're really concerned with the car seat situation, I mean if we are in and out of taxis, how do we cart around a huge car seat all over town. We want to keep our kid safe but our trip enjoyable. How have you handled the car seat dilemma overseas?

  Alessandra Sep 26, 2007 2:28 PM


Hi, Your blog was very refreshing! I've done a fair bit of travelling and have come across couples travelling with their young kids and am about to do it myself! Our Son will be 6 months old when we plan to go and we're gonna head to Peru. We're not gonna go too far off the beaten track Lima, Cusco, Machu Pichu etc. Have you got any practical tips which may be useful? I think i've pretty much thought of most things but ya never know :o)

  Mick Wood Sep 20, 2008 6:23 AM


Hi Mick,
Good luck! Apart from what I wrote here, I'd just highlight antiseptic hand-wipes and a whole backpack full of nappies!

I don't think I have actually written a piece on this yet, but one of the things I have only come to realise in the last year or two (my sons are now 4 and 6 years old) is that starting travelling young and travelling regularly is the best advice I could give.

Apart from the fact that they have seen and done so much, and have surprised us with both their resilience and perception, it gets a whole lot easier as they are as clued up about the adventure as they get older.

Recently we turned up in Bali close to midnight after a six hour flight and there was a chaotic queue at immigration that took another 2 hours ... our two didn't like it much but didn't complain and took it in their stride by just curling up on the floor with everyone else.

Keep me posted on your adventures ... better still, start a World Nomads travel journal and point me to it so I can stay uptodate.

  simon_monk Sep 21, 2008 10:04 PM


Came across your comments as part of my never-ending research and preparations for taking our seven/eight month old baby to Laos and Cambodia. We are going for about two and a half weeks, and are only going to Vientiane, Louang Phabang and Siem Reap. I am really debating whether to take a stroller or not. At home in Australia, I carry our baby in a front sling a lot, and occassionally use a pram. I thought we could just use a sling the whole time we are away, as I imagined the streets would be crowded/narrow/uneven surfaces/difficult to naviagate with a stroller. Are there particular times when you thought a stroller was a must? Our baby won't sleep in a pram anyway, so not much help for us there.

Thanks for any advice!


  Lisa Oct 11, 2008 2:26 PM


Hi Lisa,
yes, I'd definitely take a stroller, but take the lightest one you can find. IF you never use it then not much wasted but we found that they have always been useful even for strolling around quiet streets. The roads and footpaths in Asia are pretty rough and you've got to be pretty gung-ho, so we've busted / mended / busted three or four strollers over the years, but have always taken them up until recently when the boys are aged about five.

* Luang Prabang has almost no traffic which makes them perfect.
* Vientiane has wide footpaths and its again useful.
*Even Siem Reap, by which you mainly mean Angkor Wat ... useful in and around the temple ruins.

Let me know how you go.

Have a great time. Wonderful places.


  simon_monk Oct 12, 2008 9:01 PM


I'm so glad I found this website! We are heading to Malaysia (KL) and Vietnam (Hanoi) at the end of the year with our 15 month old son and I have been a bit worried as to how it is going to turn out. But, after reading all the comments I already feel a bit more at ease knowing that people travel with young children all the time without too many mishaps. We were planning on just taking a baby carrier and not worry about a stroller but do you think it is worth it even for Hanoi? Also another question, I am a bit worried about the flight over there, do you have any advice on how to keep young ones happy on long flights?

  Karen Nov 8, 2009 7:17 AM


I'd probably pack the lightest, smallest stroller you can manage: if you don't take one you'll need it and if you do you probably won't use it as much as you'd liked! But we took ones bought specifically for travel so we could easily throw them away if they became useless.

Probably a backpack is fine for most of the time. We had one in a backpack and one in a stroller. Hanoi is not only dense and busy but now has far too many motorcycles for it's own good and at times the clouds of noxious fumes are quite horrible to negotiate so I'd also take a face mask for your son.

We found that once outside of Hanoi in the smaller towns it was actually a bit easier, particularly Hoi An, parts of which are pedestrian only and far more relaxing.

We have usually been very fortunate with flights and our two are quite adept at long-haul even when they have been on the go for 40 odd hours. The one hellish trip was returning from Bali once when our youngest couldn't equalise his ears and screamed solid for about 5 hours!

Other than that: we have usually taken a bottle of Phenergan with us, which could always be used to subdue a fraught young one, although the reason we take it is because our youngest is allergic to a few things and it can thus be used as an emergency response to some reactions.

Hope this helps.


  simon_monk Nov 8, 2009 1:29 PM


Thanks for the info you posted. We're heading off to Vietnam for a few weeks.....did your youngest had to get get injections before heading out? and with mozzies....did you use insect repellant on him?


  Mai Jan 5, 2010 10:12 AM


Thank you for your helpful hints on traveling with young ones. We are a family of four, 2 kids between the ages of 9 and 4. We are planning on traveling to Australia and Malaysia and we carrying Strollers too during the rainy season next year. I was curious if you had given your children any anti malarial medications while traveling?

  Ethan Apr 21, 2010 3:40 PM


You should treat Malaria very seriously, particularly in Asia. The anti-malarial pills are OK if your trip is a short one, but I wouldn't take them for more than a month or so: on a year long trip we found they gave headaches and made our hair drop out after a few months! And no, I definitely wouldn't give them to my children, certainly not at a young age. There are some other pills you can get on prescription which you can take IF you actually contract it, which gives you time to get back to some proper medical care, but I forget their name. Family health when travelling is a tricky one.

  simon_monk Apr 21, 2010 11:28 PM


I'd probably pack the lightest, smallest Stroller you can manage: if you don't take one you'll need it and if you do you probably won't use it as much as you'd liked! But we took ones bought specifically for travel so we could easily throw them away if they became useless.

  Jason May 22, 2010 4:45 PM

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