Southeast Asia is an amazing, unique and sometimes surprising place. It is an area of the world that guarantees a very memorable family trip. To make the most of your family vacation, there are some important things to know and to plan for. Read on for special considerations to keep in mind before traveling to Southeast Asia and for tips on what items you definitely don’t want to forget at home.

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Front row seats for a beautiful Balinese sunset. Photo Credit: Katrina Jakola / Trans-Pacific TravelingMom

How to Prepare for a Family Holiday in Southeast Asia

You may see some of the most amazing sights and eat some of the best food of your life in Southeast Asia. It’s also possible that you’ll experience some of your most frustrating travel moments ever, while visiting. Perhaps even within the same hour. First and foremost, remember to bring an open mind, a spirit of adventure and your sense of humour. Things are done very differently in Southeast Asia than in North America. But just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Consider everything discussed below as a supplement to your already-established family vacation planning and packing list.

Check here for an extensive beach packing list.

Things to Consider

  • The time of year. Is Dengue Fever an issue in the area you’re traveling to during the time of your visit? Is it typhoon/ monsoon/rainy season? Often rainy season can just mean a 20 minute daily downpour mid-afternoon and beautiful weather the rest of the time.
  • Are any travel vaccinations needed?
  • Are you going to be comfortable using a squat toilet? No, really. Sometimes this may be your only option. And squatty potties can be particularly challenging for your newly potty trained little girl.
  • Are power adapters needed?
  • Research the country and region and look for info on any common scams or dangers to be aware of.
  • Is it a politically safe place to visit? Check your home country’s websites to see if any travel warnings are in effect.
  • What travel insurance will best suit your needs?
  • Is your phone unlocked? If so, you’ll be able to pick up a cheap, local SIM card and stay connected during your holiday.

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    Taking it all in from a Tuktuk in Phuket, Thailand. Photo Credit: Katrina Jakola / Trans-Pacific TravelingMom

Items that are Hard to Find or Overpriced in Southeast Asia

  • Deodorant/Antiperspirant
  • Sunscreen
  • Tampons with applicator
  • Baby food
  • Baby bottles or pacifiers that your little one prefers.
  • Swim diapers
  • Good flotation devices like a Puddle Jumper.
  • Peanut Butter. If it’s a staple for your children and you’re concerned they won’t take to Asian cuisine, throw a jar in the bag. You can always find some sort of bread at 7-11 to add a little PB to. The same goes for any favourite, non-perishable food item loved by your kids.
  • Motion sickness medication (Especially for children)
  • Children’s chewable fever/pain medication (Liquid is mostly readily available)
  • A trusted stomach medication from home in case you’re sensitive to food or water.
  • Familiar brand of bug spray and ointment to treat bites.
  • Travel mosquito net. Depending on what your accommodations are like, this may or may not be necessary.
  • Enough of your own light, breathable clothing. Generally speaking, an XL in Southeast Asia is a North American S or M. Maybe you’ll be able to do some shopping in markets and find some great clothing that fits, but don’t count on it for what you’ll wear during your trip. Also, it’s so hot and so humid. Skirts and tank tops are your friends. And be sure to include a few comfortable, modest pieces for visiting temples. Some have strict dress codes.

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    A tasty lunch. Photo Credit: Katrina Jakola / Trans-Pacific TravelingMom

Plan to Stock your Daily Travel Bag with These

  • Fork, spoon and scissors, preferably in a travel case. This may seem odd, but in restaurants where only chopsticks and large Chinese spoons are available, these tools may make all the difference in whether your child eats anything or goes away hungry. Scissors, if you’re wondering, are essential for cutting those tasty noodles into bite size pieces for little mouths.
  • Small flashlight. If you’re returning to your hotel at night, this is very handy. Even in touristy areas of Southeast Asia, there are often not a lot of street lights.
  • Small packs of toilet paper. Depending on where you are, bathrooms stocked with any paper products can be hard to come by.

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    Beach bound in the heat. Photo Credit: Katrina Jakola / Trans-Pacific TravelingMom

  • Sanitizing wipes and/or hand sanitizer.
  • Your phone, hopefully unlocked with a local SIM card in it. If you have this, be sure to install a good language translation app.

Looking for a familiar place to stay in Bali?


Important Items to Keep With You in Case of Emergency

  • Photocopies of important documents: Passports, visas, insurance, birth certificates and International Driver’s Permits to name a few. Keep them all in a waterproof bag.
  • American money

Other Things to Remember

For all of the things that you can’t find while traveling in Southeast Asia, it has it’s own unique finds too. Convenience stores are actually convenient, with reasonable prices. They’re everywhere (in major cities or touristy areas) and are comparable to mini department stores in what they carry. They can be a great place to pick up a picnic lunch to bring to the beach.

Also, pharmacists serve a larger role than you may be used to. For things you’d normally see a doctor for back home, you may want to talk to the pharmacist about first. Antibiotics can even be purchased over the counter.

And finally, prepare yourself to eat and shop! Amazing food and markets, chock full of treasures, abound. Happy travels!