Tips for travelling with a preschooler
First published 9th August, 2009
Travelling with preschoolers can be a bundle of fun as they're so wide-eyed about the world and ready to be thrilled by the smallest thing. On the other hand, preschoolers can also easily drive you up the wall with their endless questions and can freak out when they're out of their routine and in unusual situations. These tips might help you travel more easily with your preschooler. Please also see our stories on travelling with babies and toddlers -- some of the tips there are also relevant for preschoolers, such as travelling with loads of healthy snacks and taking along new little wrapped toys on planes and long trips. This is part five of a ten-part series on travelling with children in Southeast Asia. A new story will appear on Travelfish every Monday with a new instalment
Preparation is key
Read up on the places you are going to visit ahead of time and tell your preschooler all about them. This will get your child used to the idea of touring a foreign place as well as build excitement and curiosity ahead of the journey. Discussing your itinerary ahead of time will allow them to feel more in control of the situation, too. Include a chat about going through airport security to avoid a meltdown when all of your child's favourite toys get handed over to a stranger.
Learn the lingo
Your child probably won't become fluent in the language of the country you're travelling to, but they sure might pick up a few words, especially if you prepare them ahead of time (you'll pick up some handy phrases too). There's nothing like a four-year-old spouting a few phrases of the local language to immediately win hearts and minds, especially in Southeast Asian countries where so few foreigners bother to learn anything at all.
Take a family-friendly long book to read
Consider whether your child is now old enough to listen to a chapter a night (or a flight) from a longer book, rather than having to read the same few storybooks again and again. Harry Potter might fit the bill, some Dickens, or even something like The Hobbit. You could also get the book on tape so they can relisten to chapters while on longer car, bus or train rides. If you can afford it, a portable CD player can also be a lifesaver. You don't need to bring too many CDs along, as plenty of affordable ones are available in Southeast Asian markets (be sure to get them to play for you first to ensure the quality is good). And don't forget the magic of simply making up stories. Set them in the Southeast Asian country you're travelling to next!
Create a memory scrapbook
This can be a great souvenir for them as well as you. Get your child to tell you about what they have done each day and they can draw some pictures to go with the story. They might also stick in special items they find -- leaves (remembering customs regulations!), feathers, sand and so on can all work. Later you can add some photographs and ask them to help you write captions.
Compile a list of save-your-sanity games
Rather than wait until you just can't take another round of I Spy to try coming up with new games, do some research ahead of time and write a list of new games to play to carry with you. You might find a few games that just need a couple of props you can take along with you. For "real" toys and games to take, http://www.kidstravelhappy.com has an excellent selection. They ship only to the US and Canada, but they may send to other countries on request.
Take a travel potty
Even if your child is potty trained, this can come in handy if you're travelling off the beaten track in Southeast Asia as so many toilets are to put it bluntly, very grotty. Your child may turn up their nose at the state of some loos and just not want to go, so having a potty packed can come in very useful. Something like he Travel Potty Chair can work nicely.
Go with the flow
Some days, forget about your guide book and its list of things to see and do. Southeast Asia is such a colourful place, kids will be occupied simply by going to a market full of squirming live seafood or a food hall filled with unusual vegetables and noodles hanging in windows. Malls too can be destinations in themselves, for an air-conditioned respite with playgrounds for kids and coffee for parents.
Tattoo your phone number
Crowds on the streets and around tourist sites can be oppressive and a bit frightening for kids. Make sure you Sharpie your phone number and your hotel's phone number to your wandering preschooler's forearm in case they go missing, and snap a picture of them on your phone. Security for finding missing kids may not be what you're used to in the West and it's likely that you'll need to rely on the kindness of a stranger to return your child to you. Be sensible if something goes wrong, but don't panic: Violent crime is much less of an issue in Southeast Asia than in the West and it is quite likely someone will step in to help your child.
Try the local food
You'll generally find it pretty easy to get Western-style meals for fussy kids even in Southeast Asia, but do try to order some local food and you might be surprised. Preschoolers do tend to like rice (go on, let them eat it with their hands) and might love slurping up noodles. Watch out for chillies though! The best advice for eating local, whether you have kids with you or not, is to eat where the locals eat, as the turnover of food will be high. (We actually hear more stories of people getting sick eating at five-star hotel buffets than on the street.)
When you've had enough of going truly local, try splashing out without hurting your wallet -- you may not have to be staying at a five-star resort in Southeast Asia to use their facilities. Day passes may be available to hang out at their flash pool or even to attend kids' clubs (which usually have a minimum age of three). Call ahead and check. It might be a nice way to get a dose of luxury without having to fork out a fortune to actually stay somewhere flash.
Related readingTen kid-friendly activities in Asia
Tips for eating with kids on the road
Tips for keeping your kids healthy
Tips on packing for a baby
Read 1 comment(s)
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (19)
- All stories
- Angkor Hospital For Children
- Blue Dragon Children's Foundation
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Epic Arts
- Free the Bears Laos
- Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Khlong Toey Music Program
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- MyME Yangon
- Soi Dog Foundation
- Swim Vietnam
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma ()
- Cambodia (9)
- Indonesia (4)
- Laos ()
- Malaysia (1)
- Singapore ()
- Thailand (38)
- All stories
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 31 Thai islands
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Chiang Mai's temples
- Corruption in Thailand
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Great Thai food blogs
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Yao Noi or Ko Yao Yai?
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Should I cancel my trip to Thailand? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Full Moon Party
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- Trekking in Thailand
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (5)
- Accommodation guides (3)
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (17)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Christmas and New Years in Southeast Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Great river trips in Southeast Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- Ten thoughts on ten years with Travelfish
- Where is the best place in Southeast Asia for ...
- How do I? (7)
- Cycling Asia (12)
- Health and safety (5)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (4)
- Photo essay ()
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (18)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Asok
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Siam
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.