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Want to ramp up the fun levels on your next beach break with the kids? Make sure to add these must haves to your packing list

Lazy days sipping mojitos at a beach bar, getting your bronze on while the kids scamper about in the water, effortlessly making new friends and generally being angelic.
That’s the beach break fantasy, anyway. In reality family vacays by the sea often involve a lot more temper tantrums, sandy sangria and unfortunate encounters with jelly fish than most people’s holiday photos would have us believe. But even a less-than-perfect beach break is worth its weight in gold, and while we can’t guarantee everything will be smooth sailing if you shell out for this little lot (yes, shell pun intended #sorrynotsorry), they’re certain to you an upgrade on the fun levels for both you and the kids. You won’t need megabucks for these, and they’re bound to give you a helping hand in making those dreams of fun in the sun come true.

Collapsible beach pail. Packing for the beach can be almost as time consuming as packing for the vacation itself. And packing it all up again is next level frustration: how is it that everything seems to expand and multiply as well as becoming soggy and coated in sand? This space-and-sanity-saving version of the old faithful beach bucket and spade ($14) folds up into a flat disk, so you won’t need to argue about who has to cart it around all day. 

Sandproof towel ((from $9.99)Pretty ironic that the thing that makes the beach so irresistable is the very same thing that makes it irritating as all hell. Yes, as much as we love sand when we’re laying down on it, we don’t want to be bringing half the beach home scattering grains of the stuff all over the place every time we try to pull something out of our bag. Sandproof towels like this one (link) are the unsung superheroes of the beach, being quick drying, compact, and this one even comes with loops for holding it in place (grab a tentpeg or improvise with sticks) to stop it making a bid for freedom.

AeroPress Coffee Maker  Every caffeine addict knows that the most heavenly of vacation destinations can rapidly transform into hell on earth if you wake up on your first day to discover you have no way of making coffee. And sachets of instant coffee are also sent straight from the depths of Hades. Savvy caffeine fiends need to plan in advance: if take you’re on the move and don’t have time or space for your usual brewing paraphernalia, this neat and super-speedy press makes a damn fine cup of coffee. Ideal for those that need their caffeine fix NOW, it brews up a superior cup of the dark stuff in 30 seconds..Thanks to the microfilter it’s not bitter in the least, there isn’t the graininess that you sometimes get with a French press. So you get a good cup of coffee, and the kids get the benefit of a parent that isn’t about to collapse with fatigue or turn demonic from caffeine withdrawal

Stainless Steel Straw Plastic straws may have been popular with the beach party crowd once, but given what we know about ocean pollution today, rocking up with a bag full of disposable plastic tubes is tantamount to waving them in the face of a passing puffa fish and shouting  ‘I don’t give a crap about you or your ocean habitat!’. 

But being ocean friendly doesn’t mean curbing your cocktail-sipping fun, or the kids’ juice-slugging joy. Reusable stainless steel straws like this telescopic one (from $19.99, UncommonGoods.com , which comes in a very presentable aluminium case and has tooth-protecting silicone tip,is perfect for beach drinking without the ocean-angering plastic crap. For family fun, this pack of 4 smaller stainless steel cocktail straws ($9.99 for four, with cleaning brush) come in silver, gold or copper hues.

Kid-pleasing bath bombs While grownups might get excited about free bathroom amenities, they’re hardly a source of joy for kids. Pack some fun bath bombs like these sparkle-tastic ones that come complete with surprise toys, and make the post-beach cleanup operation more fun for all concerned. Jazzy temporary tattoos can be fun to play around with too, and those with smaller children can sneak in a bit of safety with cartoon tats that include parental contact number, which can ease those anxiety dreams about offspring going astray on the beach.      

Neat drink holders What’s worse than sand in your sangria? Spilt sangria. Luckily you can now safely anchor your cup with beach drink holders such as these stackable sand coasters (from $9.99), whose spiked stakes easily stick firm into wet or dry sand. The four-piece set is nice and compact, and there’s even a built-in bottle opener (bring your own corkscrew if wine’s your tipple, though). The holders double as snug, and-free places to keep your phone and other treasured possessions: snacks, for example. Because sandy beach snacks are almost as traumatising as no beach snacks at all.  

Dry bag for your phoneat less than $7 a pop, this ultra-waterproof dry phone bag from JOTO may be the best investment you can make for your family beach break – so you might as well grab one for every family member that has a cell phone. You can take photos and videos underwater, and while it’s perfect for kayaking, snorkeling, swimming and any number of other watery activities, it also keeps out sand, dirt and snow, so you can use it on your winter snowboarding break too. 

Other beach packing tips:

Bring with you few old socks (all the lost pairs will be perfect). Fill them up with sand and use them to hold your beach blanket to the ground. Bring a container or a bucket and fill it with water. Now, whenever you or your kids would want to have a snack, or just to reapply the sunscreen- they can quickly wash their hands from the sand and go ahead with the watermelon slice..

The dazzling tropical island of Boracay is no longer the hidden gem it once was – thanks to its photogenic beaches and picture-perfect landscapes, it’s become one of the most visited destinations in the Philippines. But while a flurry of interest from chic travel mags has made it a favorite destination among honeymooners and the fashion set, there’s a whole lot of fun to be had for families in Boracay. At just 4.5 miles long, the island punches above its weight when it comes to attractions and activities, and there’s a lot more to Boracay than the famous White Beach, golf and luxury resorts.  

Active families in Boracay will be in their element here, and it’s surprisingly easy to give crowds the slip and indulge a sense of adventure with activities and attractions that still feel refreshingly off the beaten track…at least for now.

Set the Alarm Early for Crowd-Free Kite Surfing

The aptly-named White Beach is without a doubt the most famous of Boracay’s strands, and the 3-mile long strip of soft white sand is the first port of call for visitors looking for long, lazy days swimming, shopping and sipping cocktails. Those who like their beach vacays a little more active tend to flock to Bulabog Beach, which has become the main hub for water sports adventures on Boracay. Once the sun is high in the sky the beach and the water get packed with kite surfers and wind surfers, but early risers will be rewarded with blissfully crowd-free waters and a stunning sunrise. There are any number of kite surfing schools along the water’s edge, and families in Boracay with not-so-little kids can rent equipment and get pro tips whatever their level of experience and expertise. (toddlers and kids too young to ride the wind can have immense amounts of fun paddling and watching parents and siblings splash around…) There are simple accommodations on the beachfront too, aimed squarely at the kitesurfing crowd, so visitors can just prep their own breakfast and head straight to the beach. Once the crowds arrive you can head back for a nap – or refuel and head off for adventures elsewhere.

Hire Bikes or Trikes

Bicycle hire is a good way to get off Boracay’s main thoroughfare (there’s essentially one main road on the island, full of honking horns and speeding scooters). There are several bicycle hire companies on White Beach, and kids whose little legs are not up to cycling can take it easy on the back of a tandem bike and let their parents or older brothers and sisters do the legwork. Families in Boracay can cycle through coconut palm-lined trails up to to some of the highest peaks on the island for glorious views – at around 100 meters above sea level, Mount Luho is the island’s loftiest vantage point, and families who brave the tough(ish) trails to reach the top will likely be rewarded with glimpses of 🐒 monkeys and colorful birds. A small viewing platform at the top is a good spot to rest and have a picnic. If that sounds too strenuous, families in Boracay can rent a manned ‘Trike’ – an adapted ‘taxi-bike’ with space to carry more passengers and luggage than most people would think possible (or safe). For peace of mind, families can hire the entire trike and driver for a few hours (agree a price in advance), and head off to hidden beaches and other beauty spots.

Enjoy Island-Hopping Adventures…Minus the Crowds

There are any number of companies offering beach-hopping boat trips around Boracay, ranging from boozy party boats to luxury ‘sail and dine’ options. But for only a little more than the price of a tour, families in Boracay can hire paraw sailboats (make sure you ask for life vests, and hire a skipper too if you’re not experienced in life on the open waves). Bring food and snacks, and set your own agenda – enjoy dazzling sunsets, head off to hidden beaches, escape to tiny, deserted islets…it’s your call. Ask for word of mouth recommendations about reputable operators, and be prepared to haggle for the best prices.

Get to Know the Taho Man

For cheap eats with real local flavor during your family trip to Boracay, you need to get to know Taho. Listen out for the call of ‘Tahoooo’ and you’ll soon spot a vendor strolling the sands (they are almost always on the sands), with metal pails slung over his shoulders. Catering mainly to the locals, they’re selling an energy-rich mix of silken tofu with tapioca pearls and a sweet, syrupy mix called arnibul (essentially a caramelized sugar syrup). Imagine a cross between custard and bubble tea, and you’re somewhere close, but this is way tastier than the sum of its parts, and the soft texture and sweet taste makes it an easy way to get protein into little ones.  Locals love it for breakfast, and as it costs mere cents, it’s an affordable way to fuel up for a day’s adventure.
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Here’s a list of family friendly hotels in Boracay
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The Philippines offer the very best of exotic vacations. It has everything you imagine when you think about a luxurious beach vacation. The soft white sandy beaches, the clear turquoise water, the fresh coconuts, sweet juicy fruits, happy-get-lucky locals (that speak English!), and lots of green jungles. An immense feeling of freedom.

Cheaper than Thailand.

And most importantly- jumping (real life!) dolphins! Free! We saw them while on ferries several times. They just show up, whole pods of them, swimming and jumping right next to the boat.

A few shorts words on the Philippines:

The Philippines are divided to four main districts. North (Luzon), center (Visayas), the south (Mindanao), and the island Palawan which is west of Visayas, towards Malaysia.

The archipelago consists of over 7,000 islands, and the main venues of transportation between them is by using the excellent ferry network (depending on the distance between islands, sometimes it’s a small ferry, sometimes a big one, almost a bus, and sometimes it’s a huge ferry that takes you 24 hours or more on the ocean waves), or by flight. You can also take a bus, I mean- you take the bus, and it goes on a ferry, and continues on another island:-).

The locals are charming, welcoming and hospitable, and always happy to help. But there’s two things they don’t believe in in the Philippines that it’s important you know about: hot water in the shower, and blankets.
Meaning you’ll only have hot water in medium level hotels and above. And the same goes for blankets.

It’s simply too hot there for either anyway.

The capital: is Manila, and she’s not welcoming to families. There’s a lot of traffic and sometimes the city just doesn’t feel safe. There are areas that bunch together strip clubs and gambling establishments. But together with all that- it’s the place to go shopping, there are crazy big malls there, with all the biggest brands. Personally I only go there to freshen up my wardrobe. My favorite place is called ‘Glorietta’ and it’s actually 4 connected malls. There are also some pretty big attractions (which I haven’t visited) like chinatown.

Family vacations- recommended hotels in the philippines

Money: the local currency is called Peso. $1=50 Pesos. You can find ATM mechines, but it’s not always easy, especially if you leave the highly touristic areas. Anyway the feeling is that there aren’t enough of them. Sometimes the line is very long. What they do have there are lots of money changers, and international money transfer. There are everywhere.

Visa: most people get free visa upon arrival of somewhere between 21-30 days but it always pays to check in advance. The most important thing is to have an exist ticket to somewhere.

Best seasons: it’s always hot in the Philippines. They have a rainy season and a typhoon season. December to May is the best time to visit. For vacations- Christmas! But summer vacation can also work, provided you can stay for a longer time, allowing for flexibility.

Food: it’s a tropical country so there’s a wide selection of fruits, dozens of types of Mango and Avocado, Coconuts, Jackfruit, and a lot of other we don’t even know about in the west. Most of their food is rice based, they have different kinds of white and pink and red rice… and a ton of seafood (goes without saying) as well as chicken and pork. They love their barbecue, and grill every type of meat they can find. You’ll see people fanning the flames everywhere. You choose the slice and they grill it for you on the spot. Try the chicken legs, a local favorite.

I will now write a recommendation for a fun route you can go on with the kids, based around central Philippines. I built it around the center on purpose as it’s considered the area best protected from typhoons, and therefore better at summer (and summer vacation). It’s flexible from a days-per-location perspective, so you could twist it to fit however long you have available.

1. Cebu

The route starts in Cebu. The second largest island in the Philippines.

You can stay in Cebu city, of find quieter places. I like recommending this hotel, on Mactan Island that is connected to mainland(ish) Cebu by bridge (the international airport is also on this island). It’s not cheap but will provide an excellent opening to any vacation.

Take two-three days to get over the flight and just have a good family time, then fly from Cebu to the tiny volcanic island “Cameguin”.

2. Cameguin

During the flight the staff entertains the passengers with riddle games. There are even prizes:-).
This tiny island sits on a volcano, which turns some of the beaches black. Beyond that, despite the size of the island it has many fun activities. There are some nice waterfalls (where you can swim), a site with a few hot spring pools, each with a different temperature. There’s a Zipline near the beach that goes above a sweet water lake, kayaking and other sea activities, and a site with giant clams (careful, they swallow everything!). A few museums and even an ostrich farm.

We’ve visited this island twice. Zig-zagged all across it on a bike we rented and discovered some lovely isolated corners. Climbed one of the mountains, and at the top we found a beautiful waterfall and remnants of volcanic ash.

When we went to the Zipline booking office the kids really wanted to go. For me it was enough to just see the cable stretched over the water to give up the pleasure. But the Zipline rules say you have to go in twos, so found myself being launched (twice! It’s a two-leg journey…) together with my youngest daughter.

I recommend to sleep in the hot spring campus called “Ardent”, that way you could go for a swim any time you want (the pools are open 24 hours), even after the kids fell asleep… :-). They have simple rooms with an A/C and a family room. Costs $80 a night.

There’s a restaurant there that’s not fantastic but it’s not bad either and the staff is nice. There are also a few stands just outside the campus. Basically, sausages and corn are readily available.

After three-four days of rest, day trips and being spoiled, take the ferry to Bohol Island. The ferry leaves every day at morning and by noon makes port in the city Jagna at central Bohol.

The journey takes about three-four hours.

My kids like Jagna because you can find the Filipino delicacy Calamay everywhere. Calamay is a sort of a sweet spread/jelly made of coconuts that they sell in a coconut shell packaging.

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3. Bohol

A word about ferries in the Philippines: I recommend that you bring some food with you, because the food on the ferry is expensive and the options are usually very limited.

And another thing- there’s no problem getting tickets in the port. Just make sure to get there some time ahead. Usually, especially before the ferry leaves, there are long lines. You’ll need to pay for the tickets (=first line), harbor tax (=second line), and for your suitcases (=third line). Children under 10 get a discount. Ask for the A/C class (=most expensive), or outside (=cheapest, and there’s a breeze:-))

When you get to Jagna you’ll have two options:

You can take a taxi or a minivan (air conditioned) to the biggest city in Bohol called Tagbilaran. Most tourists on the island go to its most famous beach, which is near Tagbilaran. It’s called “Alona beach” and it really is a nice beach with many nice restaurants, an ATM, agencies offering day trips and island-hopping, stores for beachwear, etc…

Family vacations- recommended hotels in the philippines

If you don’t want to party with all the tourists, you can always look for a guesthouse or a hotel in the city proper (it has a few nice malls, my favorite is ICM that has some video games in the top floor and even a 3D cinema). Or you can look around the road that surrounds the island, and soak in the magnificent ocean view. Another nice area is the town “Anda”, and near it the resort “Peace 1”, that has a private beach frequented by some sea turtles.

A minivan from Jagna to Tagbilaran costs 100 pesos per person.

Bohol is a relatively small island but it has a lot of attractions, and it’s a fun place to spend a few days. You can go on tours and watch dolphins, snorkel in the oceanic nature reserves near the island. There are kayak trips, an Extreme Park, river boating, a beautiful natural phenomenon called “chocolates hills” (yeah yeah) and some incredibly sweet creatures called “Filipino monkey” that became the island’s symbol. Professional name: Tarsier.

You can get almost any tye of food there, from real local food to big fast-food chains like McDonald’s, KFC and domino’s pizza. And of course Dunkin Donuts, that took over the Philippines and apparently conquered them.

We lived in Bohol twice, for a few months each time. We rented a small house with a private beach in a small fishing village and just lived with the locals and the ocean. We would shop at the local market, go for walks in the village, play with the locals, and learn from them about sea life.

We loved going to some nearby islands called Pamilican and Balicasag. On the way to them we usually saw dolphins. Near the islands there are beautiful reserves and we would jump off our little boat and snorkel for hours. We even saw small sharks and sea turtles. The boat’s driver would throw some breadcrumbs to attract the fish to us, to the great joy of my youngest daughter, that didn’t want to go too far from the boat.

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4. Siquijor

After Bohol, take another ferry to Siquijor. This is a small, peaceful island, with incredible quiet beaches. It’s also called the “Isle of Fire”, because of the millions of fireflies that fly near its beaches at night.

The island itself offer a number of activities, most of which are nature related (waterfalls, springs, ancient trees, night walks to see the fireflies).

And of course there’s diving and snorkeling.

We arrived there completely on accident. While visiting Dumaguete, we met at the hotela Filipino friend. After an interesting conversation with him, he told us that he has a resort in Siquijor (a quick boat ride away from Dumaguete) and invited us to stay there. So we found ourselves, a few weeks afterwards, in Siquijor :-).

Most of our time there we spent in the great swimming pool in the resort. It was so fun and relaxed we didn’t even need to leave.

4.5 Optional: Dumaguete

From Siquijor you can go slowly to Cebu Island. Before that take a short ferry to Dumaguete.if you have time you can explore it, it’s another nice island with plenty of activities.

Another article giving details about those four places, including costs, you can find here.

The Philippines have two types of public transport that I haven’t seen anywhere else. The Tricycle, which is a bit like the Thai Tok-Tok or the Indian Rickshaw, meaning, they took a motorbike and added a contraption with seats on it. The Filipinos like stuffing as many people as possible into those. It comes in different sizes, some only fit three people, and others fit six or more. The other vehicle is called a Jeepney and it’s actually a jeep that has been turned into a bus. They make it themselves, so every Jeepney looks a little different. They paint it in screaming colors, add some designs and sometimes even add a few quotes. It’s similar to an open bus, and there too they stuff as many people as they possibly can. Try to ride both those vehicles at least once. It’s an experience of a different type:-).

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5. Cebu

From the city Dumaguete leaves a (air conditioned) bus that goes on the ferry to Cebu with you inside it, and continues until Cebu City. You can also get off halfway there, in south Cebu there is a (debatable) attraction that offers diving/swimming/watching Whale Sharks. These are sharks that feed only on Plankton and, despite their huge size, they’re very gentle creatures. This activity is not cheap at $150 per person.

After you get back to Cebu City, you can finish the journey with some shopping in a few of the huge malls in the city. All the brands you know and then some:-).

More details to help you plan your trip and budget for it you can find here.

If you’re coming to the Philippines, the first thing you have to prepare yourself for is that everyone will call you either sir or madam.

The best time to visit the Philippines is from December to May. Which means Christmas vacation is perfect. but summer vacation can also work if you can stay for a relatively long time (at least three weeks or more).

⇒In the Philippines they make all sorts of treats from a purple sweetpotato called Ube. Even ice cream! Water cost 10-20 Pesos (0.25$-0.5$) for a liter and a half, and bus tickets cost 8 Pesos (0.15$)

Hotels:
To get out list of recommended hotels in different destinations in the Philippines, including prices, please click here

Independent traveling:

Families that want to plan their trip to the Philippines by themselves can talk with me over the phone and get a lot of helpful recommendations, tips, and important information for correct planning. Answers to all the little questions and details you can’t find anywhere else. Send me an email (familytravelsquare@gmail.com) and we’ll settle on a time.

In general it’s possible to say that a trip (for the whole family) in a low budget will cost about 80$ a day, a medium budget trip about 150$ a day, and a high budget trip can get to any amount you want:-). In the Philippines there are R-E-A-L-L-Y nice luxury resorts, right besides simple Bamboo huts.

⇒Alcohol: the locals in the Philippines drink homemade Coconut wine. It’s worth a try, just take under consideration that you have to get used to it slowly otherwise you’ll get a stomachache. Excellent local Beer costs 30 pesos (0.65$) for half a liter.

 

Vacation packages and organized tours:

Many websites and agencies offer packages both for solo travelers and families that want to come to the Philippines. The packages include planning a route, with a guide, accommodation, and transportation. Usually the tour length us between 8-19 days. The cost moves from 75$ to 150$ per person per day (not including flights). And they depend on the agency and the quality of accommodation and transportation.

Trips in specific destinations:

You can book those in your own country or from the variety of agencies spread throughout the Philippines. We’re talking about “island hopping” trips of all sorts, and all kinds of special attractions such as sea kayaking, rice terrace tour, the underground caves, Palawan, and more. The prices also vary and the cost is between 15$ per day per person (a short trip of boating and visiting a few stations) and up to 80$-100$ per day per person (a tour to more distant locations or a unique trek)

Organized tours:

Organized tours to the Philippines there are plenty. In each one of the websites offering tours they offer a slightly different route and a varying day count. The average cost is between 270$-300$ per day per person. The selection offered to families, on the other hand, when it comes to organized tours is fairly small.

To those with strong stomachs: they have a traditional delicacy called Balut, which is basically a Duck egg boiled with the embryo still inside. You can find it in almost every street stall in the city or the country. It’s usually painted purple or red to distinguish it from the other (regular) eggs.

Click here to get a month’s worth of food filled adventure in the Philippines.

Further tips and info:

Visa:

Citizens of most nationalities get 30 days free visa upon arrival, and can later extend their visa for a month or two, for a period of up to two years.

For visa information for your county click here

For visa extension cost click here

Currency and exchange rate:

In the Philippines the used Pesos. One Dollar is worth 50 Pesos, one Euro is worth 60 Pesos, one British pound is worth 70 Pesos, and 10 Indian Rupees are worth 8 Pesos.

Recommended seasons:

The best season in from November to February, and from March until May, when it rains the least and it’s not too hot. In the rest of the year it rains more but it’ll be hot, and the moment the rain stops the sun creeps back. In Eastern Philippines it rains year-round, but when ut doesn’t rain it’s sunny.

Internal transportation:

In the Philippines there are several airline companies, we especially recommend Cebu Pacific, an international airliner that offers domestic flights at reasonable prices.

A lot of the transportation between islands is done by ferries and these are best companies: Oceanjet, Oceanfast, and 2Go

Booking ferry tickets- not recommended to do through the internet. It’s a long and tiring process that requires showing all sorts of passport photocopies when you collect the tickets. It’s better to go to the ticketing office and buy directly. That way you can also make sure you have good sits and that all the family members share the same sleeping compartment (don’t forget to make sure of that again and again).

The public transportation in the Philippines is also excellent and cheap. Always when you get to a new island you can take a bus to anywhere on it.

In the Philippines you can find buses, air-conditioned mini-vans, rickshaws (normally referred to as ‘tricycles’), motorcycle taxis, and Jeepneys- a jeep-engine powered bus that is very very cheap (and the experience is free) 🙂
In bus stations and in the ferries they sell Bananas-deep-fried-in-Sugar-on-a-stick

⇒roosters: in the Philippines Rooster fights are legal. In almost every house you can see Chickens and Roosters. They take very good care of their Roosters, and across the whole country you can find stores that sell only Rooster care equipment. You can even find a special Shampoo for shiny feathers.

Useful information:

The most important thing to know about the Philippines is that against the common opinion, you don’t have to fly from island to island. It’s much cheaper to sail and take buses, and even if it takes a bit longer, there’s nothing quite like feeling the ocean wind and see the Dolphins jumping among the waves while sailing in the Philippines. Not to mention you get to avoid the whole headache around airports.

What is also important to know is that the Filipinos love their Seafood and Pork, and those that keep kosher might find it difficult. Chabad houses can be found in Manila and Cebu, the two biggest cities in the Philippines.

Money- in the Philippines there are ATM machines, but they’re sparse. In the big cities you can find one pretty easily, but in the villages sometimes there are none. And when you do find an ATM (even in the big cities) there’s sometimes a very long line. Commission-wise it’s better to go to the foreign banks because they don’t charge a commission for a withdrawal and in most cases you can withdraw larger amounts (HSBC, metrobank)
Money changers, however, are everywhere.

Sim card and mobile network- in the Philippines there are several companies that provide mobile network we recommend Globe (faster network) or Smart.

⇒Because it’s so hot in the Philippines sometimes, you can buy cold mineral water in a bug, from a machine. You should try, especially with kids

 

and one last tip: come with a waterproof camera.

Here is everything I thought would help you plan a Vietnam with kids. I tried giving you a more general image as well as going into detail, in points that I found important.

Location:

On South China Sea, neighbor to Cambodia and Laos. An hour flight from Bangkok, Thailand. A long, narrow country, with a lot of beaches. Half of Vietnam is a peninsula.

Best seasons:

In Vietnam it’s hot all year around. Seasons are largely fictional. There are times of year it’s a bit warmer or rainier (and it’s still hot when it rains). Supposedly you can arrive all year around, but I recommend going in October-April, not too hot and doesn’t rain too much. Even when it’s hot, it’s not suffocating heat because you can go into the pool or the ocean, and there are air-conditioners in almost room.

Estimated budget for a family per month:

In Vietnam accommodation is the most expensive thing. Food and transportation and all else is negligible.

Very low budget: low budget hotels without swimming pool, cheap restaurants and little or no adventuring, 1000-1300$ a month.

Low budget: cheap hotels with a pool, cheap restaurants and street food, and staying put for the most part, 1300-1550$ a month.

Medium budget: good hotels with pool and breakfast, right on the beach, good restaurants (even if in my opinion the best restaurants are cheap/street food), moving often from place to place, maybe even some water sports lessons (surfing, scuba diving, kite surfing), 1950-2100$

High budget (vacation): luxury hotels, expensive restaurants, tours, diving and surfing, private transportation, 2600$ and above.

Visa:

Vietnamese visa you do In advance online. It costs 18$ a month or 30$ for three months, for single entry visa. Multiple entry visa costs 25$ for a month or 65$ for three months, and takes 2-3 work day to process and get a certificate, which you need to print, and then bring to clerk at the airport to put a stamp in your passport. In the airport you also have to pay a service fee of 25$ per person. It’s best to prepare dollars cash in advance.

Exchange rate and currency:

The Vietnamese currency is called Dong, and it has one of the smaller denominations in the world. One dollar is worth 22,500 dongs (VND). A good amount to get from the ATM is 4-6 million (2 million at a time). Yes, all you need to do to be a millionaire is fly to Vietnam.
The ATMs charge high commission. And in most you can only pull 2 million at a time.an ATM that doesn’t tale commission and lets you pull larger amounts is Citibank. Look for it.

Communication:

Vietnam has great WiFi almost anywhere. And it’s always free and usually without password.
Sim cards are readily available in stores. You can also get a very comfortable data package.

Places I recommend:

Mui Ne, a charming little vacation town on the beach, 3 hours’ drive from Ho Chi Minh city- sitting on a world heritage site. Because of the desert clime, there’s hardly any humidity and annoying critters, which makes it a perfect place for a vacation.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Hanoi, Halong bay

Dalat

Try This article as well- everything you need to know before you go.

Foods to try:

Pho: a Vietnamese noodle soup, with some vegetables and lots of meat or seafood, traditionally mixed in with some fresh leaves for seasoning, and hot chili sauce if you like spicy.

Banh Mi: Vietnamese Sandwich, cut in half baguette, with all kinds of meats and pastrami (usually pork), vegetables, mayo and chili if you want. One of the world’s best sandwiches.

Banh Xeo: a salty crape fried in butter and oil with all the extras you want (usually meat and seafood), with some bean sprouts on top, sauces and herbs.

Fruits: Vietnam has the best fruits in Asia. Better than Thailand or the Philippines or anywhere else. If you haven’t bought a few kilos of fruits for dinner, then you haven’t been in Vietnam. My favorite is Dragon Fruit but everything is delicious.

Here is a whole route for food loving familie :-).

Transportation:

Busses in Vietnam has an excellent network of comfortable busses (the best busses I’ve been in by 500%) that get everywhere cheaply and quickly.

A few words on long distance busses:

-The busses have inclined almost bed-like seats (sleeper).

-Inside the bus there are three rows of single “beds” and two stories per row.

-When entering the bus you’re asked to take your shoes off and put them in plastic bags.

-They’ll ask you to take as few bags as possible because there’s simply nowhere to put them.

-Most buses have wifi

-And air conditioning.

-I highly recommend booking the back row in advance. It’s the only row where you can all be together and you’ll have some extra room for your bags.

Trains- are also good and comfortable.

Flights- there are a few local companies that do domestic flights.
The four companies are: Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet, Jetstar, and Airmakong.

Taxis- also comfortable. Most use a meter. Beware of stings.

Scooter taxis- fun, and cheap.

Things you should know:

Holidays:

The biggest holiday of the year is called Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, around the end of January/beginning of February. The prices around Tet skyrocket. Almost to doubling. Including the food in the street food stalls. You could have soup at a stall for 15,000vnd one day, and the next day the same soup at the same stall will cost 25,000vnd. That’s accepted and shouldn’t be bargained over. Additionally, during the holiday most businesses will be closed.

Vietnam for those keeping kosher:

Keeping kosher is difficult in Vietnam, because they live on pork and seafood. Chicken and beef are common too, but they cook using the same ports and utensils. For vegetarians, a lot of times when you ask for a vegetarian soup the restaurant will just fish out the chunks of meat and serve you he same soup. Nevertheless, you can still find vegetarian restaurants here and there. Or an Indian restaurant (where they understand what ‘veg’ means).

There’s an abundance of fruits, vegetables, eggs, bread and markets to buy some basic ingredients.

When thinking of a family beach vacation, Vietnam isn’t the first place to pop in mind.

Usually it’s closer to Thailand or Goa. But for those looking for a change, or to find a quiet, luxurious place, should definitely consider it as an option. I flew to Vietnam with my kids just to spend a few months on the beach…

Mui-Ne is a small stretch of beach five hours by bus from Ho-chi-Minh city
The bus picks you up at the hotel in Ho-Chi-Minh and drops you at your hotel in Mui-Ne.

∴ One straight road. On one side the beach and resorts built one after the other, and on the other side hotels, stores, spas, and that’s it. Mui-Ne is all about relaxing.

∴ Kite-surfing enthusiasts like the place as it has great surfing, shops for renting equipment and courses.

∴ Keep in mind that on this vacation you won’t do anything other than swim, walk on the beach, play in the sand, oh, and eating.

∴ Mui-Ne is heaven for seafood lovers. Along the street (and there’s only one street) are spread restaurants showing in their aquariums all the things you can eat. Squids, Octopus, Shrimp, Prawns, and different kinds of clams and oysters, crabs and snakes, lizards, turtles…

∴ And for fruit lovers. Pineapple, Passion Fruit, Litchi, Jack Fruit, and more .they even make fresh aloe-Vera juice and also avocado shakes.

∴ The place looks completely western. Everything is clean, pretty, and modern. Not what you’d think of Southeast Asia or Vietnam.

∴ The hotels are amazing. The service, for the most part, is amazing.

∴ You can rent bicycle or scooter to get around easier. On the other hand there are taxis and scooter-taxis flooding the area. And there’s the local bus.

Fairy Springs- a charming piece of nature in the middle of the stretch of beach. It’s a fountain of water coming from the ground. They’re warm and flaw in a shallow stream to the ocean. You walk along the stream barefoot, on the soft, soft send. A joy for the kids. Colorful dunes in the background. Along the way there’s also an ostrich farm where you can ride the birds.

∴ The night life is awesome and include lots of alcohol, clubs, and live shows.

∴ If you’re worried- there are ambulances and a high-level professional clinic.

∴ One of the big advantages of the place (the reason I chose it) is that it’s a desert area, and the humidity is very low. So even though you live right on the beach, you don’t feel it! The weather is a-m-a-z-i-n-g

∴ Staying there is Very comfortable– there’s fast WiFi almost everywhere, excellent coffee, air-con, spas…

∴ There’s one resort that offers a private mud bath. Take the kids and make them feel like Shrek 🙂. After the bath you’ll get free access to the huge swimming pool filled with mineral water and health.

∴ You can get any kind of massage there, Including hot stones and everything. And special kinds like coconut or rice milk massage or massage with aloe-vera.

∴ Every travel agency offers tours in the area.

∴ And of course to try out many different water sports. Boogie-board, wind-surfing, kite-surfing, jet-skiing.
∴ One note: Despite the touristic nature of the town, many service providers don’t speak English.

In short: prepare yourself for a high-end vacation for ridiculously low prices.

Recommended hotels in Mui-Ne and their price
Recommended hotels in Saigon and Hanoi and their price

prices for example:

  • Excellent resort with ocean view, swimming pool and a private beach (family room including breakfast) – 30$-60$ a night. There are more expensive resorts offering private bungalows and such, those can get as high as 500$ a night.
  • Cold coffee- 0.5$
  • Beer bottle- 0.5$
  • Full seafood hotpot- 5$
  • Whole peeled and sliced pineapple- 0.5$
  • Full body massage- varying prices. Depends if you go to the small spas or the big luxurious ones. Somewhere between 5$ and 25$ an hour.
  • Bicycle rent- 2$ a day. Scooter rent- 8$ a day.
  • Fresh coconut juice straight from the nut- 0.5$

Christmas/ hanuka and Easter/passover vacations are the best times to take the kids and go on an amazing vacation in the Philippines.
Granted, there is summer vacation, but it’s actually the summer that isn’t a very good season in the Philippines, and if you go there during summer vacation there’s the chance you’ll get some rains and storms. Nothing terrible, but it’s something to consider.
What else, I heard from many families recently that they are looking for an interesting and different destination, something to refresh the annual vacation in Europe.
And hence the Philippines are the perfect destination 🙂

First of all- check out our best tips for family travel in the Philippines.

And now- Here are four places that are simply wonderful for a vacation in the Philippines with kids:

1. This hotel in Mactan, on the island Cebu. An awesome start to a vacation. It’s not cheap, at around 200$ a night, but it’s well worth it. Everything you need in a vacation without moving too much :-). A huge swimming pool, complete with slides and bridges, SUP (stand up pedal surfing) and sea Kayaking, and if you ever leave the swimming pool you’ll find a climbing wall and a kid’s playroom, a private beach, free bicycles to move freely inside the hotel grounds and more…

There are many things to do in Cebu, here are few of the lesser known attractions for families.

2. After few days in this hotel, book a (very) short flight to an amazing island called Camiguin. It’s a tiny island with a few interesting attractions. It has beautiful black-sand beaches. And hot springs, and giant Clams that are definitely worth a visit. You can go snorkel-diving around the island, or even tour around it on a bicycle on the friendly island surrounding road.
You should quietly spend a few days on that island. Enjoy the hot springs, the massages, and sleeping in your favorite guest-house right next to them. That way you could go on a tight romantic dip after the kids went to bed…❤
Staying there is very cheap. Staying in a family room in the guest-house will cost no more than 50$ a night. And it includes free entrance to the hot springs 24/7

3. From there continue to the marvellous island Bohol. Recommended hotels you can find here . OR – you can stay at a private beach house. In Bohol you can enjoy all sorts of attractions like the Chocolate hills, the Extreme park, sailing on the Loboc river, and most importantly- Dolphin watching. Don’t miss  it! It’s an amazing experience.
Estimated costs per day will be around 150$-180$, including accommodation, meals, and attractions.
By the way, in Bohol’s biggest city, Tagbilaran, there are a few nice malls that have cinemas (with 3D) restaurants and shops. One of my children’s biggest enjoyments was the arcade in ICM (island city mall), that they always left with some nice prizes.
To divers, that’s also the place from which you can go on breathtaking dives in the area. In Bohol there are also several interesting underwater reserves. I’ll never forget the sea Turtles we saw while snorkeling around Bohol. It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life.
If you don’t dive and want to take a course, in Bohol you can find a few good options for that.
There are also sea-Kayaking tours that you simply must check out.
To more adventurous families I warmly suggest going on an independent tour around the island. Bohol allows for a fascinating view into the life of the locals, with the tiny fishing villages, fragrant markets, jungles, and virgin beaches. Tourist free gems are hidden around every corner if you only go in deep enough.

Bohol also offers few Adrenalin-rush activities. check them out here.

4. From Bohol you can move on to the enchanted island Siquijor, with its white beaches, snorkelling, night sailing and watching thousands of fireflies, kayaking, and quiet. The hotels here are good and don’t cost much, only about 60$a day all expenses included. I wrote about it here.

-From there the move is pretty simple back to south Cebu, where the bravest can swim with Whale Sharks. The experience is not cheap (I haven’t done it, my youngest wouldn’t let her mom swim freely like that with sharks. I am waiting for her to grow up…), and costs about 150$ per person.

-Finish the trip in Manila, the shopping city.

The Philippines is one of the destinations I’d most recommend to travel with kids or for a family vacation. They have a crazy abundance of beauty and luxuries and a very high quality of life. And most importantly- everything is possible on a very sane budget.

Take for example this hotel.

It’s a hotel in Siquijor, one of the smallest and most charming islands in the Philippines. There are both amazing beaches and family activaties over there. On a small scale, without too much noise and mess. Perfect for a family vacation.

I was there with my kids for a few days and it was a joy!

We just swam all day in the pool or the ocean, and drank Coconut milk straight from the nut.
So I went to my favorite search engine and input today’s dates. I got 42$ a night for a family room, including breakfast.
Now.
Let’s say you get there and you want to simply stay there for two weeks. Or a month. The cost will go down to 35$ a night at the highest. Food will cost you 15$ a day.
Attractions, diving, activities and luxuries will cost maybe a bit more.
And that’s it.
A delightful family vacation for a uniquely delightful price.
Family trip on a low budget is possible in so many ways and so many places, you just need to know where to look :-).

And here are some crazy activities you can enjoy with your family during your trip to the philippines.

Discover the best hotels and accommodation prices in Vietnam-Ho Chi Minh(Saigon) and Hanoi when travelling with kids. Recommended destinations for a comfortable stay

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city are both remarkable destinations that any tourist would love. Not only do they have a certain charm around them, these cities are also home to some really amazing relaxation spots. However, when you stare reality in the face, the first thing you observe are the clogged array of motorbikes, scooters, cars, and smoke in a dense and people-clogged environment. This colorful mess might make you stop in awe at the crosswalk and wonder if you will ever be able to cross that road.

However, even with this rather dense atmosphere, navigating these two cities can be really easy if you know the right place to stay and are able to find your way around.

Below is a list of Recommended hotels in Ho Chi Minh City when travelling with kids:

Best Luxury Hotels:

The reverie Saigon– Do you want to get a mind blowing view of the river and the entire city? This hotel offers you everything you need in a five-star hotel and so much more. From a breathtaking swimming pool with color changing waters, to a full bursting minibar and a manservant available for hire, it is just perfect if you are looking to have a great time. It also features wall-to-wall windows with well facilitated rooms (including an espresso machine!)

Kids below 11 years of age stay free. Price– 225$ a night.

Book your stay now to enjoy the amazing city and all of its pleasantries!

Click to book through Agoda now

Click to book through Booking now

Sherwood residence hotel– Get the feel of luxury at an affordable rate! The Sherwood residence hotel offers you apartments from 80sqm in size in a spectacular apartment setting. This standard room comes with 2-bedrooms, 2-bathrooms, living room, well equipped kitchen with a fridge and even a washing machine.

To get more out of your stay, you also get a swimming pool, a play room for the kids and so much more in a sparkling and squeaky clean setup.

What’s even better? Children younger than 11 years get to stay for free!

The price- 87$ (for the standard apartment described above) a night and upwards for other high end rooms with additional features.

Book your stay now to set down a reservation for your trip!

Book through Agoda today

Book though Booking today

caravelle saigon hotel– Would you like to enjoy the serenity and astonishing beauty of Ho Chi Minh? the Caravelle Saigon hotel brings you a 5-star hotel in the perfect location! You get great rooms, a wonderful pool and a remarkable view!

It also offers free stay for kids younger than 5 years!

Price- starting from 135$ a night.

Make your reservation today to enjoy excellence in hospitality!

Click here to book through Agoda

Click here to book through Booking

Best Guesthouses in Saigon:

beautiful Saigon hotel– Want an affordable yet high class accommodation that brings you quality service and a family friendly environment? The beautiful Saigon is what you need!

Here, you get an amazing location, swimming pool, clean rooms, fast Wi-Fi and breakfast included in the fee. It is absolutely affordable and offers you the option for rooms with three or more beds for better convenience.

Kids younger than 10 get to stay for free!

Price: Starting from $28 night.

Click here to book through Agoda

Click here to book through Booking

Saigon Europe hotel spa– Experience convenience and relaxation in a spa styled hotel with all of the facilities you need!

Want to stay in a good location, with big, clean, air conditioned rooms and a pool? The Saigon Europe hotel spa offers you that and so much more. It also come with a served breakfast included in the fee.

Price: $50 a night for the family room.

Book your reservation today and give your family a treat.

Click here to book through Agoda

Click here to book through Booking

Recommended hotels in Hanoi with kids:

Best Luxury Hotels:

meracus hotel– Enjoy the service of a great staff and a breakfast served for kings in the highly rated Meracus hotel. With a strong reputation of excellence, this hotel is located right on Hoan kiem in a perfect location and is extremely affordable for all of the features it offers!

Price: 70$ a night for a family suite.

Click here to book through Agoda

Click here to book through Booking

Hanoi la siesta– Perfect for maximum comfort, the Hanoi la siesta is designed as a family friendly location with pleasant and helpful staff and a good location. Located in the old quarter, you can book rooms with connecting doors for great family accessibility and closeness.

Price: 160$ a night for two rooms with a connecting door, or 170$ a night for a family suite.

Want to enjoy your stay with your family? Book a room at the Hanoi le siesta today!

Click here to book through Agoda

Click here to book through booking

A good hotel for a good price:

hanoi lotus boutique hotel– This hotel offers you an amazing array of services including friendly staff, great location, an awesome restaurant and organized tours for the entire family. You also get free Tea/Coffee/fruit juice throughout the whole day.

Price: 25$ a night for a double room, 40$ a night for a family room.

Follow this link to book through Agoda

Follow this link to Book through Booking

Best Guesthouse in Hanoi:

funky jungle– If you are a backpacker/traveler, a group of friends travelling together or visiting the city as a family, then the funky jungle is the ideal location for you!

Located in the heart of the old quarter, this guesthouse provides a common playroom, restaurant and bar (free beer!). It is a great place for social encounters/making new friends from all over the world.

You can get a few beds in a dorm room, or get a private room.

Price: A bed costs 10$ a night and a room costs 35$ a night.

Click here to book through Agoda

Click here to book through Booking

Don’t forget that you need to make your Vietnamese visa in advance online. and read more information about trip to Vietnam with kids. 

For more inspiration try our awesome itineraries:

Vietnam with kids- Two weeks luxury vacation

Vietnam for food loving families

and more…

You can find many more hotels throughout Vietnam on Agoda  , Booking  or Hotelscombined  

My new eBook is now available on amazon. click here, and find out how to travel the world with your kids for less than 1400$ a month (yes, even when staying at those really nice hotels :-)).

 

 

 A step-by-step process to book the perfect accommodation for your vacation

Finding a hotel online can be a really exhausting and confusing task. Not only is it difficult to sift through all of the choices you are provided with, the huge number of websites from search engine results and all of the countless options you get makes it feel like the world hottest dance club.

Did you know that there are simpler, easier and more comfortable ways to find the right hotel for you?

There are a few things you should know about search engines and mega search engines in general before going about finding the right hotel for your vacation, a little bit of backstory shows why it’s a bit complicated and exposes the politics behind the hotel industry.

Today, there are three main options for booking a hotel online. These include;

• Through a mega search engine– These huge search engines often claim to offer and cover dozens or even hundreds of smaller search engines. This makes it a good fit to find the cheapest results especially when you would like to have a good variety of options.

• Through a regular search engine– Such search engines would have a stock of hotels it partners with and will display the price for each booking according to your search term.

• The private websites of each hotel.

According to a research by “The guardian” on the hotel industry, a large number of these mega search engines are under the same ownership as the regular search engines. This means that the mega search engines will display a clear preference for some websites and hotels over others.

How then can you really trust the validity of results from these “mega” search engines?

Can you be entirely certain that these search engines will always provide you with the best results when you use them to search for accommodations online? (this is also true for the flights and aviation industry but well discuss that at another time).

Another research shows a price difference between the prices gotten on the private websites of hotels and the prices of the same hotels found through a search engine. Typically, the private websites are often more expensive even when searched on the same dates.

More research on this shows that there is not much difference between search engines. When checked at different times, the cheapest results checked was in a different engine every time with absolutely no pattern.

How do you get around this problem?

It’s simple! You have to cross check a few different websites to evaluate what the best options are for you.

The three websites I prefer to work with are:

Hotelscombined A mega search engine.
Agoda- A regular search engine that is considered to be the best in South Asia.
booking A regular search engine.

Here’s a simple step-by-step process to book a cheap hotel;

1. Click hotelcombined and search for the dates and the destination you’re looking for. Next, select all the relevant filters and add them to the first search. These could include,

  • Number of kids
  • Number of rooms you want
  • If you want a pool
  • The type of hotel you want (3-5) star
  • Your budget
  • Distance from airport

Simply add all of the filters and leave the tab open. This process is very simple and doesn’t take any of your time.

To help you along, use this search box to get all of the information you want.

2. Open a new tab and click Agoda– search for the same things. Use the filters properly or just fill up your details here for a faster result.

3. Choose two of the best offers you find. Pick two from each website. This will amount to a total of 4 hotels or accommodations.

♥ Don’t forget to read the reviews- pay attention that it’s only the most recent ones and those that match the dates you plan to stay there. As a general rule- always choose those with a higher rating (I never even bother looking at anything with a rating of 7.5 or less.)

4. How then do you ensure that these hotels are the best options?

Simply crosscheck on a third site like booking to compare results and ensure that you don’t get the bad end of the deal. Visit booking and crosscheck each of the 4 hotels you chose one after the other.

5. You’re almost done!

Check through the booking conditions for all 4 hotels and remove all those that do not allow last minute cancellations. Filter these out and leave only those that allow cancellations or even allows you to book now and pay later.

You want to be able to keep your options open to change especially when you are not entirely decided.

6. Now choose the one you like best and book.

♥ The reason for this quick booking is that those websites will save your search history and may raise the price when you use it again or search too much for the same hotels on their listing.

This is because, your search results around the same booking shows interest and would mean a higher profit when you decide to book later. So decide on which one to choose in one sitting and book right away.

7. Now relax and let the websites do the work for you!

After booking, these websites will send you emails with offers for the searches you’ve done with them. Take a few days to evaluate each offers they send. Take your time and see if there is something better, more interesting or cheaper than the option you chose.

Just make sure that you do not get confused by getting into a million tabs with countless options again.

8. Now check your final decision again on all 3 websites before leaving for your trip

We recommend making your reservations 2 weeks-2 days before the travel date. Cross-check all 4 hotels on all three websites hotelcombined, Agoda, booking.

9. Make sure nothing’s changed

If you find that the prices changed or got lowered- you can cancel (because you made sure of that option in the original booking) the original booking, and book again.

10. You’re all set to go!

If nothing changed, you’re already set and ready for a great vacation.