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The truth is, in our case, it’s true. We’ve been packing everything but the kitchen sink for many years?. We literally pack up all our belongings and take them with us. Over and over again. 

That’s why I’ve decided to share with you the ultimate list of equipment for a long trip or vacation abroad, with or without the children. 

The list includes necessary equipment, recommended equipment that is fun to have, and a whole suitcase full of tips. I promise you’ll find things here that no one else has written about and upgrade your next vacation. 

But before we get started: Dear men, we take the whole house because that’s how we are. It’s in our DNA. And it makes us feel bad when we must apologize for it. So just accept it. With a smile and understanding and love and think only how thankful your arms and chest muscles will be ?.

Holy Trinity: 

Backpack – shoes – everyday bag  

These are the cornerstones of every trip. If you’re on a budget, these are the three things that are most important to invest in. These three things will dictate your quality of life on a daily basis. 

Backpack or wheeled suitcase? 

For a trip to the East or South/Central America, whether it’s a short vacation or a long-term journey, I overwhelmingly recommend backpacks every time. 

Take one large and one medium backpack per adult, and a backpack per child (the size of the bag depends on the age and size of the child, of course). 

For Europe, the USA, and other Western destinations either option is viable. I still think backpacks tend to be the more comfortable option, as there will always be trains, apartment buildings and hotels that don’t have elevators or escalators. Your choice will depend to some extent on the type of trip you are planning.  

With young children, it’s important that your hands are as free as possible. And it’s also important that whoever is pulling a suitcase can also pick it up when necessary. 

I recommend that every child should look after their own case or backpack 

This case is their own private ‘space’ for the entire duration of his vacation. For this reason, it’s important that each child carries with them personal items that hold meaning to them, and that will provide a sense of stability, privacy, and independence. 

Tip: For children who are particularly sensitive or who need stability, I suggest you also take a ‘transitional object’ :-). It might be a little mobile, a special dream catcher, or anything that they associate with their room at home. Hang it wherever the child sleeps during your vacation or trip.

In our case, every child has their own case. The two older children have backpacks, and the little one has a trolley suitcase. Each has their own towel, toiletries bag, flashlight and more. (Read on for details. .) 

Where to buy: As much as the Internet can offer amazing options, I always recommend buying your bags in a physical store. 


The biggest tip I can give you about this is: don’t buy new shoes especially for your trip/vacation. They need to be broken in and comfortable. 

New shoes might look nice, but they usually cause blisters and cuts. Flip flops can be bought on the road though! (Especially in Brazil, where the Havaianas flipflops are world famous. They’re durable, comfy, worn by all the locals and much cheaper in Brazil than anywhere else…) 

Flipflops aside, for a few years now, the girls and I have only been wearing Sketchers. They’re incredibly comfortable and we can walk in them for days without our feet or legs hurting. 

How many pairs

Take one pair for a daily walk for each of you, and flip-flops/sandals (waterproof) for each. Of course, if you’re planning on trekking, take some off-road shoes. Make sure they are worn in before you set off! 

Where to buy: If these are a type of shoe you’re not accustomed to, I recommend going to a physical store. If you’re buying shoes you are already accustomed to wearing, it’s better to buy online because the selection is bigger, and the price is usually lower. But even so, don’t set out with brand-new shoes. Buy them with enough time to do some ‘breaking in’ walks first.  

Day Bag

I think it’s important for each child to have their own little bag. (size and model obviously depends on age…) 

You don’t have to take all your bags every time you leave the hotel or the guesthouse for the day. That’s why I recommend a day bag for each of you, as well as slightly larger backpacks or cases for taking on board flights, for overnight trips, etc.  

Where to buy: The internet has some increasingly good options. Here are some I like: 

I’ve been using this THULE case for two years. It’s a little big for every day, and I mostly use it when we go on short trips away. I just love that the case can adapt to the number of things I have to take. It can adjust in size, so I have room for a jacket when I feel like it, and when I wear the jacket, I can make the case smaller. I also find it very beautiful. You can take a peek and see for yourself. 

I also love TIMBUK2 bags, such as this bag, which can also be made larger or smaller according to your needs. TOPO recently came out with some beautiful backpacks. But the biggest hype right now is around NOMATIC’s amazing backpacks. 

Okay, we’re done with the Holy Trinity. 

Baby carrier or stroller? 

Let’s completely resolve the dilemma. A baby carrier is, to me, a necessity. It will keep a baby or toddler close and always within your sight, leaving you free to watch the other children, read the signs at the train station, or look for a nice restaurant where you can finally sit down after a day walking through busy streets. I highly recommend a backpack-style carrier because they’re comfortable, fit into a bag and don’t take up half the hotel room. 

So, there’s no wavering about a carrier. 

Deciding whether to take a stroller is a matter of what you’re used to. Do you use one every day?  

Is the destination you are travelling to stroller friendly? Are you planning long walks and long days without breaks? Does your baby like to sit in a stroller? Are you renting a car? Are you planning to visit attractions where queues will be long? If the answer is yes, then take a stroller.  

Are you planning lots of trips, on various types of transport (think buses, rickshaws, ferries, trains…)? Are you bringing more than two suitcases? Do you like traveling light and being spontaneous? If the answer is yes, then you better ditch the stroller. 

What to take in the big backpack/suitcase – 7 non-negotiables  

1. Towel 

I’m a big fan of lightweight travel towels, which dry quickly and can be hung comfortably so they don’t fall or fly off the railing of the balcony. 

Where to buy: Online. 

Look at these, for example: 

A ‘Discovery’ towel is both very soft and cozy and great for travel. 

This JML towel, comes in a package of two, both of which are good and big, and I like that they come in vibrant colors like pink and purple:-). 

And here’s a towel especially for kids – it’s a special sand-proof towel (yes!), suitable for both beach and bathing, and it comes in cheerful prints. perfect for traveling with your little ones.

My recommendation: These towels are good quality and go for around $10-$20, which is much cheaper than most physical stores would charge, so it clearly makes financial sense to buy them online. Just make sure you’re ordering the size you need!   

2. A charging unit with multiple sockets, which also has a decent length cable and is small and foldable, is a must for any trip. 

I’m using this one, and each of the children has one too, each a different color. This product is incredibly convenient and comes with a small case (in which I also store some USB cables and a mains adapter into). It’s one of the objects we use the most. 

Look (I have the pink one…):

3. Folding Lamp 

Yes, this is a thing. It’s especially useful for those going out into the wilds, or on a remote camping trip, but it’s useful in other situations too. Bring lamps for as many rooms/tents as you plan to stay in. Sometimes there’s a power outage of a few hours and these lamps are much more pleasing to the eye than the phone’s flashlight. Sometimes there are no night lamps in the guesthouse and in cases like this I pull out the lamps. It makes a big difference 

Look at this one:

This is a lamp that takes up almost no space (it folds into a flat position) and is charged by USB or solar. 

Then there’s this one, which doubles as a backup battery and is waterproof: 

4. Luggage organizers in different sizes 

Whether you’re traveling with a backpack or a suitcase, these organizers are an absolute must for keeping everything handy. For a few years now, the girls and I have been unable to pack without them. It’s convenient and makes it easy to quickly get everything you’re looking for. Honestly it’s a game changer. Here’s an amazing set that also includes a toiletry bag and a document case (not cheap, but worth the investment if budget allows..). 

And there’s this one, in a million colors. $25 for the purple, $20 for gray: 

You’ll also find many similar organizers, for less than US$20. 

5. Toiletries bag 

Only buy toiletries bags that can be hung up. 

Where to buy: Unequivocally online. Look at what a huge selection there is :

The prices of all these are between $16 and $26. I bought a bag like this about six years ago, in a cool, expensive store in Saigon. For a few days I debated whether or not to buy, because I really wanted to, but it was relatively expensive. I ended up buying. And I use it to this day, so it was actually one of my most successful purchases. Convenient and simple and accessible. Each of the girls has one, too ? 

Tip: If you’re going on a pampering vacation, take a few bath treats for yourself and the kids ?. 

My travel recommendation: Take a lightweight projector so that you can screen movies for the kids, and some fun games for the car/restaurant/quiet time in the room. 

6. Lightweight chopping board 

This is convenient to use everywhere for cutting fruit, making sandwiches or tasting the cheeses you bought at the deli. When the kids were little, we played games on it, we made plasticine, and we put puzzles together. I’m including it in the packing essentials. It doesn’t take up space and doesn’t weigh anything, but makes life a lot simpler for parents. 

By the way – to complete the kit: a cutting knife (with a protective lid) and a fruit/vegetable peeler– also go into the backpack or suitcase 

7. Folding Bowl  

I’ve been carrying one of these since we left our home country. You wouldn’t even know it was in the bag at all, it’s so light and compact. Recently I also bought them for each of the children, because it is always useful ?saves a lot of time and money. 

Here are some good examples on Amazon: 

And this one comes as a set, with a cup and cutlery:  

It’s also a good idea to take some dish-washing liquid in a small bottle, and a small sponge – this one helps, and in general it’s also advisable to wash the cups that are provided in your hotel room before use. 

And one last tip: If you’re traveling with children of milk-tooth age, don’t forget to take a special little box in case they fall off their teeth during your holiday. If you’re traveling and your kids have wobbly teeth (or are likely to have wobbly teeth) then it’s nice to carry a letter and a gift from the tooth fairy (or whatever is the custom in your family). 

Little Gali lost 5 teeth (two on the same day!!) during a 40-day Mongolian adventure in the middle of nowhere! 

What to pack in the smaller bag: 

1. Flashlight 

I love that each member of our family has their own flashlight. And that doesn’t include the flashlight on the phone?.. 

There are those who like headlamps, but lately I’ve been preferring the flashlights you can plug into a USB, or the solar-charged ones. It’s such a relief not to have to carry or buy batteries all the time 🙂 

The internet offers lots of great options. Here’s a good one. 

2. mandatory laptop/tablet case for each traveler. 

Look what lovely cases I found here.

3. Organizing case for cables and chargers

not an absolute necessity, but certainly makes life on the road much more comfortable when there is one 

4. Backup headphones

especially helpful during transitions.

We spend a lot of hours on long commutes, and the kids like to listen to music, podcasts, or watch videos. That’s why I’m not taking a chance. Parents of adolescents – doubly important.

5. Walkie Talkie – for when you are out with young children. 

Be sure to buy that a walkie talkie with a wide range on one side, and legal for free use, on the other :-). Another important thing to pay attention to is the life of the battery. I’ve bought a few over the years, and especially like these ones, which are similar to ones we bought in Bangkok. Not only can you keep in touch with the kids when you’re sitting having coffee and they’re playing in the park next door ?, but they’re also a lot of fun. 

6. First Aid Kit 

7. Tablet/phone charger 

8. Camera (preferably waterproof..) 

9Makeup bag – I don’t usually wear makeup but I like to carry the basics, and this lovely makeup bag I found can be used for jewelry too. 

10. Hygiene products 

Very important!! Hand sanitizer gel, wet wipes and ‘paper soap’ sheets. 

11. Water bottle 

One of my hobbies when I go into a travel shop is to check what’s new in terms of water bottles, because we use them a lot, so I find myself buying them at least two or three times a year. Here is a bottle with a charcoal filter and also a cool bottle that can be folded up to go into your pocket when it’s empty. And then there’s Mizu’s classic bottle, which comes with a filter and a straw. 

12. A reusable drinking straw 

(unless you want to drink your mojito from a cardboard straw that crumples down within a few minutes..). 

This is a cool telescopic folding straw, and also check out this family set of lovely stainless steel straws (with a cleaning brush) which come with a handy carrying case.. 

12. Hat and sunscreen – always! 

13. Mosquito repellent – always! 

14. Small folding umbrella  

I like everybody to have a compact umbrella in their bag, especially since they became old enough and started to go out alone. Sounds silly, but an umbrella can be a real life saver when the heavens open.  

Those last three items are related to the fact that we cannot predict the future – even the very near future. I learned this the hard way, which is why my I strongly urge you to always carry these things. There’s no telling when you’ll be stuck in the blazing sun without you anticipating it, and even the umbrella can come in handy as a sunshade for small children. 

tip: If you’re planning to visit the ‘Forbidden City’ in Beijing, for example, or the Colosseum in Rome, or indeed any very popular attraction where long queues are inevitable, make sure you bring these things, plus plenty of drinking water. 

15. Pack of cards/family travel game 

These can help pass the time when boredom might otherwise set in and lead to quarrelling (waiting for food in a restaurant, waiting for a bus, waiting for a flight, etc…) 

16. One very important recommendation (last but certainly not least): Tracker stickers. Everybody worries about losing valuables during their trip, so I really advise you to get some of these. Stick them on your phone, camera (most important to me..), suitcase, bike, kids.. :-). With these small devices you can find everything that really matters to you. They work on bluetooth, but in my opinion, these ones have a huge advantage over other tracking devices in that anyone registered with the app can help you find what’s lost, and send you an exact location. Here are all the details

And of course – don’t forget to download my Travel with kids ebook onto your phone, and that way you’ll have all my tips and experience in your pocket :-). 

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, , 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..

Japan at its Cutest

Throw on your unicorn onesie – Japan embraces all that is kawaii (cute), making the country a top destination for families with little princes and princesses in tow. From bubblegum-bright cafes to fairytale-esque castles, giant robot unicorn statues and restaurants where diners get the royal treatment, Japan has a whole to offer those with a taste for all things sweet and whimsical. And let’s not forget that this is a nation with its own real-life monarchy, so visitors can take a peek at royal residences, even if they’re unlikely to be invited to dance with Prince (or Princess) Charming at a royal ball. Read on for our guide to harnessing your inner unicorn and enjoying Japan at its whimsical best.  

Dine in Wonderland With Alice

Fans of Lewis Carroll’s rabbit-chasing heroine will be in for a treat in Japan. Alice is so popular in the country that there are not one but five Alice in Wonderland-themed restaurants, four of which are in Tokyo, while Alice in Fantasyland, in Osaka, offers a chance to enjoy the Alice dining experience outside the capital. Each restaurant in the Alice chain has its own take on the classic tale, but running themes are giant book-cover doorways, teacup-shaped seats and tables, waitresses in Alice costumes, and a menu designed to resemble a giant pop up book. The menu has dishes themed around familiar characters such as the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter, and given their sweet design, it’s perhaps no surprise that desserts are a strong suit. Set meals start at around US$20, or roughly 20,000 yen.

Go Unicorn Spotting

Few parents can have failed to notice that unicorns are a big deal with kids right now, and indeed, what’s not to love about these mythical horned beauties? Unicorn-loving families in Japan can check into a Unicorn Hotel in Nagano City. The capital of Nagano Prefecture, known for its snow and skiiing as well as its beautiful palaces and temples and its near-mythical monkeys, Nagano is slightly off  the beaten tourist track but a good option for families, who can opt to stay at the pleasingly affordable (rooms from around $70, or roughly 7.600 yen) Hotel Unicorn. Although the unicorn theme doesn’t extend much beyond the name and the hotel’s logo, this friendly lodge does have cute, traditional Japanese design with some nice colorful touches and comfy family rooms. At Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku (the Tokyo neighborhood famed for its crazily colorful street fashions), the staff flitting between the rainbows and carousels of the uber-kitsch interior are actually dressed as unicorns.

But these mythical beasts don’t have be sweet and girly – fans of classic Japanese anime series Gundam can revel in the sight of a full-scale replica Unicorn Gundam statue – a 19.7 meter unicorn robot in front of DiverCity Tokyo Plaza on the man-made island of Odaiba, which is far from cutesy (and transforms dramatically from ‘Unicorn Mode’ to ‘Destroyer Mode’ several times daily, drawing quite the crowd each time).

Check into a Fairytale Hotel

Even the grownups will feel like teeny tiny fairies or pixies when they check into Aso Farm Land in Kumamoto, (rooms from $200, or roughly 2,600 yen), where the super-cute individual domes are shaped like strawberries, gingerbread houses, dinosaur eggs and other cute-as-a-button designs. There are play areas galore, and hot volcanic springs to soothe away any stresses and strains of family travel in Japan.

Meanwhile, at Yufuin Floral Village Hotel in Oita (rooms from around $38), guests can stroll around streets that look straight out of a fairy tale set in a quaint English village. With a lovely mountain backdrop, stores themed around the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Peter Rabbit and the Moomins,this is a sweet and very kawaii place to stay, but – bad news guys – it’s women (and children) only.

Box out: Deserted theme park

Until recently,  explorers in Japan could  make like Scooby Doo and snoop around an abandoned theme park, complete with fairy castles. Nara Dreamland which opened in the 1960s in a bid to emulate the success of Disneyland California, and was almost a carbon copy of the Disney original, transplanted to Nara, the former Japanese capital. Visitor numbers began to drop with the opening of a bone-fide Disneyland Tokyo in the 1980s, however, and the subsequent DisneySea and Universal Studios Japan (in nearby Osaka) were the last nails in the park’s coffin. It closed for business in 2006 but became a favorite haunt of photographers looking for artsy shots. Check out these from French snapper Romain Veillon, taken just before the park was demolished in 2017.


Japan’s modern metropolis is packed with Kawaii attractions and activities. Of course, the truly big ticket attractions are Disneyland Tokyo and Tokyo DisneySea and the magic kingdom has all the dreamy palaces and fairy adventures families could wish for. Leaving Disney (and huge crowds) aside, Tokyo has cuteness in spades. There not one but four Alice in Wonderland cafés (the simply-named Alice, in Kabukichu, scores extra parent-pleasing points for its excellent cocktails);  as well as a very Instagrammable Beauty and the Beast Cafe in Yokahoma, designed to resemble the beast’s castle, complete with chandeliers and suits of armour. Upping the cuteness factor, and sure to appeal to young children as well as grown up Beatrix Potter fans is the delightful Peter Rabbit Garden Cafe in Jiyugaoka; whose impressive attention to detail includes abundant stuffed toys, English garden party themed decor, and a menu designed like one of Potter’s classic books. If there’s ever a way to convince young children to eat their greens, surely it’s by telling them that they’re straight from Farmer McGregor’s garden? The dishes even come complete with edible bunny ears.

Leaving the world of fiction behind, families in Tokyo can try to catch a glimpse of real-life royalty at the Imperial Palace, which sits amid large, moated gardens in the center of the city close to Tokyo Station. While the inner gardens are closed to the public most of the year, they are opened on January 2 and December 23, when huge crowds draw to see the Imperial Famil appear on their grand balcony. The rest of the year, visitors to Tokyo can take a guided tour of the outer gardens, or just stroll around admiring the grand architecture and letting the kids burn off some energy racing over the bridges.

Families with cash to splash in Tokyo will find the Cinderella-themed rooms at TokyoDisney every bit as fabulously flamboyant as young princesses could dream of, but if you don’t have tens of thousands of yen to spend on a room, a decent affordable family hotel near ToykoDisney is the unusually-named Family Resort Fifty’s for Maihama (rooms from $37). Although the decor is dated, they’re spacious enough, there’s free WiFi and buffet breakfast, and it’s walking distance from the Magic Kingdom.

Box out: Butler and Maid Cafes

They’re not to everybody’s taste, for sure, but one curiosity about Tokyo’s dining scene is the potential to be waited on like real life princes and princesses at opinion-dividing Maid Cafes and Butler Cafes. At the former, young girls dolled up in cutesy maid costumes pander to client’s dining whims as though they were landed gentry, while at the latter it’s a similar affair, but with smart young men dressed up as butlers. Should you be curious, the pick of the bunch is probably Butler’s Cafe, in Shibuyu, where female diners are addressed as ‘My Princess’ by the uber-attentive ‘butlers’ and  even get to wear a tiara as they enjoy being waited on hand and foot.

Samurais and Superheroes: Prepare the brood for crazy cartoon capers in Japan

Cartoon-loving families will be in for the adventure of a lifetime in Japan. The land of Pokemon, Manga and Studio Ghibli, Japan is all about the anime, and there’s a cartoonish slant to everything from the food (pretty much everything, from cupcakes to dumplings, can be found fashioned into cartoon character form) and the style of dress – Japan is home to some of the craziest and most colorful street fashion in the world. And going comic book crazy is a genuine cultural pursuit in Japan – while there are two Disney theme parks and the odd nod to Minions and Marvel Superheroes, this is a nation with such a rich tradition of animation that it would be a shame (and indeed near-impossible) not to take the opportunity to admire the local version. With all manner of superhero shenanigans to be enjoyed in Japan, here’s our roundup of some of the best.

Theme Parks Galore

Japan takes its theme parks seriously, as befits a nation enamored with all things anime, many have a superhero or comic book theme. Top notch theme parks can be found the length and breadth of the country, with one of the best being Toei Studios in Kyoto. This working studio created classic cartoon series such as Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon, and visitors can visit an extensive cartoon gallery in between samurai shows and white-knuckle rides. Other top theme parks for superhero-loving visitors to Japan include two Disney parks in the capital Tokyo, and   Universal Studios Japan, which is located in the country’s ‘second city’, Osaka, and whose super hero-themed attractions and shows are themed around Western favorites such as SpiderMan, Minions and Superman – if the kids are getting tired of Manga and want to race around in superhero capes, you’ll be in for a whole load of kudos by taking them here. At the other end of the scale, Hello Kitty fans will in there element at Sanrio Puroland, around half an hour’s train ride from central Tokyo in the suburb of Tama. Probably best suited to younger children, the Hello Kitty-themed fun includes an opportunity to visit the famous feline’s house and enjoy some less-than-terrifying Hello Kitty rides.

Hello Kitty Hotel

Hello Kitty Fans can check into a ‘Princess Kitty’ or ‘Kitty Town’ room at Tokyo’s Keio Plaza Hotel, where everything from the wallpaper to the bedspreads and amenities are Kitty-themed. This super-kitsch decor comes at a price – expect to pay around 35,000 yen (roughly $340) for a family room, before taxes.

Tip: Sleeping at Manga Cafes/Kissas

Across Japan’s big cities, Manga tea houses, or Kissas, have evolved from a simple places to flip through Manga magazines and browse the internet, to become a budget-friendly alternative to hostels and hotels. Cafe users can rent private rooms whose large lounge chairs offer the possibility of getting some shut eye, and can be rented in six-hour stints or more. There’s not a lot of room, so this is more for single travelers than for families, but it’s a handy way to while away a wait for an early train, bus or plane.

Visit Kid-pleasing museums

If the word ‘museum’ has your older kids or teens rolling their eyes in anticipation of a tedious cultural pursuit, they’ve probably never been to a Japanese animation museum. Aside from the famous Ghibli Museum in Tokyo (more of which later), there are a whole host of other enticing options such as Kyoto’s International Manga Museum. Fans of the distinctive animation style will be in their element here, and kids can pick a Manga magazine (there are lots in English) and flick through it in the children’s reading room. For something more hands on, the Niigata Animation Museum, an easy trip from the capital, celebrates the surprisingly high number of anime artists to have emerged from the city (notable names include Ghibli animator Yoshifumi Kond; and Takeshi Obata,  creator of Death Note and Bakuman.

Tip: Niigata Animation Museum is a good bet for families with kids that like to get hands on. There are kid-pleasing games involving various manga characters, such as an opportunity to take a run with Lum, hero of the the legendary 1970s comic Urusei Yatsura.  


Japan’s modern capital is packed with an incredible number of attractions to keep those superhero-loving kids happy. Leaving aside the ubiquitous Manga Cafés (some of which double as cheap places to sleep for travelers on super tight budgets) there are museums, galleries and theme parks galore.

The Japanese Capital is home to two big ticket Dey attractions: Tokyo Disney (the first Disney theme park outside the United States, fact fans…) and DisneySea, which has a fun ToyStory ride that’s likely to thrill fans of the films about Woody and hls pals.

Tip: Fans of Studio Ghibli (creators of dreamy works such as Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away) shouldn’t miss the chance to visit the superb Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, don’t expect to just rock up with the family – tickets must be bought in advance and are only made available at certain days in the month, and with specific ticket agencies. Full information can be found here.

Eat at Anime Cafes

Tokyo is chockablock with cute anime-themed cafes that are sure to be a big hit with the kids. At the Pokemon Cafe in Chuo, kids and grownups can chow down on Pikachu-shaped donuts and dumplings; fans of masked superheroes the Kamen Riders can check out a whole load of memorabilia and Rider-themed food at Kamen Rider the Diner in Toshima, while Gundam Cafe attracts as many grown up comic fans as kids, with its statues, decor and food themed around robots, known as Gundam – arguably Japan’s most enduringly popular anime series.  It’s located in Akihabara, famously a Mecca for anime fans with its many comic book stores and manga cafes.  There’s even affordable Anime accommodation at Anime Station Hostel, which has private rooms, games consoles, and a whole lot of Manga magazines to flick through, with rooms starting at around US$50 (5,400 yen)

Bullet Trains and Beautiful Scenery: Here’s Why Japan is a Dream Destination For Train Loving Families

If there’s one country that’s virtually guaranteed to thrill anyone with even a passing interest in railways and rail travel, it’s Japan. The national pride in its trains is such that there’s even a term  densha otaku – ‘train nerd’- for those with a passion for rail travel. Japan’s superfast bullet trains are famous worldwide, luxury sleepers ply some seriously scenic routes, and forget hanging around on drafty platforms waiting for delayed or cancelled trains – even regular rail services in Japan run punctually every.single.time. The country is justifiably proud if its trains, and families in Japan can visit any number of railway-related museums, most of which are designed with younger visitors in mind. We’ve cherry-picked some of the best reasons for train lovers to visit this fascinating country.

TIP: Buy before you fly

To save time, money and hassle, buy a Japan Rail Pass ahead of your trip. Valid for travel on almost all of Japan’s public rail networks (check the website for exceptions), including the bullet trains, the passes are valid for periods of one, two or  three weeks, are available only for those living outside Japan, and should be bought online BEFORE arrival in Japan. Leave plenty of time, as you’ll need to wait for an exchange order to arrive by post – once you arrive in Japan, this exchange order can be validated at dedicated exchange offices – most major rail stations in Japan have them, but again,  check the website for exceptions.

Faster than a Speeding Bullet

You don’t need to be a rail buff to have heard of Japan’s bullet trains. These ultra-speedy railroad superstars are famous the world over, and can zip families in Japan from one destination to the next in no time flat. As well as being fun to ride, the speedy bullet trains, also known as Shinkansen, reach speeds of up to 320km/hour and are a practical way of cramming a lot of sightseeing into a short trip. Shinkansen trains serve much of the country, from Kagoshima in the south to the island of Hokkaido in the north. There are some notable gaps, but most major tourist sites in Japan have a Shinkansen stop relatively nearby.  Some of the most popular routes are from Tokyo to Osaka and Tokyo to Nagano, with the opportunity to hop on and off at cities such as Kyoto and Yokohama. The needle-nosed trains can turn a 10-hour epic intercity journey by regular train into a hop of under three hours, and feel satisfyingly futuristic. If you weren’t a train nerd before coming to Japan, the bullet trains might well be enough to convert you.

Epic Overnight Journeys

Sleeper trains in Japan aren’t just for getting from A to B, they can be fun alternatives to a hotel bed for the night, and a near-essential experience for train fans in Tokyo. At the top luxury end of the spectrum, the ultra-exclusive Shiki-Shima, which launched in 2017 and whose 10 carriages have everything from chandeliers and piano lounges to a kitchen with Michelin-starred chefs. With prices ranging from around $2000-$10,000 per person for 2-4 day itineraries around Eastern Japan, a ride on Shiki-Shima may be more fantasy than reality for most visitors to Japan, but there are plenty of more affordable sleeper car experiences – the good news for visitors on a budget is that the Japan Rail Card is valid on sleeper trains. There are extra charges for beds (as opposed to seats) and for private cabins, but sleeper trains are generally clean, well-staffed and a great way to see the Japanese countryside roll by.

A Whole Heap of Railway Museums to Choose From

The national obsession with trains and train travel means there’s very little chance of train-loving families running out of rainy day options in Japan. The country has more railway-related museums than you could shake a stick at, and these kid-friendly educational establishments are dotted across the country. Aside from those of the capital Tokyo (more on that later), some of the standouts include Kyoto Railway Museum, which has the country’s largest collection of retired railway vehicles, from historic steam trains to super-modern shinkansen, and the forward-looking, SCMaglev Museum and Railway Park, which allows visitors to take a peek at futuristic maglev ‘levitating trains’, as well as being a  virtual train conductor on a fun simulator. At the other end of the modernity spectrum, the Usui Pass Railway Culture Village, near the popular tourist destination of Karuizawa in Nagano prefecture, is a hands-on attraction dedicated to the Usui Toge Railway, which was the steepest railway line in Japan during its 1893-1997 lifespan.

Super-scenic journeys

Rail travel in Japan can be an opportunity to admire some glorious panoramas and, again, many of these journeys can be made using the yen-stretching Japan Rail Pass The Tokaido Shinkansen line, for example, runs between Tokyo and Kyoto and has terrific views of Mount Fuji. More dramatic still is the Gono Line, which runs from Akita Prefecture to Aomori Prefecture in the far north of Japan, taking in raging seas , inland snowscapes and Mount Iwaki, on a journey that has been hailed as offering some of the best coastal scenery in the world. Luxury Resort Shirakami trains offer an opulent way to see the scenery, but it’s just as incredible when seen from the window of a regular local train (yes you can use your pass!)

Boxout: Ninja Trains

Kids not interested in trains? Throw in the word ‘Ninja’ and see if that changes their mind! The Iga Railway, in Mie Prefecture visits Iga-Ueno village (famed as the birthplace of ninjas), and ninja-themed trains designed by Manga artist Leiji Matsumoto make the 16km trip between Iga-Ueno Station and Kintetsu Iga-Kambe, and families can have fun spotting the ‘ninjas’ hiding out in strategic locations at the stations.  


Japan’s capital is a modern metropolis served by speeding bullet trains and a comprehensive metro system, and there are further treats in store for train enthusiasts in the big city.

Visitors can enjoy sake and fusion food with a super-close view of speeding trains at Platinum Fish in Manseibashi. This glass-walled restaurant has undergone various incarnations – until recently it was N3331 (named for a celebratory hand-clapping motion from the Edo era)- and is sandwiched on the site of an old train station platform slap bang in the middle of  two fast train lines. Manseibashi Station was open between 1912 and 1943, and many original features have been preserved at this one-of-a-kind restaurant.

Stay in a Stationary Sleeper Train

Fixtures and fittings from a retired sleeper train make for a quirky accommodation experience at Train Hostel Hokutosei. The entire lodging experience – from the reception to the cabin-style dorms and the ‘onboard’ cafe bar – recreates the experience of being aboard one of the popular overnight trains that traveled between Tokyo and Sapporo for nearly 30 years, before being taken out of service in 2015. With dorm beds from around 2,500 yen (around US$23) the hostel welcomes families with children aged 4 and up. For something a bit more luxe, the Tokyo Station Hotel has upmarket,if predictably pricy, lodgings (family rooms from around $400, or 43,000 yen) right next to the  Marunouchi South exit of Tokyo Station.

In a country with so many railway museums, it’s no surprise to find a couple in the capital. Beneath the elevated tracks at Kasai Station, on the Tozai Line, the Tokyo Metro Museum is aimed squarely at kids, with tons of hands-on exhibits, but is also an illuminating experience for adults interested in the history of the city and its transport system. The smaller, Japanese-only Tobu Museum right next to Sumida train station, is similarly kid-friendly with plenty of interactive exhibits and visual depictions of Japanese transportation throughout the ages.

Fairytale -themed activities in Thailand

South East Asia has a reputation for embracing all things kitsch and comic-book colorful as well  as floaty and fairytale-esque, and Thailand is no exception. Kids (and grown ups, for that matter) with a love of unicorns and a taste for all things bubblegum-bright may already have heard of Bangkok’s Unicorn Cafe, and it’s just the tip of a colorful iceberg. Families in Bangkok can embark on magical, memory-making adventures filled with fairytale temples, princess tea parties and frolicking unicorns….and if your tribe’s tastes run more towards bad fairies and hobgoblins, don’t worry, Thailand has you covered there too. With a bit of story-spinning, you can sneak a bit of sightseeing in among the Unicorn-spotting…

See a Real-Life Fairy Palace

Whimsical and ethereal, the White Temple in Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand, looks like a frozen palace from a fairytale. Still unfinished, the vast, snowflake-white temple has been a work in progress since 1997, and kids who love fairytales and princess stories won’t need much convincing to visit here. The photo opportunities are almost unlimited, and fanciful families in Thailand can let their imaginations run riot amid the beautiful, intricately-carved buildings and manicured gardens.

Visit a Magical Jewelry Store

The White Palace can be visited as a side trip from Chiang Mai, and fairytale-loving families in the Thai city should treat themselves to a visit to Fairytales Jewelry and Accessories. This sweetly-decorated store offers handmade jewelry and trinkets fashioned after fairy princesses and magical woodland creatures, which will appeal to grownups as well as little ones.

Families in Chiang Rai will find accommodation options in all price brackets, but those who want to extend the fairytale theme might want to consider booking a family room at the Pingnakorn Huaykaey Hotel (rooms from around 5000 baht). Here the rooms, dining spaces and gardens are all fairytale-fabulous, with antiques, glittering chandeliers and peacock murals. Added bonuses for families with kids are a lovely outdoor pool and great gardens.

See Thousands of Fluttering ‘Fairies’

Butterflies are about as close to fairies as the natural world gets, and families in Thailand between May and September can have a magical encounter with some 400 different types of the fluttering beauties at Pang Sida National Park, in the eastern province of Sa Kaeo.  Over some 6000 square kilometers, the gorgeous natural park has famous waterfalls and bird-filled jungle, making visitors’ encounters with the butterflies all the more magical. There’s camping close the entrance, as well as little, straw-roofed chalets that look for all the world like magical woodland dwellings. A good, reasonably-priced option is Mulberry Pang Sida (chalets from 600 baht) has lovely gardens, floaty mosquito nets and a good breakfast, within easy reach of the park.

Tip: Thailand has a rich tradition of folk tales, usually with a moral message to instill good behaviour in children. To nurture an interest in local culture, it can be fun to read Thai fairy tales to your children as you travel the country. You might find them at English language bookstores in Thailand, or buy this one online before you travel


It’s home to the famous Unicorn Cafe, and it’s fair to say that a visit to this sugary-sweet cafe is pretty much mandatory. Bubble gum pink and baby blue colour schemes set the tone for a visit here, where even the spaghetti is rainbow-hued, and visitors can step into furry unicorn onesies for their dining experience. There are chandeliers and ornate furnishings fit for any princess, and fluffy toy unicorns everywhere you look. Predictably, the menu is dominated by swirly, brightly colored ice creams and cakes, but there are always unicorn-horned burgers (and that rainbow spaghetti) should you want to tone down the sugar rushing.

Dream World Theme Park

There are many theme parks in Thailand, but Bangkok’s Dream World will have the most appeal to little princes and princesses. From the turreted entrance to a fairytale castle and rides and gardens themed around fairy tales, this is one theme park that will really get kids’ imaginations racing.

Eat (and shop) like a Mermaid…

Giving the Unicorns a run for their money in the mythical beast stakes, the Mermaid Castle Cafe in Siam Square offers diners a chance to don a mermaid tale and apply super-bright mermaid makeup before settling down to super-bright cupcakes and milkshakes, amid a sea of mermaid-themed design details. And the bubble-gum pink fun doesn’t stop there, the cafe is just one corner of a multi-floor building that also features mermaid-themed stores selling toys, jewelry, clothes and accessories, all with the same magical mermaid theme.

…Or Drink Like an Iron Fairy

Grown ups looking for a bit of magic without the sugary-sweetness will find it at the cool Iron Fairies Bar on Thong Lor, which feels like entering a spooky fairytale. Every corner of this imaginative space is filled with curiosities such as bottles of ‘fairy dust’, and the strong cocktails will soon have you flying. A menu of steaks, burgers and other grounding meals will stop you spinning off into the ether.

TIP: If your tribe’s taste are a little more black magic than sugary sweet, try Mocking Tales – a cafe-bar themed around a dark fairy tale, which has an array of spell-binding cocktails as well as a famous ‘Smoking Mountain’ dessert which sees a burning chocolate mountain melt away to reveal a mound of delicious ice cream.  Alternatively, diners can dress up in witches’ costumes to celebrate Halloween all year round at Kaethy the Witch tearoom in Lat Phrao, where the trick-and-treat theme includes eyeballs floating in your drink, spider cupcakes and all manner of ghoulish goings on.

Escape to a Hidden Fairytale Palace

The bustle of Bangkok can be overwhelming, but a stay at Phranakorn-Nornlen Hotel (family rooms from 4000 baht) in Dusit will soon revive flagging spirits. A quick boat ride from downtown, it’s a cute and quirky fairytale of a hotel set in leafy green gardens, with a brightly-coloured decor that looks like Toytown meets Fairyland. Staff treat little ones like little princes and princesses, and there are all manner of crafty activities laid on to keep boredom at bay while parents unwind a little. Magic.

No matter your age, if you’ve a taste for all things fun and superhero-themed, Thailand will be right up your futuristic street.

Colorful, characterful and often chaotic, Thailand is a place where visitors can let their imaginations run wild and indulge a hankering for some superhero-style adventures. This is a nation famed for its affection for comic books and collectibles, and grown up geeks join kids in spending entire days browsing the toy stores of downtown Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It’s a country that isn’t afraid to embrace the fun, fantastical side of life, and the 2018 opening of a Marvel Theme Park in Bangkok has sealed Thailand’s reputation as a killer destination for fans of superhero thrills and spills. Here are some unmissable highlights:

See Superheroes Guarding Temples…

In a bid to boost visitor numbers, Buddhist monks at a number of Thailand’s ornate temples have commissioned enormous replica superheroes to stand guard at their gates. The statues have no religious significance, according to their creators, but rather are designed to keep kids from complaining while their parents appreciate the more sedate charms of the temple itself. One of the first temples to hit upon the idea was the Wat Tamru temple in the central region of Samut Prakan, where a giant green Hulk and other superheroes sprang up in 2016. Since then, a number of other temples have followed the trend, including Wat Ta Kien, just outside Bangkok, which is watched over by three towering Transformers.

And Admire a Marvel-ous Mural

At the magnificent, and as yet unfinished, White Temple in Chiang Rai province, Northern Thailand, Neo from the Matrix and King Fu Panda join Batman and a whole host of other Marvel heroes on a giant mural inside the intricately-crafted Ubosot, or main temple. It’s an unexpected sight among all the serene images of the Buddha and the artful carvings, but playing ‘spot the superhero’ is a sure-fire way to keep kids entertained on a visit to this eye-boggling temple.   

Tip: Adults might want to keep an eye out for depictions of the fall of the Twin Towers, as well as other major real world events, which have caused controversy among some Western visitors.

Within easy strolling distance of the temple, the Heun Baan Rong Khun Resort has very affordable rooms (from 600 baht) in a cozy, family-run spot with bikes for hire and gardens for kids to play in.

Eat Superhero Ice Cream in Chiang Mai

Ice cream is almost always a winner, and when an ice cream cafe comes with a hella vegan options and a superhero theme, well, that’s pretty much going to please everyone in the family. At Ice Love You in Chiang Mai, there are Minions on the windows, Spiderman on the walls and a whole lot of other comic book capers going on inside. The handmade ice creams (traditional and vegan) are the stuff of ice cream dreams, and come in a kid-and-adult-pleasing array of colors, flavors and dessert combinations.

Tip: When in Chiang Mai, it’s worth paying a visit to the Blockland Lego Cafe, which opened in 2017 and allows visitors to make everything from model Death Stars to Princess Castles before or after a bite to eat.

If you’re in the market for a little luxury in Chiang Mai, the Shangri La Chiang Mai will make families feel totally pampered, with fancy pools and dining, and extra touches such as kids’ foodie treats every day, a kids’ pool and a good indoor play room.


It’s hosted a gigantic Comic Con event each year since 2018, and the opening of The Marvel Experience Theme Park in 2018 has put Thailand well and truly on the map for fans of comic book capers – for around 850 baht, visitors to this massive interactive multi-dome complex can live out their every superhero-themed dream, with 4D motion rides, a 3D cinema and a chance to see superheroes strolling around, like Disneyland with Marvel characters.

It’s far from the only superhero fun to be had in town, though. In a country renowned for its comic book and collectibles stores, Bangkok is home to some of the biggest and best. Among the many Marvel-themed stores, check out Animate Bangkok on the 7th floor of the MBK Building, for an enormous range of Manga models, magazines and every kind of collectible you could imagine.

There’s also Thailand’s biggest toy museum, BatCat Museum,which will thrill kids and big kids for hours with its gigantic displays of action figures, superhero paraphernalia and collectibles of all vintages.

When hunger strikes,  families can refuel amid collectors’ item artworks and comics at Tezuka Shoten & Cafe, billed as Bangkok’s ‘first Manga cafe’. The cute decoration will appeal to all ages, and there’s a dedicated space for browsing and shopping as well as the cakes, ice creams, coffee and waffles that will keep energy levels up to superhero level.

There’s no shortage of family-friendly hotels in Bangkok, but a good mid-range option is Navalai River Resort, which has a lovely rooftop pool with views over the river and city, perfect for resting little legs (and adult-sized legs) after a day’s superhero adventuring. Rooms are great value, starting at  $66 (just over 2,000 baht).

Tip: If coming to Bangkok during ComicCon, book in advance, as hotel rooms fill up fast, and prices can soar. Check dates and plan as far ahead as you can.

Tropical Thailand is a destination that lends itself well to adventures by train. Whatever your travel style, there’s a train journey to suit it. Imagine lazy days winding through the hills watching beautiful landscapes unfold at one end of the comfort spectrum, or chatting with locals in cramped carriages at the other extreme. Families with kids will find train travel in Thailand a lot more comfortable than bus travel, and it’s more scenic and less stressful than air travel – no hanging around airports, queues to pass through security, etc.

Fans of trains and train travel will find their railway-based adventures in Thailand extend beyond the journey itself. There are train-themed cafes and bars, iconic railway stations, incredible station hotels and even a food market with trains rushing right through the middle.

Families in Thailand will find that train travel is part of the thrill of the trip, it’s an exciting way for kids to see the country and its people, and sleeper trains tend to be a novel alternative to a hotel bed.

♣ There are three classes of regular train in Thailand – Third Class is the least comfortable, but often the most entertaining option, but better suited to short journeys than long haul trips, due to the less-than-luxurious wooden seats (when you can find a seat, that is…)

Second class steps up the comfort level and is popular with backpackers and familieson a budget – families can sit together on seats facing each other, which convert into beds at night on sleeper trains, and some carriages are air conditioned.

If the budget allows, First Class is the best option for long haul train journeys in family, offering comfortable seating and sleeping, private carriages, and a secure travel experience – the price still compares favourably with air travel and/or the cost of a hotel bed. Train tickets can be bought at rail stations (buy in advance if you’ll be traveling during public holidays), but it’s sometimes easier to book through a reputable agency. Although they’ll charge a commission, it’s often cheaper and less hassle than making a special trip out to the station.

Dodge the speeding trains at Maeklong Railway Market

Just short of an hour’s train ride from Bangkok, this bustling produce market it (in)famous for the honking trains that speed right through the middle of the shops and stalls. It’s wonderfully Instagrammable, but make sure you take photos from a safe distance – don’t let kids hang around on the rails, and move away from the tracks if you hear the train horn! The trains rush through at a pace, but barely ruffle a feather or squash a mango, and the market workers, well accustomed to the spectacle, merely return to their vocal sales patter as though nothing happened. Trains leave from Bangkok’s Wongwian Yai Station each morning, and cost around 10baht. It’s also possible to take a cab or bus, but hey, the train’s the thing.

Visit an Incredible Railway Station at Hua Hin

One of Thailand’s most emblematic train stations, Hua Hin is literally fit for royalty. Built in the 1920s to welcome King Rama VI and his family when they headed to the nearby beach, the ornate style and exuberant decor is a major tourist attraction today. The Royal Waiting Room, built in the style of  Maruekkhathayawan Palace, is a world away from your average cramped and uncomfortable waiting area. Almost as grand, the nearby Railway Hotel (now owned by Centara Group, rooms from around 5,000 baht)) has sweeping lawns, luxurious accomodation and staff dapper in uniforms that call to mind the area’s royal past.

♥ The kids and I LOVE trains, and we try to experience as many kinds of trains as we can, in every destination that we go to. We went on train journeys in India, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Japan, Turkey, Austria, Italy, France, and Israel. We especially liked the Mongolian night train, the Bangkok sky train, The express super-fast train in China, and the metro in Istanbul.

Bangkok Train Adventures For Families

There’s very little that can’t be found in Bangkok – for better or worse, it really is a case of seek and you shall find. That doesn’t apply only to insalubrious activities – if you’re looking for a cute pet cafe or, indeed, good clean train-based fun, you’ll find it here.

Ride the Skytrain

The best way to move around this traffic-choked city is by riding high above the streets on the smooth, affordable Skytrain. Great fun to ride, the BTS, as locals know it,  covers large swathes of the city (see map) , and runs from 6.30am until around midnight. If you’re traveling with kids it’s a godsend, as traveling from one spot to another becomes part of the fun rather than a chore. It can take a little getting used to ticketing etc (there’s some useful info here) but once you’ve got the hang of it, the BTS is a doddle to use. If you can’t reach your destination overground, head underground – the MRT, or Bangkok metro, is modern, cool, clean and essentially a pleasure to use, with plenty of elevators and ramps for families with strollers.

Take Tea and Cakes in a Train Cafe

You can take tea in a train without fears of spillage at Tales Cafe Hostel in Khaosan – an uber-funky cafe-hostel-co-working space designed to look like the interior of a contemporary, chrome-filled train. The cafe is strong on cold brews and matcha tea, while the hostel is about as chic as backpacker options get, with all mod cons and dorm meds styled to look like train sleeper cabins (beds from 350 baht). The private room is a good option for families with young children, and kids will love the idea of sleeping in a ‘static train’.

Meanwhile, at Inn Train, there’s a good selection of cocktails, coffee, Thai and international food, and once again there’s an opportunity to share a co-working space with the digital nomad gang. The whole thing is designed to resemble a train, and there are board games to keep kids busy while grownups catch up on their emails or just relax with a drink.

Take an epic train journey

There are many epic long rail adventures for the taking in Thailand (including some retro-chic luxury options with Orient Express and some back-to-basics fun to be had rattling along in budget carriages). For a shorter journey that delivers plenty am emotional whack, take the three-hour ride from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, which takes in glorious countryside before arriving in the picturesque town. It also passes over the Bridge of the River Kwai (made famous by the film of the same name), which is part of the infamous Death Railway built by Allied Prisoners of War during World War II, and as such is something of a harrowing- though scenic and very worthwhile – experience.

♣ Tip: Food and Drink on Thai trains

Many travelers picture themselves sipping drinks in a Thai railway bar as the scenery glides by, or chattering over shared beers in a busy second class carriage. However, alcohol is actually now banned on Thai trains (as are cigarettes, although some determined smokers do sneak a few in on occasion). With rare exceptions, food on fancier trains tends to be underwhelming and overpriced, so it’s usually a good option to bring your own supplies, and while the vendors selling everything from chicken to rice cakes onboard is entertaining, families should bring along easy eats and snacks for fussy eaters, as options will be limited once you’re chugging along the tracks.


Thailand might not be at the top of every bookish traveler’s must-visit list, thanks in no small part to its reputation as the destination of choice for backpackers looking for beaches and booze buckets.

But while Thailand certainly has a wild side, it’s also a heck of a cool destination for those who love nothing better to curl up with a good book – it’s not hard to ditch the Full Moon Party crowds, find a quiet corner of a stunning beach, and work your way through a stack of books as you work on your tan.

Thailand is, in fact, a nation of readers – and as such it was UNESCO’s World Book Capital 2013 – a title given in honor of the country’s dedication to promoting reading across all ages and sectors of society. In Thailand’s towns and cities, you’re never more than a few feet away from a bookstore or a newsstand selling paperbacks and graphic novels, and popular ex-pat destinations such as Chiang Mai are famous for their abundance of second hand bookstores, well stocked with English-language titles.  Not only that, but the country is home to a surprising number of spectacular libraries, book-themed bars, cafes, and even a super-chic library themed boutique hotel.

Whether you’re coming for time alone on a beach with a good book or looking to keep the kids quiet, Thailand won’t let you down on the book front. Read on for our pick of the best Thailand experiences for bookworms

Stay in a library-themed boutique hotel on Koh Samui

With a subtle literary theme to its design and over 1400 books for guests to flip through in its large library complex, The Library is a beach-facing boutique hotel famous for its blood-red pool and its Instagram appeal. While its certainly not one for the budget traveler (rooms from around $280 per night), bookish types with cash to splash will lap up a night or two at this spot overlooking Chaweng Beach, which has a casual-chic bar and restaurant on site, meaning those lost in a good book might not want to leave the premises for the entire stay.

Find out what else you can do with your kids in koh samui

Visit Bangkok’s loveliest library

There’s a sweet Thai short film called The Library, and most of it is filmed on location in the very photogenic Nielsen Hays Library, off Surawongse Road. Opened in 1869 by a group of resourceful British and North American Women as the Bangkok Ladies Library Association, the library was the first non-profit organization in the country, and its backstory that could easily be made into a novel in itself, and today is an excellent place to bring kids, thanks to a cute childrens’ corner and a regular program of Saturday morning reading activities as well as book festivals and craft events developed with young readers in mind – check out the programme here.

More awesome activities in Bangkok you can find here.

Get Lost in Book Browsing in Chiang Mai

Rumour has it that Chiang Mai has more bookstores than bars, and whether that’s true or not, there’s certainly enough second hand book shops here to keep even the most ardent of readers happy. A large number of English-speakers settling in this scenic, chilled part of northern Thailand. A lot of fun can be had planning a bookstore-hopping tour of the city, but if you visit just one, you might want to make it Suriwiong Book Centre – the oldest and largest bookstore in town, with a good selection of kids’ books and plenty of English titles.

click here to find few lesser known activities for families visiting Chiang Mai

Get a Boozy Book Fix

Booze and books under one roof, seriously, what’s not to love about that? There are several places to browse for books then curl up with a cocktail and read your latest purchase, and not surprisingly most of them are in the capital. Although the famous Wonderland-esque Bookshop Bar is now sadly closed, there are several other good spots in town, with cool kids making a beeline for the so-hip-it-hurts Jam Factory, a  converted warehouse complex with bars, restaurants, shops and Candide Books & Cafe – you can get a caffeine fix in the bookstore itself, then sip a cocktail nearby with your new read.  Dasa Book Cafe is another popular cool kid hangout, and no bookish trip to Bangkok is complete without a visit to Zombie Books, an uber-hip spot where a sharply-dressed indie crowd comes to leaf through books by day (again, there’s a good children’s section) and dance to live music and DJs by night.

Find Interesting Indie Bookstores Across the Country

It’s not just the Thai capital that’s dramatically upped its game  in the kooky-chic bookstore stakes. Interesting independent bookshops are cropping up the length and breadth of Thailand – ranging from colorful, kid-focused spots to contemporary nocturnal hangouts. Back in Bangkok, BookMoby Readers’ Cafe, located on the fourth floor of Bangkok Arts and Culture Center, has ambitions as big as the city’s skyscrapers – it has its own in-house publishing company, hosts international literary festivals, and also holds regular heavyweight literary events. Elsewhere, there’s books, ceramics and jugs oftra at Tai Talad in Chonmuri, Eastern Thailand, and perfectly-roasted coffee beans, cinema screenings and artists’ markets alongside the books at Bookhemian, in the famous beach destination of Phuket, to name just a couple.

If you thought Bangkok’s potential for foodie family adventures was limited to bingeing on bugs or playing tummy-bug roulette with street snacks, think again. Families in Bangkok only need to scratch beneath the surface to find a whole world of yummy surprises, from fairytale-esque cafes strewn with fragrant blossoms, to hidden gardens where peacocks keep diners company as they nibble dainty cakes.

There’s no denying the kid-pleasing appeal of Bangkok’s famous animal cafes (visitors can hangout with raccoons by a mock-up swimming pool at Pooltime Cafe, or cuddle giant canines at the aptly-named Big Dog Cafe, but these places are packed with tourists and locals all clamouring for their dose of furry cuteness. Similarly, while it’s well worth a visit to Rot Fai Market, Khaosan Road or Chinatown for a chance to get a bug-shaped protein fix, you’ll be jostling for elbow room with the backpacker brigade. If you’re looking for something a little more under-the-radar, check out these family friendly spots that haven’t yet been hit up by hordes.

Perhaps Rabbits’

No, that’s not a typo, there really is a stray apostrophe hanging over that final S, and it’s far from the most mysterious thing about this gorgeously whimsical cafe. The real mystery is just how this super-sweet spot remains under-the-radar. Loosely themed around Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland, you half expect to see Alice herself strolling by with the white rabbit among the cute kid-sized tables and chairs in a space be-decked with fancy floral arrangements. The attention to detail is incredible – from the decor to the sweetly designed cakes and pastries, and there’s a colourful little cubby hole where kids can read books and play with toys. The cafe holds regular tea parties and cake-decorating workshops, but it’s worth popping in any time for the Insta-worthy chocolate-filled top hats, ‘bunny egg’ cheesecake (140 Baht), and the house speciality – a particularly rich ‘Rabbit Hole’ chocolate cake (190 Baht). Finding the cafe is a bit of an adventure in itself – the entrance is hidden off the main drag, around 10 minutes’ walk from Ekkamai BTS station, Exit 1.

Mocking Tales

If your brood are more about slugs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails than sugary sweet confections, then you need to visit this cafe-bar in the hipster haven that is Thonglor. The decor is part Medieval dungeon, part Dungeons and Dragons fantasy land, and the menu consists of items with names such as Dragons’ Fire Breath and Inferno Mountain (the latter being a gobsmacking creation in which a chocolate tower is set ablaze to reveal balls of molten ice cream beneath the surface, 380 Baht,, but enough to feed a family); and unlike many kid-friendly cafes, there are savory dishes too, a welcome relief from all the sugar rushes. Expect bowls of fake eyeballs, creepy-looking coats of armour and other objects of interest to not-so-sweet imaginations. You’ll find Mocking Tales at Thonglor 10110, Bangkok. As a relative newcomer on the Thonglor strip, it’s not yet overrun with cool kids, although the bar does a roaring trade after dark.

♣ Box out: Animal antics

Animal Cafes are very much a thing in South East Asia, and Bangkok has embraced the trend with gusto. If your kids can’t bear (pun intended) to leave without sharing a dining experience with a furry friend, they can choose from cats Caturday Cat Cafe, Dogs (Big Dog Cafe) or even meerkats and other exotic animals at Little Zoo Cafe (although the animals are well treated, this last one might not sit well with those who aren’t keen on animals in captivity, it’s your call)

Gardens of Dinsor Palace

Another Thonglor high point, this ultra-classy spot feels like a real escape from the heat and buzz of central Bangkok. A formal restaurant and more kiddie-friendly cafe are set out in the picture-perfect grounds of a genuine Thai Princess’s palace, and the white swans gliding over pretty ponds compete for attention with a couple of parading white peacocks. Dress up for a visit here, and don’t expect budget offerings,but for a family meal to remember it’s worth splashing out (just keep an eye on toddlers if you’ve been enjoying the house cocktails, you don’t want them literally making a splash in those enticing ponds…). Brunch pancakes certainly won’t break the bank, at under 300 baht for a plate of buttermilk pancakes with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Dinners and afternoon teas are fancier affairs. The cafe, restaurant and gardens are at 1217/2 between Sukhumvit Soi 59 and 61, Klongtan-Nue, Wattana 10110

Insects in the Backyard

Culinarily curious kids are unlikely to let you leave Bangkok without chowing down on at least one good big bug. But if you’ve yet to be convinced of the merits of eating insects, this 2017 opening might be the place to try creepy crawlies for the first time. Possibly the world’s first fine-dining insect restaurant (yes, that’s right), this smart space highlights the ‘superfood’ status of bugs (high protein, low fat, high calcium,sustainable…) and the menu (mains from 300 baht) aims to prove they can taste good, too. Salads come piled high with water beetles, seared scallops have a caterpillar garnish, and even the tiramisu is jazzed up with cocoa-dusted silk worms. The range of classic cocktails might help dubious diners find a little Dutch courage.  Insects in the Backyard is at  Chang Chui, 460/8 Sirindhorn Road.

for a full itinerary for food loving families traveling in Thailand check this article.

♥ Tip: Set aside a few hours for your trip here- Insects in the Backyard is located inside the fascinating Changchui Market – a creative hub stuffed with  fascinating sculptures, street art, stalls and assorted artsy offerings, such as a hipster barbers and a cute bookstore. There’s even a cinema showing suitably arsty titles.

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Li-bra-ry Cafe

Got bookworms in the family? Yearning for some quiet time? This cute hideaway from Bangkok’s smoggy streets has books galore, some of the best coffee, cakes (a bargain at around 100 baht) and milkshakes in town, and a particularly good gyoza soup. Kids who are a little young to curl up with a book can make new friends in the cafe’s play area, and there’s free wifi (bring headphones) – upstairs ups the serenity factor (you’ll need to remove your shoes), but for a quiet break and a coffee where you can hear yourself think, this is a real treat.  Li-Bra-Ry is at  2 Soi Sukhumvit 24, Yak Soi Metheenives, Sukhumvit Road,

Kraton Flying Chicken

Sedate and serene, this is not. If you’re looking for a Bangkok food adventure that will go down in family history, take the kids to this unique spot, where roast chicken (choose ‘Fly Chicken, from the menu, at under 200 Baht it’s a bargain, considering the spectacle involved…) is literally catapulted through the air along a purpose built run way onto the spike-helmeted head of a man riding a unicycle. Yes, only in Bangkok…don’t expect Michelin stars,but do expect a lot of fun, and perfectly palatable Thai noodle dishes and other kid-friendly staples. Making occasional appearances on ‘World’s Weirdest Restaurants’ lists, it’s a truly surreal experience, which is enhanced by the on-site Karaoke rooms. It’s a bit of a walk to find the place (but you’ll know it by the chicken-throwing scene painted on the external sign) – from the BTS Sky Train station, take Exit 1, and walk some 500 meters north along Sukhumvit Road before crossing the walkway. (Or get a cab from the station)

And if you are looking for some more crazy adventures with your kids during your trip to Thailand, see this article :-).

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