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U.S. School Break Vacation Planner – Southeast Asia & Beyond

Here at Journeys Within, family travel has been at the core of what we do since the very beginning. Click here to read more about our founder Andrea Ross’ travels with her kids and tours we recommend for families.

Since pulling your children out of school for an extended overseas tour isn’t always doable, we put together this list of recommended tours for each of the major U.S. school holiday periods, to give parents a sense of how much they can do and see while their kids are on a school vacation.

Christmas/New Year’s Winter Break

Families looking to travel over the two-week Christmas/New Year’s break have the luxury of enough time to really dive into the culture and sights of a country or even two, which is why we recommend the two tours below. During this time of year, the weather in Thailand and Cambodia is as good as it gets – typical daytime highs around 80 degrees, without the humidity of summertime and little chance of rain.

Best time to book: By Sept. 1 or earlier if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

First Time Asia for Families Tour

This tour is designed for first time Asia goers, but more specifically for a family traveling to Asia for the first time. Through experience we’ve determined how people imagine Asia and the kind of trip they enjoy on their first visit. As a group of family travelers, we’ve also determined a great daily pace for families traveling with children, and tours that are family friendly. By minimizing flights, maximizing day tours, and planning in time for naps or time to let the kids run around and get their wiggles out, you’ll see this tour may be just the right fit for your family’s first Asia adventure.

Classic Family Cambodia Tour

You can head out and explore all the different countries and culture Southeast Asia has to offer, or you can spend your time getting to really know all Cambodia has to offer. Cambodia is so much more than just temples. As we often say, “you’ll love the temples, but you’ll fall in love with Cambodia.”

Spring Break

Traveling over Spring Break consistently offers some of the best weather available in Vietnam, with not-too-rainy and not-too-hot conditions found throughout the country. Families willing to brave the heat and humidity in Thailand this time of year will be rewarded by one of the most family-friendly festivals in the world – Songkran (essentially a nation-wide water fight). In addition, lodging rates are often discounted during the Spring Break holiday period.

Best time to book: By mid-January is ideal, by mid-February if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

Vietnam Spring Special for Families

This 10-day tour starts in the North with an immersion into Vietnamese culture and history, then takes participants out on the waters of UNESCO World Heritage Site Halong Bay for an overnight cruise amongst the remarkable limestone formations. Next, the tour gets active in historic Hoi An where you will walk amongst the ancient town and ride bicycles on Cam Kim Island. Finally, spend your last days in Saigon exploring the cultural diversity of this amazing nation.

Thailand Songkran Festival Tour for Families

The Thai New Year festival of Songkran is a great family-friendly way to get your feet wet (literally) with the traditions of Southeast Asia. This 10-day tour is designed to fit into an extended spring break vacation and will take families to some of Thailand’s most iconic destinations. Start in Bangkok where you’ll experience the nationwide water fight that is the Songkran festival. Next, head north to Chiang Mai where you’ll explore temples and take part in the Patara Elephant Farm’s Elephant Owner For A Day program. Finish up with a relaxing stay on the beaches of Phuket.

Summer Break

Who doesn’t love a summer beach vacation? While most of Southeast Asia is in the midst of the hot and humid rainy season during summer, these Thai islands are an exception. Plus, rates are discounted during the slower summer season.

Best time to book: By end of April if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

Last Minute Beach Crawl Tour

Thailand has some of the finest beaches in the world and this beach crawl will take you through some of our favorites. You will begin your tour on Koh Samui, before traveling on to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.

Thanksgiving Break

These days, many schools take the entire Thanksgiving week off, meaning you can plan a more ambitious overseas trip during this time period. If you’re going to travel over Thanksgiving, we figured you might as well celebrate food or take in a must-see festival that’s happening over the same time period (in 2018).

Best time to book: By end of September if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

Culinary Immersion Tour

Asia is possibly best known for it’s food. From the spice of Thai food to the exotic textures of Laos cuisine and the sour mixes found in Cambodia, this tour will take you through these amazing countries exciting your tastebuds along the way. In each city we have tried to include a cooking class focusing on local cuisine, a meal with a local family to get the flavour of authentic cooking and of course one night out at the must-visit restaurant. Of course food doesn’t tell the whole story so in between these amazing meals we have included the highlights of each country: from the Grand Palace in Bangkok, riding elephants in Chiang Mai, visiting waterfalls in Laos and seeing the amazing Angkor Wat in Cambodia your eyes and ears are going to have as much fun as your tastebuds!

Loi Krathong for Families Tour

Let our top guides show you the bustling city of Bangkok before heading North. Take a tour of Chiang Mai and enjoy one of Thailand’s most picturesque celebrations, the Loi Krathong Festival (Nov. 22 – 25 in 2018 – which is the Thanksgiving holiday period in the U.S.) which marks the end of the main rice harvest and is designed to thank the gods for the yearly supply of water.

Fly to the Cambodian city of Siem Reap to take in the sights at Angkor Wat and be further inspired by the wonders of the entire Angkor Archeological Park. While in Siem Reap, see the beauty of the Cambodian countryside by horseback and kayak through floating mangrove forest in Southeast Asia’s largest lake, the Tonle Sap. Finish your trip by spending a few days relaxing on one of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches, coconut in hand.

More Family Travel Tips

Once you have chosen your dates, here are a few more resources for families looking to ensure their overseas trip goes smoothly with children of any age.
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From one mother to another.

This is a letter Andrea sent to me regarding my upcoming trip. I found it very helpful and comforting. Although I am terribly excited for our trip, I must admit I have been a bit stressed about traveling with a two year old and fearful of not having our creature comforts readily available. Below is the letter.

Dear April,

From one mother to another: As you get ready for your big trip to Asia next month I wanted to send you some friendly advice mother to mother. For the last two weeks we have been in Vietnam and it has reminded me that traveling can be hard work and traveling with kids can be downright exhausting. Here are some helpful tips that have made this trip go smoother for us and that I wanted to pass on to you, they are in no particular order…

  1. Start giving Gavin rice with at least one meal a day. My life and traveling with my kids has been made so much easier because they are always happy with rice. It fills them up and while it might not be the most nutritional food in the world, it is great when they are tired, cranky and just need something in their stomach. Rice is always available and can be at the table fast. If we’re running late for a meal I will often ask for the rice as soon as we sit down so the kids have something to snack on while we order.
  2. Take something with you from home. This trip I brought a jar of Marmite with me because Callie will always eat crackers or toast if I put Marmite on it. Peanut Butter and Jelly would be another option. You can always get bread, and this means you can always make a comfort meal for him.
  3. Don’t be afraid of room service. Kids can get wiped out traveling and some nights it is good to just stay in, eat dinner and have an early night.
  4. Bring some treats with you. Callie gets gum on the plane and we have M&Ms in the car, it makes them look forward to the not-so-fun times.
  5. Everyone is going to touch your baby, it can be tiring, but it is part of the culture. There are a few ways to handle it. When I have a kid asleep in the stroller one of us pushes and ones runs interference (walks next to the stroller and heads off would be cheek pinchers). I also have told Callie to just say, “Please don’t touch me”, at least it gives her a way to ask nicely and has cut down on the screaming. You can be firm, when my kids are tired or just not in the mood I have them walk next to me and just tell people no if they come in for the grab, people look at you like you’re crazy, but the kids get a break. When my kids are happy though they really like the attention and I will let them go and play with waitresses and security guards and other random strangers. I like to keep them in sight, but it’s nice to have a break.
  6. Asia is grubby, bring hand sanitizer and wet wipes.
  7. A portable DVD player can be a lifesaver. I travel with my computer so we watch a lot of movies on that, but having a way to watch DVDs in the car or on the plane, or when it’s bed time, it helps bring them down a notch. They are worth the money!
  8. Fast food is not a sell-out! We ate KFC tonight and it was great. There are McDonalds in Thailand and trust me, you will have enough Thai food and Cambodian food to feel like you did your duty and a night of familiar food can be really good for them.
  9. Take mental health breaks. I get up early in the morning with the kids and let Brandon rest and then later Brandon takes them to breakfast so I can have some time to myself, this way we both get our time.
  10. Have fun and don’t stress the small stuff.

Can’t wait to see you in Cambodia!

AndreaRead more »