When all else fails, family remains — which is why you’ve got to cherish every moment you have with them. And what better way to spend time together than to go on a family vacation? Travelling with children and grandparents may sound daunting because of the perceived inconveniences, but it’s not difficult if you plan beforehand. In fact, you’ll be amazed how the young and old can enjoy a lot of common activities and bond over them. We’ve round up some destinations with tips on what to look out for and activities to do together, for the perfect family holiday, so get ready!
Seoul, South Korea: A blend of heritage and urbanism
Plan to stay 6 to 8 days in South Korea to get the most of your holiday
Beyond K-pop and idols, Korea is full of rich history and culture. So while the young and old may find different things appealing, take the time to understand one another’s interests and plan for activities that everyone can enjoy together.
When with children and the elderly, it’s sometimes more convenient to travel in private transport, but you don’t have to in Korea! The metro stations are well-equipped with elevators, and places of interests are usually easily accessible with this mode of transport. Younger ones are often quick to give up their seats to the older folks, so you don’t have to worry about your parents having to stand throughout the journey. Besides, children aged 7 to 12 are eligible for a 60 per cent discount off train rides while those aged 6 and below can ride for free.
Tip: Download the NAVER Map from the App Store or Google Play to help plan your routes — English, Chinese and Japanese translations are available on top of the default Korean.
Buy and reload your T-Money concession card at any subway station — it’ll cost far less than buying one-way tickets
Where to stay
Insadong is an art and culture hot spot for the locals and a great location to stay at. While rooms with basic amenities are available, you can also have the whole family live together in fully-furnished condominiums, and landed properties, where you’d likely get more privacy as well. Well-connected via public transport and a walking distance from many tourist attractions, Insadong is a winding street bustling with activities. The main street even gets closed off from car access during certain hours over the weekends.
What to do
1. Ride a Tubester along the scenic Han River
Pack a bag of local snacks onto the boat and watch the city, including the 63 Building and N Seoul Tower, light up at night
Take a tube-shaped boat out on the Han River, near the Banpo Hangang Park (about an hour from the city by subway), to marvel at the scenic cityscape of Korea up close. Each boat seats up to six people and lifejackets are provided with lifeguards constantly around to ensure safety. So enjoy the cool river breeze with your family at ease, and don’t forget to take plenty of photos together!
Tip: Make a reservation beforehand to skip the queue.
2. Step into a time capsule at the Korean Folk Village
Rent a Hanbok (traditional Korean costume) at the Korean Folk Village for a taste of Korean culture — you won’t feel odd because many locals don the Hanbok too!
Travel a little further to the Korean Folk Village, an old town in Gihung district (about 2 hours from Insadong Station), where an amusement park greets your family upon arrival. While it cannot compare to larger themed parks like Lotte World or Everland, it’s a great place for the kids to play. Venture past the acrobat and caricature shows, and into the traditional homes, because hidden from plain sight, are activities like pottery workshops and interactive performances, where your K-drama crazy teens can act out popular scenes from shows that were shot in the village. If you’re lucky, you may even come across a Korean wedding with couples donned in their traditional costumes!
Manila, The Philippines: Where serenity and relaxation abound
Plan to stay at least 5 days to really get to know Manila
When it comes to travelling with the elderly, you’d want to ensure ample rest when planning for outdoor activities — and Manila is a destination to do just that, with plenty of nature to take in during the down-times. The scenic environment also makes for insta-worthy photos for the kids and adults alike. Contrary to perceptions of traffic jams and safety, Manila is great for family vacations if you know where to go and how to get around.
The public transport systems in Manila are not equipped with facilities like lifts, and are usually crowded with limited seats. While you can flag for cabs, be mindful to request for the drivers to run by meter, as flat fee offers tend to be more expensive — a good gauge would be around 40 pesos (SGD 3) upon flagging, and 2.5 pesos (SGD 0.20) every subsequent 300m. For a greater peace of mind though, hire a private driver for 3000 – 5000 pesos (SGD 75 – 125) a day, depending on the size of the car, from sites like Manila Stay and Blacklane. Popular ride-hailing app, Grab, is available in Manila as well.
Where to stay
Housing many historic sites and museums that chronicle the nation’s move towards independence from Spanish rule, Intramuros is a great place to stay at. Located at the heart of Metro Manila (a prime tourist destination), it’s close to many attractions and the gated condominiums on Airbnb are safe, comfortable and relatively affordable at under SGD 200 per night, depending on size.
What to do
1. Unravel Manila’s history at Intramuros
The tranquil Rizal Park is a tribute to national hero and icon, Dr Jose Rizal, a patriot for reform during the Spanish Colonial Era
At Intramuros, you’ll find yourself constantly enveloped in the history of the colonial era. Visit Fort Santiago, the oldest Hispanic fort in Philippines, to marvel at the ruins of religious sites like San Augustine church and Manila Cathedral, or the Rizal Park, where well-manicured ponds, gardens and statues reside, for a relaxing stroll.
2. Dive into Manila Ocean Park for an underwater experience
Sign up for the ‘Be a Sea Lion Trainer’ programme at Manila Ocean Park and interact with the friendly seals
Just a 10-minute drive from Intramuros, Manila Ocean Park is a spectacular marine-themed park. Housing a diverse array of underwater organism native to the Philippines, the ocean park will be a real educational experience for the kids and a relaxing one for the adults. Touch creatures like starfishes at the interactive shows and marvel at sea lion tricks — the perfect formula for a fun day out!
Chiang Mai, Thailand: The land of smiles
Plan to stay 4 to 6 days in Chiang Mai for a laid-back trip
Chiang Mai is not only an affordable destination for a large family, it boasts immense greenery making it a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of city-life. While the kids can learn many values from the humble lives of the locals, the adults can take a breather from the fast-paced environment back home — best of both worlds!
When it comes to travelling, Chiang Mai is known for its iconic red trucks (Songthaews), but not all drivers can speak English and they tend to pick up passengers along the way until full capacity (11pax). If sharing a ride with strangers doesn’t sound appealing to you, pay a little extra for Uber or Grab, averaging about 50 baht (SGD 2) for each trip, for the entire family to travel in comfort. It may even add up to far cheaper than the Songthaews which charges 30 baht per person!
Where to stay
It’s ideal to stay at Chiang Mai Old City as it is in the downtown area and gives quicker access to amenities. Less than a 15-minute drive from Chiang Mai International Airport and walking distance to major temples and night markets, it’s convenient and has plenty of activities. While the roads can get a little congested during rush hour, take solace that the traffic will never be as bad as in Bangkok!
Tip: Avoid visiting from February to April as it’s Chiang Mai’s burning season, where farmers burn their lands in preparation for the Thai new year. The haze that is caused by the burning, can lead to respiratory issues, which might be of particular concern for the elderly and young ones.
What to do
1. Whip up Thai delicacies at the Thai Orchid Cookery School
Enrol for a culinary class to cook with your family and bond over food. At the Thai Orchid Cookery School within Old City, you can learn traditional Thai recipes from experienced chefs who believe that a meal should always be prepared and shared with love. Some of the dishes you can learn include spring rolls, phad thai and mango sticky rice.
While the older folks get to learn new recipes, cooking together is also a fun way to spend time as a family
2. Marvel at Thailand’s sacred creature at the Elephant Nature Park
The Elephant Nature Park doesn’t promote elephant riding as part of helping them live as normal a life as possible
Elephant Nature Park is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre 1.5 hours away by car from Chiang Mai. Besides feeding the elephants, both young and old can watch these friendly giants splash around in the waters from an observation deck — a sight sure to excite! Besides, it’s a great opportunity to educate the young ones on caring for animals and our environment as they marvel at the elephants in their most natural habitats and behaviours.
Whether it’s sailing down the river in Seoul or basking under the sun in Manila, there are lots of activities that the young and old can engage in together. But while having fun is important, it is ultimately being able to spend time with your loved ones and grow closer as a family that matters. So throw aside the perception that a family vacation is about staying in just one place and doing mundane things, and start planning for an epic family trip to one of these destinations and let the adventure begin.
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Seoul, South Korea
Asiana Airlines, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines and Scoot fly to Seoul from Changi Airport several times a week.
Manila, The Philippines
Cebu Pacific, Jetstar, Philippines Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Scoot offer many weekly flights to Manila from Changi Airport.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
SilkAir and Scoot fly to Chiang Mai from Changi Airport several times a week.