Asia with kids – Is that possible? We knew Martynas and Raminta from back home in Lithuania, which means that we also knew them to be a family that always travels to Asian during winter. While we were freezing back home, they were enjoying sunshine, fresh fruit, and other benefits of a warmer climate. We were always quite taken by – and supportive of – the idea of spending winter holidays where it’s warm.
Later, in autumn, during our second year in the Philippines, we received a message from Martynas and Raminta, informing us of their plan to stay in Thailand until New Year’s Eve, and then visit the Philippines. Meeting them again and travelling around the islands here was a real treat not just for us, but also for the kids, who wanted nothing more than to climb up palm trees.
What follows is an interview we did with Martynas and Raminta, and their children Vakarė and Jokūbas, about spending winters in Asian countries. Are long winter holidays in tropical counties really possible even if you have a child who’s only seven months old?
Winter Holidays in Tropical Countries
Tell us a little bit about your family. Do you like to travel? What ages were your children on their first trip?
We love to travel because it helps us discover more about the world, learn new things, see what we haven’t seen before, meet new people, and get introduced to different cultures.
Our oldest daughter Vakarė had her first trip abroad when she was 6 months old. To be fair, though, the trip wasn’t that extensive as we only went to Cyprus.
The first time our son Jokūbas saw a foreign country was at 7 months old. His first trip was to Thailand, and then Malaysia and the Philippines.
You’ve been spending your winters in Asia for a number of years now. Could you tell us more about that?
Yes, we like to go where it’s warm. Given that Raminta is the biggest fan of warm weather, we simply had to find some kind of solution. The whole thing started back in 2013, and we’ve now been to Indonesia, Oman, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Hopefully, things will fall into place this year again as we’d really like to spend the winter somewhere in Asia.
Do the kids enjoy such long winter holidays, or should we say “Asian holidays”?
We haven’t heard from Jokūnas yet, as he had just learned to walk – but not to speak – in Thailand. Vakarė told us that she likes it because of the tasty dishes, the variety of fruit, plenty of sunshine, and often times also the sea (water) which she really loves. During longer visits she eventually begins to miss her friends and all the toys she has back in Lithuania, yet she had also learned to make new friends rather quickly. Communicating is a bit more problematic, of course, but as they say – when there’s a will, there’s a way.
What new things do you – both as a family and as individuals – experience during your longer trips that you simply couldn’t find living comfortably back home in Lithuania?
Well, the first things would be the warm weather and the knowledge that tomorrow is going to be yet another sunny day.
But also new acquaintances, tasty dishes, the variety of fresh fruit. Learning about new cultures, traditions, and languages. The chance to visit new places. New experiences upon seeing something you’ve not seen before, or climbing a mountain, or noticing a scorpion under your feet.
Travels around in Asia with kids
Which Asian countries did you choose for your winter travels, and why?
Thailand is currently our favorite. Using it as our base of operations, we have also visited Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore.
Everything started with Thailand. It was the easiest to reach and among the cheapest to get to by plane. Upon arriving in Thailand for the first time we were not very impressed. This was mostly due to the local attitude towards tourists and people’s attempts to get as much money from you as possible. However, as we started to actually travel around the country, we found some things that really impressed us and made us want to go back.
The first of those was the Island of Tarutao which we dubbed the Heavenly Island. The local population is quite small, making the island fairly quiet. There’s also a beautiful beach, lots of open space, a warm sea, hot sun, and the ever-present option of renting a tent and just living on the shore. During our first visit with a small child, all of the above was just perfect for us.
The second reason for returning is our acquaintance with a local man in Krabi Town. He’s a truly one-of-a-kind person – we’ve never another as genuine as him in all of Thailand. We call him simply Friend. Our relationship became so strong that we spend quite a lot of time together whenever we’re back in Thailand. We travel the local precincts and the surrounding region, enjoy some local entertainment, spend our free time together, and take part in family gatherings.
So these are the two main things which make our family return to Thailand time and again. If not for them, we would’ve probably found other places to spend our winters.
Do you plan out your travel routes in advance?
The first time we went to Asia for the winter we had specific locations and attractions in mind that we wanted to see. Yet our plans would change on the spot and, frankly, we weren’t that attached to them anyway. If we really liked a particular location, we would stay there for as long as we wanted. These days we don’t really make any specific plans and figure out what to do and what to see on the spot. We usually ask the locals for recommendations and other advice.
What budget should a family of four have to be able to travel around/live in Asia without much financial difficulty?
I think a 1,000 euros would be a good start. A lot depends on how people want to live, what conveniences they expect to have, how long the trip is going to last, and what types of food they would like to eat.
Travel expenses often increase due to factors like ticket prices and not being familiar with the destination, inexpensive places to eat, buy fruit, find accommodation without breaking the bank, etc. We have met some people who, instead of eating local street food, would always go to European-style cafés and restaurants. Compared to local food, that is much more expensive.
Long story short, we can’t really give any specific number because everyone is different in terms of what they need, but, based on our experience, Asian countries are not particularly cheap for spending winters.
Do you have any advice about saving money on flight tickets, accommodation, and food in Asian countries?
Make sure to look for flights in advance, rather than at the last minute. Also – be flexible. If you find cheap tickets, go to a different city, island, or even country.
Look for flights in Asia with local and low-cost airlines. Asian countries have no shortage of those and we in Europe usually don’t know about them, thereby missing out on some great opportunities.
Accommodation. The first rule would be to stay away from long-term rent before arrival, provided this is your first visit. The main reason for this is that you can’t know in advance if what you see in the pictures is indicative of what you’ll actually find upon arriving. The second reason is that you can often ask for a discount in person. And the third reason is that you can look up different options on the spot, many of which you probably didn’t find on the internet. In summary, prior to taking off for a place we haven’t yet been to, we usually rent a place for 1 or at most 2 nights, and then look for what best suits our needs while already there.
Food. Eat local food. Find all the local markets – some of them are open during the day, while others in the evening – for buying fruits, vegetables, and other foods. Another piece of advice would be to eat where the locals do – that’s your ticket to good, tasty food. If you can, try to avoid places designed to serve tourists.
Did you manage to find all the necessary baby care products and foods during your travels?
That was never an issue for us. The selection of diapers is quite vast. One slight issue was finding baby food – unlike Lithuania, Asian countries are often lacking in their selection of baby purées with meat.
Did you go for any additional vaccines to protect your children against local diseases?
Once our children grew up, we didn’t give them any additional vaccines. Vakarė was additionally vaccinated against hepatitis A. While Jokūbas was too young at the time, so he didn’t receive any additional vaccinations.
Have you ever had to go see a doctor during your longer trips? If so, what were your impressions? Could your reassure other families of the possibility of getting all the required medical attention while travelling in Asia?
During our first winter in Thailand we had to go to a private hospital. Both the service and the medical assistance were quick and of good quality. Everyone spoke good English. We were able to get all the medications we needed.
In our opinion, there’s no reason to fear visiting local medical establishments, at least the private ones. Since we don’t really know whether it’s possible to get into public hospitals here, or what the quality of service they have, we would recommend tourists choose private establishments.
What advice would you give to families planning to spend a winter in Asia?
Plan in advance, look for pertinent information on-line, including forums, and go for it!
Just remember to be flexible and don’t be afraid of adjusting your plans on the fly. Enjoy your lives!
Which country is your family most fond of and where would you like to return in the future?
Depends on who you ask. We, grown ups, would like to – and sure will – return to Cuba. If we’re talking Asian countries, that would be Thailand. Vakarė said she’d like to return to the Philippines, and Jokūbas is probably happy with any place warm that doesn’t require him to change clothes.
We’d like to thank our corresponding family for sharing their ideas and experience in spending winters in tropical countries.
If you have any questions regarding travelling in Asia with kids, spending long winter vacations in places where it’s summer year-round, or travelling with small children – let us know in the comment section below. We’ll do our best to reply and give you some advice.