Trip to Asia

Hey All,

My wife, daughter (5 y/o) and myself are looking to travel to Asia this summer(we are thinking Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong or Vietnam) for 8 days. Want to explore some place new.
We have not been to this part of the world before and I am not sure where to start.
Anyone have any recommendations on where to travel first? We live close to Dallas and I know we can fly direct to some of these locations.
Would you do a tour, rent a hotel room or perhaps an AirBnb? Any other advice?

That’s a hugely broad request, but here’s my two cents.

I’d go to Japan. There are direct flights. It’s high end and user friendly, the hotels are nice, and will be easy to navigate with a 5yo (some restaurants may be hard). The country is small enough that you could easily craft a robust itinerary–say, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima/Miyajima–in an 8-day window. The travel is also long but not soul-crushing. Travel to HK/Vietnam with a 5yo seems daunting to me (I have 3.5 and 1.5 year olds).


i’d probably pick Japan in your shoes. Hong Kong wouldn’t be bad though.

Another suggestion could be Singapore or Taiwan. Both very developed, highly efficient public trans, modern, cool sites to see in a compact area. Actually you can probably tack on taiwan to any of those other locations for free if you fly Eva Air.

Here’s my two cents worth, adjusted for inflation. In eight days, I’d do Vietnam and Singapore. Limit Vietnam to the Southern part of the country. Singapore is a two hour flight from HCM and easy to navigate when you get there; very compact. I’ve done this trip and it works. Vietnam/Hong Kong would be an alternative. When you make the flight across the pond, it is nice to see more than one country and culture.

Singapore in the summer? I can’t agree, though I suppose they are from Texas so the weather might not be as oppressive for them as it was for me. Other than that I agree that it’s a great city to visit.

I’m in the Japan contingent. I’ve only been once but it was a stellar trip.

Funny - I just came back from a trip that hit all of those countries! :slight_smile:

I would suggest either Japan, with visits to several cities, or splitting your time between Hong Kong and Singapore.

I love Vietnam, and have spent a lot of time there (as I have in Japan and HK) but I agree it would be more difficult with a 5 year old. Saigon in particular can be very challenging, even for adults - it is hot, noisy, dirty, crowded, and has worse traffic than I have ever seen in my life. And that’s coming from someone who loves it there! There is no public transportation to speak of (Uber worked great, though!) and crossing the street is worse than an advanced level of a game of Frogger. Plus the food could be a big challenge for a kid, much as I love it, unless you’re keeping yourself insulted, which defeats the purpose. I don’t think kids need to be totally insulated or coddled, I just think the level of discomfort one has to accept in order to have an authentic experience there is higher than in a lot of other places.

Singapore is very easy, though also hot, and the food is great. It’s less…interesting and exciting, shall we say, and has a lot in common with a big shopping mall, but I think the intersection of ease and authenticity here would be a better choice with a kid in tow. Hong Kong can be a bit grittier, but if you’ve never done a big Asian city, it’s pretty exciting, and I think would be for a child as well. There are plenty of direct flights, and if you’re flying Cathay, the airport experience - checking your luggage in from either Kowloon or HK Station up to 24 hours in advance!! - is very smooth. Subways in both HK and Singapore are great as well.

Japan has its own challenges, depending on what you want to experience there. but it is very easy as a tourist to design a wonderful trip, almost no matter what you like to do. Travel within Japan, either by train or plane, is super easy and it’s no problem to get a few different places in within an 8 day journey. In the bigger cities, it’s also very easy to get around, and the tourist destinations are actually pretty special.

Let us know what you decide. You’ll have a great trip no matter what.

Sarah - we’re talking Vietnam as a potential trip for 2018 so I look forward to asking for advice at that point :slight_smile:

Your advice for Japan was invaluable.

Of course, Jay. Anytime.

I assume a 5 year old is fully walking. And do not require a stroller?
Japan is not very infant/toddler friendly with the massive subway infrastructure. We actually cancelled our trip next year with a 1 and 3 year old. That said if the 5 yr old is comfortable walking all day Japan is an awesome location I love!

I’ll throw in doing Beijing for 72 hours. The Chinese immigration allows US passport-holders 72-hours stay without visa. They just need proof that you have outbound flight confirmed when you enter the country.

A full-day personal-guided trip from Beijing can include both The Great Wall and the Forbidden City, and it was awesome when we did it last year.

Thanks all. Will pursue a trip to Japan. Thinking Tokyo, Kyoto and Mount Fuji. Our daughter is fully capable of handling a trip like this(I hope).

Would you guys do a organized tour, self guided tour of just rent a airbnb and play it by year?

We did everything self-guided – using guidebooks and recs from trusted sources – and it was pretty easy. Only one unsolicited piece of advice: if you’re looking to make reservations at popular/high-end restaurants, a concierge at a top hotel can be an invaluable resource. Just something to think about when deciding between airbnb and a hotel.

I would second Ryan’s advice. Many top restaurants even say on their websites that non-Japanese guests should book through their hotel concierge. My husband speaks Japanese and still uses the concierge for many bookings, as everyone is more comfortable that way. Note, though, that hotels will often have you give a cc # and may even ask that you sign a form about cancellations.

Another couple of points regarding hotel vs airbnb. First, apartments in Japan are often VERY small. We have rented in Kyoto, Sapporo, Fukuoka and Tokyo and have often found apartments that are almost too small for the two of us and our luggage! Hotel rooms aren’t that huge either, to be fair. Also, the language barrier can be difficult with AirBnB, much more so than in Europe. Finally, if a reason for getting an apartment is doing some cooking, note that almost without exception the kitchens are TINY, and almost never very well equipped. That said, we have great friends who rent several properties in Kyoto, with well-above-average kitchens and we’d be happy to point you in that direction. PM me if interested.

We used guides for two of our days in Kyoto and found them invaluable. Two local women who were awesome, and we traveled by cab. I forget the service, but could find the info fairly easily. We stayed at the Granvia in Kyoto and had a pretty large room for parents and a kid. The advantage is that it is directly above the train station, which makes the commute to/from Tokyo or on day trips (Hiroshima, Nara, Osaka very easy). The down side is that it is not in the center of the Kyoto universe, but it’s close and cabs are plentiful.

We’ve stayed in great rental homes in Tokyo, but those have been at least one week rentals, so probably not much use to you. It was great to have a kitchen and laundry with kids.

Don’t expect too much from your five year old. Lots of walking in both cities, and lots of elevation in Kyoto if you head to the temples and shrines.


I think you are choosing wisely with Japan. Charlie’s suggestion about Taiwan is another good one. We loved Vietnam, but it would likely be a bit more difficult with a 5 year old. If you haven’t traveled internationally with your child yet, the best advice I can give you (based on three European trips with two kids) is to avoid overextending yourselves in terms of commitments. Eight days is not much are you are going to have to miss a great deal more of Japan than you are going to get to see. Resign yourself to that fact up front. You and your wife and child will have a much better trip if the pace is not frenetic. Good luck and have fun!

PS Someone once told me to talk to strangers when traveling. I would follow that person’s sage advice. [cheers.gif]


I recently visited Korea for the first time (Seoul, Busan, and Gyeongju). Been to Japan many times; first time to Asia was Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia.

There’s an element of me that thinks Korea is the perfect destination for a first trip to Asia with a kid. Traveling in the country was easier than traveling in the USA! Seriously.

The food is great, the people are friendly, the tourist industry is very well developed and helpful, the sights and landscapes are beautiful, English (of varying proficiency) is spoken fairly broadly, and it is relatively inexpensive.

As compared to Japan, there aren’t so many rules (try getting into a Japanese hotel before check-in or find some understanding if you go through a wrong gate on the subway or show up late for a dinner reservation) and there aren’t so many people competing to do things (famous and top restaurants are easy reservations, tickets to temples don’t sell out, etc).

Given the terrible pollution, I would not longer get near mainland China. It was terrible in 2007, when we are there and if you are following the news, it is much worse now. Even the good days are bad days. And imagine for a minute how all of that pollution affects everything you eat and drink.

Japan on the other hand is a great visit. Haven’t been to Singapore but will be there in April. Yes, I know it is hot but I am from Texas after all.

We booked 8 days in Japan. Will fly to Tokyo, spend 2 days in Tokyo, 1 day Tokyo—>Mount Fuji—> Kyoto, 2 days in Kyoto, Kyoto—>Tokyo, 1 day Disney Japan then return home. Plan to rent airbnb in Tokyo and Kyoto. Anyone have any recommendations which neighborhood in Tokyo and Kyoto to rent? Will hire day guides off viator.