If you ask the average American family whether a trip to Cambodia is on their radar in the near future, the question will probably probably result in some strange looks. Southeast Asia? With young children? How is that possible? I am here to tell you it is possible and we have done it. Adventure trips to far flung places are not always easy, but if you have an open mind and a venturesome spirit, it can happen. When planning a trip to Cambodia with children, several steps to planning the vacation are essential.
Work up your budget
Vacations to a another country makes most people see dollar signs, but a visit to a country like Cambodia does not have to be overly expensive. Look at several factors to help manage your budget:
- decide which cities and sites you want to see
- look at average flight costs throughout the year (hint: the best time to book flights are Tuesdays 50 -100 days before travel)
- Investigate average food and drink costs in the cities where you will be traveling. Cambodia is cheap - local beer costs $1.50 and a decent meal won’t run you more than $4 - $5.
- check out hotel room costs in the cities you are visiting. A country like Cambodia is the perfect place to work with Airbnb. There are hundreds of listings in various cities, all at a fraction of the price of a luxury hotel room. Many of the listings are entire houses for less than $100 per night. Stick to accommodations that have good reviews.
Contact a travel agent
A travel agent is invaluable when planning a trip to another country. I cannot say enough good things about Handspan Travel, the agency we used to plan our trip. Based in Hanoi, Vietnam, they specialize in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. They can take care of everything from tours to hotel reservations to beach excursions. They are also there for you during the duration of the trip, in case of problems. We had one particular long night with our 1 year old and our agent cancelled our tour for the next day and rescheduled it for the following day so we could rest. We really felt like they were with us every step of the way. Get travel insurance It is essential to get trip insurance on an adventure trip. If your flight is cancelled or your luggage is lost, trip insurance can help. Especially for emergencies like medical problems. We received wonderful care when our daughter got sick in Siem Reap, but ours was not a huge emergency and I would not want to be in a third world country for a serious problem. Sticking to these planning tips can help with the execution of your trip, but what about when your family arrives in Cambodia? Following a few guidelines will help make the trip more enjoyable for everyone.
Cambodia has so many things to see, you could spend a year there and not see everything. Realistically, a family with small children will not see as much as they want to see. Kids get tired, have meltdowns, get hungry. A five hour tour of temples without breaks is absolutely not going to happen. Make sure everyone is on the same page about this before traveling. Relax and Enjoy the Culture Sit back. Relax. Grab a tuk-tuk ride for $2. Hang out together as a family in an open air restaurant and just people watch. Cambodia and its people have a rich, complex history and there is so much to experience besides tourist sites. One of our favorite days in Siem Reap was sitting at an open air bar, while our daughter slept in her stroller and our son sat with some Cambodian ladies getting a “fish massage” about 5 feet away. My husband and I chatted and enjoyed an Angkor beer and our son still remembers how fun it was to this day.
Engage a guide
The various temples and sites around Siem Reap are not very well marked. A tour guide is a must. He or she will know the history and the significance of the temples and will be a valuable guide to which sites are “important” and which are realistically doable for a family. Our favorites were Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat. We toured with our guide for a few hours each day and then asked him to take us to local restaurants to enjoy the culture. The people of Cambodia are more that happy to talk and the guides are usually highly educated, interesting people, eager to share their country. They do speak English. The best way to find a guide is to ask your travel agent (ours scheduled all of our various guides for our trip) or go to this great website and you will get a list of licensed guides.
Cambodia with children does not have to be an impossible dream. A bit of planning mixed with a positive attitude can take your family anywhere. Adventure vacation trips such as Cambodia are valuable to a family and the memories last forever. Make it happen and have fun!
5 Things to do with Kids in Cambodia....
- Take a tuk-tuk ride through the town of Siem Reap or into the country where some of the temple ruins are. There are many things to see to keep kids entertained.
- Take a boat ride and see the Tonle Sap floating village. They will see floating houses, stores, snakes and crocodiles. To book, ask your travel agent or go to this booking site.
- Take the kids for a fish massage at one of the many spas located along the streets.
- Visit the Angkor Night Market for some souvenir shopping and to soak up the local culture.
- Book a Khmer Ceramics class. It’s fun for kids and they have your pottery ready for you within 24 hours.