3 Ways to Survive an Overseas Holiday with Kids in Tow

Joanne Poh



Overseas holidays as an adult are relaxing, unless you’re a control freak who insists on taking selfies in front of every single monument in town… or you’re travelling with kids. Then they’re absolute chaos.

Not only do you have to pay to feed, house and entertain twice the number of people when there are kids in tow, you also tend to shell out more cash on kid-friendly activities like theme parks, which when multiplied by the number of people in the family adds up to a heck of a lot.

Here are three ways to survive an overseas holiday with the kids without going broke or anyone throwing a tantrum.


Remember that the outdoors are a free way to entertain kids for hours

Kid-friendly attractions like theme parks and zoos tend to be on the pricey side. Right here in Singapore, it would cost a family of four at least $256 to visit Universal Studios, while a day at the Singapore Zoo and River Safari would cost at least $204.

And don’t think it’s necessarily cheaper overseas. It costs at least 174 euro (263 SGD) for a family of four to spend a single day at Disneyland Paris.

But don’t think a family holiday means you have to spend any extras on kiddy attractions. As a kid, I remember going on a holiday to Perth (which many Singaporean adults consider boring) and having a whale of a time at the massive King’s Park, playing with random kids at the playground till sunset every day. It was free, of course.

So long as you haven’t already gotten your kids addicted to their iPads, it’s surprisingly easy to keep those under the age of 12 entertained. All they need are wide open spaces and fresh air, and they’ll find ways to make their own fun. If you’re on a tight budget, don’t feel obligated to spend tons of money on attractions. Your kids will neither know nor mind. Just look for the local park, playground or botanic gardens and you’ve got a winner.


Bring lots of entertainment options for the kids

One of the toughest things about travelling with kids is handling the pockets of downtime—long bus or car rides, waiting in airports or hanging around the hotel at night. The younglings invariably get bored and restless, and the parents need to keep them from destroying stuff or fighting with each other, all while getting some rest or making sure no flights or rides are missed.

It’s always a good idea to pack some entertainment options for the kids when you’re on holiday. For many parents these days, that could mean the ubiquitous iPad, but if you don’t believe in resorting to mobile devices all is not lost.

Books are an oft-underestimated tool of distraction in this day and age, but if you succeed in making a reader out of your kids all you need are a few favourite tomes and you’ve instantly won yourself hours of peace and quiet.

Handheld gaming devices like the Nintendo 3DS and iPods are also effective at keeping older kids occupied, although your challenge will then be to tear them away from them in time to look at the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, etc.

If you are taking a particularly long trip of up to a month, you might even want to bring along the kids’ Xbox, PlayStation, Wii or laptop, as you’ll likely be enjoying more downtime at your accommodation.


Apartments might save you more money than hotels

Staying in hotels with kids can be tricky. A family of four sharing a single hotel room isn’t a problem when the kids are little, but as they get older, they (and you) might need their own space. In addition, if you have more than two kids, squeezing five to a room is a pushing it a little.

Once the number of people in your group exceeds three or four, renting a room in a serviced apartment or an entire apartment on Airbnb makes a lot more sense, especially because you’ll be able to use the fridge and the kitchen.

It’s so much easier and cheaper to just buy a few boxes of cereal at the supermarket and have the kids eat that at breakfast than have to herd the entire group out the door in search of a place that serves decent grub in the morning.

How do you handle overseas holidays with kids? Share your tips in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.