Traveling as a family
Before we even get started it's important that you know that I don't have any kids and that these opinions are mine based on my experiences, talking to other parents and research. Those of you with children may have an entirely different experience traveling with them and if so, please let me know in the comments.
At one point in time choosing a vacation spot was a simple as throwing a dart at a map or calling up your best friend and hopping in the car and driving until you ran out of gas- but when you become a parent things tend to get a little more complicated. Now, when you want to take a trip you have to plan for the whole family and their varying personalities. You may have a cranky toddler, with a stroller and extra bags to carry, or an energetic pre-teen who only eats chicken nuggets and easy mac, or an angsty teenager who hates everyone and everything. All of that needs to be taken into consideration and sometimes just the thought of trying to manage it all is enough to make you want to throw out the idea completely and settle for an extended stay at grandma's house.
But don't worry, there's hope for saving that vacation and going to a new place where there's something for everyone. Here are my suggestions for some of the best places to visit as a family.
TAIPEI, TAIWAN- Taiwan is a small country just off the east coast of China. What the island lacks in size, it more than makes up in culture and adventure.
Why parents will love it: It's cheap. Crazy cheap. Like, a full meal for a family at a nice restaurant will run you about $30, and that's if you're being fancy. If you eat at some of the local restaurants your bill can come in well under that mark. Besides cheap and delicious food the city is extremely easy to navigate. The Taipei rail system (MRT) is one of the most advanced and well organized in the world. A ride from Taipei 101 to the furthest stop, the quiet fisherman's city of Tamsui, costs $2 on the train and you don't have to transfer. In addition to that there are tons of free or cheap family oriented activities that happen throughout the year.
Why teens will love it: Teens will love Taipei because of all the things that they can do freely. Taiwan consistently ranks in the top 10 safest countries in the world, so when your teen wants to venture off on their own you can rest assured that they'll be pretty fine. One of the favorite past times for teens in the country is to spend time in the night markets. A night market is exactly what it sounds like- a market that's only open at night. These markets are excellent places to go for cheap souvenirs, street snacks and just hanging out with other people your age.
Why children will love it: If your child likes anything colorful or cute then they'll love Taipei and the surrounding cities. Taiwan is the birthplace of Hello Kitty, and does an excellent job of catering to its smaller visitors with cuddly mascots, interactive exhibits and tasty treats all throughout the city. Also, Taipei zoo has the highest concentration of Pokestops in the world!
SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE- Fun fact, Singapore is one of the smallest countries in the world. It's located at the southern most tip of Malaysia and is famously known for outlawing spitting and chewing gum in public.
Why everyone will love it: The tiny city state has a lot for everyone, regardless of age- the whole country is like a massive playground within a mall. Like watersports? There's a wakeboard park on the west side of the city. Like shopping? Head to the city center and spend your whole trip (and budget) in the massive mall. Thrill seeker? Head to Universal Studios or spend the day at Sentosa where you can go ziplining, or try the skydiving tunnel. Gambler? There's a casino as well.
Seriously, it's impossible to not find something to love in Singapore.
OSAKA, JAPAN- Ok, so I know you're saying to yourself, "Osaka? What about Tokyo?" and that's fair, but in my opinion Osaka is much more family friendly than Tokyo. Tokyo is a big city and with big cities comes massive crowds, confusing transit lines, lots of noise, and big city expenses. All of those distractions and stimuli can be overwhelming for younger travelers and the hit to the pockets is off-putting to the parents who have to foot the bill.
Osaka, on the other hand, is a great place to check out if you're traveling with family. There's an aquarium, Universal Studios with Harry Potter World(!) and Dotonburi, the outdoor entertainment district. The city itself is much quieter than Tokyo, but that doesn't mean that it pulls any punches when it comes to fun. The city absolutely buzzes with thousands of arcades, a shopping district the size of two pro football stadiums, and more food stands, stalls and restaurants than you can count.
Why parents will love it: Beyond the shopping and the lively bar scene, Osaka is really just a great place to immerse yourself in Japanese culture. In Tokyo it's very easy to forget that you're in a foreign country because after a while it just feels like every other big city. You have to venture out of the Tokyo district to remind yourself that you're miles away from home, whereas in Osaka you're constantly reminded of it. The neon lights and giant sea animal sculptures jutting from from the various food shops force you to acknowledge that you aren't where you're normally from. The towering buildings that suddenly give way to dimly lit alleyways invoke a feeling of otherworldliness and the smells of the various Japanese cuisines that fill the air will gently guide you into a whole new world in stark contrast to anything that you've ever known or could imagine.
Why teens and children will love it: Harry Potter World. 'nuff said.