Guest Blogger: Backpacking in Malaysia with children

Although the idea of backpacking with children has much that appeals, I have never had the courage to do so.  My friend Heather is braver than I and has graciously agreed to share her experiences.


Oscar and Jessie backpacking in Malaysia

Backpacking in Malaysia with children

Backpacking: it worked when we were young and fancy-free. Would it work with a couple of children in tow?

For us, backpacking is about travelling with a flexible itinerary at our own pace. It means having little enough luggage that we can either carry on our backs, or wheel comfortably behind us.

When our daughter was 6 and son was 9, we took advantage of an Air Asia sale from the Gold Coast and set off for Malaysia for three weeks. We loved Malaysia because it’s affordable, it’s easy for independent travellers, there’s heaps to see, and it has a fascinating blend of Islamic, Buddhist and Chinese cultures. We made it up as we went along and it was one of the best holidays of our lives. Here’s what worked for us:

Travel slowly

Kids revel in the relaxed pace of backpacking. It means that you can rest in a place when you sense that the kids need a break. We unexpectedly spent a week in a rustic beachfront hut on Tioman Island because we were all so happy doing practically nothing. My 6 year old says that playing with the kitten there was one of her favourite memories of the trip.  Even when we were busy sightseeing, we developed a routine with most of the day devoted to activities followed by afternoon ‘chill time’ in the common room of the guest house or in a restaurant.

One child per adult

Asia can be incredibly busy, and safe walking pavements are a luxury. We always had one child per adult and held our kids’ hands in public. We took Grandma on our trip to provide an extra pair of adult hands and eyes. (Backpacking with Grandma requires another blog!) When family rooms weren’t available we would get two rooms and an adult and child would sleep in each.

Get each child a small trolley bag – and get them to pack it

Luggage is easy to carry if every family member has one bag.  Before we left we took the kids to the luggage shop and they each chose a small trolley bag. (Since the trip my husband and I use these bags for short business trips.) Each child was in charge of their own clothes, toiletries and entertainment. I packed my 6 year old’s bag before we went. Big mistake: I should have let her pack! She only wore her ‘favourite’ clothes – ignoring the rest.

BYO entertainment

Get the kids to bring their own entertainment. Handheld games on DS Lites entertained our kids through long bus trips and during downtimes. The kids also had a blank-paged book and a small pencil case each for drawings and journal entries.  These books are now wonderful mementos of the trip.

Experiment with food

Let your kids order their own food. They’ll start to enjoy trying new dishes and it becomes an exciting part of the trip. Go to the shops and experiment with local biscuits, drinks and snacks and carry them around in your daypack.

We followed a number of rules to avoid travellers diarrhoea, this included eating at restaurants that had a high turnover.

© Copyright 2012 Danielle, All rights Reserved. Written For: Bubs on the Move