An Awesome Family Adventure

An Awesome Family Adventure

October 29th, 2017  |  Published in Laos

This summer Penn and Erin traveled to Laos with their 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. Dad is an engineer and mom is a teacher. They are well traveled, having visited over a dozen countries together. Here are some of their tips and tricks for a successful family adventure.

By Penn and Erin

We currently live in Northern California. Last summer we traveled to Laos with our two kids to visit family. Since we were already vacationing in Thailand, we departed from Phuket by plane to Udon to save money and time. From there we took a bus across the Friendship Bridge to Vientiane, Laos. We wanted the kids to experience as much as possible in the short amount of time we had, so we started by visiting all the tourist friendly places around the capital city, then went on to few small towns along the Mekong river about two hours north of Vientiane. We mainly stayed at the Mekong Riverside Hotel in Vientiane.

There were a few unique challenges with visiting Laos. We usually don’t carry much cash while we travel in general because of exchange rates and fees. The fees can add up if you don’t plan out your spending ahead of time. A lot of businesses accept only cash, so plan ahead and take only what you think you will need (but you can always pull more cash out at ATMs and pay the fees). Another issue was navigating. We rented an SUV for the week we stayed in Vientiane and it was not equipped with GPS. We had to use our phone’s low speed data for navigation to get around but it was a little difficult since our phone signals were a bit spotty in some areas, but we made it work.

We loved all the scenic spots along the Mekong River and Ban Tha Ngon floating restaurants, where we cruised up the river while feasting and singing karaoke to Lao music! We loved eating outdoors along the Mekong River. Along the west end of the Mekong River, there were plenty of outdoor restaurants to satisfy any taste. Lucky for us, our kids eat almost anything we give them. They are pretty adventurous when it comes to food. The only thing we need to watch for is our daughter’s tree nut allergy. Most Lao dishes don’t have tree nuts in them and we weren’t too worried, but we always carry an epi-pen just in case.

We usually don’t buy too many items when we travel and 99% of the time we don’t haggle for deals. One reason is because my wife is Caucasian and any haggling will be an epic fail once they see her. We like to be generous and offer whatever is reasonable since it helps the local economy.

Erin can speak and understand basic Lao words, but not enough to have a conversation. The locals we met were pretty open-minded and didn’t have any issues with Erin being “farang” — I am sure we got a few looks from people, but we didn’t pay too much attention. Sometime people did try to accommodate her by giving her chair to sit on instead of the floor or bringing the fan right next to her.

Hint/Tip: Avoid ALL traffic violations while driving, because the cops will take advantage of you for money. It’s how they make extra cash on the side. They know which cars are rental cars by the color of the license plate.

Important Things Families Should Pack

  • First Aid Kit
  • Insect Repellent
  • Sun Block
  • Tums for kids
  • Tylenol and other medications
  • Pens to write with
  • Cash for when places don’t do ATM

Important Things Families Should Do in Preparation for Travel in Southeast Asia

  • Make Copies: Make copies of all itineraries for hotels and flights. Make 2 extra copies of kids’ passport photos (immigration will ask for them). Make sure important documents are stored online for easy access if hard copies are lost.
  • Use Credit Cards: Use credit cards that don’t charge international fees. Store credit cards in two places such as your wallet and on your phone on Apple Pay OR have your spouse carry them in her purse too. This way if your wallet ever gets lost or stolen, you will not get stuck.
  • Carry US Dollars: Use USD to exchange for local currency when credit cards are not accepted.
  • Check State Department for safety warnings regarding destination.
  • Register your travel with US embassy in case of emergency they can contact you.
  • Notify your bank of travel dates so your cards won’t get denied.
  • Check flight status often to make sure nothing has changed.
  • Know the location of hospitals near your hotel and make sure your health insurance or credit card will cover any medical expenses if such case arises.

We will definitely return to Laos. We are hoping to visit again in the near future but different time of the year when it is cooler. We want to visit family and explore new cities because we love to explore!

Some overseas locations we have visited as a family:
Cancun and Tulum, Mexico – June 2015
Barcelona, Spain – December 2015
Paris, France – December 2015
Frankfurt, Germany – December 2015
Tokyo, Japan – June 2016
Sydney, Australia – June 2016
Auckland, New Zealand – June 2016
Aitutaki, Cook Islands – June 2017
Auckland New Zealand – June 2017
Sydney Australia – June 2017
Phuket, Thailand – June 2017
Maui, Hawaii – July 2017

Future travel plans in 2017-2018:
Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal