You know the drill, it’s time to book your hotel stays in Bali but as a family the process can be daunting.
You want to save money but you don’t all want to be sharing a bed. You want to have a pool for the kids but you don’t want to pay $80-$100+ per night for the privilege.
Many blogs and travel guidebooks, including my beloved Lonely Planet, recommend places like the Hard Rock Hotel or the Westin Resort as “great family friendly hotels in Bali”. Hell yeah, they are great for the family, who wouldn’t want a resort with water slides, man-made beaches, and babysitting? But, unless you have just won the lottery you may be like ourselves: looking for Westin comfort at hard rock bottom prices.
Finding budget-friendly, and family-friendly accommodations doesn’t always go hand-in-hand.
Below are the exact locations and accommodations we booked during our 30 day stay in Bali. Keep in mind, prices will fluctuate by 2-3x during the high season!
Budget Accommodations for Families in Bali
We found each of the places below to be wonderful, family and budget friendly options that will provide maximum comfort at median/minimal cost.
Poolside at The Hotel Puri Bambu in Bali
Where we stayed: The Hotel Puri Bambu (Bookings) Hotel Puri Bambu (Agoda) **** Spectacular budget friendly hotel accommodation in Jimbaran that will make it hard to leave your hotel.
WiFi – very good
Jimbaran is not a “must see” location by any means on a Bali itinerary. It is made very nice by the well priced and well located Hotel Puri Bambu which really sells it in my mind as an airport stopping point. The breakfast is one of the best we have had and they have a convenient and free shuttle into Kuta.
Satriya Cottages front
Satriya Cottages Pool
Satriya Cottages bungalows
Satriya Cottages cafe and bar
Where we stayed: Satriya Cottages (bookings) Satriya Cottages (Agoda) – Nice, well priced, central location – pull some cushions from the poolside lounge chairs at night and save money on the extra bed for your kids.
WiFi – Very Good
outside our room
Poolside cafe, simple but sutiable.
Basic family room
Where we stayed: Prima Cottages (Bookings) Prima Cottages (Agoda) – Great budget family friendly hotel in the heart of Sanur with lots of decent eats nearby.
WiFi – Spotty and not accessible from the houses at the far end.
Balian has a combination of surf and exotic accommodations that will blow your mind. Pondok Pitaya is the glue the brings it all together!We came to stay for a few days and spent a week. The surf can be hit and miss but if you want surf, yoga, sun, swimming and a mansion for a week for less than it costs to fill up your car back home, Balian is for you!
Wonderful Outdoor Breakfast
Snorkeling in Pemuteran Bali
Enjoying the Morning Sun
Our (Almost) Private Pool
Kids Playing in Kitchen Area
Where we stayed: Amertha Bali Villas (Bookings) Amertha Bali Villas (Agoda) When it comes to finding the perfect place in Bali for kids, snorkeling, beach and relaxation, it is hard to beat the Amertha Bali Villas.
WiFi – Very Good
The Amertha Bali Villas were heaven on earth. Although we were housed near the entrance in a group arrangement, we ended up pretty much having our own pool, with a pool slide, a shared outdoor kitchen a wonderful sitting area and lots of frogs for the kids. You walk one way and you get the beach, you walk 3 minutes the other way and you are on the main drag. This is a real advantage when you are toting around little ones. Breakfast was heavenly, we ate right on the beach and although our accommodations set us back at almost $100 per night, we stayed within budget, as the huge breakfast and plenitude of free daytime activities meant we had very little extra out of pocket expenses.
Hanging at the Gayatri Bungalows in Ubud Bali
Daily breakfast in the garden
Where we stayed:Gayatri Bungalows (Agoda) – The Gayatri Bungalows are simple, clean and conveniently located hotel right in the center of Ubud. It’s a family run business with a traditional feel. If you can’t find an apartment to rent in Bali this is a great alternative and gets big points in my book for its prime Bali real estate and great pricing.
WiFi – It’s spotty and can be slow at times but is free.
Floating down the Kinabatangan in search of wildlife.
Before our trip, many people questioned the sanity of traveling with small children. Our son and daughter were 4 and 6 at the time, and many people were concerned that they wouldn’t remember much of the experience.
I started to agree with them until my wife shared a wonderful comment by a mother of three who had traveled with even younger children:
“We don’t question the validity of reading to our children when they are small, and they probably won’t remember that either”
I think you get the point.
There are definitely disadvantages to traveling with small children (in this case I will use under the age of 12 as my reference point). I will discuss these in a later post. Today I am going to focus on the positives.
8 Underappreciated Benefits of Long-Term Travel with Small Children
1. Small children often get into attractions for free or at a reduced price
This doesn’t end at just attractions, this includes metro fares (free), museums (free or reduced price), city buses (free or reduced price), hotel’s, amusement parks, bathrooms, hotel breakfast etc. etc. You get the point. My favorite word in the English language (FREE) is something you get to hear all the time while traveling with little children and it is music to my ears.
2. It’s easier to have sex
There I said it! Another question we have been asked by a couple understandably concerned pre-parent couples contemplating future travel with kids was “how do you, you know, do it?” I love it when people have the guts to ask me this question. And the answer is the title of a 1995 Sandra Bullock Movie: While You Were Sleeping If you are a parent of small children, then you know most kids can sleep through a fire alarm, an earthquake or both at the same time. Which is why, if all goes well then we have that covered. I am proud to say that even though we spent the entire year in tiny rooms the size of some people’s walk-in closets, we were still able to get down and dirty from time to time without emotionally traumatizing our children… We let the travel do that.
3. They can share a bed (or closet)
If this doesn’t seem like a big deal to you then you haven’t traveled through South East Asia with kids. In Asia, a standard budget family room will consist of one double and one single bed in a small room. If you were to ask for a roll away bed it will certainly almost always double the price of the accommodation. Because our kids are small they get excited about “a camp out in the hotel closet” or “we will put the chairs together and make a sleeping fort”. Try this one with your teenagers. Needless to say, this tactic saved us a TON OF MONEY on accommodations and is a huge advantage to traveling with small children.
4. They see “the little” things
I could reword this and say “they see the important things”. Part of this is because of physics – kids are low to the ground so they see things that my knees would never pick up. Like really cool bugs, seashells, and even money (my daughter found $50 on the ground in Singapore last week that I walked right over). Also, they are not yet jaded by the world, they bring with them a sense of excitement and optimism, they are culturally clueless which means they judge everyone by a single standard based on kindness and if they have any good treats for them. They find cool bugs, other cool kids and make the most mundane things into a new and exciting adventure.
5. You have an excuse to go to Aquariums, Zoos, Science Centers, Parks and kids movies
Some people may put this into the disadvantage column, but not me. After a year of traveling with kids, I am now an expert on Zoos, Aquariums, Science Centers and Kid Zania’s from around the world. You would figure that if you have seen one Sea Life Aquarium then you have seen them all. Shockingly, this is not the case. Feeding hippos in Bangkok Zoo, walking through a navigable human body at Singapore Science Center or playing with elephants in Chiang Mai is so much fun, and it is fun BECAUSE you have kids. I see a lot of awkward couples and single travelers trying to find their place among these kid-filled places of high-octane and high-tech learning until they give up and go see a temple. Don’t get me wrong, temples are great, and they may offer more of a “cultural experience”. But I can name all the types of puffer fish that live in the South China Sea. So there! Also, parks offer their own cultural rewards and striking up conversations with a hadith wearing Muslim mother of 3 in Malaysia helps you realize that we parents/people are all in the same boat. And that is better than any temple.
6. You get to use “the family line” in Airports
When we arrived in Thailand we walked into customs looked at the 1.5-hour line ahead of us and started to cry. Just then a very nice airport attendant took our family by the hand walked us past 1,000’s of hungry, tired and travel weary singles and brought us through the family line. We were out in 10 minutes! This has happened at bus terminals and various other such establishments. I think they do it for the sanity of the other travelers, but I don’t really care what the reasons are, it is always awesome.
7. Homeschool vs. No School
If your children are preschool age this can be the perfect time to travel. For example, prior to leaving for our trip we were paying close to $500 per month for very limited part-time preschool for our son. While traveling we can chalk this off as one less expense. At age 4/5 we can practice writing letters and numbers easily on the road. Once kids are school age, you will have to make roadschooling/homeschooling a priority which (although being a chance to educate on the road) can be difficult if you are traveling and trying to create a study routine. For this reason, I think kids the age of 4/5 are at the perfect age for a family gap year.
8. People treat you like celebrities
Everywhere I go, I seem to comment on the friendliness of the people. I have stared shocked at backpackers who tell of horror stories about locals treating them poorly. Not once in a year have I had that experience. People open doors for our family, help our children at every possible opportunity (even when they are acting like they escaped from a mental facility, which is quite often), smile at our family, take pictures with our family, feed our family, let our children have seats on the metro, help us get sim cards, give us free tickets, tons of treats and once in Penang we were walked to the very front of a 2 hour line to go up the famous, yet highly overrated, funicular bypassing everyone is disbelief. Even when my dad, age 72, who traveled with us through Vietnam didn’t receive this kind of priority treatment. It seems that everyone who sees a couple little white kids tramping about Asia can’t help but smile and offer a helping hand. It is one of the highlights of this journey, and one of the number one reasons you should travel the world with small children.
I can’t begin to tell you the number of people who when I explained to them that we were headed to Taiwan for 3 weeks looked at me and said “why Taiwan”?
But, no matter where we traveled in Asia we would invariably meet families, teachers, vagabonds and adventure enthusiasts alike who would rave about their time spent in Taiwan.
I hate to admit while I nodded my head in agreement I would have been hard-pressed to point to Taiwan on a map without a bit of coaching. “Somewhere near China I think?”
On our trip to Hong Kong in April something became apparent to me: I wanted to learn more about Chinese history and culture.
Since the Chinese visa laws for our family were cost prohibitive I figured I would put it on the backburner and make China, Tibet, and India a trip for a later time. But while searching for cheap routes home from Malaysia to Japan and home, there it was; Taiwan. I found it on the map and now thinking back to what everyone told me, I figured why not plan a trip there?
7 Reasons to Visit Taiwan With Kids
Taiwan is a great destination for families. On our year of travel, the most enjoyable places have been regions that combine nature along with rich culture, great food, and navigable cities. When I say navigable, what I mean is a good public transportation system, and Taiwan has one of the best. It’s also safe and easy to tackle by car, which means you have a lot of options. For families wishing to get off the beaten track a combination of the two is probably your best bet.
1. Taiwan has wonderful cities
The big cities like Taipei and the east coast cities of Tainan have spectacular food quaint and walkable streets and lots to do.
Just “chilling” at the Taipei National Palace Museum.
2. Taiwan has nature that rivals New Zealand
One word comes to mind “suspension bridge”! Along with suspension bridges, Taiwan boasts some of the most beautiful scenery we have seen in all of Australasia. I can’t tell you how many times I would walk outside and say “this looks like New Zealand“. Big surprise here. Also, Taiwan’s trails are accessible, easy day hikes abound for families.
Day hiking the Walami Trail
3. Taiwan has extremely friendly people
People say hi with a smile. Contradictory to the warnings of fellow travelers, almost all Taiwanese under the age of 40 speak some English, they love to discuss culture, travel, and family. I would not be exaggerating if I said Taiwan has some of the friendliest most welcoming people on earth.
Family photos with friendly locals.
4. Taiwan has excellent internet speeds
Although this may not be a big draw for many of you, as digital nomad, I was so excited to login to wonderful and speedy WiFi everywhere we went. For $30 I was able to purchase a 30-day unlimited data package for my phone as well. We were able to Skype, share photos and even take the grandparents on a virtual tour of a Sun Moon Lake temple.
Take a picture of your WiFi code then you will never forget it.
5. Taiwan has Farm Stays
I would never have thought of Taiwan as a place to spot grazing farm animals, but Taiwan’s farm stays are notorious and a hit for the kids. Although on the pricier side for sure, our stay at the Touching Leisure Farm will remain in our memories for a long time to come.
Butterfly spotting at the Touching Leisure farm
6. Taiwan is the biking capital of the world
Giant is a Taiwan biking company that in the 80’s and 90’s became one of the largest bicycle manufacturers in the world when they took over production for Schwinn. Now, in every big city Giant has a rental office and Taiwan has the largest, most well developed (albeit in some places a bit dangerous) system of biking trails I have ever seen.
Biking cool family tandem bikes at Sun Moon Lake
7. Taiwan has Surfing
As a surfer, I am always on the lookout for a country where we can get in the water and go for a paddle. We did just this in Kenting and I was delighted to find a great beginners wave that in the off-season was a big hit for our family. The beaches are OK, but countries that combine the ocean and the mountains are always some of my favorites. Taiwan has surfing, who knew! Oh yeah, Taiwan also has Diving and Snorkeling.
Hanging Ten in Kenting Taiwan – A great place to learn during the low season!
Even with all these wonderful traits, I would say that Taiwan is probably still not going to please everyone. You have to be open to making mistakes, navigation by GPS when your car and the road signs speak another language, eating Subway from time to time be willing to pick up the phone and try your hand at Chinese, and make the decision to be adventurous.
Taiwan is a lot more than the makers of toys, bikes, and cheapt electronic parts but full of lush tropical forests, farm stays, mountains, hiking and biking trails, culture and yes, even surfing. If you like an active vacation, nature, smiling locals and jumping on a bicycle, then Taiwan will surely delight.
I was laying down in the park at the Singapore botanical gardens today while the kids were playing in the water fountains. Disney music was playing in the background and I am relaxing while reading an excellent book called “how doctors think” on my iPhone.
I was jotting down ideas and highlighting like crazy like I always do. And then, I had a moment of panic, I couldn’t remember how much Lantus Insulin I used to use in my diabetic patients… Have I forgotten everything?
Then I remember that I have to take my recertification exam when I get back, interview for jobs and renew my CPR. I have to figure out health insurance, find a place to live, get the old junker Ford working. We have to start school, figure out play dates and birthday parties. We have to collect rent, fix up the house, pull our stuff out of the garage. We have to set alarms, sign up for after school activities and organize our lives around two separate school pickup times. We have Halloween costumes, talent shows, Christmas presents, work parties, short weekends and of course, traffic.
I started going down “the list” and what was once a tranquil moment relaxing in the park turned into a moment of sheer panic. I could feel my heart beating and my breathing quickening. I could feel my chest tightening. I can feel it now again as I write this blog post.
I took a deep breath.
The list, it is never really gone is it? We can press pause, we can crumple it up and throw it away for a moment, or better yet, the year but, it will always be there waiting for me.
Today I saw it there on the ground, staring me down. I couldn’t resist the urge to read it, I quickly tore it up. But here it is again, it is often the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing I see before I close my eyes at night.
List, this blog post is for you… When I get back you are in for it! I don’t know what I am going to do to you just yet, but I will figure something out.
When we came to the Cameron Highlands from Kuala Lumpur (or KL as the locals call it) we were excited to get out and about into nature. Unsure of how we could accomplish this with kids we did the only thing smart world traveling families can do: We just found a trail and started walking.
Jungle Trekking the Cameron Highlands with Kids
There are several treks throughout the Cameron Highlands that are suitable for small children. The key is finding the starting point, which is not at all obvious. We did two treks both starting from Hotel De La Ferns which is 2km North of Tanah Rata.
Path 4: Which began down a little known, unmarked road at the forestry department near the Kelab Golf course.
Path 1: Gunung Brinchang – A true uphill jungle trek not for the weak of heart that requires some prior proper planning.
1. Hiking Path 4 to Tanah Rata
This is an extremely easy, rewarding (and a bit slippery) walking path that leads from just below the golf course all the way into Tanah Rata. You will pass two child-friendly parks, strawberry farms, and a waterfall. It is a good hike to get your feet wet – literally!
From Hotel De La Ferns you can take the road (or the secret path behind the blue/white apartments) down towards the golf course and the strawberry farms. There is an unmarked road that veers off into what appears to be no man’s land. This is the road you want.
This is the road, blink and you will miss it.
Use this as a handy landmark.
There are actually several trail heads here. One option heads north and will take you up and around towards Tanah Rhata or connect you with several of the other trailhead towards Gunung Bringchangand. The one we want heads south and is just up behind the small park with swings (you will know it when you see it).
As I mentioned, the hike is flat and passes several very nice destinations for picnicking, frolicking and simply enjoying the outdoors.
Great place for a snack and some playtime.
Cool suspension bridge
Huge Root Systems
Easy to follow brick path
This trail ends at the elementary school, from here simply veer right and you will be on the main road of Tanah Rata. You can eat and catch a cab to wherever your need to go. In our case, it was back up the hill. The kids rode with mom in a $2.30 taxi and I hiked back up where once again it started to rain Go figure!
2. Hiking Gunung Bringchang with Kids (The tallest peak in Malaysia)
I must admit we did absolutely no research prior to heading out to hike up “Jungle Walk No. 1”. We had met some friendly young hikers the day before who recommended the trek and gave us some details about how to find the trailhead and how to “easily” secure a ride back down. It seemed easy enough, so we decided to give it a go. We spoke with our hotel manager before leaving and he assured us it was an easy trek suitable for small kids.
I am going to warn you, this hike is a 2-hour trek straight up a mountain and when you get to the top there is a 5-mile hike back down into civilization on the other side. Do not go up this mountain without having a plan for getting back down on the other end. We were led to believe that there would be taxis waiting or empty cars of people who could help. When we arrived there was one visiting family who we sadly watched leave. It then began to POUR. We started our trek downward with no one in sight. We walked for several miles down in the pouring rain. After about an hour, we came across a strawberry farm and spoke with a group of Malay farm workers who, despite their good intentions and big smiles, couldn’t understand a word we were saying. Luckily, a couple of minutes later a truck came up the hill and we were able to wave him down. He kindly used his phone to call for a ride.
Now that I have scared you, I will tell you that this hike is one of the most beautiful and rewarding hikes I have ever taken and our kids absolutely loved it. You will find yourself enveloped in deep, lush green tropical rain forest, with root systems that you must scale, climb and grapple with until you finally are released from the mountains tentacles at the top. Watching the rain clouds pour into the mountainside, surrounded by giant ferns, mammoth vines, and exotic bird calls will transport you to a different word.
Hiking the Cameron Highlands with Kids
Jungle Trekking Gunung Brinchang: The highest peak in Malaysia.
Real rainforest and awesome root systems
I haven’t seen country this green and spectacular since New Zealand. If you are debating whether or not to visit the Cameron Highland on your trip though Malaysia the answer is; you definitely should. Guided tours abound and they will take you to all the local “touristy” spots, for us though, simply getting on the trail and spending 4 days outdoors hit the spot.
For a good budget friendly accommodation check out Fathers Guest House. If you want something quiet with a nice view and a good breakfast I can recommend Hotel de La Ferns. It was a bit out-of-the-way but they offered us a great off-season rate ($64 with a huge breakfast) and the view was spectacular. It is best to book through their website as they often run 50% off promotional deals.
Trail Map of Cameron Highlands Hiking Trails
Below is a helpful trail map of the Cameron Highlands, Tanah Rata and the various hiking tails. Download the image to your phone and take it with you hiking, it may come in handy.