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U.S. School Break Vacation Planner – Southeast Asia & Beyond

Here at Journeys Within, family travel has been at the core of what we do since the very beginning. Click here to read more about our founder Andrea Ross’ travels with her kids and tours we recommend for families.

Since pulling your children out of school for an extended overseas tour isn’t always doable, we put together this list of recommended tours for each of the major U.S. school holiday periods, to give parents a sense of how much they can do and see while their kids are on a school vacation.

Christmas/New Year’s Winter Break

Families looking to travel over the two-week Christmas/New Year’s break have the luxury of enough time to really dive into the culture and sights of a country or even two, which is why we recommend the two tours below. During this time of year, the weather in Thailand and Cambodia is as good as it gets – typical daytime highs around 80 degrees, without the humidity of summertime and little chance of rain.

Best time to book: By Sept. 1 or earlier if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

First Time Asia for Families Tour

This tour is designed for first time Asia goers, but more specifically for a family traveling to Asia for the first time. Through experience we’ve determined how people imagine Asia and the kind of trip they enjoy on their first visit. As a group of family travelers, we’ve also determined a great daily pace for families traveling with children, and tours that are family friendly. By minimizing flights, maximizing day tours, and planning in time for naps or time to let the kids run around and get their wiggles out, you’ll see this tour may be just the right fit for your family’s first Asia adventure.

Classic Family Cambodia Tour

You can head out and explore all the different countries and culture Southeast Asia has to offer, or you can spend your time getting to really know all Cambodia has to offer. Cambodia is so much more than just temples. As we often say, “you’ll love the temples, but you’ll fall in love with Cambodia.”

Spring Break

Traveling over Spring Break consistently offers some of the best weather available in Vietnam, with not-too-rainy and not-too-hot conditions found throughout the country. Families willing to brave the heat and humidity in Thailand this time of year will be rewarded by one of the most family-friendly festivals in the world – Songkran (essentially a nation-wide water fight). In addition, lodging rates are often discounted during the Spring Break holiday period.

Best time to book: By mid-January is ideal, by mid-February if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

Vietnam Spring Special for Families

This 10-day tour starts in the North with an immersion into Vietnamese culture and history, then takes participants out on the waters of UNESCO World Heritage Site Halong Bay for an overnight cruise amongst the remarkable limestone formations. Next, the tour gets active in historic Hoi An where you will walk amongst the ancient town and ride bicycles on Cam Kim Island. Finally, spend your last days in Saigon exploring the cultural diversity of this amazing nation.

Thailand Songkran Festival Tour for Families

The Thai New Year festival of Songkran is a great family-friendly way to get your feet wet (literally) with the traditions of Southeast Asia. This 10-day tour is designed to fit into an extended spring break vacation and will take families to some of Thailand’s most iconic destinations. Start in Bangkok where you’ll experience the nationwide water fight that is the Songkran festival. Next, head north to Chiang Mai where you’ll explore temples and take part in the Patara Elephant Farm’s Elephant Owner For A Day program. Finish up with a relaxing stay on the beaches of Phuket.

Summer Break

Who doesn’t love a summer beach vacation? While most of Southeast Asia is in the midst of the hot and humid rainy season during summer, these Thai islands are an exception. Plus, rates are discounted during the slower summer season.

Best time to book: By end of April if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

Last Minute Beach Crawl Tour

Thailand has some of the finest beaches in the world and this beach crawl will take you through some of our favorites. You will begin your tour on Koh Samui, before traveling on to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.

Thanksgiving Break

These days, many schools take the entire Thanksgiving week off, meaning you can plan a more ambitious overseas trip during this time period. If you’re going to travel over Thanksgiving, we figured you might as well celebrate food or take in a must-see festival that’s happening over the same time period (in 2018).

Best time to book: By end of September if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

Culinary Immersion Tour

Asia is possibly best known for it’s food. From the spice of Thai food to the exotic textures of Laos cuisine and the sour mixes found in Cambodia, this tour will take you through these amazing countries exciting your tastebuds along the way. In each city we have tried to include a cooking class focusing on local cuisine, a meal with a local family to get the flavour of authentic cooking and of course one night out at the must-visit restaurant. Of course food doesn’t tell the whole story so in between these amazing meals we have included the highlights of each country: from the Grand Palace in Bangkok, riding elephants in Chiang Mai, visiting waterfalls in Laos and seeing the amazing Angkor Wat in Cambodia your eyes and ears are going to have as much fun as your tastebuds!

Loi Krathong for Families Tour

Let our top guides show you the bustling city of Bangkok before heading North. Take a tour of Chiang Mai and enjoy one of Thailand’s most picturesque celebrations, the Loi Krathong Festival (Nov. 22 – 25 in 2018 – which is the Thanksgiving holiday period in the U.S.) which marks the end of the main rice harvest and is designed to thank the gods for the yearly supply of water.

Fly to the Cambodian city of Siem Reap to take in the sights at Angkor Wat and be further inspired by the wonders of the entire Angkor Archeological Park. While in Siem Reap, see the beauty of the Cambodian countryside by horseback and kayak through floating mangrove forest in Southeast Asia’s largest lake, the Tonle Sap. Finish your trip by spending a few days relaxing on one of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches, coconut in hand.

More Family Travel Tips

Once you have chosen your dates, here are a few more resources for families looking to ensure their overseas trip goes smoothly with children of any age.

Andrea in the Land of Disney

By Andrea Ross

I’m scared of Disney World. There, I said it.

When my dad announced THIS was where he wanted to celebrate his 70th birthday this year I was nervous… I asked if he wouldn’t rather head to Costa Rica or Alaska or possibly anywhere else. Nope. Disney World!

Because of my nerves and because I know the value of a good travel expert, I immediately contacted Susan Kelly of Travel Magic. Susan is on the Wendy Perrin WOW List and I’ve been lucky enough to know her for years. Her company, Travel Magic, knows all things Disney. It was wonderful to chat with her, hear the options, feel like I was in good hands and start to really get excited about going to the happiest place on earth!


Disney World is complicated. There are multiple lands, hundreds of hotel rooms and don’t get me started on dining and fast passes… The truth is, it was overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start.Lightbulb! This is how my guests feel when thinking about Southeast Asia. I mean how many times has a guest told me, “There are just so many options; I don’t know how to best use my time. I want to keep everyone in the group happy.”This was exactly how I felt, looking at the myriad of options within Disney World.
I think over the last 15 years my comfort level with Southeast Asia has become fairly high, to say the least… I get it, I know the local customs, I speak the languages well enough to understand them, I have seen the weather in each given month, and I win at Southeast Asia Jeopardy!

However, this isn’t how my guests feel. For them, Southeast Asia is my Disney World… big, confusing, complicated and in a whole other language.

When the information packet arrived I dove right in. It’s what I tell my guests to do – read what I send you and it will all become clear. It helped – I know I have a schedule to follow, and I appreciate that Susan and her team have literally answered every question I sent and have booked the best experiences and really made sure that what we have planned is going to keep everyone happy – but, I’m still nervous.

So when I reviewed an itinerary I was sending out recently, I added additional explanation on one of the days. When a guest called with some last minute questions, I answered and gave as much insight as I could because I get it. These trips are scary and while I know I’m in good hands, just like my guests are, travel to a new place – whether it’s the happiest place on earth or where I’m happiest on earth – is still scary! So, I’ll leave you with a quote from Walt Disney himself…

“All of our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Thank you from Michelle Trader and Family

The Trader Family in Siem Reap

Our ultimate goal for each and every tour is for our guests to enjoy the trip of a lifetime in Southeast Asia, and we love seeing photos and hearing their feedback when they return home. Here is a wonderful note and photos from Michelle Trader’s family:

Dear Andrea and Journeys Within Team,

We are home! Andrea, working with someone like you, who had actually lived in the region, was invaluable. You spent quite a bit of time working with us to create an itinerary that fit our family’s interests. We were looking at a very ambitious schedule given the short amount of time we had and all we wanted to see, but you and your team helped make it feel seamless. We want to thank all of you for helping to make our trip one of the most amazing adventures we have ever enjoyed. You were all there, every step of the way, keeping in touch and making sure all was well and things were running smoothly. We felt well taken care of. You were even on top of the pillow emergency in Hoi An! J The JW crew surpassed our expectations in every way, through to the end of our trip.

The Trader Family Receiving a blessing from a monk

We can’t say enough about our kind, wonderful, knowledgeable guides. We kept thinking the next one could not possibly be as wonderful as the last, and each time we were proven wrong! They were always flexible and willing to go out of their way every time we expressed a special interest or desire to see or experience something. We will never forget them. Each of them added something extra that only they could have contributed, sharing their own personal stories and experiences with us. Tai played the flute for us while we were on a boat ride on the Mekong and gave Ben a Kung Fu lesson. How does it get better than that? Their impressive knowledge of each area made our experience so much deeper than it ever could have been without them and made our time in each location all the more memorable.

The Trader Family making friends at Patara Elephant Farm

We really can’t say enough good things about our experience with you and your team. You helped us create an outstanding family trip and lifelong memories!!

Thanks so much for everything,

Michelle, Wayne, and Ben Trader
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An Amazing Family Experience at Song Saa

The Redinger family, repeat travelers with Journeys Within, recently returned from Song Saa Island in Cambodia, and had rave reviews.

Christine said some of their favorite experiences were a family trip to the Song Saa Foundation, meeting villagers, seeing the local school, snorkeling, and their 7-year-old loved the treasure hunt.

Continue reading An Amazing Family Experience at Song Saa

Year 8: 2011

In our 8th year, Journeys Within B & B became Journeys Within Boutique Hotel. Even with the hotel construction keeping things busy, the team still managed to make a lot of memories traveling around the region, making 2011 a very photogenic year!

jwbh2011

2011

Milestones:

Journeys Within receives Global Vision Award from Travel + Leisure Magazine

Launched Journeys Within Family Adventure Tours

Journeys Within B & B becomes Journeys Within Boutique Hotel, opening 5 new guest rooms, a spa and a restaurant

Press:

Los Angeles Times: Beyond Angkor, Cambodia, a Khmer kingdom emerges from the jungle

Conde Nast Traveler: Andrea Ross – Top Travel Specialist

Budget Travel Real Deals: BT Flashback: Cambodia

The Constant Traveler: Travel Pioneers in Southeast Asia

Travel Weekly: An exceptional tour, traced to its roots

The Perrin Post: Family Travel Contest: Tips for International Travel with Kids

Shanghai Talk Magazine: Stepping Out & Giving Back

Key Hires:

Binh Houng:

What year did join Team Journeys Within?:

2011

What were your thoughts of the company that first year?:

For me, I have worked officially with Journeys Within since 2011 but I met Andrea in April 2010. We did great trip to Quang Ngai Long Wall, at that time it seemed that we are the first foreign group find the way to go there. And that was on my birthday, 3rd April and Andrea had a very kind decision: I can go home earlier and she will go to airport by herself. I can enjoy my birthday with my family. That was the first time I worked with her. She made me think about a real boss. So I met her and worked with Journeys Within’s clients until January of 2011. Of course, I agreed without being worry when she asked me to work as full time guide for Journeys Within.

Kanika Peou:

What year did join Team Journeys Within?:

2011

What were your thoughts of the company that first year?:

In first year, I thought that Journeys Within is quite busy because at that time Tour Company at Journeys Within Hotel were stayed together and it is under construction.

 

Special Memories from 2011:

2011 callie in kep
Callie relaxes in a hammock in Kep
2011 cambodia
A typical commute in Cambodia
2011 couper and the girls in kep
Couper, Srey Nut and Chen on a boat to Rabbit Island in Kep, Cambodia
2011 jwbh construction
The ever so stylish construction crew hard at work on the new bungalows at Journeys Within Boutique Hotel.
2011 kids playing at phic noy
Kids at play at Phik Noy in Luang Prabang, Laos.
2011 laos
Nicole captures the beauty of this sleepy village in Laos
2011 phnom penh
Andrea, Srey Nut, Chen, Couper and Callie hang out with a bear on a tour of the Phnom Tamao Zoo in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
2011 sunset in kep
A picture perfect sunset in Kep, Cambodia
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Brandon rides through the floods in Siem Reap, Cambodia
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Flooding at Journeys Within Boutique Hotel.
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The Journeys Within Boutique Hotel staff are all smiles while they work!
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After living in Cambodia for years, Andrea still loves to explore hidden temples
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Couper gets a visit from a friend from the US! Griffin and Couper discussing very important fishing skills before heading out for a swim.
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A lone house among the flooded rice patties in Siem Reap, Cambodia
2011 april with a calf
April with a calf in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
2011 bangkok team
The Bangkok team and April enjoy dinner together
Callie and I on our way to Jeab's house
Andrea and Callie on their way to Jeab’s house in Bangkok
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Andrea Ross and her best friend Andrea Marshall tour Thailand together
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Andrea and Callie at the beach
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I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get much cuter than this picture of Callie in her pink tutu swim suit in the crystal clear waters
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Callie tries out the famous street food in Bangkok
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The Andreas on tour with Callie and friends
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Callie always finds the camera – say cheese!
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Couper, Chen, Srey Nut and Callie on tour in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Being kids at Rabbit Island
Best friends at Rabbit Island – Kep, Cambodia.
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The Journeys Within Boutique Hotel staff and their families
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Sunday Art Class at Journeys Within Our Community
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Family of four on a single moto in Siem Reap, Cambodia
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A family on tour visits the village where they donated a water well through JWOC.
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Srey Nut, Callie and Chen on a tuk tuk on their way to a play date in Siem Reap
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Couper on an island in Halong Bay
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Callie and Couper visit with their Nana in Halong Bay
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Binh at the Long Wall of Quang Ngai
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Andrea and Binh sit down with a villager at the Long Wall
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Brandon, Callie, Couper, Jo and Toby on a family vacation in Vietnam
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Andrea remembers her river guiding skills and steers the boat in the Mekong
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Rosie, Khoa and Michelle’s daughter, on the Mekong in Vietnam
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Couper serenades Rosie and Callie while on a boat in the Mekong.
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Callie and Andrea in Dalat, Vietnam
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Callie and Couper giving alms at a temple in Vietnam
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Andrea, Callie and Jo take a picture with their favortie tailors in Hoi An, Vietnam.
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Callie poses in her Ao Dai in Hoi An, Vietnam.
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Callie, Rosie and Couper in the bus on tour in Vietnam
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Brandon with his parents on flight to their next Vietnam destination
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Andrea, Brandon, Callie and Couper visit a homestay in Cambodia with Narla
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Brandon, Narla and the kids enjoy a picnic at a temple in Cambodia
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Brandon, Callie, Couper and Andrea at a temple in Cambodia.
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Brandon gives Couper a lift