The First-Timer’s Guide to Hong Kong: Planning a Family Trip
There is no doubt about it. Families with kids choose to travel to Hong Kong because it is home to the infamous Disney characters in Disneyland, and there are also other popular attractions for the whole family, like the Ocean Park, museums and of course, countless shopping districts.
So when my family planned our own first out-of-the-country trip, there were no questions asked, we were going to Hong Kong.
If you’re visiting Hong Kong for the first time with the whole family or a big group, then I hope this travel guide can help you plan your trip.
BEST TIME TO VISIT HONG KONG
Getting around Hong Kong is easier when you visit in late November towards Christmas and until February. I personally prefer to visit the country this season since November is when the transition starts from Fall to Winter. The air is chilly during December to February it makes for the best season to travel, well, second to summer of course, if you prefer the warmth. I do not, however, advise you to go there unprepared for the cold air and without consulting the weather forecast before you leave.
We had our tickets booked 6 months earlier and was scheduled to fly out in mid-November. Weeks before the flight, the weather forecast said it was going to be dry and cold but when we checked again a few days before the trip, the forecast showed rain clouds and cold air. 😔 But as some wise men said: wake up, dress up, show up. That’s what we did!
THINGS TO DO IN HONG KONG
A few points first, before we proceed:
1 | we were a large group of 12 adults with kids and an infant, and 2 | it rained non-stop the entire trip.
A huge chunk of time was spent in waiting and attending to the needs of the children. I am also not going to detail the expenses here however, I will be sharing our activities and down below I also included a Hong Kong 4-day sample itinerary.
1 | Go on a city tour
Since we only have the afternoon to explore the city, we opted to do a DIY walking tour of Kowloon Park and Harbour bay. These were very near our accommodation in Austin Road, a few minutes walk from Jordan station.
Since there were no guides, we were free to roam as we please. We also designed it this way because we have anticipated a “big day” the following morning at Disneyland. We were back home earlier so the kids can take a full night’s rest.
2. | Spend a whole day at Disneyland
Yes, the happiest place on earth deserves a whole day (or two if you want to explore every site). We got the ride all you can tickets for a discounted price of Php3400 from the Php4000 regular price. We bought these via Klook, an online booking service for tours, activities and attractions in various countries all over.
Mickey’s smiling at yah despite the gloomy weather. They say November to February are the best months to visit Hong Kong. It is their winter season and these months are usually dry and cold. However, if you intend to visit soon, it is still best to check the weather so you can prepare ahead. It rained the whole time we were there. 😫 Where did you spend your long weekend/ASEAN holiday?
In case it rains when you visit, you can buy raincoats at Disneyland shops and counters. Simply ask the attendants there.
3. | Shop at street markets and outlet malls
Shop at Temple street, Citygate, and Mong Kok. Apparently, Hong Kong is a shopping heaven for branded items – from shoes, clothes, bags and everything else in between. Citygate mall houses the big brands’ factory outlets for shoes, watches and clothes but if you are looking for real bargains whether it’s branded or not, then Mong Kok or Temple street is the one for you.
4. | Try their street food, eat at local restaurants
Get to know a city better through its food. Hong Kong is also known for its cuisine and when visiting the city, it’s a must to try their dim sums, egg tarts, egg waffles, roast pork and milk teas. I am a big fan of dim sum and noodles so I tried every noodle joint whenever I can. I am happy to say that they didn’t disappoint. Lastly, drink their local beers too if you can.
Sample 4-day itinerary
Day 1: City Tour
Temple Market/Mong Kok street markets
Find more attractions, activities and tours
Day 2: Main Hong Kong attractions
Ocean Park – this deserves a whole day too
Day 3: Macau tour
Macau day tour (ruins, Senado Square, Macau tower, etc.)
Just a few more minutes before we bid goodbye to the year that was. Looking back, 2017 has brought us new adventures both here in the Philippines and outside. Almost every adventure that we had this year served as a reminder that beautiful things can result from spontaneity. That taking a break from routine can serve you well. So this year 2018, we intend to say YES to more adventures. A yes to more travels, a yes to life changes, a yes to a new relationship, or a yes to career shifts. Life is an adventure after all. Would you say yes and venture into your own adventureland this year?
It was the first time for the whole family to travel outside the country and it proved quite difficult with the kids and the rainy weather. If you are traveling as a big group and with kids, these few takeaways from our trip may help you:
1 | If traveling with kids, pack everything you need in one carry all bag. Include all important documents here and its photocopies.
2 | Bring a stroller if you can. Kids get tired easily and it’s equally tiring for you if you carry them. Strollers have to be checked-in though.
3 | Prepare way ahead. Up their supplement intake weeks or days before the trip. A different country climate can affect their immune system.
4 | Plan their meal times. Hungry babies get tired and cranky easily. Feed them as often as you can.
5 | Pack disposable/plastic raincoats and carry those with you. Umbrellas are not allowed in planes but you can have those as check-in baggage.
6 | We made sure to book an early flight so the kids can enjoy the view of the clouds outside. It was their first time to ride a plane. If your seats are not yet reserved, I suggest you go to the airport really early so you can be seated next to each other in the plane.
Of course, there are other causes of delays, so do not cramp your itinerary with different activities in every few hours or so. Traveling with no pressure is more enjoyable sometimes especially when you are with family.
BOOKING A ROOM FOR A BIG GROUP
Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Living spaces in this country has become so precious, a few square feet can already cost an ordinary working citizen a huge percent of his salary. And so finding a room for a group of 12 has proved to be a challenge in its own. You can either book separate hotel rooms, get a family suite, or rent a whole apartment.
For this trip, we figured that renting a privately-owned apartment is cheaper than renting 4 hotel rooms for 4 days.
There are advantages too against booking with a hotel:
- Most privately-owned accommodations can allow you to cook or at least use the microwave and kitchen utensils for free.
- You can bring in food with no corkage fees.
- Amenities in private apartments are most of the time complete, it’s as if you are living in your own home.
- Privacy and overall personal touch to rooms and amenities.
- Staff/house cleaners are not overworked = more pleasant experience for the guests
- Private apartments are way cheaper than booking a hotel suite.
We found an apartment that has 4 rooms, 3 bathrooms and was big enough for the group. We weren’t allowed to cook, but there was a microwave oven, a water dispenser (water gallons were provided) and a fridge that were all free to use. All showers have hot and cold water too. These amenities were all we needed to be comfortable so we decided to book it. The location was also very convenient at Austin Road, near Jordan station.
We booked them via Airbnb. If you are not registered yet, you can use this link to register and receive USD22 travel credits.
Note: We booked the entire apartment. There are 4 rooms in total but these rooms are posted separately in the website. The post titles come with numbers in parentheses, I’m guessing these are the unit numbers. These numbers are 304, 305, 302, and 308. You can send the owner a message if you plan to book the whole apartment to get a cheaper rate.
Pinned in the map below is the location of the apartment in Jordan. I’ve also added some more pins to help you locate where the popular attractions are. Navigate the map by clicking on the arrow at the top left to see the labels and use the zoom buttons to see all of them.
Going to the apartment from the Hong Kong airport was convenient because we hired a private bus via our landlord. The fare was Php 1400 per person for a round trip package. More details about the accommodation can be found below.
GETTING AROUND HONG KONG
The train system in this country is crazy efficient. You literally don’t need any other mode of transportation because their trains can take you anywhere. Their stations and trains are clean, well-ventilated and spacious. If you’ve lived in a city called Metro Manila, I’m sure you would understand.
You just have to buy your Octopus card when you arrive in the city and you are ready to go anywhere you please. You can use the Octopus card to pay for train rides, bus rides, convenience stores and a lot more. The minimum amount you load when you buy for the first time is HKD150. The HKD50 serve as a deposit and can be refunded later when you leave Hong Kong. Children and persons over 65 get a discount. Simply inform the attendant at the counter if you are buying for a companion that is eligible for the discount.
MORE TRAVEL TIPS
1 | Bring USD instead of Peso to exchange when you arrive in Hong Kong.
Some exchange shops do not accept Philippine Peso, while some do, the buy/sell rate is lower than what you’d get if you exchange your dollars in the same amount.
2 | Withdraw at local ATMs.
You can also withdraw at local ATMs but better check your local bank’s overseas withdrawal fees. You also have to inform your local bank of your intent to use your ATM card/s abroad so they can activate and allow you to do so. While the EMV ready ATM cards can already allow you to do this, some bank still require that you inform them before your intended travel date.
3 | Book your accommodation and activities ahead.
I hope you found a thing or two helpful in this post. If you have tips or updates to our Hong Kong 4-Day Itinerary article, please comment it down below.
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Have an awesome time in Hong Kong!