I recently came back from a 4-day trip with my mum, sister and nephew. It was my 6th time in HK but first for all of them. Here’s some background information.
My mum had been to so many countries before and is the only person I know who had been to Finland in the dead of winter. She is the most traveled person in the family but she is a tour-group traveler; which means she likes everything arranged for her and no matter where she is, she only eats Chinese food.
My sister doesn’t like traveling very much. She brought the largest suitcase I’ve ever seen to a 4-day HK trip because she’s “too lazy to fold her clothes”. She’s not the sort who will do extensive research on a destination before departing except for a few name cards she gets from her friends prior to flying.
My nephew is 12. His only other travel destination was to Genting Highlands and his favorite food of choice is anything that is processed and preferably deep fried.
I was nominated the tour guide because of my past encounters with Hong Kong. Suffice to say, with this motley crew of travelers, the 4 days we were there were slightly painful and mildly frustrating at some point. Different dietary preferences coupled with HK’s manic crowds and the cold weather didn’t quite help.
Let’s just say that I’m quite glad we don’t do this every year.
Other than that, Ocean Park was quite interesting and after 6 trips to this island, I finally struck The Peak off my to-do list.
Here are 11 tips on how to survive Hong Kong when you’re there with your diverse family.
1. Plan plan plan. From your daily itinerary to your route, it makes everyone feel better when they know exactly what they can expect from you that day. And if there’s any disagreements, you can work it out early, rather than the day itself.
2. Plan for weekday trips if possible. If not, a Sunday to Wednesday will work too. If not, then avoid the usual shopping districts on Saturdays, especially when it’s nearing Christmas because of the crowds.
3. Plan your days with free time in the afternoons. Someone in your posse will need to take a nap and it’s also a good opportunity to get some me-time for yourself.
4. Avoid the crowds by having early meals. There’s no real way to avoid the crowds in Hong Kong but you can minimize exposure to peak meal hours by having earlier meals so that means early breakfast at 7am, lunch at 11am, dinner at 5pm and supper at 9pm.
5. Airport Express only makes sense in groups of less than 4 people. If you have 4, it’s usually cheaper to take a taxi to town. Of course, be sure to check any surcharges.
6. Octopus card. Buy it if you plan on taking the MTR most of the time. If you’re looking at an average of 3 stops a day then single-trip tickets are more expensive. You can also use your Octopus card to pay in most convenience stores so don’t worry about not being able to finish the value.
7. Bring coins if you intend to buy single-trip tickets. Only a small fraction of the ticket vending machines actually take notes so unless you want to keep a restless kid and your grandma waiting, its best to be prepared.
8. Wildcard eating option. I gave my fastfood-fanatic nephew one wildcard he can play anytime during the trip where he bring us to eat anything he so desires. It keeps him happy and you get to eat most of what is considered real food.
9. Head to airport early. Even earlier if you’re traveling by Jetstar (which checks-in at Terminal 2 but boards at Terminal 1). Remember that the gate is some obscure faraway one which might be problematic if you have someone in your group who walks slower than the others.
1o Bring your own water to Ocean Park. This is perhaps true of every tourist destination/trap but everything essential is overpriced in there so you’re better off bringing one yourself. Better still, have your 12-year old nephew carry it around.
11. Delegate! If there are other adults in your group, make them take responsibility in some areas. For my trip, I found the way to Ocean Park but told my sister once we are there, I’m not going to work so they had to figure out the maps. See them work:
I hope these little tips will make your next family trip to HK a little more bearable. If you would like a list of my favorite eating places, just drop me a request in the comments below.