My husband and I traveled to Hong Kong this past May with our 5 year old daughter. We found Hong Kong to be a great city for travel with children. It was our daughter’s first time out of the country, and Hong Kong delivered just the right mix of exotic adventure and familiar comforts. If you are contemplating visiting Hong Kong with kids, here are my recommendations for making your trip as successful as ours.
Getting To Hong Kong With Kids: Air Travel Options
If you are coming from the United States like we were, it’s a long, long flight. Our flight to HKG from SFO was 13 hours. From the East Coast, flights clock in at about 16 hours. Doing this long of a trip with kids requires some serious preparation. Our daughter at 5 was at a great stage for making the trip without much fuss, but it would have been a bit of a different story a year or two ago.
Plenty of major airlines serve Hong Kong, but you should give a serious look at flying Hong Kong’s hometown airline, Cathay Pacific, if you are coming from the U.S. U.S. based carriers like United just won’t have the same level of service and amenities (for SFO based flyers, check out my comparison of the three non-stop flights from SFO to HKG and why I chose Cathay for this trip.) Many other Asia-based airlines, like Singapore Airlines, are a good choice as well.
HKG Airport Ground Transportation
All the information I read prior to my trip recommended that visitors take the Airport Express train from the airport to Central Hong Kong upon arrival. Traffic in HKG is notoriously bad and the train supposedly cuts some serious time off the trip during peak traffic hours. After reading extensively what taking the train entailed (and having my husband take it when he arrived a few days before my daughter and I), we decided against taking the Airport Express. We instead opted for a taxi and I’m glad we did.
When you are traveling with small children and several pieces of luggage, taking this train is just too complicated. The train drops at a central point in the city, but you then have to navigate with kids and bags to shuttle buses that run various routes to the hotels. If you have tweens or teens and a reasonable amount of luggage, then this might be an option. For little ones, no thanks.
Additionally, if you are headed to a Hong Kong Disneyland or a Disney hotel, you should definitely take a taxi as Disneyland is just minutes away and the cab fare is quite cheap for such a short distance.
Transportation While in Hong Kong
While in Hong Kong, we definitely tried and relied on any and all forms of transportation – ferries, taxis, MTR (subway), trams, and our own two feet. We did it all and I recommend that you do the same. Riding the clean and efficient subway is an activity all unto itself for small children. We marveled at how extensive the underground system of tunnels in the Hong Kong subway was. There were shops and restaurants galore in the tunnels, which then all connected to massive shopping malls and many businesses and hotels. You could go for days without ever setting foot outside in Hong Kong. This is, perhaps, the point given the heat and humidity on the streets. We were sweating a lot in early May; I can only imagine what it is like in July or August!
Kid-Friendly Sights and Activities
Our family was in Hong Kong for six days and we couldn’t even begin to do all that the city had to offer. A lot of the sights and activities in Hong Kong are fun for both kids and adults, so my husband and I were excited to be able to find so many options that appealed to us that were also a good fit for our 5 year old.
Here are some of the highlights of our trip that I’d recommend to other families traveling to Hong Kong:
2) Ngong Ping 360: Ride a gondola (the glass-bottomed crystal cabin is worth the extra cost) to see a gorgeous monastery and Buddha statue. Located on Lantau island, Ngong Ping 360 is not far from Hong Kong Disneyland and easily accessible by MTR. If you have a bit more time to spend at Ngong Ping, consider traveling on to Tai O fishing village as well.
3) Tea at the British Peninsula Hotel: With its British background, Hong Kong hotels adhere to the fine tradition of British afternoon tea. The classic high tea experience in Hong Kong is at the Peninsula hotel, although many of the luxury hotels offer excellent alternatives. Waits can be quite long at the Peninsula, so try to go on a weekday and arrive about 30 minutes before tea time to minimize your wait for a table.
4) Peak Tram: Kids and adults alike will enjoy the view of the city from Victoria Peak. The funicular tram ride is half the fun. Arrive early to avoid lines and wait for good weather, as the view is often blocked if there is any fog in the area. Avoid the shopping malls and tourist traps at the top and just enjoy the view.
5) Star Ferry: The Star Ferry crosses the harbor from Hong Kong island to the mainland in Kowloon. This is a great option for transit as well as for entertainment. If you ride it at night, you can enjoy the city lights too.
Have you been to Hong Kong with kids? What tips would you share? What were your favorite attractions?