With its world-famous K-Pop music, hi-tech gadgets and covetable beauty products, South Korea is always going to be a big hit with teenagers. But what’s travelling with younger kids in South Korea like?
Short answer: it’s great.
South Korea is super family-friendly for many reasons. It’s clean, it’s safe, its public transport is easy to use and Western food isn’t difficult to find. What’s more, it has a colourful, chaotic side that naturally lends itself to travel with younger kids (think candy-floss vending machines, foot-long ice creams, ‘kids cafes’ that are more like indoor playgrounds, and cartoon mascots everywhere you turn).
In addition to all this, the South Korean government has been on something of a mission to make public spaces as family-friendly as possible, which means step-free access and nursing rooms in most stations, museums and shopping malls.
There are a few things to be aware of before you travel — but plan ahead and none of it should mar a fantastic family trip. Here are some of our top tips.
Pick the right time of year to travel
South Korea can be very hot and typhoon-prone in the summer, and bitterly cold in the winter — so if you want an easy life, plump for the temperate months. Of course, you know your own kids best, and there are still plenty of family-friendly things to do in hot weather or in cold. If you think they can handle it, have at it.
Plan ahead for internet access
If you’re here then you’re probably a parent, and if you’re a parent we don’t need to tell you that internet access is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. South Korea is extremely tech savvy in general so there’s good access to free Wi-Fi in a lot of places — but for seamless connectivity wherever you are, a portable Wi-Fi dongle (available for hire on arrival at the airport) is worth its weight in gold.
Don’t skip the museums
For many kids (and some adults), museums spell boredom. But even the most grown-up museums in South Korea usually have specific, interactive exhibits for children, including dressing-up activities, playgrounds and other entertainment. In fact, there’s actually a dedicated Seoul Children’s Museum. They’re also usually pushchair-friendly and have dedicated nursing rooms with bottle-warmers and cots.
If the weather is on your side and you’re looking for some fresh air-fuelled fun, there are lots of family friendly outdoor spaces, too – like Seoul Forest, Seoul Children’s Grand Park (with rides, a concert hall, and a light-up water fountain), and Gwangmyeong Cave.
Try Korean BBQ
Western food is readily available in South Korea, but a great way to get your kids interested in the local cuisine is to try Korean barbecue. Consisting of lots of different ingredients to be cooked at your table and dipped in sauces, it’s a great opportunity to let young kids pick and choose and try new things. Just keep little fingers away from hot coals. Obviously.
Make the most of discounted tickets
Entry tickets mount up when you’ve got kids in tow, but you can save money by buying tickets in advance for many attractions. The Klook smartphone app is great for this. Simple to use, available in English, and it’ll get you discounts for all sorts of things.
You’ll probably be spending at least a few days in Seoul, so it’s also worth being aware of the Discover Seoul Pass. You can pick up physical passes at various points in the city, but it’s much easier just to buy the app online. Passes valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours once activated, and get you free entry into most attractions in the city — plus discounts on public transport, bike hire, hanbok rental and shopping. Passes start at 50,000 won (£30 / USD $37) for 24 hours.
If you’re planning to visit Lotte World (a massive theme park in Seoul — great fun for kids) the Discover Seoul Pass is a no-brainer, as a 24h pass is actually cheaper than a standard ticket to the park.
If your kids are under six, even better — they typically get into most attractions free anyway, and even ride free on the subway.
Beware the tiny hotel room
Hotel rooms in South Korea can be itsy-bitsy and don’t always have room for a cot, so be sure to check ahead that what you’re booking is going to suit your family’s needs.
Korean families often book floor-heated ‘ondol’ rooms when travelling, with the whole family in one room sleeping on futon-like traditional bedding. If you don’t mind sleeping on the floor, it’s a great way to experience a traditional Korean stay, and we highly recommend it.
If you’re travelling with us, we’ll be able to suggest plenty of family-friendly hotel options — both Western-style and Korean-style — in your destinations.
Beware the restaurant bathroom
Changing tables can be found in many bathrooms in Korea, but it’s certainly not standard. Don’t assume there’ll be one in a restaurant or café, and take advantage of well-provisioned nursing rooms in shopping malls, museums and subway stations when you can.
Beware the car-boot bungee cord
Most standard taxis in Korea won’t fit a pushchair in the boot (or they will, but they’ll hold it down with a bungee cord). Nor will they have a car seat for kids. You can use the Kakao app (South Korea’s version of Uber) to request a bigger car if you’re travelling with a pushchair, but be aware that young children will most likely have to sit on your lap.
All things considered, travelling with young children in South Korea is pretty low-stress compared with a lot of places, and there’s no reason why you can’t have a fantastic family holiday if you plan ahead (and we can help with that part!)
If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration our South Korea Family Adventure itinerary is a great place to start, but we can tailor a trip to suit your family’s needs and interests. Just get in touch with us to find out more.