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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

[Korea Layover Itinerary] Family-friendly layover itinerary





[Seoul] Family-friendly Layover Itinerary: Mom and 6 children (3-15 years old)
Staying near Namsan Tower and requested to not use the subway. As a result, I recommend getting an airport taxi van.

Since I do not have kids, I have never traveled in Seoul. I asked around for some recommendations from my friends with kids.

Please recommend other kid-friendly places for this family! 


I will try and add the estimated prices for food and admission fees. I recommend getting Korean won at the airport or from home. There are Global ATMs right after you exit the gate area. US dollars will not be accepted.
However, most places will accept Visa and Mastercard, so if you would prefer not having that much cash on you, credit cards are an option. I will note if the place will not likely accept cards.
Arrive in Incheon: 5:10PM (Wednesday)
If your airline will not hold your baggage for you, I recommend that you store your luggage at Incheon Airport. It does cost money, but it will save you the hassle of lugging it around Seoul. The process is very simple both in checking-in luggage and checking-out luggage. The luggage attendants should speak English pretty well, just make sure you do not lose your receipt. You just have to tell the attendant when your flight is and give him/her a credit card or cash payment.
Take taxi to the guest house (should be about 40,000KRW). The airport railroad is a possibility and is cheaper, but you will likely have to transfer trains to a subway to access your guesthouse, so the taxi will be a lot easier with your large group, especially after traveling. You can pay in cash or credit card. In Korea, there you do not tip taxi drivers. If you use the taxi, there is no need to buy a T-Money card, also saving you some travel headache.

Be careful in selecting a taxi! DO NOT ACCEPT AN OFFER FROM A TAXI DRIVER WHO APPROACHES YOU! There are some crooked taxi drivers that prey on exhausted international tourists at the airport. Follow the signs to the taxi stand and you’ll get an approved and protected taxi.
I have had no issues with the orange taxis. Most, if not all, taxis at the airport will also provide free translation services to passengers. The attendant at the taxi line will be helpful in directing you.

Before you leave, make sure you write down the address of your guesthouse in Korean. You can give this to the taxi driver for ease of transportation.
Also, avoid the black taxis! These are deluxe taxis and will charge you a large amount of money for your ride!

For the ride back to the airport, I would recommend asking your guesthouse to help you reserve a “call taxi” at check-in and ask for advice about what time to leave in the morning. Reserving a call taxi will help you avoid the hassle of hailing a taxi on the day of travel.

Arrive in Seoul around 7PM and check into your guesthouse
Namsan Tower (http://www.nseoultower.co.kr/eng/): Hours 10AM until 11PM
Adult (Over 13 years): 9,000 KRW; Children (3-12): 7,000KRW
FYI, The Teddy Bear Museum at N Seoul Tower closed last year and is no longer available to visit. I think it still appears in some guidebooks, so I thought I would just let you know.

Namsangol Hanok Village (Traditional Korean Village)
This is a cute little area of a recreated traditional Korean village near Namsan Mountain. It is not quite as popular as the other one in Seoul (Bukcheon Hanok Village), which is near Gyungbokgung Palace.
Hours: 9AM-9PM, Free admission
There are a ton of cultural activities and can give you a glimpse into traditional Korean life. Sometimes there are traditional music concerts or calligraphy/crafts days.

Thursday:
For breakfast, I would recommend going to a Paris Baguette. There are plenty of options for breakfast sandwiches, fresh fruit smoothies, baked items, coffees, teas, etc.
Or, for a quicker breakfast, stop by a convenience store. I really like having a rice ball (triangle kimbap) for breakfast. Kimbap is “Korea sushi” and is very portable. You can typically get 2 for 1500KRW and there are a variety of flavors. You can also buy more typical Western-style breakfast foods like cereal, fresh fruit, eggs, etc. here.
Gyungbokgung Palace (http://www.royalpalace.go.kr/html/eng/main/main.jsp): Hours 9:00AM-6PM
Adult: 3,000 KRW, Youth (Age 7-18): 1,500 KRW, Children (Age 6 and under): free
*Likely not to accept credit card

Admission to the National Folk Museum is included in Gyungbokgung Palace admission and is located on the grounds of the palace. This is also the only place with public restrooms.
Admission to the National Children’s Museum is also included with Gyungbokgung Palace admission.
The plaza out front of Gwanghwamun is great, too! You can see a statue of King Sejong, who invented the Korean alphabet and made many other contributions to Korea, and also see some fountains.
OR as an alternative (in case the weather is bad): The Seoul Animation Center and Cartoon Museum (http://www.ani.seoul.kr/eng/) may be fun for the kids.
Free admission; Hours: 9:00AM to 6:00PM
Leave Seoul for the airport around 10:30AM to ensure enough travel time (takes about 1.5 to 2 hours from central Seoul to Incheon Airport if there is minimal traffic).
Incheon Airport:
Incheon Airport is more than just an airport. Last year, they added a ton of new activities and destinations in the airport, to the extent of it being a new “dating course.”
There is a skating rink, large mall, lots of restaurants, shopping areas, etc. There is also a CGV movie theater. These are located land-side.
Even if you want to leave earlier or are worried about timing, there are plenty of cultural activities throughout Incheon Airport, many of them targeted at younger audiences. For example, you can learn how Korean paper is made and have the chance to make fans, calligraphy, and mother-of-pearl boxes. There is even a history museum inside the airport! These are all located air-side.
You can also try on the hanbok (Korean traditional clothes) and get your picture taken. I think this may be fun for your kids. There are also traditional music performances and some cultural performances.
These cultural activities are FREE, just show them your passport.
Food:

AIR-SIDE: At the airport, your kids may enjoy stopping by the Charlie Brown Café (Snoopy). It is located on the 3rd Floor, near Gate 12. It is super cute! When I previously went to Charlie Brown Cafes elsewhere in Seoul, if you order a hot latte, you get character art on top.
Or, there is also a Hello Kitty Café in the airport, too. It is located on the 3rd Floor, near Gate 24. It is also super cute! I have previously written about a different Hello Kitty café. If you order a hot latte, you get character art on top of your drink and the price is very reasonable.

LAND-SIDE:
Paris Croissant – Here you can buy sandwiches, coffee/tea items, and also my favorite Korean dessert, bingsu (shaved ice with condensed milk). I highly recommend the milk tea bingsu. It is so delicious and will be very refreshing in the summer.
Kraze Burger is a Korean gourmet burger restaurant. Located near Arrival Hall D.
Bon Juk (본죽) is a restaurant that sells Korean porridge. They will also have English on the menu (under 10,000KRW). Located near exit 12.
Airplane Departs: 2:20PM (Thursday)

Tutorial: How to use free WiFi on Seoul subways
Korean Shopping Tips
Other Korea Travel Itineraries

Recommended travel books:

If you are traveling to Korea, while English is often available on signs and at tourist destinations, it may be wise to know a few phrases since oftentimes the staff at restaurants and other tourist destinations, bus stations, do not know English well. I have looked over multiple Korean phrasebooks and I recommend the Lonely Planet Korean Phrasebook & Dictionary for its small size (makes it great to carry around) and its ease of use.


If you are planning on staying only in Seoul, I would recommend getting a travel book that is solely about Seoul. Top 10 Seoul (Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide) is great! It has color photos, great maps, and is also very compact, making it a great travel companion.
It gives you a feel of all the different neighborhoods and districts of Seoul and a brief overview of what each district is known and how the  city is laid out to help you plan the most efficient and fun trip!


I definitely recommend, if you get the chance, to get out of Seoul and really explore Korea. Each province and city has its own feel and personality. Plus, the country is about the size of Indiana and transportation options abound, so traveling around is definitely do-able.


Choosing the best country guide was a little more difficult for me. I am typically a Lonely Planet fan, but I found their guide to not be quite as current as this Frommer's guide.

Having an up-to-date guide is very important in Korea since things can literally change overnight!  

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