If you’re dreaming of a family trip to Thailand but don’t know where to start, read on for a handy guide on planning a trip to Thailand with kids. The Land of Smiles is warm and welcoming to family travelers, and you’ll find endless diversions both for you and your crew. While the depth and breadth of family holidays in Thailand can be bewildering, a step-by-step approach can help you define what you’re looking for.
Choose a travel style holiday
This one’s easy, but it’s important to choose a travel style holiday if you want to make the perfect family trip to Thailand. Luckily, no doubt already know what sort of traveler you are and what type of holiday suits you best. The amount of time you have will factor into this as well – you probably can’t fit in a bit of everything over a long weekend, for instance, but if you have a longer stretch of time, a more epic family tour of Thailand might be on the cards.
Relax in Thailand
The kingdom’s endless coastline is the most obvious answer if you’re after a relaxing family holiday in Thailand. Conversely, the mountains might call, or Thailand’s serene backcountry or its ancient rainforests. Whether you travel north to Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai or south to find a deserted island, you won’t have much trouble finding a tranquil spot.
Active and adventure
For an active family trip to Thailand you can choose from jungle and mountain trekking, city escapes and adventure over the seas. A family holiday in Bangkok or Phuket will keep active travelers engaged from start to finish, while the countryside offers action of a different type, be that cycling, zip-lining or rainforest walks.
Temples, palaces and ancient cities await families who want to be immersed in Thai culture. Then there are markets, fishing villages, traditional performances and contemporary arts – a cultural family holiday in Thailand can take myriad forms. Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, Sukhothai and Phuket are all great destinations for a heaping of Thai culture.
Nature in a family trip to Thailand
Jungles, rainforest, coral reefs, beaches and mangroves – if you’re a nature-loving family, the Land of Smiles is a perfect destination for a family trip to Thailand. Khao Sok National Park, Khao Yai National Park and other lush jungles across the kingdom provide the backdrop for trekking, caving, kayaking, safari and more.
A bit of everything
If you want your family trip to Thailand to take in lots of different places and do lots of different things, a multi-destination tour is the best way to do it.
Choose the best destinations in Thailand
Once you’ve figured out what style of holiday you want, you need to narrow down a destination and answer the question of where to holiday in Thailand with family. Maybe you already know where you want to go, or what general scenery you want to be waking up to every day. To decide which is the best area to stay in Thailand with family and what are the best cities to visit in Thailand, you need to ask yourself which of the below appeals to you most.
A beach family trip to Thailand usually entails pristine coastlines and lazy days in the sun, though active families will also find plenty to do in the more developed of Thai coastal cities. Thailand has around 30 islands where you can holiday, each offering varying degrees of relaxation and isolation. Phuket and Samui are the most built up, with lots of five-star global hotel names and a vast range of outdoor activities, though both these islands still offer quiet enclaves for family downtime.
For that idyllic farflung escape, think about taking a family holiday in Koh Lanta, Koh Lipe, Koh Kood, Koh Chang or Koh Yao Noi. All of these offer a hefty dose of serenity, while being developed enough for a comfortable travel experience. If your family likes “untouched” islands, try Koh Phayam or Koh Jum, where tourism hasn’t yet made much of a mark on local life.
Thailand’s northern mountains are perfect for active family holidays, though they do offer culture, history and relaxation as well. Around Chiang Mai, you’ll find a city replete with things to do on a family trip to Thailand, with everything from jungle homestays to ultra-luxury resorts, and activities that range from hill-tribe trekking to cafe hopping. If your family likes to ride, the Mae Hong Son loop road serves up spectacular scenery along quiet, winding roads. If it’s nature you’re after, the Golden Triangle is home to various ethical elephant camps and hidden luxury resorts.
City a.k.a A Bangkok Family Trip
While Chiang Mai offers a cosmopolitan urban playground to explore, you can’t beat Bangkok for city excitement. With a population of more than 8 million (that doesn’t count the millions of expats and out-of-town workers who spend the weekdays in the city), it’s as bustling and crowded as cities come. No family trip to Thailand is complete without a cruise up the Chao Phraya River (perhaps all the way to Ayutthaya), a Chatuchak Market session, a visit to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, and a day hanging out in the city’s luxury malls. A private Bangkok tour is the best way to make sure you’ve seen everything.
Thailand’s countryside is still off the beaten path for most international tourists, though there are many domestic travel destinations worth a look. To the northeast, the region called Isan is famous for its food and its ancient Khmer temples. Khao Yai is known for its wine and elephant-packed national parks. Kanchanaburi, location of the Burma “Death “ Railway, is located near the border of Myanmar in lush countryside, not far from the famed Erawan Falls.
Choose your accommodation
Do you want to stay in a bamboo beach bungalow, a towering highrise or a five-star resort? Thailand has all of these in every imaginable iteration. While rustic beach resorts will be easier to find on the more remote islands, even the big cities like Bangkok and the up-market islands like Samui will have economy accommodation if you’re planning a budget family trip to Thailand. As for luxury, the sky’s the limit, with Aman, Rosewood, Six Senses, Ritz-Carlton and an endless number of independent resorts offering superlative high-end hospitality in practically every pocket of the country.
To get the best rates and the first choice of rooms, book as early as possible – especially if you’re traveling in the high season (from November to the end of February) and Thai New Year (Songkran April 13-15). Rates will rise sharply and rooms in the best hotels will book out up to six months in advance. Smaller islands such as Koh Maak and Koh Kood, which don’t have much accommodation to begin with, always book out early.
If you’re not sure how to book or where to stay, save yourself the headache and get a Travel Specialist to advise. Agents can also help you find accommodation specific to your family’s needs, if you need a big room or a suite, extra accessibility or amenities for infants. (TIP: Baby cots are usually free of charge, even in the smaller, family-run resorts.)
Research activities in Thailand before you go
If you don’t know much about the country, or you’ve never been before, you might be surprised at how much there is on offer. Family activities in Thailand go beyond cooking classes and visits to elephant sanctuaries – the best thing to do is define exactly what you want to get done first, to avoid Thailand’s famous scams (such as gem tours) or tourist traps that exploit animals (elephant shows/riding and tiger photo ops among them).
Things to do in a family trip to Thailand
Here are 20 fun family-friendly things to do in Thailand to give you some ideas:
1 – Take an island-hopping cruise
These range from long-tail boat rides around Phang Nga Bay to luxury yacht outings in the Andaman Sea; it’s really up to your family’s preferences.
2 – Cycle through Bangkok
There are tours that can take you through local areas to the city’s “Green Lung,” Bang Krachao. Cycle through the real Bangkok and see what the city was to offer.
3 – Have a private muay Thai training session
Work up a sweat in a muay Thai ring with a real boxer experience on your family trip to Thailand. Have a private muay Thai training session as one of the best thing to do in Thailand.
4 – Zip-line through the forest canopy
Phuket and Chiang Mai both have ziplining options. Have fun and add this activity in your list of things to do in Thailand. Have an adventurous time canopy.
5 – Enjoy a homestay with a traditional cooking class
There’s no better form of cultural immersion than a homestay with a traditional cooking class. Chiang Mai is a great place to be added in a family itinerary for Thailand.
6 – Kayak on an emerald lake
Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park has to be seen (and paddled over to be believed). Its a must on the list of things to do in Thailand with family.
7 – Spot wildlife on a mangrove tour
Krabi has some pristine mangroves to explore for a perfect family vacation in Thailand. Enjoy some wildlife on a nature holiday style as one of the things to do in Thailand.
8 – Visit Monkey Beach
Phi Phi Island is a must if you’re in Phuket or Ao Nang. This little beach has lots of friendly critters being one of the best place for family holiday in Thailand.
9 – Go to Thailand’s royal resort town
Hua Hin is a 2.5-hour drive from Bangkok and its known as Thailand’s royal resort town. Worth trip if you have a day or two to soak up its cosmopolitan seaside vibe and complete your family trip to Thailand.
10 – Climb a mountain
So many to choose from: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, even Koh Chang, if you’re really into spiders-and-all nature trekking and want to be one of the things to do in Thailand.
11 – Bathe in a waterfall
Erawan Falls and other major falls around the country often have tiers/pools where it’s OK to take a dip. (Follow local etiquette if you’re not sure.)
12 – Explore the Chao Phraya River
Hop on a tourist ferry, take a private longtail boat or embark on a river cruise – the Chao Phraya River is the lifeblood of Bangkok.
13 – Have high tea or brunch in a fancy hotel restaurant
Pick any five-star in Bangkok and show up smartly dressed for an indulgent gastronomic treat with a tea or brunch in a fancy hotel restaurant.
14 – Get a massage at Wat Pho
This temple houses a large reclining Buddha statue and a legendary massage school. Ge a real massage at Wat Pho and paper yourself.
15 – Try som tam Thai
It’s the most accessible version of spicy green papaya salad. Try som tam Thai and wash down with some cha yen, the Thai iced tea.
16 – Do a walking tour of Phuket Town
You might be surprised at all the great Sino-Portuguese architecture. Doing a walking tour of Phuket Town you will know the city and its history even better.
17 – Go to a night market in Bangkok
If Chatujak Market is too chaotic to be on a family trip to Thailand, a smaller market like Rachada Train Night Market might be more your style.
18 – Take in the views from up high
Bangkok probably has the highest rooftop venues like MahaNakhon Kingpower’s SkyWalk or Octave on the top floors of Marriott Sukhumvit. But the smaller destinations also have scenic viewpoints. Anantara on Samui has treetop dining in little nests, as does Soneva Kiri Koh Kood. There’s The Hilltop in Ao Nang (Krabi), and Vana Nava Sky in Hua Hin. If you’re on an island or beach with a height restriction for buildings, even better. A Google search for sunset bars will turn up the best vantage points.
19 – Support a charity
Most larger destinations have established animal charities for stray dogs and cats, while elephant and wildlife rescues are also scattered across the country. A good proportion are run or co-run by expats and have a social media presence you can find with a quick Internet search. If you’re unsure which are legitimate, or you wish to support a children’s or women’s welfare organization, talk to your Travel Specialist.
20 – Do a foodie tour
You needn’t eat the spiciest thing, or try fried crickets or sit at a street stall – Bangkok is now a Michelin city, so you can go on a Bangkok food tour and haute as your family can handle.