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Thailand Family Holidays

Wat Pho temple, Bangkok.Wat Pho temple, Bangkok.© watpho.com
The ethical Elephant Nature Park. The ethical Elephant Nature Park. © Elephant Nature Park
An Akah family in Chiang Rai. An Akah family in Chiang Rai. © Amazing Thailand
Bamboo raft in Chiang Mai. Bamboo raft in Chiang Mai. © Chiangmai.tours
Market in Chiang Mai province.Market in Chiang Mai province.© Amazing Thailand
Songkran New Year celebrations in Thailand. Songkran New Year celebrations in Thailand. © Amazing Thailand
Thai puppetry. Thai puppetry. © Amazing Thailand
Train travel in Thailand.Train travel in Thailand.© railway.co.th
Capital City Bangkok
Flying Time 11.25hrs
Carbon Footprint 11.11 CO2
Timezone GMT +7
Currency Bhat

Today

Overview

Spectacular beach resorts in the south and thrilling adventures in the north of the country, including elephant encounters and gorgeous caves to explore, make Thailand a great bet with children of all ages.

If you can't choose between these two very different kinds of trip, don't despair – cheap domestic flights make it easy to combine the jungles of the north with the southern beaches for the perfect two-centre family holiday. If considering Thailand with younger children, however, take into account the long flight and need for several jabs, and the rather basic conditions involved in adventure trips. And see the latest Foreign & Commonwealth Office (fco.gov.uk) advice on travel to Thailand.

Things to do with kids in Thailand

Make a stop-off or a city break in Bangkok on your way to northern or southern Thailand with older kids (with younger kids, for whom the capital can be overwhelming, head straight to the beaches). Be sure to visit Bangkok's spectacular Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Grand Palace and Temple of Wat Pho with its massive reclining Buddha. Stopping at one of the temples along the river to feed one of the vast number of huge fish is also great fun for kids.

For a beach holiday close to Bangkok, try Pattaya City about two hours' drive away.

Head north to Chiang Mai for a glimpse of the jungles of Thailand at their best. Often reached on adventure trips by overnight sleeper train, Chiang Mai is easily accessible with younger children via domestic flights taking around one hour from Bangkok. Sample the food at Chiang Mai’s famous night market and marvel at more fantastic temples before heading into the jungle to try your hand at bamboo-rafting. Don’t miss a day-trip from Chiang Mai to the ethical Elephant Nature Park, a unique conservation project and rescue centre where you can spend the day learning about elephants (a warning: the stories of their mistreatment before arriving here can be upsetting for kids). 

If you’re taking part in an adventure trip (see Best Organised Trips tab), Chiang Mai is your likely departure point for your stay with a local hill tribe. Spending a night in a local village provides a unique glimpse into another way of life, but very basic accommodation makes this better suited to those travelling with older kids. Try Chiang Rai about five hours from Chiang Mai in the far north of the country – a great place to experience Thai culture, perhaps meeting some of the indigenous Akha tribe.

Get some R&R on the islands and white-sand beaches of southern Thailand. The resorts of the Andaman coast are some of the best options for those travelling with children. Phuket, the largest and perhaps best-known of Thailand’s islands, caters for all tastes and budgets – avoid the seedy nightlife of Patong and head for the resorts of Karon and Kata, or if your budget allows, Surin and Ao Bang Thao. The developed nature of Phuket means children are well catered for, with kayaking, rafting and snorkelling all readily available. Boat trips to the surrounding islands offer a great chance to experience the Andamans' fantastic marine life.

If you’re travelling with older children and teens, head to the Similan and Surin Islands north of Phuket for some of the world’s best scuba-diving and the opportunity to spot the elusive whale shark. Day-trips are available from Phuket but live-aboard cruises make the best of the islands (age suitability varies by trip).

For an ‘authentic’ island experience, head east of Phuket to the island of Ko Phi-Phi off Krabi, but avoid Phi-Phi town itself in favour of one of the more secluded resorts, which has access to fantastic kayaking and snorkelling. Or stick to Krabi itself – its Railay Beach mixes spectacular scenery with luxurious hotels.

Or on the south-eastern Gulf of Thailand coast, try the islands of Ko Pha-Ngan and Ko Samui (Koh Samui), which are some of Thailand’s most popular destinations. Both have hotels well equipped for children and plenty of family-friendly activities, including boat trips, trekking and scuba diving for different ages. But do avoid Ko Pha-Ngan during the monthly full moon parties, when 10,000 to 30,000 backpackers descend on Haad Rin.

Eat

Thai cuisine consists mainly of fresh and fragrant curries – red, green and Massaman with meat, seafood or vegetables are all delicious. Fish is also a reliable child-friendly option at Thailand's beach resorts, while Western favourites are readily available except in the middle of the jungle.

When to go to Thailand

Thailand with kids is a possibility at any time of year, but the timing of the dry season makes the country the perfect destination for a Christmas family holiday. The UK winter is generally considered the best time to hit the beaches of the south, with the Andaman coast (including Phuket and Krabi) experiencing a dry season November–April and a wet season May–October, and the south-western Gulf of Thailand coast and Ko Samui having their dry season from December and April and their wet season from May to November. 

Meanwhile, Chiang Mai in the north is hot between March and May, with temperatures averaging 34–36°C. This is followed by a rainy season from June to October and a cooler period between November and February. During these months, the temperature averages 29°C, but this can fall considerably at night.

Additionally, increasing numbers of parents are considering Thailand for a long-haul summer holiday with kids on the basis that you can often save money when compared with Mediterranean destinations due to low-season rates combined with the lower cost of living in much of Asia. If you do travel in the monsoon season of July and August, you'll experience short, intense bursts of rain, mainly in the morning, but the rest of the day you can head for the beaches to enjoy the sunshine without the crowds.

Cost

Thailand can be a surprisingly affordable family holiday destination, especially during our main school holidays. Flights start at less than £500pp, although you will inevitably pay more in school holidays.

Accommodation prices vary tremendously, but a large luxury villa with staff can be a steal when shared between two or more families. In terms of eating out, a decent evening meal costs just £5–10pp.

By Rhonda Carrier

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