Last updated on October 7th, 2020 at 08:53 pm
Thailand is a holiday favourite for travellers all over the world and is an amazing destination for family travel with its blend of exotic and beautiful natural attractions and chaotic but fascinating cities. The Thai people are some of the friendliest on the planet and they embrace their tourists with open arms, particularly those travelling with kids.
The hospitality extended to travellers is part of the reason that so many people love visiting this Asian hot spot. But another obvious reason is the super delicious Thai food. My kids perpetually ask to travel back to Thailand because they loved the satay and Thai fried rice so much, but there are plenty of other specialties to sample during your stay as well.
Travelling in Thailand is very budget friendly and will mean you can spend longer on your holiday to really savour some of the best parts of this fabulous country. You can opt to indulge in luxurious resorts and hotels or stay in simpler, rustic accommodations which will get you closer to the local people and their way of life.
If you are wondering whether Thailand is safe to travel with young children then make sure you check out this article on safe and happy travels with kids in Thailand.
So where are the best places to visit and explore in Thailand? Some are very well known and others are a little off the beaten track but let me take you on a guided trip through some of the best family friendly destinations in Thailand.
Thailand Beach Holiday
Thailand is blessed with beautiful beaches and idyllic islands to visit but for convenience the easiest place to get to is Phuket. With a large International Airport that sees arrivals from all over the world, and cheap flights Phuket is a fantastic area to explore with kids.
Phuket and the surrounding region are affected by the annual monsoon season. Officially this runs from around April until October with the heaviest periods of rainfall during June to August. We have travelled in both April and October and been lucky enough to have beautiful daily weather with just regular storms and heavy rainfall overnight.
On another occasion in October though we did have torrential rain for the entire holiday which wasn’t much fun. If you want to be safe stick just outside of these dates for consistent warm, sunny days.
Phuket is an island jutting just off the coast of western Thailand in the Andaman Sea. It is a resort and beach holiday mecca with many thousands of tourists flocking there every year. Whilst this may not sound the most appealing, rest assured there are plenty of lovely spots away from the crowds still.
For families, we recommend steering well clear of Patong which is quite seedy and mostly filled with backpackers and party travellers. Our favourite part of Phuket is the Bang Tao Beach area where you can choose from a large range of hotels from budget through to luxury. Bang Tao Beach is one of the prettiest on the island with a long stretch of clean, white sand.
Some of the rocky coves and beaches on the southern part of the island are also really beautiful.
When in Phuket you can be as busy or relaxed as your holiday desires. For those looking for day trips a great starting point is to take a speed boat tour out to either Phang Nga Bay or Maya Beach and Phi Phi Island. On a sunny day this is a fun adventure and allows you to swim and snorkel in some of the most sparkling green waters around the limestone beaches. This is where all the postcard images from Phuket come from.
Another fun and ethically minded adventure is to visit the Elephant Nature Park. Don’t get this place confused with many of the elephant camps in Phuket and Thailand that allow people to take rides and bathe the elephants.
There is a long history of cruel training practices so the Elephant Nature Park was established to rescue abused elephants and provide them with a protected environment away from these practices. The cost of your admission goes directly to supporting the cause to end cruel elephant tourism.
You may stumble across the opportunity to go to the Fantasea show in Phuket as well. Noting these ‘show elephants’ have all been trained utilising the cruel practices so beware of what you are purchasing.
For an off the beaten path activity that kids will love take a side trip to the Thai Muang Turtle Sanctuary. A self-guided activity that is free, this place allows tourists to wander freely amongst the tanks of turtles, fish and other aquatic animals that are being bred and rehabilitated for release back into the wild.
For more great family friendly Phuket activities check out this article on Best Things to Do with Kids in Phuket.
We love Khao Lak as the antithesis to Phuket’s sometimes crowded and over-touristed feel. Located just an hour and thirty minutes further north of Phuket airport, Khao Lak is a more peaceful and lesser developed part of the coastline. Whilst there are new resorts popping up at a fast rate Khao Lak has retained a slight jungle feel to it and is the perfect launchpad for adventures up into the gorgeous and rugged Khao Sok National Park.
Khao Lak is the kind of place where you can have a pretty relaxed itinerary. Chill out and enjoy your accommodations, perhaps take a day tour to James Bond Island or boat tour to see the impressively pretty Phang Nga Bay.
Khao Lak was hit particularly hard in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami and thousands of locals and tourists died in this location. In the centre of Khao Lak village is a small memorial museum which is a poignant place to visit if staying in the area. It really helps to understand the magnitude of the disaster and to this day there is a large boat left where it washed up many kilometres inland from the ocean.
Heading around gorgeous Phang Nga Bay is a two-hour road trip to Krabi. You can also fly directly into Krabi from Bangkok or other major hubs in Asia.
The drive itself is worthy of the visit to Krabi but it is also a lovely place to spend a few days or longer. The true highlight of Krabi though is the opportunity to take a longtail boat from the main port around to Railay Beach.
Railay is a mecca for rock climbers and other adventurers with its tall cliffs on the edge of the beach and it is a beautiful place to hang out for the day, eat some lunch at a beachside restaurant before cruising back to Krabi. We think that Railay is one of the must visit places in Thailand with kids.
If you want to stay at Railay there are some comfortable accommodations right on the beach as well.
Thailand Mountain Holiday
To discover the green hinterland of Thailand the northern city of Chiang Mai is the place to go for the perfect blend of mountain greenery and energetic city life. Chiang Mai is a bustling but small city with the hum of tuk-tuks and honking horns setting the background for some fun sightseeing both within the streets and out in the mountains.
Doi Suthep is the most famous attraction in Chiang Mai located a short drive from the city centre. A striking Buddhist temple perched on the hill top this is a really beautiful place to visit to learn about the Buddhist culture and the myths of the white elephant.
Speaking of elephants, Chiang Mai is the birthplace of the original Elephant Nature Park. This is a much less crowded option to visit than the park in Phuket as it is a lengthier drive from town. You get a much more hands on experience assisting the staff to collect fruits and vegetables from the local markets to feed the elephants and interactive experiences and educational components to really help you understand the history of elephants in Thailand.
If you love market shopping then Chiang Mai will be one of your favourite places to visit. The best markets include San Kamphaeng Road which is the handicrafts market with all sorts of wares and home-made items to be found. For a fun night market hit Chang Klang Road for the Night Bazaar held every night of the week.
Best time to visit Chiang Mai is in the cooler season over December to February when you can avoid the oppressive tropical heat. Keep in mind that due to the altitude, temperatures can drop to be quite chilly particularly in the evenings. The rainy season runs from mid-June to late October.
The shoulder seasons either side has pleasant weather and generally lower prices so can be a great option as well.
You can’t provide an overview of Thailand without including the capital Bangkok. Big, brash and brazen is often how Bangkok is described but it is a place definitely worthy of a visit.
Like Phuket the monsoon season will hit Bangkok from May to October but anytime is really okay to visit as there are a lot if indoor attractions to keep you out of the weather if you need.
Start your exploration of Bangkok by taking a river cruise along the Chao Phraya River which is the heart of the City and interestingly runs from Northern Thailand down through Bangkok for 365 kilometres. The river is best cruised on sunset to enjoy the illuminated views of the Grand Palace and many temples such as Wat Arun.
Fill your days sightseeing the magnificent temples throughout Bangkok and marvel at the architecture and beauty of the grand structures. For something traditional, a great family outing is a visit to the floating markets which are filled with interesting sounds, smells and tastes. Taling Chan is one of the closest floating markets to Bangkok and is reachable by boat.
Many people visit Kanchanaburi on a day trip from Bangkok, it is an incredible place to visit if you have more than a few hours, we recommend staying for a few days so you can explore the area at your leisure.
Hopefully this article helps to highlight just some of the beautiful places to consider on a family trip to Thailand. We highly recommend visiting Thailand with kids for the exciting fusion of culture, cuisine and amazing attractions and places that will ensure your travels in this country are truly magical.
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Karen is an avid traveller always searching for her next active, nature-based travel experience with her husband and two young daughters. Her hope is to inspire other families to travel and discover the beautiful world via her website: www.bigadventuresforlittlefeet.com.au