Thailand is Wonderful (and Affordable) Destination for Families
If there is any doubt in your mind whether Thailand would be suitable for travel with small children, let it go. Thailand is full of great food, beautiful beaches, and exciting adventures all wrapped up in a very affordable package. This makes Thailand a top spot and a good starting point for your South East Asia vacation. Especially if you are traveling with kids of any age.
Here is our Family Gap Year Travel Itinerary for Thailand
Bangkok (8 nights) → Hua Hin and Dolphin Bay (4 nights) → Koh Tao (13 nights)→ Krabi Town (3 nights) → Railay (6 nights) → Koh Lanta (10 nights) → Bangkok (again) – 3 Nights→ to Cambodia and Vietnam then back to → Bangkok (wife needed surgery) → Chiang Mai – 7 Nights → Hong Kong
Thailand (Dec 29 – Feb 15) 49 days +
1. Bangkok – 8 nights
New Years Eve and our very first Tuk Tuk ride
Where we stayed: Royal Benja Hotel 39 Sukhumvit Rd, Soi 5 – A nice hotel in Sukhumvit area.
Food, shopping, fun, temples, palaces, ladyboy shows… What isn’t available in Bangkok?
Be prepared to adjust your itinerary if you’ve only given Bangkok the requisite day or two. The Bangkok of today is tidier and easier to navigate than ever before and will pull you in with Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the world’s biggest markets, sublime eats and endless opportunities for urban exploration.
Siam Niramit – Treat yourself and your kids to this amazing show and make sure you show up early to catch the pre-show activities outside which include traditional dance and elephant rides.
The Bangkok Zoo – Whatever you do don’t miss the Hippo feeding!
2. Hua Hin and Dolphin Bay – 4 nights
A sunset paddle in Hua Hin
Where we stayed: Dolphin Bay Resort – Recommend (YES!). Beware this is very “resorty” but it is a haven for families.
Dolphin Bay Resort (click here) is a family vacationers paradise. Families from all around the world book this location well in advance to make sure they have a place for their kids reserved poolside. Although Dolphin Bay is a big resort, it maintains some of the Thai charms because of its surroundings. Take the time to rent a bike, take a kayak out on the bay to Monkey Island, go for a $6 sunset paddle below giant rock faces or take a jog down the path that parallels the beach. This is a nice stop if you want to relax while your kids go bananas. Not sesquicentennial Thailand, but the closest thing to Disneyland on the mainland.
3. Koh Tao – 13 nights
Our daughter hanging with some local kids outside our bungalow in Koh Tao
Where we stayed: Sairee Cottages (can only book in-person or maybe by phone)
Ever wanted to know what it was like to come up to the beach Navy Seal style with SCUBA gear under the cloak of darkness? Welcome to Koh Tao, the PADI SCUBA certification center of the world. Although Lonely Planet has it pegged as a 20 something party hot spot, this is a great place for families. We planned three days here which turned into 13. My wife and I got our Advanced Open Water Divers certification, the kids attended the Playskool, and it was one of our best stops to date. If you don’t plan on diving, there are probably better places to stay (maybe Koh Samui), but if you are looking for adventure, this is the place to go. I highly recommend the Sairee Cottages Dive School as well as their discounted bungalow accommodations. Ask for Andre’ if you are looking for an excellent dive master.
Getting our PADI certs in Koh Tao
4. Krabi Town – 3 nights
Hidden treasures await for those brave enough to venture out on a moped in Krabi
Where we stayed: Hometel Krabi Town – Recommend (YES!) central location with a great restaurant.
WiFi – Good
Krabi blew me away with its epic amount of cool. We stayed at the Hometel which doesn’t look like much, but packs a lot of goodness into a basic, no-nonsense room for $35 per night (yes that even includes beds for the entire family!). Hometel is located smack dab in the middle of town where we were treated to night markets, great food, cheap mopeds (for rent right next door to the Hometel for $6 a day) friendly people, spectacular sunsets, limestone wonders and just a whole lot of cool local atmosphere. We loved Krabi and ended up staying for three nights and four very fun-filled days. Here is a hint – go rollerskating at the park if you want some family fun with a lot of local flavors. Check out Travelfish Krabi.
5. Railay – 6 nights
Climbing as a family with King Climbers in Railay
Where we stayed:Railay Phutawan Resort Recommend (YES!) a bit of a walk up the hill, but the view is spectacular, and the prices are great. If you can swing it, the Railay Princess Resort & Spa looks amazing. The West side is prettier but much more expensive.
WiFi – Acceptable at both places.
If you go to Railay and you don’t rock climb you might as well not go to Railay. The little peninsula with some nice beaches and beautiful rock formations is picturesque for sure. There are nice kayaking and some pleasant walks. But the hotel prices are higher, the food here is more expensive and less tasty, and there are better places to relax and unwind. But, if you crave some of the best rock climbing in the world, and a true family bonding adventure then you must make a trip to Railay. I took the three-day climbing course, and our kids joined us on 2-morning climbs where we made memories for a lifetime! Travelfish Railay Beach
6. Koh Lanta – 10 nights
My wife and I returning from a great day of diving in Koh Lanta
Where we stayed: We stayed at three different places in Koh Lanta
When we headed to Koh Lanta, we knew we might stay here for a while to slow down, relax and get some work done. Our first stop was at the Lanta Bee Garden Bungalows where we were greeted by kind staff who rented us moped for the week ($400 TB about $12 US per day) and helped us get oriented to the surroundings. We found the Lanta Sports Resort on our fist day when we were looking for day care options and trying to find a cheap apartment to rent for a week. We ended up with a sweet deal that involved three full days of Muay Thai kickboxing and excellent accommodations for the family. It was our first time in Thailand with a real kitchen. Our family loved the kickboxing, we went and saw a fight at the local club and our 4-year-old son had a blast in his fancy new Muay Thai shorts!
After leaving the Lanta Sports Resort, we were trying to find a cheaper place to stay for the week and were happy to find the only apartment left at the White Flower Apartments. They are centrally located, set us back about $60 per day (could have been cheaper if we booked longer), and we had a beautiful patio, kitchen, garden view and wonderfully fast internet. I sat on that porch for three days straight and got a ton of work done. We took moped rides, enjoyed touring the island and even took a dive adventure to Phi Phi Island. We found wonderful service (that included childcare) on Koh Lanta with Pheonix divers who found a nanny for the kids while we went diving for the day. What a deal, and I can’t recommend them enough Gisene, the owner is spectacular!
We took the ferry from Koh Lanta to Trang airport where we boarded a plane to Bangkok. Tickets were $35 a piece with a $10 surcharge for luggage. This was a much better option than taking the 14-hour bus ride!
7. Bangkok (again) – 3 Nights
Wat Pho Bangkok – Beautiful beyond description
Where we stayed:Thai Cozy House Very basic accommodation in the heart of Khao San Road – $25 per night budget place but perfect for saving money as we waited to catch the bus to Cambodia.
They say all roads lead to Bangkok and they are right. We are back in Bangkok again for a 3-day layover as we wait to catch our bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap. This time we stayed in the backpacker’s district of Khao San Road in a great little budget hostel located downtown. The area is spectacular for its cheap eats and a long list of things to see and do right from your hotel room. We took the kids to the zoo, the royal palace and dad got the joy of a nice bout of food poisoning. Off to Cambodia by bus!
8. Chiang Mai – 7 Nights
Cooking class in Chiang Mai. The kids loved it!
Where we stayed: The Grand Napat Serviced Apartment – Very nice apartments at a reasonable price (if booked at the right time). You will need a set of mopeds if you want to get into and out of the old city as it is a bit out of the way. These apartments have a basic kitchen and family room. We were able to sneak some bedding out of the maids closet to make a couple makeshift beds for the kids. Worked like a charm!
WiFi – Excellent
Baan Ngern Villiage (old city) – We found this hotel while walking around the Saturday night market. It is right on the side street, in a quiet neighborhood within walking distance to everything. We stayed here for three days. It is well priced, and the rooms were huge with frig and a little dining area. It is not particularly fancy, and there is no pool, but if you are looking for a good price combined with convenience. This is an excellent choice.
WiFi – Acceptable (very bad at busy times in the evening)