Best places to go on your family trip to Thailand.
We love Thailand! We travelled there when our kids were three and seven and have many more places we want to explore on another trip or two.
Most areas of Thailand are great destinations for family travel, but as a few areas are not so kid-friendly, I’m pleased to present this guest post Robert Schrader of Thailand Starts Here. He’s travelled extensively throughout the country and has great recommendations for anyone considering a family trip to Thailand.
Robert created his Thailand travel resource to share insights from living in the Kingdom with a global audience. Whether you’re an adventurous travel family or an intrepid solo voyager, all your trips to Thailand start here! Do also make sure to follow Thailand Starts Here on Instagram.
Planning a family trip to Thailand can be tricky, as you seek to balance the realities of the Kingdom with travel preferences of your kids, your partner and yourself. For example, you’ll want to visit iconic destinations without contributing (or falling victim to) Thailand’s infamous overtourism.
The good news? If you follow my advice, you’ll easily be able to thread this needle. The better news? I have a feeling it’ll make you even more excited about your future trip to Thailand.
Whether you plan to spend two weeks in Thailand and deviate only minimally from the tourist trail, or stay longer, travel slower and explore deeper, the Land of Smiles will put one on all your family’s faces. Here are a few tips to keep in mind before you visit.
The best time to go on your family trip to Thailand
Family holidays in Thailand, as is the case in any other destination, are more enjoyable the fewer other tourists you have to contend with. As a result, I would generally recommend avoiding the “high season” (i.e. December, January, February and March) as well as the month of April, which is when the popular Thai New Year Holiday known as “Songkran” takes place every year.
This is not to say that the best time to visit Thailand is during the “wet” months between about June and October. If possible, my favourite time for trips to Thailand is during the “shoulder” months of May and November. While there’s a chance of heavy rain and high temperatures some days, you’ll mostly enjoy pleasant, sunny weather, not to mention very light crowds. And lower prices, which is always welcome when you’re traveling with the whole family!
Amazing family destinations in Thailand
Regardless of how many days in Bangkok you end up spending, I definitely recommend exploring the Thai capital with your family. Younger children will be fascinated by the monitor lizards of Lumphini Park in Silom, while older ones will appreciate the vibrant stalls of Chatuchak Weekend Market. Kids of all ages (including middle age!) will be thankful for the city’s plentiful air-conditioning in luxurious malls like Siam Paragon and CentralWorld.
Most family holidays in Thailand head north after Bangkok, but few go as far north as Chiang Rai. In addition to being less crowded than the more famous Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai offers a more eclectic range of experiences. Stay in the city and appreciate the surreal White Temple and the ornate Chiang Rai Clock Tower, or take a day trip to the Golden Triangle, where Thailand meets Myanmar and Laos amid the mighty Mekong River.
Rural Southern Thailand
On one hand, things to do in Phang Nga (and other rural provinces, including Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat) aren’t as immediately appealing as what you might find in Phuket or Krabi. On the other hand, whether you’re swimming at the uncrowded beaches of Khao Lak (in Phang Nga) or trekking amid the orchids of Nakhon Si Thammarat’s scenic Baan Kiri Wong, authenticity easily makes up for obviousness.
The Koh Yao Islands
Which is not to say that family holidays in Thailand can’t include a beach. One quiet place to do this is the Koh Yao Islands (Koh Yao Yai and the smaller Koh Yao Noi), which sit in the Andaman Sea approximately halfway between Phuket and Krabi, and are accessible by ferry from both. Home to comfortable, yet quiet hotels, and magnificent beaches such as Laem Haad, a narrow spit of white sand that only appears at low tide.
Another not-so-crowded place you find some of the best islands in Thailand is the Trat archipelago, in the eastern reaches of the Gulf of Thailand near the border with Cambodia. If you’re a family that likes luxury, you might want to choose upmarket Koh Kood, while off-the-beaten-path Koh Wai requires roughing it. Koh Maak strikes a balance between these two extremes; Koh Chang is beautiful but busy.
Places families should avoid in Thailand
Every destination in Thailand has its merits, but not all are what I would call appropriate for families, especially those with young children. Here are some places I’d avoid if I were you:
- Pattaya: Thailand’s tourism authorities have been trying to re-frame this beach city as family friendly, but it remains over-saturated with sex tourism.
(Emma here: we actually went there as a family! We had a free week’s accommodation and managed to find some fun things to do with kids in Pattaya. Still, it wasn’t the nicest place we travelled to and we avoided going out at night.)
- Phuket: While Thailand’s largest island has many attractive selling points (namely, a large variety of amazing resorts), seedy areas like Patong Beach detract from this. Additionally, visiting other coastal spots allows you to easily enjoy the beachy vibe of Phuket without the massive crowds.
- Chiang Mai: The hub of Thailand’s north has a lot of things going for it, from its temple-filled and walled Old City, to a bevy of experiences on its outskirts (like trekking in Chiang Mai province). However, Chiang Mai is crowded (and, at some times of the year, rather polluted); visit Chiang Rai instead if you can.
- Certain parts of Bangkok: Thailand’s capital, as I explained a few paragraphs ago, has a great amount of appeal for family travelers. With this being said, you should absolutely avoid certain parts of the city, namely Patpong Night Market in Silom, Soi Cowboy in Sukhumvit and the infamous Khao San Road backpacker area.
With all this being said, you shouldn’t stress too much about the specific destinations of your family holidays in Thailand, assuming you can’t avoid certain places. Ultimately, whether your kids enjoy the trip or not is as much about how you spend time as it is where you go!
A Word About Overtourism
Throughout this article, I’ve been mindful of recommending Thailand destinations with lighter crowds, for two reasons: To ensure a peaceful trip for you and your family; and to avoid the possibility of you contributing to “overtourism.” With this being said, you shouldn’t feel obligated to spend your entire trip off the beaten path. There are places to visit in Krabi and other popular provinces that are both accessible and minimally packed with tourists.
Indeed, a piece of the overtourism puzzle is when you come, and not just where you go. If you follow my instructions from the beginning of this piece (i.e. avoiding Thailand’s high season), you can largely avoid suffering from or contributing to this phenomenon, even if you’re staying in traditionally busy places. In Thailand as with anywhere else, intent is as much a part of ethical travel as outcome.
The Bottom Line
Family holidays in Thailand have to strike a delicate balance. You’ll want to experience an authentic representation of this complex country, but to shield your children from some of its “authentic” manifestations. Most notably, you’ll want neither to participate in overtourism, nor to suffer from its effects.
The great news is that you can strike this balance relatively easily, from the streets of Bangkok, to the lush jungles of Thailand’s north, to the paradisiacal beaches (hopefully, the less crowded ones) along the coasts of the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. Here’s to a trip the whole family can enjoy!
Thanks for these insights Robert! I’m sure many families will appreciate your knowledge and experience as they plan their trip to Thailand. We also will for our next trip there!
Read more from our family experiences in Thailand:
- We trekked to visit elephants in the forests of Northern Thailand with the Mahouts Elephant Foundation.
- We loved visiting Elephant Parade Land in Chiang Mai.
- And we also had a great time at the Elephant PooPooPaper Park!
- Read about the fun activities we did as a family in Pattaya, as well as my responsible and safe travel tips.