Visiting Thailand with kids makes for one very exotic family vacation. From relaxing on a breathtaking beach to riding elephants through the jungle, in Thailand, you can do it all. The country is well known for being very kid-friendly and relatively safe for families. The only real problem you might run into is trying to figure out what to see and do in a short two week vacation. To get a real sense of Thailand, you should try and see a bit of the south and a bit of the north with a few days in Bangkok as well.
Islands & Beaches of Southern Thailand
Most people start their vacation in Thailand with a stop in Bangkok. It is after all where the main international airport is located and the inevitable starting point for most trips. That being said, traveling with kids, the city can be incredibly overwhelming and a bit of a culture shock. I suggest bypassing the city in the beginning and booking a ticket to southern Thailand instead.
The south of Thailand is filled with some of the world’s best beaches with the three most popular beach areas for tourists being Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui. Out of those, Koh Samui is usually the best option for families. If you want to get off the beaten track, and away from the crowds though, Railay in Krabi Province is a great option. Only accessible by boat, Railay has three beaches, a few very kid-friendly accommodation options, and calm, safe swimming areas great for younger kids.
After you have eased your kids into Thailand, given them a chance to hear the language, eat the food, etc. head back up to the capital for a few days. Bangkok is a city of contrasts – bustling streets filled with honking cars and speedy, little tuk-tuks surround peaceful Buddhist temples and old palaces. Balancing the two extremes is important for any visit but especially when you have kids along.
A good place to start is the Grand Palace, a huge complex build as the home of the Thai King in 1782 and filled with all the beauty of the Thai kingdom. There is a great ice cream place across the street from the main entrance which is a nice treat after the hot tour. From the palace, head next to Bangkok’s canals for a tour of the famous floating markets. The best tours happen on the water, with traditional boats which take you through the market and also through some of Bangkok’s calmer, residential canals.
Chiang Mai & Northern Thailand
While many families stick to the south, Thailand’s northern provinces hold even more treasures that kids of all ages can enjoy. Chiang Mai is the region’s main city and a good place to set up as your base. There are lots of family-friendly hotels to choose from, all very well priced. In the city, the top attraction for kids would be the Chiang Mai Zoo where you can see elephants, tigers, and the zoo’s famous giant pandas. Another popular family activity in Chiang Mai is to sign up for a Thai cooking class.
From Chiang Mai, there are lots possible day trips with lots of outdoor family adventure activities. The jungle zip lining is great for kids 5 and up, giving your family a chance to see a bit of the Thai jungle and possibly even some wildlife. The most highly recommended Thailand experience though is usually the elephant tours. Patara Elephant Farm has a popular “Elephant Owner for a Day” trip that lets you and your kids not only interact with baby elephants but also ride one through the jungle to a local waterfall where you and your elephant can swim side by side.