Family Vacations to Thailand

Floating market, Thailand
Floating market, Thailand (Russ Bowling/Flickr)

Thailand Family Travel Tips

  • Thai people are generally warm and friendly, but it is important that visitors show respect for their culture. Thais consider the head and the feet the most sacred parts of the body, so never touch another person's head, display the soles of your feet, or use your foot to point at something.
  • For many, a visit to Thailand is about getting active outdoors. Pristine sun-kissed beaches and balmy aquamarine seas make it a perfect place for older children to try their hand at water sports like snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking. Terra firma, meanwhile, provides plenty of opportunities for horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, and even elephant trekking.
  • On many Thai beaches, you will come across solicitors selling everything from sunglasses to cheap jewelry. Refuse politely, but firmly. If you do buy anything, don't expect it to be of high quality. You should also keep an eye on your valuables.

Why is Thailand such a great travel destination for families? Maybe it is the simple pleasures, like skimming across the Chao Phraya River on a long-tail boat as Bangkok buzzes around you, or savoring some of the best seafood you will ever taste, after it's been cooked in front of your eyes at a street stall. Perhaps it is the warm welcome given to families and the fact that children are treated like royalty, or that the locals strive to ensure that the Land of Smiles really does live up to its moniker. Then again, maybe it is the world-class health spas; the temples that come in all shapes and sizes, but never fail to be spectacular; or the white-sand beaches, the sort of family-oriented oases you thought only existed in computer-enhanced postcards.

The only place to start a visit to Thailand is in the City of Angels. One of the world's great cities, Bangkok is a throbbing, intoxicating urban sprawl that induces serious culture shock in most first-time visitors. Millions of people of all shapes and sizes vie for attention on the capital's Technicolor streets. It is hard not to fall in love with Bangkok as you stroll through the streets; zip along the river on a ferry, enjoying the breeze; or skip across the city on the Skytrain.

To the north of Bangkok in Chiang Mai, the pace of life slips down a notch. The city itself boasts a flurry of impressive wats as well as the legendary Night Bazaar. Chiang Mai is also renowned as a base for setting out on elephant and walking treks through the lush rain forests. Farther north, Chiang Rai is another great base for hiking and elephant trekking that, if anything, is even more relaxed than Chiang Mai.

Most families come to Thailand for the beaches, though. Khao Lak is a laid-back beach resort that is popular with the sun-worshipping brigade. It is also legendary among snorkelers and scuba divers, and is a great base for exploring the Surin and Similan Islands. Ko Chang, Thailand's second-largest island, is a real escape, much of it protected as part of a national marine park. The southern island of Koh Samui marries the best of both worlds for many visitors, with backpacker haunts sitting beside luxury hotels. What lures visitors here are the stunning beaches, which come fringed with swaying palm trees.

The granddaddy of all the Thai resort islands, though, is Phuket, the Pearl of the South. It is a favorite of everyone from twenty-something travelers looking for nefarious nightlife to families seeking a safe escape with plenty of child-friendly facilities. Patong is Phuket's busiest resort town, with bustling beaches and a buzzing nightlife. To the south, the twin resorts of Karon and Kata have long, white-sand beaches that are popular with families. From Phuket, numerous day trips beckon.

Published: 8 Sep 2009 | Last Updated: 30 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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