Header image courtesy of Charl Durand (via Unsplash)
Travelling with little ones can be tricky. Especially when the destination is seen as a place where “adults only” is the most used filter, and unapologetic travellers are looking to make the most of champagne brunches, candlelit dinners, sunset cruises, and couple spas, it could take a lot of planning (and patience) to get the balance just right so the whole family is happy. Yes, Thailand is often marketed as an oasis of privacy where couples and honeymooners come in search of a tranquil place to relax away from squealing kids—a place with soaking tubs, private pools, decadent suites, and blissfully uncrowded coastlines.
While we do respect the need for privacy and seclusion, there’s no reason why kids should be kept away from surfing and snorkelling in crystal clear water, swinging in a hammock on white sandy beaches, and basking in the warm golden sunshine. Contrary to the stereotypes, there’s plenty of fun to be had in Thailand for families too—travellers just have to look a little harder. In fact, children are celebrated and doted on in the Land of Smiles, and the affordability and array of activities make it a perfect family getaway destination. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best itineraries to consider with little ones in tow.
Starting with a rather unconventional pick, don’t be alarmed if a restaurant staff whisks your child away to play while you finish your meal in peace, it’s all part of Chiang Mai’s charm. The love for kids seems to be ingrained in their culture, which makes visiting this part of the country with pint-sized explorers a breeze. Thailand’s mountainous cultural hub may have a laid-back charm to it but you’ll still find plenty of fun and exciting activities for the little ones that will not only keep them engaged but also introduce them to whole new aspects of the outdoors and nature.
Elephant Nature Park—an award-winning rescue and rehabilitation centre, should be on the top of your list. It’s a safe haven for dozens of elephants who have suffered years of abuse and mistreatment in circus shows and animal back rides. And it’s not only the elephants who are cared for here—you’ll find hundreds of rescued cats, dogs, buffaloes, and pigs. You'll be amazed at the amount of love, trust, and loyalty these furry creatures shower upon you. If you want your kiddos to be at the forefront of the wildlife conservation battle in the future, then a walk alongside these gentle giants will undoubtedly set the tone.
Elephant Nature Park, Kuet Chang, Mae Taeng District, Chiang Mai 50150, Thailand | (+66) 53 272 855
Up for some bizarre sustainability lessons? Elephant Poopoopaper Park is a wonderful place for kids to learn the importance of innovation from even the most insignificant, and quite frankly disgusting, aspects of nature—poop! You’ll be amazed to know how many daily essential products can be made from elephant’s dried faeces, and a kid-centric workshop will allow your little ones to indulge in some hands-on fun-filled activities. Make this a stop on your family fun day out and about, and you’ll never look at poop (of any kind) the same way again.
Elephant POOPOOPAPER Park, 87 Moo. 10, T. Maeram, A. Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai 50180, Thailand | (+66) 53 299 565
To continue the on the journey of discovery, visit the nearby Siam Insect Zoo afterwards to discover a range of colourful creepy crawlies that are certain to intrigue little ones. The extensive collection includes species like stag beetles, scarab beetles, leaf insects, stick bugs, and many more. Do not miss the butterfly garden, where thousands of butterflies will circle you. Thanks to these conservatories, it has become possible for budding nature lovers and future environmentalists to see these tiniest yet most significant creations of nature in all their glory.
Siam Insect Zoo, 23/4 Moo1, Mae Rim-Samoeng Rd Mae Raem Subdistrict, Mae Rim 50180 Thailand | (+66) 53 860 807
Possibly one of the most child-friendly places in Thailand, Phuket packs a punch for our Lilliputians—stunning turquoise blue waters and white sand beaches that are perfect for building ultimate sandcastles, family-friendly water activities, or just catching the sunset together.
Let’s start with the most obvious of the Phuket activities for kids—hitting the beach. Phuket’s golden crescent of powder-soft sand and the meditative sway of the palm trees are a far cry from the concrete jungles you're used to, and the reason why this place draws crowds from around the globe throughout the year.
From Kata and Karon beaches in the south to always packed Patong, Kamala, Bang Tao Bay, and Surin beaches in the north, these long and vast stretches of sand will always be able to keep each one of you entertained. For a quieter escape, Bang Tao beach occupying the northernmost part of the island is where you’ll find just a handful of local kids playing in the azure blue water, and the only sound you will hear is of waves crashing against the shore and trees swaying in a gentle breeze.
Can’t get enough of the splashing fun and hopping in the waves? Head off to Splash Jungle Water Park for another day of plunge pools, a maze of waterslides, and plenty of aqua play fun. There are water rides, a diving tower, and a hydro-speed slide. An enormous wave pool with synchronized water jets and water cannons will keep the young swimmers busy (and off your back) all day.
Splash Jungle Water Park, 65 Soi Mai Khao 4, Mai Khao, Thalang District, Phuket 83110, Thailand | (+66) 76 372 111
Assuming the kids are beached out by the end of the day, a quirky experience at Baan Teelanka, or popularly known as the Upside Down House of Phuket, will definitely have them in splits. At first glance, it looks like a house where everything seems stuck to the ceiling. Moments later you realize that it’s actually you who’s upside down! So, when you take the picture and rotate it, the result looks like you have finally defied gravity—how cool is that?
Baan Teelanka, Moo 5 51/11 Chalermprakiat Ratchakan Thi 9 Road, Ratsada, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000, Thailand | (+66) 84 456 5279
Take your kids on a stroll along the picturesque old town area with historic streets and some pretty impressive Sino-Portuguese architecture. The town is very reminiscent of Singapore or Malacca, with Phuket sharing their Peranakan roots, but with its unique Thai heritage twist.
In the latter half of the day, when the temperature is a bit more manageable, make your way to the top of the Nakkerd Hills to witness Big Buddha in all its glory and enjoy sweeping 360-degree views of the island. The Big Buddha and its enormity can truly be appreciated when you are standing next to it after an epic hike up the hill.
A beach vacation offers some of the simplest pleasures in life. Building sandcastles, splashing in the waves, sunbathing with a good book in hand, and trying new beach activities are all fun ways to bond as a family. And if your little ones are water enthusiasts, then there’s no place on earth quite like Krabi. With jarringly stunning limestone cliffs, turquoise waters, and powdery white sand beaches, it’s an idyllic destination take your brood to. There are a plethora of marine activities to choose from, and the only worry is that you won't have enough time to do them all.
If you’ve flown above the Andaman Sea, chances are that your kids have already made their curiosity known about the stunning blue sea below, dotted with hundreds of tropical islands resembling small brownish-green patches on the surface of the ocean. And when that’s the view outside, you know what you ought to do—island-hop!
Koh Lanta makes a perfect base for island hopping—you can visit many of the gorgeous islands nearby by taking a ferry from here. The first stop has got to be Koh Phi Phi—an island much famed for being the filming location for the Leonardo Di Caprio led movie, The Beach. Check adventure off your family’s bucket list and head over to Koh Lipe. The island really is as exotic and remote as Thai islands can get. Its coral-flecked waters, swarming with exotic marine life, offer some of the best underwater walks, snorkelling, and glass boat rides spots. If you’ve always wanted to give your family an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the ocean’s most magnificent inhabitants, this is it.
Krabi’s freshwater pools are another staple attraction and a short, yet scenic hike to The Emerald Pool will show you why a visit here is absolutely worth it. Right in the middle of a densely covered forest are two gorgeously green lakes that lure travellers in with changing shades of its waters—a real see-it-to-believe-it kind of phenomena. And since you’ll be all hot and sweaty after an enduring walk through the jungle, which is tiring but manageable with kids, a dip in its refreshing waters will be the best respite.
A short trail from here will also take you to another highlight of the National Park—Blue Pool, which is a deep blue-coloured pond amidst lush vegetation, fed by a hot underground spring. However, unlike the Emerald Pool, a dip or swim in these waters are forbidden, but it sure makes for a breathtakingly beautiful backdrop for holiday snaps.
Want to give your kids a taste of local cuisine? Wander through Krabi’s lively night markets just like the locals do, and get their taste buds dancing with a delicious variety of food. All the essential elements of a traditional Thai street market can be seen and felt here—from cheap knock-offs of designer brands to original handicraft items, there is nothing more cathartic than shopping under nature's star-studded dome while munching on some local cuisine. And while you’re here, get your family to try local favourites like succulent satays (skewered meat), fresh papaya salads, or the highly addictive and quintessential night market snack variety called kluay tod (กล้วยทอด), which is essentially deep-fried mini bananas.
The city needs no introduction when it comes to visitor-friendly attractions. It’s a complete package in terms of experiences, offering everything from night markets and ancient temples to luxury cruises and fascinating animal safaris. There is so much to do here that you might get a little overwhelmed, but fear not, we're here to help.
With a wide array of rides and attractions, Dream World can easily keep your children occupied for a day or two. As Bangkok experiences a sultry tropical climate throughout the year, Dream World comes as a much-needed respite as you will constantly be kept cool thanks to all the water rides. You’ll see people in their raincoats around this area because even if you’re just walking past, you will get splashed! There is also a Snow Town which offers an exclusive Arctic experience for a perfect winter escapade in the height of summer.
Dream World, 62 Moo 1 Rangsit-Ongkharak Road (km.7) Thanyaburi, Pathumthani 12130 | (+66) 2 577 8666
Thailand’s most incredible open zoo awaits you at Safari World. Much like Dream World, Safari World, too, has more than enough to fill a whole day at an exceptionally good value. The park is perfect for nature geeks and travellers with children who wish to gain a fresh perspective on wildlife conservation. Accommodating over one hundred mammals and more than three hundred species of birds, young ones are sure to have a good time. They can partake in engaging biology lessons through fun feeding activities, gain expert insight on the animals' day-to-day life, and observe the natural behaviour of wild animals in safaris.
After experiencing the African wilderness in all its splendour, head to the next big attraction of Safari World—Marine World. Here, your little ones can get better acquainted with underwater wildlife through fabulous animal shows, aquariums, and marine life viewings. But the real showstoppers are undoubtedly the supremely talented dolphins who put on an awe-inspiring show—gracefully jumping over hoops, leaping out of the water to touch balls, waving “Hello” to the audience, and responding graciously to the cheers. There’s also a giraffe feeding tower where a herd of these towering creatures wait to snatch pieces of carrots from your little ones’ hands.
Safari World, 99 Panya Indra Road, Sam Wa Tawan Tok, Khlong Sam Wa, Bangkok 10510, Thailand | (+66) 2 518 1000
Many of Bangkok’s most iconic attractions sit along the mighty Chao Phraya River, which was considered to be the city’s lifeblood. In many ways, it still is, given the number of small-time sellers who depend on its interconnected networks of narrow channels to peddle their wares. Imagine thousands of slender wooden boats propelled by paddle-wielding vendors wearing conical hats, brimming with neatly stacked goods of fragrances, flowers, souvenirs, seafood, fruits, and vegetables. A boat trip to the floating market is one of the best things you can do with kids, perfect for exploring an area that has retained much of its rustic charm with sights of ramshackle old buildings, traditional temples, and old wooden bridges.