Ciao Bambino Family Travel Advisor and mom Melissa Smith spent three years living in Asia, and makes a persuasive case for why taking your kids to Thailand should be a priority. Here, she shares her thoughts on the best 10-day family itinerary, hotel picks and safety tips.
Tips for Visiting Thailand with Kids
Thailand is a great international family destination and first foray into Asia travel. Could you speak to why it appeals to families with both young children and older ones?
Most of the time when families are thinking about Thailand, it’s because of the elephants — that is usually what draws people. But once they start planning, they realize there’s so much more. Thailand, and a lot of Asian countries, are just so colorful … you go down to the floating markets and the colors really engage the little ones right away. And there are ways to tailor the trip so it’s age-appropriate. Maybe instead of a four-hour hike in Chiang Mai, you can do a shorter hike and have a picnic. In general, the activities can be very interactive. Cooking classes, especially, are such a fun cultural experience.
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What’s the best time of year for families to travel there? Any festivals that would be interesting to see if the itinerary allows?
The best time is between November and April for weather. The nice thing about Thailand is that when you are looking to go to the beaches, you can go any time of year. You have beaches on the west side that face the Andaman Sea or the eastern one that face the Gulf of Thailand, so if one side’s a little drizzly or has choppy water, the other side usually is not.
In November in Chiang Mai, they have the Yi Peng Floating Lantern Festival, which coincides with the Loi Krathong festival throughout Thailand. Locals will craft a krathong, a floating lantern with banana leaves, flowers, candles and incense, and release it in the river on the night of the full moon to take away bad luck and bring good blessings.
What would you propose as a doable 10-day itinerary for a family that might include some history, some beach time and maybe an ethical animal sanctuary or park?
Consider the big three: beach, Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Instead of flying into Bangkok, considering arriving in Phuket, which has several flights from Hong Kong, where you might connect. Starting at the beach gives everyone some leisure time and sun to acclimate to the new time zone; from there you can go to Chiang Mai and even do an overnight at the Elephant Sanctuary. Finish in Bangkok: explore temples, take a river boat cruise, go into local village. You don’t have to feel confined to the city.
Should health and safety be concerns at all, beyond mosquito bites and being careful when eating at street stalls, etc.?
There are some basic things to keep in mind. Avoid raw bean sprouts garnished on top of your food, if you’re eating at a food market. Brush your teeth with bottled water and be careful of ice, though it’s probably OK at hotels where they are using filtered water. A general rule of thumb is that it’s better to eat peelable fruits.