Updated April, 2013:
I get a lot of questions about finding family hotels.
Hotelscombined.com/Thailand – The best website for finding hotels in Thailand. It’s truly fantastic at finding the best discounts.
Top 5 Destinations in Thailand for Kids and Families
- Chiang Mai with Kids
- Hua Hin with Kids
- Phuket with Kids
- Railay with Kids
- Koh Samui with Kids
- Bangkok Travel and Transit Information
Thailand is a country that impresses me more every time I visit. Southeast Asia is a great destination for a family vacation and Thailand is the best of the best.
A trip through Thailand with children will undoubtedly differ from the typical Thailand tour — or the trip you had to Thailand before you had kids.
But there are so many great towns, cities, islands and fantastic beaches. So much warmth and friendliness from the locals. And so many great tourist attractions, that with a bit of planning and the right attitude Thailand makes an awesome destination for a family holiday.
- See Also: The Best Beaches in Thailand
The big city with a small town feel, Chiang Mai seems to combine the best of Bangkok with the appeal and accessibility of a small village. It makes a great base for exploring the wonders of Northern Thailand and will be an especially appealing destination for adventurous families that love to mix outdoor activity, urban culture and great food. Attractions run from elephant rides to water rafting, hillside treks to a day at the zoo.
Best months to visit Chiang Mai: November thru February.
Things To Do in Chiang Mai
- Cooking courses (Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School) — Cooking courses are popular in Chiang Mai and as long as your kids are older than 7 they will likely enjoy shopping for, preparing and eating their own food. Homestays can also be arranged through the school.
- Riding elephants (Maesa Elephant Camp) — A favorite for kids and families. A 30 minute or 1 hour ride through the forest can sound short but is usually enough for most children. The baby elephants are, uhm, cute. There are also elephants shows that are tastefully done and the animals are well treated. There can be long lines for elephant rides so get here early (rides start at 7:00am.)
- Chiang Mai Zoo — Tigers, giraffes, and giant pandas are the highlights here and should keep the kids happy and engaged. A Twilight Zone tour at night allows visitors to take in the zoo during the cooler — and often more active — evening.
- Chiang Mai Aquarium – Part of the zoo but worth a separate visit (especially the huge underwater tunnel). There are zoo and aquarium combo tickets if you visit on the same day. The aquarium is on the opposite side of the zoo entrance so hop on a zoo bus (20 baht, unlimited on and off) to get you around the grounds.
- Chiang Mai Night Safari — Not to be confused with the Zoo’s Twilight Zone, this evening parkland-tour by bus takes in tigers, lions, crocodiles, rhinos and much more.
- Mountain biking (Mountain Biking Chiang Mai), river cruises (Mae Ping River Cruise), hot-air balloons (Balloon Adventure Thai Company) and horse riding (Chiang Mai Horse Riding) are all great ways to get around and see the city and surrounding area.
- Rock climbing (Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures) is very popular in the Chiang Mai area and sure to be a hit with kids over 8.
Hotels in Chiang Mai for Families
- The Chedi — Chiang Mai’s most acclaimed hotel — and with good reason. Fantastic is the most descriptive word here. The service, the staff, the food and the rooms are all great. The Chedi is a 5-star hotel in almost every detail.
- Rimping Village Hotel – Good sized rooms, a nice pool, great breakfasts and incredibly friendly staff earn the Rimping raves from travelers.
- Chiang Mai Orchid Hotel – Awesome pool and great location (close to the night bazaar). A fancy lobby, nice exercise room, and saunas give it a touch of luxury.
- Tadkham Village Hotel — A very family friendly hotel with a relaxed feel and beautiful garden atmosphere. You won’t get a swimming pool in this price range, but Chiang Mai has public pools if that’s a necessity.
Getting to Chiang Mai by Train
Sleeper trains take between 12 and 14 hours from Bangkok’s Hualamphong train station and make for Thailand’s best overnight train ride. Kids often love the mix of freedom and adventure that overnight trains afford and this route is long enough to get a real overnight trip without extending much into the 2nd day. Book as early as possible as the trains between Bangkok and Chiang Mai can fill weeks in advance.
Getting to Chiang Mai by Airplane
The following low cost and major airlines serve Chaing Mai:
- Air Asia — flights to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, Phuket and Kuala Lumpur.
- Thai Airways — flights to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, Phuket, Mae Hong Son and Kunming, China.
- Orient Thai Airlines — flights to Chiang Mai from Bangkok and Pai.
- Bangkok Airways — flights to Chiang Mai from Bangkok and Samui.
- Nokair — flights to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, Mae Hong Son, Pai, Chiang Rai, Nan and Udon Thani.
- Silk Air — flights to Chiang Mai from Singapore.
- Lao Airlines — flights to Chiang Mai from Vientiane and Luang Prabang, Laos.
- Air Mandalay — flights to Chiang Mai from Rangoon, Burma.
- The Wats of Chiang Mai – an amazing photo essay of the top sights
- Five Days in Chiang Mai for $600
- Living in Chiang Mai — advice from an almost local
- 20 Things to do in Chiang Mai with kids
- Rock Climbing in Chiang Mai
- The Markets of Chiang Mai (photo essay)
- How to get between Chiang Mai and Bangkok
- Searching for an apartment in Chiang Mai
- The cost of living in Chiang Mai for a family
- Exploring Chiang Mai: City, Valley & Mountains
- Lonely Planet Discover Thailand (Full Color Travel Guide)
- Frommer’s Thailand with your Family
2. Hua Hin
This beach resort just a few hours from Bangkok by road or rail is very popular with Thais but has somehow missed the onslaught of foregin visitors that descend on the other coastal locals. It’s low key, easy to get to, and makes a great stop for people with just a few days to escape Bangkok or travelers on there way farther south.
Best Months to Visit Hua Hin: A great year-round destination, though the most rain comes from August to October.
Things To Do around Hua Hin
- Beaches: The stretch of beach in front of the Sofitel Hotel is the best around Hua Hin. Cha Am — 10 miles north of Hua Hin — also has a beautiful beach, though it can be very busy on weekends.
- Kids will probaby enjoy a visit to Monkey Mountain, 6 km south of Hua Hin (take a tuk tuk), where they can feed bananas to the resident population of monkeys. Great views and a popular temple are also there for the adults.
- Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park located 40km south of Hua Hin, makes a great day trip. The reserve features towering limestone cliffs, caves, beaches and an abundance of wildlife. This is one of those places where splurging on a car and driver is probably wise as the park is difficult to reach with public transportation.
Hotels in Hua Hin for Families
- Anantara Resort & Spa — A stunningly beautiful resort with super friendly staff, good food, and an incredible atmosphere of kid-friendly rest and relaxation.
- Dolphin Bay Resort — A good choice for families with young kids. A great family friendly vive pervades, with helpful staff and a nice swimming pool (with a water slide.)
- Jed Pee Nong — A friendly staff, a decent sized swimming pool and good location in town make this hotel a good budget choice for families.
Getting to Hua Hin by Train and Bus
Hua Hin doesn’t have any regular flights from Bangkok but the train makes a pleasant 4 hour trip down the coast from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Station (reservations usually required). The bus is a bit quicker at 3.5 hours but not nearly as enjoyable (though you can usually always find a bus that’s departing within a few hours).
Some dismiss Phuket as too commercial and touristy, but the island is so beautiful and there is so much to do that it can make a perfect vacation for many families. This is one destination where planning (when to visit, where to stay, what beach to hang out at) can make a big difference as to whether your trip is a fun and enjoyable one.
Best Time to Vist Phuket: It gets very busy on the island in December and January but the weather can make for a miserable vacation in the rainy season from May to October (the eastern coast gets hit harder than the west coast by the monsoons). The best months to visit are probably February through April.
Things To Do in Phuket
- Beaches: Kata, Karon and Patong are the 5 star beaches for most on Phuket. But many travelers have other favorites and if these are too busy it’s easy to find a secluded stretch of sand around the island. Note that during the rainy season from May to October the west side of Phuket can have very dangerous surf so ask the locals where to swim and pay attention to the red flags that mark a beach as unsafe to swim.
- Snorkel in the Andaman Sea. — The best spots for snorkeling are out a bit out from the mainland and require a boat to get to. December through March is the best time for the clear calm seas necessary for snorkeling with kids. Dive Supply or Coral Seekers will be able to get you set up with equipment and day trips.
- Play some mini-golf (Dino Park Mini Golf) — Located near Karon beach, this might be the coolest mini-golf course around. Kids love this place and the Flinstones theme only adds to the fun.
- Visit a water park – Splash Jungle Water Park is great for all ages (but 40KM from the main beaches around Patong so get a full day out of it)
- Go to an theme park – Phuket FantaSea is very touristy but a lot of fun for kids. The elephant show is the highlight. Lots of games too.
Hotels in Phuket for Families
- See Also: The Best Hotels for Families in Phuket
- Evason Resort & Spa — The only drawback here is the 2nd rate beach, but the pools, the spa, the food and the fantastic children’s club will make you forget all about it.
- Kata Beach Resort and Spa — The beach is the big draw here and the resort’s spot right on the sand gets raves. Families like to wander along the seaside looking for a beach shack for dinner. The hotel itself has a very kid friendly atmosphere and a great swimming pool.
- Nai Harn Garden Resort & Spa — A nice pool with a child friendly stretch of beach nearby make this hotel popular with families.
Getting To Phuket by Airlplane
The following low cost and major airlines serve Phuket:
- Air Asia — flights to Phuket from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Udon Thani, Hong Kong, Singapore, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.
- Thai Airways — flights to Phuket from Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
- Orient Thai Airlines — flights to Phuket from Bangkok.
- Bangkok Airways — flights to Phuket from Bangkok, Koh Samui, Pattaya and Siem Reap, Cambodia.
- Nokair — flights to Phuket from Bangkok.
- Silk Air — flights to Phuket from Singapore.
- Tiger Airways — flights to Phuket from Singapore.
- Firefly — flights to Phuket from Penang, Malaysia.
- JetStar — flights to Phuket from Singapore and Sydney, Australia.
- Condor — flights to Phuket from many European cities including Berlin, Munich, Amsterdam, Paris, London, Madrid, Barcelona and Rome.
- Family-friendly Hotels In Phuket
- The Cost of Living in Phuket
- The Splash Jungle Water Park in Phuket
- 3 Premier Beaches in Phuket
- 25 Best Beaches of Phuket
- The 10 Best Beaches in Phuket
4. Railay Beach, Krabi
Quiet and secluded (you can only reach it by longtail boat from Ao Nang) Railay is an incredible destination for families. The kind of spot that makes you drop your bags and relax for a week or two. There are no cars on this little island-like outcrop of land, so once you’re here it’s all about the beaches, the sea, the kayaks and the climbing. Enjoy!
Best Time to Visit Railay: Much like Phuket the sea here can get rough and the weather rainy in the monsoon months from May to October. Try to visit from November to April.
Things To Do around Railay
- Beaches: There are 3 beaches on Railay: Hat Rai Leh West, Hat Rai Leh East and Hat Phra Nang beach. Rai Leh West is where most of the hotels are located and is an incredible stretch of beach. Rai Leh East is muddy and shallow and not suitable for swimming. The accommodation here tends to be a little cheaper and it’s just a short 5 minute walk to the west beach. Phra Nang is a 10 minute walk from the hotel area, along a shaded path bordered by caves and rock cliffs. It’s considered one of Thailand’s best beaches and could easily be the highlight of any trip to the Krabi Area.
- Rock Climbing options abound for older kids and adults. Climbing is a big business here and staff and guides are usually very helpful and well informed.
- Kayaking and snorkeling. — Kayaks can be rented along the beach and day trips can be arranged through most resorts and hotels for snorkeling around nearby islands.
Hotels in Railay for Families
There isn’t a large range of price difference between the high and low end in Railay so these are listed from most expensive to least, but all fall somewhere in the moderate category. Most hotels in Railay offer large discounts during the low season and usually a free night for stays of longer than 3 nights.
- Sunrise Tropical Resort — Situated on the east side of Railay (the non-swimming beach) but this is made up for by it’s great swimming pool and large roomy cottages with open air showers. The “good beach” is only a 3 minute walk away.
- Railay Bay Resort and Spa — Rights smack in the best section of beach on Railay West. A good restaurant, great decor, and friendly service keep guests returning for more.
- Railay Princess Resort & Spa — Great staff, a nice pool and clean well kept rooms are what you’ll find at the Railay Princess. Located in-between west and east Railay this hotel feels a bit removed from the beach scene.
Getting To Krabi by Airplane
The following low cost and major airlines serve Krabi (Railay’s nearest airport):
- Air Asia — flights to Krabi from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.
- Thai Airways — flights to Krabi from Bangkok.
- Bangkok Airways — flights to Krabi from Koh Samui.
- Tiger Airways — flights to Krabi from Singapore.
5. Koh Samui
This beautiful island on Thailand’s east coast is a good compromise between Phuket and Railay. Outside of Chaweng it’s not nearly as developed as Phuket. At the same time it’s a big island and if you’re the type that might feel a little isolated in Railay, Samui offers lots of activities and there are many towns and beach centers to explore around its coasts. Samui has gone upscale over the last 20 years and is no longer the backpacker destination it was back when I first visited.
Best Time to Visit Koh Samui: The east coast is more forgiving with off-season travel than the west coast making the choice of when to visit not so vital. But if you’re forced to pick the best months they’re probably December to April. December and January are peak months so book hotels early.
Things To Do on Samui
- Beaches: The 4 best are Mae Nam, Bohput, Choeng Mon and Chaweng. Mae Nam is the cheapest with a subtle backpacker feel and many long-term travlers rent houses here. Bophut has the most character, with an upmarket boutique feel and a “village” of restuarants, shops, and bars, but very family-friendly all the same. Choeng Mon has a string of restaurants and hotels along a beautiful beach. Chaweng is the hustle and bustle hub of the island, complete with chain restaurants (McDonald’s and Starbucks), happy hours, night clubs, and breakfast cafes.
- Take a day trip to Ang Thon National Marine Park. — A picturesque setting of limestone cliffs and pristine beaches sprinkled around 40 lush green islands. Book a tour with your hotel or a nearby travel agent. The package should include pick-up from your hotel.
- Elephant rides can be enjoyed at the Na Muang Elephant Camp. This can be done independently or as a part of a tour to the Na Muang Waterfalls.
- Sea kayaking and snorkelling are, of course, very popular in Samui. Most dive shops arrange day trips to Koh Tao for dives (and snorkellers can tag along for a reduced fee) but families will probably be happy staying closer to Samui.
Hotels on Koh Samui for Families
Chaweng and Lamai both feature a long string of hotels that differ little from each other (within each price range). I’ve listed 3 hotels here outside of these 2 popular centers.
- Anantara Bophut Resort & Spa — A family friendly hotel with all that you’d expect from a 5 star resort: great food, friendly staff, immaculate grounds and garden, and a stunning swimming pool. The kids club gets raves too.
- World Resort, Bophut — A very friendly mid-range hotel right on the beach, with a nice pool and fantastic buffet breakfasts (included with the room). Good online deals and discounts can often be found through their website.
- Maenam Buri Resort — A great place located steps from the beach. A very friendly staff and owner make guests feel at home. A nice restaurant is onsight and several good eateries are just a short walk down the sand.
Getting To Koh Samui by Airplane
The following low cost and major airlines serve Koh Samui:
- Air Asia — flights to Surat Thani from Bangkok (then ferry to Koh Samui).
- Thai Airways — flights to Samui from Bangkok.
- Bangkok Airways — flights to Krabi from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Pattaya, Siem Reap, Cambodia and Hong Kong.
- Firefly — flights to Samui from Subang (near Kuala Lumpur), Malaysia.
- Koh Samui FAQ and Travel Guide
- Animal Activities for Kids on Koh Samui
- Outdoor Samui for Kids
- Getting from Bangkok to Koh Samui (by plane, train, bus, and ferry)
- Koh Pha Ngan with Kids (KPN is a short ferry ride from Samui and very very nice)
Bangkok – Transit and Layover Information
Bangkok can be a great destination for travelers — with or without children. I haven’t included the city in my top 5 but it could easily be a favorite stop for many families. (And even if you don’t like Bangkok you’ll probably end up spending a few nights in the capital as most international flights to Thailand arrive here.)
Things to Do in Bangkok
- The Bangkok Children’s Discovery Museum, Major Bowl in the (Central World Shopping Mall), Siam Center Ocean World, and the Krungsri Imax Theater (both in Siam Center) are all great ways to avoid Bangkok’s broiling heat.
- Dusit Zoo — Not nearly as enchanting as Chiang Mai’s fantastic zoo but still worth a visit, especially if you’d like to stretch your legs after a long international flight.
- Siam Park is the biggest water park near Bangkok.
- Tour Bangkok’s backwater canals on a longtail boat (ask your hotel the nearest place to get a boat). Or simply take the Chao Phraya Express boat that runs up and down Bangkok’s main river, making numerous and colorful stops along the way. The best place to catch it is often at the Tha Sathon pier near the Saphan Taksin skytrain station and steps from the Shangra-La Hotel.
Recommended Hotels in Bangkok
- See Also: Samkip.com/Bangkok
I really like the Amari Watergate Hotel for its central location, great restaurants and bakery, nice swimming pool with a view of the city, and big discounts off the regular room rate if you book online.
Viengtai Hotel in Khao San is a budget hotel with a large pool and great location.
For a list of recommended hotels read Bangkok – The best hotels for kids and families.
Getting To and From Bangkok International Airport
The new Bangkok airport, Suvarnabhumi International Airport, handles the majority of flights in and out of Bangkok. The fastest way to get from Suvarnabhumi to Bangkok is by the using the airport rail link, opened in August of 2010. The Express Line takes about 15 minutes to get to the stations Phaya Thai (transfer to SkyTrain) and Makkasan (transfer to Bangkok blue line) in central Bangkok and costs 100 baht. The City Line, or local, takes about 30 minutes and stops at Phaya Thai, Ratchaprarop, Makkasan, Ramkhamhaeng, Hua Mak, Thab Chang and Lat Krabang along the way into the city.
Many people take a taxi, which will take longer, but relieves travelers of the need to change money, purchase tickets and board the train. The taxis wait directly outside the arrivals floor. Taxis will usually get into the city in 40 or 45 minutes but this trip can easily take over an hour in the heavy Bangkok traffic.
The popular A2 bus that went from the airport to Khao San Road no longer runs. To get to Khao San from the airport you have to do some combination of bus, SkyTrain, and rail link. Or take a taxi.
The old Bangkok airport, Don Muang Airport, is still used by the budget airlines Nok Air and Orient Thai Airlines (formerly One To Go Air). Taxis are usually the easiest way into the city. There is also a train station, accessed via an elevated walkway. Trains take about an hour into the city and travel to Bangkok’s Hualamphong train station. Convenient if you’re catching a train out of the city shortly after arrival.
- 15 Affordable Hotels In Bangkok
- The Best Beaches In Thailand
- The Best of Thailand from 4 Thai Experts
- Why You Should Arrive at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport Very Early
- 42 Things I Love About Bangkok
- 101 Things To Do in Bangkok
- 10 Things To Do In Bangkok With Kids
- Airport Hotels near Bangkok International Airport
- 7 Tips On Using Bangkok’s City Buses
- Hotels in Thailand – A guide and FAQ