Trip Review: Thailand With Kids

A Family Trip to Thailand

An account of our trip to Thailand in March and April of 2008.
Age of kids during trip: 2 and 5.

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BANGKOK

We flew with Eva Air from Seattle to Taipei, and then Taipei to Bangkok.  We had flown with Eva on a previous trip to Indonesia and had much the same experience as Eva is a competent but unremarkable airline — though this time they did lose our stroller en route. (We got a $300 refund a few weeks after we got home.)

After landing we passed through immigration without any problems, grabbed our bags, and a taxi got us to the Amari Watergate Hotel in the Pratunam district in downtown Bangkok.

We spent our 24 hours in Bangkok, touring the local street market, eating at the hotel’s very good Thai restaurant, and swimming in the pool overlooking the city.

Journey to Ko Samui

The kids playing on the beach in Ko Samui.

Bophut, Ko Samui

We had planned to take the train down the coast to Surat Thani – either on a overnight train or with a stop in Hua Hin – and then ferry across to Samui. But when we saw how cheap the flights were we booked a ticket to Surat Thani departing on the morning of our 2nd day. The combined flight, bus, ferry and taxi ride made for a long day getting from Bangkok to Samui.

In hindsight I would have stuck with our original plan to take the train or have spent a bit more and flown directly to Ko Samui. (Bangkok Airways owns the airport on Samui and thus is the only airline to fly into the island.)

I’ve taken the overnight train before and the connections to the morning ferry across to Samui and Ko Pha Ngan are fairly painless. Not so with the plane.

A bus departs the airport for the ferry terminal and the trip takes a good two hours. Then wait for the ferry and another 2 hours across to Samui. It is hardly arduous travel but by the time we finally reached our hotel on the island we were exhausted.

Bophut, Ko Samui

We stayed in Bophut, on the north side of the island and a short drive to both the airport and Chaweng.  There isn’t a lot to Bophut but the beach is outstanding — perhaps one of the nicest beaches in all of Thailand.  You can wander along the sand to find a number of places to eat and drink. As with much of our time in Thailand we would usually spend the morning at the beach and the afternoon at the pool, if our hotel had one.  Though they seem very similar to an adult, to our kids they seemed to be wholly different activities. And when they had grown tired of one, the other one still seemed intriguing.

Chaweng Beach, Ko Samui

Chaweng is the fun but very touristy epicenter of Ko Samui.  The main attraction for us, was the wide variety of good places to eat. We did some Italian, some Indian, and some Mexican.  The beach really comes alive at night and we had a lot of fun doing the evening stroll along the sand looking for some place to settle down and eat. We enjoyed our 3 nights here but were glad to move on to someplace quieter.

On the beach in Chaweng, Samui.

Dinner on the beach. Chaweng, Ko Samui.

Mae Nam, Ko Samui

A relaxing low key town popular with long term travelers. The beach isn’t as nice as Bophut but there are more restaurants and cafes. If you are in Mae Nam be sure to eat at La Trattoria up near the main ring road. One of the best meals we had in Thailand.

Railay Beach, Krabi

Railay (also spelled Rai Leh) is a great spot over on the east coast of the country. We flew from Samui to Krabi, a flight that lasted less than an hour. From the airport it’s about an hour by taxi or bus to Ao Nang and then from there a long tail boat gets you to Railay.  The boat operators have to have a full boat before leaving for Railay, so the wait can range between 5 minutes and an hour.  The boat ride itself takes about 20 or 30 minutes.

Railay is blessed with 2 beautiful beaches, easy access to sea kayaking and rock climbing, and a variety of longer day trips as well.  Railay is essentially a peninsula and it’s important to note that the west beach is great, while the east turns to mud flats at low tide. This doesn’t make the east beach an unattractive option however as these hotels are much cheaper and it’s just a short 5 minute walk from one side to the other.

At the beach in Railay, Krabi, Thailand

Railay Beach

From Railay we took an early morning boat back to the main land, this time heading south from Railay as opposed to from the North when we arrived. Then a short taxi ride to the Krabi airport and the flight back to Bangkok.

Back To Bangkok

On our 2nd pass through Bangkok we stayed in the backpacker district of Khao San Road. We were expecting some lively – maybe too lively – young backpacker activity that we could easily allude by ducking into a quiet restaurant or returning to the hotel swimming pool. What we got was complete unfettered chaos. It turned out it we had landed in Bangkok just before the Thai Songkran festival – a week long carnival of water fights, face painting, water fights, eating, drinking and more water fighting. Our oldest boy bought a water gun and joined the Songkran fun.

Where We Stayed

Amari Watergate, Bangkok
The Amari is a very nice hotel at pretty reasonable rates considering the quality of service and amenities.  We got a very good deal with Priceline, but almost any online web site has steep discounts so if you do stay here don’t book directly with the hotel. A very nice open air pool is on the 8th floor with views of the surrounding city. Several malls, the skytrain and Siam Ocean World are nearby if those things entice.

Viengtai Hotel, Bangkok
On our way home we stayed at the Viengtai Hotel in the Khao San Road district. It was a very clean respectable hotel in the frenetic backpacker district. The main selling point was the beautiful pool. Clean, long and deep it was wonderful after negotiating the Songkran crowds.

Restaurant at World Resort in Bophut, Samui

World Resort, Bophut, Ko Samui

World Resort Koh Samui, Bophut, Ko Samui
Despite the title this isn’t anything like a resort, but a very pleasant relaxing bungalow style hotel with great breakfasts, a nice pool and fantastic stretch beach. We stayed 3 nights and loved it.

Montien House, Chaweng, Ko Samui
A nice hotel with a decent pool and good stretch of beach out in front. Perhaps the Montien lacks a little character, but no one goes to Chaweng for ambience.

Maenamburi Resort, Mae Nam, Ko Samui
A very simple bungalow style hotel. Clean spare rooms go for about 1500 THB. A very friendly group of workers made for a nice stay.

Sunrise Tropical Resort, Railay Beach, Krabi
The rooms were fantastic. Beautifully decorated with an open air shower. The pool was equally great. The food was OK at best, and perhaps that’s being generous. Rooms go for 2000 THB and up.  The Sunrise is on Railay’s east beach and thus to do any swimming or beach lounging requires a short walk along dirt paths to the west beach.

Trip Particulars

Health

As always check the cdc web site for vaccination and malaria recommendations. But compared to other destinations in South and South-East Asia Thailand is about as safe and easy as it gets.

Getting There

Bangkok is the center of cheap flights for the region so you should have a lot of choices in how and when to get there. Enter some dates – preferably flexible dates — into Kayak then proceed to the web sites of the cheapest airlines to see if their web sites offer an even better deal. Bangkok is a great place to buy cheap tickets, so if this is part of a extended trip don’t feel you have to book all your flights before starting your trip.

Getting Around

Traveling around Thailand is easy, cheap and often painfully slow. It’s as if the country has made it half the way to a Westernised idea of efficiency on punctuality. Trains and buses tend to leave on time, but then enter some strange time warp where 50 miles on the map can take several hours. Be patient and have fun. You’re traveling right?

Air Asia can be the remedy for many of these road trials and tribulations. They seem to be adding routes every couple of months and prices only go down, not up. Their web site is great and easy to use.

Nokair, One Two Go and Bangkok Airways are other airlines that offer cheap flights to all corners of the country.

Weather

I’ve been to Thailand 4 times, in 4 different seasons and can say that when planning a trip don’t let climate determine where and when you’re going to travel. You can get great beach weather in the wet season and be doused with rain in the dry season. The weather patterns on each of the coasts vary a fair bit as well, so if you’re getting crummy weather on one coast it’s always an option to travel across the country and see if you get sunny skies.

Travel Tips

Really make an effort to get away from the more touristy spots. This advice applies everywhere of course, but I think it’s especially relevant in Thailand. After a few days of interacting with jaded hotel owners and tour operators on the tourist trail you’ll be shocked at just how friendly and inviting Thais can be when you see them in their local element. It really is the land of smiles. And if you have kids, forget about it. You’ll never want to go home.

Summary

Destinations don’t get much better than Thailand. Safe, beautiful and relatively easy to get around, the country offers seemingly all the amenities of the west while still retaining a lot of the old Thai culture and hospitality. Make an effort to get off the beaten track and you’ll be rewarded with some of the friendliest people, most beautiful scenery and fantastic food the world has to offer.

41 questions and comments

  1. Nitesh Jain

    hi! We are planning to visit Thailand around Xmas. Total 7 people : 4 + 3 Kids (age 8, 6, 4). Can you please help us out to plan for activities/attractions that would help all age group. I heard about Elephant Ride, Ocean world, Tiger Temple, Bungy Jumping, Snorkelling, Safari Park and many more…..but we ae unable to plan. We are going to be there for 7 days. Need your help and expert advise based upon your experience. Thank You. Nitesh.

    Reply
  2. Debs from UK

    Hi, we are looking to travel to Thailand with our daughters 3&5 in July – August this year (-; very excited but would like some advice from an expert as you! We will look at staying in Bangkok for 3 or 4 days and then travel down the east coast for approx 3 weeks. Are there any ‘must sees’ and any nice things for the kids, I really would like them to do an elephant ride if possible and get some experiences like that?! Thanks in advance! Debs

    Reply
    1. DavidDavid Post author

      The highlights of the east coast are Hua Hin, Koh Samui, and Koh Pha Ngan. Unfortunately there aren’t any quality elephant camps in this area. For elephant rides you’re best to make an overnight trip to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok before heading south. It’s a great area where you can visit the Erawan waterfalls to swim in, the Tiger Temple, and ride elephants. It’s also famous for the Bridge over the River Kwai and the POW camps which might be of interest to the adults. Good Times offers some good tours of Kanchanaburi from Bangkok.

      Reply
  3. Dave

    Hi David,

    What a great, informative article! Thanks a lot for sharing!

    We live in Shanghai and are planning a short 4 days visit to Thailand in mid February (Chinese New Year). The travelers would be my wife, two kids (3 & 1) years old and myself. Since we have so little time we thought of spending one day in Bangkok and the rest in a nice resort by a nice beach nearyby. We love empty beaches, not too noisy, not too touristic. What would you recommend?

    Thanks a lot!

    Reply
    1. DavidDavid Post author

      Hi Dave. Koh Samui has a great mix of things to do and quiet (ish) beaches. It can get crowded during New Years and January but should have mellowed a bit by mid-February. Chaweng is fairly busy year round but Choeng Mon would be a great choice at that time of year. Beautiful beach and nice vibe. More info here: http://mylittlenomads.com/koh-samui-travel-guide

      Samui has short direct flights from Bangkok which would work well given your itinerary.

      Cheers.

      Reply
  4. Paddy Anne

    I want to travel thailand and Cambodia with my 11 year old . If I don’t want to do a tour is it difficult. Would I have to just have backpacks? I have never been and any advice would be great.
    thanks,
    Paddy Anne

    Reply
    1. DavidDavid Post author

      Some will find it easy. Some will find it challenging. There’s no one answer. If you like traveling – booking train tickets, finding hotels, stepping off the bus in a new town with no idea where to go – then you’ll find it rewarding and fun. If you don’t like doing those things then yeah, much of it will seem like work. You certainly don’t need a tour and yes, backpacks are the way to go, for lots of reasons but the biggest being that you are hands-free as you walk with your bags so you can find your tickets, or your guide book, or your passport. Good luck.

      Reply
  5. Jason

    Thanks for all the great information on SE Asia, looks very useful. Our family (my wife and I and our 6 and 8 yr olds) are planning a SE Asia trip beginning in July and are considering weather in our choices of destinations. How limiting is Thailand in the rainy (July-Sept) season? We want to spend some time on the beach but certainly not all.

    thanks again,

    Jason

    Reply
    1. DavidDavid Post author

      Hi Jason.

      The weather in Thailand during that stretch can vary dramatically from year to year. So first off, there are no guarantees. If you read that one person had a 2 weeks of rain last year then this year could be a 2 weeks of sun. In general however, the weather on the east coast of Thailand tends to be clearer and dryer during the wet season. I’d probably go to either Koh Pha Ngan or Koh Samui and hope for the best. Also note, that even during a rainy day the sun will usually come out for a few hours, the ground dries up, and it’s no problem to go for a swim. Of course, up North between Bangkok and Chiang Mai you can see heavy flooding during that time of year so follow the news closely while you’re there. Good luck.

      Reply
  6. Wes

    We are planning on spending about a month (early May – early June) in Thailand. We will be traveling with our 2 kids and they will be ~2 years old and ~4 years old at the time. Our initial thoughts were to find a 2 bedroom place in one location but now i’m affriad we might get bored in one spot or feel like we are missing out. We are looking at Hua Hin, Koh Samui and Krabi, but I’m a bit overwhelmed with all the possiblities. Hua Hin seems to get mixed reviews, is it worth spending any time there? Is there enough to do in any of these locations to keep kids entertained for a month or should be move around? What would you suggest for that time frame and duration? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. DavidDavid Post author

      It’s an age-old travelers dilemma. Bounce around, see lots, but never really settle in and get to know a town. Or stay in one spot and then regret you didn’t get to all those other great places that you heard about. I’d do a bit of both. If you have that much time then I’d consider getting over to Koh Pha Ngan and finding a sweet little spot on the island’s north shore. Then maybe spend a week on the other coast around Krabi. I’d try to get up to Chiang Mai for a week as I think the kids would love that. I agree that a month in Hua Hin would be much too long. If you’re thinking about Koh Samui then Mae Nam has lots of long term travelers and a cool restaurant scene. (But the beach isn’t quite as nice as Bophut or Chaweng.) Good luck.

      Reply
  7. Daan

    Hi, great piece! Thanks for the info. We – my wife, 4 kids and I – are planning atrip to Thailand and Vietnam. We are trying to figure out the amount we need to save. May I ask what your (average) daily spend in Thailand was?

    Cheers,

    Daan

    Reply
    1. David

      Hi Daan.

      I’d put daily expenses for a family of 4 traveling through Thailand somewhere between $120 and $200 per day. Of course, if you stay put in one place and live more like a local you could get by with far less money, but I’m assuming you mean staying in hotels, eating in tourist-oriented restaurants, and hitting the popular tourist spots.

      Here are a few articles that might provide a bit more context and info:
      http://www.gotpassport.org/2011/07/09/the-cost-of-living-in-chiang-mai-for-our-family-of-three/
      http://migrationology.com/2011/07/cost-of-living-in-bangkok-thailand/
      http://almostfearless.com/2010/12/16/living-in-chiang-mai-thailand/

      Good luck.

      Reply
  8. Qaisar from Pakistan

    hi

    i am planning to visit thailand in late october. this will be my first visit to thailand not sure what will be the best places to visit. i will travelling with my wife and 2 years old kid and have plan to stay for 8-9 days. any suggestions/recommendations how to plan my trip.

    thanks for replies

    Reply
    1. David

      Hi Qaisar. First you have to decide which beach or island to visit. Koh Samui, Krabi, and Phuket all have great connections to Bangkok and all have some fantastic beaches. (Hua Hin, Koh Samet, Koh Lanta, and Koh Pha Ngan are great too.) Bangkok is very busy and can be overwhelming for young kids – especially if you’re visiting during the hot season – so minimizing your time there is probably best. Take a close look at what flights are available to your destination as this can be a decisive factor in planning your trip. (You’ll find a list here of what airlines fly to each island: http://mylittlenomads.com/the-5-best-places-to-visit-in-thailand-for-kids-and-families). Good luck.

      Reply
  9. Renee from New Orleans living in Chiang Mai

    Hi! I figured I’d try to see if you have any advice for our trip to the beach. We live in Chiang Mai and my parents are coming to visit in October. We want to meet them in Bangkok when they fly in and go somewhere close to the beach for a few days. We have three kids (6, 4 & 2) and are trying to go somewhere within a 3 hour bus ride (to save the cost of a flight down south). Our biggest priority is a beautiful, scenic beach with clear water. Second is affordable accommodations. We know people who have gone to Hua Hin and Cha Am and I don’t think the water is incredibly nice there. We were thinking of Koh Samet. Have you ever been there? Do you have any suggestions for certain beach or hotel? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. DavidDavid Post author

      Hi Renee. I would suggest looking at the schedules and flights for Air Asia and some of the other Thai budget airlines as it might be worth your while to fly somewhere in South Thailand. Koh Samet has many great beaches but it gets very busy on weekends. It has great weather during the monsoons but this also makes it busier at this time of year than the other islands. The bus ride from Bangkok to Ban Phe will take 3 to 4 hours, then 30 to 60 minutes waiting for a ferry, and a 30 minute crossing to Koh Samet makes for a full day of travel. Koh Chang is another option but it requires a longer bus ride. (You could also fly to Trat and then ferry to Koh Chang.)

      Here’s a good overview of Koh Samet: http://www.travelfish.org/location/thailand/eastern_thailand/rayong/ko_samet and another good site for Koh Chang: http://iamkohchang.com/.

      Good luck.

      Reply
  10. Mary from Auckland

    WHAT IS THE AVERAGE COST PER DAY IN THAILAND FOER TRAVEL WITH 2 ADULTS AND TWO KIDS?
    FOR EXAMPLE ON THE TRIP YOU TOOK …WHAT WAS THE APPROX COST PER DAY IN TODAYS TERMS?

    Reply
    1. DavidDavid Post author

      Hi Mary. Costs in Thailand can range wildly from very cheap to very expensive depending on where you’re traveling, what type of restaurants and hotels you frequent, and how you get around the country. For us we spent about $150 to $200 day not including flights. That was usually staying at a hotel with a pool, eating 3 restaurant meals a day, and doing some tourist attractions. Airplane tickets usually can be pretty cheap if you’re flexible and get the best deals.

      The main cities (Bangkok and Chiang Mai) as well as the more popular destinations (Samui and Phuket) will probably be a bit more pricey.

      If you wanted to keep it very cheap, stay at hotels without a pool, and eat at only local non-touristy restaurants (which can be hard to find in the resort areas) you could probably keep your costs under $100/day and still eat great food and stay at a clean friendly hotel.

      I hope that helps.

      Reply
  11. Deanna from Indiana but living in Shanghai

    Hi! Great information you’ve shared. We have just booked our tickets for our first trip to thailand. we will be traveling with our two young children (2 1/2 and 6 mos. by the time of travel). we are flying into bangkok, but want to make it to a nice beach destination. we are looking to find the best value, nice beach, nice pool, and of course family friendly. From what i’ve read, we are thinking that Cha-Am may be a good place to head. any thoughts? Not planning on doing much but being lazy on the beach/pool, some shopping, and good eating… any advice would be greatly appreciated (btw, staying for about 2 weeks). Thanks!!

    Reply
    1. DavidDavid Post author

      Hi Deanna. The train connection to Cha-Am is great but I wouldn’t limit yourself to destinations near to Bangkok. There are many cheap — ridiculously cheap — flights to airports all over the country. If you look at Best places in Thailand for families you’ll see listings of airlines that fly to each destination. Check it out and see if you can find a cheap flight to Krabi or Samui. I think you’d find there’s a bit more to do at these destinations — especially since you have a good length of time to settle in. Railay near Krabi and Bophut on Koh Samui are probably my 2 favorite places for kids. As you said though, you’re looking for a quiet few weeks so I’m sure Cha-am would be great as well. Just might be worth having a look at the flight selection.

      Have fun!

      Reply
  12. TuscanoNYC

    Hi David,

    Loving reading your articles. We’ve traveled extensively in SEA–been there 6 times in the past 5 years. Now, we have 9 month old twins and are trying to determine when would be a good time to take them back with us.
    I see you have two kids and you’ve stated where you stayed. BUT, did this places have family rooms? Did you just do two double beds? Does your 2 year old not need a special place to sleep?
    If you were all in one room together, what did you do when the kids went to bed??
    We have been to Florida and Argentina with the twins and found condos/apartment hotels were the way to go so we could have a separate bedroom for the babies.
    The times we stayed in a hotel, we sat in the quiet dark from 7pm on or on the balcony getting eaten by mossies. Not so fun.
    Do tell!

    Thanks,
    Darcy

    Reply
    1. DavidDavid Post author

      Hi Darcy. We typically had just one room with two beds of varying size. We were usually so tired — after very full and active days — that once the sun went down we got ready for bed and joined the kids pretty soon afterwards. So it was never much of an issue. The kids were always exhausted too, so we could have the light on and it wouldn’t bother them in the least. We did have a travel bassinet went we went to Bali (youngest was 8 months) but not when he was 2. He shared a bed with his older brother.

      Hope that helps.

      Reply
  13. Laura from the USA (Colorado) but currently living in Malaysia

    Hi David. You’ve got a great informative easy to navigate website. I particularly enjoyed the article about traveling with kids. My husband is working in Penang Malaysia for the next year and we’re hoping to do as much traveling as we can while we’re here with our 2 boys, 4 and 1.

    Having never been to Thialand I was hoping we could get some recommendations from someone that has some experience. We’re planning to go sometime in late February or early March, for 7 or 8 days. We’ll be able to fly directly to Phuket or Bangkok and can book one way tickets so we won’t necessarily have to fly in and out of the same spot. We’ve had Koh Tao (or is it Ko Tao) recommended by my husbands co-workers but they don’t have kids. How easy is it to get around once you’re in Thailand? Do we need to book transit between locations before we’re there? Any personal favorites that you think shouldn’t be missed?

    Would anyone that’s ever done much climbing want to have their shoes along for a trip to Thailand? How technical are the routes? Do they have some that are on the easier side for beginner climbers or ones that haven’t been in their shoes for awhile?

    Reply
    1. DavidDavid Post author

      Hi Laura. Sounds like you’ve got a great setup there. I’m jealous. You’ll really be able to explore SE Asia — and I love Penang too. Great food.

      As for Koh Tao, I don’t think it would really lend itself to visiting with kids. It’s primarily an island for people who want to do some diving. It’s also a little more effort to get to, and since you only have 7 or 8 days that might be something to consider.

      Railay is one of my favorite places. It has climbing for all skill levels, so yes, that’s definitely something you could do. It’s 3 or 4 hours by bus from Phuket to Krabi. And then a short drive out to Ao Nang and from there a long tail boat to Railay.

      It’s a perfect destination for kids. Very relaxed, lots to do, no cars, a couple of very calm swimmable beaches. It’s idyllic!

      From Krabi you could fly to Kuala Lumpur and then bus or train from there if you didn’t want to return to Phuket. Bangkok seems a little out of the way for visiting the southern beaches so I wouldn’t go through it in any case.

      Hope that helps, good luck.

      Reply
  14. Jos from Israel

    My wife, our three sons (aged 17, 13 and 9) and I, just returned from a three-week vacation in Thailand.
    We asked Mr. Young to be our guide in the North (Chiang Rai, Chiang May and Pai) and pre-planned our trip entirely using his advice and tips.
    Mr. Young was great with our kids and an excellent guide. Not only did he escort us the markets and many other places but we were so pleased with him that we spent several dinners and evenings with Mr. Young. For example, walking with him through local markets enabled us to see things we would have otherwise overlooked. His ability to communicate with locals, his readiness to act as our translator truly showed us the beauty of the people and country we visited.
    I am convinced that because of Mr. Young’s attitude, enthusiasm, experience and knowledge are so exceptional we were able to see so many more sides and faces of Thailand which we would have otherwise missed. We feel very lucky for having Mr. Young as our guide and he truly made this a special holiday we will remember.
    On behalf of my family and myself, I strongly recommend Mr. Young to anyone who plans on visiting the region.
    Jos

    Reply
  15. lala

    Besides Bangkok? which place is the best to go in Thailland where there is good seafood and shopping?

    Reply
    1. DavidDavid Post author

      Hi Lala. My favorite part of Bangkok is the Banglamphu district and the Khao San Road area. Lots to do, close to the river and the Grand Palace, lots of cheap and mid-range hotels. (If your looking for luxury hotels you’ll have to look in the Siam Square, Sukhumvit and Riverside neighborhoods.) The only bad thing about Banglamphu is that it’s not near any of the Skytrain stations so you’ll have to get around Bangkok primarily by bus and taxi.

      Hope that helps.

      Reply
  16. Alejandro

    David,
    Thanks for sharing your trip. We’ll be going to Thailand with the kids (8 and 12) and would like to get a sampler of temples, beaches and local culture (including food!). We only have 6 days. What would you recommend as top 3 places to go?
    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. DavidDavid Post author

      Hi Alejandro. My first thought is a few days in Bangkok – it’s got enough temples, local life, great food and fun to fill a couple of very full days. Then car, bus, or train to Hua Hin, which is a great beach resort on the eastern coast of the country. I think it’s about 3 hours from Bangkok. If your kids love the train like mine do it’ll be a short fun trip. (There’s an early morning train the departs from Hualamphong station in Bangkok at 8:05 and arrives in Hua Hin at 11:11 – you could be there in time to eat lunch on the beach.)

      Koh Samet is also a good option as it’s pretty close to Bangkok and has fantastic beaches, but it requires a bus, then ferry, and then a local taxi getting to the right beach, so it’s a little more involved and will burn through a bit more of your time. But very doable.

      If it works with your schedule try to do Koh Samet or Hua Hin mid-week as they get very busy with residents of Bangkok looking to escape the city on weekends.

      I doubt you’ll have time to get to Chiang Mai but if you’re looking for something similar only closer to Bangkok you could do a day trip or one night trip to Kanchanaburi which is about 2 hours by car, 3 hours by train from Bangkok. An overnight trip would certainly allow you to see it better. There are a few big nature parks there, river tours, elephant rides and the famed bridge over the River Kwai.

      Not sure if flying is something you’d consider but if you could find a cheap flight on Air Asia to Krabi (on the western coast) then Railay Beach is a possibility. It’s a fantastic little beach town, accessible only by boat, and with pristine idyllic beaches. (Not much local Thai culture there, mainly tourists.) If you or your children are into rock climbing or kayaking then Railay has tons of activities for the more adventurous.

      Koh Samui, an island on the opposite coast from Krabi, is an option as well. There are a number of great beaches just a short drive from the airport. The only problem is the cheap discount airlines don’t fly there – only Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways – so flights are much more expensive and harder to book. Since you don’t have much time I wouldn’t recommend doing the train/bus/ferry trip to Samui as it will take a full day of traveling.

      Hope that gets you started and helps a little. Let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with, as I love replying to these types of questions – it’s like reliving all the trips I’ve made there.

      Take care,
      David

      Reply
  17. Bodie

    Thailand (like Italy) is a country worth repeated visits. I’ve been there six times and can’t wait for the next. When you go back David, head out of Samui for the islands of Ko Tao and Ko Phangnan – both superior I think, especially with kids. The north is fantastic, but Laos is particularly special. A challenge with kids though.

    Reply
    1. DavidDavid Post author

      Hey Bodie. I’m with you. Koh Pha Ngan is my favorite island. We didn’t make it up there this last time – a boat too far – but next time, absolutely. I’d love to go back there with the kids. Ko Tao I’ve never been to but have to put it on my list.

      Reply
  18. Lucia

    We love Thailand…spent a week in Phuket right before the tsunami hit and then ventured north. Have you done northern Thailand with kids yet? We loved it. Chiang Mai, Chaing Rai, with brief visits to Laos and Myanmar..highly recommend it.

    Fun to read your post and makes me eager to return. Let us know if you are ever interested in visiting Sicily. We’d love to show you and your little nomads around!

    Reply
    1. DavidDavid Post author

      We didn’t make it up north with the kids. Next time.

      Sicily, wow, that sounds great. Be careful with your offers, we might really take you up on it.

      Reply
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