Thailand is perfect for families and kids of all ages.
Beaches and watersports abound, of course, as the country is blessed with 3148km (1956 miles) of coastline. But Thailand also boasts 156 national parks, 120 protected forest areas and 58 wildlife sanctuaries covering more than 30% of the country, providing ample opportunity for tramping and animal spotting. And city lovers need not worry: Bangkok holds a wealth of diversions and nearby day trips.
Thais love children and are willing to make all sorts of allowances for them; there are very few places where children are not welcome. When it comes to kids, Thailand truly is the “Land of Smiles.”
What makes Thailand good for kids?
Beaches, mountains, endless verdant scenery and the smattering of a temple or two: Thailand is a tropical paradise but also has enough infrastructure (transportation, restaurants, generally clean restrooms) to make traveling with children relatively pain-free. If you fly into Bangkok, the Airport Rail Link (from Suvarnabhumi) and Don Mueang Airport Train (from Don Muang) can connect you to any Skytrain (called BTS) or subway (MRT) station in the city, with most stations equipped with elevators for people with lots of baggage and a stroller in tow.
In any of Thailand’s bigger cities (and quite a few small ones), you’ll find that the major nexus around which all local families congregate is the shopping mall, which typically has a section devoted to children’s entertainment. This is where you’ll find play areas for smaller children, bowling alleys, movie theaters and the occasional ice skating rink (Seacon Square in Bangkok even has a 10,000-sq-m (107,639-sq-ft) indoor amusement park called YoYo Land). As for food options, the number of restaurant outlets at some of the bigger shopping complexes can be downright bewildering, but a few standbys – McDonald’s, Starbucks – coexist happily with local chains specializing in everything from Thai food (Nara, Greyhound) to Japanese (Oishi, Fuji) to Italian (the Pizza Company, Peppina).
If staying in Bangkok with your kids, public transport is a snap for children, who travel for free on both the Skytrain and subway if they are less than 90cm/2.9ft (a height measuring scale is located right next to the ticket window). On the subway, children who are younger than 14 but have surpassed the 90cm height limit to 120cm (3.9ft) can pay a discounted rate.
And when it comes to accommodation, Bangkok is thick with family-friendly options ranging from standard hotels within walking distance of public transportation and shopping centers to serviced apartments available for short-term rentals to AirBnbs costing as little as THB1000 (US$29) a night. Even better, most beach resorts (and quite a few resorts in popular destinations like Chiang Mai) are well-versed when it comes to handling little ones, offering highchairs, children’s menus, baby pools and kids clubs dedicated to keeping youngsters busy. All options can be outfitted with extra cots or beds if requested ahead of time.
Less touristy destinations such as the Northeast and a few of the smaller islands are a bit trickier to navigate, especially with a stroller, so baby carriers are advised – particularly if you plan to be on the go during your visit. Kids menus might also seem thin on the ground here, so knowing a child-friendly dish that can be made anywhere is helpful. When it comes to children, Thais typically go for khao pad gai (chicken fried rice), a mix of rice with diced chicken meat, scrambled egg and vegetables, sometimes topped with a fried egg. If chicken is not something your child enjoys, you can substitute it with any kind of protein: khao pad puu (crab fried rice); khao pad nuea (beef fried rice); or khao pad jay vegetarian fried rice).
Where is the best place to go in Thailand for kids?
During the high season from December to February and the “hot” season in March and April, the beach is obviously where it’s at. Visitors will be rewarded with moderate (for Thailand) temperatures of 22–32°C (72–90°F), clear skies, soft sand and bathtub-warm water. Of course, visitors will also encounter other tourists, both local and international, seeking the same thing, so make plans accordingly.
During the rainy season between May and October, the beaches are frequently littered with jellyfish, which tend to appear after a monsoon. If you want to avoid their unpleasant stings (or if you’re just looking to avoid a horde of tourists), Thailand’s many national parks offer kids a chance to not only get out into nature but learn something about the country’s unique ecosystem.
Best things to do in Thailand with babies and toddlers: sun, sand and water
What more can you ask for as a baby than calm water, soft sand and a good place to take a nap? Thailand abounds in beaches, but some of its most family-friendly ones are Phuket’s Nai Harn and Surin beaches, Ko Pha-Ngan’s Than Sadet beach, Railay’s Tham Phra Nang beach, and Ko Samet, all of which provide plenty of places to eat and change.
Thais traditionally congregate on Hua Hin beach, which also offers banana boat rides, kite surfing lessons and horseback rides for older children and is, of course, lined with restaurants, hotels and the occasional roti vendor. If you dislike getting sandy, there is also Vana Nava, labeled the “world’s biggest water park.”
Best things to do in Thailand with kids: elephants, hikes and fireflies
Thailand has myriad national parks and wildlife sanctuaries scattered throughout the country, showcasing the diversity of its flora and fauna. In the far reaches of the north, elephant camps allow visitors to connect with the beloved pachyderms, which are considered “good luck.”
Closer to Bangkok, Thailand’s most popular national park, Khao Yai, offers a wealth of hikes for walkers of varying degrees of experience. If you hire a guide, they will help you spot the different varieties of wildlife, including monkeys, deer, and if you’re lucky, elephants. Another good day out from Bangkok is to Amphawa, a popular floating market that gives a glimpse of what shopping for Thais used to be like. At dusk, guided boat tours allow children to spot the fireflies that congregate by the roots of the banyan trees (and if you want to stay overnight, there are accommodations right on the water).
Best things to do in Thailand with tweens and teenagers: history, swimming and rafting
Although it may seem like your tween or teen isn’t interested in much of anything beyond their phone, you can possibly tempt them with forays into the country’s interesting history, to be found in places like Kanchanaburi, home of Thailand’s famous “Death Railway.” The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre is an interactive museum that tells the story of how the railway came to be. The river itself is a fun attraction, lending opportunities for river rafting, paddleboarding or even a lazy (guided) float downstream. Close by, the popular Erawan Falls allows gentle splashing as tiny fish nibble on your toes.
Back in Bangkok, the interactive Museum Siam tells the story of how the concept of “Thainess” came to be, while the Chao Phraya River is fun to cruise, either by water taxi or the numerous hotel shuttle boats (which are free), accessible from Saphan Taksin.
Planning tips for travel with kids in Thailand
Thailand actually sports a decent train system, which can provide (seemingly) endless hours of entertainment. The overnight train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok is a popular option, but younger children may find themselves battling sensory overload (and parents may be battling for space for a stroller). The train from Bangkok also reaches the furthest lengths of the kingdom down south for travelers who want to travel by train to Surat Thani, where you can transfer to a bus for Samui, Krabi or Phuket (again, a baby carrier is advised instead of a stroller).