From shining temples to sparkling blue water and tasty street food, Thailand has a way of enchanting visitors. Exotic, but still friendly and welcoming, Thai culture makes being a visitor here easy, and traveling families in the know are taking full advantage. The hardest part is making your choices because you won’t be able to do it all. But don’t worry, it won’t be hard convincing the kids to come back.
Flights to Bangkok are plentiful, but be prepared for a long journey, and jet lag. Families can help to set themselves up for success by stopping in the city to adjust and get their bearings, before moving on. A bustling city, days out and about can be as long or as short as needed, with time for naps included in the best itineraries.
The Reclining Buddha
Buddhas and temples abound in Bangkok, but The Reclining Buddha (Phra Buddha Saiyas) is arguably one of best known in Thailand. Located in the northwestern corner of the Wat Pho temple, it is wow-inducing and gigantic at 46 meters (151 feet) long and 15 meters (49 feet) high. The statue’s feet alone are a whopping five meters (16 feet) long and three meters (10 feet) high.
Visitors to Buddhist temples must dress appropriately for admittance; shoulders and legs must be covered. Women and girls who prefer to wear shorts when exploring Bangkok can carry a sarong and simply wrap it around their waist when necessary.
The Wat Pho temple is also home to a traditional Thai massage school where visitors can indulge in a massage, often at a fraction of the price they would pay at home. If you’re traveling with teenagers, they might get a kick out of being introduced to Thai massage and it goes without saying that parents deserve some pampering too, especially when traveling.
Thai Market Shopping
From food markets to night markets, to 24-hour flower markets, and even floating markets, there’s a shopping experience for every family in Bangkok. Khlong Lat Mayom is known as the floating market, even if stalls on terra firma greatly outnumber the ones that float. Along with a variety of delicious foodstuffs, there are a number of stalls dedicated to art activities for kids.
Pro Tip: It’s a good idea when traveling in Thailand to always carry cash. Though large resorts typically accept credit cards, many other businesses and destinations such as temples, restaurants, and markets do not.
After seeing the controlled chaos of Bangkok, families who enjoy sunshine and beach time should head south, where emerald-colored islands seem to jut out of the turquoise water at every turn. Days here are easily filled exploring scenic beaches, remote bays and coral-fringed islands home to a variety of colorful sea life. Hollywood loves Southern Thailand and movies showcasing its scenery have helped put it on the map as a tourist destination for young and old alike.
Large by Thailand island standards, Phuket is a popular home base for visiting families. Island hoppers will find it hard to resist setting a course for the Phi Phi islands, (pronounced Pee Pee, young ones may find it hard to say with a straight face) perhaps the Andaman Sea’s most famous destination. In addition to a white sand beach, Phi Phi Don offers a maze of narrow streets lined with stores and restaurants, ideal for strolling and souvenir shopping. Stunning seaside vistas make it hard to think about doing anything but soaking up the sunshine while playing in the warm sand, however, don’t forget that some of Southern Thailand’s best views can only be seen underwater.
Dive boats just might outnumber the restaurants serving Pad Thai in this stretch of never-ending blue. While diving might be out of reach for parents with young kids in tow, snorkeling offers a great introduction to the sea and the wildlife that call it home. Smaller children will do better in quiet lagoons where land is always easily accessible, whereas older kids will be better suited for a day trip that makes a couple stops for snorkeling as it motors through the islands. Children over 10 years old may be able to enroll in PADI diving courses (check with your concierge for more information). If the priority is more about getting out on the water, as opposed to being in it, colorful longtail boats are available for private tours almost everywhere, allowing families to create their own custom island itineraries.