Despite its reputation as a hedonistic, chaotic and at times politically unstable country, Thailand has much to offer for travellers with families. From street markets, beaches, boat trips between islands and a family-friendly atmosphere, there is no shortage of things to do. However, as with any family holiday, there are some things to bear in mind.
Be mindful of readjusting to Thailand
Even if Thailand is only a short flight away, try to time your arrival with your children’s bed time. The later you check in, the more of a toll it will have on the kids, even if they have managed to sleep on the plane. That being said, make sure the first day is relaxing for both you and the children. There is plenty to see in Thailand and you might feel pressure to try to cram in as much as possible but heading immediately to crowded places might be just the cherry on top of a dangerous cocktail of jet lag, tiredness and simply feeling overwhelmed. Many parents recommend leaving Bangkok for the end of the trip or simply skip it altogether. The city’s chaos can be a little too much for young minds to adjust to and children can feel bombarded by sights, sounds and smells. That being said, Bangkok is a great city for some bargain shopping so if you want to stock up on clothes and accessories for the kids, it might be worth risking.
The rule of thumb is to allow for at least several days for your children to adjust to any changes in time, temperature and culture. The first few days might be the perfect opportunity to relax on the beach and spend the time soaking up the new sights and sounds. Try not to do more than one big activity per day with young children. The best time to do this is in the morning, and keep the afternoons for something more laidback. If you are travelling with children who can’t walk long distances or can’t walk at all yet, invest in a stroller with an umbrella attached. These are relatively easy to maneouvre on streets that can be uneven and broken. The umbrella will also keep direct sunlight off and provide a respite from the heat. Before you arrive at the hotel, check that they have cots as this is not common in Thailand and you might find that your room isn’t equipped with sleeping gear. If the hotel does not provide cots, you can request one in advance. If this isn’t possible, look for another hotel as your baggage allowance simply won’t allow for a foldaway travel cot, especially if you are travelling on a budget airline.
Luckily, Thailand has plenty of shops where you can buy supplies for your kids if you run short or want to save on packing space. However, if there is a favorite brand that you prefer to take with you, then make sure you bring enough just in case it is difficult to find once you arrive. If you plan on hiring a driver or taking taxis, be prepared for a lack of baby car seats. Be prepared to sit with your child in your lap. On some buses, there may be enough space in which you can park the stroller with your child inside. However, this is not guaranteed so be prepared for enduring journeys with a child on your knee.
Another worry is the food. Thai food can be particularly spicy and for delicate stomachs, it might be wise to avoid some of the more flavorful dishes. Pad Thai is a great dish to start with and is quite easy for kids to eat. You can also try Pad See Ew. Asking the waiter or waitress for a dish to be nid noi (not too spicy) will also help. Make sure that your whole family is drinking plenty of water. This should be bottled and if you are unsure as to where the water is coming from, don’t drink it. Convenience stores are everywhere so you can easily buy bottled water, and some vendors even sell whole coconuts with a straw in the top. This is great for hydration and are extremely cheap. Speaking of convenience stores, they often have excellent A/C so if your kids (or you) are starting to get cranky, escape inside a shopping mall, grocery store or an indoor cafe, like Starbucks. It’s worth the five minutes of respite before tempers become frayed from too much heat and humidity.
The most important thing to remember about travelling to Thailand with children is that they will be adored by the Thai people. Expect people to touch, take photos of and to cuddle with your children. This can make your life a lot easier, so enjoy the attention!