After over ten years spent living, working and raising our children in Thailand I am inclined to turn the question around and ask ‘Why not Thailand?”
Put aside the cost of getting there and Thailand is cheap, it’s very child friendly, relatively safe, the weather is great and the culture, food and scenery fantastic.
Moreover, Thailand already has a very good and well-trodden tourist infrastructure. If you are looking for the antidote to the mass tourism of Europe and the US then I really can’t think of anywhere better than Thailand.
Thailand offers, beaches, cities, mountains and more culture than you can shake a stick at. Added to which Thailand has an excellent range of accommodation ranging from the affordable to some of the finest hotels you will find anywhere, and all surrounded by some of the most unique holiday experiences on the planet.
Perhaps the best thing I can say is, Thailand really does live up to its name as ‘The Land of Smiles’.
Of course Thailand will not suit everyone, but if you are willing to take up the challenge of travelling to Asia, and if you are the kind of family that revels in the new and exciting then Thailand might well be for you.
I can only say, I find myself wondering why more families don’t come to this most wonderful part of the world.
Read-up Before You Go
If you do decide on a holiday in Thailand thean can I suggest that no matter what choice you make with regards to how you organise your holiday it is a great idea to read up a little about the history and culture before you go.
Thailand shares very few points of cultural reference with the west and because of this can seem confusing, perhaps even boring at times. My sister complained when she visited from New York that she was ‘Watted out’, a Wat is a Thai Buddhist temple and she had seen more than her fill of them.
Before my other sister flew over I sent her some references to read up and she came to Thailand with a plan of all the temples and ruins she wanted to see.
If nothing else, reading up about Thailand and its culture will help you decide exactly where it is you want to go, Thailand offers a huge range choices of destinations and activities, reading up before you make your final plans will undoubtedly help you get the best from your holiday.
Choosing an Itinerary
If there is one problem with Thailand as destination for a family holiday it has to be that you are spoiled for choice in the range of places to go and things to do or see.
The difficulty arises not from the range of choices but from the distances and the fact that in each area you will get a very distinct set of options that will not be available elsewhere. This to me is what makes Thailand such a great holiday destination. The challenge is how are you going to get the best of what Thailand has to offer?
To start with I am sure that you, like me, are restricted by both time and budget and therefore cannot do everything or see everything you would want to. What then would my choices be?
My favourite places are a mix of what Thailand offers. Mae Hong Son for mountain culture; Krabi or Trang for spectacular beaches and seascapes , Ayutthaya, Sukhothai and Srisatchanalai for a glimpse of ancient Thailand Bangkok for one of the most vibrant an interesting cities in the world and when I need a break my all time favourite Kho Samet. Kho Samet holds a special attraction as the place where I have enjoyed many happy weekends and holidays with my children.
If I had only two weeks in Thailand I would choose either the highlands around Chiang Mai or islands, perhaps around Krabi, but I would not miss a few days in Bangkok.
With more time I would choose both the highlands and the islands, but again I would not miss Bangkok.
If had perhaps a month I would visit all the places I have mentioned and perhaps, if I were feeling adventurous, I would add a visit to Thailand’s hidden secret Isaarn. Not everyone’s idea of a place to spend those precious holidays but Isaarn really does boast a very special culture and some fabulous Khmer ruins.
I have added a couple of simple guide sheets in the Destinations Chapter of this guide to help you get started with a few ideas.
If you are planning to go off the beaten track then I recommend you research the general guides available from the likes of The Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide - and my personal favourite the online destination guide www.travelfish.com.
Those of you travelling with very young children are going to have to deal with the whole effort of moving around, for that reason it might be best to choose a beach holiday. If you want to see some of the other Thailand then there are a number of splended options, Ayutthaya, Sukhothai and Chiang Mai being good examples.
One other consideration is festivals, I am sure you will have heard of ‘Loy Kratong’ and ‘Songkhran’ but what about ‘Phi Ta Khon’ (the ghost festival), or the Rocket Festival? Incidentally, I don’t recommend Songkhran, for very young children, the water throwing really is very boisterous and not always as sanitary as it might be.
Health care is an issue that we should all consider and for that reason I have included a chapter ‘Choosing a Destination with Health Care in Mind’. Take a little time to read it, regardless of what age your children are.
What ever you choose to do, bear in mind you are on holiday, don’t make plans that will involve vast amounts of travelling and if you can, splash out on the odd night in a decent hotel, it will be a lot cheaper than you imagine. All of you deserve a bit of luxury and pampering now and again; and in this respect I have one of you in mind!
Choosing When To Go
Choosing when to go will undoubtedly be a matter of juggling school holidays and your own work commitments. The very best weather is during the winter months of late November through early February, at this time you can expect spectacular weather in all parts of Thailand.
February through June us unbearably hot, but offers the attraction of some of the best festivals that Thailand has to offer. While the main summer recess period in Europe and the US, June through early September is Thailand’s monsoon period.
I wouldn’t discount this out of hand, airfares are relatively cheap during the summer and the weather is not so bad that you can’t enjoy your holiday; certainly not on the scale of the typhoons that the Caribbean experiences.
You are going to have to consider these climate issues when deciding on when to come and what you are going to do while in Thailand. If you are mainly interested in the islands and the beaches then visit during the winter months. If you are restricted to travelling in the summer months consider what a holiday in the northern mountains might have to offer. I actually think Thailand looks its best during period July through October when the forests and the fields have a lush greenness that really is unique.
If you are forced to visit Thailand in the monsoon season but want an island experience then give Kho Samet and Kho Chang a thought. These two islands enjoy the driest weather in Thailand; we have often enjoyed dry weather on Kho Samet during periods when the rest of Thailand has been inundated with rain.
Of course the other ‘when’ relates to at what age would it be appropriate to take your children to Thailand for a holiday. I would say, as soon as you yourself feel confidant, as I hope this guide demonstrates, Thailand is an ideal holiday destination for families of all ages.
To be honest, the parents I have spoken to who have either lived in Thailand or have enjoyed a holiday there are more concerned about teenage children than they are infants. And yes, now my own children are teenagers I see their point.
The only real thing you have to do is make plans that are suited to your confidence and that meet what you want to do. Plan to do less than you think you might be able to do and then see how you feel when you are settled in.
The chapter ‘Destinations’ includes a few examples of places that are popular with visitors and that you might want to use as start points for your own holiday.