Thailand is a fantastic destination for that first intrepid family holiday. Bangkok is often the main gateway for families travelling long-haul and after a couple of days exploring the bustling city, they head back to the airport for an internal flight to one of the islands for some beach time .
If you’re travelling with young kids, the thought of another airport and flight may be off–putting. You may also consider the overnight train South to Surat Thani and then catching connecting boat or bus to your chosen beach. But if this is your first intrepid trip as a young family, this may feel a bit much.
Our ten day Thailand itinerary with young kids involves no internal flights, no long, overnight trains AND you get to experience the best elements of the country; city (Bangkok), jungle (near Chanthaburi) and beach (Koh Chang).
Day 1 (Arrive in Bangkok)
From the airport, make sure you take a taxi from the official taxi stand to your hotel. Ensure the meter is used and if you’re heading to Th Khao San the fare should be around 400THB (including tolls).
We recommend you stay around the Banglamphu area (centred around the lively Th Khao San) for it’s central location, hippy markets and fun-time vibe. This area is a melting pot of travellers from around the world and it makes for some fascinating people watching. Plus, some of the restaurants here have high chairs! Step a few streets away from this traveller enclave and you will stumble upon the quintessential side of Bangkok of local stalls, shining temples and antique shophouses. Good family mid-range hotels areRatchadamnoen Residence and Rambuttri Village Plaza.
Day 2 (Bangkok)
Opulent temples and shrines, sensational street food and super-fun tuk-tuk rides around the bustling streets await. Head to Wat Arun, rather than the Grand Palace for a more intimate experience with your little ones and enjoy a boat ride along the Chao Phraya. Check out our post – A Day in Bangkok with young children – for more ideas.
Day 3 (Travel to Chanthaburi)
Chanthaburi is an old gem-trading town conveniently located on the way to Koh Chang. You can either take an aircon bus from Bangkok Ekkamai to Chanthaburi (there are three buses per day, taking 3.5 hours) or hire a private car which provides the convenience of door to door service between your hotels (3500THB). Your hotel in Bangkok will be able to book either option for you.
Once in Chanthaburi, we recommend staying in the old town to soak up all the history the sleepy town has to offer. We particularly enjoyed staying at Tamajun Hotel with their teak en-suite rooms and communal balcony overlooking the river. Perfect spot for a Chang Beer once the kids are asleep.
Spend your afternoon wandering around the narrow streets, gem markets (open weekends), the temples and cathedral (the biggest in South East Asia). Check out our post on Chanthaburi to find out more.
Day 4 (Namtok Phlio National Park day trip)
From your hotel, book a songthaew to take you to Namtok Phlio National Park for a jungle adventure! Ensure you are all lathered in mossie repellant and pack drinking water. It’s a 20 minute drive to the gates and then 1km loop walk around the river (the perfect distance for little legs!), visiting various pools full of large nibbling fish, fed by cascading waterfalls. If you’re brave enough, pop in for a dip with the locals! Back at the gate there are some make-shift restaurants selling local food for lunch. Check out our post on Chanthaburi to find out more.
Day 5 (Travel to Koh Chang)
Time for the beach! From Chanthaburi, there is one bus per day to Trat taking 50 minutes. From there you need to get a songthaew for the ferry terminal to Koh Chang. Alternatively, hire a private car to take you all the way to the ferry terminal. From there it’s a half hour crossing (ferries leave hourly). If you have taken the private car option, the car will go on the ferry and transfer you directly to your hotel on the island. We found it easier to book this through our hotel in Koh Chang and cost 2500THB (inc. ferry ticket).
Once on Koh Chang, we recommend staying on the quieter Eastern side of the island, with calmer waters and a more rugged charm. White Sand Beach on the West coast lends itself more to tattoo parlours, happy hour bars and a lively party scene (although we recommend popping over that way to stock up on milk and snacks from the supermarket).
Serenity Resort is a great choice for young families. We loved taking the free kayaks out on the sea each morning before breakfast and they also provide buckets and spades for playing on the beach. The water here is shallow and calm, perfect for little ones, although a little rocky in places. There is also a good-sized infinity swimming pool and the restaurant provides a fantastic range of Thai and Western dishes. The staff are super accommodating – Keith drove us over to White Sand Beach one morning to stock up on supplies from the supermarket. There’s also a cheap laundry service across the road (by this time your dirty undies are probably piling up!)
Day 6-8 (Koh Chang)
Spend your days exploring the thick jungle hinterland, visiting the fishing villages of the south, meeting elephants (we don’t agree with elephant riding – read Boys Eats World’s eye opening post on this). Or perhaps allow yourselves to just unwind and enjoy your family time splashing around in the sea or pool, making sandcastles and indulge in some lovely food and perhaps a cheeky cocktail or three for the parents.
Day 9 (Travel back to Bangkok)
Today will be your longest day of travel. Get to the ferry terminal in Koh Chang early, otherwise you may find yourselves queuing for the next available ferry and they only go every hour. Again, there are buses from Trat (on the mainland and you have to get from the ferry terminal to the bus station) or you could hire a private car transfer door-to-door, including the ferry. From the Koh Chang Ferry Terminal on the mainland, back to Bangkok, is a 4.5 hour drive.
Day 10 (Travel back home)
Depending on the departure of your flight, you may have time for some last minute souvenir shopping down Th Khao San, or a last pad thai or roasted cricket (they just taste like a Walkers crisp ;-)), before you jump in a taxi back to the airport.
Temples, churches, jungle, markets, street food, boat trips and beach fun. Now that was a good holiday in Thailand.
Looking to spend longer in Thailand and and experience more history and culture? Consider taking the train up to Chang Mai from Bangkok. Go Live Young have a great post on their adventures there.
From raving party beaches to undisturbed secret coves and everything in between, Thailand has it all. If you’re heading to Thailand with kids, it’s more that likely that a beach is on the agenda. But where are best the beaches in Thailand for kids and which one best suits your family? Last thing you want to do (I presume!) is check into a quaint beach bungalow only to be woken at 11pm with booming house music shaking the walls!
We LOVED our recent visit to Klong Dao Beach in Ko Lanta; it’s perhaps one of the most family-friendly beaches we have ever visited with it gentle shallow waters and beach bars boasting slides, toys and banana-chocolate pancakes. We also very much enjoyed our time at Serenity Resort on the East Coast of Koh Chang, with it’s infinity pool, free kayaks and beach toys for the kids to play in the sand in front of the bar. But I know there are lots of other fantastic beaches in Thailand for kids, so I reached out to some top travel bloggers for their suggestions.
When I asked my Bangkok friends which beach I should visit that wouldn’t be a party or overly-touristy beach, I always got the same answer. White Sands Beach on Koh Chang. A four-hour bus ride from Bangkok, Koh Chang is commonly referred to as the honeymoon island. It’s popular as a couple or family destination, and I saw dozens of kids playing along the beach while I was there. While I didn’t visit White Sands Beach itself, I ended up at the next beach south, filled with beach-side pizzerias and swings hanging from the palm trees. The water is only a couple feet deep, waves don’t get higher than a few inches and, most importantly, the sand is clean. When I do have kids, this is the beach in Thailand I would love to take them to.
East Coast, Koh Chang (Jenny, TraveLynn Family)
Tucked away on the East Coast of Koh Chang, backed by mountains of lush forest and right on the beach, lies Serenity Beach Resort. We loved using the free kayaks out on the calm water before breakfast every morning, and us parents certainly appreciated the free buckets and spades for the boys to play in the sand in front of the restaurant. There is also an infinity pool with a step along one side that was a safe, supervised, playing area for our then 18-month-old. Plus there is a pond of fish who need feeding each day. You are able to hire a driver to take you from Bangkok to Koh Chang, rather than taking another flight (a great option if travelling with very young kids). We decided to stopover at the quaint, rustic, gem-town of Chanthaburi for a couple of days to break up the journey. It was about 3.5 hours to Chanthaburi from Bangkok and then 2.5 hours to Serenity Resort.
As the most popular beach on Koh Tao, 2km long Sairee Beach offers something for everyone: from casual restaurants to beach bars to the opportunity to watch long tail boats bounce lazily in the water, Sairee Beach has it all. Families will enjoy that the beach is calm and peaceful, and while there are bars around, there are plenty of family-friendly restaurants as well. Definitely make sure to take a long swim, and to dry off in the shade of one of Sairee Beach’s beautiful palm trees.
During our time on Koh Tao, we stayed at both Nirvana Guestouse and Jom Thong Guesthouse. Both properties were clean and family-friendly with spacious rooms, air-conditioning, and reasonable prices. And most importantly, they were located a short walk from Sairee Beach!
We’ve spent over 1.5 years exploring Thailand and have visited some amazing beaches, but Koh Lipe will always have our heart. It’s perfect for young families as the sea is warm and calm at the shores, and the beaches are quiet and sandy. Our favourite is Sunrise Beach where we suggest staying at Ten Moons Lipe Resort (luxury) or Salisa Resort (mid-range), which is run by a family with young kids. There is also a great selection of casual restaurants serving kid-friendly food (pizzas and pasta). We love renting a private long tail for the day and exploring the islands at our own pace, we typically pay THB1,500 direct with the taxi boat guys.
When you think of Ko Phangan you probably think of the monthly full moon parties and those bucket concoctions. But there is so much more to the island than the Full Moon parties. The northwest corner of the island offers up quiet beaches perfect for families. We particularly love Haad Chao Pao and Haad Yao where the calm waters are perfect for kids. Grab a budget beach bungalow and enjoy days on the beach, in the water and relaxing at the chilled out bars and restaurants serving up a great mix of Thai and Western food. Each night candles light up the restaurants where you can dine alfresco on the beach, while the kids play in the sand. If you get steal yourself away from the beach, the island offers up pristine jungle, waterfalls, a great night food market and boat trips. We can definitely recommend Seaflower Bungalows (Haad Chao Pao), where for a very reasonable price you can get a family beachfront bungalow with super-friendly hosts. Ko Phangan is a perfect island for families, but do avoid visiting during full moon parties when parties flood to the island (you can check the calendar online).
Koh Samet is a small island off Thailand’s east coast, about three hours drive from Bangkok, followed by a thirty minute speed boat ride. The island is ringed by white sandy beaches, beautiful blue sea and swaying palm trees. Ao Phai beach is perfect for children with soft sand and calm seas. We spent our days playing on the beach and swimming in the sea. We stayed at a gem of a place – The Samed Villa Resort – located right on the beach. The restaurant served a mix of local and western food and featured a dining area right on the beach with a daily dinner BBQ. We loved the fruit shakes and cocktails..!
Ko Yao Noi (Rebekah, Bulls Around the World)
We spent our days on Ko Yao Noi lazing on the beach, playing with hermit crabs and relaxing in hammocks. Reading, swimming and snoozing, it’s a perfect, tranquil destination. Ko Yao Noi is one of Thailand’s smaller, less visited islands between Phuket and Krabi. Whilst it doesn’t have the biggest of beaches, you’ll likely have it to yourselves. Quiet calm waters with very little current made it perfect for the children. We stayed at the Laguna Villas Yao Noi and would highly recommend it, the children were welcomed everywhere and whilst there isn’t much activity on the island, (boat trips aside) that’s what exactly we wanted!
Kamala Beach in Phuket is just a 10-15 minute drive north of infamous party-beach Patong, but a world away in atmosphere. This beautiful 2-kilometre stretch of white sand has a laid-back vibe, with shallow waters perfect for splashing around in and sunloungers for kicking back on. There is a good selection of bars and restaurants serving up local Thai and western food and you can even get fresh juices, coconuts, cocktails and beers served to your sunlounger. Both the Novoteland Kamala Beach Resort are located right on the beach. The Swissotelis just across the road and the Hyatt Regency is just a 5-minute shuttle bus drive away.
Yanui was a pleasant surprise to us as we explored Phuket from our base in Rawai, on the South of the island. Tucked away on the coast road, it had two horse-shoe shaped bays punctuated by a mound of rocks in the centre, perfect for climbing. The sand was soft and the water was warm, calm and crystal clear. There were a few fish to see and water graduated slowly which made it safe for children of all ages. There was also a café just across the road for a fresh coconut and a Pad Thai when we got hungry- perfect for when you forget the time and accidentally stay to watch the sunset.
Our favourite family beach on Phuket island is Bang Tao; a lengthy six-kilometre stretch of beautiful white sandy shores with some of the finest quality family hotels located in this area. Some amazing hotels are found in the Laguna Phuket complex (Dusit Thani, Angsana, Outrigger), which have prime beachfront prominence on Bang Tao and offer some beautiful beachfront dining for families.
The beach itself is one of the cleanest and best maintained in Phuket. However like most of Phuket’s west coast, beaches can be prone to strong currents in the wet season. You can definitely swim at this time just with some added care. Watch over the kids and using some common sense for calmer conditions.
A guided bike tour will allow you to visit local rubber plantations and villages for a fun family friendly adventure. Many tours also take you to the northern sections of Bang Tao that are popular with the Thai people. The central location means you are close to the pretty Bang Pae waterfall and the amazing work the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary is doing to rehabilitate mistreated working and performing elephants.
Monkey Beach is located on Koh Phi Phi Don, (Thailand) and it’s accessible by boat only. With sand as soft as talcum powder and calm lapping waves, it is perfect for little ones to splash about. The highlight of this beach, apart from being so beautiful, are it’s local inhabitants- the monkeys! They are completely wild, and as long as you stay a little distance (especially from the babies) and do not feed them, they will pretty much ignore you. There are clear signs not to bring food and to keep any valuables close- they can be curious! We saw a cheeky one take a water bottle buried in the sand! If you take a kayak then you can spend as long as you like on the beach. However, if on a tour it’s usually about 30 minutes to an hour. There are no facilities on the beach at all, but plenty of shady spots as it is backed by steep mountains and leafy jungle.
Our favourite family beach in Thailand is Long Beach, Koh Phi Phi. It’s a 15 minute tailboat ride from Tonsai Village and Pier, so it’s easy to reach but at the same time allows for privacy and quiet. We went in April; the water was calm, the days spectacular, and the sand soft and fine. It was a great place for our then eight month old son to have his first experiences with the ocean. The beach is lined with small, cozy resorts, which give plenty of options for eating. People all over seemed to love children and offered special meals for our son. Many restaurants even had high chairs, which was a first for us in Thailand. All in all, its a calm, quiet area both during the day and the night, and a great place to relax while children explore and play in a safe environment. We stayed at the P.P. Blue Sky Resort, a small place with lovely cottages steps from the beautiful beach.
Our family’s all-time favorite Thai beach is the Similan Islands Marine National Park. They are a cluster of islands offering superb snorkeling, pristine water, and flour soft sand. The majority of visitors come on a day trip via speedboat from Khao Lak. The boat ride takes around 75 minutes from Khao Lak. To enjoy the islands after the day-trippers leave, you have two options. 1) stay in a rustic bungalow with A/C on Koh Meang. Or 2) camp in a tent on Koh Similan (featured photo), Koh Meang, or Koh Tachai. Because the lodging (and services) are so limited in this national park, it is important to book in advance. For families, we highly recommend staying at the Khaolak Orchid Beach Resort and visiting the Similans as a day trip. You will have much more comfortable accommodations and services for children. We loved it so much that our five-day stay turned into 10! Be sure to watch The Impossible before visiting Khao Lak. The Khao Lak Orchid Beach Resort is the featured hotel in the movie!
Most probably one of the most beautiful beaches in South East Asia and unique in its kind as the picture perfect white sand beach connects three different islands with each other. Koh Nang Yuan is a popular destination for people on a day trip from Koh Tao, which is only 10 minutes away by boat. The trip is accessible for all ages. The water around the islands is super calm and not deep at all. It is perfect for kids as the island is just the beach and an overpriced restaurant. Beach chairs, towels and umbrellas can be rented on the beach. Bring your own snacks to get through the day or expect to pay Western prices for simple dishes. Snorkelling is the main activity and gear can be rented in islands dive shop, renting in Koh Tao is cheaper. Also take a walk up to the viewpoint. It’s an easy set of stairs and takes 5-10 minutes only to get an amazing view over the islands.
Klong Dao Beach has to be on the the most kid-friendly beaches we’ve ever visited. The gentle gradient is perfect for paddling. But it’s actually the string of kid-friendly bars and restaurants along the beach that set it apart. Many of them have toys for young kids to play with, and some of them even have slides and hoppers. We loved our stay at Banana Beach Resort, which is right on the beach and where rooms have bunk beds for kids. There is also a pool with a separate kids’ swimming pool (including slide!)
Long Beach, Koh Lanta, is the perfect beach to spend a day or even your entire family holiday in Thailand. The sea is clear, the water is calm, and the beach itself is rarely overcrowded. Although there is an Irish bar and a hostel nearby, Koh Lanta generally attracts laid-back, mature travellers, and so all of the restaurants and cafés nearby are family-friendly and suitable for children. Lanta Castaway Beach Resort, on the Long Beach resort, offers a mixture of Thai and international cuisine and is just a few meters from the beach. Within a few minutes’ walk, there’s also Patty’s Secret Garden, Faim de Loup French bakery, and the upmarket Red Snapper. As well as restaurant, you’ll also find a pharmacy and a 7-11 nearby; perfect for picking up family essentials like cold drinks and sunscreen. Scuba diving centre Dive & Relax, located on the Resort, also offers snorkelling for children ages 8 and above.
Have you visited Thailand with your little ones? Have you any favourite beaches in Thailand for kids? Let me know!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I get a small commission that goes towards the running of this blog.
Are you looking to do Thailand’s 4 Islands Tour with young kids (aged 5 and under)? Read on…
With life-jackets on, my 2 year old clung on to my back and I started swimming towards the dim torch-light disappearing ahead into the tunnel. We entered the darkness and Ezra started to get a little unsure, so instead I held him in my arms and kicked through the water. Why didn’t I put on the flippers!? As the torch light ahead disappeared, I looked behind me and realised I was in the depths of the tunnel, swimming through unable to touch the floor, in complete and utter darkness. I couldn’t even see Ezra who I was holding in front of me. “Isn’t this exciting mate?” I encouraged trying to keep my cool, whilst Ezra kept an eye out for dragons.
Thankfully I could hear Jay and Arthur nearby and I kept kicking away hoping to see light soon. How was I not moving forward? Kick, kick. Kick, kick. Kick, kick.
Finally, the light started to stream through and a big burst of wave carried us through to the end of the 80 metre tunnel. As I found my feet, I stood up and looked around. A 360 degree rainforest wall towered over us and disappeared into the clouds above, protecting a pristine lagoon, hidden within the island. Magical.
It is known as Emerald Cave and the easiest way to experience it is on The 4 Islands Boat Tour. We took this tour as a day trip from Ko Lanta, where we were based for a week. You can read about our time in Ko Lanta here.
Check out this post from Dive.in if you have older kids and looking to do some diving in Thailand.
4 Islands Boat Tour
TraveLynn Family and friends (4 adults and 4 children aged between 2 and 4) were invited to experience the 4 Islands Boat Tour with Lanta Garden Hill Tours via Asian Evolution Tour. Unfortunately the weather gods were not kind to us this day. Rain and clouds persisted throughout the tour. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see these beautiful locations in all their glory, but the kids found the snorkelling, swimming and speedboat more than enough fun!
We were picked up by a songthaew from our hotel at 8:30am to take us to the meeting point on the beach and soon after a speedboat arrived. There were a couple more pick-ups and once all 24 were onboard, we were on our way! All boys (the big ones too!) absolutely loved bouncing over the waves, waving back to Ko Lanta as it disappeared over the horizon.
The morning was spent snorkelling at Koh Ngai and Koh Chuck, with about 40 minutes at each location. The two year olds were happy to bop around in their life jackets, whereas the 4 year olds were able to explore underwater. The kids snorkel and googles provided for my 4 year old were too big, but thankfully we had packed his swim goggles from home and he was happy to hold his breath. I wouldn’t say that we saw many tropical fish, but the kids still got very excited about the few the past us by.
A buffet lunch of local food was served at Koh Kradan. Usually this would be on the beach, but due to the weather, we all took cover under a shelter with plastic chairs. As with any tour, the day is carefully timed and we were going to be on the island for 1.5 hours. So rather than hiding under cover, trying to entertain the kids, we all decided to embrace the rain and jump in for a swim. We were wet anyway!
In the afternoon we visited Koh Mook, to explore Emerald Cave (described at the beginning of this post). This has to be the highlight of the tour for all of us. We had to share the experience with a fair few other tourists, although that didn’t take away from the magic. The boys considered the lagoon the perfect place to look for dinosaurs.
It was then about an hour by speedboat back to our drop-off at Ko Lanta. All boys were fast asleep on the return journey. BIG day.
How strong a swimmer does everyone need to be?
Although everyone is provided with a life jacket, parents need to be confident swimmers and have the strength to support their little ones in the water. For the children, ensure the strap that goes between the legs is secured and fastened, otherwise the jacket may slip off. All children need to be comfortable in sea water (which is a slightly different experience to a swimming pool) and happy to get their faces wet. If this is not the case, the day may be hard work for all concerned.
Did anyone get sea sick?
When you first board the speed boat, it dances in the swell of the waves and the smell of petrol is strong. This may turn a few stomachs. However, as soon as the speed boat started moving and careering across the sea, with the wind in our faces, everyone was absolutely fine.
What should you take?
Water is provided on board and lunch is included. However, you should also bring:
Swim costumes – you’ll be doing a lot of swimming!
Snacks – the kids will be hungrier than normal with all that swimming
Kids snorkel gear or swim goggles from home – the ones provided were too big and didn’t fit properly.
Microfibre, quick-drying towel
Plastic bag to keep your things dry – water gets everywhere!
Change of clothes for kids in plastic bag to stay dry
Waterproof jacket or poncho – between swim and snorkel spots, you may get cold on the speed boat (especially if it’s raining!)
Waterproof suncream, sun hats and sun glasses – for the majority of visitors blessed with better weather than us!
Waterproof camera! Although for Emerald Cave, the guide takes a diver rolling bag (waterproof) to keep cameras dry through the tunnel.
How much does the Tour cost?
At the time of writing (December 2017):
Adults – THB1700
Children aged 4 to 11 – THB850
Children under 4 – FREE
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Disclaimer: Our tour with Lanta Garden Hill Tours was complimentary. However the opinions and words are all my own, based on our own experiences.
An oh-so-cool Jack Sparrow look-alike warmly welcomed us off the beach and into the Reggae Bar on Klong Dao Beach; the chilled-out hippy vibe immediately transporting us back to our pre-kids backpacker days. Before we could make ourselves comfy amongst the mats and cushions spread over the floorboards and order our Happy Hour Chang, Mr Sparrow had brought out a big bag of toys for the kids. Genius! Watching the boys play happily in the sand, we clinked Changs with our old mates who had joined us from Sydney, sat back on our cushions and breathed in that fresh sea air before catching up on the past 5 years. What a fantastic idea it was to visit Ko Lanta with kids!
After a couple of days in Bangkok (check out our one day itinerary for kids in Bangkok post), our group holiday to Ko Lanta with kids was all about keeping it easy. We wanted to kick back with our old besties (who also have two boys aged 2 and 4), let the kids play freely on the beach and in the pool, and soak up some tropical sunshine. However, despite visiting after the supposed rainy season, the weather was grey and drizzly for our entire week stay! For many, this would result in a disaster holiday. But we had awesome company and the drizzle by no means put the kids off playing in the sand and jumping in the waves.
Klaong Dao Beach
We based ourselves at Klaong Dao Beach, on the north east coastline of Ko Lanta. Here the sea is warm and shallow with very gentle waves, perfect for little ones. The sand offers a range of consistency for various sand building projects, and there are small rocks to explore.
A string of colourful restaurants and bars, which are all kid-friendly, hug the curved bay as far as the eye can see . Some even have slides and hoppers to play on, and they all offer kid-friendly food on the menu (pancakes, fried rice, omelette, fries, pasta).
Where we stayed
Banana Beach Resort at the Southern tip of Klaong Dao Beach was perfect for our two families. We had two Sea View rooms next to each other with a double bed, bunk beds for the kids, ensuite and a large adjoining balcony. Rooms were basic, but clean, and there is also a fridge and kettle.
The staff are absolutely wonderful! So polite and friendly, and were always on hand to answer questions or sort something out for us.
There is also a restaurant on site, overlooking the beach, serving the usual dishes. But the big hit with the boys was of course the pool. There’s a separate kids pool with a slide, although be weary that this pool was too deep for our 2yo to stand up in, our 4yo was fine.
If a parent can get a free moment away from the kids, we thoroughly recommend popping for a massage next door. A 60 minute thai massage costs THB400, although if that’s a bit hard core, they also offer Swedish and I thoroughly recommend the facial and head massage (THB600 for 60mins).
If you’ve chilled out enough on the beach and need to get out and explore, it’s worth flagging down a tuk-tuk to take you to Sala Dan. Wander the markets and treat yourselves to some ‘authentic’ t-shirts, local jewellery or sarong, before heading to the Pier for a seafood dinner over the water as the sun sets (not that we got to see a single sunset, due to the drizzle and grey!) Alternatively, visit Lanta Old Town on the East Coast with it’s traditional Thai wooden houses fused with a distinctly Chinese influence. Enjoy a drink in one of the cool bars and then walk along the Pier to enjoy the breathtaking views out to the island.
One of the things you must do is take a speed boat tour out to explore the outlying islands. We went on the 4 Islands Tour with Lanta Garden Hill Tours for a day of snorkelling, tropical beach fun and a visit to Emerald Cave, Ko Mook, which involved swimming 80 metres through a dark tunnel to reach a pristine lagoon. Blog post to come.
Getting to Ko Lanta
We took a direct flight with AirAsia from Bangkok to Krabi. A private minibus then drove us direct to Banana Beach Resort (1.5-2 hours). Booked through Banana Beach Resort, the private minibus cost THB2500 and also included the 10 minute car ferry across from the mainland to Ko Lanta. Alternatively, there are ferries connecting Ko Phi Phi and Phuket. Click here for further information on ferries to Ko Lanta, including times, costs and bookings.
Have you visited Ko Lanta with kids? I would love to hear your experiences!
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Disclaimer: We were offered discounted hotel rates at Banana Beach Resort. The boat tour with Lanta Garden Hill Tours was complimentary. However the opinions and words are all my own, based on our own experiences. Hotel photos used in this post are courtesy of Banana Beach Resort. This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I get a small commission that goes towards the running of this blog.
Thailand is an incredible location for a family holiday, with the only problem being how to fit everything in. Most trips will include some time in Bangkok before heading south to the islands, so the next big decision is: how to get between the two, making sure that you are not only maximising your time but also minimising the hassle. We may have found the answer in a (relatively) little known gem, midway between Bangkok and Ko Chang – Chanthaburi with kids.
First of all, the location is perfect as a stop-off (about 3.5 hours south of Bangkok and 2.5 hours north of Ko Chang) but more importantly, it’s a fantastic place in its own right, offering plenty of activities and entertainment for a few nights.
Getting there from Bangkok
There are several options to get from Bangkok to Chanthaburi (including taking the comfortable air-con bus from Ekkamai bus station) but we decided to book a private minibus transfer. With our group dynamics (2x parents, 2x grand-parents, 2x under-threes) we decided that this was the best way to go. We ordered the service through our hotel (it might have been cheaper by trawling the travel agencies down Khao San Rd, but life is too short when you are travelling). The next morning, ten minutes early, a comfortable, modern, spacious (ten-seater), clean minibus appeared outside the hotel. Once the driver had helped us to load up the assorted backpacks, suitcases and trunki we were on our way.
We loved the flexibility and control it gave us over the other transport options: if we needed a toilet pit-stop, we could ask. If we wanted to stop and take pictures, it was no problem. About two hours into the trip we stopped for lunch at one of the ubiquitous service stations in Thailand, the ones where the driver is on a small commission if you decide to eat there (which we did and it was amazing and cheap and gave us all chance to stretch our legs). Once we were ready to leave it was simply a case of waving to the driver and getting back on-board – no mad dashes back onto a bus with the horn blasting for us 😉
On the whole, the boys coped well with the trip and we think a lot of that was down to the flexibility of the transport. We used the usual array of tricks and bribes to keep them happy but it helped a lot being able to decide when and where to stop and felt so much easier than taking the bus. Of course, we could have missed Chanthaburi completely and took the plane to Trat and then bus to Ko Chang which would’ve been quicker but you’re probably going to be slightly sick of aeroplanes after the long flight to Thailand so an airport is the last place you’ll want to see. Either way, it said a lot that that we almost didn’t want the journey to end but we pulled into Chanthaburi on time, about four hours after we left Bangkok.
There are two main accommodation districts in Chanthaburi; the newer part of town with the large, purpose built ‘international’ style hotels and then the more traditional types in the historic part of town. We chose the latter and were delighted with our choice, the Tamajun Hotel.
The hotel is split into two buildings, separated by a quiet road which meanders through the old town. The newer section houses the ‘Hip’ accommodation (their words) – more modern, funky designed rooms which are also slightly more expensive. We decided on the traditional rooms on the other side of the road, contained in the original building which sits on the banks of the river.
They don’t do family rooms here, just doubles. We went for three of them and had each of the boys in with one parent (the grandparents cleverly opted for their own room to ensure a full night’s sleep – remember them?). The rooms were decorated in traditional teak style with en-suite bathroom, air-con and a fridge. One quirk was they didn’t have windows which might sound a negative but we actually quite liked it; it helped keep the room cool and ensured they were pitch dark during afternoon naps. The hotel very kindly provided a water heater which meant we could prepare warm milk for the boys – a nice gesture which they weren’t obliged to offer – very much in keeping with the highlevel of service we experienced throughout our stay.
The highlight of the hotel though was the communal balcony which looked out over the river. This was an absolute godsend as it allowed the non-kids to sit in comfy chairs, have the occasional beer and watch the river drift by whilst the kids ran around and played. It was perfect.
We were quite lucky that there was no-one else staying at the hotel so we had sole use of the balcony – it might have been a bit different if other guests were trying to relax on the balcony as well. Another bonus was that the rooms opened out onto the balcony so we could sit out there during naptime, safe in the knowledge that we (via the monitors) could keep an eye on the boys, all within actual sight of the rooms.
Things to do in Chanthaburi
Our favourite activity was simply walking around the well-preserved historic part of the town and taking in the sights and atmosphere. The hotel is right in the middle of things and is the perfect base for exploring the narrow winding streets which run alongside the river. It’s here that you’ll find shops, gem markets, restaurants and temples to explore. It helps to get a map from the hotel but in truth it’s fairly difficult to get lost as you’ll always have the river to use as a reference point. We enjoyed looking around the peaceful Cathedral of Immaculate Conception (the largest in Thailand) on the opposite bank of the river, browsing the gem markets and soaking up the atmosphere of this quirky, authentic Thai town. The tiny shops, hidden temples, wooden houses and chance to observe the traditional way of life provided a constant source of interest and intrigue for the kids.
Elsewhere, the boys had a great time in Wat Bot Muang temple, which was a ten minute walk from the hotel. As with most things in Chanthaburi, it was very quiet with no other tourists around. The boys were able to sit and quietly observe the monks meditating and were even invited to sit next to them and receive a blessing.
The food at our hotel was delicious and fairly reasonably priced so we ate there on the first night but there was no shortage of restaurants hugging the riverbank, all serving tasty Thai food which we all enjoyed. No high-chairs here though and (not unreasonably) no-one spoke much English so the mealtimes were a bit more of a challenge than in Bangkok but we saw it as part of the adventure and, as always, via a mixture of hand gestures, smiles and guesswork we ended up with kind-of what we wanted. Plus, even the boys knew how to say Pad Thai by now.
Namtok Phlio National Park
As much as we were enjoying the town, we decided to head out for a day trip on our second day to Namtok Phlio National Park. For a reasonable price we arranged our own songthaew to take us and once again the boys absolutely loved being in the back and waving to the cars as we sped along. Lots of fun but another one where you needed to hold onto them tight!
The park itself was a real treat, despite the torrential downpour which greeted us upon arrival – but even this turned out to be a highlight as we, plus a hundred Thai tourists, huddled under a wooden roof and waited for the storm to pass. The boys became the centre of attention, becoming the subject of a thousand selfies and cuddles. Even the initially stern looking security guards were soon picking them up and taking photos – proof once again that travelling with children is the perfect ice-breaker.
Once the rain passed we walked down to the waterfall, took some photos and got a close-up view of the hundreds of fish which congregate in the shallows (although no-one in our group was brave enough to take a dip!)
Leaving and heading towards the islands
The three nights in Chanthaburi flew by and we were sad to be leaving but pleased that we had managed to break up the journey so successfully between the city and the beach. We had already booked our accommodation in Ko Chang and arranged a private transfer from Chanthaburi so it was really easy and stress-free again to be greeted at 9am by a driver, ready for our next leg.
There are plenty of options when it comes to heading south from Bangkok towards the islands. We chose Ko Chang partly because we thought it would suit the kids and partly because it was fairly close to Bangkok and meant we didn’t need to worry about another flight and check-in desks and airport security and etc, etc. The private transfer worked out really well for us and gave us some much needed flexibility, something we wouldn’t have got with any other form of transport.
What made it even better of course was Chanthaburi being amazing in its own right. We’re already missing being sat on the balcony, cold drink in hand, kids playing happily around us, with only the sound of the river and laughter filling the air.
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We stayed at the Tamajun Hotel in the heart of the old town. A double room here cost £32 and included a very tasty breakfast in the restaurant overlooking the river.
The private minibus transfer from Bangkok to Chanthaburi cost THB3800 which included all road tolls. When we left Chanthaburi to head to Ko Chang, we paid THB2800 for another private transfer and this included all road tolls and the ferry across to the island. As mentioned above, you may find cheaper prices by shopping around but we liked the ease of booking via the hotel. Both transfers literally took us from door to door.
For one reason or another, we are drawn to the bright lights of Bangkok with our boys time and time again. We love the energy, the ornate temples, the colourful markets, the polite people and the food… oh my THE FOOD! Bangkok is very accessible for young families and it’s most definitely worth stopping over for a day or so to take in the sights, stock up on new clothes from the markets, taste a roasted scorpion or sit back and soak in the vibe.
Here’s our suggested one day itinerary…
07:00 – 08:00
Get an early start and head downstairs for breakfast. Most hotels in Bangkok include breakfast in the room rate and it tends to be child-friendly: our two usually have fruit juice, milk (hot or cold), toast, jam, fresh fruit and scrambled eggs. Basically what we do at home, minus the negotiations and washing up. Head back to the room, get changed, pack your day bag, load up the baby back-carrier and prepare to head into the city!
08:00 – 10:00
The clock is ticking so now is the time to get out and explore the city before the heat kicks in. Ask your hotel to call you a taxi (and get them to write the destination in Thai) and head over to Wat Arun on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. It might lack the size and prestige of the Grand Palace but it more than makes up for it in peace, accessibility and low-key temple time perfect for little ones. Gently stroll around the gardens, sit and relax in one of the many temples and receive a blessing from a monk. All without the crowds and hassle of the Grand Palace.
10:00 – 11:00
After the temple, walk the short distance to the river and catch a cheap (THB4), regular (every 15mins) ferry across the Chao Praya River. From there, catch one of the tourist ferries towards Phra Arthit pier which will leave you a fifteen minute walk from the lunchtime stops in either Soi Rambuttri or Khao San Rd. The ferry is a brilliant activity for children, it won’t be busy at this time and it gives them (and you) a brief lull to sit down and catch their breath. It’s fascinating to see the city float past and the river lets you see parts of it that you’d miss sat in a traffic jam. Just remember that the ferries aren’t especially health and safety orientated so do keep hold of your little ones.
11:00 – 12:00
We’re approaching nap (or chill) time but first there is time for some lunch. Two areas stand out in this part of town – Soi Rambuttri and Khao San Rd. You’ll have probably heard of the latter (you may even have spent a few drunken hours here in a previous life #nojudgement) but all of the partying and excess happens much later in the evening – around lunchtime it’s actually quite a chilled out place to spend an hour, with lots of street food and child friendly (think high-chair!) restaurants. Our choice would be the Soi Rambuttri – fifteen minute walk from the river, super-chilled restaurants, less traffic and beautiful little shops to look around. Pick a comfy seat, ask for a high-chair and order whatever the kids want – they (and you) have earned it. Go on, have a beer 😉
12:00 – 14:30
Walk, taxi or tuk-tuk back to the hotel, put on the AC, draw the curtains, put the kids in bed and… chill. A busy morning but an what an amazing one.
14:30 – 16:30
Beat the early afternoon traffic jams and jump into a tuk-tuk; you can easily fit a family of four in one and it’s a brilliant way to travel. The kids will love it but make sure they (and you) hold on tight. Ask to be taken to Lumpini Park, in the centre of the city. Prepare for a change of pace, it’s here that Bangkok comes to breathe, one of the few places in the city which reverberates to the sound of nature not traffic. The kids will love the freedom to run around and explore the greenery, plus they can play on the paddleboats, go wild in the playground or eat some tasty street-food. Find a quiet patch of grass and watch them go.
16:30 – 17:00
You’ll be so relaxed at the park that you might not want to leave but now is the time to jump on the Metro at either Silom or Lumpini and head to Hua Lamphong railway station. The metro is easy to navigate, not too hectic and fun for the kids. It’ll drop you off near:
17:00 – 19:00
Chinatown. Prepare yourself, it’s going to get busy. But you’ll look back on it during quieter moments in years to come and be so pleased you made the effort to come here. The brief walk from the Metro will lead you into the quieter side streets, allowing you to get your bearings and look around some of the shops which line the tightly packed alleyways. There is something for everyone here and the kids will love looking around and saying hello to the shopkeepers. Bangkok is a very friendly city but Chinatown locals seem particularly happy to see you. Venture further into the crowds and try to find a suitable looking restaurant; the high-chair might be harder to find here but the trade-off is amazing food for the whole family. If no restaurant takes your fancy, grab some street food and join the locals eating on the move.
19:00 – 20:00
It’s almost time for bed but before you go, stop off at the Democracy Monument in the centre of town. Over the years it’s been the site of protests and celebrations, uprisings and moments of national solidarity, but it’s likely you’ll catch it in a quieter, more reflective mood. The sun will have set by now and most of the heat gone from the sky so spend a few minutes with the kids watching the mopeds buzz around, let them try one last snack and remind yourself that in a few weeks time, you’ll wish you were here but it’ll all feel a million miles away. Head back to the hotel, quick hose-down for the kids, bedtime routine for everyone and let your head hit the pillow.
Waving from the Democracy Monument
Check out this guide for getting around Bangkok, including to and from the airport, to Th Khao San, and a bus information to onward destinations.
Where to stay in Bangkok with kids
Our favourite stay isRatchadamnoen Residence a few steps away from the Democracy Monument. Even though it was very central, the hotel is located down a quiet side street so it feels nice and relaxing with the children (we were there when the King passed away so there were a lot of people nearby but it still felt like we were tucked away). The well-equipped family apartment (two bedrooms, kitchenette, bathroom) was £34 per night which included the excellent breakfast mentioned above. Great location and walking distance to Khao San Rd and Soi Rambuttri. Highly recommended.
You may also want to consider the Rambuttri Village Plaza (in Soi Rambuttri) which has great family rooms for about the same price as above in a very good location. Alternatively, we most recently stayed at The Bang Khun Phrom Suites. There are no family rooms, but the bed is large enough for a young family to share, it’s in a quieter location and the walk to Khao San passes lots of lovely low-key restaurants.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I get a small commission that goes towards the running of this blog.
I'm Jenny - a travel addicted mum to my two boys (aged 3 and 5). As a family we try to push the boundaries of family travel and dispel the myth that adventure needs to wait until the kids are older!
After a year living in India and 4 months traversing Africa in a Land Rover, we have recently moved to the Peak District in England and now plotting affordable adventures across Europe and around school terms.