Thailand is a top destination for families looking to travel on a budget. With affordable accommodation, cheap and tasty food, stunning beaches, and family-friendly activities, Thailand offers an unforgettable vacation without breaking the bank.
Flying into Bangkok or Phuket for Convenient Access
Most flights from North America and Europe land in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, which makes the capital city a convenient starting point. Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is also a popular gateway. On the southern end, flying into Phuket puts you close to the gorgeous Andaman coast beaches.
No matter where you fly in, tickets to Thailand are very affordable, especially if you book a few months in advance. Thai Airways, EVA Air, AirAsia, and China Eastern all fly direct routes.
Finding Cheap Flights with Flexible Travel Dates
Aim for shoulder seasons like April-May and September-October to score cheaper airfare. Comparing prices for mid-week flights vs. weekends can also save a couple hundred dollars. Don’t be afraid to try budget airlines like AirAsia for local flights within Thailand too.
Getting Around via Public Transportation
Backpacking families can easily get around Thailand thanks to the extensive network of affordable public transportation options:
- Buses: For long distances, buses are recommended over trains for the convenience and direct routes. Second-class sleeper buses are comfortable for overnights.
- Trains: Great for journeys like Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Second-class seats are perfect for families on a budget.
- Airplanes: When you need to cover a lot of ground quickly, cheap domestic flights are readily available through Nok Air, Air Asia, and Thai Lion Air.
- Ferries: Ideal for island hopping between Phuket, Koh Samui, and Krabi.
Using Taxis, Tuk-Tuks, and Songthaews
For getting around cities and towns, taxis offer air-conditioned comfort at affordable rates with meters starting around 35 THB ($1 USD). Tuk-tuks are open-air vehicles perfect for short journeys and kids love the excitement. Agree on fares beforehand. Songthaews are shared pick-up trucks with bench seating—wave them down like a taxi.
Finding Apartment Rentals, Family-Run Small Hotels
With an average hotel costing only $25 a night, accommodation is a budget highlight in Thailand.
- Family-run hotels offer simple, affordable lodging across Thailand. Some include family suites and kitchens.
- Apartment rentals through Airbnb allow families to set up a home with laundry and cooking facilities. Great for longer stays.
Eating Well on Local Cuisine and Street Food
One of the best parts of Thailand for kids is experiencing all the unique tastes and flavors of Thai food!
- Street food stalls serve up staples like pad thai, green curry, and mango sticky rice for 30-50 THB ($1-1.50 USD) per dish. The ultimate street food experience.
- Markets like Rot Fai Market in Bangkok offer fun DIY Thai dinner opportunities. Let the kids pick out some familiar and new fruits to try too.
- Lots of local restaurants have budget-friendly Thai set menus under $2-3 USD. Don’t miss the all-you-can-eat options too!
Kid Favorite Thai Dishes
Pad thai, pineapple fried rice, chicken satay sticks, and fresh tropical fruit are all crowd pleasers. For picky eaters, kid staples like pasta and pizza are easy to find too.
Learning Thai Cooking Together
Taking a family-friendly cooking class teaches useful skills and gives great insight into Thai food culture. Courses average $30-40 per person and run about 3 hours long. Let the kids try seasoning and mixing ingredients!
Hitting the Beautiful Beaches
With over 2000 miles of coastline, Thailand is synonymous with breathtaking beaches.
Popular picks: Patong Beach on Phuket has lots of kid entertainment. Long Beach on Koh Lanta is relaxed with gentle waves.
Hidden gems: For an unspoiled paradise, check out Tanot Bay on Koh Tao or Hat Khlong Chak on Koh Kood.
Exploring National Parks and Playgrounds
Thailand has dozens of national parks to explore together as a family for just a small entrance fee.
- Khao Yai National Park has hiking trails and cool cave tours.
- Erawan National Park features fun waterfalls for swimming.
In cities, playgrounds and parks give kids room run around. Bangkok’s Benjasiri Park has a lake with paddle boats to rent!
Learning Through Interactive Experiences
Immerse the kids in Thailand’s unique culture and wildlife with these interactive educational activities:
- Ride elephants at ethical sanctuaries like Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai. Feed and bathe them while learning about conservation.
- Visit rehabilitation centers that rescue gibbons and other endangered species. A memorable learning opportunity!
- Check out a Thai cooking class at the Bangkok Thai Cooking Academy. Kids can make their own tom yum soup and mango sticky rice.
Shopping Local Markets and Street Side Stalls
For fun souvenirs on a budget, local markets sell quality handicrafts, souvenirs, and clothing at great prices. Bargaining is expected!
- Chatuchak Market in Bangkok has over 15,000 stalls perfect for souvenir hunting
- Walking Street in Chiang Mai offers local artisan crafts and street eats
- Weekend Night Markets in beach towns sell handmade jewelry, paintings, clothing and more
Taking Part in Special Festivals and Events
Timing your visit around Thai festivals really enhances the cultural experience for families. Dazzling costumes, music, and delicious food!
- Songkran Water Festival (mid April): Massive country-wide water fight!
- Loy Krathong (November): Float flower rafts down rivers and release lanterns into the sky.
- Chinese New Year (January/February): Experience amazing lion and dragon dances in Bangkok’s Chinatown
Safety Tips for Health, Scams, and Crime Prevention
Thailand is very safe for families, but it helps to be prepared. Following basic safety precautions will give everyone peace of mind.
- Drink only bottled water and peel fresh fruits to avoid stomach issues
- Keep kids close in crowds to prevent losing passports or money from pickpocketing
- Research common scams like rigged gem tours so you don’t get tricked
- Getting travel insurance and making copies of passports are smart precautions
- Kid-sized face masks and hand sanitizer help stay healthy
Itinerary Ideas for 1-2 Week Trips
With so much to see and do, planning out an itinerary helps maximize your time. Here are ideal 1 week and 2 week routes.
1 Week Island and Beach Focus
- 3 days in Phuket: Patong Beach, Big Buddha,Phi Phi day trip
- 2 days in Krabi: Railay Beach, Ao Nang Beach
- 2 days in Koh Samui: Angthong National Park
2 Week Highlights of Thailand
- 3 days Bangkok: Grand Palace, Chatuchak Market, canal tour
- 3 days Chiang Mai: Elephant Nature Park, Doi Inthanon National Park
- 4 days Phuket: beaches, snorkeling, sea kayaking
- 2 days Koh Lanta: beaches, scuba diving
- 2 days Koh Tao: snorkeling day trip
Packing Tips – Family Travel Essentials
Packing the right gear makes family time smoother in Thailand. Handy items to bring include:
- Lightweight stroller for navigating cities
- Baby carrier for keeping hands free on excursions
- Reusable water bottles to reduce waste
- Power bank for charging phones and tablets everywhere
- Motion sickness tablets for long taxi and bus rides
- Adapter for electronics to fit Thailand’s Type C plugs
- Compact first aid kit with bandages, medicine, thermometer
- Kid-sized face masks to protect from illness and pollution
Average Thailand Trip Costs Per Day
Thailand offers great value for money. A mid-range family budget is approximately $75-100 USD per day:
- Accommodation: $25-40 for hotel rooms or apartment rentals
- Food: $15-20 for a mix of street food and restaurants
- Transportation: $10-15 for a combo of taxis, trains, buses
- Activities: $20-30 (free beaches to $100+ day tours)
Ways for Families to Save
Follow these tips to keep costs low and stick to your budget:
- Choose guesthouses over expensive resorts
- Take overnight buses and trains to save on accommodation
- Cook quick meals in your room with local market ingredients
- Use free activities like beaches along with affordable attractions like national parks
- Negotiate lower prices for activities like day tours
- Take advantage of Thailand’s low taxi rates
- Limit shopping to local markets where you can bargain
Final Tips for an Amazing Trip
Thailand offers an unforgettable backpacking trip for adventurous families on any budget. With some planning, you can experience the amazing culture, scenery, and food that Thailand has to offer. The key is staying flexible, avoiding overpriced tourist traps, and focusing the itinerary around cheap transportation and free activities like beaches. Get ready to create lifelong memories together!