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lenlu Jul 16th, 2008 02:57 PM

Phuket or Ko Samui With Children
I'm just starting to look into this and my basic question is this: For you seasoned travelers, do you think it would work well to take a 4 and 6 year old to Thailand? Some concerns aside of the flight are eating (non spicy foods) or getting sick over there with young kids. Plus the haul from the West coast of the USA all the way to Phuket. We're primarily looking for a beach vacation and kicked around Vietnam and Bali but Thailand seems easiest to get to. We'd stay in 4/5 star places. The kids have been to Europe but that's the farthest. Do you guys have any insight or advice as to one place (Phuket/Ko Samui, Krabi or even Vietnam) over another? Your thoughts are appreciated. Thanks!

MichaelBKK Jul 16th, 2008 04:21 PM

Thailand - generally - has to be one of the most kid-friendly places there is. Most Thais dote on children, especially western ones. While there are lots of dangers in Thailand, the biggest risk to your kids is probably being spoiled rotten by the attention. Don't worry about food. There's lots of non-spicy dishes, and even Thais don't feed their kids the really hot stuff.

The "where" kind of depends on when, which you didn't say. Phuket (and surrounds like Khao Lak and Krabi) has a different seasonal pattern than Samui. So, when Phuket is really wet, Samui may be quite dry, and vice-versa.

There's a bit more to do on Phuket, as well as more resorts with full-blown kids clubs (JW Marriott, Laguna, etc.) but there are also many good resorts on Samui.

Bella_Bluebell Jul 16th, 2008 04:23 PM

Hello - we travelled around Thailand for 5 weeks with our two year old a couple of years ago and are returning again in Feb 09 with a 4 yr old and 10 month old. We found Thailand v easy to travel around with a child. You can read my ongoing trip report from that time - we went to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Samui and nearby islands.;tid=34839327.

You will find lots of families with children of similar age ranges to yours in Thailand as well. Some hotels have kids clubs, but not so many as you would find in Europe.. More in Phuket than in Samui. As to whether you should go to Phuket or Samui - I'd make that decision based on the time of year you are going as they are on different sides of the country and have different rainy seasons. You can get some great rates at the luxe hotels out of season but the prospect of bored children stuck in a hotel room whilst it downpoured outside is too much for me to bear at least! Both have some very lovely resorts that you can stay at - if you post what time of year you are going, I am sure you will get lots of suggestions as to specific resorts. This coming Feb, we are staying at Katathani on Kata Noi in Phuket and Le Meridien in Khao Lak - both of which have Kids Clubs. Not sure whether our daughter will go to them but I figured if there is a kids club, there will be children there to play with! (= peace for me, subject to 10 month old taking naps...)

Below are some thoughts I've posted previously on travelling with children in Thailand. I hope this is helpful.

Flight: as you mentioned, you are already considering this. Am sure plenty can advise you on the likely jetlag flying from the west coast of the US to thailand. We are in the UK so much shorter flight but we had no problems on it with Bella who just slept (overnight flight). We also found that she got over the jetlag much quicker than the adults. See also the postings on the forums I have recommended below on flying with kids - some great tips. Check out these pillows also - both for you and the kids -

Heat and humidity - Dehydration is obviously an issue for anyone in the heat but more of a concern with children so you need to ensure that their weater intake is increased.

Food - have your children tried Thai food already? If not, think about letting them try some before you go. Our daughter was v happy to have lemon shakes, rice and chicken satay morning noon and night. Having said that, western food is so readily available. In Thailand, in our experience there is always a dish on the menu without chilli in it if that is something your chilren do not like. You can find out more about kids and food and drink in Thailand at - there is a free leaflet you can download there on the matter. It is a really useful resource.

Illnesses - first sign, go to a doctor. Before we went, I noted down names of recommended doctors and hospitals in each area we are staying in. You can never be too careful wherever you go - you will need some vaccinations before you go as well. Our experience of doctors and hospitals in Thailand has been excellent - facilities are far better than the English NHS ones!

I would recommend 2 other places to go for advice on the topic of travelling with children generally:

1) Lonely Planet Kids To Go board: It is by far and away the best site for advice on taking children (and toddlers/babies) abroad (including SE Asia) and can be found at: There are a good number of people with extensive experience of undertaking a trip such as the one you are proposing and, having done it themselves, can give you a realistic and informed opinion on the merits of such a trip and excellent planning advice. The board is not specific to SE Asia so you will find experience there of lots of different countries with kids.

2) Dea Birketts Travelling with Kids forum -

Oh - if you stay in Bangkok, we found that the Marriott Resort on the river was great for kids. If you fancy a bit more luxury, we also found that the Oriental and the Peninsula were also incredibly welcoming to our toddler. Full marks though went to the Oriental who delivered a special basket full of goodies for her - and then showed us to a room on our floor that was kitted out with books and toys. Fantastic!

Kathie Jul 16th, 2008 04:46 PM

Thailand is very child-friendly. Of course, there is so much more to Thailand than the beach. The beach resorts are international resorts and will not give you the same feel for the people or the culture that visiting other parts of the country will. If you go to Thailand, I'd recommend that you go to more than the beach: spend some time in Bangkok, and consider a location in the north as well, depending on how much time you have.

If you really only want a beach vacation, I'd recommend Hawaii. It's a much shorter flight and you won't have the same concerns about spicy food and kids getting sick.

rhkkmk Jul 16th, 2008 05:42 PM

thailand would be fantastic for all the reasons listed above....

from the west coast the best way for you is the direct bangkok flight from LA---about 18 for the kids...they will sleep some of the time..

i often suggest the bangkok marriott resort and addition to what is said above, i would add that in the mini mall in front of the hotel you will find the following: mcdaonalds, swenson's ice cream, pizza, thai food, a steak house--sizzler, and other things to keep the kids happy...the staff is fantastic with the kids and there is a kids pool adajacent to the main pool, which btw is the best in bkk....make sure you get a rate which includes breakfast as they are fantastic...

hotel sites:
www.asiarooms. com

le meridien at khao lak has a fantastic looking kids club with tons of activities and also a hotel wing just for families, but the hotel is not near to any attractions except diving and similan islands....good place for rest and fly to phuket and its 1.5 hours north by taxi or hotel car....fantastic place!! i was just there for 4 nites last month....

Cicerone Jul 16th, 2008 06:50 PM

I live in Hong Kong, and have often said that if you are primarily looking for a beach vacation and you are coming from the US, then Asia is a <i>very long</i> way to go to sit on a beach. There is nothing wrong with a beach vacation, it is just that flying all that way and spending all that money to do so might not be the best use of that time and money. Phuket beaches, while quite pretty, are not really spectacular IMO. (Some of the offshore islands are, but this involves either day-tripping on boats or chartering a boat for a few days or joining a live-aboard dive boat, but this is not a beach hotel experience, and some people donít like it. It also is probably not suitable for young children.) Bali beaches are not nearly as nice as Phuket beaches. Vietnamese beaches, from the very few I have seen, are perfectly nice, but not a whole lot different from Phuket beaches. If you JUST want a beach and donít want to explore other aspects of the culture of these countries (for which in any of those places you need to get away from the beach areas, especially purpose-built beach resorts like Phuket, Koh Samui or the Nusa Dua beach area of Bali), then I donít think it is ďworthĒ taking kids Ė or yourself -- that far. To go all the way to Bali and just stay at the beach is really a waste IMO. I would feel the same way about Thailand, to just go to Phuket and not to Bangkok, you may as well go to Santa Barbara if you just want a beach. (And I want to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with just wanting a beach, it is just that Thailand and Bali offer a great deal more. It would be like going to Europe for the beaches, which I am pretty sure you did not do with the kids; but they have some very lovely ones too.)

Malaysia has some really beautiful offshore island beaches (Koh Samui is part of this grouping although it is in Thailand), and I find them more beautiful than the west coast areas of Thailand. However, these areas are still quite a long way to go to sit on a beach. And unless you snorkel or dive, there is almost nothing else to do on these islands. Itís a very long flight for only a week, and if you stay for 2 weeks, I think you would be quite bored actually. If you combine it with some time in Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong, then it becomes more interesting, but then this is not just a beach vacation.

So, that being said if you <i>just</i> want a beach, I could not agree more that with kids and coming from the West coast, you could easily go to Hawaii and get a beach and a ton of other activities into the bargain.

Personally, I think a 6 year old would love to spend time with elephants in northern Thailand as opposed to a beach vacation in Phuket. Another alternative, if this were my trip with kids (or without them), would be to rent a house in Bali, probably in an inland rice terrace area, and really explore the culture of Bali, especially something like the music which I think children would really respond to. These houses come with pools and staff, so you wonít be missing the 4/5 star experience, but give you a better opportunity to get a feel for the place than a big beach resort would do. You can also rent villas in or close to beach areas as well.

One other thing to consider with kids in SE Asia is Malaria, see the website for all the places you would consider. You donít want to give kids under 5 Malarial prophylactics, and I donít think it is really recommended for children under 10 generally. You might want to do some research on this and talk to your doctor. You and they would need all the other normal childhood vaccinations.

Bella_Bluebell Jul 16th, 2008 11:05 PM

I would avoid areas that are malarial - easily done within Thailand.

I'd second the suggestion to go to the north - Bella loved Chiang Mai. That was the favourite part of her trip - she loved the elephants at the Elephant Conservation Center, the markets, cookery class and the monks at Doi Suthep temple. Definitely recommend it.

lenlu Jul 17th, 2008 07:30 PM

Wow, thanks for all the info, I knew you guys would know! This gives me a lot to think about. Iím glad to know about the kidsí clubs and family friendliness. I did not, however, consider malaria and thatís a disappointment. I should have guessed. I didnít like taking the pills for malaria last year on a trip to Africa and Iím an adult. Ugh. Iíll have to think on it. I would love to go to Chiang Mai and see everything but didnít think it would be possible to do with little kids. I thought making them travel to several places would be too tiresome but maybe not. Thing is, we have 2 weeks in June or 11 days in Feb or March. I thought I read June was the cooler season but if it rains all day, thatís not fun. Itís tough for us to get a lot of time which is why weíre looking at a condensed trip but it may be too lofty a goal considering the distance. I know everyone enjoys Hawaii. Iím not a total fan. I have been to the Cook Islands which I thought was paradise over Hawaii or the Caribbean but it doesnít have higher end hotels (also part of the charm) which becomes important with kids. Bungalows are great but the occasional roach and spider donít sit well with my children, Iím sorry to say. Iíll check out the links and trip report which is so helpful. I really do appreciate every tidbit of info, thanks to all of you!

Kathie Jul 17th, 2008 07:41 PM

February is better weather-wise in the sense that it is less hot. Since Thailand's weather is influenced by two different monsoon systems, when one side of the peninsula is wetter the other side is drier. Check for historical informatiion on weather.

The only parts of Thailand that are malarial risk are the border areas with Burma, Laos and Cambodia. So while you wouldn't want to go to the Golden Triangle area, Chiang Mai would be fine.

If you only have 11 days in February, you could really only visit two locations, likely Bangkok (since you have to fly in and out of Bangkok) and a beach area. In February, the Phuket/Hrabi/Ko Lak are has good weather.

Bella_Bluebell Jul 18th, 2008 01:41 AM

I would go in June or Feb - less rain in Feb but better prices in June. We were in Chiang Mai in July and the rain didn't ruin it. If you stick to non-malarial areas as we do, you don't have to worry about taking the tablets - just plan accordingly.

We are going next Feb - so far staying at Kata Thani in Phuket and Le Meridien in Khao Lak - read lots of reviews and both seemed good for families.

simpsonc510 Jul 18th, 2008 06:27 AM

Totally agree with you on the Cook Islands! Fantastic! (but not lux) When I went to Autitaki, it felt like I was in one of the most remote, and truly peaceful, places on earth!

Do look into the Kata Thani on Kata Noi beach Phuket. It's a very nice 4* resort. I've stayed there, not with kids, but I did notice the signs for their kids' programs. Great pools, nice smaller beach, quiet.. and you don't have to go too far to reach 5* lux. All you have to do is go up the wooden stairs at the end of Kata Noi beach, right in front of Kata Thani. The stairs go up to the truly LUX Mom Tri's Villa Royale. They have a really nice, but expensive, restaurant there called Mom Tri's Kitchen. If possible, dine there, and then ask to see some of the villas! I've stayed in a couple of them. They might give you a tour if they aren't booked out. This is not a place for kids to stay, however. More for honeymooners or those celebrating a special anniversary. But you can certainly enjoy the restaurant with your family.


JamesA Jul 18th, 2008 10:05 PM

february is a good time to go to Phuket, weather is good but the rastes would have dropped from their Dec/Jan peak rates. If it's June then you need to think about Koh Samui, Hua Hin as that time of year weather is better than it would be on Phuket, though you could still be lucky with the weather.

Laurelie Jul 20th, 2008 08:17 AM

We also stayed on Kata for a week Jan 2007 and totally loved it.The one thing that no one has discussed is the incredible heat and humidity (38 - 40 C when we were there).
Anyone with children were keeping them safely under the umbrellas most of the day. There was no playing in the pool in the morning or afternoon and certainly no one was on the beach. We had our daily walk in before 8 am. I saw one family from southern Italy that the heat didn't seem to bother. The rest of the kids were playing on their lounges in the shade. While there we even commented that this would be a tough place to vacation with kids.
The heat would be my only concern with two little ones. Safety and food would be non issues as you are travelled you would have done your homework.
Thai people couldn't be nicer. We didn't go to Chiang mai and are sorry. A few days there might be nice for you.

simpsonc510 Jul 20th, 2008 08:44 AM

Those sound like extreme temps from my own personal experiences on Phuket in January. VERY extreme. We've not experienced anything even close to those temps at that time of year. Must have been a really abnormal year, weatherwise.

I should note, however, that we had extreme heat and humidity in April of this year, on Samui. It's supposed to be dry at that time of year, but we had a good shower every one of our five days on the island. Temps were really steamy, and I mean STEAMY.

The owner of the resort told us that weather patterns were not &quot;typical&quot; this past spring.


Kathie Jul 20th, 2008 09:46 AM

According to the average high temp in January in Phuket is 88F/31C. Weatherbase reports that the highest recorded temp in Phuket in January is 100F/37C. I can only guess that it was the directness of the sun that made it feel so much hotter to you, Laurelie.

Laurelie Jul 20th, 2008 09:57 AM

Wanted to make sure I was giving correct info so just checked with the hubbie. Phuket temp's were 35 with a humidex of 40 - 42. In Bangkok the temps were 37 or 38. I was off just a tad but it was still really HOT!!!

Kathie Jul 20th, 2008 12:19 PM

No question, it is hot in Thailand. It feels even hotter than the stated temperature because the sun is so direct and the humidity makes it feel hotter. And Bangkok, especially if you stay somewhere away from the river, can feel hotter because of the reflected heat from the pavement. Still, January is one of the &quot;less hot&quot; (I hesitate to say cooler) months of the year.

A check with weatherbase indicates that the average high temp in January is 89F/31C and the highest recorded temp in Bangkok in January is 95F/35C. I'm sure it felt 37 or 38C to you in Bangkok.

travelgourmet Jul 21st, 2008 04:51 AM

<i>I live in Hong Kong, and have often said that if you are primarily looking for a beach vacation and you are coming from the US, then Asia is a very long way to go to sit on a beach. There is nothing wrong with a beach vacation, it is just that flying all that way and spending all that money to do so might not be the best use of that time and money. Phuket beaches, while quite pretty, are not really spectacular IMO</i>

I definitely agree with this. Within the past 12 months, I have been to both Koh Samui and Phuket and can't see why one would travel from the US to Thailand, just to go to the beach. In general, I found the water clarity to be significantly worse than the Caribbean. Clouds and rain were also more common, though this might have been the time of the year.

If you are staying in a 4/5 star place, as you won't save that much on lodging over a similar place in Mexico or the Caribbean or Hawaii, and savings is one of the big draws of the Asian beaches for the backpacking set. And when faced with 15-20 hours of travel time...

That being said, there is a lot of interest in Thailand and SE Asia, but the beaches would be the least of my reasons for visiting.

lenlu Jul 24th, 2008 02:26 PM

Well, June seems like it affords us a little more precious time, which we need when going that distance. I'd really just get out of BKK, spending little time there, especially with kids. I think it's too overwhelming. Maybe we could swing the North if we cut down the beach days. I don't mind a little rain but I agree about the kids having to hide under umbrellas in the heat. Too much heat and humidity isn't going to be suitable for our kids. We've done the Caymans in early June and that was pushing it. I'll check out Kata Thani and in my experience the Le Meridians have been nice. Good point about lack of savings on 4 and 5 star places regardless of season. Pity! We wouldn't use kids' clubs anywhere, I'm afraid. I'd love to but it's too risky. I'm concerned about the weather but have excellent access to it as my husband is a meteorologist so we can see the models for the area and he can predict. I'm going to keep researching before I switch my plans (Costa Rica or back to the Caribbean). Thanks again everyone!

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