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2-Week Itinerary for Family Holidays in Thailand

Updated: May 1

This is my tested to be working travel itinerary proposal for a young family that seeks to get the most out of this marvellous country in 2 weeks. This 2-week Thailand family travel itinerary includes a panorama of every Thai life aspect a family would possibly want to experience along with some tips on what worked and what didn't for our family and our little human being: exploring the secrets of the buzzing capital, visiting historical ruins and stunning Buddhist temples, learning to cook Thai, eating mouthwatering food at nice restaurants and finally some family downtime at the tropical islands.

Contents



Step 1: Bangkok (3-4 days)

2-Week Thailand Travel Itinerary
Circular Trip Itinerary in Thailand

If you are still in doubt whether to stay at Bangkok or use just as flight hub, you might be missing out so please read my Bangkok Travel and Food Guide for families first. The capital of modern Thailand, Bangkok, is a must-stay (especially for those visiting for the first time) but also the perfect way to acclimatise and get well-prepared for your circular travel to the country. In my Thailand Survival Guide for Families post, I recommended booking the same lodge for the beginning and the end of your trip in Bangkok (if you travel circular style) just in case you need to leave heavy luggage and unused (winter) clothes or gifts back for your return. We found that very helpful.

I also suggest at least 3 days minimum in Bangkok, 1 day for jetlag recovery and acclimatisation and 2 days to explore the city and see the main sights (Grand Palace and Wat Arun). Bangkok is a great city and it would be such a pity to skip it.


Step 2: Ayutthaya (1 day)

You don't need more than a day (and possibly a night) in Ayutthaya and is approximately 1.5 hours by train from Bangkok.

With historical landmarks and monuments dating back to the 13th century AD, when Ayutthaya was the capital of old Siam, this place is totally worth your attention. Ayutthaya is of similar beauty to its sibling in Cambodia, Angkor Wat. Just a bit smaller. So if you haven't been to Cambodia, Ayutthaya is the place to be. It can be either a day trip from Bangkok or a stopover if you choose to travel by train to Chiang Mai (there are lodged in the city to spend the night before catching the next sleeper train for Chiang Mai).


Getting There: Trains to Ayutthaya from Bangkok run almost every day and are very cheap indeed. For a day trip, no reservation is necessary; just turn up at Bangkok Train Station📌, buy a ticket and hop on. Also, make sure you catch an early train to avoid the heat and get some sort of jacket with you if you book the air-conditioned car (the a/c is constantly set to "freezer" mode). If you are on a stopover to the trip towards Chiang Mai, read the next step.


Sightseeing with Baby: Ayutthaya sightseeing can be rough with pavements sometimes non-existent; generally it is advisable to have a sling carrier for when he is tired and you have to walk on rough surfaces and a folding stroller with a shoulder strap for when you need a break for them to snooze. Get hats, snacks and water as it gets pretty hot there and plan ahead how you will break from the sightseeing spree. In the next paragraph, I have a suggested itinerary which worked great for us. Also, if you head to the top of this page and type PACKING LIST in the search field you will see posts with ideas for your shopping list.


Getting Around: Lacking public transportation the only viable option is to get a taxi with a driver for the whole day as soon as you hop off the train (just across the road from the train station) and plan to take a lunch break close to his nap time. You have to negotiate all this with the driver and they are pretty flexible to accommodate any itinerary. The cost for the day can be around 800-1000 THB (£15-20) depending on how good your haggling skills are. A very good recreation area, relatively quiet, with good shades and lots of shopping stalls to buy souvenirs and lunch is the Ayutthaya Floating Market📌. There you can stroll with the buggy and get him asleep while you do your shopping or enjoy your lunch break.


Ayutthaya itinerary suggestion: Do some research online to understand what is going on at Ayutthaya and pick the top 2-3 sites of your choice to prioritize. This is the max you can do provided you only have a day and you plan a lunch break with baby nap time in between.

Below is a map of the tour we managed to do in 1 day at a slow pace (2-3 hours in the morning followed by 2-hour lunch break and nap for him, plus another 1 hour in the afternoon):



Step 3: Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai (overnight train)

Our trip to Ayutthaya was supposed to be a stopover on an overnight train en route to Chiang Mai. However, as we were not proactive enough to book our tickets well in advance, we found no spare cabins available on the sleeper train to Chiang Mai for the dates we wanted to travel. So our visit to Ayutthaya was a day trip from Bangkok, and then flew to Chiang Mai the next day.

But if you like slow travel and trains, I recommend going to Chiang Mai by train. Catch the sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (read Seat61's post here first) and book well in advance (we learned our lesson: book 3 months before the departure date). Once you book your private first-class cabin in the sleeper car (which is quite cheap and worth it), make sure you equip yourself with a folding and lightweight Deryan travel cot for the little one to sleep as there are only 2 beds in the cabin but enough space on the floor for the travel cot.

Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai Train 2-week Thailand Itinerary
Ayutthaya Train Station

Step 4: Chiang Mai (3-4 Days)

Chiang Mai is an absolutely joyful place! Pleasant weather (still hot but not as sticky as Bangkok), less busy and overwhelming, with so many things to do, see and eat all at a fraction of the price you will pay in other places in Thailand. So I recommend spending 3 or 4 days if you plan to cross all the things off my bucket list below and you are a budget traveller.

Unlike the heavily touristic Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket, Chiang Mai is a highly spiritual place in north Thailand, home to over 300 Buddhist temples. Which is unique and we absolutely loved it as it represents the authentic true Thai culture. What is also remarkable about Chiang Mai is that it is not a popular tourist destination for families, but rather for backpackers and pilgrims. No matter the slight inconveniences (like for instance narrow and damaged pavements and street crossings for buggy), we had an unforgettable time there as a family there and we managed really well to keep the little one super happy. As I previously stated for Ayutthaya sightseeing, it is advisable to bring a sling carrier for when he is tired and a folding stroller with a shoulder strap for when he wants to snooze. Check my complete "What to Pack for Thailand" section in my Thailand Survival Guide for Families post for some relevant product offers.


Getting there: If slow train travel is not your thing, Chiang Mai has an international airport and there are very frequent and cheap flights there and back from Bangkok (just over an hour's flight) and other major cities. Thai Airways is the national carrier (a star alliance member) but there's also a low-cost subsidiary, Thai Smile, which has a good record on safety over the years. This time we've chosen to fly with Bangkok Airways (a domestic operator) as their timetables were better, and it was a great experience and service!


Where to Stay: Chiang Mai is all about the old city, where most of the hotels (and temples) are located. And although it makes so much sense to stay within the old city boundaries, you will find out that for the price of an average, casual hotel within the old city limits, you can get a stylish boutique hotel just outside: we stayed at De Chai Colonial📌which was brilliantly located, close to laundry, a Buddhist temple, old city gate, Warorot market, some convenient stores and nice restaurants while also being extremely baby friendly and accommodating. The city is quite small and easy to navigate so I would definitely recommend checking the option staying outside the old city boundaries.


Getting around: Taxis (as well as cost of living) are substantially cheaper compared to the country's capital so we used local taxis (either from our “Grab” app or order at hotel reception) pretty much for our whole stay in Chiang Mai. If you stay in the old city (within the walls) you might not even need one.


My Top 5 Things to Do (and Not To Do) in Chiang Mai

#1. Swing by the Warorot Market📌 (also known as "Little Chinatown"). Here you can taste local delicacies and buy traditional local crafts at almost half the price of any bazaar in Bangkok or Phuket! I bought lots of little serving plates, cutlery and placemats for my photography from there! Also, once you are there, may be worth strolling across the river to dine in Sai Ping restaurant📌 or Wanlamun Rim Num📌 (excellent location with great atmosphere, decoration and dish presentation - famous for desserts)


#2. Do the 'Temple Hopping': with spectacular Buddhist temples and monasteries in the city, the most popular activity is 'temple hopping'. You may need a good full day if you are up to visiting all of them. Below is a mini-map I've put together with some downtown temples we liked most plus a bonus hidden cafe/restaurant with amazing Khao Soi noodles (a Northern Thai traditional dish) and cakes! (Check my authentic Khao Soi noddle recipe I brought from there). If you are in a rush to just visit only one or two temples, I suggest these to be Wat Phra Singh📌 (the most impressive and big) and Wat Sri Suphan📌 which is truly one of the most beautiful Lanna-era temples in Chiang Mai and one of a kind in Asia being almost completely clad in silver (scroll to the photos below)!

At the end of your temple hunt, go treat yourself a foot or a full-body Thai massage as it's half the price you get in Bangkok and a tenth of the price you pay in Europe for the same thing.

Things to do in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Temple Hopping Map

#3. Visit Doi Suthep📌: If you have half day to spare in Chiang Mai, an approximately 40 min taxi ride from the city is the spectacular site of Doi Suthep. All covered in gold leaf and situated in a remote and spiritual place, this is one of the most dazzling Buddhist temples you've ever seen. Bells, gongs, shrines, monks and hundreds of Buddha statues and everything inclusive. A multi-sensory experience for kids and adults. There are beautiful gardens to walk around and explore and there's also a lovely cafe on site, with great views of the adjacent gorge. Just outside the temple (at the taxi drop-off area) there's a flea market and street vendors that sell water, drinks, fruits and the cheapest art and souvenirs you've ever seen sold in the country (haggling is recommended). Fill your boots with gifts from there.


#4. Go to Chiang Dao and/or Doi Ithanon. Both are around 1.5hr drive from Chiang Mai but if you don't have the time or the stamina they are some of those you don't really really need to cross off your bucket list. Chiang Dao is a quite beautiful and pristine natural reserve, its real beauty really unfolds for those hiking and trekking which may not be convenient for you and your young child. Of equal distance and beauty and tranquillity is the Doi Inthanon national park, but not as dazzling or of equal historical value as Doi Suthep. Bottom line, if you have no days to spare in Chiang Mai, there is only one full or half-day trip to do and you are not up to long drives, I totally recommend dedicating that to Doi Suthep.


#5. Elephant Sanctuaries: Should I stay or should I go? They are advertised everywhere in the city, in magazines, blogs, and they have top reviews on TripAdvisor. But what is really happening, is animal rights exploitation. Similar to what happens to the poor donkeys in the Greek islands. No matter how ethical and animal-friendly some of them appeared in ads or how good I thought they would be for my child and his bonding with wildlife, this is most likely a money-making industry with low ethics, so defo not for me.


Where and What to Eat in Chiang Mai

This is my favourite part. In fact, the Chiang Mai food guide deserves a separate post on its own but I was too lazy to have it separate.

Chiang Mai is undoubtedly a remarkable culinary destination, not only for the traditional Khao Soi noodle soup (see my recipe here) but for many other different types of dishes, with apparent Chinese and Burmese cuisine influences. That being said, Khao Soi is something you need to dry at least once before leaving the city. A spicy and comforting chicken (usually) noodle dish which I tried on several different occasions and venues to figure out my top place to go for it. One other thing that struck me the most, nearly everywhere in Thailand, was that the majority of restaurants offered baby seats and cutlery. Fascinating. I haven't seen a single restaurant in London offering baby cutlery!

  • Kiti Panit: we accidentally discovered this being close to our hotel, but what a pleasant surprise it was! A beautifully restored heritage building, with incredibly helpful and kind personnel and an amazing selection of traditional and fusion Thai dishes. Worth getting there just to see the building!

  • Daifa's Lifestyle Cafe & Restaurant: also a stone's throw from De Chai Colonial hotel, this is an exceptional place for coffee, tea, relaxation and slow eating. The garden is absolutely lush, the deco quite contemporary Thai, nothing like I've seen before. What's more, should you like any of the plates, cutlery you ate with or cushions you sat on, you can buy them on your way out:


  • Dash: a traditional northern Thai restaurant, family-friendly, with a lot of seating space and one of the top Khao Soi's in town.

  • The House by Ginger: an amazing complex of contemporary fusion restaurants, a bar for drinks and a mini boutique on-site with cutlery, plates, clothing, soft furnishings and other home accessories with Thai character and a twist on sale.


  • Khao Soi Khun Yai: this IS the winner and maybe the best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai. At least within the old city borders. Not a fancy restaurant, mainly a street vendor expanded and converted to a kind of restaurant settlement I would say. Nevertheless, their Khao Soi is memorable!

  • My Secret Cafe In Town: this is a little hidden cafe in the heart of the city, tucked away just off the main road in a quiet alley. A great break from the temple hunting fatigue. Also one of the best places to try a twisted recipe of Khao Soi, totally recommended.

  • Wanlamun Rim Nam: Wanlamun is an authentic Thai restaurant (close to Wararot market) famous for its traditional Thai desserts. Nice location, just by the river, with great atmosphere, decoration and dish presentation. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. There's also a rooftop bar for drinks.


Step 5: Ao Nang/Krabi (2-3 days)

Getting there: As I mentioned in the previous step, Chiang Mai has an international airport and there are very frequent and cheap flights to there and back to Bangkok and other major cities like Ao Nang at Krabi province. Thai Airways (the national carrier) and its low-cost subsidiary, Thai Smile, both fly to Krabi airport (the closest to Ao Nang) from Chiang Mai. Ao Nang is a busy tourist town but I would look at it from a different angle as it can also be:

(a) your gateway to the Andaman coast and the impressive beaches of Railey and Tonsai

(b) your starting point to daily cruises to the popular island of Koh Phi-Phi but also to some more off-the-beaten-track like Koh Yao Noi and Koh Lanta

(c) a majestic sanctuary. I have a great recommendation for a special lodge, scroll below, which is away from the tourist madness and the massive resorts and you may want to consider.

Ao Nang is very touristic and friendly to families with lots of accommodation options and you don't get (or at least you don't notice) a lot of the "red light" tourism you see in Pattaya just to put it into perspective. Our choice for Ao Nang was mainly driven by our requirement to visit the Andaman Sea islands and pay tribute to the bizarre limestone cliff formations. Depending on how many daily trips-cruises you want to do, Ao Nang can be a 2 or 3-day stop.

Ao Nang Thailand sunset photography
Sunset at Ao Nang beach

Where to Stay: One of the reasons I am rooting for Ao Nang is the Nine Thiptara📌. A secluded, cute little resort which is a real sanctuary for families looking for peaceful relaxation and escape from buzzy town centres flooded with people and street vendors. Pristine tropical gardens, traditional Thai hospitality and deco, and absolutely no surrounding artificial noises make it the perfect spot for unwinding and dusting off the fatigue from Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai temple hunting. There's plenty of vegetation for the little ones to explore and play and a pool for the adults to soak. But what's best and unique about it, are the rooms. The photos below speak for themselves but also make an effort and take a look at their website to judge for yourself:


Ao Nang's downtown market, restaurants and port (where all daily cruises set off from) is a very cheap 5 min taxi ride, and you can book from the hotel reception or your Grab app (same price). Food wise you are also sorted, the resort's restaurant is pretty good but there's also an authentic family-run restaurant within walking distance (3 min) right next to it. Khun Noi Thai📌 has delicious, authentic and reasonably priced Thai food plus a large garden-play area for kids to play. There are plenty of tables, no reservation is required.


Things to Do at Ao Nang: you have plenty of options in things to do here, this is why you've chosen Ao Nang after all. Tonsai Beach📌 is quieter, wild and with tall palm trees, popular among rock climbers, while Railay📌 is impressive but a bit overcrowded from the adjacent resorts. You can do both in one day as they are very close to each other. Ask your hotel reception to advise on boat ride bookings. I recommend checking with the hotel as there seem to be a lot of scammers around very touristic areas like Ao Nang. Also, ask for the daily cruises with shared or private traditional Thai "longtail boats" that take you to Phi-Phi or to a daily cruise of 3 or 4 nearby tropical islands (1-day cruise). Although these 'rafts' looked dodgy, they turned out to keep strong and steady on a wavy day. The crew was very polite and even provided a mini hammock for him to snooze on board.

2-Week Thailand Travel Itinerary
Tonsai Beach

Step 6: Koh Lanta (2-3 days)

Getting there: there are a few ways to go to Koh Lanta from Ao Nang: ferry, car rental or taxi transfer. Passenger ferries are heading to Koh Lanta from the North like Phuket, Phi Phi, Ao nang, Railey, Krabi, Ko Jum or from the South of Thailand like Ko Mook, Ko Kradan, Ko Ngai, Ko Bulon, Ko Lipe, Langkawi. The passenger ferries even run in low season about every second day. Driving to Koh Lanta is straightforward and safe: you drive down to Hua Hin pier, where there is a quick vehicle ferry from the mainland to Ko Lanta Noi (runs about every 15 minutes) and then cross the bridge from Ko Lanta Noi to the main Koh Lanta island, and there you have a perfect road trip and see the Thai countryside. Renting a car from Ao Nang - Krabi is a good option if you later need to fly back to Bangkok as you can drop your car straight back to the airport before your flight. If you feel comfortable driving in a foreign country and have an international license, it is quite easy to navigate in Thailand with Google maps. Not to mention the motorways are pretty well maintained and not treacherous (mind the few occasional potholes here and there). Ao Nang to Koh Lanta (Long beach) is around 3 hours drive (including the ferry).

Need mobile internet in Thailand? read my Thailand Survival Guide for Families for tips and tricks

Getting around: if you have a car and a few days to spare, it is a lovely island to roam but most people with families stick around Long Beach and Phra Ae Beach for the dramatic sunsets, shallow warm waters and the -as the name suggests- long sandy beach which is perfect for the kids to play. If you don't have a car, I think you should better stick around Long Beach which has it all!


Where to Stay: Long Beach is the largest and most stunning beach on the island. There are several hotels and restaurants along the huge coastline stretch so you will never get bored and you will not need a car. There are bars and restaurants within walking distance and you can walk barefoot to almost everything as they are all next to each other and on the sand without barriers. Most of all, the beach is quite large both in length and width, making it perfect for sand games and some privacy. We stayed at the Long Beach Chalet📌, an unbelievable hotel!


2-Week Thailand Travel Itinerary
Chilling out and dining at Long Beach


Things to do in Koh Lanta: This island is the perfect place to slow down and unwind as there's not much going on around. I am sure the same goes for other islands in the area, most being oriented to families and relaxation. There are a few beaches that you can visit, a national park and a cave, but for us, it was mostly relaxation and sunbathing. If you didn't get the chance to attend a Thai cooking lesson in Bangkok, there are a couple of remarkable cooking schools there, the Lanta Thai Cookery School📌 and the Time for Lime📌 which are both close to Long Beach.


Step 7: Back to Bangkok

From Koh Lanta to Bangkok there are two ways to return. You can either fly from Krabi or from Trang (both have airports with flights to the capital). If you don't drive your own car and feel like exploring another town before departure, book a flight and a taxi transfer to Trang (around 2.5 hours). If you are driving and need to return the car to Krabi then set off way before your flight as there's a 3-hour drive from Koh Lanta to Krabi International airport and there is a slight possibility of delay in the pier to ferry cross from the Ko Lanta Noi islet to the mainland. I suggest checking early in the morning with reception if they know of any issues at the bridge or the ferry crossing to Hua Hin.



How to get cheap Mobile Data in Thailand

For an itinerary like this, it is best that you have mobile data on your phone for emergencies. To avoid paying hefty bills for roaming, I recommend trying this new, revolutionary technology of eSIM. So if your phone supports eSIM (google it to check first) why not try an eSIM data package before you arrive from pioneer telecom provider Airalo? 👈Click the link and search "Thailand" to find DTAC's eSIM package which is WOW, and is all you need for your stay in Thailand and will save you heaps from your roaming bill!


The way eSIM works is that you just have to install the app on your phone (Android and Apple supported) --> then buy the desired "eSIM" data package for Thailand by clicking my affiliate link above --> download and activate the eSIM before your travel (so you won't need wifi on arrival) --> on arrival just go to your SIM manager settings and make sure you use data from the eSIM. That will sort your data as these eSIM plans usually do not come with a telephone number so no call and text will be available. If you need to use call and text you can still use your physical SIM (which will coexist with the eSIM) but roaming charges will apply.

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