Bangkok with children travel guide

Think of Bangkok and you probably picture a sprawling Asian mega city that’s more suited to backpackers and partygoers than families and kids. But it’s a hugely engaging and surprisingly family-friendly city. And with plenty of modes of transport and the centre of a nation that adores children, Bangkok represents an ideal stopover destination for families.

One of the main reasons that we like Bangkok so much is that it effortlessly allows us to blend a relaxing family break with a more adventurous and cultured experience. If you pick a hotel with a pool, you can spend half a day exploring the city and the other half lapping up the sunshine while your kids splash about.

With average annual temperatures of 28 degrees C (84F) and average daily sunshine topping out at 7 hours, it’s a consistent destination, which rewards the inquisitive.  Here, we take a look at some of the more child-friendly attractions for families.

Quick Tips

  • Bangkok is hot and humid, so make sure you travel everywhere with bottles of water handy
  • Boats and trains in Bangkok are so simple to use, however don’t forget about Uber. Incredibly cheap and reliable, you can get from one side of the city to the other for $5. Traffic allowing of course
  • Buying tickets online or booking through your hotel can often get you discounts
  • May to October is rainy season with September generally Bangkok’s wettest month

Child-friendly things to do in Bangkok

Siam Ocean World

Located in the basement of the Siam Paragon shopping mall, this is Bangkok’s Sea Life Centre, the largest of its kind in Asia and a great half day visit for your family. This is a really slick attraction, with large glass tanks and glass walk-through tunnels featuring sharks, rays, turtles and of course, Nemo and Dory. It’s air conditioned and you can venture through the different zones at your own pace.

Thankfully, it doesn’t get too crowded and while you may have to wait your turn to press your nose up against one of the tanks, you’ll never feel too claustrophobic. As it’s located in a shopping mall, you’ve got a good opportunity to get food and refreshments before or after your visit.

  • Cost: Children under the age of three are free. Children 3-11 are 350 Baht, adults are 390 Baht
  • Tickets: You can purchase tickets on the door, or if you book 24-hours in advance online here you can get as much as a 30% discount
  • How to get there: To get to Siam Paragon shopping mall, get the BTS SkyTrain to Siam Station and use exit 5 to take you to Siam Ocean World
  • More information: www.sealifebangkok.com

Chao Phraya River and Canal Boat rides

The River of Kings isn’t the prettiest or cleanest but its intrigue and access to major tourist spots in Bangkok make it a must for families. Plenty of boats travel up and down the Chao Phraya with regular hop-on, hop-off tourist boats available that don’t cost much for a day ticket.

You can also book private tours on smaller boats, which take you along the canal networks behind the main river, allowing you to see how the locals live.

  • Cost: 150 Baht for an all day travel ticket on the tourist boat. Private hire costs vary, expect to pay in the region of 500-800 Baht for a two hour trip
  • Tickets: Purchase them at the piers or on the boat, make sure you have change handy. Book private boats at piers or from your hotel.
  • How to get there: The tourist boat stops at 8 different piers. 
  • More information: Visit the Tourist Boat website.

Tuk-Tuks

Zooming in and out of traffic around the backstreets of Bangkok make Tuk-Tuks one of the quickest form of transport in the city. They’re also hands down the most fun. Our three year old boy absolutely loved zipping around one of these. Be prepared to haggle with the driver and note that their English isn’t always as good as cab drivers, so it always helps to have your destination written down.

Tuk-Tuk ride in Bangkok
Tuk-Tuk ride in Bangkok

Jim Thompson House

Perhaps not an obvious choice, as Jim Thompson and his silk doesn’t scream child-friendly. He was an American living in Thailand and who helped to reinvigorate the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s. However his house is a tranquil oasis in a city of noise, cars and sky-rise buildings.

Jim Thompson house
Jim Thompson house

The house is a wonderfully preserved collection of six wooden buildings, built in traditional Thai style and with all of the original antiques and art on display. Your entry ticket gives you a timed guided tour of the house and grounds, which takes about 45 minutes and then you’re free to wander about.

If the tour of the house starts doesn’t interest your little ones, then the demonstrations on how silk is made will. You can witness skilled craftsmen using silkworm cocoons to spin out thread – and if your child is lucky enough, they’re given a cocoon to take home with them.

One final note is that the hosts and guides are excellent with children. Before our timed tour, our son was in awe of their origami making skills and was delighted when he was given a number of these as gifts. If the older kids are lucky enough, they’re given quick lessons to fold their own paper art.

 

  • Cost: 150 Baht for adults, 100 Baht if you’re under 22
  • Tickets: You can buy these on the door, no need to book in advance
  • How to get there: Located in central Bangkok and not far from Siam Ocean World (see above). Closest stop on the BTS is National Stadium
  • More information: www.jimthompsonhouse.com

Floating Markets

There are a number of floating markets around Bangkok although note that in some cases the definition of ‘floating’ is relatively loose; some are better and busier than others.

Ranging from 30 minutes to an almost two hour drive away from Bangkok, these represent half or full day trips. If you book a private tour, expect a trip in a canal boat to arrive at the market in style, which is a lot of fun if your kids are the right age.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that these markets have been around for centuries as some are actually quite new, however that doesn’t necessarily make them any less authentic. As an example, Khlong Lat Mayom is one of the newest floating markets, located quite close to the centre of Bangkok, but rarely visited by tourists. Its canal is very narrow, meaning only a few boats can pull up to sell their goods so most of the market stalls are on dry land.

Despite this, the market is bustling and with things you might actually want to buy. Fresh fruit and vegetable stands as well as snacks and street food reign over touristy gifts.

At the other end of the scale is Damnoen Saduak, perhaps the most well known and therefore busiest of the floating markets. It’s probably a bit too busy if you’re going with kids and therefore perhaps a little daunting, so one to avoid.

 

  • Cost: Variable, depending if you book a private tour or go it alone. Expect to pay anywhere between 250 – 750 Baht for an organised trip
  • Tickets: Widely available and can be booked in most hotels
  • How to get there: Some can be reached by cab, however most private tours use minibuses

Lumphini Park

In the heart of Bangkok sits Lumphini Park, a peaceful green space built in the 1920s on what was Royal property. Escaping the noise, traffic and relentlessness of the city can be difficult, so Lumphini is a welcome destination for locals and travellers.

Dogs aren’t allowed in the park and the open spaces, artificial lake with boating and monitor lizards make this a great place to visit with children.

 

  • Cost: It’s free to enter, although you have to pay for boats and access to the exercise yard
  • Tickets: n/a
  • How to get there: Silom or Lumphini MRT Stations will take you direct to the park

Asiatique

This is a relatively new attraction in Bangkok, situated right on the Chao Phraya river and just south of the Saphan Taksin BTS station. Opening at 5pm, Asiatique offers shopping, restaurants, entertainment and big wheel, with views across the city.

The shopping here is focused on fashion and gadgets although offers a range of souvenirs and the usual delights that Thai markets have to offer. Many of the small boutiques are run by young locals selling independent collections of art, clothes, jewellery and gifts.

There’s a mix of street food-style vendors and larger restaurants with AirCon, many of which are child-friendly with a good selection of food from kid’s menus.

The big wheel is a big attraction and at the base are other rides and opportunities for older kids to have fun. With a free shuttle boat operating from Thaksin Pier, Asiatique is an ideal evening out for families.

Big wheel at AsiatiqueBig wheel at Asiatique

The things we pack for a plane journey with our child

When we go out for the day with our child, my wife brings along a backpack that contains a solution to every eventuality. It weighs more than our four year old boy. But she likes to be prepared and she takes no chances, even though I can’t remember the last time we opened it.

We have the same levels of obsessive planning when we fly, although the bag is lighter and it gets used more often. Here’s what we pack in the bag every time we fly.

The practical stuff

The Bag

We think that it’s important that the bag we pack for our boy is one that he can take ownership of and identify as his own. This means that the bag we pack with his stuff in, is his bag and for him to own it, he has to love it. In our case, we’ve got him a Trunki.

If you don’t know of these, you’ve probably seen one wheeled through an airport. They’re a true genius invention and one that we take on every trip. If you’ve not heard of a Trunki, they’re a mini suitcase with four wheels, that kids can sit on and which parents can drag along behind them. Their size complies with carry-on baggage rules, so no need to check them in.

c/o Trunki website

You can also purchase an accompanying insert ‘purse’, which we take out and use as our go-to bag when we’ve sat down on the plane, avoiding having to get the Trunki down from the overhead compartment.

Toys – that he chooses

We get our son involved in packing his bag, and in preparation for the holiday, he can choose some small toys to take. He generally chooses a random collection, and this gives him some familiarity when he’s in new environments.

A change of clothes

We always carry a spare change of clothes, and not always because of an accident or in preparation for lost luggage. If we’re travelling on a night flight, we will take his pyjamas with us, in order to settle him in to his night time routine.

Empty collapsible water bottle

Something like this is a brilliant bottle to take away as when it’s empty (like, before you go through security) it takes up no space at all. When you’re on the plane, just ask the cabin crew to fill it up with fresh water and they’ll be more than happy to oblige.

c/o Amazon / Delong

Wipes

Where would we be without that flexible little packet of wipes? Before eating, after eating, cleaning up spillages etc. We take loads of these away with us.

Snacks

While most airlines provide excellent food options, having familiar snacks available for those times in between meals is a good idea. We tend to bring dried fruit bars, raisins, and other longer-life snacks that don’t take up too much room.

Entertainment

Although our kids are growing up in a digital generation, an iPad or in-flight entertainment system won’t hold their attention for the duration of a plane journey. Certainly not ours anyway. And with new rules preventing large devices being taken on board certain flights into the UK and US, parents have to get creative. So what do we do?

Prizes

We wrap and pack some prizes for the plane, to reward the little man for good behaviour. These are an incredibly manipulative but hugely successful method for managing children on long journeys!

Read about our Reward System idea in our Top Tips for Stress-free travelling here.

Headphones

Okay so it’s inevitable that they’ll want to watch something on a screen, so instead of using the in-flight earphones, which aren’t always suitable for little ears, we’ve bought our own. The first time we used these Batman headphones, we surprised him on the plane with them and he was delighted. Make sure that you also get some earphone adapters for the seat sockets too.

c/o Amazon

Playdough (or Play-doh for our non British friends)

They’re cheap, they come in transportable little pots, and kids can spend hours mashing around with these on a flight.

Good old fashioned pens and paper

When we’re on the way home, we get our little boy to draw pictures of his favourite memories from the holiday; making his own postcards for Grandma.

 

 

 

The time we took a two year old to Australia

When my sister-in-law moved from Britain to Australia, I was looking forward to holidays in the sun, surfing lessons and shrimps on the barbie. And the reality wasn’t far from that, until she decided to get married in 2016. What was meant to be an exciting and memorable experience turned into something a little more nerve-wracking for us… because we were travelling with our two year old boy.

Our son began his terrible two period when he was about 18-months old and was really perfecting his tantrums, meltdowns and stubbornness by the time we booked the flights. Our apprehension levels were peaking with the thought of a 14-hour flight from Dubai to Sydney and that’s ignoring the 7-hour flight before that.

We’d taken our boy on two long-haul flights before, so it wasn’t his first experience of spending hours cooped up in the cabin. But this one was twice as long with twice as many opportunities to scream the plane down.

The one thing going in our favour was the ample time we had to prepare for the trip. We had learned a lot from our previous flights and although he was younger and more predictable then (ha, as if kids are ever predictable), at least he was used to the routine. And it was this prep that made the trip bearable and almost stress-free.

Although it’s almost impossible for a long-haul flight to pass without incident, he was absolutely golden from the moment we left our house, to the moment we arrived at my sister-in-law’s house, 27-hours later.

Was this a miracle or did we manage it?

Ah maybe it was a bit of both, but I’ll take you through what we did in preparation.

Long before the flight, we talked to our son about the trip and that it would include a long time in two planes. We emphasised the importance of behaving well and this regular discussion did get through to him as he began asking us questions about it. We wanted to prepare him for the journey but also to embrace it as part of the holiday.

Before flying, we bought a number of small rewards, like toys, books and even snacks, which we wrapped up for him to open. We gave him one in the airport and told him that if he was a good boy, he would get more opportunities to earn one of these.

We’ve since evolved this to create a sticker system, whereby if he gets three stickers for good behaviour, he’ll get a gift and this worked really well. We carried this system through the holiday and it got to the point that he would be asking us whether he’d been good enough to get a sticker.

We also got him a pair of child-friendly headphones before we flew, with an adapter so that he could use them to watch the TV in the back of his seat. We actually got him used to wearing these in the weeks running up to flying so that he was comfortable wearing them. He was really excited about wearing these on the plane and as he was used to them it didn’t become a battle.

We also took some books, play-dough and puzzles on the plane as activities, although I was worried that the play-dough would become missiles and he’d target other passengers. Luckily, this didn’t come to fruition.

We flew with Emirates and we knew that they were good with kids. At the start of the flight, they give all kids a cuddly toy that doubles as a sleeping blanket and a sketch pad to play with. The food for kids was good also and they were generous with the snacks they had on offer.

We all suffered with jet lag to an extent although he got into his normal sleeping routine within a day. The wedding went well, although he didn’t like wearing a shirt in 25 degree heat and who can blame him.

We flew home via ten days in Thailand, which broke the journey up. Once again we deployed the above techniques and the little man was excellently behaved. Parents of the year we may not be, but when it comes to flying with children, I think we’re doing pretty well.

I’ve just jinxed us, haven’t I?

The five things we consider before booking a holiday with our child

January and February are the busiest months of the year for holiday bookings. We know how much money we have left over from Christmas and the dreary new year weather compel us to book something we can look forward to.

And we’re no different, having booked our June holiday to Croatia before we went back to work in January. So what are the key things that we consider before booking a holiday, now that we have our little man to think of?

1. What are the local hospitals and medical care like?

We’ve had to take our son to see a medical professional twice while we’ve been on holiday – both times in Thailand and both times being ear infections, probably picked up from swimming pools. Not a nice experience, however we were glad to have quality care nearby.

This was a key consideration before we booked and we discounted a number of destinations because we weren’t confident with the facilities. Oh, and the hospital in Bangkok was more like a five star hotel!

2. What times do the flights take off and land?

Rocking up in a new country at 8am after a long flight might give you the opportunity for a full day’s exploring or chilling on the beach, but it might not be the best time for your nippers.

I remember checking in to a Bangkok hotel just before midnight and after a pleasant, sleep-filled flight, our boy was wide awake while we were exhausted and with no hope of getting him down.

While it’s not always possible to choose the most convenient flight times (I’m looking at you Ryan Air), it’s worth planning your take off or arrival times. Of course this depends on the length of the flight, however the last thing you want is for your child to fall asleep during the journey and then be completely wired for when you arrive at your hotel at 10pm.

3. Does the hotel have child-friendly facilities?

Perhaps the most obvious one on the list and for good reason. Checking out what child-friendly facilities a hotel has before booking is a must. Some hotels will have a kids club, or a room with toys, books and even computers to keep the kids entertained.

Hotels have other facilities designed to ensure you and your children enjoy the best stay possible. Some include a babysitting service (often at a charge), where a member of staff will stay in your room while your child sleeps, giving you a chance to visit the restaurant in peace. If you don’t have this luxury, then check whether the hotel has a menu for children in the restaurant. If they don’t, it’s likely that the hotel won’t be catering for your kids in other ways too.

4. How far is the hotel from the airport?

This may seem obvious but is easily overlooked. Often the most difficult part of the journey is arriving at an airport abroad, with tired and over-excited kids, only to have another hour or two to travel before you actually arrive at your destination.

This happened to us when we travelled to Turkey for an opportunity to grab some sun before the long winter set in. Arriving at the airport after a four-hour (and largely uneventful) flight was fine, however the two hour coach journey to the hotel wasn’t. We hadn’t brought a car seat and our boy, who was 18 months old at the time, was cranky, restless and noisy for the duration.

5. The weather

One of the reasons we enjoy going away is that my wife, born in South Africa, needs some sunny respite from the gloomy grey skies of Great Britain. However we have to be careful about where we go because the sun is so strong on such sensitive skin (I’m talking about my boy’s skin, as well as my delicate British skin).

So Greece in August in a complete no-go and when we do travel, we stockpile factor 50 sunscreen. When our boy was a baby, we’d dress him in a UV protection swimsuit and hat as well as covering him in sunscreen and that combination did the trick.

Top tips for stress-free travelling with kids

Tips for travelling with kids

Travelling on your own or in a group can be a stressful experience. Check-in, passport control, flights, transfers, language barriers and other such encounters can negate all the joy holidays bring.

Now imagine doing all of that with kids. 

Oh the carnage. I’ve been there, I’ve had a five month old vomit into my lap during take-off. However travelling with children doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. If you’ve got the time to plan a few simple things before you go, it may help reduce your blood pressure and increase your kid’s enjoyment.

We’ve been lucky enough to take a number of trips, both long-haul and short-haul with our little boy, and we’ve picked up a number of tips and ideas along the way that have made for a much easier ride (for him and us). (But mainly for us). And now we actually enjoy the travelling – even a 24-hour trip to Australia.

So here are our top six tips for travelling with a toddler that won’t guarantee to take all of the stresses away, but should make your experience that little bit easier.

1. Use a reward system

It can be difficult to keep your kids from melting down when you’re travelling, particularly with the excitement, new experiences and tiredness. One way to manage this is to use a reward system for good behaviour.

After a number of trips with varying degrees of success (spectacular failures in some cases), we nailed a sticker system that has worked a treat.

We set a challenge for our boy to behave well during stages of the holiday. This could be the check-in process, during takeoff, or while we’re at a restaurant and should he behave, he gets a sticker. For every three stickers, he’ll get a reward, which might be ice-cream or a chocolate or something more substantial like a toy.

My wife is amazing at preparing for trips, which has saved us on many an occasion. She’ll get a number of small, easy to pack presents (TK Maxx and Amazon are great for these), wrap them, and then take them away with us. These don’t take up much space in hand luggage and are hugely effective as a reward.

It’s even got to the stage where our boy has asked us whether his behaviour has warranted a sticker, and that’s when we realised we’d hit on something great!

2. Teach your child basic words in the native language

Teaching your child a few simple words in the language of the country you’re visiting is a sure fire way to win friends, as well as keep your kids entertained. A simple hello and thank you goes a long way and immediately scores you points with locals.

Check out language tutorial videos on YouTube before you travel, or even while you’re travelling, to get your kids engaged.

3. Make travelling part of the holiday

Someone once said that it’s not about the destination, it’s all about the journey, and how you get there. However when you go away on holiday with kids, it really is all about the destination.

However, a great tip for going on holiday with toddlers is to turn the travelling into part of the experience.

It’s tempting to tell your children about the beaches and swimming pools and all the activities you’ll do when you’re on holiday, but that means the journey is considered a hindrance to the good times. It’s blocking your kids from having fun. And that needn’t be the case.

Talking about the travel means that the moment your child sets foot outside of the house, they’re experiencing the holiday. Tell your kids about the plane, train or boat and what the captain and cabin crew do and how they’re taking you to your destination etc. This should introduce that element of excitement at the start of the holiday, not when you’re arriving.

4. Plan your flight times accordingly

Rocking up in a new country at 8am after a long flight might give you the opportunity for a full day’s exploring or chilling on the beach, but it might not be the best time for your nippers.

While it’s not always possible to choose the most convenient flight times (I’m looking at you Ryan Air), it’s worth planning your take off or arrival times. Of course this depends on the length of the flight, however the last thing you want is for your child to fall asleep during the journey and then be completely wired for when you arrive at your hotel at 10pm.

I remember checking in to a Bangkok hotel just before midnight and after a pleasant, sleep-filled flight, our boy was wide awake while we were exhausted and with no hope of getting him down.

5. Use a backpack for your hand luggage

Perhaps the most simple tip in this list. Using a backpack is so much easier than holding a bag – it means you have free hands for all the extra stuff you need when travelling with a child!

I made this mistake on my first trip away with my son. Carrying him in one hand and my bag in the other, and then his emergency bag (packed full with spare clothes, nappies, wipes etc.) around my neck wasn’t pleasant.

6. Have something organised for your first day back home

This is rarely planned yet so effective. I remember the days before child (BC) when our first day home was a mix of washing and chilling. And as any parent knows, chilling + children doesn’t go together.

Therefore in order to keep the kids entertained, it’s always a good idea to plan out your first day back so that you can keep their energy levels high and saves you from scratching around for ideas in that first-day-back-from-holiday-daze.

We also tend to do an online grocery order for delivery for our first day back (ensuring any delays are taking into account) so that we’re stocked up and don’t have to drag our kids around the store.