Affordable Thailand Travel with Family
Affordable Thailand Travel with Family: Tips to plan an epic Thailand Vacation, including where to go in Thailand, what to do, and gluten free dining options!
Family Thailand Vacation
When we started planning our summer vacation last winter, we knew it was time for a grand adventure.
Although we’ve traveled abroad several times as a family, our babies are now 14 and 16 years old… And always ready to try something new!
We started a family bucket list for travel and narrowed it down by things we like to do, and by culinary favorites.
It was clear we were going to Southeast Asia.
Narrowing the trip down further by places we wanted to see, and time restraints, we decided to focus our 4 week adventure on Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.
Today’s post is the first in a series of three posts, sharing our experiences and travel tips for Southeast Asia Travel.
Is Thailand Expensive To Visit?
Can your family travel to Thailand on a budget? Absolutely.
Most people believe you either have to be extremely wealthy or a backpacking nomad to travel the world. Yet it’s just not true.
You can plan an absolutely amazing trip, including nice hotels and plenty of activities, on a budget.
In fact, in many countries, including Thailand, your daily expenses are much less than in the United States or Europe. Therefore your greatest cost of the entire trip is international airfare.
If you plan ahead, and watch ticket prices, you can certainly get a deal on airfare tickets as well.
Affordable Thailand Travel with Family
Yet what about everything else…
- How will you figure out what to budget?
- How will you find the right hotels and excursions?
- How will you get around from city to city?
- How will you find clean eating options?
If you’ve never planned an overseas trip before, these things can be a little daunting.
Furthermore, if you have planned a big trip on your own, you know just how time-consuming and weighty the planning process can be. Especially when there are many unknown factors. Anxiety overload.
I’d like to make a suggestion… Find someone to help you!
Southeast Asia Travel Company
For our Southeast Asia Adventure, we decided to put our trust in a company called Sens Asia Travel.
Unlike many big American travel agencies, Sens Asia Travel is an economical option based in Southeast Asia. Their overhead is lower, and they pass the savings onto you. That means their prices are a better fit for average-income families!
Plus, locals know their own country better than we do, so they have the edge of planning the best experiences.
Sens Asia Travel offers exciting packages you can choose from, or they will customize a vacation just for your family, based on your length of stay, interests, and budget.
For Our Trip Sens Asia Booked:
- All our hotels (4 and 5 stars)
- All our daily activities (focused on family fun)
- An English-speaking guide each day
- A private air-conditioned van
- And booked many of our meals… All for one price.
It took so much stress off, we were able to take in the scenery and culture in a greater way!
What We Love About Thailand
Thailand is a breath-taking country made up of expansive beaches, lush jungles, mountain views, rice patties… And a few big cities.
It’s an amazing place for a culinary adventure! From street cart stops, to multi-course fine dining, authentic Thai food does not disappoint.
Because Thailand has been open to tourism for much longer than many surrounding countries, the Thai people have developed all sorts of fabulous ways for you to experience their culture.
Several of our most epic days, of the entire trip, were in Thailand…
- A trip to the floating market just south of Bangkok
- Our elephant camp day
- And the best cooking class I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to a LOT!)
Where To Go In Thailand
Deciding what part of Thailand to visit can be tricky, especially if your time is short.
Most people have to decide to either start in Bangkok and go south to the beaches, or start in Bangkok and go north to the mountains.
Although the beaches are dazzling, we wanted the kids to experience the wonders of Northern Thailand, with its mountainous jungles and elephants.
We Went To:
- Bangkok – For street food and the floating market.
- Ayutthaya – To see temples and ruins.
- Chiang Mai – Because it’s amazing! Elephants, mountains, and the best cooking class ever.
- Chiang Rai – To see a famous temple and the golden triangle. We also visited the Queens’s garden and hit the streets at the night market.
If I had to pick just one stop, Chiang Mai is the undisputed winner.
Chiang Mai is a large city, resting in the mountains. Yet it’s broken up into small neighborhoods, so it doesn’t feel very big.
Chiang Mai has a modern funky vibe, mixed with traditional Thai customs and culture. You’ll find unique shopping areas, hip restaurants, golden temples, gardens, hiking trails, and all sorts of fun day trips!
Is Thailand Easy To Travel?
Is it hard to get around in Thailand? Yes and no.
There are taxis in all the cities. Yet you need to negotiate a price before stepping foot into the car. Thai cabbies are notorious for ripping people off.
There is a service similar to Uber and Lift, call Grab. We used it a few times with success.
There are affordable trains to most major cities. (We took the overnight sleeper car train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.)
However, I would not suggest renting a car. People drive on the left side of the road in Thailand, which can be quite an adjustment for US travelers. Add that to… A) not being able to read most street signs, B) massive traffic, and C) millions of mopeds weaving in and out. I wouldn’t risk it.
We were very happy to have our private van and driver almost everywhere we went. Thanks Sens Asia!
Is It Safe To Travel In Thailand?
Let me answer this question with another question… Is it safe to visit New Orleans, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, or Detroit? Some would say no.
In most cases, it is safe to travel to Thailand. Especially if you are planning a family trip, and will be back at the hotel each night before the witching hour.
Most “incidents” with tourists in Thailand are related to the use of alcohol, drugs, or mopeds. Just stay off the mopeds and addictive substances, and you should be fine. *wink*
What Is The Best Month To Go To Thailand?
This is tricky to answer because the climate is very different in the north and south of Thailand.
However, most people agree that the cooler months, November through March are the best time.
However, we visited Thailand in July during our kids summer break. It was hot, but we still had a wonderful time.
Plus, you can get a great deal on hotels and activities when traveling in the hot or rainy season!
Where To Eat In Thailand
I suggest you eat everywhere and everything!
In Thailand, you will find amazing meals around every corner. Some of the best tidbits we tasted were at street food carts and divey noodle shops.
Don’t be afraid to explore beyond the Pineapple Fried Rice and Pad Thai. If you only stick with the dishes you’ve heard of, you will be sorely missing out.
Night markets are a great place to discover exotic street foods.
Gluten Free Thai Foods
My daughter Ava is very allergic to gluten.
We prepared for the Thailand trip by ordering allergy cards translated in Thai, and by researching foods she could eat that were almost always gluten free.
On top of avoiding wheat noodles, we had to be careful about soy sauce, because most brands still put gluten in soy sauce. Fortunately, fish sauce is often used in place of soy sauce in many Thai dishes.
Ava Could Eat:
- Almost all the Thai curry dishes
- Sticky rice
- Coconut pancakes
- Some Tom Yum Soup variations
- Some rice noodle dishes
- Green papaya and mango salads
- Sweet mango sticky rice
We were careful to show our card at each restaurant or vender. Most of the time, the owners were very helpful.
Thailand Trip Take-Aways
Our Thailand travel experience was fantastic! However, if we could do it all over again, we would potentially change a few things in our itinerary to better suit our family.
More Nature – Less Temples
There are over 40,000 Buddist temples in Thailand. Many of which are golden, ornate, and studded with colored mirrors. They are definitely worth a visit!
However, the Thai people are very proud of their brilliantly decorated temples and often want to show you all of them. This gets old, especially for the kids.
When you’re planning your Thailand vacation at home, all the temples look incredible in photos, and you will be tempted to add more to the list… Resist. Pick one or two special temples you might like to visit.
Then spend the rest of your trip exploring hidden city streets, markets, natural wonders, and outdoor adventures. At least that’s what we would do!
First Day Down Time
Since we didn’t want to miss out on anything, we planned a full first day in Bangkok. However, our flight was delayed, so we arrived in Bangkok much later than expected.
After a day and a half of travel, and a 3 am hotel arrival, we got up a 6 am and hit the city streets. We all died a little inside that day.
In retrospect, we should have taken a full day to recover at the glorious Avani hotel (as Sens Asia recommended.)
Yet the combination of FOMO and the “we’ll be fine” mentality overruled. Lesson learned.
Special thanks to Sens Asia Travel for planning such an amazing experience for us.
Be sure to check in next week for our travel post on Laos!
What a great trip! The pictures are gorgeous, and the food sounds wonderful!
What beautiful, inspiring pictures of Thailand. I need to be more adventurous in my travel. I was talking with a girlfriend about meeting up Thailand some day. We need to make that happen soon. So gorgeous!