Thailand with kids: an unforgettable family holiday you CAN afford

From action-packed cities to spectacular landscapes, crystal-clear beaches, and mouth-watering food on every corner, Thailand is a dream family holiday destination for a very achievable budget. Here’s our experience visiting Thailand with kids. 

As a glimpse of the sun’s warm rays begins to emerge from between the curtains, the magnificent sound of trumpeting elephants booms into our room and excitement for the coming day’s adventure begins as soon as our eyes open.

When you are on a family holiday in Thailand—specifically at the Elephant Nature Park (ENP)—this is the magical way your family can wake from a peaceful slumber in the mountains of Chiang Mai, in the South East Asian country’s northern province (which is a quick/cheap flight from Bangkok).

 

Elephants Bathing in the River at Elephant Nature Park Thailand

Elephants bathing in the river at Elephant Nature Park, Thailand.

 

KOTC issue out now MREC

Thailand with kids – visiting the Elephant Nature Park

It’s no secret why Thailand has been a popular family holiday destination for Australians for decades. And post-COVID, none of its excitement, charm or incredible experiences have diminished. If anything, it’s more vibrant and family-friendly than it’s ever been.

A 90-minute drive from Chiang Mai, ENP is leading the charge in Thailand’s new era of conscious tourism. The park is led by its founder, Lek Chailert, who is famous worldwide for her conservation efforts.

Visitors can come for half and full-day tours, overnight stays, and for weeks at a time in volunteer programs.

We chose the two-day/one-night program (children of any age are welcome). It is very popular, so it should be booked on the website in advance. Once we get to the grounds of the incredible animal sanctuary, it’s easy to see why.In 1995, ENP started with just four elephants. Now, 123 of the graceful animals (correct at the time of publication) roam its 450 acres. There are also rescued dogs, cats, buffalo, pigs, rabbits, cows, horses, chickens and ducks. Incredibly, there are more than 4,000 animals who call ENP home, each lovingly cared for by vets, staff, and volunteers.

Walking through the grounds with our guide, Tommy, he knows every inch of the park and all the elephants by name. It is a truly life-altering experience, and it shows how humanity can make a difference.

Elephants Can Roam As They Please at Elephant Nature Park Thailand

Elephants can roam as they please at Elephant Nature Park, Thailand

 

An ethical elephant experience in Thailand

This is arguably the most ethical elephant experience in Thailand. You can admire the magnificent animals from less than a metre away without any barriers while maintaining safety and respect for all involved.

From the moment you leave your hotel in Chiang Mai, ENP takes care of everything. This includes hearty vegan buffets that completely satisfy our meat-eating family more than we could have imagined, as well as plenty of tasty child-friendly Thai dishes.

Breakfast is enjoyed in the outdoor pavilion dining room overlooking the elephant paddock. A small herd of graceful animals is also enjoying their watermelon and cucumber treats. Meanwhile, others prepare for the day, dusting themselves in enormous piles of red mud to protect their skin from the sun and insects.

Breakfast with the Elephants at Elephant Nature Park Thailand

Breakfast with the elephants at Elephant Nature Park, Thailand

 

Accommodation within the park is spacious and modern apartment style. Just a few steps from where you can laze away the afternoon watching the herds bathing in the river or cheekily playing tricks on their caretakers (called mahouts, and each elephant has their own).

The highlight of our experience was a leisurely morning walk through the jungle. During this, we were able to hand-feed bananas to a small herd of elephants. We felt the skin of their trunks gently brush up against us, and they excitedly came back for more.

Feeding Bananas to the Elephants at Elephant Nature Park Thailand

Feeding bananas to the elephants at Elephant Nature Park, Thailand

 

Thailand family holiday – Krabi with kids

From Chiang Mai, we take a short flight (that’s also super cheap thanks to budget airlines such as AirAsia) to Krabi. Krabi is a province in southern Thailand on the shore of the Andaman Sea.

While many Aussies take the direct path to Phuket for their beach break, Krabi arguably has so much more to offer and isn’t overrun by heavy traffic and hordes of tourists. So, if you are looking for where to go in Thailand with kids, Krabi is a great choice.

In fact, Krabi has every type of beach or island holiday you could ask for in one place.

Our base is Ao Nang, a beautiful beachside resort town 45 minutes from Krabi Airport. It is a well-connected gateway to a multitude of islands and adventures, some of which we have the pleasure of exploring on day trips by longtail boat.

on a Longboat Tour in Krabi Islands Thailand

On a longboat tour in Krabi Islands, Thailand

 

Moo Baba

Where to stay in Krabi with kids

Centara Resorts has four hotels in Ao Nang. We have the flexibility to spend a few nights at each of the three properties that suit our modest budget to see different sides of what Krabi has to offer. And we’re so glad we did because this bustling little town is perfect for walking (with stroller-friendly footpaths, which is oh-so-rare in Thailand).  We spent a lot of time exploring the neighbourhoods on foot to discover tasty and cheap eats. We also found amazing deals for a sunset snorkelling day trip at streetside tourist desks.

Centara Ao Nang

Centara Ao Nang Beach Resort (rates from $159) is literally heaven for families wanting the quintessential resort experience. Its modern family rooms are enormous and overlook the main pool, which happily occupies our child with its two slides for many hours a day.

The hotel is right on the beach, with another adult pool/bar on the front. Dips in the sea and sandcastles require zero effort.

Poolside at Centara Ao Nang Krabi Thailand

Poolside at Centara Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand

 

Centara Anda Dhevi

The next stop is Centara Anda Dhevi (rates from $80), which also has a slide in its enormous pool and swim-up rooms. This property is on the other side of town, between Ao Nang and Noppharathara beaches. It is set back a couple of streets from the shoreline—conveniently just steps from the best massage I’ve ever experienced for just $15.

Beach at Centara Ao Nang Krabi Thailand

Beach at Centara Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand

 

Centra by Centara Phu Pano

Krabi has incredible mountain vistas, which are visible from our third spot, Centra by Centara Phu Pano (rates from $73). It’s an easy 10-minute drive to Ao Nang Beach with very little traffic, promise! Everything, including the infinity pool, is sleek and modern but still kid-friendly, making it the perfect base for a family holiday. There are bunks in family rooms and lots of space for them to run around.

View from the Family Room at Centra Phu Pano

View from the family room at Centra Phu Pano

 

Food-wise, you can’t go wrong with any of the three hotels. All serve amazing buffet breakfasts with both Western and Asian options. And you have endless choices of restaurants, cafes and shops within easy walking distance.

Our wish was to have a stress-free family holiday that ticked off several lifetime bucket list items. Thailand delivered and so much more.

More information about Elephant Nature Park’s Overnight Experience can be found here, and Centara Hotels can be found here.

By Josephine Agostino


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Servicing Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and beyond, Kids on the Coast is an online guide for parents with kids events, attractions & things to do with kids, schools and education, school holiday guides, health & wellbeing for families, parenting and lifestyle news located on Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast & Brisbane, QLD.

 

 

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By Angela Sutherland
After spending many years hustling stories on busy editorial desks around the world, Angela is now mum of two little ones and owner/editor at Kids on the Coast / Kids in the City. She is an atrocious cook and loves cutting shapes to 90s dance music. Angela is the editor of Kids on the Coast - a free family magazine whats on guide for Kids: things to do, school holiday fun and free activities for kids... Fun attractions, family food & travel, kids health & wellbeing, kids parties venues, parenting, pregnancy & babies, guide for parents. Servicing Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and beyond, Kids on the Coast is an online guide for parents with kids things to do with kids, schools and education and lifestyle news located on Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast & Brisbane, QLD.

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