Travelling to Thailand with a one-year-old - Swandoo (2024)

After a trip to Thailand with her one-year-old, first-time mum, Julia, shares her experience and what you can expect when travelling to the Southeast Asian country with your little one in tow.

Travelling to Thailand with a one-year-old - Swandoo (1)

At the beginning of this year, we swapped winter coats for bathing suits, radiators for air-cons and blankets of white snow (oh, I wish!) for stretches of white beach. In short, we took our 13-month-old daughter on a holiday to Thailand. Now, this country has always had a special place for my husband and I. Not only is it where we met many moons ago, but we were also lucky to call Bangkok our home for a handful of years. With this, I mean to say that Thailand wasn’t completely new territory for us.

However, as any parent will tell you, travelling with children is a very different experience, for which we weren’t necessarily any better prepared for. Without the need for them, you simply don’t tend to check if high-chairs are commonly available in restaurants (they are!) or whether the local convenience stores stock diapers (they do!). So, with my child-centric goggles on, I’ve rounded up some of the key things to keep in mind when planning your own Thailand family adventure.

The land of smiles, the land that loves children

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As parents, I think we can all relate to the discomfort of feeling unwelcome in certain places when out with children. The rolling of eyes, annoyed side glances, maybe even a barely audible huff indicate that you are disrupting the social etiquette of a particular place. Not in Thailand! Believe me when I tell you that if you had to choose a travel destination by the degree of how child-loving it is, Thailand would definitely rank in the top five at least. At every restaurant we ate and hotel we stayed at, the staff made such a big deal out of our daughter, calling her name when we walked by, interacting with her and sometimes even carrying her around. Everywhere we went people smiled and waved at her, taxi drivers, shop assistants and even strangers walking past, you name it.

Without trying to generalise, we had the prevailing feeling that Thais love children. A quick word of warning, however: there were a few occasions where random people took photos without asking, tried to touch and even hold her. Coming from Europe where this is a definite no-go, it took us by surprise and made us feel slightly uncomfortable at first. Throughout our trip, we started to feel more relaxed about it and even had some lovely interactions with locals. It’s part of the culture and where to draw the line between what is and isn’t acceptable simply differs. So, whilst it’s good to be prepared so as not to be caught off guard, there’s no need to worry – a polite “no” is usually all it takes to deter any unwanted attention.

This sentiment is mirrored at airports in the way they put families first. It was a pleasant surprise after a long flight to enter the country via a priority lane instead of having to wait another hour or so in the immigration queue. The same was true for airport security checks as well as boarding the flight. Sometimes travelling with children really has its perks! That this is no secret is attested by the many families we saw travelling with young children, one even as young as six months.

In addition to being made to feel truly welcome as a family, there is also loads to do with children. Our daughter loves water, so she was happy as a clam when the days consisted of bathing in the sea and splashing around in the hotel pools. Another current favourite of hers is discovering new animals. She screeched in excitement when wild monkeys swung from tree to tree in Krabi and loved watching the elephants roam around at a conservation camp in the mountains near to Chiang Mai.

Transport

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A few tips on tackling the long journey there, and some recommendations for travelling around the country as safely as possible.

Getting there

Long-haul flights are always exhausting, but all in all, I think we managed pretty well. Here’s what we did: both ways we flew direct and overnight. I know this is a long time on the plane (around 11 hours on average), but as it was night time our daughter was asleep for large chunks of it which meant 5 hours less of entertaining a tiny, restless human in the space of a shoe box. Three other reasons why I recommend direct flights are (1) fewer take-offs and landings which can be difficult with small children, (2) a shorter journey in total and (3) she wasn’t woken up by the kerfuffle of getting on and off the plane had she just fallen asleep.

In regards to seats I need to add that our daughter is under two years old, which means that she didn’t have her own seat (ugh!), but also that she only paid a tiny fraction of the flight ticket (yay!). If possible, I recommend booking the seats with extra legroom and an optional bassinet. We were sat in both a standard row on the flight there and in the roomier one on the way back and compared side by side I would definitely opt for the latter again. Even though our daughter slept the entire time on me (transfer into the bassinet was unsuccessful), the bassinet functioned as storage space to keep her water and snacks handy, whilst the extra leg room meant she had a bit of space to move around in without disturbing our neighbours too much. We didn’t reserve these seats in advance but were lucky and we were offered them at check-in on the return flight. However, if you want to make sure, I presume that you could either book them online or by calling ahead (for an extra charge depending on the airline company).

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Getting around

Despite our apprehensions, flying (there and within the country) was pretty straight forward. What we found more challenging,however, was getting around on land with children. Whilst it is now mandatory for children to travel in Thailand in a child car seat as of 2022, there are several exemptions. The reality, however, is that children’s car seats are still far from commonplace (this is a country where you still see a family of four travelling on one motorbike). So, to ensure some level of safety, you could either bring your own car seat with you (an infant carrier such as Albert can often be brought on planes free of charge) or rent one there. The problem, however, is that you can’t always count on taxis having seat belts (and certainly no ISOFIX) so unless you hire your own car, your best chance is to book a vehicle via Grab (Thailand’s version of Uber). Another option is to research and book airport transfer or shuttle service companies that offer children’s car seats in advance.

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To avoid road travel in Bangkok as much as possible, I suggest staying close to a Skytrain or MRT (underground network) station. Whilst it isn’t yet comprehensive, public transport has been largely expanded over the last few years. New lines continue to be built making it now possible to explore the Old Town with its famous temples, the many shopping centres and rooftop bars downtown as well as the giant weekend market Chatuchak without being stuck in Bangkok’s infamous traffic.

For the rest of the country, I recommend opting for destinations that are easily reached by either plane (i.e., phu*ket, Krabi, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai) or train (i.e., Kanchanaburi,Hua Hin, Chiang Mai).

Amenities

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Whilst baby high-chairs were commonplace in most restaurants, especially in tourist destinations, diaper changing tables were not ­– with shopping malls and airports being the exception. I always have a portable changing mat with me in case an emergency should strike.

On that note, you’ll be glad to hear that there’s no need to exceed the standard checked luggage allowance by bringing your baby’s entire wardrobe as laundry services are easy to find. Whilst in most hotels, it’s possible to have your clothes cleaned, you will also stumble across plenty of small street side places (in tourist hotspots) offering washing services.

In terms of sleeping arrangements, a lot depends on your type of lodging. Whilst we didn’t stay in uber luxurious resorts, our accommodation was certainly a step up from our former backpacking days and we were offered the option of a crib at every hotel we stayed at.

Supplies

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All in all, there is not all that much that you have to bring with you across continents. In Bangkok, pretty much everything is readily available. A variety of tropical fruit is often sold pre-cut and peeled along busy thoroughfares, whilst diapers, wet wipes and a limited array of ready-to-eat meals including toasties, boiled eggs and yoghurts (mostly sweetened) are stocked at the ubiquitous 7-11 conveniences stores. For a larger selection of baby-specific foods and other items, it’s best to head to one of the larger supermarkets such as Tops Market, Villa Market, Big C and the Food Halls located at larger shopping malls. I would say it’s similar, although on a much smaller scale, in Chiang Mai and maybe even phu*ket, but the further remote you travel, the better it is to ensure you have all your essentials with you. Don’t let your stay on a tropical beach be spoilt by frantically searching for a pack of diapers in the right size!

When it comes to restaurants, it’s – as the saying goes – “same, same but different”. As long as you stay clear of the super spicy dishes Thailand is known for and maybe try to limit the ones that are doused in sodium-high fish sauce, there are quite a few options for toddlers. We have quite a fussy eater, but our daughter enjoyed both plain and fried rice, fried noodle dishes such as Pad Thai or Pad See Ew, coconutty Tom Kha Gai, spring rolls, grilled fish, squid and of course, fruit. In more tourist-centric places, you’ll find plenty of Western restaurants with the usual staples of chips, Spaghetti Bolognese and pizza as well.

Health

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Before even heading on your trip, make sure you purchase travel insurance! I know it’s annoying to pay another 150 euros or so but better to be safe than sorry, especially when travelling with little ones. With that in your pocket, I’m happy to tell you that in general, healthcare standards in Thailand are pretty high, especially at private hospitals. However, once again, it depends on where you are. Whilst in the main cities (Bangkok, Chiang Mai and phu*ket, etc.) you’ll find hospitals offering high-quality treatment, it might be a long distance to a clinic from less urban areas or islands. The same is true in regards to the availability of medicine. Depending on where you are it might be limited and in any case is usually in Thai. To be on the safe side, I recommend always travelling with a little medicine kit (please consult your paediatrician on what to bring as well as vaccinations pre-travel.)

In order to avoid needing any medicine or treatment in the first place, here are five dos and don’ts:

  1. Don’t drink the tap water.
  2. Don’t leave the house without putting on sunscreen during the day and mosquito repellent in the evenings.
  3. Do always bring a bottle of water with you, it’s hot and humid year round.
  4. Do bring wet wipes, just like at home, they come in handy to clean surfaces.
  5. Do pack some thin, breathable clothes i.e.: thin scarf, flowy trousers, long shirt, etc. Not only do they protect your child’s sensitive skin from the sun, but, despite the heat outside, full-on aircons can come as quite a surprise as soon as you enter the shopping malls or sit in a van. Nobody likes getting a cold on a tropical beach.

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I hope you find this article useful if you are thinking of taking your little ones to Thailand and that it will provide that little nudge of encouragement should you be apprehensive. In case you have a different destination in mind, it could also serve as a checklist of things to consider and research when planning your trip abroad. If there’s anything else you would like to know, please feel free to comment below and I will do my best to answer. Have a great holiday!

– Julia

  • Lifestyle Parenting

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