Things to pack for Thailand with kids (plus essential travel checklist!)
UPDATED 2018: Hello! If you’re reading this you’re probably considering travelling to Thailand with kids, which is a great idea. Thailand is one of the most accessible and easy-to-travel countries in South East Asia and it is set up for easy travel for families- that said it’s good to check the essential things to pack for Thailand!
We’ve travelled Thailand with and without kids from the far southern border towns, to tropical islands, to the northern hill tribes, exploring the entire length of the country. We recently visited for a month and enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Bangkok (check out our trip to the most amazing unicorn cafe and the Dreamworld theme park) and then headed up north to the Thai-Burma border to visit a charity over Christmas. Click here to read about spending Christmas on a dump/ refugee camp.
We’ve travelled a lot with kids, currently racking up 13 flights with our kids in 8 countries. We’ve taken them from pre-crawling babies to primary age and we have no plans to stop! We’ve finally nailed flying with kids as well as travel in Thailand, so I thought it would be helpful to put together a list for families of things to pack for Thailand. What you pack of course depends on what kind of travel you are doing (long/short term, a lot of luggage vs backpacking, luxury vs budget) so the list caters for all travel styles.
Essential travel checklist:
- First things first: have you booked your accommodation? If not, get on it. Bangkok and the islands particularly book up fast and you don’t want to get caught between a dirty backpacker hostel and budget-blowing five star suites. We book through Hotels Combined or Booking.com (click on the links to browse accommodation deals for families in Thailand).
- Secondly, travel insurance. If you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel. We use Alpha Insurance, they are much cheaper than some of the similar alternatives and we recommend them especially for families on a budget. Click here to check prices for your trip.
- Next- have you got vaccinations? I believe Hep A and B, Typhoid and TB are recommended for Thailand (I am not providing medical advice, simply passing on what I know from experience). Check with your doctor and make your own decisions on what you get. (You may also want to get anti-malarials for certain northern areas of Thailand). We also got rabies jabs privately.
- Passports- do you have six months left on them? It’s not enough to rock up to the airport with a valid passport if you don’t have this time buffer left on your passports and you could be denied boarding. There’s no point in nailing all your things to pack for Thailand if you can’t actually get on the plane!
- Onward tickets- many airlines will not let you board a plane to Thailand unless you have proof of onward travel. We have been caught out by this twice now (never again!) and it almost cost us our flight from Thailand to Sri Lanka (read about that most hellish journey here). Ensure you’ve got an onward/return ticket or be prepared to scramble on Skyscanner at the check in desk, as we did (soooo not recommended).
Ok so that’s your essential travel checklist. Now for the finer points- things to pack for Thailand with kids. We have put this together from personal experience and all products are either ones we use ourselves, or wish we had had the foresight to bring with us.
(NB: Vegetarians and vegans may want to check out my guide to vegan Thailand by clicking here, or click here for the best Indian veggie restaurants in Bangkok!)
Things to pack for Thailand with kids
- Either a lightweight suitcase and/or a good backpack.
Depending on how old your kids are, you may be up to travelling with hand luggage only. If you are going for a standard two-week holiday I would recommend this if possible as it means you can skip the arduous wait for the baggage carousel when you get to Thailand. Personally, we have three kids aged 6, 5 and 2 and travel full-time and although we travel light, we found that the stress of having to keep throwing things out and weigh our bags to the exact (stingy) Asian airline measurements just wasn’t worth it. Now we take two lightweight cases and three backpacks for the five of us.
The best case:
We love the “World’s Lightest Case” from IT Luggage. We got it in purple which means it’s easy to spot on the baggage carousel, and it is ridiculously light- around 2-3 kilos. This means we have more weight for things we want, and it’s easy to roll through the airport. We have the Large and this is a good size if you want the standard 20kg allowance.
The best backpack (hand luggage size!)
We highly recommend the Osprey Farpoint 40; it is one of the only decent backpacks that are small enough to be taken onto the aeroplane as hand luggage, and it comes with a load of benefits. There’s a padded laptop pouch, loads of optional compartments, seriously heavy-duty zips (if we haven’t broken them they must be good) and really nice padded waist straps to take the pressure off your shoulders and give it a weightless feel. We have one each in dark grey, blue and red so we know whose is whose.
- A day pack
If you have only brought hand luggage (hint, take the Osprey Farpoint 40, hint) you can easily use this as your daypack for towels, water bottles, small elephants that you rescue from the riding centres, etc.
If you’ve brought cases we would strongly recommend using something other than your usual handbag for days out; shoulder bags are no good, they can be snatched in a heartbeat and just aren’t secure enough for busy markets, trains and the like.
We recommend the PacSafe Day pack; we have the mesh net Pacsafe to keep our larger bags rob-proof while in hotels (if you are going to be staying in hostels/cheap hotels without a programmable in-room safe we recommend either the PacSafe portable safe or the mesh net, the 55L) and the brand is the bee’s knees. It’s slash-proof and fastens securely to you so it can’t be grabbed during a moment’s distraction. If you like wandering out without a bag or you want extra peace of mind, the PacSafe belt is amazing and also ensure that no-one can nick your credit card details through an e-reader, which is one of the new tourist crimes.
- Mosquito repellent
Yes, you will need this. There are a few different options depending on your skin, age, preference of smelling like pure chemicals or lemon, etc. We love the bracelets for kids and found them invaluable in Thailand and Sri Lanka. The repellants listed here are natural and vegan friendly.
- A guide book
People may think the internet has all the answers (of course, that’s why you’re here) but there is something lovely about having a high quality, up to date guidebook to flick through on the aeroplane to scope out where you’d like to go, before researching your shortlist online. We love the Lonely Planet guidebooks, they’re simply the best and have great photos for kids too.
- Travel towel
If you don’t yet have a travel towel, you are missing out. We got these for our indefinite trip around the world (see why we chose to up sticks here) but if we’d known about them before I would have probably got them for holidays and at home! They are smaller and super-light to pack, much more absorbent than normal towels and they dry in a heartbeat. We use the mountain warehouse ones (they come in a handy fabric case for packing) and have the extra large and the medium (they are generously sized).
- Packing cubes
Trips abroad are supposed to be fun, and rifling through a half-unpacked suitcase of chaos definitely does not fall into that category. I was ‘ish’ about buying packing cubes and I am so glad we did; using them means everyone knows where their stuff is and things are easy to locate, stuff and pack and we arrive at our next destination organised and calm (well, calm about our luggage, anyway). My only regret is that we bought cheaply low-quality ones, and I would 100% recommend to invest in these higher quality ones with the guarantee; it is not worth the stress of trying to replace them abroad for a few extra pounds (and buying things that last is better for the environment too!) Choose the size combination that works for you- we have a different colour for each person and this works really well for separating clothes, underwear, swimwear, accessories and small toys for the kids.
- Heavy duty phone case
Ok so this isn’t one of the essential things to pack for Thailand, but if you want a holiday treat I would absolutely recommend getting a proper water resistant phone case (actually I would tell anyone who doesn’t want to break their phone to get one!) The Gorilla fits loads of different phones and make it so that you can film in the rain, which has given us loads of fun splash proof memory-making moments in the pool and the ocean. It’s also drop-proof (we have tested this to its limit, the kids often send it flying over concrete or stone floor and my phone is still in immaculate condition).
The adult equivalent of a muslin baby-cloth, the sarong has saved us on many occasions during our travel adventures. From covering shoulders, heads or legs while visiting temples to wiping up spills on trains, to using as a blanket to sit on the beach, a sarong is the ultimate secret travel weapon. Some say you can tie a few together to abseil, or tie it from your wrists around your waist to make wings, but I haven’t tried this. Yet.
- A Thai SIM card
Having to hover around cafes to get decent WiFi is a big waste of time and something you definitely don’t want to be doing on your family trip to Thailand. By using a local Thai Sim you can get cheap mobile data to Google directions, order cheap taxis via the Grab app and phone hotels/ restaurants to get info.
10. Travel adaptors
Thai travel adaptors are thin pronged; take more than you need as it’s these kind of small gadgety bits that end up getting lost or left in the plug of a hotel or cafe.
12. A sense of humour, open attitude and a good dollop of patience. When visiting anywhere outside of your home country, be prepared for things to do wrong, unexpected things to happen and plans to fall through. Things work differently in Thailand; haggling is normal, as are propositions for *ahem* unsavoury activities and enthusiastic hawking for business. Respond to everyone with good grace and manners and you will find the best in Thailand and the Thai people, (who LOVE children and will go out of their way to talk to them and make a fuss of them). We can’t find a decent sense of humour on Amazon but click here if you want to read about our most horrendous journey or click here for our top 10 worst travel moments to see why it’s important!
BONUS Eco-friendly packing list to make your trip gentle on the environment:
- Proper straws: When considering things to pack for Thailand I think it’s important we try to tread lightly- “take only photos, leave only footprints”. Plastic is a huge environmental issue and nowhere is this more apparent than in Asia. Plastic is used in everything and single-use straws are given out with pretty much every drink. By bringing bamboo, metal or glass straws with you, you can help the environment plus have a clean straw guaranteed wherever you are.
3. A good water bottle. Instead of buying smaller plastic bottles of water, purchase it in bulk and keep it in your hotel room, re-filling your travel bottle when you need to. This saves you money and saves the environment from dealing with yet another one-use plastic bottle in its oceans!