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Phuket with your family: top travel tips

You may think that just getting your kids out of the house in the morning is a task and therefore the thought of dragging them across the globe may seem like an insurmountable challenge. But international family travel can be easier than you think and the experience can be immensely rewarding, giving you new ways of seeing the world through smaller pairs of eyes.

Our family has been visiting Thailand for the last 10 years, every trip to the beautiful and ever changing country has been more and more rewarding than the last. The climate, culture and of course the food keep us coming back for more.

The Thai people love children especially western kids. When walking the crowded streets they reach out to touch my son’s blonde hair and rub his white skin. It’s funny to watch but upsets my 10 year old no end.

Phuket is the perfect destination to introduce children to Thailand. It is suitable for all age families, whether it is a young family with infants looking to relax by the pool or a family with teenagers seeking an adventure vacation. Most of the larger resorts have kid-friendly programs, kids’ clubs, connecting rooms, sports equipment rental, and kid-oriented group activities

My top 10 tips for travel to Phuket with kids

• Passport & money . Your family will require a valid passport with at least 6 months validity. You should take a few different forms of money with you- small amounts of Australian currency , Thai Baht , credit cards and an ATM card. Keep your cash, credit cards and passports in a safety deposit box. When going out we normally carry a small amount of cash in a buttoned side pocket in cargo shorts or money belt. ATMs and money exchange bureaus are easily found and are quite safe.

• Food and Water. Visit a supermarket or seven eleven store on arriving to stock up on bottled water, drinks , snacks and basics like 2 minute noodles (They can be pricey in hotels ). Don’t be afraid Try street food and beach vendors and encourage your children to do the same. we have never fallen ill to food poisoning and the kids have enjoyed the atmosphere of eating at the street BBQ. If your kids are reluctant to eat Thai food most restaurants and hotels offer a Western menu. A McDonald’s is located in Patong – it is quite expensive compared to local fare. Milk in hotels and bottled milk from stores is pasteurised therefore safe to drink, but avoid shakes and milk drinks from roadside vendors.

• Baby supplies: Canned baby food is not common practice for Thai families, hence purchasing baby food is not readily available in stores. Baby formula and disposable nappies are available for purchase in most food stores however it is best to bring this with you as most Australian brands are not on the shelves.

• Clothing: Phuket is humid so light cotton clothes are best suited. Clothes are amongst the cheapest items available to buy in Thailand .Travel light as you will probably find your kids will be in their bathing costumes most of the time. Crocs and sandals are the best form footwear for children to walk in. Streets and sides walks can be uneven, littered or even non existent. A walk on the beach could have a chance of having broken glass, sharp seashells or hot sand so make sure you kids always wear foot protection. Remember to carry a warm jumper and socks for the flight to Thailand. It is approximately 9 ½ hours flying time and cabin temperatures can get quite chilly and uncomfortable. If flying with a budget carrier keep in mind that blankets and pillows are generally not offered.

• Toys: Beach toys , inflatables and swimming aids are not readily available so it is perhaps best to buy inexpensive products here at home. (We left our toys for the local children to enjoy on our departure) Masks and snorkels can be bought in many stores and markets.

• Best Time to visit: The best weather is between November to March. Our last trip was during the month of January and it was the best weather we have experienced in Thailand. I believe it was hotter at home! The other advantage of travelling at this time is it’s the European winter so there are plenty of tourists from the Northern Hemisphere visiting Phuket, our children never struggled to make new friends of many different nationalities.

• Where to Stay: We always stay at Karon / Kata beach. The precinct is more family friendly than Patong. There is a long strip of hotels to choose from ranging from 5 star down to backpacker. The Phuket Orchid Resort in Karon Beach is a centrally located, large, cheap and cheerful family resort. The facilities are our favourite and guaranteed to keep the kids entertained in the 3 swimming pools, games room and kids club, giving mum the chance to escape the day spa and dad an opportunity to have another Thai beer. Our kids loved the numerous eating options especially the daily lunchtime sizzling BBQ. In truth you could probably sit by the pool for a week without having to leave the resort.

• Another favourite nearby is the Diamond Cottages Resort Kata Beach. It is an intimate 4 star boutique hotel with 2 pools and a seriously fabulous buffet breakfast. Our room was a pool access room. It was ultra modern with beautiful decor , flat screen TV , huge spa and four poster bed.

• Getting around Phuket: Don’t rent a tuk tuk for a long distance trip or by the hour. The lack of seat belts and the speeds travelled may not be as safe for small children. The fumes may get to you long before you reach your destination and leave the kids exhausted the rest of the day. Only use tuk tuks to go short distances during non rush hour periods. The kids will think they are fun, but they are no faster than air conditioned meter taxis and they often cost twice as much if you do not know how to bargain in Thai. Always ask the taxi driver to turn the meter on as it is the cheapest way to get around. If they refuse you should politely open the door and find another cab. Another option is to search the internet forums for families who travel to Phuket regularly, many hire a driver for the day or half day and can put you in touch with reliable locals and a rate can be negotiated prior to your arrival.

• See and do: If you only choose one activity to do as a family in Phuket the 4 in one Safari is certainly worthwhile. It is a great sample of Phuket. Includes an elephant trek, buffalo cart, sea canoe and jungle trek for the family. It is a great way for the kids to get up close and personal with an elephant.

• Do’s and Don’ts : Do not allow you kids to climb on any statues of the Budda. The Thai’s find this offensive behaviour. If you intend visiting a temple you and your children will need to wear long sleeves and long skirt/pants and closed in shoes. Do not throw money at anyone as the local feel that it is offensive. Do not touch a Thais head as they believe their heads to be sacred. Do not raise your voice or shout in public. Thai people are not aggressive and they will find that sort of behaviour embarrassing.

Enjoy your vacation..

More by this author – and some very pro photographs – on his website.

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