It can be a long trip travelling to Thailand with children from the cold Denmark. A 11 hour non-stop plane ride is never fun, and having two small kids with you can be somewhat of a challenge.
In this blog post I will discuss some issues that will hopefully help you prepare for a similar trip, or you can just choose to enjoy this small insight into travelling with kids .
While we went to Thailand, I guess that you can use some of the stuff I’ve written about anyway.
But let me back up a little and give you some context.
If you’re not a regular reader you probably don’t know this but while we normally live in Denmark, we also have a house in Hua Hin, Thailand that we spend a couple of months in each year. Typically in the winter season where the weather is crappy in Denmark.
Now we’re not the jungle trekking kind of family, personally I’m more into a cold drink by the pool chatting with friends than a mosquito jungle hell carrying a backpack with a guide. However we’re not travelling charter though, mainly because we have our own house and stay for more than the usual 14 days.
So if you’re the jungle trekking type, there are probably a lot of other stuff that you need to remember as well, and you’re probably more relaxed than we are. However personally I wouldn’t bring two small kids out in the jungle for an extended period where it can often be hard to find proper shelter for rain/sun, baby food (that your baby will actually eat – ours eat something like 6 meals per day). But if you’re not as tight ass as we are, I’m not the person to cast judgement over other people.
I’m actually writing this while we’re here in Thailand, I guess that I wanted to get it all out while it was still fresh in mind .
Now our little princess (3-year old) is a bit sensitive to perfume and all the additives that the big companies put in everything including stuff made for kids. It’s not like she’s allergic or anything, but her skin is a bit sensitive.
Now the problem is that in Thailand (and many other places as well) they put a lot of perfume in diapers, so we chose to pack enough diapers for the two kids so it would last us two months. Now that takes up space. I’m not saying that you should do this too, just know that it can be a little difficult to find diapers that are free from all the crazy stuff the companies insist on adding.
We also packed all the shampoo, cremes etc that we wanted. Normally I would just have bought a lot of it in Thailand and travelled light, but since we only had to carry/transport all the suitcases for a short period in the airport we didn’t care about the extra weight.
Actually we ended up bringing three big suitcases (and three pieces of hand luggage AND a stroller) with us. Two of the suitcases were actually over weight and we had to pay extra for getting them on the plane. That’s not the usual way as most people I know who are going to Thailand tend to have a lot of extra space going out, so they can bring a ton of shit with them on the way back.
DISCLAIMER: OK… I had a ton of equipment with me as well as I needed to shoot some videos while I’m here (can’t just blame the kids here ).
But again, you’re probably not as anal about this as we are.
We also brought clothes from Zunblock, they make some great sun protective clothing that the kids can swim in while being protected from the sun.
Hats are a must have for our kids as they both have light hair and will quickly be burned if not protected (however here was one thing that we actually bought here instead of bringing it )
One thing that is really hard to find in Thailand is rye bread. You’re probably not eating this so it’s not a problem for you, but our kids get rye bread for lunch every day.
The last time we were here we find some in a store that specialized in importing groceries, but as you might guess, the prices were horrendous. I don’t think they imported the bread, but the price was crazy and it didn’t taste anything what they were used to.
This time around we actually did find something (but still really expensive) but you get a little suspicious when a bread is good for 9 months (and should even be organic with no preservatives ).
But this time around I actually brought some flour mixes that should just have added yeast and water, and then put it in the oven. And again, we bought four bags (so we could do four big rye breads) with us.
I’m not sure if it’s ok to import this stuff into Thailand, but I searched online before doing it and I couldn’t really find anywhere that said specifically no. But please don’t take my word for it, if you bring any kind of food into Thailand you should probably check if it’s ok first.
And something I keep reminding my girlfriend is that they also have kids here in Thailand. While we spent days packing (not all the time of course) you can never pack everything, and at some point the madness must stop. Most things can be bought in Thailand, so it’s really only if you have some special requirements for your kids that you should think about packing more than the clothes.
The plane ride
While you are most likely aware of this if you’ve ever flown with your kids, the ear-popping sensation is a normal part of air travel is not a really good experience for them. Specially if they are small and you cannot explain to them that they should just try and swallow.
So we always stack up on snacks and bottled water in our hand luggage.
(you cannot bring your own bottles anymore because of a mad bomber trying to blow a plane up with liquids, so remember to pick something up in the airport).
Our babyboy is also still being breastfed, and takeoff and landing are perfect times to do this.
Now one thing we’ve always insisted on has been to fly at night time while it’s the kids’ natural sleep time. Spending 10-12 hours on a plane is a long time if there’s no sleeping involved. We also always fly direct to Bangkok although it’s cheaper to select tickets with a stop.
This is of course a money thing, but we’ve found it to be a lot less hassle than having to deal with tired kids in a foreign airport in the middle of the night.
Now the only problem in taking a flight in the night and have the kids sleeping, is that you need to make sure that the kids are comfortable before you are. And if you’re travelling with a kid under two years they don’t have their own seat. If your kid is less than nine months you can get a bassinet, but these are limited to the seats by the bulkhead so there are no guarantees that you can get it.
So while the kids might sleep like babys (get it? ) there is a chance that you won’t. I’m a tall guy so I usually never sleeps while flying, I’m simply not that comfortable in the seats. But this can of course strain your resources the day after arrival.
Now I’ve mentioned that we brought three pieces of hand luggage, but what usually happens is that you put most of them in the overhead compartment area. And this is a problem when you perhaps are having kids sitting or sleeping on you. So we packed all the important stuff we knew we needed on the plane in one piece of luggage, and kept it on the floor. The remaining two suitcases went up in the overhead compartment.
The stuff we absolutely needed was: diapers (actually a small kit that folds neatly together), snacks and water for take off/landing, duvet for our baby to sleep with and a few toys.
And on the subject of toys, a secret ninja trick is to get a new toy that the kids haven’t seen before and give it to them on the flight. This is of course doing this at the precise right moment when the kids are two seconds away from a hysterical attack.
And while on the subject of hysterical kids on a flight. We all hate them right? Well things change when you get kids of your own. Because now you know that it’s mostly the parents that are stressed out about it.
No one wants to be labeled bad parents and everybody seems to stare when your kids are behaving less than optimal.
The first time we took our baby princess to Thailand she was just nine months old. During take off she had to sit in our lap, we couldn’t take off right away so we had a little extra time taxiing on the runway. Our girl quickly lost patience and started screaming.
Yikes…. Our first flight with her and already now we pictured her screaming for 12 hours straight! But as soon as we were in the air she went to sleep and slept the entire way. Once we landed people around us came up and congratulated us with such a quite and easy baby. Success… And in the end a lot of stress and worrying about nothing.
So you’re still reading? Fantastic
Well after the long flight there is usual some kind of transfer to your destination. Our house is in Hua Hin and this means a ride for two hours and thirty minutes. But the problem is that the kids are now awake and most like a little tired of being confined to small spaces…We always take a taxi from the airport, this way we can sit comfortable in air-condition (remember we’re usually still in our travelling clothes) and not think about finding the right way to our destination.
You can even get baby/child seats when you book the taxi in advanced. We don’t have child seats when we’re just getting around in Thailand, but the two hour thirty minutes drive from the airport on the highway, we do.
You can always rent a car yourself, but the fact that they drive in the wrong side of the road (at least for us) and believe in reincarnation is just a bad combo in the crazy Thai traffic. So we never rent cars or motorcycles when we’re there. We just call a number and we’re picked up 10 minutes later (although airport transfer were booked from home).
When we spend months at a time, we usually get an ok price and just use the same driver for the whole period.
Actually we had a funny moment during our first visit where our cab driver offered to lower the price even though we hadn’t asked for it. You know you’re paying too much when a Thai is trying to haggle the price down in your favor
Try not to have too many plans the first day. Two tired kids that need to find a new sleep pattern and a couple of parents that haven’t slept much, is just not a good combo for the overall mood on top of a potential jet lag.
While in Thailand
Now as I mentioned we usually use a taxi to get around in. We tend to avoid tuc tucs. When we didn’t have kids we didn’t thought much about car safety, but now that we do – we have some seconds thoughts.
I mean, racing at 80km/hour down a mountain with you just holding on to you kid?! If we crashed into something (well anything) we would be thrown out of the tuc tuc and be pretty wasted.
Heck, just today I saw a foreigner in the compound we live, driving his motorcycle carrying with a 3-4 year old boy in front. I don’t understand that you’d do something like this. Would you do this in your country (is it even legal? I know in Denmark it isn’t – and you should also wear a helmet at all times).
So why the f… would you want to do this in a country with this crazy traffic is beyond my understanding. But than again, who am I to judge (the Thais are another issue, most of them have no other ways of transportation and you often see entire families on just one motorcycle on the highway)
Ahhhh… Calm down Rasmus
Well, as I mentioned previously we also brought an umbrella stroller. It’s actually rather difficult to use strollers in Thailand since the sidewalks aren’t really suited for them, but for short walks and in the airport they are great. If you have the space to bring it fine, but I would most often recommend something like a Baby Björn baby carrier instead. I can’t find the model that we have. It has a mesh net in most places making it nice and cool compared to the thick material I currently see on their page.
Most of the days we try to keep inside during the hottest hours around noon. Both of the kids also need a nap around this time. This means that most shopping and touring is done either around 10am or after 3pm. The little one could sleep in the Baby Björn but it’s not always that we can get our three year old sleeping in the stroller (and since she terms into a little devil if she does not get her nap, we are kind of anal about her nap time).
A small siesta in the hottest hours is great for a few laps in the pool or reading a book in the shadows without the kids running around .
One last thing to think about is the mosquitos. Depending on where you’re staying it may be a good idea to bring or by an extra mosquito net. It’s something we always seem to be buying (don’t know where the old ones went?!)
Man I was tired…
The first couple of days I was totally screwed by jet lag. I don’t normally get hit that hard, but the combo of being on stand by for two kids and getting them into their sleeping patterns, totally destroyed me.
So for a few days I couldn’t sleep in the night at all. Basically it’s a long trip and it’s not something I enjoy doing, but now that we’re here (and I’ve gotten some sleep) it’s great.
I love the people, the food and of course the weather (oh and did I mention the food?).
Thailand is a perfect place to take your kids, there isn’t much crime (most of them are buddhist and living of tourists – and karma’s a bitch), the people love kids (they WILL be abducted from you in a restaurant during your stay at least once because the waitress want to show the kid the kitchen), and it’s a great place for just running around without much clothes (just remember the sun). Depending on the place there will also be plenty of other kids to play with.
So if you’re in the Hua Hin neighborhood, stop by and let me buy you a cold beer
If you read all of this…
… and don’t have kids... I’m impressed.
I’ll promise that I won’t ramble about my offspring as the proud father that I am in the next post
Have any input to travelling to Thailand with children? Or anywhere else for that matter?
I would love to hear from you in the comments.