After moving to the Middle East we had an awesome but VERY tranquil holiday in the Maldives. Then we had a very hectic and a bit stressful holiday in India. THEN we had a shocker in Muscat over a long weekend. So why did we decide to do Phuket with kids?
More intelligent people would have got the hint that maybe exciting and challenging holidays were not for us… At least not for a while. But not to be deterred we set about thinking of a new adventure to take the Things on and came up with Thailand!
Phuket with children
Now Mr Wanderlust had been to Thailand on his gap year (he assures me that he wasn’t “just bumming around”). He had been to places like Bangkok and Chiang Mai and was keen to visit somewhere else. (As an aside, check out Family Can Travel for details on going to Chiang Mai with kids). I, on the other hand, had never been and he had never been to Phuket. We both love South East Asia and I love Thai food. I love beach holidays (beach based, I’m hopeless at the lie-beside-the-pool holidays) and I love places with some history and culture to learn about. If you’re going to Thailand, be sure to read up before you go – these tips on travelling in Thailand with kids are a good place to start.
Best places to stay in Phuket
As usual, we did extensive research and balanced our needs with our budget to come up with our selection. Here are some of the main considerations that factored into our choice:
Phuket might be a mere region of Thailand but it is still pretty big! The most popular areas to stay include:
- Inner Patong (walking distance to Bangla Road and Patong Beach) and Outer Patong (short taxi ride away)
- Karon and Kata (small towns near Patong)
- Bang Tao Bay (beach and laguna area)
- Kamala Bay (medium-sized town with beach – just north of Patong)
- Rawai & Nai Harn Beach – (in the South, good location for taking island trips)
Budget and Space
Our budget was definitely a factor in our decision-making – the beach front resorts in Phuket are quite a bit more expensive. We were keen to have some living space available to us for quiet time / nap time so that narrowed it down a bit further.
Location, Location, Location
We actually didn’t want to too close to Patong as we were happy to be a bit away from the seedier side of Phuket. Being away from Patong also meant we could be sure of some peace and quiet for nap times and early bedtimes.
What a far cry away we were from our partying years!
We would have loved to have been near the beach but you have to trade location off against budget so that was our choice on this occasion. The bus ride to the beach (see below) wasn’t ideal but it did mean a trip to the beach took a decent amount of time rather than the Things getting bored too quickly.
We always look for somewhere with a Kids Club as we know they will run activities for the Things and will also have a play area with toys, games and activities that we can use. We also look for a pool so we don’t HAVE to leave the resort. Proximity to other activities is a bonus but not mandatory (see What To Do).
Where to stay in Phuket
We ended up staying at the Angsana Villas Resort Phuket. Not to be confused with the following:
- Outrigger Phuket Resort and Villas (former name)
- Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort (former sister hotel)
- Angsana Laguna Phuket (new sister hotel)
On the whole we were pretty pleased with our decision. They have villa style rooms so we had 2 enormous bedrooms, a huge living and dining area and a kitchen. We were close to one of the pools and the food in the restaurants was really very good.
There were a few downsides…
The air conditioning wasn’t working when we arrived (late at night) so we were moved and then moved back. To be fair to Outrigger, we were moved to a massive 4 bedroom villa with a private pool so I was a little disappointed when they told us our place was habitable again!
Both of the villas that we had were quite far from the main communal areas of the hotel. We had to get golf carts to and from breakfast, kids club and the pool. Luckily the Things love riding in golf carts but it wasn’t ideal having to wait or when one wasn’t available.
As I mentioned before, the resort is also a slow, bumpy bus ride to the beach. The Things didn’t mind too much but with Thing 2 still napping it did mean we had some pretty short windows of time available. At the time we were there the resort had a deal with their sister hotel on the beach for a highly discounted day-pass which we took advantage of twice.
Recommended hotels & villas in Phuket
Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket (Kata Beach) – “we have stayed here three times. It is a 5* with awesome kids club, beach access and restaurants within walking distance”. – Nova.
Katathani Phuket Beach Resort (Kata Beach) – “we have stayed here three times. It is also 5* with awesome kids club, beach access and restaurants within walking distance”. – Nova.
JW Marriott – “We stayed here and had a great visit. It was very close to a little shopping area so we could stock up on snacks and drinks and avoid the hotel rates (which actually weren’t too bad). [Our friends] were at the Anatara next door and it was really nice as well. They had a villa with a private pool.” – Allison
“We stayed in Phuket, but only for a night in the old town in an Airbnb.” – Ben
Club Med – “We went to Phuket a few times – stayed at the Club Med – awesome if you have little ones (4-10 esp) as they have a circus school! So much fun for them! It was an all inclusive so food/drink at the resort – buffet style for the most part….great for families.” – Lisa.
Villa holiday – “we stayed in an amazing villa. It had an amazing salt water pool surrounded by 4 beautiful and spacious rooms. The company we rented from scheduled the tours we wanted to take, arranged transport to/from the airport, arranged for our rental car, booked massages, made restaurant reservations and ordered food for us when we wanted take out. We wanted a villa because it gave us some flexibility with naps and downtime. It also allowed us the opportunity to make a few meals so we didn’t need to eat out every meal (although we did order in a bit!). We chose the area because it was pretty central to the places we wanted to see (big Buddha, beaches, old town Phuket).” – Lauren
You can also find a great summary of the best family resorts here from Mum on The Move.
What To Do in Phuket with children
Uncharacteristically for us, we actually took it pretty easy on this holiday. We did a couple of beach days, a couple of pool days and a couple of days out.
You can’t talk about Phuket without talking about… well, about the elephant in the room. Now… our experience was a bit different from those that other friends and readers have had. Pretty much everyone I know has been to see elephants and a few really did their research to find places that were reputable and treated the animals well. Emily from The Expat Mama said they had a great stay recently and went to one of the sanctuaries for her daughter’s 4th birthday this year and did a sanctuary trip which she said was incredible. Other friends have had similar experiences.
We did not do our research and went along to a recommended sanctuary without realising how popular it would be or that entrance was restricted to bookings only. Obviously we weren’t allowed in.
They sent us further up the road to another place where we stopped and took an elephant ride. I hated every minute of it. To be fair they seemed to be treating the elephants well, they were giving them breaks even while long queues were forming. The handlers looked and acted genuinely concerned for the elephants’ welfare. I think I just really really REALLY don’t like seeing animals in captivity. Lesson learned. I wish I had read Boy Eats World’s post about why they said no to riding elephants before we went.
I’m not going to put up photos of elephants or link to or even mention any of the sanctuaries that you can find in Phuket because I’ve not personally been to any of them. All I’d say, if you are going to see the elephants, is to BEG you to do your research.
Please don’t support these cowboy outfits that exploit animals for their own personal gain.
I’d never really heard of Patong before we went to Phuket but of course a small bit of pre-trip googling about the area gave me quite the insight. I didn’t think it would be a trip without going there at least for a visit.
One evening, on our way back to the resort after a day out, we stopped for a wander around and for dinner. Bangla Road was eye-opening to say the least. I was pretty glad the Things weren’t older to ask awkward questions or to realise what was going on!
For the Things, the highlight of the visit was getting a tuk tuk back to where the car was parked. It had flashing neon lights and loud music. We had a little disco party as we drove and the Things thought it was totally brilliant!
I’m glad we went there to soak up the atmosphere and to get a change of scene. But I’m also pretty glad we weren’t living there!
Old Phuket Town
There is soooo much to do in Phuket Old Town! It is bigger than I was expecting but we got to the older part and had a stroll around the weekend market that is held there. The weekend Old Town market was awesome but…. with 2 Things under 4 running amok near vats of boiling oil on the food stalls it wasn’t exactly relaxing. The trinkets and glass ornaments that adorned the other stalls didn’t do anything to help either! Still, it was fun to see something new and to prove that even though we didn’t actually see that much!
There’s loads more to Phuket Town that we didn’t do and I would highly recommend checking out phuket.com to plan your visit if you have more time.
Beaches in Phuket
It’s hard to know where to even start with the beaches in Phuket. Whilst still not quite the truly iconic white sands of the Maldives, they are all still stunningly beautiful! It’s hard to choose where to go. I found a great list of beaches on Phuket 101 which was extremely useful. In the event we ended up only going to Bang Tao because it was the closest to our resort.
And if that’s not a enough then here are a few more things to do on your next visit…
Cultured activities in Phuket
- Cooking classes – not something that appealed to me hugely with 2 small Things in tow but I would love to go back and learn to make some amazing Thai food!
- Temples – being a Buddhist country, Thailand has so many amazing temples to visit and Phuket is no exception. Wat Chalong is the most popular but there are many many more. You can’t mention Buddhism without taking a trip to see Big Buddha either!
- Museums and attractions – a few of you have mentioned going to the Upside Down House and the Trick Eye Museum. Other ones can be found recommended on sites such as Trip Advisor.
- Island trips such as to Phang Nga Bay or Phi Phi Islands. Phuket.com has a load more that they recommend.
- Water sports – snorkelling, scuba diving, cave kayaking and hiring speedboats are all just a few of the things you guys told me you did – amazing!
- Wildlife – in addition to elephants, Phuket has an abundance of wildlife to explore on land and sea. One reader recommended going up to Khao Sok for wildlife (elephants, rainforest and Cheow Lan lake).
- Last but not least, the Dino Park Mini Golf was the most popular activity by far for our Things. I’d definitely recommend a visit.
Where to eat in Phuket
There are too many places and things to eat in Phuket for me to write and exhaustive list. I would say that we had some good but not totally memorable food in the hotel we stayed at as well as some of the hotels on the beach. Much more delicious and authentic (and affordable!) were the restaurants just a short walk down Bang Tao beach. We also enjoyed a bit of street food although I got a bit paranoid about giving the Things food poisoning!
Phuket.com (this isn’t a sponsored post, I promise – I just really liked the site!) has a great section on dining in Phuket but to be honest I think you are just as well off going somewhere local.
How to get to Phuket?
Phuket is popular enough that it boats its own international airport. Flights leave daily to most major destinations.
How to get around?
Lots of people stay in their resorts for the whole time on trips to Phuket and just get away with walking to the beach and local restaurants / shops. For slightly longer distances tuk tuks are usually available (although going home a bit later after dinner one night we found ourselves nearly stranded!) or taxis are around in the major towns. Local busses can take you around the island if you are up for an adventure. If not, your resort or villa will undoubtedly be able to arrange a car and a driver to take you where you need to go for a fee.