PACKAGE TOUR OR “DO IT YOURSELF”
This is an entirely personal choice and the first occurrence in this guide of what I call ‘Imposed Expectations’, the other is occurrence is in the choice of food.
It is far too common for people and guidebooks to sneer, or seem to sneer, at anyone taking the easy choice. I don’t see it that way, as parents we have to make compromises to get the best choice for the whole family and so for you and your family a package tour might be the best choice.
One thing is for sure; if you take a package tour you will be getting excellent value for money. Your tour is likely to include accommodation that might be beyond your means if you booked flights and hotels yourself.
The other big advantage and one not to be overlooked is, the package tour company have done all the organisation for you and provide support if you have a problem during your holiday.
Multiple Centre Tours
They say ‘Variety is the spice of life’, and Thailand certainly has plenty of variety, therein lies the popularity of multi centre holidays, perhaps that is something you want to take advantage of.
Typically, package tours will include a “City, Island and Highland” option, the city is invariably Bangkok followed perhaps by the highlands around Chiang Mai and then an Island to finish up.
These are great value if you want to gain an appreciation of the contrasts of Thailand and it’s culture.
Which options you choose depend on you and the what you like to do while on holiday, but I would say, very few people are disappointed by these three center holdidays.
So while I don’t want to make your choices for you, do give the options some thought. If you have taken time to read up a bit about Thailand I’m sure you will already have some ideas of where you might want to go and what you might want to see.
Ditching the Package A Mini Adventure
Just because you have booked a package doesn’t mean to say you have to stick with it. You might for example want to take a couple of nights off by yourselves to explore an Island, or one of the many national parks; sure you can book a mini tour but believe me, its extremely easy to do this yourself. This guide gives you information to help you have that adventure.
Mind, I’m not going to suggest you rush off by yourself without giving you a couple of words of advice:
Firstly, your tour rep might very well try to talk you out of taking a trip by yourselves, bear in mind that he/she is getting commission on almost every penny you spend during your holiday. You going off by yourself is a threat to that income.
So if your rep tells you that it’s dangerous, or the islands are fully booked or some horror story about a family that got lost and wound up as the main course on a Thai BBQ, disregard what you are being told. With a little planning and forethought you can have a great mini adventure.
Who knows, such a mini adventure might give you the confidence when next you plan a holiday to join the huge numbers of people who are travelling independently.
The only caution is, make sure that if you have booked insurance with your package that the insurance covers you if you go off by yourself. This is something you need to ask when the travel agents are selling you insurance. Insurance bought independently of your holiday is much more likely to cover you for trips away from your package but do check.
I have included a chapter on accommodation that will help you choose a place to stay should you indeed decide to have a ‘mini adventure’.
Half Board of Full Board?
Food in Thailand is extremely cheap, clean and wholesome, so again, it is a personal choice as to whether you take full board or half board. I can only reassure you that you will not have any problems finding excellent and cheap food away from your hotel.
I have included a chapter on food to help you out with the shopping for and ordering food.
INDEPENDENT FAMILY TRAVEL
All of our holidays in Thailand have been independent of tour operators, but not all of our holidays have been independent, our last holiday from Thailand was a package tour to Morocco and very enjoyable it was too. The choice for us was a simple one, we were on the spot for Thailand and therefore arranging bookings and transport was easy, while we knew nothing of Morocco and there was no information readily available.
What I can say without a doubt is, if independent travel is your thing then Thailand is wide open, it is arguably the independent travel capital of the world, full of backpackers of all ages from young people on their GAP year to retirees taking a long tour, although it has to be said there are relatively few families travelling independently.
I’m quite sure the reason that families don’t consider independent travel in Thailand is simply the lack of information, and now you know why I wrote this guide.
I’m also quite sure that Thailand would be packed with families travelling independently if people only knew that, the whole of Thailand’s tourist infrastructure is set up to make independent travel easy. All hotels and guesthouse accept walk-in bookings, public transport is safe and reliable, there are tour agents in all the tourist hot spots and there are good, no not just good, ‘excellent’ restaurants almost everywhere you go.
Best of all its cheap.
Filling the Gaps
As I mention above, one of the advantages of a package tour is the tour company have done all the organisation for you, perhaps more importantly they have help ready to hand if you have a problem during your holiday.
If you travel independently you will have to fill those gaps yourself, it’s not difficult to do and this guide provides you with advice on the main issues you need to cover.
There are some very important issues such as insurance and health, to help you resolve these I have included notes and key points for you to discuss with professionals who work in theses fields.
The important thing to remember is, you don’t really need a tour guide, you can organize your own holiday and with a bit of forethought you will be able to enjoy the Thailand you want, rather than that planned for you by others.