We were on a tight budget honeymoon in Thailand with a toddler. We wanted to stay in accommodation that had decent reviews, as with a toddler you tend to spend a fair bit of time in the room. In addition, we needed to minimise travel hassle so focused on the Koh Samui archipelago. And of course wanted to find that elusive idyllic, laid-back beach environment. With a range of eating options… Read on to find out which destinations were both budget and toddler friendly…
Budget Honeymoon in Thailand with a Toddler
Mae Nam Beach
The beach was pretty but with murky waters and coarse sand, it was not perhaps the tropical idyll we were hoping for. The sea also shelved quite quickly so we needed to keep a close eye on our toddler. On the plus side, it was a cheap place to stay and there were enough shady patches on the quiet beach. However, it wasn’t the easiest place to stroll around as the village sprawled along a busy main road that was not pleasant to walk along. Other pluses include that there is a night market on a Thursday and a pier for travel to other islands. The biggest downside is what seemed to be an ever-present smell of sewers.
Accommodation: We stayed at Maenam Bay Resort in a standard room. It was basic but had added bonuses such as free drinking water, toiletries, air con, helpful staff and a pool. And the same pervasive smell of sewers that seems to haunt the whole area… Total: THB 2,400 (THB 600 per night).
Food: We ate virtually every meal at Toh-Kin-Kao, conveniently located on the beach just down from our hotel. We would come to realise that this place was great value in terms of food quality and fabulous beachfront location. We didn’t pay for any activities here, except for buying a few snacks at the night market, so our spend was pretty low. An advantage of having no easily accessible shops… Total: THB 4,707.
In the next bay along from Mae Nam is Bophut beach, so it suffers from the same murky waters and coarse sand, whilst failing to be as picturesque. The beach was really difficult to access. At the west end of the beach are numerous large resorts; the centre and west end can only be accessed through beachfront restaurants. If you are a fan of shopping there is a night market on a Friday and lots of shops. But really not a favourite of ours.
Accommodation: We stayed at Fisherman’s House. Definitely a level up in quality from our other accommodation. Total: THB 900.
Food & souvenirs: The Hut Cafe was the only affordable Thai restaurant we could find. And it was a great find with excellent food. I indulged in a little souvenir shopping but nothing excessive. Total: THB 1,550
Thong Nai Pan Yai Beach
Here I found the kind of thing I had in mind when I thought of Thailand. Thong Nai Pan Yai is a lovely beach. The sea is shallow, clear and calm, so perfect for a toddler. The low-key resorts on beach also have pools that we snuck into for the odd dip. There is also a little play area on the beach near the Dreamland resort. There are also a number of restaurants that have some toys for little ones to play with. Our favourites were Pen’s Bungalow and Ram & Pha. The village was the perfect size for us; pretty laid back and uncrowded but still with a few different options for eating out.
The beach is in a great location for hiking to other equally lovely beaches. We walked to Thong Nai Pan Noi, Bottle and Haad Than Sadet beaches. These were all easy enough walks if you are relatively fit, even carrying a toddler. An excellent place to visit with a toddler.
Accommodation: We had a cute little bungalow at Thai Terrace Bungalows for THB 600 per night. The owners were lovely, inviting us to watch the World cup games with them. And they included a little bed for Daisy. I would stay here again. Total: THB 3,600 (THB 600 per night).
Food: Again, we didn’t pay for any activities here as it was in a great location for hiking to other places. There was an excellent cheap restaurant, Pa Thong. But there were also some more expensive joints such as The Living Room and Siam House. Plus frittering away baht on beers in the bars, such as Flip Flop Pharmacy and Noi’s, and stocking up on snacks in the 7Eleven meant that our costs racked up a little bit. We definitely could have been more careful and have spent a lot less here. Total: THB 10,713.
There are only three villages on this tiny island: Mae Head, Sairee Beach and Chalok Baan Kao. All the other beaches merely have a resort or two, which we find a bit limiting. While we were there, the tide was out at Sairee beach all day, which made the sea pretty unusable due to the shallowness of the water and proximity of the reef. All the swimming pools at Sairee beach had hefty charges for guests to use. It did look as though you could use the pool at Davy Jones Locker but I didn’t want to inflict a boisterous toddler on the people trying to learn to dive.
This was by far the most touristy place we stayed, teeming with backpackers (a little puzzling, as it was relatively expensive here). With hindsight, we would probably have preferred to stay in Mae Head for a less resort-y feel. We explored a number of beaches, all very photogenic. Generally, the waters were good for snorkelling but not so good for toddler with rocks underfoot (Sai Nuan, Jansom Bay, Tao Thong, Sai Daeng). And the hikes to get to them seem to be either very difficult with a toddler or at the other along boring roads.
The best beach we found was Ao Leuk. Also June Juea and Freedom beaches worked well with a toddler. But we wouldn’t particularly recommend this island with a toddler; it is better for backpackers, divers and snorkellers.
Accommodation: We stayed in a concrete bungalow at In Touch Resort. 2 nights at low season price of THB 800 and the rest at THB 950. This was the cheapest thing I could find that didn’t get terrible reviews. They provided a bed for Daisy and the beachfront restaurant was good. We also stayed at JP Resort in Chalok Baan Kao that was pretty reasonable at THB 600, if a little tired looking. There was a pool and extra bed for Daisy, always a bonus. The sea here was shallow and muddy looking though, so we didn’t stay longer. Total: THB 6,000.
Food & activities: We actually indulged in some activities here. A THB 500 full day snorkelling trip for him and a massage and pedicure for THB 500 for me. Definitely the least good value island for food. The most reasonable places we found were Lanta and Su Chilli, but they weren’t particularly exciting. Must make a shout out to Yin Yang in Chalok though, their food was great. Total: THB 10,650.
Taxis and ferries
Taxis (both car and boat) are expensive everywhere so we tried to avoid them as much as possible. We got a couple of shuttles – one with Lomprayah and one from the airport – that were much better value. Also, Lomprayah include free shuttles with your catamaran tickets on Koh Samui. Total for 2x shuttles and 2x taxis: THB 2,500.
Ferries: We went for speed over frugality and booked the high-speed catamarans with Lomprayah. Total: THB 3,500.
Spend per day per person: THB 912 (approximately £20.72). I think I’m pretty pleased with that…