If you're planning to incorporate a trip to Thailand in your gap year adventure, make sure you take the time to work out your perfect itinerary. Read our guide to find tips on how to organise the ideal route for you.
Where do you want to go?
As with any holiday to Thailand, the first step will be to ascertain exactly what it is you want to see. If Thailand is somewhere you've always wanted to visit, there's a good chance you'll have an idea of the locations you're keen to head to already - in which case, this part of your planning could be quite simple.
However, whether you have a firm notion of your top destinations or little idea about what you want to see, it pays to do some research into the country before making your final choice. After all, it's a vast nation that's home to everything from breathtaking natural beauty and isolated hill tribes to idyllic islands and crowded modern cities, so there's a lot to explore.
If you're travelling as part of a gap year, it's likely you'll want to see a little bit of everything. In that case, it can be wise to opt for something like a 'classic Thailand' tour, which will include destinations such as the capital Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle.
Alternatively, you could select a route that'll take you to the nation's top three destinations: Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. This kind of shorter itinerary is handy if you're keen to experience different areas of the nation, but don't have a lot of time to spare.
However, you can decide to take routes that focus solely on specific areas, such as the beautiful islands of Koh Chang - the country's easternmost province - or the natural attractions that abound in the north.
How much time do you have?
Of course, one of the key factors in planning your route will be determining exactly how much time you have to spare. After all, if you only have a matter of days, there is little point packing too much into your itinerary in the hope of seeing more, because, in reality, this will only result in you feeling rushed and missing out on really experiencing the country.
If you have a few weeks available, it is worth tackling the longer routes that take you across the country, giving you the chance to see everything from the capital to the fascinating landscapes and isolated tribes in the north.
Those with just days to spare, however, will generally be best off choosing an itinerary with a more specific focus. So, think about what really interests you about Thailand - for instance, its historical temples or some of its awe-inspiring natural landscapes - and select a route that will allow you to explore this as well as possible.
Planned tours or independent travel?
Another essential point to decide on is whether you will opt for a planned adventure with a tour operator, or you intend to make your way from one Thailand hotel to the next independently. This is a personal choice but, as a general rule, opting for a planned tour is a good way of making sure you see everything you want to - and that your travel goes smoothly.
Companies like Hayes & Jarvis can help you find the right route for you, as well as work out exactly where to stay along the way. What's more, you'll usually find that adding a few days extra on the end of your itinerary is possible, so you can spend some time relaxing on the gorgeous beaches of Phuket or the Phi Phi Islands.