Phuket's a good bet, via a Bangkok shopover

I want to book a family holiday from December 25 until January 10, the only time our family of two adults and girls aged 14 and 16 can travel. The girls want shopping and hubby wants the beach. We are thinking of Fiji, New Zealand or Hawaii. We have been told by friends the place to go for both beach and shopping is Phuket. If so, would it be a bit pricier than the other destinations? This may be our only holiday for years so I want to pick the right place and make everyone happy.

- S. Luxford, Penrith.

Your friends are right. Phuket is also one of the best value-for-money destinations around but I'm not confident that the shopping scene would totally satisfy. However, Bangkok's certainly would and, since you'll probably be passing through, here's what I'd do.

On the way to Phuket, plan a Bangkok stopover - two or three nights sounds perfect. My pick of accommodation would be the VIE Hotel ( because it's in a great location, the prices are unbelievable and they do a fantastic breakfast (note to teenagers: head straight for the crepe lady). Qantas flight crew stay there as it's close to the airport freeway and, according to the crew I spoke to in the hotel lobby in January, it's one of their favourite stopover stays.

Turn left outside the hotel, walk for five minutes down Phaya Thai Road and on the opposite side of Rama I Road, above the golden arches, is MBK (pictured), a shopping plaza crammed with thousands of stalls to satisfy every want. Back across Phaya Thai Road along Rama I Road you have the Siam Centre, Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery and Siam Square, each one a fantasy world for shoppers. And don't miss Garsorn Plaza, which has the world's ritziest labels.

Mr Beachlover might not like this. He might carp and whine a bit but here are two magic words that will change his mind - Pantip Plaza. Also known as IT City, this is the mother of all IT zones, a multistorey plaza packed with gadgets that allow you to sit on your lounge and control the universe. It is physically impossible for a man to walk into Pantip Plaza and walk out empty-handed. From VIE Hotel, turn right, right again at Petchburi Road and he's right there - just a 10-minute stroll. Let the gorgeous beaches at Phuket be your just deserts.