Sydney 2017: Solo Travel with 6 year old – Day 1 Journal

Someone, I can’t recall who, planted an idea in my head – “Travel solo with your girl one day, it’ll be fun!” And it got stuck in my mind so I told myself this will have to happen when my girl is in their K2 year, before they start their six years in primary school.

Ayra is starting primary school next year, so I flew us both (just Ayra and me) to Sydney in June because she wanted to experience winter (though she really wished to see real snow, oh well…) and it was Vivid Sydney festival too, which was really an excellent period to visit! Another reason why I picked Sydney is also because I was just there last December and still have very good navigation memory of the city, and I know where and what we can go or do together.

I tried to be as prepared as I could for this trip and ensure that Ayra is comfortable, safe and happy. Flying for the first time on a long haul redeye flight, we brought along the JetKid BedBox, packed in as much as I could with activities and things for the girl. The BedBox was super handy while we zoom across the airport with Ayra seated on it. The ride was smooth and it pulling it around was a breeze.

DAY 1

After our redeye flight, we took a taxi to our hotel – Fraser Suites Sydney. Both of us were super jet lag and were hoping to get some rest in our room before we take off for our first day of adventure around Sydney. However the room wasn’t ready for us when we arrived (5 hours before the hotel check-in time) so we took a quick shower at the hotel gym, checked in our luggage and off we went on foot to explore places near our hotel. The weather was chill and windy! We loved it!

Our hotel is just minutes walk to Darling Harbour, we spotted a huge playground which Ayra enjoyed throughout our stay! She kept asking me to bring her there EVERYDAY! Playing outdoor is so much more fun due to the nice cool weather in winter.

Ayra loves the soft smooth sand at Darling Harbour Children’s Playground at Tumbalong Park

After our McDonald’s lunch near the playground, we continued our walk towards the harbour. Taking in the sights, sound and super cool breeze by the harbour. It did make me rather sleepy though since I couldn’t get much sleep in the plane.

Australian National Maritime Museum

At the other end of the harbour, we spotted some cool ships and Ayra wanted to check them out. An unplanned trip to the Maritime Museums it was and I’m glad we did that. We got to check out the ship and Ayra enjoyed going up and down the navy ship and the Australian-built replica of James Cook’s HMB Endeavour. Find out more about the museum here.

HMAS Vampire, Australia's largest museum vessel
Ayra onboard the HMAS Vampire, Australia’s largest museum vessel
Australian-built replica of James Cook's HMB Endeavour
She’s not as keen to stay onboard the Australian-built replica of James Cook’s HMB Endeavour because she could feel it swaying with the waves.

Buskers around Sydney

One of things we both enjoyed is the many different buskers spotted around Sydney during our trip. Not sure if they appear only during Vivid season or busk weekly over the weekend. Here’s the first we saw while walking back to our hotel after the museum. We both enjoyed the show – the busker was very comical and interacts very well with his audience. Awesome juggling too!

Cheese Tarts and Angel Hat for Dinner

As we stepped out from our hotel after some rest, hoping to find a nice place for dinner, drizzles greeted us and we couldn’t get anywhere without getting wet. It was Sunday night so every dining place near our hotel were packed! Just as we gave up our search for food, the smell of cheese greeted us as we discovered Uncle Tetsu’s Triple Bake Shop. We joined the queue, bought some tarts and Angel Hat.

Here’s our dinner from day 1…

Angel Hat from Uncle Tetsu (we much prefer their cheese tarts!) and Gong Cha (just as they bid goodbye to SG at that time).
Enjoying her tart and the not-so-likable milo from Australia (she prefers the local version with lots more sugar and flavour!)
Pasta from the hotel room service

This wraps up our day 1 in Sydney. By end of the day, both of us collapsed in bed and had a very good night rest. Though I wished the pillow was firmer though. Day 2 coming up in the next post…

All photos taken with my Canon Powershot G7X Mark II which I bought just before the trip. Till today, I’m so loving it!

Read more about our Sydney 2017 trip at these links:

Things I Learned When Travelling Alone With My Daughter Ayra

Fifty Shades of Tiredness

Travelling with a pre-schooler takes a lot more energy and patience than I imagined.

The worst meltdown was on day 4 which lasted a good long 45 mins, I was lucky it happened in the hotel room. It was initiated from our train trip back from Bondi Junction and turned massive the moment she plonks herself down in the room. I did my best to control myself and keep breathing… “I want Mummy to hug me…“, that’s all we needed to get through the painful struggles.

Day Tour Is Exhausting

When a day tour is planned, prepare activities, for us, it would have been the iPad and food. Hungry and exhausted little one can really drive you crazy when stuck in an hour plus long bus journey. Unfortunately, I didn’t prepare either of them for our planned day tour, I had to pep talk every time we start our ride in the bus. I think I came up with 1001 reasons how we were going to have a great day if she would just rest and nap whenever possible.

Just Go With The Flow

Don’t bother to plan an itinerary, what you do depends greatly on the mood of your pre-schooler. Just go with the flow and go slow, it’s ok you don’t get to visit every place you planned to. Avoid purchasing too many tickets before the trip and keep to just the main highlights, perhaps one attraction every two days.

Be Overprepared

Never underestimate the weather… 11 degree is too cold for our summer-trained body. 3 layers and we were still shivering. Should have bought that Ultra Light Down from Uniqlo! And we almost hit our personal freezing point on the fourth night while walking back to our hotel from Darling Habour.

Promises Not!

When the little one made a promise, don’t take it seriously. “Ok fine! We go to the playground then we go dinner.” – Never happened. We ended up spending too much time at the playground and grabbing a quick bite from McDonald’s instead of a lovely dine in dinner by the harbour.

Stay Away from Social Media

Live in the moments for real and not just capturing and posting about it online. In the past, I used to have the habit to check my mobile and want to post everything I do instantly on Instagram. This trip, I make a conscious effort to keep my mobile away and focus on our time together.

One hand holding onto my girl and the other my compact camera, we lived in every moment together and I capture shots and videos without putting in much thought or planning. Just turn on and shoot. Looking through the photos and videos captured, I double confirmed that perhaps all or most of the “Instagram-worthy” aka well framed and posed shots of kids travelling are lots of hard work and pep talk. Wouldn’t this be too much a hassle just to capture that one great shot? Unless of cos, your little ones are mini supermodels, well trained to respond to “Look here, smile (and pose)!” That’s exactly what I did too but it never worked on Ayra. Just look at the shots I got!

“Ayra look here! Smile! Look here!!!”

Not happening! My girl is just as stubborn as the mother!

Like Parents Like Child

Ayra is very much like me when travelling – She keeps everyone in mind and ensures she buys something for each of them. At the shops, she’ll browse around and go… “This can give to my friends… this I think meimei (Zara) will like… hmmm I think I want to buy this for…“. This is her distributing her loots after our trip at Luna Park.

With one and a half day more to go, it’s time to get something for me perhaps?

Ayra is very much like her father – the moment she stepped into the hotel room, she must have the TV turned on. And it is very difficult to get her to turn it off and head out!

Video Calls FTW

Always have a connection even if you plan to stay disconnected during travel. Because sharing moments and experiences with the sister back home is lots of fun via video calls.

Every day we will stay connected with family back in Singapore via Whatsapp video call. Thanks to unlimited 4G Wifi powered by ChangiWifi (www.changirecommends.com), we called anytime anywhere without worrying we will exceed our data roaming or the need to top-up credits etc. We shared our time on Blue Mountain, view of the Sydney Opera House, travelling in the double-decker train and a lot more happy times with our loved ones during this trip.

With unlimited 4G Wifi also makes waiting in a queue a lot more bearable for the little one, who kept herself entertained with videos on YouTube. That’s us waiting in line for our Scenic Railway ride.

Break a Routine

Travelling could also be one of the best way to break a routine, like wanting milk in a bottle every morning and night. Or the need to hold a hanky to sleep. We survived so far, 5 Days 4 Nights, with Ayra and she has never asked for either of them. Not sure if she will start the routine again when we’re back, but I really hope she has grown out of it.

We are on our final full day here in Sydney and will be flying back tomorrow afternoon. We both miss our family very much and Zara has been upset too without her sister around. Can’t wait to land back home and give a big warm hug to Zara!

Sydney 2017: Preparing My First Solo Trip with My Daughter

The much-anticipated trip for my elder daughter is soon approaching, with less than two weeks to THE day, I am starting to get just a little bit nervous about this whole solo-travel-with-my-girl plan. I have not planned out the exact itinerary yet for the 6 days in Sydney, but I’ve been doing my research and started preparing for the trip since the day I made the flight and hotel bookings. This trip is going to make a big hold through my bank account this is for sure!

After my first visit to Sydney last year, I knew my next trip is going to be another mad shopping spree. Even before we fly off, I’ve already started shopping because this is the first time I’m flying solo with my daughter, her first 7-hour flight to a potentially 15 to 17 degree country and our first navigate-with-google-map and long-hour road trip adventure.

So here are what I’ve planned and prepared so far…

For better in-flight experience

To ensure Ayra is comfortable and be able to sleep through the redeye flight to Sydney, I’ve gotten the children’s airplane bed, BedBox for her from Taxibaby.sg. I first learned about the BedBox by JetKids when a friend shared the demo video on Facebook. I thought I’ll never need one because I had no plan to travel anywhere more than 4 hours with my kids when they are little. And this happened! HA!

From our previous flight to and from HongKong, I noticed that Ayra couldn’t sit comfortably on the plane, her legs were not long enough to touch the floorboard and when laying down reclined, she slept in quite an awkward position. With the BedBox, Ayra will be able to stretch out her legs and be in a more comfortable position. Hope this will help her to sleep soundly through the flight into Sydney so we can both be refreshed and ready for our first day of adventure.

bedbox-inused

For safer travel in cars

We will be travelling quite a bit on cars and private vehicles around Sydney, and Ayra will need to be in a booster seat! For this, I didn’t need to worry as we already have two very compact and travel-friendly boosters which I’ll be bringing along to Sydney. If you’re wondering how I am going to fit a child booster seat into my luggage, here’s how ours look like. Can you even spot it in the photo below? LOL!

Meet mifold, the most advanced, compact and portable booster seat in the world! mifold grab-and-go booster seat is 10x smaller than the regular booster. Instead of lifting the child higher in the car seat, mifold brings the seatbelt lower to fit the child shifting it from their stomach to their lab and away from their neck. We have been using the mifold booster seats in our family car and the girls have come to get used to it (as long as they are occupied with toys or the ipad).

For constant connectivity

Having been introduced to the Wifi router from Changi Recommends, I cannot leave Singapore without one! Connectivity is even more essential and important for this trip since I’m alone with my precious daughter. The last thing I want is to lose connectivity and get lost in the big city. With unlimited and constant Wifi connection and the ability to connect up to 5 devices on the ChangiWifi router, we will be able to stay connected and use our phones and tablets to navigate around Sydney, Ayra will be able to catch her videos when we take breaks at cafes and I’ll be able to catch up on some emails and work when I can (I SHALL abstain myself from work when I’m in Sydney).

The last time I was in Sydney, the ChangiWifi was loading faster than the Wifi in my hotel and the airbnb I stayed at!

For capturing happy travel memories

I have been battling with the decision to bring which camera to Sydney for the past one month or so. I didn’t want to carry around a heavy and bulky camera because I know there’ll be time when I have to carry Ayra when she’s too tired to walk. I didn’t want to just bring any compact that may potentially not give the best quality shots for this first-in-our-lifetime-adventure! So… I gifted myself with a Canon Powershot G7 X Mark II for Mother’s Day!

This is compact enough to fit into my small sling pouch and yet powerful enough for superb photos and videos! I’ve been carrying the Powershot G7 X Mark II everywhere I go since I got it last week and I’m loving it.

For time-saving and lower costs

Two of the places I confirm will be bringing my girl to are the Blue Mountains and Sydney Tower Eyes. To save time queuing for tickets or finding a trusted tour package, I booked ourselves through Changi Recommends attractions and tours offering.

Purchasing attraction passes/tickets and tour packages on Changi Recommends is very convenient and easy. And because it’s recommended by Changi, it should be among the best right? If anything goes wrong, you can come back and complain loh! ermm… you can always provide your feedback when you’re back in Singapore!

I’ve had good experiences with Changi Recommends when we visited HongKong last year, so I know I can trust them lah.

For unforgettable experience at Vivid Sydney

One of the major deciding factor to visit Sydney was because of the huge line-up of activities and attractions at Vivid Sydney! If you are travelling during the period from 26 May to 17 June, be sure to check out Vivid Sydney website and download their mobile app! I’ve got so many items bookmarked in my profile I hope Ayra will have enough energy to go crazy chasing lights with me when the sun sets in Sydney.

So I’ve got about ten out of the one hundred and one things I plan to do with Ayra in Sydney planned out, I shall leave the remaining 90% of the trip to our sense of exploration and adventure with Google Map and Foursquare.

Next on my to do list… get more warm clothing for Ayra and the luggage packed.

Sydney here we come!

Our 5 Year Old First Forest Adventure in Genting

In February, together with the little ones and my mum, we headed up to Genting for the first time after more than two decades. I have zero recollection of how the place looks like and did not have any expectation for the trip besides the awesome meals we were going to try at the newly renovated Sky Avenue at Resorts World Genting.

More than Casino and Food

When we signed up for a Fashion Forest walk, in my mind I was ready for a stroll in air-conditioned indoor somewhere inside the newly renovated Resorts World Genting. Oh boy I was SOOOOOO wrong! One day before the trip we were told to pack our sports shoes and attire, I knew things were going to be as easy as I’d thought.

We were going into a REAL FOREST! 

I didn’t know they have such places and adventures in Genting! The day before the adventure in a real forest, I was chickening out and had planned to skip it. But Ayra was super enthusiastic and insisted she wants to do it.

Ayra's first forest adventure in Genting with Treks Events

Our Adventure Begins

So off we went on our very first forest walk with the very friendly husband and wife team from Treks Genting.

To minimise the walking for the little one, and lucky for me; Ayra and I were driven up (and down) in this jeep with Pat. It was Ayra’s first 4-wheel jeep ride and up a rocky road. It sure was quite an adventure even before we set our feet onto the natural land in the Fashion Forest.

Ayra's first forest adventure in Genting with Treks Events
While waiting for the rest of the group to hike up the meeting point, Pat set up small flame and smoke to keep mozzies away, but sadly we still got bitten quite badly! The insect repellent Zara made in school wasn’t very effective for these combat trained mosquitoes!

Ayra's first forest adventure in Genting with Treks Events
This is Uncle Eddie who is super enthusiastic and passionate about nature, forest and everything that you can find and do in the forest. His sharing and fun sharing of the forest had definitely attracted Ayra to want to go on this adventure. Together with his team at Treks Genting, they set up the forest to make it more interesting and engaging for their hikers. You’ll see QR code, frames to guide you on what to see and shoot around the forest, and even provides you with complimentary Wifi from their mobile phone if you need to stay connected in the forest.

Ayra's first forest adventure in Genting with Treks Events
The walk into the forest started with a 10 minutes climb down a very steep and long set of stairs. This wasn’t our usual flats of stairs, every step was an adventure for the little one! But Ayra shocked me when she walked down the stairs without complaint and was very enthusiastic throughout our time in the forest. She walked into the forest with the help of a walking stick.

This experience has shown me the other side of Ayra which I didn’t know she was capable of. At one point she turned back, looked at me and said “Mummy faster!”; while I tried to catch my breathe after 1/4 climb back up from the forest. She was many steps ahead of me and show no sign of exhaustion! I was simply speechless.

Ayra's first forest adventure in Genting with Treks Events

If only the weather in Singapore was less humid and hot, I’ll gladly bring her for walks at Bukit Timah Hill anyday. Perhaps it’s time I start planning for our first mother-daughter trip before she enters Primary school next year. Where shall we go?


If you are heading to Fashion Forest, try spotting our names on the welcome banner at the start of the forest walk!

If you would like to experience a different side of Genting too, go check out treks.events or their Facebook page.

Learning to Write with Kids’ Favourite Songs

Ayra is in K2 this year, and she is still not very keen on reading nor writing. I am not sure if she’s only being lazy when around me or she is really just not interested. Based on feedback from her teachers, she is doing alright in class and even during her enrichment sessions at Eye Level.

learningwithmusiclyrics

To help get her want to practice writing, I thought we can try copying lyrics from her favourite song list. We tried it for the first time recently and I think I’m going to make this a weekly routine.

This was her copied version of part of the song from My Little Pony, titled Welcome To The Show.

Still a lot of practice needed. Should I be worried? My husband and I believe she will eventually learn and want to read and write. Her time is just not here yet.

The Girl Who Doesn’t Smile Turns Five

My first born turns 5 today! The quiet princess who is otherwise known as “the girl who doesn’t smile”, a title given to her by other kids. It’s not true that she doesn’t smile, she just doesn’t smile all the time! Ayra since young has been the shy girl who’s afraid to express herself when with unfamiliar people. Up till today, at 5, she’s still the same or perhaps a little more confident but still very wary of how people see and think of her.

The Perfectionist

Ayra doesn’t want to do things that she is not confident with, she refused to read because she’s uncertain if she’ll be right. She gets frustrated way too easily whenever she do something that’s not up to her own standard. When in front of unfamiliar people, she choose to stay reserve and hide behind a shield; the shield that prevents others to read what’s on her mind.

The Artist

Ayra loves to paint and draw. Give her a set of colours and paper, she’ll draw you a beautiful princess, a pokemon or a family portrait sometimes with additional friends she like from her class. Let her pick doing her homework from English class or to paint, she’ll happily focus on painting pictures after pictures (so that there will be no time left for homework).

The Caring Sister

I’m glad Ayra is growing up to become a very caring and sensible elder sister. The two sisters are always looking out for one another and have their unique way of loving the other. Of course there are plenty of fights, snatch and cries, but everything resets itself after a short or long nap.

The Sensitive Girl

I make her cry, a little too much. When I fail to fulfil my role as her Mum she will be very upset and often meltdown happens. At the moment of anger (or just because I’m too occupied with task on hand) I will raise my voice at her just so she stop repeating her request. And always almost immediately I regret how I handle it. Seeing her break down and cry pains me. But I do it over and over again, the subconscious simply choose to forget all these emotional tortures for both Ayra and I. Sorry Ayra for making you upset so many times. Mummy will learn to control myself, but please also try to learn to listen to me and not make me keep repeating myself till the point it pisses me off.

The Girl Who Doesn’t Smile

Those who rarely get to interact with Ayra will only get to see that expressionless face of hers. That’s just her being her. But once she warmed up to you and finds you less threatening, she will open up and be comfortable with you around her. This is when you can see the other (rare) side of her which only close family members get to experience. The happy and cheeky girl.




Today, Ayra turns 5! The best 5 years of my life because of Ayra and Zara. Mummy loves you! 

Let’s dance!

VID_20160910_213851

Our Learning Experience with Eye Level Singapore at City Square Mall

Ayra is almost 5 and she’s not very interested in learning to read. She’s a spatial and visual learner, she prefers to draw than to write her alphabets. She prefers to learn the strokes of Chinese characters rather than to recognise the sound of words. A few months ago, she was still writing alphabets and words (even her name at times) in inverted form (in mirror-image). Since early this year, I started looking out for classes to send Ayra to help in reading and writing, we also attended a few trial classes together. But she doesn’t like any of the classes which were all in groups. I didn’t want to force her into doing what she doesn’t want, so I accepted that one day she will learn to read and write, now is just not her time yet.

An Invitation to Learn The Eye Level Way

Someone must have heard my woes or felt my worry, just as I was about to give up on the search for classes I received an invitation to go for a free diagnostic test and trial class with Eye Level. I accepted the invite and went to check out this place which we’d passed by many times at City Square Mall.

I did not know what Eye Level is about and have not done any research on them yet, cos I assumed they were for primary school kids. When I entered the centre for the first time, it kinda resembled much learning centre for bigger kids or a place for tuition where classrooms are filled with tables and chairs, a whiteboard and no space for group/floor activities.

The first question that came to mind – “Would Ayra be able to learn in and get used to such an environment?

After our first visit where she did her diagnostic test with the teacher to determine which level of learning she should start at, we took our time to decide if this is what Ayra needed.

The diagnostic test result was as what I’d expected, Ayra though in K1, her language skill is of a typical 4-year-old. If she were to start at Eye Level, she’ll be working on her fundamentals phonics skill and start from Level B instead of Level C.

Level B English at Eye Level introduces beginning consonant sounds and beginning and middle short vowel sounds. The child will develop phonemic awareness and letter-sound correspondence with practice in letter writing. Ayra will also be introduced to narrative stories and informational text and develop fluency by saying letter names, letter sounds, and picture names. It sounds a little too basic for a 5-year-old, but that’s where we have to start for Ayra.

We headed back to Eye Level City Square Mall the following week for a trial class and Ayra was a little reluctant to enter the classroom on her own. But after the trial class, she looks happy and less shy when the teacher spoke to her. It took us another 2 weeks of talking and consideration before we decided to embark on a 3 month (a term) of classes with Eye Level City Square Mall.

Eye Level at City Square Mall, Basement 2

The Eye Level Learning Method

  • Fundamental English Language Arts Skills
    Eye Level English consists of basic and advanced language arts and reading skills coupled with vocabulary and comprehension strategies. The program is based on language skills outlined in the state standards.
  • Individualized Program
    Eye Level English uses Diagnostic Tests at the beginning of the program and Level Tests at the end of each level to provide blueprints for instruction, customized to each child.
  • Promotes Self-Directed Learning
    Eye Level English is designed to develop the skills necessary for students to take responsibility and accountability for their own learning process.

It’s Been A Month with Eye Level

Surprisingly Ayra is now motivated to do her homework from Eye Level and is always chirpy and good spirited when she attends her weekly lesson.

Zara accompanying Ayra while she completes her Eye Level home activity, the little one learns too!

The Weekly Routine at Eye Level City Square Mall

A session at Eye Level is for 45-minutes of learning. The students are taught to check-in themselves on a tablet, remove their shoes and get their own learning materials for the week before entering the classroom.

Logging in (and out) for classes at Eye Level.
Part of the training to be independent learners here at Eye Level.

As Ayra needs lots of guidance to complete the activities, she gets more one-to-one time with the teacher in class. For learners who are independent, they will be briefed by the teacher on what they are learning that week, and they will move to their own table to do self-directed learning. Teacher is present to facilitate learning and provide guidance when necessary. Before the child leave, the teacher will give feedback on the submitted homework and the week’s lesson.

With her teacher from her second session with Eye Level.

Ayra’s Learning Progress

It has been more than a month since Ayra started learning English with Eye Level. Though she is still far from being a reader, she is now more aware of the sound of words and is more willing to learn on her own even when at home.

Ayra needs more exposure to reading and writing, and I have a very big role to play and gap to fill. Admit that I’m a lazy mum who rather spend time playing with the girls than to teach them to read and write. I think both my husband and I are the relax kind of parents, our mentality is that the girls will do well and learn when they are ready. They are still young and should be enjoying their childhood and play.

Though we were both trained and experienced educators,  but teaching primary school kids and pre-schoolers are not the same. More so with the teaching of other people’s children vs teaching our own! I think we got to figure out this whole learning routine in our home soon.

After a month, Ayra’s smiling when she go for her classes with Eye Level.

Get 20% off first 3 months of lesson at Eye Level

Eye Level will be at Suntec Convention & Exhibition Centre, Hall 403-406, Booth C31 & C32, for Rise & Shine Festival 2016, from 12 to 14 August 2016.

There will be a 20% off for first three months, for all subjects, during the three days event, exclusively at Rise & Shine Festival only.

If you are looking for a place where your child gets to learn at his/her own pace and get trained to be self-directed learners, go find out more at Rise & Shine Festival and talk to the teachers.

Logo_Eye_Level_Learning_Centre

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Eye Level Singapore

Address : 180 Kitchener Road #B2-02 Singapore 208539
Total of 19 centres in Singapore, find their location here.
Website: http://www.myeyelevel.com/
Facebook : www.facebook.com/eyelevel.singapore
Email : citysquaremall@myeyelevel.com
Tel : +65 6509 1317
Subject : Math / English / Play Math / English Sparks
Opening Hours : Wed: 1.30pm to 8pm / Thurs – Fri: 2.30pm – 8pm / Sat: 9.30am – 6pm / Sun: 9.30am to 1pm

Disclaimer: Ayra is sponsored a term of lesson with Eye Level for purpose of finding out more about the learning centre and for sharing of our experience with them. All opinions are our own.