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.
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.
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.
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…
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…
It was right below our hotel when we were in Sydney and we had totally no idea that it is the only one in Australia and probably one of the must-eats while you spot one kinda food. Uncle Tetsu is from Japan and this store is located at Regent Place, George Street. We chanced upon it while hunting for dinner on our first night in Sydney, and due to the rain, we could only roam near our stay. With Regent Place right next to our hotel (like literally just step out, turn right and we’re in!), we settled few of our meals here.
So we had Uncle Tetsu cheese tarts for our dinner and Ayra gave it double thumbs up right after she tried the sample when we were in the queue. But when we returned back to the hotel with our box of freshly baked tarts with oozing cheese, she did not like it. Ayra ate the fragrance tart crust while I lick off the melted cheese from her tart. Mummy loves cheese tarts no matter how it’s served, while Ayra prefers hers chilled (with solidified cheese). So she had cheese tarts for breakfast over the next couple of days since we bought a box of 6.
Famous for spreading the uniquely soft & fluffy Japanese Cheesecake throughout Asia and now western countries, Uncle Tetsu opened the largest Cheesecake Factory in the world and also Uncle Tetsu’s Triple-baked Cheese Tart Factory in Sydney. There is also the Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Angel Garden where you can dine-in or take away the Angel Hat Japanese Cheesecake, as well as other special flavours of Japanese Cheesecake, Crepes & Galettes, and speciality barista creations.
We didn’t have time to try out the cafe this time round, but the menu sure looked interesting. There were just too many food options at Regent Place!
The next time you are in Sydney, don’t forget to get yourself some freshly baked yummy and oozing cheese tarts from Uncle Tetsu Australia!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
It was our first family trip with our two preschoolers and we came back with bulkier arms and thigh muscles. And also a much higher tolerance towards the many challenges thrown at us. This was our first family trip to Hong Kong, including Disneyland Hong Kong, Ocean Park and some shopping around Hong Kong. Unfortunately, this trip has also stretched the father’s limit and he is rather persistent that we will not have any more overseas travels until the girls hit Primary school and learn to be more independent.
If you are planning a trip to Hong Kong with your children, especially those age below 6, here is a quick “survival guide” from our personal experiences. What works for us may not be what you agree or want to do, but I hope some of the tips will be useful for you! Tips include must download apps, how to save time with Changi Recommends and ways to occupy your preschoolers.
Family Survival Guide for Travel to Hong Kong with Preschoolers
Tip #1 – Bring lots of snacks
Because when the little ones’ mouth (and tummy) is full, they usually behave better and has more energy to keep on moving, or dancing, or some may say “to irritate the hell out of us parents”. #truestory
Tip #2 – Hop onto buses and trams
Hong Kong is well connected via MTR and most travellers usually opt for that, but with our two girls, they were happier and with less whining when we take the buses and trams. Probably because they get to see what’s going around instead of the dark tunnel throughout their journey in the trains. Well, except for the train to Disneyland which they would gladly ride a few times I’m sure.
Download the MTR and Hong Kong Tram mobile apps, they were very handy during our trip. Including features like trip planner, ride timing, route and costs.
Tip #3 – Rent strollers or bring a super lightweight one
We knew Hong Kong will be a trip with LOTS of walking, and it includes LOTS and LOTS of stairs! We wouldn’t be able to carry our two girls plus the stroller when we climb the many stairs. So we chose to leave our stroller at home and we rented strollers at the two parks we visited. Its HK$100 per stroller per day but it’s so totally necessary! Unless you have got super strong arms and legs. If you have a compact and lightweight stroller that you can simply sling on your shoulder and still able to carry the kids with both hands, then do BRING IT!
We had to carry the girls a lot still cos they were forever complaining that their legs were tired lah, sleepy lah, feet pain lah… 101 excuses lah. But when we pop a can of Pringles, they could run and jump around me just to get a piece of chip! Oh well…
Tip #4 – Stay Indoor (unless it’s Winter)
We were there mid-November and assumed that the weather would be cool enough to just keep walking. But we were sooooo wrong! The sun was blazing like hell and we always ended up sweaty after a day out. The next best option was for my hub and I is to take turns to rest and shop. While he goes shop for his stuff, I’ll chill at a cafe nearby with the girls. They can nap on my lap or be kept entertained with the TV in the cafe or their favorite videos on YouTube Kids.
While he goes shop for his stuff, I’ll chill at a cafe nearby with the girls. They can nap on my lap or be kept entertained with the TV in the cafe or their favorite videos on YouTube Kids. Then we will head back to the hotel where he will look after the girls while I shop till I drop! Ha! Recommend to stay near malls and places you want to shop so you don’t have to travel too far.
We stayed at Holiday Inn Golden Mile which is very accessible via train and lots of shopping around.
Tip #5 – Stay connected
On this trip, we had with us 2 iPhones and 2 iPads, with lots of video watching, photos and videos upload for backups and the many apps and maps we used to find out ways around. I think it would have burnt our mobile bill if we opted for data roaming loh! I got us a ChangiWifi at $5/day for use in Hong Kong, allows you to connect up to 6 devices at any one time and offers very good connectivity throughout our travel around Hong Kong, even when underground!
The promotion is valid for travels by 31 March 2017.[/box]
Tip #6 – Playground means rest time
Yes, we are overseas and should spend more time doing things that we don’t get to experience in Singapore, but when there is a playground nearby just go! Our girls spent the most time while we were at Ocean Park at their children’s playground. And this was also the time where we parents get to take a break, sit and cool off. They loved the playground so much they didn’t want to leave!
Tip #7 – Exhaust their energy
Playground, bouncy castle, jumping up and down trying to reach for snacks, and any activity that can let them focus their energy even for that 5 minutes is worth doing. Especially when you are ready to head back to the hotel and call it a day with the kids. 90% of the time they would have KO when they are back at the comfy hotel.
Tip #8 – Skip the queues
Our girls HATE to queue. We were waiting in line for photo taking session with Mickey and Minnie which they had wanted to do when we showed them videos before the trip. When I saw the queue it looked like a 10 to 15 mintues max. wait according to our experience at Universal Studios Singapore where one family gets some quick shots and leave. I was WRONG! The queue only moved a little after 15 minutes and then suddenly the mice disappeared! With a 2-hour meet-and-greet session, of cos I should have guessed the characters will have to take short breaks in-between or head somewhere to swap the people inside the mascots. But what I didn’t expect was the amount of time they allow each family to spend with the characters! Before you take your nice photos, the character will interact and play with the guests, then they will do 1001 different poses and then more interaction time! This is awesome for paying customers as we get to maximise our money spent on the tickets lah, but seriously?? It is a little too long leh. So we ended up leaving the queue after 20 mins in it. Sigh….
This tip is not to ask you to buy any express or fast passes lah, but its one way to cut down one of the many queues you will be joining at these attractions. Skip the ticketing queue and enter straight into the parks when you purchase your tickets online. We got our attraction passes from Changi Recommends website which is cheaper than you buy at the door.
All Ocean Park combo deals (Adult/Child Souvenir, Restaurant, Kiosk, Family Combo)
Trick Eye Museum
Ngong Ping Combo (Crystal Cabin + Meal Coupon)
Promotion is valid till 11 December 2016and for online purchase only. Tickets to be used by 31 December 2016.[/box]
Tip #9 – Get airport transfer
Though travelling via the train from Hong Kong airport to our hotel is convenient and cheaper, we opted for a private driver to pick us up instead. With kids, bulky luggages and tired parents (after three over hours of pacifying the little ones in the plane), airport transfer is highly recommended.
We booked our overseas airport transfers through Changi Recommends, together with a few other services they provide. And I’m so glad I made this choice because when we landed in Hong Kong, my girls were rather grouchy when we boarded the vehicle. The personal pick-up, with a chauffeur to send us right to the doorsteps of our hotel, sure saved us lots of stress and energy.
Tip #10 – Go Uber
For families travelling in Hong Kong, when travelling around, it could be more economical and sensible to ride with Uber. After our not-so-happening-and-damn-tiring first night, we opted for Uber rides for the rest of our trips whenever we have to travel long distance – like from the hotel to Ocean Park.
Hope the above tips are useful! If you are heading to Hong Kong soon, here’s a giveaway for you!
It was our first trip after 18 years of friendship. A 2D1N shop-and-eat-till-we-drop trip to Johor Bahru. To minimise traveling time, we booked ourselves into Holiday Villa Johor Bahru Malaysia which is right next to one of JB mega mall KSL.
This is a quick review of the hotel we stayed, pardon the photos cause I was traveling ultra light and only had mobile phones with me.
Holiday Villa hotel is relatively new and the lobby is modern, clean and nice. The check-in wasn’t as nice though.
We requested for connecting rooms and were almost not given the rooms even though this was confirmed upon verification via email. We had to insist that we were already assigned the rooms and after few checks before the guy behind the counter gave it to us. One of the rooms were not ready at check-in time and we had to wait till much later.
When 3 out of 4 ladies traveling are mums, you get this kind of loot after a few hours of shopping at KSL. No prize for guessing where we spent the most time shopping at, the Supermarket of cos! LOL!
Breakfast the next day looked like this….
The hotel is clean, comfy and near KSL, ideal for short family trip. I would consider going back there again if I plan to just shop at KSL over the weekend with my family.
Holiday Villa Johor Bahru City Centre is a 4-star trendy hotel strategically located along the main road of Jalan Dato’ Sulaiman in Century Garden, the road leading to and from Tebrau Highway. The hotel is 28.6 kilometers or 29 minutes drive from Senai International Airport and 4 kilometers or 9 minutes drive from the ferry jetty at Stulang Laut.
So we thought our girls would totally enjoy a trip to Legoland Malaysia with the grandparents and us, we planned and booked our first trip out of Singapore with our two little ones. It was supposed to be the “Everything is Awesome” family trip and Zara’s first passport chop. But we were so wrong.
Knowing that both the girls would not be able to survive an entire day of play at Legoland, we decided to spend just 4 to 5 hours at both the theme parks before we head back to Singapore on our second day stay. After our first day of relaxing and some shopping, we tried to let the girls sleep as early as they can and wake up as late as they can so they get enough rest before our fun time at Legoland Malaysia.
I was all pumped and ready for some fun time with the whole family. We arrived at Legoland Malaysia around 12.45pm, the weather was cool and sky was covered with clouds. A great weather to soak up some fun. Expecting Ayra to scream and shout when she saw the theme park, but instead all she wanted to do was to stay covered inside her stroller. Zara was slightly more enthusiastic and were looking everywhere curiously.
The very first ride we saw was the Legoland junior driving school, Ayra saw it and said she is able to drive the car on her own. So off we went to join the queue which was relatively short in my opinion. Before we were half way through the wait, Ayra got tired of waiting and we exited. First ride attempt failed.
Then we walked towards the Legoland Express which all of us got to get in together. Again Ayra was asking to get out of the queue almost immediately. This girl just hated the wait I think. But we insisted to ride it together and so we did. And well, the ride was… just a ride. I think the girls had more fun when we were onboard the train at City Square Mall few weeks earlier.
Upon exiting the train station, we saw an actor asking everyone to enter the theatre for a Christmas show, and since Ayra and Zara had all enjoyed live stage performances we thought this could be something they would like. And the place was kept cool with air-conditioning, big welcoming feature after sweating outdoor. The show was entertaining with Christmas characters singing and dancing. But the sound system was a little bad and I couldn’t quite hear the words they were talking and singing.
Next we took flight at the LEGO City Airport, the last ride both our girls took before they got tired and before the sky started to drizzle. This ride is so not for adults, even photo taking is not possible since the height of the plane is designed for kids. My face gets strategically chopped off.
While Ayra snoozed in her stroller and Zara drinking her milk, husband and I had a go at Project X. Due to the drizzle there wasn’t any queue for this thrill ride. I had a good scream on this one. I am so not a thrill ride person.
With the on-going drizzle and Ayra still sleeping, we headed to the water theme park. Yes, you read it right! The above were just the few pathetic activities we did at the much hyped about Legoland Malaysia! There are so many more things we could have done there, but we did not even get close enough for a photo of it. Lesson learned, never attempt another trip to theme parks with both girls until they are old or tall enough to truly enjoy all the activities!
And off we went to Legoland water theme park…
It wasn’t any better at the water theme park which was much more packed than the main theme park. We had some fun in the wave pool and in the build-a-raft pool. Before we could dip our feet into the DUPLO Splash Safari, I had to carry Ayra as close as I can against my chest to keep her warm. This poor girl was shivering from the chill. With that we wrapped up our super short time at the water theme park.
And again my face is strategically blocked by dear Ayra and her brick…
Very sad day right? This is and would probably be our worst ever experience at Legoland Malaysia. But we are not giving up the hope that one day we will head back there again and enjoy our time there 101%; and it better be a 3D2N fun instead cos 2D1N is just not enough to enjoy everything Legoland has to offer. Perhaps a stay at the Legoland hotel might help since its nearer than Traders Hotel which we stayed at during this visit.