A Beginner’s Guide to Stress-Free Family Travel

04 February 2016
<p>Let your kids experience the world.</p>

Let your kids experience the world.

There’s no excuse to be an armchair explorer if you live in Singapore. And travelling with your family doesn’t need to multiply your stress. Get planning with The Finder’s holiday how-tos!

 

BOOK IT YOURSELF

Your dream family vacay is just a click away. 

 

The Collektion

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The site represents luxury resorts and hotels in and around Asia, such as the Viceroy Bali and Thailand’s Aava Resort & Spa. Pick from a list of pre-planned itineraries, or call The Collektion’s consultants to customise an experience. It’s perfect for families, couples and even solo travellers. 
Fave feature: The Collektion has a range of Wellness holidays, including a fun fitness break filled with outdoor activities like bespoke boot camps, cycling, trail running and more. 
Sample trip: Stay in Central Java’s MesaStila Resort. Explore the ancient Borobudur monument then try local delicacies like wingko babat, sugar and coconut cakes, or lumpia, a meat- or seafood-filled spring-roll snack. Price on request. (16 Raffles Quay #33-03; 9777 9051; www.thecollektion.com)

Asia Travel

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Asia Travel presents you with an extensive list of hotels (USD$33 and up) and exciting packages for any selected destination. Fave feature: Make money by booking a holiday with participating hotels or packages marked with a small green logo to qualify for the site’s Cash Rewards programme. Sample trip: Enjoy Bangkok’s beautiful beaches, good food and the Cartoon Network Amazone water park – where kids can splash about in Johnny Bravo’s Banana Spin Bowl. This package for a family of four comes with airport transfer service plus your choice of hotel for as low as SGD$1,321 in total. (www.asiatravel.com)

Kayak.sg

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Budget-conscious folks go nuts for this site’s airline, hotel and car rental deals. Plug in your itinerary particulars and sit back while Kayak rolls out various price options. Select your ideal fee, and Kayak connects you directly to the brand so you can complete your booking. 
Fave feature: It lets you compare flight and hotel prices with sites like Flight Network, Booking.com, eDreams, Expedia and others before purchasing. Sample trip: At press time, we found round-trip tickets for two adults and two children (3 to 17 years old) to Malacca on Air Asia and Malindo Air – in mid-March, going from a Sunday to Sunday – for about $835, total. 

 

PAY FOR SERVICE

These travel agencies take care of the details.

 

Flight Centre

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Whether it’s luxe or less, this agency does it all. And if you find a cheaper airfare quote that Flight Centre can’t beat by $1, you fly for free. Look out for: Double Dip and Triple Threat promos, which allow you to fly to two or three locations on a single low fare. Fave feature: Flight Centre’s new Virtual Reality Experience displays 360-degree images and videos of different travel destinations (e.g., Tokyo; Cairns, Australia; Hoi An, Vietnam), giving you a life-like feel for each location. Oh, and FC’s sleek flagship store on Cecil Street now has an adjacent cosy cafe – in case you work up an appetite planning your trip. Sample trip: In need of a little Vitamin Sea? Boracay in the Philippines is the place to go. Flight Centre has a three-night Henann Lagoon Resort package, complete with flights and an island-hopping tour for only $988 per person. (www.flightcentre.com.sg for locations)

Chan Brothers Travel

The award-winning travel agency’s friendly consultants are aces at customising packages to some of Asia’s most exotic destinations (they don’t do mass-market tours). Fave feature: Pick up gift vouchers for wanderlust-stricken friends and family members. Prices range from $100 to $500. Sample trip: Head to South Korea this spring to check out the gorgeous cherry blossoms on Ho’am Cherry Blossom Street. Also visit the Jeju Folk Village Museum and Elybaden Hot Springs Park, see a funny Nanta musical and more – for less than $2,000 per person. Every second traveller gets 50-percent off! Valid until April 12, 2016. (www.chanbrothers.com for locations)

Country Holidays

Country Holidays

The founders of Country Holidays are parents to toddlers and teens, so they know exactly what it takes to plan a trip for the whole family. That’s why the agency makes sure each holiday is tailored to your request, with knowledgeable English-speaking guides and personal transportation. 
Fave feature: Try Country Holidays’ 7-day glamping experience. Country Holidays is one of the few travel agents in Singapore to offer it – perfect if you love the outdoors but can’t handle sharing your sleeping bag with bugs. Sample trip: Thailand’s Anantara Golden Triangle private elephant camp is ideal for animal-loving kids who want one-on-one interaction with these gentle giants. One child will enjoy a free night’s stay for the first 10 bookings worth $500. (www.countryholidays.com.sg for locations)

Score!

Where can you nab some of the best travel deals of the year? The new Travel Revolution Fair (February 26 to 28) at Marina Bay Sands will bring together hundreds of travel specialists, tour operators, and travel agencies under one roof. (B2 Expo Halls D; www.travelrevolution.sg)

 

PICK THE RIGHT BAG

Hold your stuff (or kid!) securely. 

 

Beyond Business

With compression panels for optimal organising, Zero Halliburton’s Geo Aluminum hard cases aren’t just for biz travel. Adjustable, padded shoulder straps let you go hands-free while drawbolt latches give you peace of mind. Price upon request. (222A Orchard Road, #02-19, www.zerohalliburton.asia)

For the Kiddos

GetSetGo

Make it cool to carry your own case with the Trunki Tipu Tiger ride-on suitcase from GetSetGo.sg ($89.90). Or, if you’re planning an off-road adventure and your child is too young to walk long distances, consider the BoostApak ($115), an 8-litre capacity rucksack that doubles as a booster seat. (www.getsetgo.sg)

Oldie but Goodie

Samsonite

Luggage legend Samsonite recently partnered with London-based Liberty Art Fabrics to create the Samsonite x Liberty Art Fabrics range featuring iconic floral prints ($390 and up). The 55-centimetre soft case has a smart buckle system – and is  an ideal carry-on size. (www.samsonite.com.sg for locations)

Back that Thing Up

Briggs & Riley

The Briggs & Riley Clamshell Backpack ($409) doesn’t just take good care of your electronics. Its ample storage space lets you pack everything the kids will need for a day out (water bottles, spare clothes, caps, snacks and sunblock). Plus, the aerated mesh padding will keep your back cool in the heat. (www.theplanettraveller.com for locations)

Light as Air

Rimowa

Rimowa’s Salsa Air ($650 and up) weighs a mere 1.9 kilogrammes – one of the lightest bags around. Plus, its multi-stage telescopic handle offers easy manoeuvrability. In five chic colours, it’s great for stylish mums. Pair it with a mini Salsa Air for children aged 6 to 10. (www.rimowa.com/en-sg for more locations)

Score!

It’s no secret that Mustafa’s Shopping Centre is where to go for bargains on, well, everything. Make your way to Level 2 of the 24-hour shopping complex to select from popular brands like Polo, Pierre Cardin, Hush Puppies and more ($32 and up). (145 Syed Alwi Rd, www.mustafa.com.sg)

 

STOCK UP ON GEAR

These travel accessories are worth every penny.

Pint-sized Pillows

Put the kids down for naptime – no matter where you are – with Motherswork’s comfy neck pillows like the Benbat Lion headrest ($24.90). They offer proper neck support for your sleepy tot, especially in tight spaces like airplanes or taxis. (www.motherswork.com.sg for locations)

Power to Go

The Tumi electric adaptor ($90) works in more than 150 countries and is suitable for most plugs, giving you a safe way to power portable and non-grounded devices during travel. Use it with a wide range of electronics like MP3 players, digital cameras, speakers and more. (www.tumi.sg for locations)

Bath Buddy

Designed to carry toiletries like your toothbrush, lotions, ointments and facial products, the Muji portable hanging bath case ($14.90 and up) has zip pockets, a retractable hook and elastic bands to keep the case contents secure (www.muji.com.sg for locations)

Outdoor Essential

The waterproof Fold DryBag BS ($15 and up) from Campers’ Corner keeps your valuables dry and protected from sand, dust, dirt and bugs. Better still, it can become a DIY washer: Fill it with dirty laundry, water and detergent; shake, rinse and dry it all out. (51 Waterloo Street, #01-01, www.camperscorner.com.sg)

Perfect Pouches

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Flight 001 has ultra-cute travel items (like the passport holders, $33 each, on our cover and luggage tags, $13 each, in this story). What’s clutch: its stylish pouches in a multitude of sizes ($13 and up; the Aeronaut Triangle, shown here, is $29) and ingenious Spacepak packing system (from $45).
(www.flight001.asia for locations)

Save Face

Block out the sun’s harmful rays with the Heliocare 360° Gel Oil-free SPF 50. It’s enriched with Fernblock FC, thought to help repair sun damage and prevent hyperpigmentation and premature skin ageing. Sold at Unity, Guardian and Watsons outlets. (www.heliocare.com.sg)

Score!

Everything at Japanese franchise Daiso is $2. Find laundry bags, wet wipes, small plastic bottles for liquids, inflatable pillows, eye masks, ear plugs and so much more. (www.daisoglobal.com for locations)

 

Try These Apps

Get a handle on hunger, boredom, traffic and more.

 

XE Currency Converter

This real-time app refreshes every 60 seconds and lets you calculate expenses in your currency of choice. It also works well offline – useful in remote areas. Tip: Use the XE Rate Advisor tool to compare money changing services’ prices to get the best rates. (Free; Apple iTunes and Google Play)

Waze

Community-based navigation app Waze provides the fastest driving routes. And fellow users constantly update the app with traffic jams and road info. Tip: Switch to Arnie’s Terminator voice navigation. Yes, he bids you “hasta la vista.” (Free; Apple iTunes and Google Play)

FoodSpotting

Use pictures to discover restaurants around the globe. Search for eateries closest to you, and pick the ones with the highest number of likes. Return the favour by uploading photos and ratings of your own. Tip: Bookmark dishes before your trip and work them into the itinerary. (Free; Apple iTunes and Google Play)

Toca Boca Games

Even if you don’t typically let your children on the tablet, air travel can be an exception. Tip: Toca Boca’s fun game apps are sure to be hit with your kids. Faves include: Toca Life: City, Toca Blocks and Toca Tailor. For kids aged 3 to 8. ($3.98 and up; Apple iTunes and Google Play)

TripIt

It’s easy to lose emails in your inbox. TripIt scans emails for reservation times, and creates a master itinerary in your calendar – even pulling maps for navigation. Tip: Your profile info is encrypted; use a 4-digit PIN to access documents and contacts. ($1.48; Apple iTunes and Google Play)

 

Insurance: Yay or Nay?

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You’ve heard it: “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” But travel insurance is often your only financial protection when dealing with lost baggage or a trip to the hospital in a foreign land. Try Money Smart’s online calculator to find the best rates from different insurance companies. (www.moneysmart.sg/travel-insurance) 

Q & A

Aimee Chan of www.suitcasesandstrollers.com (and a recent Finder Blogger!) talks family travel.

How far in advance should people book family travel? 

Earlier is always better, so you can plan and get lots of advice from other expats who have done similar trips. If you’re travelling with kids, this gives you time to plan for travel vaccinations and medications, as some can take weeks to complete and ensure total coverage. If you can only book last-minute, look for places closer to home – destinations within driving distance or a ferry trip to Bintan or Batam in Indonesia. They might even be cheaper if you are booking at the last minute.

How do you pack your kids for trips? 

I put an open suitcase in a corner somewhere about a week in advance and drop in things as I remember them. This works well for holiday items such as snorkels or emergency medical kits that you might not use every day but will really want when you travel. For items you will need to use right up until you leave, make a list so you can tick them off as you close the suitcase. 

What’s a common problem expat families face when travelling through Asia? 

Constantly being approached by locals who want to talk to, touch or take photographs with their children. Kids who are blonde, red-haired or have curly hair can be very popular in more remote areas because they are so unusual. Talk to your kids about why it happens and how they should react. Or, if your kids are too young, think about how you are going to react. 

 

Hazel Vincent De Paul, The Finder, February 2016

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