By Aimee Chan, Finder Blogger: The Travel Mama, and founder of suitcases&strollers
If you’ve been yearning for a vacation but have no time to plan for one, we’ve got you covered. Here are some last-minute holiday destinations from Singapore you can visit without even booking a flight.
This quaint little town is highly underrated because it is just oh so charming and perfect for short trips out of Singapore. There is culture, history, heritage architecture as well as delicious street food – more families should definitely be going to visit. Start with the old Portugese part of town around St John’s Fort where there are museums and old ruins to explore. Stop for a lunch of the famed local chicken rice balls before checking into the Majestic Malacca to freshen up. Once evening arrives, it’s back to Jonkers Street to check out the night markets or, if you prefer, have an early night to get ready to climb on board an old submarine or walk the Peranakan curios shops.
A quick trip across Bintan and a short ferry ride takes to you to private island paradise. Nikoi is rustic chic at its best. While all the modern gadgets are done away with (there is very little wifi and no televisions or air conditioning in the rooms), the entire island still exudes a feel of sophisticated calm. Nikoi is a place to come where parents can relax with a magazine and a glass of wine overlooking the idyllic sandy beaches while the kids run wild at the makeshift pirate’s ship, play tennis on real grass, go searching for wild turtles or hunt amongst the mangroves and rockpools.
Photo: Cameron Highlands Resort
If you yearn for the countryside, mountains or just some fresh air free from humidity, Cameron Highlands are a great option. The drive is a long and windy one but it’s all worthwhile for the peace and quiet of this old colonial favourite. Pick strawberries without breaking a sweat, enjoy a picnic at a tea plantation without feeling like you are going to melt. The idea of a family holiday to the Cameron Highlands with kids is to step back in time and just chill out soaking up the undulating hills and admiring the novelty of the rural setting. Book yourself into the chic Cameron Highlands Resort and there is a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and carols around the piano to make you feel like it’s almost snowing outside.
This one is not just for kids. You’ll be surprised just how much fun LEGOLAND Malaysia is for everyone in the family. To really get the most out of the experience book at least two nights into the LEGOLAND Hotel because it is all the little touches across the entire property – the disco elevator, LEGO themed restaurant, floating building blocks at the lazy river at LEGOLAND Waterpak, miniature worlds at LEGOLAND proper – that come together to make the combination of LEGOLAND, the waterpark and the hotel an awesome experience. In other words, give yourself time to really enjoy yourself instead of feeling pressured to do this in a day trip.
One of the best bits about staying in the hotel is that you get to leave the resort whenever you and the kids need a rest and come back again when it suits you. Don’t underestimate how hot it gets at LEGOLAND (or how little shade there is) – the ability to let the kids have some quiet time in between hitting the rides and slides really will be worthwhile.
Pangkor Laut is more of a luxury resort than some of the other private islands around Singapore. This means multiple conveniences that weary parents will appreciate – the property has multiple restaurants, the rooms have air conditioning and television and you can always order room service. Plus the spa is definitely something not to be missed – be sure to make use of their babysitting service just so you can enjoy that. There are multiple watersports activities, two beaches and a swimming pool so you are never likely to get bored. And while Pangkor Laut manages to maintain all the sophistication of a high end holiday retreat, it is still very family friendly, a hard combination to achieve.
Kids big and small love going to Rawa. It’s accommodation might be basic (there is air-con but no in room TVs) but it is a fantastic place to indulge in all manner of water activities in the fresh air far away from the bustle of Singapore. Above the surface there are the two super fun slippery dips that go from the jetty straight into the ocean at high tide. If you plan to take pre-schoolers down with you put them in a life jacket as the ocean can get quite deep.Or grab a board, canoe or even just a snorkel to check out the varied and impressive reef life. If you’ve got older kids who can SCUBA dive, expect to see stingrays, barracuda and look out for the resident clownfish.
For something a little more rustic than Nikoi but potentially with a better beach for tiny kids to swim in, head to Telunas. One part of the resort is the private island which has more luxurious over water bungalows that are reminiscent of a villa. Over here, there are fewer guests and you get more privacy so it feels like a retreat. But the best beach for kids is undoubtedly across the water at the beach resort proper. Here the accommodation and services are very basic and you will hear kids thundering down the boardwalks outside your room. But the beach is spectacularly clean and shallow and the sand streches out forever at low tide making it the perfect play area. There are not a whole lot of organised water activities here – think of it as a place to bring buckets and spades and lots of imagination.
About Aimee Chan
Writer and former magazine editor Aimee started Suitcases & Strollers while she was working in Singapore. This family travel website provides travel tips, ideas and inspiration to parents traveling with kids under 12. As well as destination guides and practical how-to information, Suitcases & Strollers publishes interviews with parents, children and celebrities about the ins and outs of planning family holidays. Aimee now lives in Australia and traipses the globe with her hubby and two kids in tow. She aims to give you practical knowledge to be able to travel confidently with your children.