We have just got back from a 8 day holiday with the kids. OK, I got back nearly a week ago now, but I am only just starting to get back into the rhythm of things. We had originally booked our holiday with 5 days in Phuket, Thailand, followed by 3 days in Singapore, but because of the political situation in Thailand, we changed our plans a week before leaving and decided to spend the whole time in Singapore. I am so glad I did! While it was a totally different holiday to the "let's sit by the pool and relax" one originally planned, Singapore is so child friendly with so many great things to do, that we all had an amazing time.
Everyday had a gentle routine to it. We would sleep in and wake up around 9/9.30. We would then meander down to an amazing buffet breakfast, where everyday, the kids were amazed that 1) ice cream was being served for breakfast and 2) mum and dad were letting them have some! After breakfast, we would go to our activity/sightseeing and have lunch while we were out. Irini would usually fall asleep in her stroller around lunchtime, but we would carry on a bit longer and around mid afternoon, we would head back to the hotel for a rest. After an hour or so of rest, we would refresh and head for dinner, followed by more sightseeing/walking, and then to bed. Having a similar routine each day made it a lot easier on the kids, and we didn't have any serious meltdowns, which I really think was due to this.
Singapore is very toddler friendly. We pretty much took the very efficient train system everywhere and every train station has an escalator and a lift, as well as a wide entry gate for people with strollers or a disability. They are clearly marked as such, making them easy to find. There are shopping centres everywhere, often on top of a train station, and all the shopping centres we went to had very clean baby change rooms that were spacious and easy to use. A few shopping centres even had child sized toilets. In general, people were very helpful, especially in the restaurants and cafes, often coming out immediately with children's cutlery and plates, and often with crayons and paper.
The sights and activities in Singapore are also very toddler friendly, especially if your children love animals (like mine do). Our favourite activities (in no particular order):
This is a world class zoo and is spectacular. Wherever possible, the animals are kept in place through a system of moats and ditches, rather than bars or glass, and this meant that you felt like you were right up close with the animals. In one area, the orangutans are actually climbing and playing right over your head on a collection of vines and ropes strung up high across the road. The only animals I can think of that were "enclosed" were the mountain lions, the jaguars and the leopards. The regular lions had a huge area simply separated by a wide moat made to look like a river. We didn't realise until we got there, but the zoo also has a decent sized water play area, with shallow pools, fountains and water slides, so if you go, make sure you take your swimsuits! When you buy your ticket, definitely buy the tram ticket as well. The ticket gives you unlimited hop-on/hop-off rides around the zoo, which was great since it was very hot and the zoo is huge, so the chance for a breather was appreciated by both the kids and us. There are boat rides as well, which we took. It was nice to sit and enjoy the cool breeze on the water, but you don't see any animals while on it, so I probably would say not to bother with it.
This is located next to the zoo, and is the only night zoo in the world. Like the regular zoo, it is also set up to be as natural looking as possible. Definitely buy the tram ticket for this one as the tram ride is the only way to go through certain parts of the zoo. The tram takes you so close to the animals that it felt like a real safari. The zoo's lighting mimics moonlight, so trying to push strollers in near darkness was a bit of a challenge and the tram ride was so good that we quickly gave up on the walking trails and hopped back on the tram. The night safari was a definite hit with the kids - they are still talking about it!
The Zoo closes at 6pm and the Night Safari opens at 7.30, and there is a decent restaurant there with cultural entertainment that opens at 6 pm so you could theoretically do both on the same day and save yourself the extra taxi fare, but I really think this would be too much for toddlers. This would definitely be an option for those with older children, though.
Jurong Bird Park
Jurong Bird Park is one of the largest bird parks in the world, and it is amazing. Think of any bird and it is probably here, in very natural environments. We took the monorail ride, but it honestly is one you could miss out on. Unlike the Zoo and Night Safari rides, you couldn't see that much from it, so it was a bit of a waste of time and money. The live bird show was great - Stephen loved it. There were plenty of different types of birds doing all sorts of things, and the host/trainer was very informative but never boring.
These three parks are all run by the same people, so you can buy a park hopper ticket that gives you entry to all three parks for a discounted price. If you didn't bring a stroller with you and don't think your child's legs will survive, you can hire strollers and pull along wagons at each of them. There are plenty of food options at each park; I can't tell you anything about them since we brought along our own water and snacks. There are plenty of seating areas scattered throughout to sit and take a breather.
This is currently the largest observation wheel in the world, although it is soon to be overtaken be Shanghai and San Francisco. We went on it twice, both times at night, since the kids loved it so much. You get a great view all over Singapore, and on a clear night or day, you can even seen neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia. The trip takes half an hour and is well worth it.
Singapore Duck Tours
This is ultra cheesy but surprisingly fun and informative. You hop aboard a Duck, an amphibious vehicle used during the Vietnam war, then go on a land and water tour of Singapore. The tour is only an hour, but we had a great time and you pass some key sites of Singapore that you probably wouldn't make it to with two toddlers in tow.
Sentosa Island is being developed as Singapore's leisure island, and is full of beaches, resorts, the new casino, the new Universal Studios theme park and plenty of other activities. We spent quite a lot of time there, going three or four separate times. The following are some the activities on Sentosa.
I wouldn't come to Sentosa just to see this as it is quite small, but if you are already there, it is worth stopping for a visit. You get to walk into a large aviary filled with thousands of colourful butterflies and the lovely caretakers will even show you how to get some to land on you. The kids were absolutely fascinated by them but drew the line at letting them touch them. After the butterfly aviary you walk into another aviary with a lovely waterfall and some beautiful birds. This is then followed by a butterfly and insect museum with preserved specimans. My two were definitely not interested in this part, but I think older children would probably find it fascinating.
Aquarium & Dolphin Lagoon
Right next door is the Aquarium and Dolphin Lagoon. My two weren't that interested, but I think that is because we have a very large aquarium with similar underwater travelator here at home which we go to quite often, so it was nothing new (I also think ours was better!). The dolphin lagoon was a big disappointment for us. It is basically a large swimming pool with 3 pink dolphins, but there were no underwater viewing areas, and the dolphin show was only running once a day at 4pm despite being advertised in their brochures as running at 10.30 and 11.30. We turned up in time for the 11.30 show, they wouldn't issue a pass out, and hanging around for 5 hours wasn't an option, so we missed out.
Songs of the Sea
This is a laser and light show set to music down by the beach. This was one of the favourite things we did. The laser and light show was really good with some great pyrotechnics, and the expressions on the kids' faces were priceless! The music, acting and lip syncing (hey, if it's good enough for Britney!) is pretty cheesy, but overall, the show was still great. Get there early so you can get a good seat, since it is free seating.
Just near the Songs of the Sea is a wonderful concrete luge track that you can go in with your toddlers riding with you. You take a cable car up to the top of the track, and then whiz down as fast (or as slow) as you want. We all loved this, and if your child is older, they can go by themselves.
This was a bit of a bust for us. It is expensive, it is not that big, and since it has only just opened, not all the rides are operational. The one I really wanted to go on (Battlestar Galactica dueling roller coasters) is closed indefinitely due to technical issues and the white water rapids ride was closed most of the day, and when it finally opened, had an hour long queue. Also, the majority of rides require you to be 115cm tall to go on them, and two of the ones that didn't (like the Madagascar ride) were also still not open. With older children (but probably younger than teenagers) you would probably get value, but with two toddlers, we definitely didn't. The one ride I can recommend is the Mummy roller coaster. Like Disney's Space Mountain, this is in the dark, but it is 10 times scarier due to some well timed lit areas, and a backwards plummeting section. I loved it! The other great memory was it was Stephen and Irini's first roller coaster. There is a little Skrek themed junior roller coaster with a height limit of only 89cm, so even Irini could go on it. We looked at it, and it seemed fine for her, especially since she loved the luge the day before, but she was terrified. I have probably put her off roller coasters for life. Stephen, on the other hand, thought it was fantastic. At least there will be one other person in my family who loves roller coasters the way I do!
We are not quite back to our regular routine, since school holidays just started, but we are definitely refreshed, if not quite relaxed, after a wonderful family holiday.