Melbourne with kids (Part 1)

I am suffering from travel withdrawal syndrome (if there is such a term for it). You know… it’s like you don’t feel like going back to your regular life and work. In short, I need another holiday to recover from the first.

It’s been almost a month since we came back from Melbourne – the kids’ first overseas trip; our first official overseas family trip. Probably I was the only one worrying myself out with thousands and one things to pack; to plan; to ponder. Perhaps, being the mother, I hypothesize too much about every situation that can happen overseas. Like most mommies, I almost packed the whole house into the suitcases before the hubby stopped me!

This Sept trip came about because Xi En had a thematic study earlier on air-travel, planes, pilots, stewardesses, countries and all that. He came home asking if we can fly in first class. I told him we cannot afford that. He asked how about business class; I said that’s still too expensive. Last try, he asked: “Mom; since first and business class are so expensive, we can fly in economy class where there are lots of people and seats are very small, ok?” (complete with a pleading puppy look). That kind of made us sound so pathetic (pre-school teachers; FYI – errmm… please try to manage our little ones’ expectations ya?) But that got me thinking he’s probably ready to have a look at the world and learn stuff out of the books. I had a chat with Kim and after a quick check on the luring promo-rates airfares, we decided: Yes – we can somehow afford to grant our young boy an economy class plane ride! hahahaa..

Australia was an easy choice as it’s known to be more kids-friendly and a place where we haven’t explored as much. And the flight hours of 7-7.5hours is still manageable in my dictionary for young children. Melbourne because I liked that part of Australia and it’s more “traditional” with trams and all. Xi En loves trains; trams and buses. Without revealing to him that we were planning a trip; we saw his drawing during the Parents-Teachers-Meeting. It’s telepathy huh? 🙂

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Kim and I were somewhat seasoned travellers in our individual and couple-lives. But with kids; it’s a whole new ball game altogether (so we’ve learnt).

Just to share a little on how we “survived” this inaugural family trip.

1) Choose an airline which you are familiar with

We both agreed that it has to be Singapore Airlines while the kids are still young. It’s the only one I am familiar and comfortable with. With good promo-rates, it’s still “A great way to fly”. 🙂

SQ didn’t failed us except one annoying episode. On the leg to Melbourne; we board at 9pm; were served 2 rounds of drinks with nuts at 930pm to 10pm. Dinner was served at 10pm (YES; 10PM!!); complete with ice-cream/coffee tea/wines and all. Clearance of trays and lights out around midnight as it was a full load flight. And when all the kids were trying to doze off; the lights came out again around 2am and continental breakfast was served before landing around 4+am.

The SQ I know loves to give it’s best to passengers; the best value; the best service. But seriously whoever planned this route and the meal services have to reconsider it’s inconvenience to tired passengers. Yes, you can use “do-not-disturb” stickers and all. But with little ones; that doesn’t kind of work when the whole load of passengers are stirred for meal service.

Still I have to applaud SQ for it’s  Krisworld (kept Xi En occupied for hours!); ever-so-well-trained cabin crew; attention to details (kids loved the lunch boxes which came along with the kids’ meals we ordered ahead of the flight) and scheduled on-time arrivals/departures.

2) Pray for the best but be prepared for the worse

It sounds a little “faithless” to say the above. But travelling to a foreign country (with young kids further) always put me in high alert mode. Medicine is my must-pack for all trips. I pray I won’t need to use them; but I packed them so I can sleep at night. Basic medicine such as Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Charcoal pills, medicated oil, flu and cough syrups, creams are under my essential list. And for Xi En, I packed a Salbutamol inhaler too. Going to Melbourne at the tail-end of winter; I just have to be more than careful that they won’t catch a cold.

I am so glad that the boys did well on this trip except some minor hiccups. We nearly went to go to a doctor when we landed as Eizac came down with a red eye and sticky discharge just before we boarded the plane. We were almost certain that he has an infected eye; but it miraculously cleared up after a day!

As for Xi En, it did seemed that air travel wasn’t too kind to him unfortunately. On both the going and return flights, he threw up his meal (thankfully at the tail end of the flights). Ah ha, a pat on Mommy’s back for packing spare clothes, wet tissues and medicated oil on our carry-on luggage. 😛

3) Travel with family or more

An extra pair of hands and eyes (or more) is always helpful. My mom had always been the kids’ main caregiver; we knew we cannot do without her during travels with the kids. We had to “drag” her along and we are so glad we did! haaa… Probably I am too pampered with help; but I cannot imagine running after 2 active boys while trying to take photos; enjoy the scenery or even just to go to the washroom. That’s why they say being a mom is for life. It doesn’t stop even when your daughter is married with kids. 😛

4) Plan more, do less, enjoy more

Sorry that sounded quite singlish (Singapore English). Basically we did a lot of homework, planned a whole lot so that we can “do less” while enjoying the most out of the trip.

Since I am the one with more time on hand, I researched and narrowed to the places and activities suitable for all. Desperate for time, I simply copied, pasted and printed 2 key things: places of interest/activities and food options. Staying at places with free Wi-fi helped a lot as we planned on the go too. There are a whole lists of helpful apps which you can download to help in your planning. More information on visitmelbourne website. In particular, I found these quite useful:

PTV –  for taking public transport

myMarketsVic – if you enjoy going to markets like my mother and I.

TripAdvisor – popular real visitors reviews’ guide

Melbourne Guide – Melbourne’s official visitor guide. Some online discount vouchers available too.

The ever smarter hubby limited his haphazard-minded wife to only 1 main activity each day while filling small random activities during pockets of lull time. This worked out quite well for us since Eizac is still taking afternoon naps; taking it slower was a great idea.

The whole trip was a 9 days, 10 nights plan. We went from central Melbourne to Philip Islands en-routing at Mornington Peninsula and then back to fringe of city at St Kilda. Purposefully, we omitted The Great Ocean Road after deciding that 7 to 8 hours car road trips aren’t quite up our alley with the kids (just yet).

5) Minimize changes

Knowing my children, they take a day or 2 to adjust to new beds and “a new house”. We do not prefer to have over-excited kids every night and thus to minimize changes, we choose to change accommodation only 3 times; thus averaging 3 nights per location.

After much research, instead of the regular hotels and serviced apartments, we choose to go with the growing popularity of renting others’ houses. Airbnb is a fairly new concept which started a few years to allow the community to rent their extra rooms or houses/apartments to visitors for a short or long stay. I have no affiliation to them whatsoever but they definitely did a good job on their website that it is growing in it’s online presence. The website is nicely done up, user-friendly and everything is transacted online including communication with the hosts.

We picked out 2 places from Airbnb after narrowing search by budget, photos, user’s reviews and communication with hosts – 1 at central Melbourne and the other at St Kilda (fringe of city). It was a breeze to made payment even though there was a slight glitch which Airbnb responded promptly. It’s good that they have an office in Singapore now for easy communication if you face issues. *Tip: Do search online for promo codes before making payments. We chanced upon a DBS card promo which gave us some good discounts!

At central Melbourne, we stayed in a small 2 bedroom apartment with open concept kitchen but location is superb  and within 5 to 10 mins walking distance to Victoria Market, Chinatown, train station, Coles and a food court. The host kindly allowed an early check-in as our flight was early; but the person who was to open the door was late for 20 mins. Thankfully there was a lobby to wait in and not out in the cold. Booking others’ houses do pose such risks that there might not be a reception or concierge to seek help in unforeseeable circumstances. So do minimise the risk with alternative plans in mind when booking through such websites.

The 2nd accommodation we stayed in was at Philip Island which we booked through Stayz – this is also a similar concept to Airbnb but not as user-friendly as the latter. Accommodation at Philip Island was the hardest to decide as many looked dingy, old, remote or too big for us. Finally we picked Waterfront@Waves along The Esplanade. It is located in front of the sea (full sea view!), there is a playground just in front of the apartment (which unfortunately we didn’t get to play as it was raining!) and it is within walking distance to Cowes (the town at Philip Island).

It is a perfect accommodation with a free underground parking lot except a few grouses: No free wifi (I realised only after arriving at the premise). Some of the beds are located in the kitchen and dining area which made it rather unconducive for sleeping unless you don’t intend to cook. We ended up moving 2 mattresses into the living room as futons since the kids are used to sleeping on the floor at home anyway.

The final place we picked was at St Kilda’s neighbourhood near to St Kilda Beach. It was slightly cheaper as it was at the fringe of city and options were more spacious here. This was my favourite stay of the trip with 2 good sized rooms, European king-sized bed, double size bunk bed and a fully equipped kitchen with children cutlery too! The owner also kindly provided a welcome pack with bread, milk, butter, jam, tea and coffee. It is helpful that this host has a child of her own and left some extra diapers (and toys!) for us to use; this came in handy as we ran out of diapers at the last leg of the trip!

There you go; 5 key things which we did to make this trip enjoyable for all. Hope it comes in useful for those who are planning for your inaugural family overseas trips (or to Melbourne) too!

Will be sharing more on the attractions in upcoming posts. Watch this space! 🙂

Updates on the rest of our Melbourne Travelogue:

Flight to Melbourne, accommodations and how to survive travelling with young children

St Kilda, Melbourne city, Puffing Billy, Queen Victoria Market, South Melbourne Market

Melbourne – Phillip Island (Penguins and Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate)

Travel to Melbourne – Moonlit Sanctuary (The Mornington Peninsula)

Gardens By the Bay (Singapore Garden Festival 2014)

This Wed, we took the chance to visit The Singapore Garden Festival 2014 held at Gardens by The Bay. Xi En didn’t have school for the day and the tickets are so much cheaper on a weekday, so off we went. 🙂

It’s our first time going into The Flower Dome & we loved it! Not just because it’s fully AIR-CONDITIONED, the display always renews after a period of time. This round it is Orchid Extravaganza and we saw loads of pretty orchids which is Singapore’s national flower.

With 2 speedy Gonzales (read my boys), I could only manage to take photos with my trusty phone camera and it’s already quite amazing. 🙂

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These are one of my favourite flowers; such soothing colours. 🙂

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Besides The Flower Dome, with the same tickets you get to go to The Meadows which is about 10 mins walk from The Flower Dome. Note that The Meadow is only partially air-conditioned. So do plan your trip properly to visit The Meadow at the coolest point of your visit so you won’t become red lobsters at the end. 😛

There is also a Market Place en-route towards The Meadow and you can take the chance to purchase some planting stuff if you plan to grow some green fingers. We bought organic composite back to grow our pandan leaves back home. 🙂

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Part of the displays of Singapore Garden Festival with acclaimed garden designers.

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One of the kids’ favourite “displays” – The Learning Corner/Place (i can’t recall it’s name).  I wished we could spend more time here if they weren’t already tired.

We saw padi, aloe vera, cherry tomato, padi, guava and even toothache plant! That’s something new to me! I thought it is a great idea that the organisers placed real life products next to the plants; it helped the kids (and me) to relate to them easily.

Xi En enjoyed looking for his favourite food. Kai En was running amok that he couldn’t eat those fruits and packet of food on display!!!

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We were exhausted at the tail end of the trip but my flower-crazy Mom said that we forgotten to visit the Orchid Kaleidoscope at The Flower Dome. And so we trooped back and queued to visit this display. Do plan some time for this if you want a photo with the massively tall orchid structure. Go in in a group; lie low and take your shots! 😀

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Overall we really enjoyed the visit and it is so much worth it with the discounted rates during this season. Plan your visit on a weekday if possible (that’s only today left). If not, go really early on a weekend and purchase your tickets online to avoid the crowd!

I copied the below from the official Singapore Garden Festival 2014 website. Bring along your passion card and/or NTUC card to enjoy a further 15% discount for the adults and children entry fees. Senior residents already enjoy further discounted prices as part of the honouring pioneer generation promo.

“To celebrate the Festival’s debut at Gardens by the Bay, SGF tickets have been specially priced for local residents to visit both the Festival and the Flower Dome Conservatory for the same price as previous shows. All Singaporean seniors (≥60yrs with pink ICs) will also be entitled to a 20% discount off Weekday Local Residents Rate (i.e. $4 per ticket after discount) in celebration of the Pioneer Generation’s contribution to Singapore’s nation-building.Valid from 18 – 22 Aug only.

Show Opening Hours: 10am to 10pm daily
Conservatories Opening Hours: 9am – 10pm daily

All Gardens by the Bay Conservatory tickets dated between 16-24 August will be allowed entry into Singapore Garden Festival 2014

SGF 2014 Ticket Pricing

*Singapore citizens, permanent residents and those living in Singapore, including those holders of employment passes, work permits or dependent passes. Proof of residency may be required when purchasing tickets or upon entry.”

Alive Museum

One of the latest attraction in town – The Alive Museum! I had always wanted to visit one of such 3D illusionary museum after seeing it on friends’ posts to Korea. So happy that it came to Singapore!

Opened in 2009 in Korean, Alive Museum currently has 15 branches worldwide and Singapore is its’ latest exhibition stop occupying 10,000sqft at Suntec City, making it the biggest of such 3D museums here. The largest branch in Jeju Island takes up 43,000sqft! The key attraction of this museum is to offer you a sensory experience which “tricks” your visual, physical and environmental perception.

How often do you need to tell your children not to touch museum exhibits? At Alive, you won’t need to be concerned about this. One is free to touch, feel, crawl and roam! I love interactive museums and glad that there are more of such for our toddlers to “meddle with” without worries of being chased out! 😛

In any case, we were kindly invited to experience Alive Musuem by OMY Blog Club. We went on a weekday evening and happy to find a small crowd which is great as this allowed us sufficient time and space to take photos!

As this is a “photography tells it all” place, let me show you what we did through photos. 

At the entrance, Eizac trying donned angel wings (too short though!):

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Just when we entered, this “audacious” act was the first the boys got themselves into:

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Mer-man? Xi En had always been curious how it is possible to be a mermaid. He got the answer here:

(p.s.: there is a hidden fan in front; the adults probably can get it activated with longer hands)

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An over-sized foetus:

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Xi En obediently opened his mouth when we asked him to pose for this photo: Hehhehee.

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Drama-MaMa:

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Among the 80 masterpieces, there are 9 depicting the scenes of Singapore. Here is one. Kim getting a free hairwash from Merlion.

(Tip: look out for photo hints on the walls and photos marks on the floor for ideas on how to pose with the paintings)

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The Queen came for a visit. One zealous fan is trying to stop the tour bus (with her bare hands):

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This is not an easy one to achieve. The husband executed it almost perfectly with his well-trained core muscles. 😛

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Hey Jobs, don’t worry; my little spy is hard at work. We are getting the evidence real soon! 😛

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My mum is trying to practice some lotus-sitting position with “master”??>

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That’s some kind of funny tasting ice-cream:

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Ready for some action? Green monster power!

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The husband decided he is more funny with a “dead-cockroach” pose. errmm……

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Some kong-fu master showed off his “no-shadow” kick!

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No end to getting punched around here huh?

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Another Singapore’s iconic building. The team washing their hands with “recycled” water:

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Eizac got a hang of things after awhile. He gamely held on to Daddy for his dear life as the earth cracked open beneath him:

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Effortless hand-stand as Eizac joined me on the floor; errmm, wall I meant. 🙂

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This angel-wannabe couldn’t take flight as the baby tugged on tight!

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Navigating rapids is no easy feat with 2 squirrely boys. The younger one couldn’t move the oar and decided to desert the Daddy!

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Run before you become one of them!!

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The kids found a mini trampoline and had a good time bouncing off the walls. 

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But you need a professional to show off some break-dance moves! (Now you know the use of the trampoline!)

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Daddy to the rescue (again)!

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To get the wind-in-your-hair-eyes-cannot-open look, try fighting with this computer game character.

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Leg spilt is chicken-feet; even when you add 2 boys.

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Besides the 3D paintings, there are also quirky, fun interactive exhibits like these:

The endless mirror “disco” room:

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Another mirror-effect. Reminds me of the movie “Matrix” for some reason..

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I don’t like this. Endless creepy crawlies. This reminds me of the movie “Mummy”.

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Marilyn Monroe loves the kinetic energy generated by the pinwheels. Give it a gentle blow and Monroe will come Alive.

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3D artwork continues:

Training an Olympian starts young they say:

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The most hilarious part of this photo is my son. He was trying hard; really trying hard to save the penguins. 😀

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One of my favourite drawings. It’s so cleverly drawn with great 3D effect. You actually feel that you are sitting on that chair!

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Ending off with Love Boat. Once there was 2. Now there are 4. Sailing…. Sailing along. 🙂

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Tips for those who are planning a visit:

  • Choose an off peak time if possible so you can have the space and time to leisurely take fun photos.
  • If you are bringing young children, pick their most cooperative time (avoid near nap times unless you have a super solid sleep-through-it-all baby)
  • Young children might be overwhelmed initially by the huge life sized paintings; take time to ease them in and it will be fun when they start joining in.
  • Bring extra pair of hands (like grandmas and grandpas!) so you can have someone take family photos and mind the kids too. 😀
  • We took a total of 1.5 to 2 hours to finish touring the place. Do note that it is a one way traffic in and out; no turning back to the entrance and once you exit; you can’t re-enter. There are no toilets in there; so do let the children visit the toilets before heading in. Don’t mistook the paintings for toilets though they look real real! 😛
  • I used a mirrorless camera with pancake lens to take most of the photos as it’s best for dim indoor lighting. But I took some with my Iphone 5S and the photos turned out decent too. For quick actions, stand by your phone camera.

 

Alive Museum

Location: Suntec City Mall #03-372 (Between Tower 3 and 4)

Ticket Prices: $25 (Adults), $20 (Children 3-12 years), Free for toddlers under 3

Operating Hours: 10am to 10pm Daily (Last Admission at 9pm)

For more details do visit Alive Museum website here

Do check their website for periodic promotions. There is a current one now with Burger King. More details here

 

Go and have some camera, light, actions FUN! 🙂

 

N.B: OMY and Alive Museum kindly sponsored 2 tickets; whilst we bought the rest at discounted prices. Otherwise all photos, comments and free modelling remain writer’s own.