We recently had the opportunity to stopover in Singapore, this time with our 21-month old, and we discovered a multitude of amazing things to do there as a family. This time we stayed with our friends and their little boy in their apartment complex and were extremely grateful for their inside knowledge of where to go and where to avoid with a toddler. It saved a lot of research and aimless wandering in the surprisingly exhausting climate. We always said that our little bundle of joy would fit in with our ‘love of travel’ lifestyle so here are some of our travel tips on what to do in Singapore with a young family. Hopefully there are some ideas on how to make travel family-friendly and fun for all!
i) Travel with friends who also have kids!
We have found that travelling with friends or family is literally the key to staying sane on holiday with a toddler. The term ‘holiday’ doesn’t mean what it previously meant, pre-children. You can no longer just lie by the pool and sip cocktails whilst devouring novels as you may have once done. Toddlers have tantrums. Toddlers need breakfast, not brunch. Toddlers need entertaining and supervising and nappy changes and they definitely do not understand what it means to chill out and have a lie in. Whilst new places and cuisines can be stimulating for them, sometimes it can really upset their routines. If they are tired, hungry and grumpy, no-one has a good time. Travelling with a toddler can be tiring and a bit stressful to be honest, but a problem shared is a problem halved and it really makes you feel less anxious when your kid is having a meltdown if your friend’s kid is melting down too! You can keep each other smiling and the whole situation can be hysterically funny rather than embarrassing.
OK, seriously though, two amazing perks of travelling with another family who have a kid of the same age is that you have another pair of hands to help out day to day and also, the couples can take it in turns to have NIGHTS OUT! That means that the adults got to choose where they ate (not based on nappy changing facilities and if the restaurant had highchairs), what they ate, how long they stayed for and actually had uninterrupted conversations. This is literally the most exciting thing ever for parents of toddlers! It gave us all some quality time to have a few hours away from the kiddies and made it feel like a holiday from days gone by.
During our nights out in Singapore we went to Atlas, a very sophisticated art deco lobby bar in the Bugis region. It hosts a huge gin tower that stocks bottles from the 1920s which can only be accessed by ladder! It was a very smart and fancy restaurant and I was wearing a dress that I had previously worn to the zoo… It was the smartest thing I had packed in my backpack for the holiday based on the fact that it didn’t need an iron!
On another evening out we took the metro to Clarke Quay, had dinner at a Hawker centre and enjoyed cocktails from a rooftop oyster bar called Southbridge. The 360 degree views of the Singapore skyline were spectacular. The Southbridge was a bit tricky to find but well worth the treasure hunt! Next time we’re in Singapore we’ll go up to the rooftop bar and observation deck of the Marina Bay Sands, but for this time, it was a beautiful backdrop for our baby-free night out.
On our final night in Singapore we wandered the streets of Chinatown by night and perused all of the stalls and markets without having to navigate the pushchair! Bliss!
ii) Balance the sightseeing with parks and water parks
In Singapore there are parks everywhere, and they are far from being parks with a pitiful slide and a neglected swing set. They are state of the art, super-clean, fantastic adventure parks and water parks with sprinklers galore. Regardless of where we went, we tried to always spend time letting the kids run free. Whilst eating out there was often a play park nearby so one of us would take the kids to run around and explore whilst we waited for our food. There was a lot of bundling them in and out of buggies or baby carriers to get in and out of trains and taxis in this busy city. Letting the kiddies run off some steam at these parks was money in the bank for the next few hours, and we all enjoyed the cool down!
iii) Choose your accommodation wisely
If we hadn’t been staying with friends, we would have looked for an apartment similar to theirs on Air BnB, complete with air con, a kitchenette, living area, swimming pool, nearby to the metro station and food market. We find that it is worth paying a little bit extra to have more space and facilities to cook, store food etc. It’s worth staying in a central location, particularly if you need to get back for nap times in the middle of the day. The living room space is great to relax in after the little ones had gone to bed too. If we had just been in a hotel room (like many holidays before!) we would have been tripping over things, whispering each evening and watching Netflix on the dimmest setting, or like in Sydney, sipping wine from a mug in the corridor with our backs to our door whilst madam ‘cried it out’. A pool is a necessity as at more than one point each day you will all want to jump in fully clothed to cool down.
iv) Pack your swimwear on every occasion
Singapore is super-hot, humid and hazy. The climate didn’t seem to affect our little princess too much, quite possibly because there are kids water parks everywhere, seemingly around every corner and even on the roof tops of shopping malls! These were total lifesavers as we did have our hot and bothered moments, usually running around after a toddler who threw the most spectacular strops for a multitude of reasons, most of which were unbeknownst to us.
Each day, even when we just popped out to the shops, we tried to remember to pack swimming togs and towels as there would almost certainly be some opportunity for the kids to jump in somewhere for a dip and take a break from the heat. Don’t get me wrong, we love the heat. One of the main things we look for in a holiday destination is sun, sun, sun, but Singapore’s city climate is unique and not somewhere we could just lounge around in a resort; we wanted to explore! The sights in and around the city are quite spread out and we wanted to see as many of them as possible. Rather than walking around aimlessly we got Uber Taxis everywhere.
v) Try the local cuisine
We much prefer to eat local food rather than try to experience fine dining in a fancy restaurant with a toddler. To be honest, I think we are still traumatized by the NYE Sky Tower toddler drama and actively look for opportunities never to repeat it! If you haven’t read what happened, check out our blog: North Island Tiki Tour and cringe with us! Central tourist spots can be very pricey for food and drinks so we gave the local Hawker Centres a try and loved them. Half the time I wasn’t entirely sure what we had ordered but we loved trying a range of dishes. We encouraged Sophia to try it all too and shopped at the local markets for fruit and bread. Sophia was eating mangosteen, coconuts, rambutan (which she nicknamed hairy strawberry eggs), and durian (the smelliest fruit on the planet, which is banned on public transport) like it was going out of fashion by the end of our trip.
Here are some of the places we enjoyed most and would recommend to families travelling with Kids:
- Singapore Zoo Not usually a huge fan of zoos, this is one of the best zoos I have visited! It is huge, has loads of animals and Sophia got to feed the giraffes! We spent the entire day here and still didn’t manage to see everything. And of course there were the most amazing water parks within the zoo.
- Pasir Ris Town Park Right on the edge of the ocean this palm tree studded park is filled with playgrounds for all different ages of children. There was a beach side bar and restaurant, plenty of shaded areas and grassy areas. It was lovely for an afternoon ‘post nap’ outing and the mamas enjoyed it as much as the kids!
- Marina Bay and Merlion Park You couldn’t possibly visit Singapore without visiting the famous waterfront Merlion Park which overlooks the Marina Bay Sands hotel. We ran out of time to go up to the Observatory deck of the hotel and sadly members of the public are no longer allowed to swim in the infinity pool on the top deck. It is incredibly impressive to admire from the ground! Next door to the Marina Bay Sands The Shoppes mall was one of the fanciest malls I’ve ever been in, complete with it’s own canal and gondolas running through it! I did felt particularly under-dressed in my beach dress and flipflops when walking past Louis Vitton!
- Cloud Forest and Far East Children’s Garden
The Cloud Forest (part of Gardens by the Bay) was spectacular! Not only because of all the beautiful plants and waterfalls but because of the air con! It was delightfully cool in there and a welcome break from the heat. Straight after visiting here we went to the next door Far East Children’s Garden, which had music blaring, fountains spraying and all sorts of covered areas for parents to relax as the kids ran off some steam.
- Gardens by the Bay
On our way from the Merlion Park to the Cloud Forest we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the Gardens by the Bay. There is so much to do here, including the Supertree Grove sky walkway,
Due to the kiddies’ afternoon nap times and Sophia’s inability to sleep out and about in the stroller at this age, we got out of the apartment as early as possible each morning, sometimes after an early morning swim, saw some sights, ate lunch out and got the kiddies back for their afternoon naps in the apartment at the hottest part of the day. During this time the adults would tag team going to the pool or the local shopping centre to enjoy the ever necessary air con!
Singapore is an incredible place to visit with kids! For us it was a stopover on our way to Borneo, but we will definitely be back as there is so much more to experience here!