All posts by thesuhardis

Packing List templates for all your Family Travel needs

Packing for a family trip can be quite a chore, especially if you’re going on a first trip with the little one(s). After awhile, you do get the hang of the things to bring or not to bring on your family trips. The rule of thumb for us is to overpack rather than underpack ! You’ll never know when the extra clothes will come in handy or when the excessive snacks can help soothe a cranky child.

We’ve put together 3 sample packing lists that can serve as a base for you as you start packing for your upcoming trip. It’s not meant to be exhaustive, cos every family has their own unique needs. Feel free to modify the list and add in / remove items to suit yours.

FREE Templates for download !

List 1 – Familytrippers packing list for all trips

List 2 – Familytrippers packing list for beach/resort holidays

List 3 – Familytrippers packing list for road trips

Let us know if you’ve found these useful! Happy packing! ☺️

Familytrippers’ Top 3 indoor playgrounds and theme parks in Johor Bahru

Here’s a quick review of our top three indoor playgrounds and theme parks for your next JB adventure.

1. Fanpekka, AEON Tebrau Mall

We have heard so much raving reviews of Fanpekka from our friends, and we knew we had to check it out! Fanpekka is a Finnish-inspired theme park, occupying over 27,000 square feet of space in AEON Tebrau Mall. This was the top item in our to-do list during our last trip to JB.

The kids were issued a passport which they had to get stamped as they enter the indoor playground. Our little seasoned Travellers had no trouble getting this part done with little assistance from us parents.

Once inside, the kids were spoilt for choice. There was a huge selection of role play activities that they could indulge in, from being a pizza seller, to a cashier or Chef. Dani’s personal Favourite was dressing up as a fireman and driving the fire engine!

The Nautical-themed ball pit in Fanpekka is a clear winner! It’s huge, mind you, and it’s probably the biggest that we have been to thus far with plenty of play options, slides, etc. Entertaining for both kids and adults!

There is also a section for families to build and design their own houses using the planks provided. You can decorate your house and fill it up with furnitures and kitchen items provided. Ours had a slide at the entrance just because we thought it will be fun to have one!

There’s a family-friendly cafe located within the indoor park, very convenient when you are hungry and need a bite.

Admission fee to Fanpekka is RM66 inclusive of 1 child(RM55) and 1 adult(RM11). Kids below 2 years old enters for free. Operating hours are from 10:00am to 10:00pm daily.

2. Angry Birds Activity Park, Komtar JBCC

We visited the Angry Bird Park back in 2015 when our firstborn was barely 3 years old. Entrance is free for kids below 3 years old, hence we only had to buy tickets for ourselves.

We decided to visit the park again over the New Year holidays. This time round, our #2 has just turned 3 years old, and as a result, he wasn’t eligible for the free entry. We decided to go for the family pass, which cost RM280 for a family of 4. If you are a Maybank card holder, you are eligible to purchase the family pass RM218 only!

On weekends and public holidays, the park has three different time slots for entry. 10am-1pm, 2pm-5pm and 6pm-10pm. The one-hour break per play session is utilised by the staff to sanitise and reset the play equipments. We arrived at 1pm, and since we had an hour to go before the next play time, we decided to have lunch at the Boat Noodles restaurant which was located just next to the theme park.

During the one-hour closure also, we caught a dance item by the Angry Bird mascot and staff of the theme park too. We’re not sure whether it’s a regular feature or whether it happened to be a special item on that day though. By 1.45pm, a queue has formed at the entrance of the theme park. The first time we visited the park, this was Ari’s favourite activity then – the balance bike ramps. This time round, he still enjoyed this activity the most. 3yo Dani enjoyed this activity too!Another of Dani’s favourite activity was the foam building blocks. He built ramps and rolled balls along them for a good 30 minutes!

The Piggy Shooting Gallery was also a hit with the boys. Featuring three ball guns, objective of the station is to knock down as many of the piggies as possible. Very much like the actual Angry Birds game!

We then headed to the trampolines and the giant leap foam pit, and boys being boys, they didn’t get tired of jumping around and into the foam pit. http://familytrippers.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/img_7915.mov

Ari tried go-karting for the first time and the boys ended the evening at the Soccer station. 3 hours of fun for the boys = 3 hours too long for us parents. Some of the activities like the mazes were not that suitable for young kids like ours. According to hubby, there were obstacles that they could not overcome because they were not tall enough and he would have to assist them through the obstacles. By 5pm, we were pooped !Operating hours from 10am to 10pm daily.

Tickets at RM75 per person (child/adult). Free entry for kids below 3 and senior citizens above 60. Multiple entries allowed.

3. The Little Big Club / Sanrio Hello Kitty Town, Puteri Harbour

Families with young kids need to check out the indoor parks at Puteri Harbour. Where else can you find Thomas & Friends, Barney, Bob the Builder, Angelina Ballerina, Pingu and Hello Kitty right under one roof if not at Puteri Harbour! Definitely a treat for the young ones with 6 themed interactive play zones.

Thomas & Friends’ rides were a hit with our boys both times we were there. We probably spent the bulk of our time on those rides. In our last visit in March 2016, we went on the Thomas train ride 3 times in a row!

Another activity that was a hit with the boys is Bob the Builder’s construction site. They can easily spend 30mins (or more!) in the construction site – building, piling, climbing etc.

The other activity zones aren’t to the boys’ liking. So we will try and catch some of the live shows on stage or stalk the cartoon characters for a photo.

Both times we were there, we skipped the Hello Kitty Town just because our boys weren’t interested in them.

Both parks operate from 10am – 6pm, daily except on Tuesdays, their off days. Tickets at RM 85 for Little Big Club. 2 park passes to Little Big Club and Sanrio Hello Kitty Town available at RM 125 only.

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Know of other indoor playgrounds and theme parks in JB that Familytrippers should explore? Leave a message and we will include them in our next JB-tripping adventure!

2017 in review

Familytrippers was in full force this year.

We tried our best to share as many useful articles, tips and travel guides for our fellow family trippers in our blog and social media pages. We wanted to write more, but it was always challenging to find the time to do so in the midst of work, family commitment and our travels.

Friends, acquaintances and even people we didn’t know started writing to us for tips on various aspects of family travel, ranging from how to survive baby’s first flight, suggested activities for holidays to destinations that we have been to, and specific questions on performing umrah with young kids. We have had the opportunity to meet, chat and exchange travel stories with some of our readers.

Our monthly nature walk with FEST Sg kept us connected with the community, and satisfied our desire for adventure and exploration on the months when we weren’t travelling. For the first time also, we got invited to share our stories at a public event. It was nerve-wrecking but it turned out fun and we won’t mind doing more of such sharings.

In fact, one of our plans for 2018 is to host more of such family travel sharing sessions. We are also hoping to collate family-friendly itineraries from fellow family trippers and share them on our blog. We want to go back to our vision for Familytrippers, that is to build up a community of family travellers inspiring others with their own stories of their family travels. And that’s you we’re talking about – You, Your Family and Your Travel Stories.

Let’s get the ball rolling, and make 2018 the year the community of Familytrippers comes to life !

Exclusive Scandiplanet promotion for Familytrippers… Not to be missed !

It has been a year since we were in Norway chasing the Northern Lights and since we started sharing our stories to inspire others to travel with their young children. It has been an exciting journey so far, and we look forward to continue this journey alongside our fellow family trippers.

In celebration of our 1 year trip anniversary, our friends from Scandiplanet has kindly offered a special 10% discount just for our readers and followers keen on going on an Arctic Adventure this winter.

Head over to their page and book any of the packages below using the following promo codes:

Northern Lights Family Adventure Tour – “NORWAYTRIPPERS1”

Northern Lights Ultimate Adventure Tour – “NORWAYTRIPPERS2”

Northern Lights Xpress Tour – “NORWAYTRIPPERS3”

Your very own arctic adventure awaits! Spread the love!

Familytrippers – Our Story

Some of my most precious childhood memories were of our annual family road trips to different parts of Malaysia. I remember being in awe of mum’s Malaysian passport which had our photos in them, and the accompanying immigration cards.  By the time I was in secondary school, I would readily volunteer to fill them up for the family.

Our road trips almost always didn’t come with a fixed itinerary. Most of the time, dad would decide on the destination, and we will search for a suitable (and affordable) accommodation once there. We will also figure out our activities on the spot, there are usually some physical activities for us kiddos, mum gets to shop, and we each get to bring home a souvenir from our trips. At times, mum and dad would randomly decide to extend our holiday by a day or two, or decide to add in a stopover.

There’s something about being on holiday that brings a family closer together. It could be the shared experience of going on a banana boat ride or remembering who puked the most during a drive up the long, winding road to Cameron Highlands. It is the perfect opportunity for busy individuals to put aside school and work commitments, and spend quality time together.

It only made sense for me to marry a guy who loves to travel as much I do. And when we had children, there was never a doubt the kids were tagging along on our travels. I did contemplate going on a short trip without the kids one time, and his reply : “They are our children, who will they travel with if not us?”

Our boys took their first flight when they were 3 months old. Both times, I wanted to go on a trip before the end of my maternity leave. The first time round, we went to Gold Coast, Australia with my parents as we weren’t sure whether we could manage, us being new parents and all. Three years later, we headed to Perth on our own and took our first flight with two kids in tow.

Since then, there has been no turning back. Between our boys, they have taken over 50 flights altogether. I must say they are seasoned little traveller and they know what to expect each time we go on a holiday. These days, they will anticipate the days leading up to our travel. 5 year old Ari is old enough to have conversations with us on what we will be doing during our trip, and we will readily indulge him with the necessary information.

Once we are at the airport, the boys are familiar with the checking in process, going through immigration clearance, walking independently through the metal detectors, right up till luggage retrieval at the destination airport. Both boys will be eagerly looking out for our family luggages, pointing excitedly when they appear on the conveyor belt, and helping their dad to get them off the belt. Once we arrive at our destination, the boys look forward to our temporary abode and some of their room warming rituals involve jumping on the mattresses, swimming in the pool or bath tub if there is one and a family photo on the bed !

It’s been quite a journey, and we are excited to share our love for family travels with friends, family members and just about anyone else. That’s when the idea to create a community support page for family trippers and trippers-to-be was born. Through our blog and social media pages, we hope to share articles and tips for families to encourage them to travel with their young kids.

Moving forward, one of Familytrippers‘ dream is for the community to grow in size and be a dynamic one, with members sharing their stories and journeys with one another as well. Till that day comes, I will continue sharing my stories and experiences, and hopefully through these, more families will share our love and passion for family travel.

[Review] All-day Sunday brunch at The Halia, Singapore

Family-friendly factor : 5/5

Menu options : 5/5

Price : $$$

The Halia received its Halal certification in June this year, and it definitely brought much cheer to the Muslim community in Singapore. Yay to an additional Halal food option !

We’ve been wanting to check out their all-day brunch menu. And with the opening of the Downtown Line 3, Botanic Gardens became even more accessible than before for us, Easterners. 2 of our friends wanted to try out the new blue line to the Botanic Gardens station and we decided to have that brunch date at The Halia this morning.

We arrived at 11.30am, and had to wait about 15 minutes before we got ourselves seats. The crowd seemed to dwindle halfway through our meal, so if you do not want to wait too long, you might want to consider heading over slightly after the lunch hour. By 2pm when we left, there wasn’t a queue at all.

We got a table at the outdoor verandah. When the blinds were up, it felt like we were dining at some resort or restaurant in Bali, with nature surrounding us. The mostly wooden architecture and interior of The Halia also added on to the Balinese feel and experience. Definitely a plus point for us!

These were the dishes the adults ordered from their weekend menu:

1. The Halia Breakfast (2 eggs, toasted sourdough, turkey breast, sweet potatoes, mushrooms), $24

You can’t quite go wrong with an egg breakfast set. Love that they substitute potatoes with sweet potatoes. How often do you have sweet potatoes for breakfast here in Singapore? And the turkey breast slices were soft and tender. A comforting kinda meal for an eggs lover like myself!

2. 62.5• poached eggs with smoked salmon (toasted brioche, spinach, capsicum salsa), $22 + $5 for the salmon

Lindah had this, and again you can’t go wrong if you’re an eggs lover. You can choose to replace the meat with Wagyu roast beef, if you’re not a fan of salmon.

3. Halia’ Singapore-style Chilli crab spaghettini, $26

Rabi’ah wanted to try a Halia specialty dish, so she went for this. Her review: A tad too sweet and could be spicier, but otherwise great!

Halia is also the Malay word for “ginger”, hence we thought we needed to try out some of their ginger infused drinks. I had the chilled lemongrass and ginger infusion which I thought was refreshing. I like lemongrass so can’t really go wrong there either !

Rabi’ah had another ginger infused drink which she liked because it wasn’t too sweet.

Lindah had an interesting lychee & thyme combination which came with a generous portion of lychees!

Ordered the Chicken Breasts with Carbonara Spaghetti from the kids menu for Dani, $12. It came with a cup of juice or soft drinks. We chose Apple juice. The kids meal was actually something I wouldn’t mind eating myself. Chicken was soft and tender. Portion was too much for Dani. If Ari was with us, the two of them could probably share a plate.

The kids menu was in the form of a colouring and maze page, something to occupy the kids while waiting for food to arrive. A plus point for every family!

Dani gave a double thumbs up when we asked him whether his food was delicious. So I guess that’s a compliment for The Halia! ☺️

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t was time for desserts. We were full from our main course and thought we could just share a dessert. We decided to go for this:

Die die must have chocolate, a chocolate mousse cake with raspberry, $9.50

It was a rich flavour which I personally enjoyed – a slight bitterness of the chocolate against the sour taste of the raspberry. And there were candy chocolate bits as toppings, which added sparkles to each bite.

< e asked for our bill at this point, satisfied with our successful first brunch experience at The Halia and were about to leave when someone had to point at the dessert plate of the couple sitting just next to us. Whatever they were having looked very delicious. The couple caught us staring at their plate and confirmed that it was! We decided to order a plate just to try it out. This was what we had:

This was what we ordered – Pain Perdu, $16. It consists of moist hazelnut brioche with bananas, strawberries, raspberries, toasted hazelnuts, drizzled with praline sauce and caramel, with a scoop of chocolate ice-cream as topping. The brioche was crispy on the sides and soft on the inside. If you are looking for dessert options, we highly recommend you go for this one. We finished up the plate in minutes, and had to ask for the bill a second time round.

The Halia is highly recommended if you are looking for an outdoorsy setting for brunch with the family. You can continue to explore the Botanic Gardens after the meal, so many things to see and do. Dani was mesmerised by the mini waterfall nearby, kept pointing at it and muttered “big water” in amazement. < f you walk further on, you can explore other parts of the Botanic Gardens like the Jacob Ballas garden, Asia’s first children garden with lots of nature sensory play areas for young children.

The Halia is located at 1 Cluny Road, Ginger Garden, Singapore Botanic Garden, Singapore 259569. For directions to get to The Halia, you can click here. If you are taking the Downtown Line, factor in a 1.2km walk (about 15 min) to get from the station to The Halia.

You might want to also check out this review by Dawn from 365daystoplayeatandtravel on their weekday dinner menu. Definitely a dining option for a romantic night out with that special one too.

Go travel, 2018!

We took a look at the calendar of Public Holidays in 2018 and saw that there will be 4 long weekends. 

We did some Maths and came up with this formula – Add in 7 leave days, and Voila! You get a total of 10 short holidays for the family! Plenty of time for roadtrips, shopping getaways and beach retreats!

What are you waiting for? Start making your 2018 travel plans today. ✈️

(Disclaimer – This probably won’t work for teachers and families with primary/secondary school going kids though… Sorry guys! 😬)

10 tips to survive baby’s first flight

Are you thinking of bringing your little one on his first plane ride? Worried that your baby might not be able to cope with a long flight? Read on for useful strategies on surviving baby’s first flight.

1. The younger, the better


Both our boys went on their first plane ride when they were almost 4 months old. Both times, I wanted to squeeze in a family trip before returning to work at the end of my maternity leaves. Both times, we decided to fly to Australia. Babies are the best travel companions because the only thing they do is to sleep, feed, pee and poo (in no specific order). Probably the most eventful memories on our flights were the episodes of hubby changing a poop-laden diaper in the tiny airplane toilet. We flew on a no-frills carrier hence I don’t recall being given an option for a bassinet. On hindsight, it would have been wiser to book a flight with bassinet as that would have made diaper changing a breeze.

2. Feed baby on take off and descend


Babies need to continuously suckle during take off and landing to reduce ear pain caused by the difference in air pressure. Remember how painful and annoying this could be? Time baby’s feed so that his suckles can help ease the pain. If you are still breastfeeding, that makes it even simpler as you have no bottles to sterilise, no hot water to request from the crew, no hungry squeals waiting for the temperature to be just right. Grab a nursing cover, position, latch. Definitely a perk to continue breastfeeding!

If your kid’s older, you can feed him biscuits or snacks to keep him chewing. Our boys get gummy treats and that keeps them happy and contented. Not recommended if your kids get too hyperactive with sugar overdose. You would want them to rest and preferably sleep for most part of the journey.

3. Delay nap time as much as possible


We usually try and keep our boys awake before the flight, just so they will be tired and fall asleep easily in the plane. Of course you need to know your kids very well as sleep deprivation can also lead to cranky babies.

If you are flying off at night, get your baby to take his naps earlier in the day and keep him awake till you have boarded the plane. This strategy works well for us so far. More often than not, our boys will be asleep for a good part of the flight. Now that they are bigger and get their own seats, they usually sleep through mealtimes as well. We’d rather them sleep than wake them up for their meals anyway.

4. Bag full of stuffs


Each time we fly, we will have a bag full of stuffs we might need in the plane. When the boys were younger, pacifier was an important source of comfort for them. Hence pacifiers (yes we usually bring a spare in case we lose one) were critical items. (By the way, pacifiers can help to reduce the pressures in the ears too!) We would also bring whatever toys our kids fancy, be it a ball, rattle, soft toys, teethers, etc.

When the kids were slightly bigger, we brought along story books, colouring materials, play doh, toy cars… anything the boys fancy playing. The trick is to take out one item at a time. Our boys have short attention span, hence we needed to ensure that our stash can last us throughout the flight! I learnt this from a friend, back when I was not married and I was travelling with her and her 2 year old toddler. She had a bag full of everything to occupy her son, it felt like she was performing magic tricks – “ta dah! Here’s a toy!” When we travelled on budget flights, we will also make sure we have one or two videos in our phones for emergency purposes, in case our bag of stuffs couldn’t appease them.

Now that #1 has his own mini luggage, we get him to pick and choose his own books and toys that he wants to bring along on the trip. And this mini luggage goes into the plane with us, and supplements our bag of stuff.

5. Arrive at the airport early


Be at the airport minimally 2 hours ahead of your flight. The earlier the better as this will give you ample time to settle yourselves and baby before a flight.

When overseas, you might want to reach the airport as early as 3 hours ahead of your flight, as you will need to orientate yourself in a foreign airport. Some airports are huge, and getting from one place to another could easily mean a 10 min walk (or 20 min with kids in tow). At some airports, there could be multiple bag checks and at others, the bag checks could be so thorough, it will take a while before you can clear the immigration and board your flight.

If your kid is slightly bigger, you might want to bring him to the viewing gallery and prep him for the flight. Our boys love watching the planes take off and land.

6. Infant travel perks

Some airlines provide preferential treatment to families travelling with an infant. We’ve been ushered into fast lanes, family queues and given boarding priority when we were travelling with our infant. We have had lesser of these perks once our boys upgraded to child seats.

Travelling with infant also means that you can get away with bringing in filled water bottles, hot water flasks and baby food. At least for us, we do.

It also helps that infant fares are a fraction of a child’s fare, another perk of travelling with your child before he turns 2.

7. Babywear and strollers


If you bring along a stroller, you have the option of pushing your stroller all the way to the flight gate or checking it in with the rest of your luggage. If you check in the stroller, you’ll most likely retrieve it at the baggage zone when you arrive at your destination airport. If you push the stroller with you to the gate, you might want to ask the crew where is the stroller retrieving point before you disembark from the plane. That’s because different airlines seem to have different arrangements. Most times, the stroller will be parked at the exit galleys  from the plane. But there were occasions when the stroller got sent to the baggage retrieval zone. At one of our trips, we totally forgot about our stroller and it ended up lost in transit. We had to wait over an hour for the stroller to be identified and transported to the airport terminal that we were in.

When the kids were younger, we usually travel with the carrier instead of the stroller just because it is much more convenient. Take note that you might be required to remove baby and the carrier at the baggage screening counter, which can be a hassle if baby is sleeping. But it has to be done. Also, some flight crew allow me to continue babywearing in the plane as long as the infant belt is safely strapped around baby’s waist. Some flight crew demand that baby be removed from the carrier at take off and landing. I used to angst over these demands, but I have learnt to accept that the crew is just doing their job and following their flight protocol. No point arguing over it, but on my end, I would make a mental note on the airlines I like and don’t like travelling with.

8. The Infant seat belt


If you are travelling with an infant, you’ll be given a seat belt that needs to be attached to yours. If it’s your first time on the flight with your baby, let the crew know and they will assist you to put it on. You can still cradle your baby, nurse, carry over your shoulder etc with the infant seat belt on him. So it is really not restrictive at all.

We have heard of families bringing along car seats on the plane and strapping their child on the car seat. We have never tried doing that. For us, the infant seat belt suffices. If you are bringing in a car seat, you will need to buy a child ticket so that your baby gets a seat of his own.

If you requested for a basinette, you need to remove baby from the basinette and strap him with the infant seat belt at take-off and landing, as well as during episodes of turbulence. So you might want to familiarise yourself with the belt so that you can buckle up with ease.

9. Appeasing the cranky baby


There was one flight we were on where the boys took turns to be cranky and made a fuss in the plane. It all started because they were over-tired after our plane (and their sleep) got delayed by 2 hours. It didn’t help that the crew insisted that I remove my carrier even though my 4 month old was fast asleep. In the midst of the transfer from carrier to arm, he woke up and cried his lungs out. It was our first time flying with 2 kids, and with hubby occupied with #1, I had to remain calm and try and appease my baby. The crew in this instance did nothing to help the situation. Baby calmed down only after I put him back in the carrier after take-off.

For obvious reasons, I’ve chosen not to fly with the airline anymore because of their inability to empathise and make concessions.

10. You know your baby best!

Whatever the situation is, remember that you are the best person to appease your own baby cos you know him best. We have had a number of unfriendly glares from fellow passengers in our flight upon seeing our young kids. We have heard of people who will ask to change seats because they don’t want to be seated next to a baby. We have had someone telling our son off for kicking his seat.

Rather, what keeps us travelling are the friendly and encouraging smiles from fellow parents who are also working hard to rein in their kids during flights. Then there are also the older parents who oft give us a reassuring “been there, done that” look. Our kids have received wonderful goodies and toys from air crew, chocolates and sweets from fellow passengers, there was a flight where me and another mum with a nursing baby shared breastfeeding tips and stories.

Don’t let the actions of others affect you. Remember, airplane rides are made accessible to everyone. You are not doing anything wrong by bringing your kids onboard flights. The key is to prepare yourself – physically, mentally and probably emotionally too – before your baby’s first flight. And you (and baby) will be just fine!

Have a safe flight and enjoy your holidays!

Umrah with young kids : Makkah Al Mukarramah

In our final (Part 3/3) post on our Umrah pilgrimage, we share on our experiences in Makkah and how we managed to fulfil our umrah obligations with our 2 young kids in tow.

“There is no city on earth through which Allah multiplies one good deed by a hundred thousand except Makkah.” (Sahih Bukhari , lbn Hibban)

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1. Preparations to enter Makkah

We departed from Madinah to Makkah on Sunday morning, all decked out in our umrah gears – Ihram for the men and appropriate prayer attire for the ladies. We did our sunnah prayer in our hotel before leaving and proceeded to recite our niyyat to perform umrah at Bir Ali Mosque, 9km from Madinah and 450km from Makkah. Throughout the ride to Makkah, we were encouraged to recite the Talbiah. Even though we had prepared ihram outfits for the boys, we did not put them on till we arrived at our hotel in Makkah. The boys needed to be as comfortable as possible for the long bus ride, plus we had to maintain our state of ihram throughout the journey to Makkah.

If you choose an itinerary with Makkah as the first destination instead of Madinah, you will need to perform your sunnah prayer at home and be in your umrah gears when you head to the airport. 45 minutes before arrival in Jeddah, you will then need to recite the niyyat for umrah. The journey from Jeddah airport to Makkah is about an hour long.

2. First umrah

We arrived at Makkah Hilton at about 9 pm, checked in and had a quick round of freshening up before performing our first umrah pilgrimage. This is when we also got the boys geared up in their Ihram. We had to change Dani’s diaper and made sure Ari went to the toilet first before we headed over to Masjidil Haram to ensure minimal disruption during umrah as well.

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Even though it was close to 11pm, the compounds of the Masjidil Haram was brightly lighted up and for a moment there, I was confused between night and day. There were many people going in and out of the mosque too and performing their umrah. I remember thinking to myself that this mosque never sleeps. On hindsight, when I compare with the other timings we did our umrah, this was probably the least packed timing. But it was still packed nevertheless.

We brought along our Tulas and strapped the boys in even before we entered the mosque. As we had to maintain our wudhu throughout the umrah pilgrimage, hubby and I agreed that all transfer of kids would be made through my parents. Thankfully we didn’t have to make any transfers though. Our group kept close together throughout tawaf and sa’i. By the 3rd tawaf, both boys were fast asleep in their Tulas, which also meant that they were heavier to carry. We had to perform our solat sunat Tawaf with the kids in tow, chairs were easily available to allow us to perform our solat. The 7 rounds of Sa’i felt more challenging than Tawaf, especially because of the slopes on either ends of Safa and Marwah. The boys slept all the way till we got back to the hotel. This was us after completing our first umrah.

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My parents, my mum especially, looked so tired here. This made me realise how difficult it must have been for our old folks to perform their Hajj. Tawaf and sa’i are just two components of Haj, and the Haj congregation is much larger than the umrah congregation.

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My little Haji so tired after a long day, successfully transferred onto the hotel bed for the night.

3. Subsequent umrahs

My parents opted out of the 2nd umrah and offered to take care of the kids. We took up their offer and followed the rest of the group to perform our umrah. Without having to carry Dani, it felt less tiring. We were able to keep pace with the group. My parents joined in the third umrah. This time round, we broke away from the group and chose to perform our umrah at our own pace. We tried letting Ari walk on his own but the crowd during Tawaf was too overwhelming for him and he asked to be carried. If your kids are older, you might want to consider pushing them on the wheelchairs instead, cos they too might be overwhelmed by the number of people and the pushing and shoving all around.

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4. Jemaah prayers in Masjidil Haram

Masjidil Haram is much much bigger than Nabawi Mosque, we managed to explore the mosque quite a bit and prayed at different sections within the mosque. Most of the time, we prayed at the main prayer hall at Level 2, from the nearest entrance to our hotel,  King Fahd gate.

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The mosque security closed off some of the entrances when the mosque became too packed (usually close to prayer times), hence it is very important to make sure you make your way down to the mosque early for prayers. We ended up praying at the mosque external compounds at least 2 times, and we stumbled upon the basement prayer section another time because that was the only entrance left open then. We quite liked the basement area as it was a small contained space and we prayed there a couple of times more. On our second last day in Makkah, we explored the rooftop praying area and performed our Maghrib and Isyak there. That was quite an experience in itself, scenic and very cooling.

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But of course, the best prayer spots were those that gave us a view of the Kaabah. Those times, it felt like a surreal experience facing the real Kaabah during prayers and not just the drawing on my prayer mat. These places were usually packed though, so again, I’d recommend that you be there early to book your spot. Not easy with kids too so you might want to moderate your expectations at the same time.

The families that we met in Makkah were as friendly, nice and generous as the ones we met in Madinah. Again, the boys made friends and received many goodies. Their rezeki, indeed.

Friday Jumaah prayers are really really packed. In Masjidil Haram, there’s a high chance roads are closed and entrances to the mosque are closed as early as 1.5 – 2 hours before prayer time. So you might want to be at the mosque very early.

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5. Subuh prayer

There were a number of Subuh prayers in Madinah and Makkah when we brought our sleeping boys along with us to the mosques. As parents, you know your kids best, and if they are not likely to wake up cranky and crying in the middle of prayers, why not. Ari tend to be in deep sleep and Dani will sleep soundly as long as he’s being carried. It might be useful to find out the techniques to do your prayers while sitting down. There are plenty of Waqaf stools in different areas within the mosque compound for you to use during prayers.

6. Kids Club @ Hilton Makkah

Hilton Makkah has a Kids Club, and we let the boys play at the club twice during our stay. The first time, we dropped them for an hour. The second time, we dropped them a bit longer and picked them up after Zuhur prayers. If you are staying at Hilton Makkah, you might want to consider this option if you intend to spend a slightly longer time in the mosque. The kids get to play, and you get some time to do your own stuff. Even though Dani was too young to be left behind, the staff allowed us to do so because Ari would be with him.

7. Shopping at Makkah…

Our hotel was just next to the shopping mall and we spent quite a bit of time window shopping. There are plenty of food options too, hence you might want to consider opting for a half board package. Even though we had lunch and dinner provided, we skipped our meals a couple of times just so we get to eat other types of food. Hilton Makkah’s breakfast spread was awesome though!

8. Climbing Jabar Nur

Again, this was possible because my parents stayed back to take care of the boys. Initially the umrah group was keen to go for the climb, but when one by one they pulled out, hubby and I decided to go ahead. We took a cab to and fro and walked up the 1,100 stairs to the top of the Jabal Nur. We managed to take a peek at the Hira Cave where Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation from Allah SWT.

“Read in the name of your Lord who created man from a clot.  Read: for your Lord is Most Bountiful, who teaches by the pen, teaches man that which he knew not.” (Quran 96:1-5)

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9. And then the kids got sick…

When we left Singapore for our umrah trip, Ari was down with fever. Throughout the whole journey to Madinah, he was very weak. Hubby was closely monitoring his temperature and gave him his medication every couple of hours. In Madinah, we were encouraged by our guide to feed Ari plenty of zamzam water. We did that. Each time we went to the mosque to pray, we will bring our water bottles and fill them up with zamzam water. Alhamdulillah, Ari’s fever subsided by Day 3.

In Makkah, Dani started running a temperature two days before we were supposed to depart for Singapore. Thankfully he still nursed, ate and drank well despite being sick. Hubby was back on duty monitoring his temperature (hubby recalled Dani’s temperature at one point was close to 40degrees!) and fed him medicine every couple of hours together with zamzam water. We were thankful Dani was not cranky during the whole episode. He had almost recovered by the time we headed back to Singapore. Alhamdulillah.

Shahidah Travels has a clinic in Makkah and Madinah for their pilgrims but thankfully, we had sufficient medication and didn’t need to go to the clinics.

In fact, filling up zamzam water became a routine that Ari looked forward to each time we enter the mosque. Here is he helping his dad refill our bottles at the basement prayer space.

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10. The Farewell Tawaf

On our last morning in Makkah, we were up early for our final tawaf, Tawaf Wada at 3am. We weren’t the only ones up at that hour, the place was packed. It was a sad poignant moment for us, having to leave the holy city of Makkah and not having the privilege to pray in front of the Kaabah. I still remember those few final moments in Masjidil Haram, as we sat and prayed continuously while waiting for the prayer call for Subuh. Dani slept throughout and I did my Subuh prayer with him still asleep in the carrier.

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The time we left Masjidil Haram, back to our hotel to pack our belongings for the flight back home.

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11. Flight back and zamzam entitlement

All pilgrims are entitled to a pre-packed 5 litre bottle of zamzam water before you depart. So don’t worry about stocking up on zamzam. You won’t be allowed to carry your own bottles of zamzam in your checked in baggage or hand carry anyway and they will check your bags for those. Kids get a bottle too, so altogether we got to bring home 6 bottles of zamzam water . Alhamdulillah.

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This was us with all of our loot before check-in at Jeddah airport.

Two tired kids, two rejuvenated parents. Bringing your kids along for umrah may sound like no easy feat, but with enough preparation and lots of doa and tawakkal, it was manageable and we would not have wanted it any other way.

Click here to read on our Umrah preparations and here to read our experience in Madinah.

 

 

 

 

Umrah with young kids : Madinah Al Munawarrah

In Part 2 of our Umrah with young kids series, we recap on our time spent in the holy city of Madinah and wrote down some useful tips for families whilst there.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Medina is a sanctuary from that place to that. Its trees should not be cut and no heresy should be innovated nor any sin should be committed in it, and whoever innovates in it an heresy or commits sins (bad deeds), then he will incur the curse of Allah, the angels, and all the people.” (See Hadith No. 409, Vol 9).

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1. Orientate yourself in the vicinity!

In Madinah, we stayed in Leader Al Muna Kareem hotel, and our hotel was about 3 minutes walk away from Nabawi Mosque. We only had to walk down the pathway, cross two roads and we would have reached the gates of Nabawi Mosque. Our guide led the group to the mosque together to perform Maghrib prayers on the same day that we reached Madinah.

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Nabawi Mosque is huge, and there are a lot of people at the mosque at any time. The first thing you should do is to take note of the gate that you enter from. For our umrah group, it was pretty easy as our gate was the left-most one, nearest to the ladies’ entrances, and the shops nearest to the gate were pretty recognisable despite the Arabic spellings of the names.
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One elderly uncle from our group got separated from the group during prayers on the first night and he didn’t return to the hotel for dinner. That night, the men were activated to search for him but to no avail. Thankfully, he eventually found his way back to the hotel.

2. Choose a strategic after-prayer meeting point 

Apart from the first few Jemaah prayers, the umrah group went to the mosque separately for the rest of the Jemaah prayers. Initially hubby and I would agree to meet at the mosque gate after prayers, but we realised that it could get pretty crowded so eventually we decided it was easier to meet outside Starbucks. Some families in our group made arrangements to meet back at the hotel, which is also a convenient meeting point if you don’t intend to do any shopping.

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3. Be prepared for Bag checks

There were strict bag checks at the entrance of the mosque. Among the things they look out for were toys which appear life-like, e.g. animal toys, dolls, soft toys, action figurines. A fellow Jemaah’s daughter was carrying a doll which was taken away from her. Our boys had a play-doh set with human figurine parts, and those were taken away from us too. Thankfully we managed to retrieve both the doll and the play-do figurines after prayer. (They usually place these items in small plastic boxes at the entrance, so do take note which box your item is at and you can retrieve them back after prayers.) Similarly, do ensure your kids do not wear t-shirts with images of action figures either and avoid bringing picture books, just to be on the safe side.

4. Bag your shoes/slippers

Bring along a small bag to keep your shoes in when you are praying. Trust me, it’s easier to have your shoes with you then trying to locate your shoes from amongst the thousands of pairs outside of the mosque or in the shoe storage areas at the mosque entrances. Hubby and I brought along a drawstring bag each which we found to be very convenient as we can easily sling them around our body. My mum and dad used plastic bags, which worked well for them.

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5. Family prayer spaces

In Madinah, the boys were mostly with my mum and I. There are separate prayer areas for women, one of which which was out of bounds to children. I prayed in that area once for Subuh when the kids were still sleeping and mum offered to take care of them in the hotel room. Most of the time, I’ll be at the larger family friendly prayer spaces. What my friends told me were indeed true, there were plenty of families with young children in both Madinah and Makkah! Being among other families made prayer time less stressful as people were generally tolerant of the level of noise made by the children. People were also very friendly and generous. The boys (especially Dani) made friends easily and the kids kept receiving small items of food from the fellow Jemaah. We felt really blessed.

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6. Be at the mosque early for prayers!

Especially for Maghrib prayers and on Friday Jumaat prayers. The mosque tends to be extra packed then. We were late for one Maghrib prayer and we had to pray on the cold marble surface of the mosque exterior compounds. It was extra challenging praying outside than inside because there was a higher chance of the boys wandering off further than they should while we were praying. Thankfully they didn’t and they were contented snacking and playing with their toys.

Reaching the mosque early also meant that you need to have more activities to engage the kids for a longer period of time. I usually had about 5 to 6 different sets of toys/activities in my bag and an equal number of snacks, and I’ll then take them out one at a time so that they would always be entertained. The good thing about reaching the mosque early and settling the kids down early is that we can also pick a good spot. I try to avoid the front-most row in the prayer area as Dani who was just learning to walk then would wander off on his own, especially if there were other kids in the prayer area in front. He did that once before! I also tried to avoid being close to the cupboards and pillars (where there are usually Qurans) because again, there were a few times Dani knocked his head against them.

We usually remain in the mosque after Maghrib prayer in preparation for Isyak, as the timing in between the two prayers are very short. We found it convenient and if the kids were settled, I used the time to read the Quran and make extra supplications and prayers.

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7. Best time for Rawdah…

is without the kids with you. I didn’t go to Rawdah with the group (they went in the morning, after Subuh on the day after we arrived). Mum went along with the ladies in our group and she said that it was very packed and they had a long wait. The ladies supported one another so that all had a chance to perform a short prayer and supplication in Rawdah. I decided to go over at night, left the kids with husband and I made my way to Nabawi Mosque. I was at Nabawi slightly after 11pm and there were still many people outside the mosque. It was a different sight to Nabawi then what we saw in the day – empty prayer halls, people sleeping outside and around the mosque exterior compounds, workers cleaning and packing up for the night, refilling Zamzam water and so forth.

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Mum suggested that I wore black tudung and jubah so that I can blend in with the locals, and I did. Before you can enter Rawdah, the mosque officials will group us according to the region we come from – Asians in one group, Arabs in one group etc. You will then move from one waiting area to another with your group. Going alone means I could easily move from group to group, and before I knew it, I was already part of the group that was the next to enter Rawdah.

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The ladies in black were among the officials controlling the crowd and letting us in group by group.

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Sign reminding us not to rush in and injure one another, but to wait for our turn. With Allah’s grace, we would be able to enter.

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That’s me, one step away from the green carpets indicating the region of Rawdah. Almost there.

Once you are in Rawdah, I would suggest you move all the way in, as front as possible so that you can avoid being trampled on by others while doing your prayers. People literally step and cross over one another, just to find a spot to do a quick prayer and supplication. On my second night there, I managed to reach the front-most row of Rawdah, away from all the pushing and shoving. Both nights I was out at about 1am. Don’t go too late because I think they’ll close the entrance to Rawdah soon after. Rawdah for men is 24 hours though.

8. Sadaqah

There are many people whom you can give sadaqah too, elderly and kids being the two most common group (hence why our kids received plenty of goodies). You can also go to the nearby shops and waqaf items for the mosque such as Quran and foldable stools for prayers.

9. Excursions

We enjoyed the site visits and excursions because it was a break from the daily routine of going to the mosque and back. These usually took place in the morning, after breakfast, and we would be back by noon for lunch and Zuhur prayers. When we stopped by mosques for a visit, we would perform 2 rakaat sunnah prayers and we’ll try and take turns with the hubby /parents  where possible so that the kids need not have to enter the mosque. Among the places we visited in Madinah were Quba Mosque (we had ice cream from the ice-cream truck outside the mosque!), Mount Uhud, kurma and souvenir shops etc.

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10. Best time to shop is…

After Subuh prayers. A lot of shops will be lined outside the mosque, and according to my Chief shopping consultant (the mum), the best deals can be found then. Most of the jubahs we gave as souvenirs were bought then. Of course it is important to meet the husband first and hand over the kids to him so that you can shop at ease.

Click here for some tips on preparing for umrah and here for our write up on Makkah.