Category Archives: Travel Tips

Hong Kong – A MUST go Family Holiday Destination!

September school holidays are just round the corner. Brainstorming for holiday destination is on! Eventhough, I try my best to think of new destination(s) each time, Hongkong always seems to pop into my mind. I have been there 3 times and it still keeps calling me back!

2012, a business trip that hubby and my first born tagged along. I was pregnant with my second.

2013, family holiday, it’s all about the kids and play!

2015, girlfriends trip. Shop and makan! (eat, eat eat!)

Since its the school holiday, I will focus my sharing from my 2013 trip.

Where to stay in Hong Kong

There are TONS of accommodation option in Hong Kong. For us who travels with little ones, our criteria are accessibility of public transportation (I swear by train regardless of my destination), food and traveling distance to our targeted attraction/sights. All these for me goes hand in hand. I probably can drop food off the criteria(we make our own!) BUT public transportation and attraction/sights must be considered together. Simply because I do not wish to spend most of my time traveling to the places I want to go, back and forth. I want to spend it at the attraction itself. Can you just imagine tired, cranky little ones on a long journey? They can be force to be reckoned with.

Our accommodation choice in 2013 was Rosedale Hotel (Tripadvisor review), Kowloon, Hong Kong. Reasonable priced, clean and comfortable, strategically located and include the convenience of  shuttle services to nearby MTR.  The hotel provides a summary of transportation options including estimated time. Do not expect much of the room size in Hong Kong hotels because in you wont get much of it unless you go for the 5 stars hotel such as JW Marriott  . Rosedale Hotel was decent enough that my then 4 year old could entertain himself in the room while we made some last minute changes to the itinerary.

The hotel itself does not have any entertainment area for the kids. Usually swimming pool is a MUST but considering we were out and about most of the time, it did not really matter for this trip. If you do have a day to spare with no plans and the kids are bored, Rosedale is near Ivy Street Rest Garden, where there is a playground and space for them to run about. Honestly though, for a short holiday trip in September, we doubt you will finish all your to do list.

There are mini marts in the area for last minute stocking of snacks for the day or night. Especially for the little ones. For good solid meal, if you have no specific dietary requirements, there should be ample. MacDonald is just a stone throw away. For us with halal requirement, these two restaurants seems nearby enough, Roti King Indian Fusion Cuisine and Hyatti Restaurant. Both are approximately under 5 minute walk from the hotel (as per google map) Back then, we did not explore the area much and our meals were mainly at or near the tourist attraction places or self made and packed. Hence, we are unable to vouch for these two restaurants. If you do give it a try, please let us know. Just in case we do return!

Attractions / Sights in Hong Kong

In 2013, my kids were 4 and 1. Including the 4 adults who are young at heart (yes very much still!), here were our top 3 kid friendly attractions.

  1. HongKong Disneyland
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A magical place called Disneyland | Toy story ride | Mickey waffles!

For me, this was hands down the highlight of the trip! What is there not to love. The magical feel, the photo taking with fairy tale characters, the rides and seeing cute little kids playing dress up. Definitely dedicate at least a whole day for this. The park opens at 1000hrs till 2100hrs. It is best to buy tickets online, reach early, beat the queue and simply collect it from one of the Auto Magic Tickets machines.

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This is it! – Precious holiday memories | ticket collection machine | halal food!

Visit their website to plan ahead and find out the different timing for each attractions and shows. You definitely want to get the best out of it. If you are worried about meal times, don’t be. Even if you have special dietary requirements, Disneyland seems to have covered it all from halal to vegan options.

A day will go by fast and maybe not enough if you are having fun. Nevertheless if just like us a day is all you have got, the best way to end your day at Disneyland is to stay for their night parade show. Watch your favourite Disney cartoon character parade passed. When we were there several years ago, the day came into closing with beautiful fireworks just over the castle. They may have changed this parade a little bit after all these years but I hope they maintained the fireworks show. A word of caution though, these parade tend to get SUPER crowded, keep the kids close better still if you can strap them to you. This way you know you will never lose them.

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My son still in high spirit while waiting for parade | Fireworks and more Fireworks!

Please pardon my lack of photography skills back in 2013. I hope it had improved since then! Well at least with the help of technology, I am sure it is better.

Getting back on track. As my memory recalls, we head back to the hotel tired but happy with memories and awesome purchases from the disney shop. My favourite, Mickey Mouse bowl that holds our nacho chips and dips for in-house movie time!

2. The Peak

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Our next choice is the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island, The Peak. It stands 552 metre above sea level. You may consider purchasing the Peak Tram Sky Pass. With the pass you will get to travel up to the Peak via the famous 45deg steep Tram ride and gain one time access to The Sky Terrace 428. The Sky Terrace stands at 428 metres above sea level. It is the highest platform to enjoy the 360 degree panoramic Hong Kong has to offer. However, It is possible to opt out of the Sky Terrace and enjoy the view for free at different viewing points available. Some may require a little bit more walking. Babywearing  seems like a good idea if you attempt this. Some alternative viewing points reviews or suggestions can be found on this tripadvisor post.

Based on experience, it is best to start making your journey up there in the late afternoon, say around 1700 hrs. Eventhough the Tram ride up is only 7 minutes, the queue to board the tram can be pretty long. Heading up at the suggested time, not only buffer the wait and boarding time to the Tram, you will reach the peak in time to experience both the day and night view of Hong Kong Skyline. You don’t always get clear blue sky however the Hong Kong night skyline may still provide you IG worthy shots. Should you reach the Peak early and do not wish to stay too long in the Sky Terrace, walk around in The Peak Galleria mall and do a little bit of shopping before heading up. We did just that the moment we alighted the Tram and was greeted with the Peak Market. Compared to the Hong Kong street markets, it is a little pricey but definitely loads of souvenirs to choose from. If shopping is not your thing, maybe a visit to Madame Tussauds might. There are some who decides to go up to the Peak early, have lunch, visit Madame Tussauds followed by the day/night scenic view and dinner. Either way works! Do note for halal food requirement – it is none existence. Buy packed food up.

3. Madame Tussauds

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Meeting the “Stars” at Madame Tussauds | HK night skyline

After absorbing the wonderful view of Hongkong, we had a nice walk at the Madame Tussauds museum. I was pleasantly surprise by how much I enjoyed it. I thought it would be boring. I was proven wrong. Here you will get “meet” all the iconic individuals or groups. Hollywood, Bollywood actor and actresses, iconic politicians, famous singers and music bands, avengers characters, hello kitty and many many more. My son was excited to see the former POTUS. “President Obama!” he exclaimed. So you can imagine his delight when he saw the Avengers. The best part of this whole experience for me was to be able to shed some knowledge to the kids on whos who. Now we can always look back to the pictures and impart more knowledge to them. Even to my then 1 year old!

Hongkong Dos and Don’ts

✅ Travel during the cooler seasons. Between October to early December when you can probably get away with light jacket/sweater BUT you don’t have to worry about cranky kids due to heat and humidity.

✅Best way to travel around Hong Kong is via the MTR. Get the Octopus card! It can be used in pretty much all the public transportation. If memory serves me correctly, you can simply get the standard card. No need for the tourist card. Time to feel like a local!

✅ Hong Kong is not the most stroller friendly destination. So if you must, bring a light sturdy stroller which you can fold and maneuver in the crowd faster and better. For example: Gold pockit + We suggest, totally leaving it in the hotel if you intend to go shopping. ❌Don’t ever leave your carrier/sling behind.

✅ You may do a lot of walking especially if you are after the shopping scene in Hong Kong. Definitely prepare good covered walking shoes for the whole family.

✅ Definitely try the local dim sums and food!  What better way to expose the kids to different culture then the food. YUMS! My two favorites are:

Islamic Centre Canteen. My must go dim sum place in Hong Kong

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Wai Kee Duck Rice If you are a curry person just like me, this is a must try. Though with kids, this place may be  a tad too challenging to find. However if you think your kids are up for it, definitely worth it.

After this write up, I am DEFINITELY itching to go back there! I have yet to visit Ocean Park. I heard it is equally awesome with Disneyland!

Article by Rasheda / A mom to three kids (8,5,1). Founder of twniexplores. A believer that every moment is a teachable moment. She tries to impart knowledge to her kids through surrounding resources such as nature, buildings, household items or anything she can find at her disposal.Kids should be let to explore and play. What better way to do that then travel and the world its playground. She is also ever ready to receive teaching moments/ knowledge from her kids. It is a two way process.

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Tell us about yourself. : usp_custom_field : A mom to three kids (8,5,1). Founder of twniexplores. A believer that every moment is a teachable moment. She tries to impart knowledge to her kids through surrounding resources such as nature, buildings, household items or anything she can find at her disposal.Kids should be let to explore and play. What better way to do that then travel and the world its playground. She is also ever ready to receive teaching moments/ knowledge from her kids. It is a two way process.

World schooling mum shares 5 must-visit attractions for families in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Wow. An guest writer on Familytrippers? Of course I said yes! And on one of my favourite cities to boot- Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

My family and I relocated for a year to Newcastle because my husband wanted to complete his last year of subspecialty training there. Being the home/worldschoolers that we aspire to be, following him was a no brainer.

We saved up for a year, researched places to stay, applied for our visa (which is another story altogether, I tell you), and we arrived there in January 2016. I was pregnant with my 4th by then, so a lot of the activities I’m going to talk about are relatively slow paced and to accommodate my then 2 year old, my 5 year old and my 7 year old, and my pregnant self/tiny baby.

So first things first, accommodation.
Since we had a home base in Heaton, accommodation was not an issue for us. But travelling around UK in general was centred around Travelodge (https://www.travelodge.co.uk). If you book early, you will get discounts, and it is a minimalistic, no frills hotel. Due to our family size, we always opted for a family room where you get one queen size bed and two single beds. In Newcastle there are 10(!) Travelodges. If you are renting a car, opt for those which have free parking (which is usually a bit out of the city) but if not, then being in the city would be convenient but it is usually more pricey.

Which then brings us to the next topic- transportation. As with anywhere else in the UK, there is not much issue to be had with public transport, and even more so in Newcastle where things are generally slower and people generally more helpful. So i was able to get around alone with 3 and then 4 kids on public transport with not much issues. There is the main Metro (https://www.nexus.org.uk/metro) that goes to most places in the city and the surrounding countryside, and if that is not possible, then the buses are very accessible friendly and the driver will go out of their way to ensure that either you get a space or help you fold up your stroller or advise you to wait for the next bus (which doesn’t take very long). The buses and trains accept cash as payment so you don’t have to go out of the way to buy a cashcard or anything like that. If you are taking public transport and bringing a stroller I would advise a lightweight easy to fold one, but if you are renting a car, then big bulky strollers are fine on most attractions. We used Hertz (https://www.hertz.co.uk/p/car-hire/uk/newcastle)for car rental.

So now on to the attractions (rubs hands in glee). I roped in my children for this to vote on which places they found most memorable. Needless to say, they voted ALL the playgrounds with ziplines (priorities!), but then I pressed them to choose attractions and this was what they came up with:
Beamish museum
Discovery museum
Great north museum, Hancock
Newscastle castle
Alnwick castle
Exhibition park
South Shields
Segedunum
Angel of the north
Jesmond Dene park

Which was too long for this article. So I further narrowed it down to 5, in the city itself because some of the things on the list, while very noteworthy, are out of the city centre.

1. Jesmond Dene park

After a long flight and then sleep, those with littles would want them to run around and play. Jesmond Dene is great because there’s a walking track, bicycle track, lots of open places to run around, soft grass to fall on, a petting zoo, a miniature train ride. It’s a good introduction to the UK for kids. There’s also ice cream vans in the summer, and cafes provide great snacks and coffee for the parents. To get there from the city (which is usually Haymarket bus station) take the bus 38A or 38 (depending on the time).

2. Newcastle Castle

No trip to the UK is complete without a visit to a castle, am I right? So right in the middle of the city there is an ancient castle which is was built in the 12th century. Tip though, this place is not stroller friendly unless you are just planning to walk the grounds. Better to use a carrier and be able to climb castle steps to enjoy breathtaking views of Newcastle city and the Quayside.
Speaking of which, a stones’ throw away is the Newcastle Quayside and the famed Millennium bridge. Apart from walking, there’s not that much to do per se, but worth a visit to soak up the feel of Newcastle especially at night when the bridge lights up. Plus on Sunday mornings there’s the Quayside Sunday Market which has a truck selling hot melt in your mouth churros. Yum.

 

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3. Discovery Museum

It was a toss up between Discovery Museum and Centre for Life. But Discovery Museum won because it is free. I mean, I’m from Malaysia, where the exchange rate is not exactly that great (more so in the year we were there, and being mindful of the fact that my husband was technically there as a student) so I found myself googling “free things for kids to do in Newcastle” more than once.
Discovery Museum is located near the Newcastle Coach Station. It has four floors of discovery-history, science and technology and a space for exhibition of the season. But it is the second floor that is dear to my kids’ heart because there is a water play area. If you have wellies, it would be great, but they provide raincoats which provide adequate coverage too. This wet play area is £2 per child. Aimed at 3-5 year olds but i spotted my 7 year old having fun too. Do try the coffee and baked goods at the cafe upstairs. After wrestling with my 2 year old, it was a relief to be able to sit down and feed the baby while the other kids refueled.

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4. Laing Art Gallery

My kids SAID they didn’t fancy this much, but from the way they were when we were there (making videos and all to upload on youtube) I think it’s worth a visit to for both parents and children. Focusing mainly on north eastern British artists, when we were there they were having an Alice in Wonderland exhibition which really blew me away and also provided activities for the kids. There is a children’s section on the ground floor for both activities and a play area for really littles. It is also a stone’s throw away from Northumberland Street, THE shopping street in Newcastle as well as Newcastle University, which is an open university with amazing architecture so after you are done with the gallery it would be a good idea to spend the rest of the day just strolling around a grabbing a bite to eat along the streets.

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5. Leazes Park

Yes, another park. The thing about travelling with littles, well my littles at least, is that to preserve my sanity (because I’m usually alone with them while the husband does work related stuff) I need to let them loose every other day at least. They eat better, sleep better and are generally easier to deal with. It’s also a bonus that in the parks are well maintained and there’s always something for the kids to do. And a cafe tucked away somewhere for me to reward myself. So Leazes Park has 2 playgrounds, a pond full of ducks, geese and swans, and a bandstand. If you are a Newcastle United fan, you could drop by to see St James Park on the way. There is a cafe in the summer near the lake, but my friends and I prefer Les Petits Choux- a cafe with wonderful soups, sandwiches and baked goods, right in the corner of the park.

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So that’s my top 5 in Newcastle, for the family traveller. There are many more things to see and do, if you look up sites like TripAdvisor, but for my family, these places are the ones that created memories for us. Newcastle is generally sleepier than most cities in the UK, and people don’t generally come to Newcastle just to visit it. We would recommend renting a car and visiting Edinburgh (heck take a week and drive around the whole of Scotland) as well as York (full of history for a history fan like me) and stopping to see the sights along the way.

Would you like suggestions for Scotland and York as well? I’d be happy to do it. Writing this has made me all nostalgic for all the travelling we did there!

 

Article contribution by Ai’sah Rahim / Home and world schooling mother of 4, wife and personal assistant to a surgeon, aspiring writer, ex psychiatrist and unofficial medical advisor to family and friends.

 

Familytrippers review BedBox

Thanks to Taxi Baby Singapore, we had the opportunity to bring along a BedBox by JetKids ride-on suitcase on our recent trip to Dubai. We have seen photos and videos of the BedBox in action before, and we have been wondering whether it is a good buy for the boys. The boys have Trunki luggages, but we don’t often bring those along when we travel either. We figured it’ll be a hassle to have so many luggages and so few people pushing/carrying them.

BedBox, the luggage

Measuring 46cm x 20cm x 36cm, the BedBox weighs 3kg and has swivel wheels at the front to allow for seamless manoeuvring. We were impressed with the storage capacity of the BedBox. 20 LITRES! Even with the BedBox cushion, there was still plenty of room to store other things. These days, I leave the packing of the kids’ non-essential items to Ari. His task is to think of items (toys, books, etc) to bring along for the trip, the only criteria being they must fit into one bag and can be shared between the brothers. Ari managed to pack like a gazillion toy cars (I stopped counting after 20!), 3 storybooks, frisbees, a LeapFrog writing toy, and a couple of other random items.

BedBox, the bed

But the BedBox has a dual purpose which is what attracted me to it – it converts the flight seat into a bed. We travel on Economy class most all the time, and the seats aren’t often the most comfortable seats. In the plane, I’ve seen the boys shift around so much just to make themselves comfortable. On long haul flights, they will share their seats just so they can stretch out their legs and/or lie down whenever possible. Occasionally we end up with 1 or 2 empty seats next to us, and the boys get more room to sleep, sit, stretch etc. And then, there’s that challenge of making sure that the boys do not kick the seat in front of them. After sitting down for a long time, it does feel good to be able to stretch out your legs. I don’t blame the boys for wanting to do so!

Our Verdict

So how useful was the BedBox for our family?

1. Legs up!

For the first time since his bassinet days, Ari got to prop up his legs on his own seat, and not on Dani’s or mine or the Daddy’s. He was seated very comfortably throughout the flight, didn’t fidget much and barely got out from his seat except to go to the toilet one time. He was not able to stretch out his legs fully though due to lack of space. (Ari is 6 years old.) We didn’t manage to get 4 year old Dani to try out the bed (he fell asleep at take-off!) but I suspect he would have been able to stretch out his legs and the in-flight bed would probably be much more comfortable for Dani than Ari’s age group.

2. Restrictions on usage

Like the bassinet, the BedBox need to be stowed away at take-off, landing and during turbulence. It can be quite a hassle to fix and stow away in the overhead compartment if the flight encounters plenty of turbulence or if you are travelling solo with multiple kids. As I was busy tending to the baby, hubby handled the boys and fixed / removed the BedBox.

3. Ease of usage

Hubby managed to install the BedBox pretty quickly, he didn’t need to refer to a manual either. It’s relatively easy-to-use. Ari on the other hand struggles to open the lid of the BedBox and often had to holler for help each time he wanted to take out something from the luggage.

4. Ride on fun

The boys enjoyed riding on the BedBox, but because we only had one piece, they were constantly squabbling over whose turn it was to ride on it. We had to keep coming in to “referee” and reminding them to take turns.

Would it have been better to bring along two BedBoxs? We’re not too sure about that. As it is, the BedBox is pretty bulky and having two of them would have increased our luggage tally to 4. 3 was a comfortable number for that trip. It also depends on how much cross-city travelling we will be doing in the trip. If we were staying put in one location only, it would be perfectly fine to have 2 BedBoxs. But because we did move from place to place quite a bit in this trip, having an additional luggage would not have been ideal.

Curious to know what Ari thinks of the BedBox? Watch this video! In the video, Ari shares what he likes about the BedBox, the stuff he packed in it, step-by-step instructions on how to fix the BedBox, as well as how you can be the proud owner of one.

The BedBox by JetKids retails at SGD$299. Taxi Baby Singapore is currently having a promotion for its BedBox at a special price of SGD$269 only. Click here to purchase one for the family.

In collaboration with Taxi Baby Singapore, Familytrippers will be holding a special giveaway. Stand a chance to win a BedBox worth $299. Look out for our Giveaway post in our Instagram and Facebook pages on 1 June 2018.

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!

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”

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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.

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

Part 1 – Have niyyat, just do it.

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Alhamdulillah, a year ago, our family performed our Umrah (mini pilgrimage) to Makkah and Madinah. Like most other families who brought their young children along on their Umrah/Haj trips, we were anxious and didn’t know what to expect. Yet we knew that there was no way we would leave the kids behind, we had to figure out how we could make this trip happen. Here are some things that we did in preparation for umrah with our kids.

1. Research, research, research…

We started planning for our trip a year in advance. We researched on travel agencies and their packages, explored who could be our fellow companions, kept track of our finances and spoke to everybody we know who have recently performed Haj and Umrah to hear their experiences. The people we spoke to have been nothing short but supportive of our niyyat to perform Umrah with our kids. We were told that there are plenty of families with young kids in Makkah and Madinah and that it was a common sight to see kids in the mosques. We were assured that it was a right decision to bring our kids, and that we should go along with it.

2. Umrah companions matter…

We didn’t want to travel during the peak year-end period, as such there were lesser providers and packages for us to choose from.  We decided to book a package with Shahidah Travel as we heard good reviews from friends and family. Our group leader with Shahidah Travel, Kak Mus, was very supportive throughout. Right from our first phone conversation with her, she assured us that all would be fine and that we should not worry about whether we would be able to manage. She reminded us to keep praying to Allah SWT and believe in His plans for us.
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We also invited my mum and dad to perform umrah with us as we felt that we could do with the additional help to take care of the boys. That was probably the best decision we made, because having my mum by my side performing our prayers and umrah was not only comforting for the boys, it was comforting for me too. I could not have asked for better companions for my first Umrah pilgrimage, if not my own family.

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3. Preparing the kids…

We started talking to our firstborn, Ari, on what Umrah is all about. His brother was too young then, so we paid more attention to Ari and described to him the places that we would be visiting. We also brought the kids along to the Umrah preparation courses organized by Shahidah Travel and started bringing them along to the mosques at prayer times.

We watched videos of the Umrah pilgrimage in Makkah. Ari attended religious classes at Little Muslim Readers then and there was a session where his Ustazah got the class to make a paper Kaabah. We often made reference to the paper Kaabah in our conversations.

For our final pre-umrah course, Shahidah Travel erected a makeshift Kaabah for the Jemaah to “rehearse” the Umrah rituals of Tawaf and Sa’i. We carried the boys exactly like how we were planning to perform our Umrah in Makkah. Personally, we found this session very useful as it gave us a glimpse on what to expect in Makkah.

4. Preparing self…

As it was our first Umrah pilgrimage, both hubby and I were equally clueless on the rituals and what to expect in Makkah and Madinah. The preparations we did with Ari were equally useful for us as well. We also started attending regular religious classes to strengthen our knowledge and understanding of the Deen, two of which were Beginners Class in Islam by Ustaz Zhulkeflee Ismail and Understanding Recitations in Solat by AtTartil.

Shahidah Travel held 3 pre-umrah sessions which we found very useful. You might want to attend all the pre-umrah classes that your agency organised for you. If you have a longer lead time, we would suggest that you attend a more intensive umrah preparation course to better prepare yourself for the actual pilgrimage. That was something which we felt that we could have done better so that we could be more knowledgeable and done more spiritual obligations, supplications and prayers while we were in Makkah and Madinah. Even if you do not have time for this, the umrah booklet that the travel agency provides usually contain a lot of useful information on the types of supplications and prayers that you can carry out. You might want to go through the materials beforehand and make mental notes on those that you intend to carry out in Makkah and Madinah.

5. Trip packing…

Our packing list for umrah was longer than our usual trips. One reason was because we would be spending the bulk of our day in the mosque for prayers and rituals. We needed to have sufficient and varied snacks, books, toys and activities to entertain the boys in the mosques at prayer times and these easily took up one whole cabin bag.

The clothes that we packed for umrah were also slightly bulkier than our usual travel outfits. I wore jubahs mostly, and we each had multiple sets of prayer garb. The white cloth for the men (Ihram) were bulky and easily took up half a luggage space. We received an addtional set of Ihram for the boys which I then modified into two kid-size sets.

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It didn’t help that we only had one huge luggage, two would have been useful as it would mean we could cut down on the number of bags that we had to manage. This is us with all our bags waiting to check in at Jeddah airport for our return flight to Singapore.

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One very useful item that we packed at the advise of some friends were what we referred to as our mosque shoe bags! Will share more on this in our next post, but basically do bring along a bag that you can keep your shoes in when you enter the mosque. Plastic bag works too, my mum and dad used those. Hubby and I brought along a sling bag like in the photo below, as we found it to be useful, compact and yet you can sling it on you.

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6. Invest in a good carrier!

No prizes for guessing which carrier we brought with us on this trip. Yup, our trusted Tulas! Strollers aren’t very useful because you can’t bring them into the mosque. An alternative you can consider is to rent a wheelchair and you can then push your kids during Tawaf and Sai’e. My understanding is that the wheelchair rentals aren’t cheap especially if you need someone to help you to push. It’s not easy to manoeuvre the wheelchair amongst the sea of people performing their Umrah either. We tried letting 4-year old Ari walk next to us one time (we brought along  a kid harness), but he got overwhelmed by the people around him and asked to be carried.

If you are thinking of buying a carrier, do pick one that provides good support. Umrah itself is physically challenging, especially during Sai’e as there are slopes at either ends and depending on which level you perform your umrah, they can be pretty steep. If your kids aren’t used to baby wearing, you might want to familiarise them with the carrier and carry them for a bit prior to your trip.

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7. Others

You will need to submit 4 photos for your Visa application. There’s a standard size for Visa photos (4x6cm) and some requirements like white backdrop and dark coloured hijab so do check with your travel agency. Shahidah provided a list of recommended photo shops, as follows:

  1. GRAPHIS ONE 7
    390 Victoria Street, Golden Landmark, #02-44. Tel : 62951517
  2. TPS PHOTO
    Blk 201C, Tampines Street 21 #01-10. Tel : 67829255
  3. T & L PHOTO SERVICE
    Blk 248 Simei Street 3 #01-26. Tel : 67822195
  4. JIA YI WATCH & PHOTO
    Blk 253 Jurong East Street 24, #01-221. Tel : 65633918
  5. MARINE HAWAII PHOTO STUDIO
    58 Marine Terrace Tel : 6242 139

There are also two jabs that you will need to go for, influenza and meningitis. Again, Shahidah provided a list of clinics that you can go to get these jabs. We went to our usual family doctor, Dr Suraidah from Medina Clinic. There was a slightly different arrangement for one of the jabs for Dani as he was only 15mth old then. Instead of taking the jab in one dosage, he was given the jab in 2 smaller dosages, one before and one after the trip.

We also took the opportunity to get prescribed medication for the boys like paracetamol and brufen which we brought along with us. Good thing we did because the boys took turns to fall sick during our trip. More on that in our next post.

As I only started donning the hijab at the start of last year, my passport photograph was not the most updated photo of me. I was worried that this might pose a problem at immigration and I checked in with the travel agency on whether I would need to renew my passport. According to them, it wasn’t necessary and that the photo in my Visa was the critical one.

Cost-wise, we took up the full-board package with Shahidah Travel. It would probably be sufficient to go for their half-board package instead as it was easy to get food in Makkah. (Shahidah’s half-board package is inclusive of lunch and dinner in Madinah.) We paid child price for Ari, and we only had to pay for Dani’s airfare which worked out to be barely $500 on SQ. We were among the last few groups to board the SQ-Jeddah flight on SQ, which have since been removed from SQ flight routes.

In our next post, we will share our experiences in Madinah and Makkah and include more useful tips for families intending to bring your young kids along for Umrah pilgrimage.

Tips for family travel photoshoot

Since we started our family travel adventures, we have engaged photographers in three different destinations for a family photoshoot. 

Bali


Bandung


and most recently, Amsterdam


In Bali and Bandung, we engaged freelance photographers directly for the sessions. It’s definitely cheaper than flying in a photographer from Singapore, and it helps that these local photographers are familiar with the places and can recommend good spaces and places for our shoots.

In Amsterdam, we booked the services of a Flytographer and the company coordinated our request with our chosen photographer. You can read on our experience with Flytographer in this post
If you are planning to engage a photographer for a family travel outdoor shoot, here are some useful tips for you.

1. Venue

Decide on the backdrop that you want for your photos. Depending on the age of your kids, you might want to factor in your kids’ level of comfort before deciding on the venue. Ari was only 9 months old when we had our Bali photoshoot in Jan 2013. We didn’t want to travel far, yet I wanted photos by the paddy field. We decided to book an accommodation by the paddy field. We stayed at Villa Agung Khalia in Ubud

2. Don’t discount indoor venues 

Turns out we also took photos in our resort, which was great because the accommodation we stayed in had a rustic Bali charm feel to it. With kids, even indoor photos can turn out very pretty. We had some bedroom shots of us playing with Ari and of me nursing him (with nursing cover). We had similar hotel shots in Bandung and another of me nursing Dani while we were having lunch. The nursing ones are highly sentimental to me as breastfeeding was a huge part of my motherhood journey. 

3. Timing is important

Be prepared to go slow. With a kid (or many kids), I’ve learnt the hard way that things don’t usually go as planned, and even if they do, in less timely manner. We usually opt for at least an hour package as there’s buffer to call for a time out in case the kids get cranky. (Hence the nursing shots!) You might want to also take note of your kids’ least fussy timings. We usually take photos in the morning because that’s when they are the most active. We will avoid midday as they get tired by then and need their naps. Evenings don’t work for us too, just because there are occasions when they skip their nap and this is when they become overly cranky. Cranky kids don’t make great photo subjects! In Amsterdam, we made a mistake of not having breakfast before our photoshoot. Turned out Ari was very hungry and midway through, he refused to pose and smile for photos. Lucky we had biscuits in our bags and a number of our photos featured the Khong Guan biscuit packs. 

4. Plan a Shoot Scoop

Flytographer requests for a shoot scoop from their clients, in which they ask questions like your shoot goals i.e. vision that you have of your shoot and inspiration i.e. styles or moods of your desired photos. Some people prefer posed shots, for me I tend to prefer the spontaneous, playful shots. I find these the shoot scoop very useful as it helps the photographer understand your wishes and align both your expectations. I usually also think about the type of photos that I want for each shoot, example in Amsterdam, I knew I wanted a shot of just the boys, I wanted a shot of us sitting down on the steps of the houses along the canals, I wanted a Cycling shot and I wanted some shots of us wearing our Tulas. This leads me to my next point, props!

5. Props make the shots !

I really believe so, and my husband will agree that I tend to overdo this each time. We planned our itinerary in Amsterdam such that we can also use our  rental bicycles for our photo shoots. I will also select a set of clothes specially for our photoshoot. When picking clothes, the easiest is to go by colour, that usually works. You can also go by the type of clothes, eg we wore denim in Amsterdam. I’ve seen photos of families wearing white tops and jeans, and I thought that works very well too! 

I didn’t do this for my family travel shoots, but for some other family shoots that we did in Singapore, props turned out very useful and make your photos highly personalised!


6. Have fun!

I think this is most important for your session and your photos to turn out well. Have fun, enjoy yourself during your shoot. Don’t be overly stressed about getting the right pose, the right expressions, the right timing. Trust that your photographer would have captured the best photos of you and your family (and there’s the magic of photo editing for other visible flaws!). If kids aren’t being cooperative, leave them aside for abit (with toys/food) and snap some lovey dovey couple shots with your spouse. Play with your kids to get them to be happy and to smile with you. Be casual, be yourselves. Do the stuff that your kids enjoy the most! That always work for us!

7. Have little expectations (and be pleasantly surprised!)

But at the end of the day, if you are thinking of taking a family travel photo, you need to lower your expectations !  Because with kids, you know how all your plans get thwarted when they decide to go against everything that you have planned for them. Expect good photos, awesome photos will then be a bonus. 

Special credits to our photographers (Putu in Bali, Pratama in Bandung, Silvia in Amsterdam, Fadly and Hyn in Singapore) for capturing such lovely shots of us.