Category Archives: Travel Tips

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”

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.

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 young 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. 

Keeping safe when Travelling 

How do you keep yourself, your family and your valuables safe when you’re travelling? After our London misadventure, we posed this question to our friends in Facebook, and here are some of the best replies we received. Useful tips for fellow family trippers heading to Europe this holiday!

Huda:

I keep my money everywhere. even in my shoes 😂

Tan-Ly Jennifer:

In Italy (Rome) where its famous for pickpockets, money is kept in bra, shoes. Always split the cash. And I tie my wallet to my bag. I do not bring out my wallet when paying anything. Don’t attract attention.

And if we are lost, we keep moving and do not stand at 1 place for more than a few seconds pple will know u are a tourist and is lost. I am a kiasu Singaporean traveller! Lots more precaution that I take actually. Have to publish a book probably. 😂

Lynn:

Buy travel insurance or use a credit card that offers some travel insurance coverage.

Razean:

I don’t bring all the cash with me. I will budget per day and will also bring with me the total no of $ set aside for the country, eg 3 days in London in a Ziplock bag. My lil wallet (where the daily Budget is in) will be kept in the inner pocket of the jacket or anyway I think will be safe. The rest of the money will be kept in my document file and lock in the luggage.

Most importantly, just be mindful of the surroundings. If I feel someone of a close proximity, I will be more alert. If u r using a backpack, locking the zips help too..

Nazlin:

Use a money belt and put it under your top. Put a little cash in a wallet that u can easily have access to ( but to avoid being pickpocketed, consider using a big diaper pin to pin the opening of your pocket. Got this trick from an online site. This was used by a cameraman whenever he needs to shoot in crowded places). Why you still need some money in a wallet is in case if you get robbed, you have something to surrender to them, otherwise they may get suspicious that you have no money at all. According to a restaurant owner in Paris, these pickpockets like to target those with kids as our attention seems to be more on our kids.

When taking trains from one city/country to another, bring a bicycle chain and lock and lock your luggages to the metal rail at the luggage corner. We know of someone who got her luggage stolen (since we tend to seat far from the luggages ) when the train stopped along the way. 😁

Fistri:

I try my best not to put my wallet in a backpack, it’s always in bag in front of me and yes I don’t bring all my money out. Budget per day and bring a credit card. Once I lost my wallet in HK I was still able to survive coz the rest of my money is in my suitcase’s inner pocket (yup that zipped area tt lines the bottom of the bag).

Nurfadhilah:

Don’t dump all your cash in your wallet. Keep some in your luggage, your backpack pockets (inside)… 🙂

Teguh:

Separate your cash and cards every day/stage/everywhere you go and somehow be prepared to lose; even the best countries can host the worst people.

Farah:

Welcome to our world of Scottevest! Go check if out 😉

Rasheda:

My two cents contribution. Split it with your traveling partner. We then separate it on ourselves (pocket/pouch/bag etc). Only keeping an estimate of what I think I need for the day accessible.

Another suggestion a friend made, carry a bag with multiple pockets. Place your valuable in the most inner pocket which is closest to your body. (her bag was cut open at the side without her realising till much later. It got their the first layer. Nothing valuable enough to be taken)

Louis:

When the kids were younger, I put some of the money in their bags. Pickpockets go for the adults not the kids (whom they assumed won’t be carrying cash). But things have changed. Be cautious in obvious places where lots of tourists gather for there will always be thieves amongst the crowds.

Eiffel Tower, Trevi Fountain, Westminster Bridge, Brandenburg Gate, Merlion. Easy to spot the tourists among the crowd. Harder to spot the pickpockets.

Always separate the cash and cards. A friend ‘lost’ his wallet in Europe which was returned later. Credit card doesn’t involve stolen cards but stolen information. Separate the cards and use bank cards with 2FA.

Amalina:

Need to be vigilant everywhere. Especially when a group tries to enter the metro behind u. Hafiz was pickpocketed by the gypsies in the Paris metro. He did not lock his packsafe coz we became complacent. Luckilyy we found out in time.

Lesson 1: Use the locks on our bags.

Lesson 2: Split money and keep most on our body bag.

Lesson 3: Men, don’t keep retreating when a lady pushes u. She might be trying to steal ur wallet.

Someone also stole our luggage on the train between Milan to Rome.

Lesson 4: Chain luggage to the rack.

We had to learn things the hard way.

Alicia:

I used to keep everything in a pouch in front of me, but I’ve been getting very careless after going with husband and having kids. Then we kinda just stuff here there and everywhere.

Raaha:

As students in London, my husband and I relied on our bank cards rather than cash – easier to cancel if anything happens. As a tourist this time around, my husband carried one of those money bags that goes around your waist under your shirt, and I carried a bag that I held close to me and that had an inner zip – anything valuable like phone and money goes in there. As a student, I once carelessly chucked my phone into my coat pocket (cos I was complacent), and got pickpocketed by a guy who “bumped” into me in Bayswater 🙁

#thesuhardisfightback #safefamilytravel

Tips for families who want to see the Northern Lights

What we learnt from our LittleXplorers Arctic adventure…

About a year ago, I chanced upon Scandiplanet‘s poster on Facebook. I remember dropping their owner, Suriati, a message on Facebook expressing my interest to take up a package with them. Suriati had families engaging her services before, but not families with very young kids like us. We would be the first of such clients and she was keen to make our dream a reality. For the next couple of months, we were in close correspondence planning and designing for a family (and young kids) -friendly arctic tour adventure. 

I’ve listed down some useful tips for families who are thinking of going to Norway to see the Northern Lights.

1. More days is better than less

We decided early on that we would set aside 5 nights for our LittleXplorer trip as we wanted a higher chance of catching the Northern Lights. We have had friends who left the Arctic region disappointed that they did not manage to catch the Northern Lights. The assumption is that they would be able to see the Northern Lights during the short period that they are in the region, hence most people set aside only 1-2 days for Northern Lights. We also found out that there is a much higher chance of catching the Northern Lights in Norway than elsewhere cos Tromsø has the best location on the Aurora lattitudinal belt, so we decided to just stick with Norway.

2. Northern Lights are unpredictable

The Northern Lights occur because of the collision between particles from the Sun entering the Earth’s atmosphere. It gets pretty technical but what we gathered from Roy is that this solar activity is an important data point for him when he goes out for Northern Lights chases. There (usually) needs to be some solar activity aka the collision of particles for the lights to be seen. 

3. You need to chase! 

Even if there is solar activity, you need to find a spot where there are clear skies and little light pollution. That also means Tromso city might not be the best place to see the Northern Lights.  You need to go for a Northern Lights chase, which means getting out of the city and finding a spot or a few spots which would give you a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Don’t assume that there would be a magnificent light display right where you are or just outside your stay for the night. It might not be your lucky day.

Do your research, opt for a Northern Lights chase package for a higher success rate. One chase alone might not be sufficient. Scandiplanet recommends that you go for 3 chases, if not 2, to increase your chances of a Northern Lights sighting. 

4. Pick the right guide / package

If your base is in Tromso, I would recommend that you go with Roy from Arctic Trip. He is excellent at identifying possible Northern Light spots, he knows where the weather changing areas are, the best spots to catch the lights and he is prepared to drive beyond Norway to Finland or Sweden if necessary. He is sincere in helping his guests catch the Northern Lights and I heard that he had a perfect record last year ! Vendors with a high success rate is an important consideration too! 

Do also pick an all inclusive package as you wouldn’t want to be lugging around snow suits and boots just for 1 or 2 nights of Northern Lights chase. And if you have the chance to have a meal in the outdoors, cooked over open fire, go for it. That in itself is an experience like no other!

5. You can actually see the Northern Lights elsewhere

Technically you do not need to be in the Arctic region to see the Northern Lights. What I found interesting is that you only need a Low range of solar activity to see a good display in the Arctic region. If the solar activity is on the high side, the lights will not appear strongly in the North but will be visible in places further south like Oslo and even UK and some parts of US. Point (3) applies, look for a place with little light and clear skies.

6. Manage expectations 

It helped that Northern Lights was only one of the many highlights of Norway that we were looking forward to, like playing with reindeers, learning about the Norwegian culture, outdoor trekking and campfires. We wanted to manage our own expectations and not be overly disappointed in the event we didn’t get to see the lights. There is more to Norway (and Iceland, Finland, Sweden) than just the Northern Lights.

We had some of our best meals in Norway, cooked in the outdoors (as Low as -1degree at one point of time) cooked over huge open fire. We saw some of the most gorgeous sceneries, sunrise and sunset that we have ever seen before. 

In the end, seeing the Northern Lights was a bonus !

7. All-inclusive package might just be worth it

We don’t usually book travel packages because we’d rather do the planning ourselves. The only travel package that we have gone for so far was for our Mini Pilgrimage early this year, and that was because we needed to purchase our Visas. We also needed guidance on the religious rituals. 

The LittleXplorers package is a tie up between Scandiplanet and Arctic Trip, so you will definitely be in good hands. It is a package designed with young kids in mind. We had the flexibility to move around the activities depending on the Northern Lights condition for the day. We started our day later than most other tour groups. The boys got along well with 2 year old Markus and they had multiple play date sessions at Roy’s place. It felt more like a free & easy trip than an organised tour. 

We had 1 free & easy day in Tromso city, and that’s when we first realised that Norway is an expensive country. A standard kebab meal costed us SGD$25, a can of Coca-cola was SGD$5. Having been in UK just the week before, everything seemed overly expensive in Norway. We realised then that we probably got the better end of the bargain for our all-in 6d/5n package. We figured that if we were on our own, to enjoy the experiences that we had and the food we ate, it would have probably costed us more!

The LittleXplorers Arctic Adventure turned out to be the best leg of our Europe trip. I loved it that we did all that we had planned for with Suriati, but what we got out of it was much much more than just that. We learnt a great deal about the outdoors and the Norwegian way of life. We lived like the locals, we had many firsts and we did stuff we can only dream of doing in Singapore. We survived the Arctic, and most importantly, with God’s will, we got to enjoy 2 nights of absolute Northern Lights bliss, right where we were. Definitely a trip to remember. Contact Scandiplanet if you would love to experience such an adventure too! 

Familytrippers learns how to dress warm for winter…

We were unprepared for the cold in Sorreisa, Norway. Our jackets were thick but not thick enough for single digit (and lower!) temperatures. But we were lucky because our guide has a 2 year old son, and he had extra jackets and boots that our boys could borrow during our stay. Our tour agency also brought along snow suits for the kids, which were very effective in keeping us warm even in very Low temperatures. 

Roy told us that the temperature will dip even lower this December. If you are planning a trip to Norway or neighbouring Iceland / Sweden, do make sure you bring along the right kind of clothes to keep you and your children warm!

Watch this video for a better idea of what dressing warm looks like over in Norway.