Tag Archives: familytrippers

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.

Our first Flytographer experience in Amsterdam

I chanced upon Flytographer while doing research for #thesuhardisineurope , and I was immediately attracted to what it has to offer – a photoshoot in a city of our choice by a local freelance photographer. It helps that their rates were attractive as well, starting from just USD $250 for a 30min shoot.

We have done 2 family photo shoots previously – the first was in Ubud, Bali when Ari was barely a year old and the second was in Bandung back in 2015. For both shoots, I engaged local photographers at very attractive (low) rates. We have some amazing family travel shots from both shoots.

We decided very quickly that we will take up a photoshoot package with Flytographer. We chose Amsterdam as we figured it will be least stressful given that it was the last leg of our trip. It also helped that the Amsterdam photo gallery had some amazing photos that we were eager to replicate for ourselves. We went for the 1 hour shot as we figured that we won’t be able to move fast with 2 young ones in tow. We had to also select a photographer whom we would like to engage, we selected the one whose photography style resonated most with us.

Communication with the photographer was done primarily through our Flytographer contact point. We were asked on our photoshoot concept and some of the must-have shots that we wanted during the shoot. My brief was simple, I wanted some shots of us riding our bikes, along the canals and posing in front of the pretty Dutch houses. Nearer to the shoot date, Flytographer linked us up with the photographer of our choice, Silvia and we confirmed the arrangement with her via watsapp the day before the scheduled shoot.

The day of the shoot also happened to be the day when the time shifted back by one hour to account for the daylight saving hour. We were clueless of this phenomenon and ended up at the meeting point an hour ahead of schedule. We got anxious when Silvia didn’t arrived at what we thought was the agreed meeting time and was relieved when we finally got in touch with her and learnt that we were early! On the flip side, because we arrived early, we managed to snap a few precious shots of us alone by the iamsterdam signage way before the crowd started piling in. A useful tip for Amsterdam bound travellers, make sure you arrive before 8am if you want to beat the crowd at the iamsterdam signage in front of Rjiksmuseum.

The photos taken by Silvia turned out to be much more than what we expected ! Despite the boys’ crankiness during the shoot, the photos of them still turned out well. I’ve uploaded some of our favourite shots below for your viewing pleasure!

If you’re interested to book a package with Flytographer, I have a piece of good news for you. You can get USD$25 off your first package if you click on this link with the promo code #FLYFAN . Don’t miss the opportunity to bring home lovely travel photos of you and your family this year-end holiday! Have fun!

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! 

Soccer-tripping

One of the highlights of #thesuhardisineurope was the live soccer matches that we caught in Anfield and Old Trafford. Hubby is a soccer-freak, I say freak because each time he is on his phone, he is always reading updates on soccer matches or other soccer-related news. I always tell him that he will make an excellent sports newscaster because he’s so well-read on global soccer news.

Part 1 – Buying tickets for soccer matches in Europe

I thought of sharing on our experiences in getting hold of match tickets for the matches that we have watched thus far, just in case any of you are keen to catch some live Soccer action in your next Europe trip. 

Inter Milan vs Atalanta

San Siro, 24/4/2010

6 years ago, when we were in Europe for our honeymoon, we were supposed to catch a match in Barcelona. We ended up stranded in Paris due to the Icelandic volcanic ash incident, and we never made our way to Spain as we had to find alternative travel arrangements out of Paris. We were in Milan and we found out that there would be an Inter Milan match on one of the evenings that we were there. We were told that we would be able to get tickets before the match as it was not a sold out match. 

True enough, we managed to buy our tickets from the ticket counter at the stadium and that was our first experience catching a soccer match live in Europe.


Ticket price: €26

Liverpool vs Man Utd

Anfield, 17/10/2016

For our recent trip, we booked our flight tickets in April, as there was an attractive promotion by KLM then. We knew that we would be visiting Anfield and Old Trafford, but because the match schedule for the season 16/17 was not out, we did not fix the itinerary of our trip then. When the match schedule was released in June, we decided on the match that we would be catching and fix our itinerary from there. There was going to be a Liverpool-Manchester United match on the first weekend that we would be in Europe, and since that is an important match for us (hubby is a Liverpool fan and I’m a Man Utd fan!). We did our research and asked around about getting tickets for the match, and we found out the following:

– Tickets for huge games like this one are usually not available for sale to the public. You’ll need to be a member for a chance to buy the tickets. This brings me to my next point below.

– Even if you are a member, there are limited tickets for these games, hence balloting will take place. In other words, there is no guarantee that you will get tickets for the match.

– And even if you are lucky and manage to snag a ticket, you can only ballot for 1 ticket per member. There was no way I would be a Liverpool fan just for a (slim) chance of getting a ticket to the game! 

– One possible option is to take up the hospitality packages that the club offers through agents like Thomas Cook. The packages usually include accommodation and/or dinner before the match. On the first day of the hospitality package sale, the children packages (which were a fraction the price of the adult packages) were sold out within the first hour. We were left with the option of purchasing 4 adult packages which would have cost us over £1.5k ! 

We did the next best thing and asked for help from our Facebook contacts. A friend of ours directed us to a Malaysian who currently lives in Liverpool, Nazali. He runs a Homestay business in Liverpool and facilitates the purchase of match tickets for his guests. We got in touch with him and made arrangements to stay in his accommodation for 2 nights. His hospitality package was slightly higher than the one offered by Thomas Cook, but we decided to go ahead with it as he and his wife provide a babysitting service at a very low price of £10/hour. We decided to go ahead with the booking, and spent £1.05k on our match tickets, 2 nights of accommodation, stadium tour and babysitting service. If you do book a package with him, you might want to request for an accommodation in Liverpool city centre as it is nearer to Anfield. We stayed in an apartment in Garston which was about half an hour away from city centre and one hour away from Anfield via public transport. The only consolation was that we could easily drop off and pick up our kids on the night of the match as his place was a 10-minute walk from our accommodation. If you do not require babysitting service, we do not recommend that you stay in this neighbourhood.


Man Utd v Fenerbache 

Old Trafford, 20/10/2016

When we were planning our UK itinerary, we found out that Man Utd will be playing a home match the night that we had originally planned to fly off from Manchester to Norway. We decided to spend an additional night in Manchester just so that we can catch the match at Old Trafford. As it was a Europa Cup and not a Premiere League match, tickets were available and non-members are allowed to buy multiple tickets. Children tickets were available as well, so we decided to buy the tickets and bring the kids along for the match. Total cost for 2 adults and 2 kids was £105.

We bought the tickets online from the club’s website about 2 months before our trip. One week before our departure, we realised that we had yet to receive our tickets. Worried that the tickets will not reach us in time for our trip, I decided to email the club to enquire. We got a reply from them within the day assuring us that the tickets would be sent to us. The next day, they informed us that they have mailed out the tickets. The tickets arrived the day before we departed for Europe.



Ajax Amsterdam v Excelsior

Amsterdam Arena, 30/10/2016

When we were in Manchester, hubby was catching up on his daily soccer news and found out that Ajax will be playing at home on our 2nd night in Amsterdam. We checked out the club’s website and found out that tickets were still on sale. However we weren’t able to purchase the tickets online as the site required us to key in our membership details which we didn’t have. We decided that we will try our luck at the stadium instead. On the night of the match, we reached the stadium an hour before kick off. We managed to locate the ticket sales counter and got ourselves tickets for the match. We paid about €100 for 2 adults and 2 child tickets. 

The match wasn’t that exciting but we still had a good time. 😬



Part 2 – Things to note when watching soccer matches in Europe

– Public transport can be pretty crowded. You might want to try and make your way to the stadium earlier so that you won’t be caught in heavy human traffic.

– Bring as little stuff as possible. We usually leave our bags and bottles in our accommodation, and only bring along the necessary items and money. There are usually bag checks, so it’ll be faster to clear if you don’t have big bulky bags with you.

– The stadiums that we have been to have many entrance points. Make sure you check which gate you are at, else you will find yourself walking around the whole stadium to get to your entrance. 

– Because there are many entrance points, I didn’t find myself having to jostle with people as I enter or leave the stadiums. Despite the large crowd, the stadiums don’t feel crowded, which is what I like most of all!

– We usually buy cheap seats hence our seats are almost always somewhere at the top. Be prepared to climb up and down the stairs, wear comfortable shoes! Amsterdam arena actually has escalators, so that was easy !

– Sit in the family section if you are watching the game with your kids. The fans can be very passionately loud and vulgar during the match, you wouldn’t want to expose your kids to their foul language. We sat in the fans section at Anfield and I was shocked (and amused!) at the words that came out of the fans’ mouths ! At Old Trafford, we sat at the family section and we had none of them vulgarities uttered in the section! 

– Bring along a good jacket if you are there during autumn/winter. I kept my jackets on throughout all 3 matches in our recent trip because it did get rather chilly during the matches.

– Do find out if you are sitting in the Home or Away section, and dress accordingly. Club loyalty is big and we don’t want scary things to happen to you just because you picked out the wrong jersey to wear that day!

– Quite a lot of people leave the stadium at the 80th minute just so they won’t be caught in a human traffic congestion after the match is over. Leave early or stay behind and leave after the crowd has dispersed. This is especially useful if you are watching the game with young kids.

So if you love Soccer and are planning a trip to Europe, I say go and catch a match if you can! You should see hubby’s face each time we reach a stadium – he’s like a little kid in Disneyland ! ☺️