Travelling with kids in Asia: Easy short-haul family holidays near Singapore
28 April 2013
Looking for a quick break from Singapore that’s not going to bust the bank and avoids a long flight? Here are some kid-friendly suggestions for a short getaway that will be sure to include at least a few hours of R’n’R for everyone. And don’t forget the passports!
Cruising: Royal Caribbean Legend of the Seas
There’s absolutely no chance of cabin fever setting in on this massive floating entertainment palace. The kids will be entertained with a jam-packed range of activities for all ages while you indulge in a snooze by the pool or pampering in the spa.
Stay: Four nights with ports of call at Kuala Lumpur and Phuket.
Accommodation: A choice of cabins and family suites of different sizes, amenities and configurations. Balconies are a great option.
How to get there: Cruises depart from the Singapore Cruise Centre at HarbourFront.
Things to do: Be sure to take a shore excursion. In Kuala Lumpur fill your belly with the famous local dish bak kut teh, before shopping up a storm at Suria KLCC, one of Malaysia’s top shopping malls. In Phuket the kids will love an elephant ride adventure. Onboard there are activity rooms for babies from six months up to three years. For big kids aged three to 17, fully supervised activity programmes are held daily.
Insider tips: Request a baby cot when you book. All food is included but take the kids early to avoid the rush when couples dine later. Besides the restaurants there is poolside dining and room service. Pack light and don’t forget nappies and sunscreen.
Island hopping: Bintan, Indonesia
Probably the easiest break from Singapore, the small island of Bintan is only an hour away by ferry and offers a range of holiday options that can satisfy families eager for a beach getaway.
Stay: Nirwana Gardens Resort is set in 330 hectares of lush tropical gardens and offers five types of accommodation to suit all tastes, interests and budgets. There’s a family hotel with 245 rooms (and babysitting), rustic beachfront chalets, air-conditioned cabana cottages for sea-sport enthusiasts and luxury two- and three-bedroom villas with pools.
How to get there: Hop on the 55-minute high-speed catamaran from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, and catch a coach transfer to the resort grounds.
Things to do: Even in a week, it’s impossible to participate in all the activities on offer including a kids club, flying fox, elephant and horse riding, archery, ball sports, paintball, rock trekking and cycling.
Insider tips: Check the visa entry cost and requirements before you leave home. Be patient as the arrival and departure terminal can be busy (bring some snacks for the kids). The dune buggy adventure is a great way to have some muddy fun, off the beaten track and satisfy your inner rally-driving demon.
Island hopping: Pulau Sibu, Malaysia
Picture a tropical island with no roads, chalets literally on the beach, surrounded by jungle and a beautiful, safe, virtually private sandy beach. This is the place for an old-fashioned family holiday.
Stay: Sea Gypsy Resort
How to get there: It’s about a three-hour drive from Singapore to Tanjong Lehman, depending on the border crossing into Malaysia. Then a 20-minute boat ride to Sibu. Drive yourself, or take the resort’s own bus – it’s easy and convenient.
Things to do: Children aged four and up will have a ball at the kids club. Or try diving and snorkelling, visit the sea village, walk around the island, or simply do nothing except listen to the waves breaking. This is the type of carefree holiday you may remember from your childhood.
Insider tips: There are very few facilities on the island so go well prepared with everything you may need (medication, extra clothes, etc.). Some people report sand flies at dawn and dusk.
Find out about all-inclusive stays here . Another option is nearby Rawa Island. We’ve also heard good things about Telunas Beach in Indonesia.
Island hopping: Langkawi, Malaysia
Nestled in million-year-old rainforest between a towering mountain range and the azure Andaman Sea, this is a place for the whole family. Whether it’s adventure, relaxation, fine dining or culture, Langkawi has a little of each and a whole lot of friendliness and fun. National Geographic proclaimed Datai Bay the ninth best beach in the world in 2011, and that is saying something!
Stay: The Andaman
How to get there: Depending on connections, it’s about an hour-and–a-half flight to Langkawi. Traffic on the roads is light, so it’s an easy and scenic 30-minute ride to the hotel.
Things to do: Children aged five and up will have a fun and (without realising it) educational experience at the Junior Explorers Club, learning about nature, animals and coral. They’ll get a kick out of watching the monkeys on the beach trying to catch tiny crabs. Grab a free kayak and depending on the tide, paddle out to the small island just off the shore, or join one of the many external tours on offer for a glimpse of the island.
Insider tips: Take the free nature walk through the forest and the coral walk – not strenuous, but certainly educational for everyone. With the kids occupied, treat yourself to a Kahuna Wave massage. Located in an open-air spa pavilion with only the sound of the waves on the beach below – this is heaven on earth.
City culture: Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Located in central Java, this ancient capital of Indonesia has a royal palace dating back to the 1700s, a stunning (and active) volcano and UNESCO World Heritage-listed temples on a par with Angkor.
Stay: Sheraton Mustika and Hyatt Regency Yogyakarta both have views of the volcanoes and fantastic themed pools that will keep the kids busy for hours.
How to get there: Air Asia, Garuda and other airlines fly direct in just over two hours.
Things to do: Visit Borobodur, the Buddhist temple and Prambanan, the Hindu temple. Shop for batik art, view Gunung Merapi volcano from afar or take a hike to get close-up. Explore the bird market (Pasar Mgasem).
Insider tips: Explore Kraton Kampong, an old neighbourhood surrounding the palace and the kids will love a horse and carriage ride. Not a pram-friendly destination, so it’s better for children who are happy to walk for a few hours to make the most of the temples and sightseeing.
City culture: Penang, Malaysia
A melting pot of cultures, fascinating history and excellent food make Penang, an island on the north-western tip of Malaysia an interesting place to visit. Georgetown is the bustling, UNESCO-listed capital with a charming, ‘rough around the edges’ feel while Batu Ferringhi hosts a string of hotels along the beachfront.
Stay: Experience a slice of colonial charm at the stylish Eastern & Oriental Hotel, Georgetown or the Golden Sands Resort at Batu Ferringhi which has a fantastic kids’ zone.
How to get there: A direct flight to Penang takes about one hour and 20 minutes.
Things to do: Eat! Try the Red Lantern hawker market or the strip of restaurants along Gurney Drive. Don’t miss a buffet breakfast on the veranda at the E & O. Kids will also enjoy the Butterfly Farm and letting off some steam at Fort Cornwallis.
Insider tips: Take a rickshaw through the streets and soak up the sounds and smells or take the train ride up to the Botanic Gardens. Get oriented on the free city bus that does a circuit of the streets. This is one place to visit with the grandparents and share the babysitting duties!
Enjoy this? Get stuck into more Asia
My Jakarta Jottings: Reader Cathy offers up her quick guide to a short break in Jakarta
This Thai holiday was no bendy yoga retreat. This 'break' was full-on exercise from dawn till dusk (with a light meal thrown in)
Music festival meets holiday cruise aboard It's The Ship, with over 20 headline acts on board
Hop on a short flight to World Heritage town Hoi An for cheap tailoring, historic architecture, ace food and lanterns galore
Katie Roberts takes an alternative tour of the 12th century-temple in Cambodia, plus where to stay in Siem Reap
From private islands in Manila ($84!) to treehouses in Ubud ($94!), here are five brilliant trips you'll never forget
Montigo Resorts Nongsa is perfectly located for a quick, glamorous island holiday from Singapore
Two desert islands, two house reefs and both close to Male airport - Verne's sensational holiday to the Maldives
Shamus Sillar hikes past temples, villages and (gulp) leopards on his way to Knuckles Mountain range
Supporting local schools in Bali: Stamford teachers help train early-education staff in the northwest village of Desa BanFour teachers from Singapore made an amazing trip to northeast Bali to train local staff