Travelling overseas with kids Chapter Two: the unbridled joy of a stopover.

Singapore Tourism Board
Thanks to our brand partner, Singapore Tourism Board

So, we finally left Singapore airport.

As far as airports go, Changi invites you to linger. Fifty-five million people pass through it every year, and it’s very good at entertaining them. There are vertical gardens, a butterfly room, kids’ slides and playgrounds, food and bars everywhere you look and endless shiny shops beckoning you with those two magic words: “Tax free”. But if you’ve only ever thought of Singapore as a series of hangars where you loiter, sleepless, on a long a trip to Europe, prepare to have your mind blown.

Beyond Changi, Singapore is a real place. But still, it's kind of fantastical.  A futuristic Asian city with an ancient heart, it's a place where ever-more impressive hotels soar above laneways of incense-scented shop houses. A place where everyone is from everywhere and where investment into building a good city has also built an excellent playground for grown-ups and children alike.

I am not someone who flits between Hemispheres every month, but like lots of Aussies, I have heritage and family on the other side of the globe, and trips between the two sides are a fact of life, albeit a less frequent one since my adorable but money-sucking children came along.

But this is the first time my family had spent a few days in Singapore. And to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But then we spent three glorious, journey-breaking days in a living, throbbing, heaving, steamy, safe, beautiful, intriguing, luxurious, atmospheric, crazy, diverse, bold city. Any fewer adjectives don't do the place justice.


There are vertical gardens, a butterfly room, kids' slides and playgrounds... all at an airport. Image: supplied.

And just like that, Singapore is not just a word on a boarding pass for us anymore.

Befitting its status as a global transit hub, Singapore is open to all comers, 24-7. Travellers stumble through the doors of any one of the many, many impressive hotels throughout the early hours. As we did, turning up at the central Swissotel the Stamford at 1.30am, feeling that strange, floaty exhaustion that you only get from sitting still on an aeroplane for 8 hours.


The view was spectacular, even at 2am. Soaring skyscrapers of ever-more inventive shapes, patterns and colours twist upwards like creeper vines, lit up like Christmas against the navy blue of a tropical night. The kids fell into their beds with promises to sleep until a reasonable hour, but in reality, excitement got the better of them and they were jumping on our heads, pestering us to take them out into the silver city at the crack of dawn.

And so we did. And for the next three days, we had enough adventures to make Singapore live and breathe through family folklore for years to come - or until our next stop-over.

If you're a pros and cons kind of family, here's my list of pros for making Singapore a stop-over:

1. It's sanity saving. 

Especially with a family. Hauling the kids onto another plane (or two) after that initial seven hours to Changi can see you arrive where you're going a shell of your former self, in need of three more days to recover. But giving the kids an actual break in the long-haul gives them a chance to regain their excitement about flying by the time you jump on your next plane. And you. It gives you a chance to sleep in an actual bed, rediscover your human self. Even better, you'll arrive with sleep and plenty of stories under your belt.


One glass of sanity thanks. Image: supplied.

2. The food.

The uninitiated might think that Singapore's favourite past time is shopping. There are an astonishing number of shopping malls here. You can pretty much cross the city through a labyrinth of connected malls, all air-con cool and crammed with labels, familiar and exotic. But no. What Singaporeans really like to do is EAT.

Believe me, the food is amazing, from a humble hawkers' mall to a stunning hotel breakfast buffet. You can be slurping noodles from a Chinatown stall, or you can be pick-and-mixing a sushi salad for yourself in a hipster food market. Either way, you'll be wishing that you weren't limited to three meals a day. Or maybe, if you're like me, you won't be. Oops.


3. It's easy.

The city's about a 25-minute ride from the airport and once you're there, Singapore's attractions are clearly laid out and simple to get to. This is a city that is very friendly to visitors and it has created plenty of things to impress you - indoor rainforests, giant observation wheels, theme parks, orangutans to have breakfast with - and it wants you to get to them with ease. Taxis are reliable and inexpensive.

The MRT transport system is fool-proof, safe, clean and works. You can soar to a theme park in a cable car if you want, you can duck out of the heat to shuttle-bus it between stations and beach. In essence, you won't have to spend weeks working out how the public transport works when you really want to know yesterday so you can just get on with it.


"This is a city that is very friendly to visitors and it has created plenty of things to impress you." Image: supplied.

4. It's not even a little bit boring.

Those attractions I mentioned earlier? There are a lot of them. One of the hardest things about stopping over in Singapore is going to be working out what you're not going to do. Take the kids to Universal Studios without having to go all the way to California? Totally do-able. Travel on a land-sea "duck" around the Bay? Easy. Check out the green and verdant worlds they've built beneath domes at Gardens by the Bay. Yup. Just shop, shop, shop and get to where you're going with a whole new wardrobe. Yessssss.

And then you'll be back at Changi. And for you, Singapore won't just be a word on a boarding pass any more, either.

Here are some more happy snaps from Holly's holiday: