What’s that sound? It’s the low-pitched whoooosh of my sanity seeping out of my brain.
Want to drive yourself absolutely mental? Great! I have this awesome itinerary you should try. It’s called: “Three Weeks in Malaysia and Singapore: One Big Loop.” It’s great fun and you should try and replicate it. What’s that? Oh, you have kids? Two kids under four? Then you should definitely give it a go. It’s great fun!
No seriously, we had an absolute blast on our three-week Malaysia and Singapore adventure. We really did. But 11 flights in 18 days was just too much for our poor children. It wasn’t even the flying that was the problem, it was having a different room to sleep in every few nights. Waking up to different food. Trying to get their bearings in different cities.
If it was me and the hubby this itinerary would have been a blast – in fact, we would have crammed more in. So this post isn’t about telling you not to try this kind of itinerary. But it is a cautionary tale if you have littles in tow. We learned the hard way to slow it down and give them some time and space to adjust and, y’know… be kids. Let our #parentingfail be your insight.
Why did we do it the way we did?
CASH! We had a tonne of frequent flyer points and were open with our destination (to a point). We needed something in Asia, which was as far as our points would take all four of us… and we needed to go in July. Peak season! We also had a maximum of three weeks. We could get seats in and out of Penang, but with Qantas reward seats, only certain destinations let you open-jaw (fly into one city and out of another). So we had to fly in AND out of Penang which meant, you guessed it… One. Big. Loop.
Like I said, had it been just me and Mr. Winter we would have gone crazy and crammed even more in. But this itinerary with tots was maybe a little too ambitious.
That being said, we made some beautiful family memories and Malaysia and Singapore are two of the best places you could possibly travel with kids. So here it is, our three-week Malaysia and Singapore itinerary – and what we would keep and change. I can see your head shaking at me already.
Penang: Part One (three nights)
We got in late to Penang and then there was drama with our transfer. We were exhausted, but Mister Three learnt his first travel lesson: shit always goes wrong. He started to stress, poor little love, but it was an awesome opportunity to talk about problem-solving. Trust me, this (sanctimonious) patience I demonstrated here wore out pretty quickly. I wish it didn’t.
Our first morning was pretty cruisy and we found a little hawker centre to eat in, and the kids experienced their first-ever hawker centre noodle breakfast. So far so good! Over the next two days, we ate a lot – usually Indian for lunch and hawker centres for dinner. The kids did pretty well with the food: we’re no stranger to Malaysian and Indian cuisine at home, but the heat put them off their food a bit. They drank their weight in apple juice though and our attitude in that kind of weather is, whatever gets the fluids and electrolytes in, we’re good with. (And here’s my Penang food guide.)
Speaking of heat, having come from the middle of winter our kids were Not. Keen. They demanded to be carried around like this:
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One morning, spurred on by brochures from the lobby, we decided to head to Entopia. Suuuuuper cool place by the way! But on the way we drove right past the Hard Rock, where we’d be staying at the end of the trip. How we didn’t see this on the maps we were carefully consulting I’ll never know. Something so small, but anal-retentive uber-planner that I am, I can’t believe we made such an inefficient itinerary. But we live and learn, and this information will come in super handy when I post a full wrap up of Penang for you. Our mistakes will make your trip better (or that’s the idea anyway). The life of a travel blogger, I guess!
From the streets of George Town to hillside temples, Penang is a brilliant destination for history buffs. If you want to know more here’s my Penang for History Buffs guide.
Langkawi (three nights)
I think Langkawi was the absolute highlight of our trip. We tried to cram so much into our three weeks but the pace of our Langkawi stop was what we actually needed: just completely chill. We hired a car from the airport and drove the 40 minutes to our accommodation at The Andaman in Datai Bay. Read the review, this setting was absolutely stunning.
Three nights was the perfect amount of time to see what we wanted to see, but extending this portion of our trip would have been ideal to really, truly feel like we had downtime. Plus, I can guarantee if you stay at The Andaman you’ll just never want to leave.
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I’ve wanted to try stand-up paddleboarding for AGES. It finally happened… I got up twice, wiped out twice, smashed my foot and it was all over ??♀️ But onwards and upwards, just searching for the next opportunity to give it a go! . If you want to know more about The Andaman, click the link in my bio . . . . #femmetravel #wearetravelgirls #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #shedarestotravel #lifewelltravelled #femaletravelbloggers #southeastasia #wanderlusting #ladieslovetravel #girldiscoverers #travelism #travelist #traveltagged #abmlifeisbeautiful #seasia #malaysiatrulyasia #naturallylangkawi #theandaman #dataibay #speechlessplaces #abmlifeiscolorful #wetravelgirls #darlingescapes #standuppaddleboarding #adventuregirls #ontheblog #malaysia2018 #luxurytraveller #andamanlangkawi
Kuala Lumpur (three nights)
What made the KL part super special for us was that we met up with two of our best mates (who also happen to be the boys’ godparents). Not only did we have two extra grown-ups in the party now (stopping us from falling asleep at 7pm or abandoning our kids in an airport), the boys got to spend extended quality time with special people they don’t always get to see often.
We booked an apartment right in KLCC which was great for exploring. Menara KL (the Skytower) was an easy walk away as were plenty of eating spots and, of course, the Petronas Twin Towers. There was a 7/11 at the entrance to our building too. Bukit Bintang was a short Grab ride away, making the Jalan Alor food experience and a bunch of shopping super convenient. The hop-on-hop-off bus stop was right on the corner. Tick tick tick.
Here’s the full wrap up of our three days in Kuala Lumpur
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Jalan Alor is a wonderland of incredible tastes and smells. Its one of my favourite places to eat in the world. . . . . . #familytravel #lifewelltravelled #wanderlusting #femaletravelbloggers #travelism #ladieslovetravel #travelist #traveltagged #abmlifeisbeautiful #travelistherapy #seasia #southeastasia #traveliseducation #darlingescapes #travelishappiness #abmlifeiscolorful #travelisamazing #malaysiatrulyasia #restlessandroaming #darlingmovement #thetravelwomen #girlsborntotravel #sidewalkerdaily #travellushes #girlsvsglobe #exploremalaysia #visitmalaysia #abmhappylife #livecolorfully #travelasia
Singapore (four nights)
I really would have liked to make more of our time in Singapore, but by this stage, the kids were just exhausted. We also had a flight change on our last day which meant a short flight back to Penang in the afternoon became a whole day in transit. The flow-on effect was missing out on a morning’s exploration.
We still managed to do some really cool stuff, like take the kids to Sentosa. Mister Three got to ride the luge for the first time, and he was awesome! As a treat for looking after Mister One, who was too small for the luge, I got to choose the evening’s activities: truffle fries and a jug of Sangria at Tanjong Beach Club (bloody delicious). Those who know me know I adore beach clubs (like these ones in Bali). Tanjong Beach Club is surreal: you can swim in the infinity pool and look out at the huge container ships coming into port. Sounds super random, but my Dad works down at the port at home so it’s a setting I’ve always loved.
Of the other two days, we spent one at the Zoo/River Safari and the other resting up a bit and doing a spot of shopping. Our first night’s dinner was at Newton Circus, the third at Piedra Negra in Haji Lane (OMG AMAZING!) and the last night, we grabbed Foodpanda (Singapore’s version of Uber Eats) to our apartment and ate Ho Fun and Chilli Crab and drank a tower of Tiger Beer (yes, yes we did).
So no, I didn’t get my Instagram shots of the Marina Bay Sands, but we ate bloody good food and got to hang out in what I think is one of the most under-rated cities on the planet.
Here’s our detailed itinerary complete with food and accommodation recommendations.
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Sangria in hand, nothing can go wrong. What would you order for sundowners here? ? . . . . . #femmetravel #wearetravelgirls #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #lifewelltravelled #wanderlusting #ladieslovetravel #girldiscoverers #travelism #travelist #traveltagged #femaletravelbloggers #abmlifeisbeautiful #southeastasia #speechlessplaces #abmlifeiscolorful #wetravelgirls #seasia #globelletravels #singaporeinsider #singaporetravel #visitsingapore #darlingescapes #tanjongbeachclub #sentosaisland #darlingmovement #sidewalkerdaily #travelblogger #sangriatime
Penang: Part Two (three nights)
By this stage, we were pretty much dead. Cue the Hard Rock Hotel for some good vibes. You can read my review of the Hard Rock here but hiring a poolside cabana for the day and swimming, loading up on beer and nachos, and generally enjoying each other’s company was just what we needed.
We still did a fair bit of exploring from here. Mostly, though, it was about recharging before our long journey home. Just spending that time with each other. Watching the sunset over Batu Ferringhi beach, letting the kids just go nuts on the water playground… that’s what memories are made of.
Honestly, though, I am trying to write this bit and I’m exhausted just thinking about it. By now my face was all puffy and I could barely see from the bags on my eyes. And my one big regret is not hitting the Rock Spa.
What would I change?
I would try to incorporate Melaka. I know I know, more on the itinerary?! But this gorgeous-looking Portuguese port town has been on my must-see list for over a decade… And I still haven’t made it.
That said, I would also try to reduce the run-around. It was just so busy with such little kids. So if I was being brutal, perhaps I would skip Singapore altogether and try to do it as a separate trip.
We spent the most time in Penang (six nights total). While some people might think this is too long, I think it was perfect. We thoroughly explored George Town (though there’s still other activities and sites I would have liked to explore) and got to relax in Batu Ferringhi. And we also saw quite a lot of the island when visiting more out-of-the-way sites.
It probably would have been better to have that time in one big block rather than split over two three-night stays. That said we were working with the crazy Qantas reward seat rules so we did what we could. If, say, you were flying Singapore Airlines long-haul, it’d be fine. You’d fly via Singapore into Penang, then Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore would be the final stop, allowing you to fly straight out. If we could have done that (it’s what we were trying to achieve) it would have saved a great deal of hassle (and at least three flights!)
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Travel puts you at a moment in time, where you are small but part of history. The history of this temple, Kek Lok Si, is rich and intriguing, and I stood here for just a few minutes of that history (along with a bunch of other tourists). But I like to think that I’m now part of its history too, and it’s definitely now part of mine. . . . . #kekloksi #visitpenang #malaysiatrulyasia #visitmalaysia #exploremalaysia #femmetravel #wearetravelgirls #sheisnotlost #ladiesgoneglobal #lifewelltravelled #wanderlusting #ladieslovetravel #girldiscoverers #travelism #travelist #traveltagged #femaletravelbloggers #abmlifeisbeautiful #southeastasia #speechlessplaces #abmlifeiscolorful #wetravelgirls #restlessandroaming #seasia #darlingmovement #globelletravels #penangisland #travelpenang #asiatravel #exploreasia
What would I keep?
There’s no activity we did that we would necessarily scrap. I guess I’d keep most of the day-to-day as it is (with some rearranging maybe). The system we had seemed to work fairly well. Where possible, get out early in the morning and come back to the hotel for a nap and maybe a swim. Then head out late afternoon for activities and dinner. Where this wasn’t possible, we tried to time longer drives for the middle of the day, so the kids could nap on the way. That worked well too.
Having our friends meet us was amazing. Obviously, this isn’t going to always be possible. But it broke up the trip, helped us enjoy a little bit more grown-up conversation… And made some important memories for the kids.
Room service and Foodpanda were a godsend. Some nights the kids were just too overstimulated and being able to order in gave them the opportunity to relax. Sure, it meant I had to forego some fancy restaurants I wanted to try, but would I have enjoyed the experience with the kids anyway? Probably not. Instead, sitting on the bed eating dinner and having a laugh with my family will always be a treasured memory of mine, and I think it will be for the kids too.
The last word
This trip was super full on and probably not something I’d repeat in a hurry. But I’m so proud of our little family for doing it. We learnt so much about each other: our likes, our dislikes, our limits. We started to fully understand our eldest child’s need for space and routine, and our youngest child’s need for social interaction. The kids got to spend three whole, uninterrupted weeks with their Dad… And I got to spend that time with my husband.
Next time, I won’t cheap out. I’ll try to book more sensible flights. And I’ll try to extend each stop to give everyone time to relax and adjust.
But all in all, we had an experience we’ll never forget, and we learnt about the world. And that’s exactly why we keep travelling.
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