Singapore with Kids
As any parent will understand, traveling with kids can be daunting, especially when getting to the destination requires a long flight. It is for this very reason that, when our first son was born, my husband and I agreed to a rule of no more than four hours of travel for each leg of a trip.
In our eight years in Japan, we have taken many mini-breaks around the country and elsewhere in Asia, mostly in places like Okinawa, Guam, Saipan and Korea. But recently friends had been raving about Singapore as a great destination for families, so we decided to break our own rule and brave the seven-hour flight from Tokyo.
The first thing that struck us about Singapore—especially as compared to Japan—is that it really is a multicultural society. Everywhere we went we heard different languages being spoken, from Tamil and Malay to Mandarin, which fascinated even our bilingual children! Most people also speak English, but the local “Singlish” dialect takes some getting used to.
The Marina Bay Sands building has got to be one of the ugliest skyscrapers in the world, but we had found a great deal for the Marina Bay Sands Hotel on Rakuten Travel, so we splurged on a suite, which includes access to the famous rooftop pool. No sooner had we checked in than the kids were scrambling to the hotel’s 55th floor for a dip. The views from the rooftop overlooking the bay and the city are truly breathtaking. We couldn’t have asked for anything more in a hotel, and we agreed that it was definitely worth paying the extra to get a suite. The kids and adults alike also enjoyed the nighttime water and light show that brings the bay right in front of the hotel to life.
On our first full day, we decided to go to the world famous Singapore Zoo, and it did not disappoint. The sheer scale and variety of facilities at this rainforest zoo are truly amazing. I especially liked that it had a very strong focus on education and conservation, with staff using interactive exhibits, shows and animal feeding programs to entertain their captive audience, while also slipping in important messages and interesting facts. A favorite of ours was the elephant show, in which the trainers demonstrated not only the strength of these majestic animals, but also the strong bond and devotion they have amongst family members.
Not far from the elephants—and a welcome reprieve from the heat—is a newly constructed water park area. The kids loved playing on the pirate ship, water cannons and fountains, and even the parents enjoyed a bit of a break, dipping their toes into the refreshing water.
What we found to be an absolute must was the night safari. Starting from 7 p.m. people move to the night safari entrance to take the guided tours around the zoo by motorized cart. The animals are very active at night, particularly the large cats, which made for an exciting experience for everyone. The Creatures of the Night show was very entertaining and about all we had time for before we called it a night and took our sleeping cubs back to the hotel.
The next day we decided to keep things low-key after the excitement of the zoo, so we took a stroll along the bay, which was being prepared for an upcoming F1 race. We stopped off at the famous Merlion fountain and the ArtScience Museum, before finishing up with dinner at the Marina Bay Sands’ bustling shopping center.
Our last day was dictated by the kids, which of course meant a trip to Universal Studios. The Singapore park seemed (thankfully) much less busy than the Osaka location, and we enjoyed relatively short waits for each attraction. The highlights included the Madagascar ride and Sesame Street performance for the youngest, and the Jurassic Park water rapids and The Mummy indoor roller coaster rides for the oldest. Unexpected performances such as the hip hop dancers were great, and there are also some great gift and toy stores to stock up on English DVDs and books.
After a full day at Universal Studios and with the next day’s early morning flight back to Tokyo fast approaching, we jumped in a cab and managed to make it back to the hotel just in time for poolside cocktail hour from 5 to 7 p.m. Finally a bit of calm for the grownups while the kids went to bed!
Our four days in Singapore were fantastic—we only wished we had planned to stay another few days to explore all of the sites. But not to worry—we will leave them for next time, as we’ve decided to go back in the new year when we will leave cold Tokyo for a few days in the year-round tropical paradise that is Singapore.
Getting There: Several airlines, including Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Delta Airlines and United Air Lines, offer direct flights from Tokyo (Narita or Haneda) to Singapore.
Getting Around: The area around the bay and the Marina Bay Sands is easily walkable, even for young children. The Singapore Zoo is about 30 minutes by car from the city center. Many hotels can arrange buses, but taxis are reasonably priced (about 30 Singapore dollars, or ¥2,300 each way) and an easy option for families with kids, especially if there’s a stroller involved.
Reservations: The Marina Bay Sands Hotel is a luxury hotel and is priced accordingly, but check sites like Rakuten Travel, Agoda and Expedia for reduced rates. To reserve directly (the hotel matches lower rates found elsewhere), visit the hotel’s website.