Meet Aimee Chan: Smith reviewer, travel editor, founder of family-travel website Suitcases & Strollers and mum to two ridiculously beautiful little boys. Aimee somehow found a gap in her schedule to chat to us about Suitcases & Strollers, her experiences of travelling with tots in tow, what to do in Singapore with Smith Junior and where she likes to escape to for some R&R. Like Smith & Family, Aimee aims to provide practical advice for parents who don’t think that suitcases and strollers are incompatible. She’s even teamed up with us to offer one lucky family of four a three-night stay at quirky QT Port Douglas in Queensland (enter here to be in with a chance of winning). Enjoy…
Photo by Carolyn Soemarjono, Melia Photography
Tell us about Suitcases & Strollers… Suitcases & Strollers is an online family travel website that provides ideas, tips and inspiration to parents travelling with kids under 12. I started it because when I became a parent, I realised there was no independent, magazine-like resource for me to consult as I tried to continue my travels en famille. At the time, there was no one website to tell me about flying with baby milk, whether the Inca Trail with kids was realistic or which luxury island resorts in Bali actually cater to (as opposed to tolerate) families.
Was there a particular experience that inspired Suitcases & Strollers?
I was always picking up tips and learning tricks about travelling with kids that I wanted to share with other parents – and they wanted to hear them. I realised Suitcases & Strollers could be a place where all this knowledge and information could be shared and stored for anyone to see, not just friends and people I was meeting at parties. I still regularly get personal emails and messages from strangers with travel questions; at least now I have a resource to refer them to.
We hope you point them in the direction of Smith & Family, too! Where is your favourite family holiday destination (and why?) in Asia for:
… a weekend trip?
I find that with small children, a trip needs to be at least more than a couple of days to warrant the hassle of boarding a flight. I particularly love Nikoi Island in Indonesia and Rawa Island in Malaysia. The beaches are clean, the water is tame enough even for very little ones and they are really easy places to chill out with the kids and feel like you’ve escaped from the everyday stress of living in Singapore.
… a two-week getaway?
For a city escape, I love Tokyo. Even two weeks is not enough; there is so much to see, do and experience. I also love Vietnam and somewhere like Danang or Hanoi probably has a better combination of beach/relaxation offerings and city and cultural excitement, all quite close together.
Top five things to do with children in Singapore?
• Singaporeans are particularly proud of their street food and going to a hawker market is a fun way to introduce the local culture to the kids. Check out the teh tarik (local tea), roti (Indian-inspired bread) and any of the made-to-order fried noodle stalls as there’s always a lot of culinary theatre involved as well. We regularly visit Malaysia Street at Resorts World Sentosa as it is air-conditioned (hawker centres can get extremely hot and sweaty) and has lots of unique finds all in one spot.
• The many water play areas all over the city. Our favourite of late has been the one at Gardens by the Bay, but we’ve also spent lots of time at Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden (in the Botanic Gardens), Singapore Zoo and even in the water fountains at Resorts World Sentosa (strictly not supposed to be a water play area!).
• Spoil them by taking them for afternoon high tea at one of the luxury hotels. My son’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw the array of desserts on offer at Goodwood Park Hotel. That was a treat for both of us.
• Universal Studios Singapore. It’s tacky and touristy but the kids absolutely love a theme park and this one is done well enough that it’s enjoyable for parents too.
• Wandering around Marina Bay Sands is actually good fun and you don’t need to set foot inside the casino or spend a single dollar. The place is huge, air-conditioned and there’s lots of things to look at, such as the synthetic ice-skating rink and the gondolas that float between the shops. If you are happy to spend a bit of money, the theatre often hosts world-class family-friendly musicals and the ArtScience Museum has really fantastic exhibitions.
Have you experienced any holiday horror when travelling with your two boys?
I did a trip with my first son, normally a very placid child, and he screamed the entire flight there. Then he screamed for the next few days. He could not be settled at all. In that first hour or two on the flight it was the worst feeling knowing the entire plane was listening to him. But after that I realised that it actually could not get worse – he could not scream any louder and it was clear there was no stopping him – and I just resigned myself to it. Funnily, it’s made travel easier since. I now know that being the parent of That Screaming Kid on the plane is survivable after all.
What’s the best travel advice you’ve ever received for family-holiday bliss?
Plan for everything but then be prepared to throw all those plans out the window. Planning to the last detail means you will know where the plastic bags are when your child suddenly vomits, you’ll know how many nappies you have left or you have emergency medical contact details on hand when you need them. But remember that kids don’t always like to follow adult plans, so you need to realise that flexibility is the key to survival. If your child will only drink juice or eat white rice and nothing else for an entire day, sometimes it is just easier to roll with it so you can actually relax and have a holiday!
What three things are always in your suitcase when packing for a family getaway?
• Multiple sets of clothes and shoes for every type of weather. Kids in wet shoes or clothes are a disaster, so having multiple options is important.
• Sunscreen and hats. I’m Australian and we’re all obsessed with sun protection.
• It doesn’t fit in a suitcase, but we never leave home without our stroller. We learnt the hard way when we went to Berlin with our three-year-old who never used the stroller at home. Within just a few minutes he was refusing to walk anywhere and we knew we’d made a big mistake!
Are there any myths about travelling with children that you and your family have busted?
Overnight flights are generally presumed to be better for kids. Personally, I disagree. I find that, when flying with kids in the daytime, other passengers are more tolerant and I prefer to live without the stress of worrying about my children waking up other people who are trying to sleep. In my experience, when the kids do the night flight they are generally the last to sleep and first to wake, which means they never have enough: cue meltdown.
What’s your dream family-holiday destination?
Beach holidays are always fabulous with kids and the most relaxing of them all. Our kids also love theme parks and it was really a great joy to take our (then) three-year-old to experience the magic of Disneyland. But I also love a city escape: living in a foreign city for a few days and doing a mixture of tourist attractions and chilling out in places the local parents do, such as parks and playgrounds. We have also done a lot of road trips and we all enjoy taking in the scenery as you cover long distances in the car.
Browse Smith’s family-friendly hotels in Asia, or admire the full collection at Smith & Family. Don’t forget to enter our competition to win a three-night family-friendly stay at QT Port Douglas – details here.