How we survived flying 15 hours with the kids and coped with the jetlag – JahBella in the US (May 2017)

We finally embarked on our long haul journey to the US 2 days ago..well between the option to take a direct flight (15 hours to San Francisco) or a 1 stop option (20 to 24 hours) we were spoilt for choice and many people were kind enough to give us their 2 cents worth on which might work better. Many parents felt that a 15 hour flight at a go without an option to get off the flight and stretch or run it off, was a recipe for disaster. However we decided to give it a try anyway since we preferred the arrival time at 9am.

So here’s how we made it work for this flight in particular and how we broke up the flight for the kids and kept everyone relatively sane
Time in US shown in brackets 

First half of the flight 

Our flight took off at 925am (SFO 625pm), we kept the kids awake although it didn’t take much effort to, since they were really raring to go. Lunch on board was served at about 10+am (SFO 7+pm), I guess u can consider that dinner if u wanted to. The kids spent the next 2 hours, eating and watching their inflight entertainment. By the time meal service ended at about 12+pm (SFO 9+pm), the kids didn’t mind going to bed. Thankfully they are used to a naptime in school at about this time. Lights in the cabin were switch off which made it a lot easier for them to doze off. The kids slept for almost 4 hours! Which meant they woke up at about 4pm (SFO 1am). 
2nd half of the flight 

I had tuned my watch to SFO time by now and of course panicked a little (a lot) knowing that they are awake at 1am SFO time! But I really didn’t have much energy to fight them on it (haha what else could I do). Somehow their wake time was actually pretty perfect because the crew started switching on all the lights in the cabin anyway and began serving breakfast. The kids took their breakfast and then continued watching their shows. By the time the meal service ended at about 7pm (SFO 4am). The kids were starting to get groggy again and I told them that they had to sleep for abit. Shockingly they didn’t fight me! So with the cabin lights dimmed again, they took another nap from 7pm to 930pm (SFO 4am to 630am). I could tell when they got up at 930pm (SFO 630am), they were getting a little edgy and impatient but we were only 2 hours away and that 2 hours was manageable with abit of bribery (candies and snacks). The choice of a morning arrival worked in our favour because the kids had all morning to work off whatever sugar they had consumed and they had obviously adjusted to the time difference by the time we landed in San Francisco.

Conclusion

A 15 hour flight is perfectly manageable if the time of the flight is used effectively to tune their body clocks. The arrival in the morning worked in our favour because it was easy to keep the kids up for the rest of the day when they were so excited to get started on their holiday. I’m not sure if the same can be said if we had arrived at night instead. I’m guessing it would be quite hard for them to sleep through the night then. For the record, we made sure the kids were engaged after we landed so there was less chance of fatigue and restlessness setting in and the kids took a nap at about 4pm SFO time. We dragged them up for dinner at 630pm, bedtime was a breeze at 10pm and they slept through the night. Safe to say, they are completely on SFO time now and we will be attempting the 1 stop flight on the way home so more on how to cope with that to come (if we do cope with it successfully of course, wish us luck!!!) 🙂

More on how we occupied them upon our arrival into San Francisco..haha a pretty nail biting experience for the parents :p

JahBella’s Mummy

Cheung Chau with Kids – Hong Kong Oct 2016

With the typhoon just passing Hong Kong a day ago, I was closely monitoring the weather just to make sure that there was not going to be any residual rain that was going to spoil our plans for Cheung Chau. Being the avid TVB drama fan, I always wondered what it would be like in Cheung Chau, Lamma Island and the likes. So we decided to do something a little less city-ish and try out Cheung Chau with the kids.

We took an MTR from Jordan near our hotel and reached Central MTR in less than 15 minutes. From there, it was a short walk to the Central Ferry Pier where different lines/ routes departing from different pier numbers. We headed towards Pier 5 where the ferry would take us to Cheung Chau. We left our hotel at 745am and were at Central Pier 5 by 825am. In fact we made it just in time for the 830am ferry. Do check out the ferry schedule beforehand though because there are 2 types of ferry..the fast express one and the normal one which leaves at different time slots. We were initially targeting for the 9am Express ferry but figured the extra wait time at the ferry terminal versus the longer journey time on the 830am ferry would have us reaching Cheung Chau about the same time anyway and we preferred to be on the move. 


We quickly purchased our tickets and ran for our ferry just as the bells were ringing (haha a familiar sound that I often hear when watching my tvb dramas :p)

We got to Cheung Chau nice and early and most shops were either still closed or just opening up. I had planned for us to have some authentic hole in the wall dim sum breakfast so we headed in search of 漢軒茶樓 (located at 58 Hing Lung Back Street). It is located in the right side of the next alley which runs parallel to the Main Street. You have to know what you are looking for because the looks from the shop front will send any sanity loving parents of young children running in the opposite direction. :p It is a really small cramped shop with a stove full of dim sum basket at the front of the shop and tables cramped up inside. The owner was very nice when I said I needed four seats and found us a table with empty seats immediately but of course we had to share it with a couple of uncles leisurely reading their newspaper and enjoying the morning tea. We were abit uncomfortable at first and were worried that we or the kids were disturbing them but they silently move the utensils and pots or cups around and it almost felt like a silent acceptance and their way of looking out for us. I was hungry and determined to have my breakfast there and I suppose a part of me stubbornly wanted my kids to get through this and be tossed out of their comfort zone if only for awhile. We ordered the food from the stove in the front and the aunties there were very nice to give us recommendation so we just ordered some stuff which tasted really good and was really good value too!


Now this may seem random but parents with potty trained kids would know why this is important..we were almost through our meal when Jah decided that this was a good time to need the loo. Nope not the kind of need where mummy equipped with a pee bag was ready for. Joel had this look of horror on his face! Where are we going to find a toilet on this island! Luckily I remembered seeing a toilet sign while we were searching for the restaurant and I immediately took off and started backtracking with Jah (wonders of a mother’s subconscious mind haha) Needless to say we found the toilet and Joel’s fears were unfounded because it was really really clean! 

For those with older kids, there are lots more to do on Cheung Chau like hiking and visiting the Po Chai Cave. However we didn’t think the kids would be able to handle a hike of that distance and then make their way back (which usually calls for an entire day trip). So we focused our time within the few alleys of the main street, basically in search of different types of snack and food. We had planned to visit a lot of shops but Joel would complain to you that he wasn’t expecting it to be an eating expedition and really wasn’t ready to stomach so much.

We tried Giant fishballs which were available at almost every corner. Kind of wished I had waited abit longer for the ones that sold the curry ones to open. We also stopped at a shop for shaved ice, mango mochi and fried chips with your choice seasoning. Although I have to say the chips were rather hard. But the kids were really happy so…:)

Joel needed his coffee fix and was surprised to find a little shop selling freshly brewed coffee.

I wanted to try some ping tang hu lu (candied haw) and put zai kou (red bean cup ‘jelly’..honestly I felt abit disappointed because the ping tang hu lu in this instance was really iced fruits and the put zai kou was kind of tasteless. Looks like I will have to head to Taiwan for the real ping tang hu lu?


After all that snacking, we decided to head for lunch (yes Joel was about to kill me ahha) but there was no way we could have done any hiking in those sunny humid conditions as you can see from my kids going on strike in one of the above photos. (Probably should have brought our carriers for this) 

We headed to New Baccarret (one of the many seafood restaurants) on the main thoroughfare. Most of them would come with standard sets that you could order or you could do it ala carte. I asked for an English menu and then started to wonder if there was a difference in pricing hmmm but I really was too tired and hot at that point to bother. We ordered fried rice, some prawns in garlic sauce and fried calamari. The prawns and the sauce was ohh so good! 



We made it in time for the 1pm ferry after that. Half glad to be making it back to city life and an afternoon nap but also half glad that we tried this. I would come back with the kids again especially when they are abit older and ready to do alittle more exploration of the island. But it was a good experience for what it’s worth 🙂


JahBella’s Mummy

Perth, Western Australia Itinerary August 2016 – Day 3 Margaret River Farmer’s Market and Yallingup Maze (Margaret River Roadtrip)

We have been to a few weekend markets/ farmer’s market in Singapore and overseas, over the years. However I can tell you that there has been nothing like the Margaret River Farmer’s Market. While MR is a tourist town, the weekend farmer’s market was anything but touristy. In fact it felt like one of those small town weekend markets that you see on your US TV series. There were stalls selling coffee, baked goods, vegetables, meat, crepes, soup, noodles and burgers etc and we were really spoilt for choice.


The market is held on school grounds so there are some tables and benches around as well as empty grass patches where you could set your picnic mats on. Most of the patrons were locals who were picking up fresh produce and a quick coffee. There were also many families having a quick breakfast bite. It was truly a breath of fresh air for us and so much fun! We only left because the rain cut short our breakfast but thank goodness we were almost done. Perhaps it was just as well that it rained so that we could move on to our next activity at the Yallingup Maze before it got too late.

We got to Yallingup Maze at about 1030am and it was bright and sunny. I honestly wasn’t expecting much from the maze since we attempted one during our last trip 2 years back but oh what a difference 2 years make. There were simple maze challenges that we could attempt and the kids were excited to set off.

We allowed Jah to take the lead as we manoeuvred through the maze. We actually did pretty awesome and completed the entire maze (found 4 pit stop towers) in 1 hour flat!


We headed back out to the main counter and cafe where they also sold lots of puzzle games and board games but they were pretty pricey so I would suggest strategising on how to say no to the kids when you walk through there. There is also a bouncy castle, playground and some mini mazes in the open fields in front of the outdoor seating. Joel had a lot of fun with the kids there while Mummy chilled and waited for our refreshments.


We had a really fun time at Yallingup Maze and I was really surprised that we didn’t have to ‘quit’ halfway. Looks like we have equally competitive little versions of us. :p

We headed to somewhere really special for lunch after, one of our favourite vineyard lunch spots in Margaret River, The Watershed. This place holds special meaning for us because this was where we celebrated our engagement, post proposal on 16 September 2007. So it was really nice to be back as a family of 4 🙂 Check out our ‘before kids’ and ‘after kids’ photo! :p


Everyone finished lunch in extremely good spirits that day..at almost 3pm! A really special Day 3 for us. 🙂

Click here to read more about our red eye flight into Perth 🙂 

Day 1 – Day 1 Rockingham, Busselton Jetty (Margaret River Roadtrip)

Day 2 – Wonky Windmill Farm and Orchard Picking (Margaret River Roadtrip) 

Day 4 Whale Watching Cruise and Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse (Margaret River Roadtrip)

Day 5 Ngilgi Caves, Canal Rocks and Laurence Wines (Margaret River Roadtrip)

JahBella’s Mummy

Tips when booking on AirBnb

We have stayed at a few Airbnb homes over the last couple of years and most have been absolutely lovely. I basically scour the Airbnb portal for something in the area I want, at the price range I’m comfortable with and most photos are exactly as the house is (unlike some hotel photos shown on websites) so I know exactly what I’m getting. My main criteria is usually to ensure that the house is child friendly with toys for the kids so that I don’t have to pack to much of our own and know that the kids will still be entertained when we are at ‘home’.




However I am starting to realise (especially during our recent trip) that there are actually a few things which I should be looking out for when shortlisting my options apart from just looking at the area, price range and how child friendly the place is. So here are some things I would definitely start looking out/ taking note before I make my future bookings.

1) Look at the security deposit amount

When shortlisting or deciding on a listing, don’t just look at the per night rate or the total price (inclusive of service charge and cleaning fee). Take note of the security deposit amount that you might potentially have to pay if there are any damages or ‘disagreements’. The amount varies from listing to listing (decided by the owner) and is not charged upfront. It is held by Airbnb as a middleman unless and until the owner decides to claim against it then Airbnb would inform you on the claimed amount and get your agreement to deduct it from your card. While we don’t expect to damage anything when we lease a place, you might think twice or it might help you to decide between two listings if one was requesting for an extremely high security deposit (higher risk I suppose?)

2) Read the listing carefully and ask all your questions before committing

Just because your previous experience with a listing in a particular country had a hairdryer, a washer, a dryer, a heater etc, doesn’t mean it is a standard issue for all listings so make sure you ask. Dryers and heaters are a must in winter in my opinion and make sure you find out how many heaters there are, especially if there are several rooms in the house. You know what you need in order for your family to live comfortably so don’t feel shy to ask those questions.

3) Gauge the responsiveness

While it helps to read the reviews, I realise that the level of responsiveness of the host is normally quite a good indication of their commitment or ‘service level’. Also if you are having trouble contacting the host and it is less than 48 hours to your confirmed booking, you can reach out to Airbnb for their help. They will attempt to contact the host (which works wonders) or help with a rebooking if the host fails to respond. Note that is partly what you are paying Airbnb a service charge for.

4) House rules are important

Yes it is important to adhere to the house rules so that you won’t lose your security deposit but they are important not just for that reason. While it might be a pain to see a long list of house rules (what not to do, when to take out the rubbish, what to do before you leave and the list goes on). I generally found that the listings with more elaborate house rules were in better condition and were nicer places to live in while you basically just feel your way around those that were very laxed about their rules.

So yes we have had some awesome experiences and some not that great experiences on Airbnb. Will we continue booking through them? Yes probably, depending on the country we are heading to. Honestly some countries are more conducive for Airbnb while we are better off at hotels for some others. But I will definitely be referring to the above ‘tips’ for my future bookings. Hope they come in handy for you too 🙂

JahBella’s Mummy

JahBella’s Flight to Tokyo (Our take on what flights work for toddlers/ kids)

We finally took our long waited holiday (planned almost a year in advance) to Tokyo with Jah and Bella. It was a holiday which we were very much looking forward to but at the same time really nervous about. After all it would be the first time we would be travelling as a family of 4 (with no help), travelling to a city we have never been to before (all our previous trips were to familiar places), taking our longest flight yet (8 hours compared to the previous 5 hours to Perth) and having the two kids nap and sleep in the same room for 11 days (we have never ever succeeded in having them nap in the same room EVER!!!!) Yes so alittle nervous would be an understatement..I wonder what ever propelled me to even attempt it. 😛

IMG_9715

All set!

All set!

So of course the first hurdle to cross would be enduring that 8 hour flight with 2 kids.! Honestly I wasn’t really worried about dealing with Jah, he is getting pretty good with this whole airplane thing and I was even contemplating doing without our CARES Harness for him. But Bella…oh Bella is a whole different deal…we don’t call her Miss Ants-in-her-pants for nothing.

Miss Ants-in-her-pants...thank goodness she was only annoying the people behind her...Jah and I!

Miss Ants-in-her-pants…thank goodness she was only annoying the people behind her…Jah and I!

Planning this trip a year in advance left us with a lot of time to second doubt our decisions. We went back and forth with our choice of airline as well as the aircraft configuration and flight timings. Yes lots of thought went into choosing the PERFECT flight and while I would say it definitely wasn’t perfect…we learnt quite abit from our choices.

AIRLINE

We had a choice between Singapore Airlines (SQ), All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JL). We eventually chose ANA because we wanted to experience their Dreamliners (supposed quieter cabins, ambient lighting and supposed better cabin pressure), coupled with the fact that their aircraft configuration was 2-4-2 which allowed us to take 2 seats each by the window. That benefit was eventually non-existent because ANA changed their configuration to 3-3-3 (packing in 1 more seat into their Dreamliners :/) Which meant that there was a high chance that we would be seated next to a stranger on an 8 hour flight 😦

IMG_9749

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0968.

Drealimer Economy Class

We were fortunate to snag a last row seat for Jah and I, which was a 2 seater and prayed very hard for Joel and Bella to have an empty seat next to them.

Jah and I had our last row 2 seater

Jah and I had our last row 2 seater

3-3-3 Config..fortunately Bella and Joel had a free seat next to them on this flight..

3-3-3 Config..fortunately Bella and Joel had a free seat next to them on this flight..not so lucky on the way back!

So how did our flight on ANA go? Joel and I had pretty different takes on it. He was really impressed by the service on ANA. He felt that it was personal without being intrusive and that the cabin crew were very ‘sincere’ and understanding when it came to their little passengers. However the food left much to be desired and I would have to agree with that.

Kids Meal

Kids Meal

Adult's Meal

Adult’s Meal

I was perhaps a little pickier than him and felt that the meal service was rather messy. I was pretty used to having the kids served first on planes so that the parents can feed them and then attend to themselves later when the kids are fed and happy to continue with their activity. However there was no such thing on ANA and we were all served at the same time. Seems like a small deal but trust me it makes a big difference to a mother trying to multi-task her kid, his food, her food, turbulence, the inflight entertainment system, blankets, pillows and seatbelts. :p That being said, the flight was relatively comfortable and all the complaints I read online about the seats being really uncomfortable because they were shell-scheme seats, well didn’t bother us. I have to say I love the ambient lighting and the fact that you can fade out the window (this meant Jah could still look out the window but we didn’t have to put up with the glare). The big spacious toilets with baby facilities were also fantastic and very well-equipped and comfortable for cleaning up the toddlers and even little kids. The window in the toilets also served as a distraction for them. :p

FLIGHT TIMINGS

So what flight timing works for toddlers and little kids you ask? Well it really depends on your kids. I know of some people who swear by red eye flights so that they get in bright and early and don’t waste a day or have to cope with wide awake kids on the flight.

We tried both types (the full day flight and the red eye flight) on this trip, for reasons that we thought were perfect. The full day flight got us into Tokyo at 7pm, in time for a nice shower and a good night’s rest before we start the day fresh. I can tell you now that the choice of a full day flight at the start of our holiday was the right one for us! We departed Singapore at 10am which meant we only had to deal with the kids for about 2 to 3 hours before they were due for their nap. We were very fortunate that they napped! Both of them! (I have a distant memory of my kids going mad on their Perth flight because they refused to nap and were high and over-stimulated from the lack of sleep..oh that distant memory….)

Awesome! 1 napping kid!

Awesome! 1 napping kid!

2nd kid napping!! This was after I successfully transferred her from my carrier to the plane seat..

2nd kid napping!! This was after I successfully transferred her from my carrier to the plane seat..

They finally woke at about 4 to 5pm (yes they slept for 3 hours!!!! I couldn’t believe it myself!!) and this meant we only had to deal with them for another 2 hours before it was time to land! So yes awesome flight choice!

Remember to bring lots of activities to keep them occupied!

Remember to bring lots of activities to keep them occupied!

We contemplated having a full day flight for our return flight but that would mean being at the airport by 9am. Perfectly do-able if we were coming from home but just too stressful a task coming off a holiday so we decided to take the red-eye flight. This gave us a full day in Tokyo with enough time for a good dinner and kids who are showered and ready for ‘bed’ on the flight. Perfect in theory for us but not so perfect in execution. We definitely appreciated the full day in Tokyo but because our flight only departed at midnight. The kids had to be up and about in the airport till that time. Bella fell asleep in her carrier from 10pm to 12 midnight and then was wide awake once we were onboard the flight. OMG! I was fortunate that at least 1 child slept (Jah slept from 1230am to 5am) and only woke because the lights came on for breakfast. We struggled with Bella and only got her to sleep momentarily. The upside to having the red eye on the return is the fact that at least we were on homeground, with two zombie-fied parents dealing with a cranky toddler and a super re-charged kid.

VERDICT

If you asked us whether we would attempt such a trip again? The answer would be yes yes yes!!! The frustrations and crankiness all become a distant memory soon enough and you know what they say..what doesn’t break you, only makes you stronger! We will probably just avoid any red eye flight options for now. :p

Stay Tuned for more posts on what we did on our Tokyo Trip with JahBella!

Stay tuned for more Tokyo Adventures!

Stay tuned for more Tokyo Adventures!

JahBella’s Mummy