Singapore. 

We spent a month in Bali and desperately didn’t want to leave but we still had some time to stop in Singapore which we were really excited about!
Flight over was only about 2.5 hours, jumped straight into a taxi and 20 minutes later we were at the hotel. Arrived about 7pm. Blimey what a culture change from beach resort to island city! We’ve been to Dubai a couple of times, that’s wealthy and glitzy but Singapore is that and some! It’s so clean, so well signposted, everyone speaks fluent English and it’s bloody expensive! Loads of the buildings look really futuristic/space like here. 

We managed to wangle another upgrade here so got a nice room in a skyscraper hotel, no geckos running up the walls here! It is right along the river, about 3km up from the marina bay. 

We spent a day wandering along the river (in 32degree heat) all the way down to the Marina Bay Sands hotel and the Gardens of the Bay. It’s a great walk, loads of interesting bridges, museum and monuments along the way. We popped over to Suntec City (Mall) to see the world’s largest fountain and finished the day in Chinatown rummaging through the $ store and feeding ourselves with Chinese food! Our hotel provides each room with a smartphone for your stay which has wifi usage all over the city so you can take it out and use the maps, boom taxis and attraction tickets – this was really useful to have! 

The next day we were up and out early headed over to Orchard Road, a known shopping street for a mooch about, then caught the MRT tube train to Little India. The MRT is dead cheap and so easy to use, very clean and efficient. Little India is a colourful collection of streets with a market selling mainly food items but also lots of nick-nacks as well. There is an indoor mall full of beauty Indian clothing to browse through and on the way out Faye spotted a lady doing henna so we stopped to get some done. 

After Little India we got the MRT round to the Bayfront, we were staying in the Marina Bay Sands hotel that evening due to a very thoughtful family friend who kindly paid for us to go, but before we checking in we went over to Gardens of the Bay which is gardens, light installations, restaurants and 2 huge dome conservatories. It was baking here so we only managed a couple of hours but we did the skywalk between the Supertrees which was fantastic and gives you a great view over the gardens and of the Marina Bay Sands hotel. From here we made our way into the Sands hotel and had a wander round, whilst waiting to check in we went in the Sampan boat rides which is a canal made through the shopping mall off the front of the hotel. 

Check in for the hotel all very smooth, I’d booked for a Club 55 room which includes breakfast, afternoon tea and drinks & canapés in a private dining room. I’d requested a twin room but she said they didn’t have any so upgraded us to a ‘Marina Suite’. She said ‘it may be a bit big for you’ but I said ‘I’m sure we’ll make do!!’ It was huge. 3 x the size of our home in England, multiple bathrooms, TVs, walk in wardrobe, pool table the works! It was awesome. We had a great view over looking the Gardens of the Bay. We unpacked our toothbrushes and headed straight up for Afternoon Tea which was fab, sandwiches, cakes, scones and you could eat as much as you wanted, the best feature of the Club 55 dining room was a) the view over the Bay and b) the 8ft fridge with every drink you could imagine and you could go and help yourself! Once we’d stuffed ourselves silly we made our way to the infinity pool. This was the reason we came to the hotel, we’d been watching a programme, Amazing Hotels a few months ago back in England where we came across the Sands hotel, Faye saw the pool and was desperate to go. She also wanted a Butler but the budget didn’t quite stretch that far! The pool is on the roof of the hotel 57 floors up and has incredible views. When we arrived up there in the afternoon it was busy as I think most people go to the hotel for the same reason as we did, the pool! There was even professional photographers up there helping people get their Instagram worthy shot! If your going there for a bit of quiet time I don’t think you’d get that at this hotel pool it’s very buzzy. 

A few hours swimming and then it was back to eating again! We went back to the Club 55 room and were greeted with Champagne as we got out the lift to watch the sunset. We were then seated and could help ourselves to the canapé buffet and drinks. Faye and I went all out so didn’t need any dinner after that!

From there we went to watch the Marina Bay water and light show over the Bay, very popular so you need to get there early to get a good spot. Then there was another light and music show at Gardens of the Bay which we watched from our balcony in the room. We went back to the pool for a late night swim, it was still really busy at 11pm, played pool and crashed for the night!

On our last day we got up early went swimming thinking it might be quieter and it was a little but not loads, had a huge breakfast with everything you could imagine and checked out of our one night living like Queens! It was a once in a lifetime experience for us and something off Faye’s bucket list swimming in the pool. 

Last thing on our Singapore list was Sentosa Island. We got the cable car over and wandered down to the beach. There’s loads to do there mainly aimed at children. We went to a pirate ship swimming pool and then went and did a 4D cinema experience before getting the cable car home, stopping in a Central Perk Friends cafe for dinner on the way home. 

Singapore was brilliant. We loved it. Despite the heat! It was hideously expensive and I spent just as much in 5 days here as 3 weeks in Bali! But it was totally worth it and I’m so glad we came here. 

We’re at the end of our 5 weeks away now and it’s flown by! We’re both gutted to be going home later and neither of us want to leave. But absolutely shattered and in need of a few days in bed! Both Bali and Singapore I’d highly recommend. Bali has such a variety of scenery and the people are so lovely you can do and see so much here as well as relax and chill out. Singapore is great for a stop over for a few days it’s an incredible place. 

We are so fortunate to be able to take trips like this and I adore the one-on-one time Faye and I get to spend together when we’re away because it’s much harder at home where life is so hectic. It puts everything in perspective as to who and what is important in our lives. 

The countdown is on for next year as we’re already discussing where is next on our list!

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What we’ve learnt.

89 Days

25 Hotels

Over 20 Places

1 Country

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I was slightly hesitant about going away on our three month trip to America, for many reasons such as work and money, but, mainly because I’m backpacking with my three year old! Would we be safe? How would Faye cope? How will I cope!?!

Once we got there, those worries soon went straight out the window. I remember the first day we set out exploring. We left our youth hostel in Boston late one afternoon and went for a walk around the neighbourhood and I instantly felt happy and calm. The houses and streets were beautiful and Faye was running up and down, laughing away.

Don’t underestimate the hard work that goes into organising a trip like this, it takes a long time, and foolishly I planned mine whilst completing my final year of my degree, which got very stressful, BUT, it paid off as things went pretty smoothly once we were away.

Yes we backpacked, but very organised backpacking, I had pre-booked all our accommodation and transport before we left the UK, this is partly because I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night if I didn’t know where I was going to stay from one week to the next, and also, i’m with a young child, I wanted suitable places for her. Ultimately I know I would not have enjoyed it as much as I did if I was spending time trying to find accommodation. Another bonus to it, is that its cheaper. If you can book hotels, train tickets, car hire at least a few months in advance you can get things quite a bit cheaper.

So we stayed in 25 hotels during the trip. I initially set my budget at £50 per night for accommodation and the average worked out at £51.25, so I thought that worked out pretty well. Obviously depending on the area you are in, a hotel can be £30 a night and others can be £100 plus, but, you’ve just got to keep on top of your budget the whole time. Its also nice to spend a few nights in an average hotel to save some money and then have one night in a nice one. Hotels on average in America are way, WAY, better than what you would receive in England. Most places we stayed, had two large double beds, fridge, microwave, hi speed Wi-Fi, satellite TV, kettles, free parking and breakfast – for £50. When researching my hotels I used hotels.com as you get one free night for every ten you book through them, but its also worth going direct to the hotel for a price. I used Tripadvisor for everything, but you have to take it with a pinch of salt, people on there seem to moan about anything and everything. My main priorities were, does the lock on the door work and is the bed clean, any extras I’m over the moon. We were very fortunate with ALL our hotel, everyone was more than adequate for us two and I always felt safe.

I was advised by STA travel agents when initially discussing my trip that I would need £1000 per person, per month, in America as everyday spending money for food and activities etc. I took half that amount of money as that’s all I had. We had £39 per day, around $68, dependant on the exchange rate. Obviously some places are twice as expensive as others, so any opportunity I could find to save cash I would. We didn’t go out for three meals everyday because I just couldn’t afford it. We made use of the fridge and microwave in our hotels and always tried to get the free breakfasts. I also always carried snacks for Faye so instead of stopping for a meal she could graze through until dinner time. I have come home with a small credit card bill, due to the clothes shopping during the end, but that was to be expected. However, on average I did manage to keep to my budget, the best way to do that I found was to spend as little as possible during the start of the trip to make sure you know you have enough to last the duration.

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The trip has done a lot for Faye’s social skills, before we came away she was not particularly confident doing physical tasks, and wasn’t keen on having conversations with new people, which is fine as she’s only three, but since being away she’s thrown herself into pretty much all the activities, she’s much more confident and she’ll even order her own food in a restaurant! When you ask her about the trip, she will mainly tell you about Disney, but she has really enjoyed all the other places. Things like the US Mint in Philadelphia, I found slightly dull looking at coin after coin, but Faye loved it! She found it really interesting looking at the factory and identifying what different coins were. Giving her her own digital camera was one of the best things to keep her entertained, she loves to take photos and did so throughout the whole trip. People passing by would often smile when they saw Faye taking pictures of me, and would offer to take a photo, but Faye (being a very independent child) would say ‘no thank you, I’m good at taking pictures’.

Don’t get me wrong it’s not always easy being in each others pockets for three months, when we are at home in England, I work and Faye has Preschool so we have time apart, which I believe everyone needs, so there was numerous times I could of strangled her, and I’m sure she could me. It doesn’t help that when Faye’s asleep she still doesn’t stop talking or fidgeting! There’s not much that can be done about it really, just go the bathroom, count to ten and think at least I’m not at work!

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Neither of us wanted to return home, we could of easily stayed away for another few months, but unfortunately the VISA and the money ran out. In the airport on the way home we were reading travel books for where we would like to go next. We like Mexico, Thailand and central America – to be honest, I’ll go anywhere! Faye starts primary school in September 2014 which will be quite an obstacle but I won’t let it stop me. I am aware taking children out of school is very difficult these days, however the knowledge Faye has developed on this trip for her age has been immense and its never ending. She’s practiced her hand writing when sending postcards, she’s been identifying all her numbers when finding hotel rooms and using elevators. She can now identify different flags and countries. She’s learnt about pounds and dollars as well as different cultures and some of the history behind the United States of America. She’s been educated on looking after the environment and pollution of the sea. She has seen a whole variety of wildlife in their natural habitats. She’s used so many modes of transport and tried different foods. The best thing is, that I am not having to teach her these things, we are learning them together and enjoying it at the same time. We are both incredibly fortunate to have been on this adventure.

So the plan now is to work hard, save up and play the lottery to fund the next trip!

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Shopping in the USA.

I tried to leave the shopping as late as I could because I wouldn’t be able to carry it all, but we ended up buying a second case for our final flight back to London.

Faye had saved and been kindly given her own spending money for the trip of which most got spent at Disney – SHOCK. Luckily for us her Father was visiting for that section so he took her bits home for us.

Out here it is hard not to shop to be honest. Miami was my favorite place as I had a car at that point so could travel out to malls easy enough. In Miami the Dolphin Mall is an indoor outlet shopping mall, it’s pretty big and packed with plenty of shops and a Cheesecake Factory!

If you’re in the States to shop you want to find the nearby Premium Outlets. There are plenty all over the country, I think I’ve been to 8 or so in the last month! They all have similar shops in, but you can get most things. Over half of the ones I’ve been to have had a children’s play park which has provided a nice break for Faye. I’ve been to both regular malls and outlet malls and I would definitely advice to start with the outlet ones first.

Items that I’ve picked up a lot cheaper in America than England are;
– Levi Jeans
– Ugg boots
– OPI nail varnish
– Chicco stroller
– Ralph Lauren clothes
– Michael Kors bags and watches
– Pandora
– Suncream
– Disney toys and clothes
– Clark’s shoes for children
– Nike running trainers
– Sports apparel

This probably explains why the extra suitcase was needed!

I’m bringing home about ten bottles of sunscreen because in America they do these great spray on creams which I haven’t seen in England which are great for Faye as they’re light and dry in seconds as well as being waterproof. You can also get Suncream up to factor 70 which is good for Faye as she has very fair skin. As its now mid August all the supermarkets in Minnesota have their sunscreen on sale so they were $4 a bottle, when I pay around £12 for one in England.

Whilst on the subject of toiletries, Something I’ve picked up upon in the States is that you cannot easily buy spray deodorant, all I’ve found is roll on! Very random I know, but I thought that was weird!

I’ve already looked at when I can get the cheapest flight to Florida to take an empty suitcase and fill it with shopping – I better buy a lottery ticket as soon as I get home!

The Dilemma of the Sock.

I made the error of bringing away 10 pairs of socks but not shoes to wear them with! So I’m carrying around, packing and unpacking these 10 pairs of socks and they’ve not been used once. Frustrating. But I can’t bring myself to throw them away! Even though we’ve had some rain and storms its never been cold enough (yet) to think about putting socks on. So definitely don’t pack socks, let alone 10 pairs!

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Washing.

The time came to do the laundry and lucky enough our hotel in New York was five doors down from the laundrette.

I brought the washing powder for 75 cents per load and the machines come in three sizes, small $1.50, medium $2.50 or large $3.50. Then the drier was 25 cents for 8 minutes. We were in and out within the hour and Faye loved it.

When packing for the trip I tried to colour code our clothes to make this easier. We’ve gone for white, navy and pink. I also pre washed everything to minimise colour running. I had an incident on a previous holiday where one of Faye’s swimming costumes that was bright pink bled when it was wet.

I don’t know if it would be the same for boys but Faye throughly enjoyed loading and unloading the machines, so it provided cheap entertainment for an hour!

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