Pick us to be your Mark Warner family, please?

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I always do this, stumble upon something when it is 6 hours to the deadline! Oh seriously. ‘Why do I do this to myself? but but this is too great of an opportunity to not give it a shot?’ Come on Iris, write.. write for your life! I have just finished gawking at Capture by Lucy’s beautiful travel pictures and am taking up her call to apply to be one of Mark Warner’s family ambassadors. As she would put it, I would regret it if I don’t. Absolutely, so here goes and wish us luck.

Travel, extraordinary travel. It truly is the best. We have been very lucky as a family to be able to escape the pressures of daily life and see so much of the world together with our 2 year old. We have formed precious lasting memories by flying the little one all the way to Malaysia to start, exploring the hot springs in YangMingshan Taiwan, taking in all the sights in downtown Taipei all in a day and recently if you follow our Instagram, we have just been to Madrid, Barcelona and Greece!

Lots and lots of exploring the world with a tot in tow. Instagram must be my favourite social media platform, it was like our travelogue with lots of holiday snaps and videos especially of the little one prancing around everywhere. I have managed to snap about a thousand pictures (no joke) and I cannot wait to get them organised for my little blog.

To be in the running for Mark Warner’s fabulous holiday i.e for us to be brand ambassadors, I am suppose to collate our Top 10 travel must haves! I have written a similar blog post ‘Surviving Long Haul Flights with our Toddler‘ last year and this still stands. Always better to be prepared BUT after our recent travels, I have an alternative Top 10 MUST HAVES.

  1. To be Bold and Adventurous – experience new things!

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We risked it with the toddler and took a cruise boat out when we were in Athens to experience 3 absolutely beautiful islands namely Hydra, Aegina and Poros. It was a very long day from 7am till 7pm and we had about 9 hours to spent hopping on and off the cruise ship. It started off very wobbly as she was exceptionally quiet which is very unlike her and then she was sick! Thankfully, it was just the one off. She must have been seasick, bless! It paid off tremendously as she had a ball dancing around. When she is older, we must show her this postcard worthy picture of Hydra where she was in awe of all the donkeys on this ‘no vehicles’ island.

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2. Relax the rules – try not to be too uptight (speaking for my husband *jokes*)

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When you are on holiday, anything goes. Oh well, within limits of course. When we arrived in Greece the little one was exceptionally taken by all the gorgeous stray cats roaming everywhere! They were absolutely gorgeous although one will never know if they have fleas or carry illnesses. I definitely relaxed the rules and allowed her to touch them as long as she could wash her hands properly. Definitely makes for a more relaxed holiday!

3. Indulge – in good food, fun shopping, relaxing spa sessions, whatever tickles your fancy.

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There is no denying that I love my food especially desserts! When on holiday, INDULGE. Try it all, eat it all. Don’t follow me for diet advice although if you have or had a 2 year old. You will know that they run. These little humans can really run and chasing a toddler around takes its toll. I definitely burnt more than enough calories keeping her safe.

4. Enjoy an ‘adult’ holiday

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As long as you not taking them to a night club, all should be fine. I was initially stressed before we embarked on our trip to Athens as understandably we want to climb up the Acropolis but having read some feedback from Trip Advisor forums, some won’t recommend it as you have to leave your stroller. You know what, just do it! She had lots of exercise and plenty of fun, who cares if I could not feel my arms properly afterwards. She napped when we were still up there and we had to carry her back down. Daddy did most of the heavy lifting. Well worth it! There’s always a way for them to entertain themselves or maybe we are one of the lucky few.

5. ‘Dancing shoes’

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Those of you who follow our family’s journey will know of my tot’s tendency to break into a dance anywhere and anytime! Only 2 but she lives to this mantra ‘Why walk when you can dance?’ Plenty of dancing videos, check out one of my favourites filmed in Madrid on my Instagram HERE. Her lack of inhibitions is fantastic, she had a ball every time she heard music. Boogie boogie throughout your holiday, you will not regret it.

6. Take silly pictures and videos

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These two never fails to crack me up! They think of the most random things to do whilst waiting. Like daddy, like daughter?

7. CAMERA. Video camera. Phone camera. – even better an Insta-husband

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Bless my patient husband for dealing with my .. ‘another picture baby’. Another one here and here and here and here! Whoops. In all honesty though, my pictures of him and our daughter are way better than his. Grrrr.

8. A very LARGE inflatable – in our case, Horsey

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I kid you not, this horsey has been with us to Taiwan, Malaysia, Wales, London, you name it! Proof –>

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9. Lots of soya milk and SNACKS!

Bubba has a dairy allergy so we tend to be very prepared in this department. Lots of soya milk just in case. NEVER ever travel without snacks. I mean it. It makes them happy when they are upset. Pictures above were taken in Madrid, she was getting very grumpy and all it took was a small box of raisins to turn her frown into a smile. She even fed daddy some.

10. Little activities to keep them busy. Stickers and lots of them!

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Thank you for taking time to read and fingers crossed we will be able to embark on another fantastic getaway. Sunny one perhaps?

Pick us pick us! Little one would be thrilled if I am a #MarkWarnerMum and then she can do THIS all over again and our family will be able to form lasting memories in the sun with Mark Warner. Can we just be full time ‘wanderlusters’?

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Taipei with Kids – One day itinerary

We had a wonderful time in Taipei. We found it to be a well-mannered kid-friendly (toddler friendly) city with a variety of things to see and do. I mentioned well mannered as I always had the impression that I might be slightly put off by the people. Totally wrong as the people there are very kind and especially accommodating as we could speak some Mandarin. The city is very clean too. Stroller friendly and oh it just reminds me of Japan and Korea. Cultured.

There were too many things that I wanted to cover in Taiwan but we did not have time for them all. The weather was also not very pleasant on certain days as we were there during typhoon season. We managed to squeeze a little trip away from downtown Taipei to a hot springs resort and that’s a lovely touch. I would highly recommend it if you are travelling with children. Much needed rest and relax before or after covering the city. Ps. if you are planning any travels, I personally LOVE the DK Eyewitness travel guides.

I wrote about our experience at Taipei 101 and Din Tai Fung in my previous write up.

We had one full day left on our holiday, so here goes! This is a post covering our busy day exploring Taipei. We could have covered more ground but I think this is perfect if you are with kids. We even had cheeky cakes and coffee whilst little one had a long snooze in her pram. This post is also my entry in to the Trips100 Family Adventure Company blogger challenge. We would love for our little family to go on another adventure to Cambodia with them 🙂

First stop, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. This place was spectacular, it was HUGE and oh so picturesque with the impending storm clouds. The view at CKS Memorial Hall was really something, from the moment you walk through the large Memorial Hall Doors, to the National Theatre & Concert Hall buildings on the left and right and they sure did save the best for last .. the sight you get to enjoy when you climb up 89 steps to the Memorial Hall. We were left ‘breathless’ .. properly gasping for air as I did not want to miss the changing of guards. You can imagine me trying to run up the stairs carrying the toddler whilst the boys had to fend for themselves and get my heavy handbag and the pram up those stairs.

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‘Come on, little one’. This might be one of my favourite pictures of all time.

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My beautiful mummy in front of the National Theatre.

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We made it! Caught the changing of guards ceremony which takes place every hour from 9am to 5pm. It was fascinating. If we got there earlier, little one might have enjoyed this with a better view. She was still mesmerised, probably viewing it through someone else’s phone. *jokes*

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Look at all the selfie sticks 😀

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We were all warm and sticky after our first stop and quickly hopped in to a taxi to the next attraction, Longshan Temple. Its also conveniently located next to Huaxi Street Night Market (which is open all day long) also known as Snake Alley. We decided to have lunch there. Ps. NOT snakes. Thank goodness we had lunch at a relatively normal and DELICIOUS stall before we walked passed all the ‘snakey stuff’

A large, red, palace-style archway marks the entrance to the market.

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We decided on this little stall, look at how they present their food. They charge you based on weight. All we did was point at the food we wanted and we were pleasantly surprised when the food arrived.

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Look at how little the shop is, the seating area is opposite. Picture of my mummy in front of the shop if you are in the area. Its very very good and not pretentious at all.

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Little one was quite happy playing with chopsticks and waiting for her food to arrive.

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The seafood was incredibly fresh. Delicious squid. I was quite surprised to see our tot eating this dish, she loved it paired with her noodles and rice.

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Clams, also very tasty.

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Huge pot of nutritious chicken soup.

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A very fine lunch I must say. Drooling, just thinking about it and it was not very costly too. Perhaps 20 quid for 5 adults.

We then walked around the market and I had goosebumps most of the time. There must be a reason why its called ‘Snake Alley’. They had specialty shops serving different parts of the snake and boy I was not amused. Little one was intrigued though.

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All fired up from a satisfying lunch, off we went to explore Longshan Temple. It was beautiful, mystical and bustling with all sorts of sights, smells and sounds. It is probably the busiest temple in Taipei but if you were to visit any, this would be it. I know most people would say that the temple isn’t the greatest place to visit with kids in tow but we managed to manoeuvre the little one through the temple without too much stress. We whizzed through the inside of the temple as it was very smoky with incense but little one really enjoyed the grounds of the temple. They had a waterfall and a lovely garden. I have been told to go in the evening as the candles and lights gives it a more special atmosphere. Next trip perhaps.

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We quickly hopped into a taxi for some ‘rest and relax’ at The Grand Hotel. Why a hotel? This is also one of Taipei’s popular landmarks featuring beautiful palace like exteriors and intricate interiors. Our little human was way overdue for her nap and she fell asleep oh so quickly in the taxi on the way there. Perfect timing! We had plans to drop by the very famous Shilin Night Market in the evening, so this pit stop was much appreciated after our busy morning. Ps. the Shilin Night Market is not too far from here too. Hence, this strategic and grand ‘rest station’

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Check out their keys, it symbolises wealth. Of course, following the trend of times The Grand Hotel (established in 1952)  has renovated all of their key systems to ensure better security but this wall display certainly caught my eye.

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We were really stuffed from lunch but if you are up for it the restaurant has a lovely afternoon tea buffet deal which was quite popular. We just ordered from their menu. I enjoyed a green tea slice accompanied by some lovely live music. Oh what a way to relax whilst bubba was snoozing.

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Look look, someone’s all rejuvenated after a long nap. Time to take more pictures! Grand Hotel?

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‘Hi Nanna’

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Next and final stop for the day, Shilin Night Market. Shilin is indisputably the most famous night market in Taiwan. Taipei is a food lovers dream, everything looks and tastes delicious. I had dreams about devouring everything and anything at the night markets but … unfortunately this was not the case.

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Yes, the market was filled to the brim with a wide variety of food stalls but night markets can be very overwhelming for an 18 month old. It got congested quickly and it was not particularly stroller friendly when it got busy. They are not many places to sit and there are queues everywhere.

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This might have been the trigger for her crying her eyes out. There’s a variety of amusing games in the night market too, she was thrilled with the monster my dad won for her but I think the popping of them balloons spooked her.

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We did however manage to get seats to try the famous oyster omelettes. A simple egg omelette with fresh oysters but boy did it taste good.

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Bubba was far from cooperative at this point, so we decided to call it a day and have dinner in the hotel. Once we got in the taxi, she was perfectly happy. All the hustle and bustle in the night market must have gotten to her.

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Very picture heavy post and pretty long for my standards but I am sure I will be thrilled to re-read this post when she is a bit older. Gosh, we really do love traveling especially with the little one in tow.

Hope you enjoyed reading about our travels in Taipei and do ask if you have any questions.

xxx

Taipei travels (Part 1) : Taipei 101 & our first Michelin star experience at Din Tai Fung

Back to more travel tales, if you missed it I wrote a post about Surviving Long Haul Flights With our Toddler , our wonderful hot springs retreat and a bit about Jinshan, in the north of Taiwan.

Bit of a recap .. we were in Taiwan in July and when we there, we were issued a typhoon warning. Category 5 Typhoon Nepartak was supposed to make landfall and we rushed from Yangmingshan, the mountain area down to downtown Taipei where we hunkered down at our hotel. All very scary especially as we had our little one with us and we have never experienced anything like this at all. Thankfully, it did not batter Taipei much and the warning was lifted and shops and attractions which were initially closed started to open for business again in the later part of the afternoon.

We then decided to head on over for some sightseeing and food at Taipei 101. It was still raining cats and dogs, so taking shelter somewhere indoors was the best option. The Taipei 101 tower itself looks like a giant bamboo stalk, no pictures as we rushed in due to rain. An engineering marvel as its one of the tallest buildings and its designed to withstand typhoons and earthquakes.

Besides the tower itself, the base of the tower is a HUGE multi-level shopping mall, food courts and restaurants.

Look, swanky mall eh?

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We took a trip to the top of the tower by purchasing tickets. Tickets will grant you access to the observatory and the museum. Since it was ‘typhoon day’, there were hardly any queues although this also meant that the outdoor observatory was closed.

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Just found a picture of the tower from the outside, but its one of those touristy ones. Whoops. Definitely not buying it as little one and the husband is not even in it. Bet you have done this too, just take a picture of it for memory sake. They are really efficient when it comes to children and the elderly, there’s a special seat for them to wait instead of going round in a queue.

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The lift up is quite something as well. It took about 40 seconds to the 89th floor. Unbelievable.

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The views from the observatory deck was amazing.

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Little one slept all the way up and was still fast asleep when we were up there. Gave us a chance to take ‘lovey dovey’ touristy pics.

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Hoorah, someone is up to join the fun. Grouchy though *approach with caution*. Posing with the postcard we sent home specially for the little one. Lovely little note for her to read when she is older.

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and one with her grandparents.

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This is the massive gold coloured damper that keeps the building from swaying. Very interesting, my husband read all about it 😀

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There are a number of figurines around the observatory deck. Little one had a bit of fun holding their hands and imitating them.

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There’s also a little museum bit before you head out.

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I would highly recommend adding Taipei 101 to your itinerary even with little ones in tow. She found it quite interesting and there’s lots of space for them to run around when its not too packed.

After our spot of sightseeing, its time for food. Well, its always a good time for food especially in Taiwan. We wanted to try Din Tai Fung. One of the ‘must eat’ places in this country. This restaurant originated in Taiwan and it has lots of branches in 13 (or more) countries. It has 1 Michelin star and we knew that we were in for a long wait. We expected to wait an hour according to all the reviews and if that’s the case, we would have looked for food elsewhere. Definitely our lucky day, we waited for only 15 minutes for a table. The service was impeccable and although it was very busy, we were attended to very well. Ps. never in my life .. we had to get a number to wait for a table. They hand you menus and make you order in advance before you are actually seated too.

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Hoorah, we are in. It was a huge restaurant and the first thing you notice that it is actually very clean despite the volume of people who eats there. Their staff is top class which is expected of a Michelin star restaurant I suppose. The glass window feature to their kitchen was very interesting. Entertaining to watch the kitchen crew diligently making their famous dumplings and buns.

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The food did not disappoint, definitely lived up to all the raving reviews. You know sometimes, when you are looking forward to something that’s pretty hyped up .. its not as good as you think or it always slightly disappoints .. this was not the case. Food was lush.

Would recommend their Shrimp Fried Rice. Not salty and not oily, it was delicious.

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For dumplings, we tried one of their inspired creations. Steamed Gourd (or Squash?) and Shrimp Dumplings. There’s an art to eating them .. well I just ate them. They were outstanding. Did you know that there’s soup in them dumplings. Wow. Do make sure the soup runs into your spoon though.

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Now for something sweet to end our delicious meal on a higher note.

Snow fungus soup served cold, I was not a huge fan as it was pretty ‘gelatinous’.

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The Taro Steamed Dumplings on the other hand was exquisite. Dessert version of their steamed dumplings. I was apprehensive at first but the taro filling was not overly sweet and has a texture like mash. It works though. Did you know that all their dumplings have a minimum of 18 folds. I tried counting and I think all of them have exactly 18, what a piece of art.

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What really stood out to me about the food at Din Tai Fung was that nothing was overly salty and they really focused on the quality of the ingredients. Very intriguing and delicate tastes.

A must try – lived up to its hype.

 

Surviving Long Haul Flights with our Toddler

Summer break. Holiday. Holibobs – Foreign climate and preferably with SUN –> long flight.

We have done 13 hour flights when she was a baby and it was all fine and dandy as she slept a fair bit! Before we booked this holiday, I definitely did my share of worrying as she is now an energetic toddler.. one that needs to be kept entertained and oh she is one that loves to stretch her legs. What if she acts up or throws a fit on board? Not to fret, its not that easy but we coped quite well I must admit. We as in my husband and myself. Phew! We made a good team and it was a lovely travelling experience flying with our toddler.

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First thing first, get all the nitty gritty formal bits out of the way. Airline, food, bassinets. You may have to request in advance. Our little one is dairy and egg free and we had to get some special food requested for her.

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Get some sleep! We were all well rested before the long flight and this made a huge difference. We travelled to London the night before and spend the night at an airport hotel. You must check out Airparks. They have special airport hotel + parking deals which are great value for money. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Heathrow for a night + 20 days parking for about £120!

Little one was well excited when we arrived in London! We have been prepping her and telling her that we will be going on an aeroplane when we go on holiday …

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and not even the real deal and she was hopping about the hotel’s reception. Haha! The room was large and very comfortable at the Crowne Plaza Heathrow. If you have older kids, the room has a sofa bed for them too. Such a great way to start the holiday stress-free and with a teeny touch of luxury too. Definitely worked out cheaper than just paying for airport parking on its own. Wanted to eliminate as much ‘stress’ as possible especially when we have a kid in tow .. this worked out really well.

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Fresh as a daisy and off we go to the airport for breakfast! You can hop on the shuttle or get a cab to the airport.

 

3.

Be prepared. Goodness knows how many times I wrote out our ‘hand luggage’ list. Never underestimate the novelty of a new ‘little’ toy and old favourites are also a must. In our case, we lugged her favourite Teletubby, Lala! (Ps we actually lost it in Taiwan, whoops)

I really thought the novelty of getting onboard the plane would have worn out eventually and she would just fall asleep. no such luck, she only napped for 2 hours out of the 13 hours and it was meant to be bedtime. Thankfully, I packed plenty of entertainment as well as snacks for the whole 13 hours.

I had a fab time planning her toys, I was about to order children headphones but decided against loading the Ipad with Peppa or Dora. There’s always in flight entertainment if all fails onboard.

What really worked for us ( she’s 19 months old) —

  • Magna Doodle. It does require quite a bit of effort on our end as she expects us to draw Peppa, clouds, the sun, and lots of different animals but it did keep her well entertained for a few hours and its still one of her favourite toys. Great value for money. I was deciding between this or the travel Aqua Doodle as that came highly recommended too.Peppa Magna Doodle
  • Lift the flap type books. She is very into ‘lift the flap’ books and her all time favourite show is Dora the Explorer. I was very lucky to stumble on a very well made board book that had lots of different colours and objects. She loved it and that is what matters. We also brought an all time classic too, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. We are quite lucky that she is very into her books, so we always bring a couple in my bag. (Don’t ask about the state of my bag, its always overflowing)Dora Book
  • Water Magic book. Oh this is really clever, just add water to the little pen that comes with it and the pen makes colours and pictures magically appear. Its recommended for 3 and up but the little one is quite a ‘pro’ at working the book now. Just my luck that I brought 2 ‘drawing type’ toys as we had another toddler seated next to us and they both wanted in on the crafty activities.Water Magic Books
  • Stickers. I have not met a toddler that doesn’t like stickers. Kept her entertained for ages and we gave some to our little friend seated next to us too. Oh yes if you have a window seat, the gel type stickers are a lovely distraction. You can even stick them on the food tray and you don’t need to worry too much about how to get them out.Gel stickers for travelling
  • Wet wipes, enough nappies, extra change of clothes. We brought 3 set of spare clothes for little one and an extra top each for my husband and myself.
  • SNACKS. Seriously, just arm yourself with lots of them and if all else fails remember to bring a few sweeties onboard too. We brought a little box of cereal, she loves Coco Pops with a passion. Ordered lots of ‘healthier’ goodies from Boots too as ideally .. we did not want her to go all ‘sugar high’ on us. Very convenient and there’s always lots of different offers as well when you buy a few. Snacks
  • The Ipad/ tablet. I try to limit screen time and lo and behold, we did not travel with one but if you are travelling alone with little ones.. definitely flash one out 😀 It does work! Oh yes, you have to load it up with shows, films and songs beforehand.
  • Calpol or any other meds that little one might need.

4.

Enjoy and go with the flow 🙂 Remember, flying is fun and magical especially for an excited child.

Oh yes indeed. She had the time of her life and I had muscle ache for first the few days of our holiday.

Ps. we must have walked around the plane about 50 times.

*All in all, we flew 13 hours to Malaysia. 5 hours to Taiwan and another 5 hours back with a transit in Singapore. Finally, another 13 hours back to London. Same toys and snacks etc were used for the whole trip.

Hope this helps and enjoy your travels xxx

 

 

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Back from Holiday!

We had such a lovely ‘long’ break but its always nice to come back home to our usual routines. Not really routine as we still have lovely sunny weather here in good old England 🙂

We braved a very very long 13 hour flight and took our toddler to Malaysia and then went on to Taiwan which took another 5 hours. Armed with a bag of little toys and snacks, we survived! Definitely deserves a post on its own, so do look out for it.

It was a very busy holiday as we literally had something to do every morning, afternoon and evening taking in the sights as well as finding time to meet as many family and friends as possible. Easier said than done though!

Beautiful tropical Malaysia. Wished we had more days just lazing about in the pool sipping drinks and doing nothing 🙂

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The Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur.

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Yang Ming Shan Tien Lai, hot springs resort in Taiwan.

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Sightseeing in Taipei

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Cannot wait to sit down and sort through pictures, print some of them for our family album as well as share some here for good old memories. Priceless. xxx