Day 1: Our journey begins…

At the departure gate

The journey was surprisingly smooth to get here. Qantas were an efficient airline to fly with and the flight was sandwiched between two well-executed transfers. It did tickle me how the Malaysian taxi driver was trying to find me based on my WhatsApp profile photo. Inevitably the reality of the post thirteen hour flight and absence of makeup made me look perhaps not as recognisable as my relaxed, fully made up online persona 🤣

It was a breeze through Changi airport (I would even go so far as to say one of our most straightforward airport arrivals ever-particularly outside of Europe) and a very pleasant stint in the Heathrow club lounge due to a perk of dear hubby’s job. Elsie basically snacked non-stop for 20 hours; even during ‘sleep time’ on the plane she couldn’t resist the slice of calzone that was being touted.

Our apartment is on the 25th floor eek… 🤢😳 Upside is that it affords an amazing view of Singapore, Johor Bahru and the straits which divide them. I did have to have my pep talk with the kids about not opening windows or going out on the balcony unattended. It is excellent value for money however, with three large bedrooms, two bathrooms and a central location. At first glance, it seems to be cheaper to eat out than cook at home 🤔. The supermarket prices seem comparable with England and taxation on alcohol makes an average bottle of wine around a tenner, which is more than I expected.

Corner of our balcony with Johor Bahru in the background and the standard stupid face from Owen.

It is 10:30pm and I am trying to get my brain to stop trying to remind me that it is 3:30pm in the UK. I am surprised how big a psychological effect it has watching your mental mid afternoon world get dark: I am actually feeling sleepy (but then I do quite like an afternoon nap so may wake up 20 minutes after going to bed).

Depending on which way you look at it, we were lucky that we didn’t have a huge amount of sleep on the plane, so should catch a few zzzs tonight, but military as I am, I will be setting the alarm clock for 9am (bearing in mind that I haven’t slept beyond 6:30am for a decade) to give us a fighting chance against jet lag. Maybe a glass of wine will help 😉

The Griffalo top ten travel essentials

Ok, so whilst I am biding time waiting for my holiday, I thought that I would share with you my top ten family travel essentials. By no means am I teaching you to suck eggs, but I have picked up many an extra trip from fellow travel enthusiasts with younger children. All mentioned items are from my personal experience; I am not affiliated with any companies.

1. A travel towel. Their absorbency have improved in leaps and bounds over the last decade, and they are such a space saver. Not only that, but on the plane they can double up as an extra blanket or pillow.

2. Wet wipes. Even though my kids aren’t babies or toddlers anymore, these still have so many practical uses from wiping surfaces to stepping in in the absence of loo roll.

3. A decent quality eye mask, set of ear plugs and neck support for flying. The eye mask is also a godsend for early sunrises and poorly shaded accommodation.

4. Vacuum bags. Particularly good for underwear and dirty washing.

5. Packing cubes. An oldie but goodie.

6. At least two pens if you are travelling somewhere where you need to fill out customs and immigration declarations for the whole family.

7. A couple of carrier bags- mostly to use a a rubbish bin on the aeroplane if that is how you are travelling.

8. Socks or slippers for the plane. This is only if your kids would be travelling in sandals or flip flops. The kids inevitably want to take their shoes off during the flight and then end up wandering around bare foot…including into the toilets 🤢

9. Hand sanitizer. No substitute for good old soap and water,but a useful bit of kit in the fight against all of the gross germs that I try to avoid thinking too much about during transit.

10. Ordering parcels to meet you at your destination. Not actually a packing item, but great for nappies and toiletries etc. Most hotels (and other types of accommodation) are happy to take in multiple parcels for you, providing that you drop them a courtesy email a couple of days beforehand.

Carrying a Giant Panda: A glorious 120kg luggage allowance.

It was like music to my ears. 30kg of INCLUDED luggage per person. No shuffling of (packed) smalls at the gate to balance out the paltry 15kg budget add on. An abundance of FULL SIZED toiletries to give me the best chance of looking and smelling delicious. A CHOICE of evening attire… shall I go for the floaty maxi with heels or the more preppy linen midi with flats?

And as I was discussing such luxury with my husband, the incomprehensible came out of my mouth: “hun, shall we just travel on hand luggage?”

You see, amid my internal joy of having the included luggage capacity that weighs approximately the same as a giant panda, several thoughts occurred to me:

1. I haven’t actually got that many clothes. Unless I want to spend the holiday looking like a secondary school English teacher (nb.that is in reference to my large working wardrobe and not my weekend fashion aspirations).

2. As aforementioned, if we took the maximum capacity allowed then it would be equivalent to travelling to five separate destinations carrying the equivalent of a giant panda (or two household washing machines).

3. I have travelled fairly extensively, and have yet to find a country that does not have any clothes washing facilities. Yes that does mean doing the washing on holiday, but that seems like a far easier option than carrying a panda (particularly on the boat to the island).

Despite this act of lunacy; I felt strangely more relaxed, knowing that we will be travelling light. I felt thankful that our slightly older children have now alleviated the need to travel like a pack horse. I admit, I don’t think that I would fare so well with capsule cold weather packing, but for the moment I feel liberated from luggage. That will be until I realise that I have forgotten something.

Three days to go. Why Malaysia?

Europe and the US are ridiculously expensive on the ‘Great’ British Pound at the moment, so we just started looking a little further east. Cue the in depth meteorological research and we actually zoomed in on Southern Malaysia pretty quickly. Combined with a trip to a Malaysian Island, a few days in Singapore and a stopover in Dubai, the holiday road for The Griffalo Trail was paved. And all for less than a two week all inclusive on the Costa del Sol.

Yes, it does take a ridiculous amount of planning, but those who know me would agree that I thrive in planning itineraries. Scouring potential Airbnbs, sending Facebook messages to random firefly farms and trying to work out why the bus we booked is a quarter of the price of all of the others (it has no toilet in case you were wondering) is all part of the fun. It won’t go all to plan, but that is what adds to the fabric of your holiday memoirs. NB. I will have to repeat the penultimate line as my mantra when we are stranded somewhere with two arguing kids, a random stray dog and a belly that hasn’t quite got used to the rich diversity of the Asian cuisine…

Johor Bahru