If you’re exiting after a family holiday to Singapore, the national airport is a surprisingly good place to spend time as a family. Not only does it run like a dream, it’s chock full of activities for children (many of which are free, including the giant SpongeBob pineapple house). This makes all the difference for families traveling with kids because, as a regional hub, suddenly Singapore is a very viable and practical place to stopover for a few hours to break up two long haul flights. If you happen to find yourself at Changi, here is the comprehensive guide to things to with your kids in Singapore.
Singapore’s national airport is not only shiny, well kept, equipped with free wifi and impeccable service, it is by far the most efficient airport in the world. (With a stroller you can get from your seat on the plane to your seat in the taxi in half an hour.) There’s a reason they consistently win industry accolades; it is a true pleasure to be there. Since it is a regional hub, there is every chance you might be trying to kill a few hours there on your way to or from a family holiday but that doesn’t have to mean iPads and bored kids. Changi actually has some very cool features that will more that wile the time away.
· Interactive displays. Throughout the year there are often interactive displays designed to encourage kids to learn and play. Inside the secure area you will see the more educational travel-related pop-ups that are often themed after a destination. If you can exit the airport, it’s worthwhile checking out the lobby of Terminal 3 as during local school holidays these set-ups are impressive – think a giant Angry Birds plane, huge blow-up slide or two-storey SpongeBob SquarePants pineapple house.
· Butterfly garden. There are a surprisingly large number of beautiful insects here. Wander through the space to watch them fluttering about and maybe one will even land on your hand.
· Outdoor areas and viewing platforms. These are great spots to get some fresh, balmy Singapore air and for the kids to get a view of the planes taking off and landing. For instance, look out for the sunflower garden which is a pretty place to sit.
· Playgrounds. Every terminal has an indoor playground which is a great place for smaller kids to burn off steam.
· Movies. There are two small cinemas at T2 and T3 that rotate a series of movies that you can dip in and dip out of at will. (To view and plan around the schedule, click here.) These are great places to entertain the kids while you use the darkened environment to get some chill out time.
· MTV lounge and gaming area. This is the perfect spot for older kids and teens to indulge in some screen time you might not always let them have at home.
· Television. Throughout the three terminals are areas with public lounges and a range of television programs on offer. These always have child-specific cartoons and programs available for the kids.
· Activity stations. Throughout the airport look out for landscaped horticultural displays where you can wander and view fish, wood block rubbing activity centres and interactive gardens to encourage you to walk, touch, feel, smell and, of course, pose for photos.
Free City Tours of Singapore
If you are stopping over for at least 5 hours and want to explore the major Singaporean tourist attractions, Changi Airport offers free tours. Register at T2 or T3; tour times and the itinerary are available here. Obviously you must have passports that will allow you to enter Singapore to participate.
If you want to explore the city on your own for a few hours, the heart of Singapore CBD is only a short 20-minute taxi ride away. [To read about things to do in Singapore, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Many of the local and international chain retailers are housed at Changi so you can buy everything from designer bags to make-up to children’s toys and clothes. All the prices are controlled so you will never pay more than the retail price outside the airport – in fact, everything should come with a GST discount. If you don’t have time to shop in Singapore proper, this is actually quite a good alternative.
For practicalities, there are also chemists selling nappies and baby gear if you’ve forgotten or run out of anything important. They are listed here.
There are multiple restaurant options inside Changi from fast food to bars and several local restaurant chains. There’s even the world’s only Hard Rock Café inside an airport. But better still, unlike other airports in the world, the food costs the same price at Changi as it does anywhere else in the country so you can get a decent bowl of noodles or a snack for your small change.
If you feel like splurging and want to sample the famed Singaporean hotel international buffet, try the Azur restaurant in the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport at T3 (outside customs). It puts on a decadent spread of Western and Asia delicacies at a (comparatively) decent price and is a good place to have a celebratory farewell meal with friends or family before you jet out of Singapore.
All the terminals have a Transit Hotel inside the secure area (so you don’t have to clear customs) with rooms you can rent by the hour for a shower and short nap. The rooms are basic but certainly good enough to just put your feet up and relax.
Across from the Transit Hotel at T1 is the rooftop swimming pool where you can swim for a token fee. The pool is currently closed for renovations until February 28 2014. For updates click on the official website.
Crowne Plaza Changi Airport is a more comfortable accommodation option although you will have to clear customs to get there.
Everything in the airport is equipped to be family-friendly. This means all the waiting areas for security and taxis have a dedicated (and much shorter) queue for pregnant women and families so you don’t have to wait with everyone else. Free strollers are parked throughout the airport for use while in the terminals.
There are plenty of baby change and breastfeeding room facilities (equipped with hot water). They are quite easy to find, but for the full list click here. Most of the public toilets also come with at least one special built-in children’s seat for toddlers.
Pharmacies and medical centres are also at all three terminals if you need to visit a doctor or top up your baby supplies. Here is the list for where to find them.
At each of the hotels inside the secured area there are public shower facilities if you need to freshen up.
Wifi is free throughout the airport. If you don’t have a mobile device there are plenty of terminals where you can login to check your emails.
There is a free monorail
between all terminals which makes it easy to manage transitions. If you have
smaller kids, these driverless trains can be entertainment in themselves and
will give you a chance to explore the different terminals.
If you’re looking to get out of the airport, taxis are easy to come by. Alternatively, there is also the extremely economical MRT train (very stroller-friendly) that you can take to connect to anywhere in Singapore.
To find out about more family-friendly activities to do in Singapore type "Singapore" in the Search on the suitcases&strollers website.
Images: Changi Airport