19 April 2014, by Tan Yi Lin
At the beginning of each year, we set an annual budget for travel expenses. Every year, we guiltily bust our budget without fail.
Ever since we forwent the opportunity to invest our savings and instead spent them on our year-long backpacking trip in 2009, our financial planner now knows full well that we are horrible at resisting travel deals or caving into our frequent impulse to just travel – good deal or none. We pretty much line ourselves up for inevitable failure – Dan’s work revolves around travel and he carts home inflight magazines from various airlines for my reading pleasure. He knows the deals and I, the destinations. We’re a pair made in heaven (or maybe just a little lower, along the flight paths). After all, we did meet while working in the travel industry.
Our last vacation was to Koh Samui in December 2013, where Claire celebrated her inaugural flight and dug her stubby little toes and fingers into the grainy Thai beach. Our next trip was planned for September to the Maldives (Yes, AGAIN. After the last exasperating experience with Coco, we had sworn off going back to the Maldives till the kids were old enough to appreciate it but Tiger Airways was having a promotion and we. couldn’t. stop. ourselves. *wail*) Other than that, and my sister’s upcoming Bali wedding, we thought that we were on track to sticking – for once – to our travel budget for 2014.
That is, until Coco said that she wanted to go to Disneyland. Actually, she threw an awful fit about wanting to go on the Flying Dumbo ride NOW. We did our darndest to explain that it wasn’t quite possible but Time is not an easy concept for a 2 year-old brain to comprehend and she probably went to bed that night convinced that she had the most horrible parents on earth.
Dan and I talked about the episode. About how we shouldn’t give her something just because she asked – and cried – for it. About how she had to learn to deal with disappointment. About how she had to learn to wait. About how we had just gone to Disneyland in October last year. About how we didn’t want to spoil her. About how much it would cost to go again.
But the more we conjured up justifications for not going to Disneyland, THE MORE IT MADE US WANT TO GO. Ugh. What is wrong with us? The more we talked about it, the more Disneyland started to appeal to us. After all, Disneyland was fun. What’s more, Coco had such an enjoyable and memorable time last year. A trip was starting to seem like a good idea. Just a short one to Tokyo or Hong Kong. Just a few days. Just a… OH WHAT THE HECK. LET’S BOOK OUR FLIGHTS FOR MARCH ALREADY.
We deviously plotted to get both sets of grandparents to come along with us and were rather taken aback when they, most unexpectedly, turned down our invitation. Wh-what? Neither set of grandparents were jumping at the opportunity to travel with their beloved granddaughters?
One said that the weather in March in Hong Kong and Tokyo would be too cold for him.
The second cited his heavy workload as the reason for not being able to go.
Another blamed her unavailability on her ears’ tendency to get painfully blocked in mid-flight.
The last just smiled quietly and told us to go ahead.
Given my apprehension about the toll that handling 2 wriggly, squirmy kids would have on my (already less-than-optimal) state of health, we made the decision to go with Disneyland Hong Kong (shorter flight time, same timezone)… and leave Claire behind. Again. Sigh. I know, I know, poor second child.
Given that we had travelled with children on previous occasions and that this was our second visit to Disneyland, we thought that we were well-prepared for the trip.
*cue buzzer for incorrect answers* WRONG!
Well, there were some things that we did right, such as:
(1) Careful planning of flight schedules: We chose to depart for Hong Kong on a mid-afternoon flight, which gave us the morning to pack, and arriving at our destination in the evening – just in time for shower and bed. Similarly, our home-bound flight arrangement mirrored our first flight, delivering us safely to Singapore in time for bed.
(2) Establishing a comfortable and convenient home base: Because cranky, over-tired toddlers and exhausted parents need a welcoming room to return to and crash for the rest of the day. Because we weren’t planning to step foot outside of Lantau Island (where Disneyland is located), we put up at the Auberge Discovery Bay for 3 nights. It was accessible via airport bus (S$7/pax) and the hotel offered scheduled shuttles to Sunny Bay MTR station and Disneyland free-of-charge. The room was spacious (very important when you have toys and books strewn all over), the bed was large (because sleeping toddlers take up SO much space) and so was the bathroom (so you can stay dry when showering a fidgety 2 year-old).
(3) We brought diapers: A “duh” point, but believe it or not, we have ever forgotten to pack diapers for an overseas trip – and only realised when we unpacked our bags in an ulu hill resort in the dark of the night.
What we didn’t do so well:
(1) We forgot to bring Coco’s shoes. She did have footwear on but rubber sandals weren’t exactly suited for Hong Kong’s chilly Spring weather. What’s more, I failed to check the state of my own seldom-worn sneakers and they fell apart as I walked to our departure gate – at Changi Airport.
(2) Not only did we forget Coco’s shoes, we didn’t pack her toothbrush and toothpaste either.
(3) Why did I think that one small packet of 20 wipes would be sufficient for a 4-day trip?! And oh, I really should have brought more spare plastic bags for smelly diapers too.
(4) We didn’t plan for bad weather. Didn’t bring umbrellas, rain ponchos and waterproof footwear. As luck would have it, it stormed heavily that weekend. We were lucky to get by with just strong winds and lashing rains – some parts of Hong Kong received hail.
(5) We couldn’t escape Murphy’s Law. But then, who can? Murphy dictates that the kid WILL poop just when you put a clean diaper on her. The poop WILL happen just before the plane lands – when the seatbelt signs are on. The plane WILL have to circle in mid-air for a full 15 min due to heavy air traffic at Hong Kong airport. On the return flight, your kid WILL refuse to eat before you board the plane and WILL get crazy hungry while belted down, waiting for the plane to take off. The plane WILL be held up on the runway and because you, ignorant parent, WILL not have learned your lesson about Hong Kong airport’s busy air traffic and carelessly stored all the snacks in the overhead compartment, your toddler WILL scream the plane down for food.
(6) I unthinkingly brought her onto a rather scary Buzz Lightyear ride that had her tearfully shrieking “Nooooo! Noooo! I want to go out!!!!” in mid-ride. Ooops.
Still, was an immensely enjoyable, satisfying and memorable trip.
It was such joy to see Coco’s little face light up with glee on the repeated rides on Dumbo The Flying Elephant and the spinning teacups.
We were amazed at how she patiently queued for the rides, and for her turn to take pictures with – and get hugged and kissed by – Mickey and Minnie.
We were tickled no end to hear her little voice pipe, “Two mice hugged me! Oh my god! Mice hugged me?! That’s so funny!”
We were grateful for her calmness and obedience as we huddled together under a flimsy umbrella, all 3 of us cold and wet from the heavy rain.
We were happy that she remembered to pick out gifts for her little sister back home.
The best part of the trip was hearing her muttering deliriously in her sleep “Mickey kissed me…”
Sweet dreams are made of these indeed (until our credit card bills comes).