30 August 2017, by Joel Chng
“Are you going anywhere during the September school holidays?”
This was a popular topic of discussion in recent weeks, especially among the parents of Ezra’s classmates.
My motto before Ezra started school: “Avoid the crowd!”
My motto after Ezra started school: “Join the crowd!”
Because I had yet to make any plans for the September school holidays, it was a spontaneous decision to visit Bintan one weekend in August. That week, Ezra had no school on Friday – the same day that I was scheduled to be on leave.
As our booking was made just five days in advance, everything seemed to happen very quickly. Before we knew it, we were preparing to leave the house for Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. It would be Ezra’s first ferry ride and his second time overseas, so we did our best to ensure a smooth journey and fuss-free trip.
1) We boarded the ferry early.
Last year, our flight to Bali had designated seats, so we were the last to board the aircraft – to minimise Ezra’s time in an enclosed space. This time, however, it was free-seating on the ferry. We boarded early so that we could select the best seats for Ezra’s comfort. We managed to snag the first row of the back section, which gave us three seats with plenty of legroom.
2) We brought food and snacks for Ezra.
There are no meals provided on the ferry, and the one-hour journey had potential to be painful for other passengers, should Ezra get cranky and fidgety. We packed whole apples and pears, packet Milo, organic crackers, biscuits and raisins. Ezra was thrilled with the variety of options and grinned each time he was allowed to make a snack selection.
3) I picked a resort that was a two-minute drive from Bintan Island’s Bandar Bentan Talani Ferry Terminal.
This allowed us to arrive at the resort quickly. Bonus: we got the early check-in that we requested for, and received our keys two hours ahead of schedule. Ezra was then able to rest in the bed after a shower. It is not a given, but I would say that one’s chances for an early check-in are higher with a baby or toddler in tow.
4) We arrived early for the breakfast buffet.
When we arrived at the restaurant at 7 am we were the only ones there (the breakfast buffet was open from 6.30 am to 10.30 am). Of course, it helped that Bintan is one hour behind Singapore, so it was actually 8 am Singapore time when Ezra started eating.
The other resort guests only started arriving just as we were done at 8 am (Bintan time). Ezra was not distracted and overwhelmed by the bustling crowd or children running amok; for the first time in a long time, the three of us were able to have a stress-free meal.
5) We managed our expectations.
Despite an extensive list of land and water activities, not all options were child-friendly.
Before going on the trip, we had already shortlisted the activities that would be suitable for Ezra. Despite the limitations, we set out to have fun! Simple things like riding a scooter and having an in-room barbecue dinner brought us a lot of joy, as they were experiences that Ezra would not get in Singapore.
We thoroughly enjoyed our family time outside Singapore. Who knows, we might take another spontaneous weekend trip, the next time Ezra has no school on a Friday!