Having been to my fair share of airports around the world, I will say getting stuck in transit sucks. Especially if I had checked in early, the flight is delayed and I have nothing better else to do than to sit in an isolated corner of the airport picking my nose and listening to MP3s.
And what do you know - the misery is further compounded now that I have monkies tagging along for the holidays. To say it is a challenge to keep them reasonably occupied during a long waiting period at the airport is a severe understatement.
Unless of course we are in Singapore's Changi Airport.
The entire place - yes, all three terminals - is like a humongous playground for adults and children alike, with giant TV screens, gaming stations, playgrounds, shopping, eating and FIVE Nature Trails to explore!
So buckle up, and allow me to show you exactly the reasons in checking in early for your flight and keeping your children extremely well-entertained... to the extent that they may actually refuse to board the plane!
1. The Social Tree
At close to 9 metres tall, The Social Tree is Changi Airport's largest interactive installation and can be located in the terminal's Central Piazza. It allows travellers to snap a photo via eight touch-screen photo booths, jazz it up with effects and icons, and share their photo memories instantly onto the colourful and animated crown of the structure
I was told that the photos will be kept for at least a hundred years, where travellers and their families can retrieve and re-live their digital memories at Changi Airport from this memory capsule on subsequent visits. Of course, you have the options of posting the photos onto your social networking profiles and emailing them to yourself too.
2. Horticulture Displays
Just in front of The Social Tree, is the Horticulture Display area where the designs are changed every few months. And come every school holidays, you can be sure that the display will be set up with the children in mind. While we were there, it was a Fairy Tale theme - the Three Little Pigs to be precise.
3. Swimming Pool
If you really have that much time to kill, then a dip in the swimming pool will be a welcome change for everyone in the family. Located near the Departure Transit Lounge East on Level 3, the Balinese-themed swimming pool is free for guests of the Ambassador Transit Hotel. Else, a small fee of S$13.91 is charged to non-residents for the use of the swimming pool and jacuzzi, including the use of the shower facilities, a towel and a complimentary non-alcoholic drink from the bar.
4. Cactus Garden
|Photo courtesy of Changi Airport Group|
Located on Level 3, this rooftop cactus garden carries over 40 different species of cacti and succulents from Africa and the Americas, such as the Golden Barrels, Oldman Cactus, and a tenacious survivor of the dinosaur era, the giant Tasmanian tree fern.
5. Entertainment Deck
Okay, so this was the place where the kids truly went bonkers.
Housed on Level 3, this deck is truly a one-stop integrated, multi-media entertainment centre, with XBOX and Playstation 3 game consoles, LAN Gaming, and a movie theatre. And everything is FREE!
All these, with a Cafeteria in the middle of the Entertainment Deck where parents can chill while their offspring go crazy.
6. Sunflower Garden
This would be the equivalent of the kids going bonkers at the Entertainment Deck... only that this time it happened with the wifey.
She loves all things Sunflowers, so never mind the searing heat - the 500 bright sunflowers will no doubt cheer up even the most dreary traveller!
Not only that, the Sunflower Garden (beside the Entertainment Deck) gifted an awesome view of the runway and aircraft parking bays nearby too!
7. Enchanted Garden
Prefer something in air-conditioned comfort? Then head to the Enchanted Garden, where an interactive experience awaits.
As we weaved through the garden, the journey came to life with sounds of nature and blooming flowers, courtesy of motion sensors. The centrepiece of the garden comprises four giant glass bouquet sculptures, decorated with freshly-cut flowers and soft ferns within them.
But the one thing that thrilled the monkies was a see-through glass panel above the fish pond. Simple yes, but captivating all the same.
8. Orchid Garden
|Photo courtesy of Changi Airport Group|
Also at Terminal 2, the Orchid Garden exhibits rare orchids and their hybrids, including the seasonal display of Singapore's national flower - the Vanda Miss Joaquim - and Changi Airport's very own Dendrobium Changi Airport.
9. Koi Pond
When it comes to children, I find that there is always something captivating about watching fishes swim in the water. Somehow, it never fills to enthrall and keep them occupied for quite some time. An added bonus will be having a go at feeding the kois come feeding time! Check the feeding times on the information panels. There is also another Koi Pond at Terminal 2.
10. Butterfly Garden
I have heard so much about this, but have yet to step inside.
Let me just say this - if there is only time for one activity for the kids after checking in, the Butterfly Garden will be it.
Home to over one thousand free-flying butterflies, the two-storey butterfly garden is the first of its kind to be featured in an airport. I have no doubt that this will be a huge hit with children... and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience too, especially since the butterflies were very friendly!
Visitors can also observe the entire life cycle of the butterflies at work via educational corners and individual enclosures, from hatching to their pupa stage to live butterflies feeding at a number of food dispensers throughout the space.
11. Movie Theatre
The Movie Theatre at Terminal 2 screens the Fox Movies Premium Channel, while this theatre at Terminal 3 screens the latest movies of different genres. Just check the movie schedules outside the theatre. And yes, it's all FREE.
All Three Terminals
Scattered across all three Terminals are these facilities for kids that aim to make waiting time a little more palatable.
12. Indoor Playgrounds
Let's face it, which child can resist playgrounds? Especially if they are housed in air-conditioned comfort.
Terminal 1: Departure Transit Lounge West, Level 3
Next to SATS Special Service Lounge at Departure Transit Lounge Central, Level 2
Outside gate holdroom A16 - A20 at Departure Transit Lounge South, Level 2
There is also another Playground located in Terminal 2 (next to Family Zone at Departure Transit Lounge North, Level 2) but it is currently closed for upgrading works.
13. TV Lounges
Kids-friendly channels such as Discovery and National Geographic are the staple here, though the comfy couches with built-in speakers are the real draw here. Just ask the monkies.
Of course, I have to give a special mention to the FREE Internet Terminals located beside the TV Lounges and scattered through the three Terminals too. There are so many of them - over 500 actually - that I never had to wait for a terminal to free up. Oh, and the connection is pretty zippy too.
14. Xperience Zone
Want to pit your gaming skills against the kids, or catch the latest sports events on a kick-ass large screen? Do it all at the Xperience Zone, and more with the interactive e-Postcard booth, where you can snap your own self-portrait, and share them with your loved ones via email.
15. Woodblock Rubbing Stations
Located at all three Terminals, these rubbing stations should be a familiar sight to all travellers. Did you know that woodrubbing was a popular art form in Singapore during the 1950s and 1960s, and that it orignated from the Peranakan culture?
Just grab a piece of blank paper, place it over the woodblock prints and rub away with the wax crayons. Trust me, this will occupy the children for a very long time!
Other Facilities for Families
Tired from all the activities? Head to the Snooze Lounge at the three Terminals, which comes complete with specially-designed snooze chairs.
Parents of infant and young toddlers will also be pleased to know that there are ample private Nursing Rooms and Baby Care Rooms set up throughout the airport.
The Baby Care Rooms come complete with changing tables, washing basins and a hot water dispenser... and for some, even an awesome view.
For locations of the Baby Care Rooms within Changi Airport, find them HERE.
So many activities for the kids, does it mean then there is absolutely no time left to indulge in the superb duty-free shopping within the Transit areas for the parents???
Luckily, there is iShopChangi. Parents who find it hard to shop with kids in tow, can now start their tax and duty free shopping from the comfort of their home, even before the luggage is packed!
Just make your purchases via Changi Airport's online retail portal www.iShopChangi.com and pick up your purchases at the collection centre located at the transit lounge of your departure Terminal on the day of your departure! And as Ayd will say, easy peasy lemon squeezy.
So if you are jetting out of Singapore with the kids next time, do check in earlier and let them enjoy all the activities before the actual holiday. Just don't blame me if you miss your flight!