Singapore Itinerary: A 6D5N First-Time Family Vacation Outside the Country

Before finally going to Singapore in 2022, our family planned to spend Christmas 2020 in Dubai. But since the pandemic barged in that year, our travel funds were returned. Not long after, we found ourselves caught in a dilemma: the forfeiture of our travel fund was nearing, and only a handful of countries were open for tourism. So, our family decided to split the supposed trip to the Middle East into three other destinations instead. The first was the King City of the South — Davao. Our second trip? Follow the journey by reading through this Singapore itinerary!

Our time in the Little Red Dot was especially memorable to me because it also happened to be our first time outside the country.

Also read: Singapore Travel Requirements for Philippine Passport Holders

While I welcomed the possibility of travelling to Singapore, the travel fund would have been enough to take us to places like Osaka or Seoul. I would’ve wanted to experience the climate from the north! Sadly, the borders of these countries were still closed at the time of booking tickets, so we settled with our Southeast Asian neighbour. Going to Singapore didn’t need a visa, after all, so the added convenience was an easy consideration.

That isn’t to say that I wasn’t excited. We were aware of how much of a beautiful city-state Singapore is, especially for tourists. Needless to say, the six-day trip was more than a pleasant surprise to all of us!

Day 1: Jewel Changi Airport, Marina Bay Sands, and Lau Pa Sat

Jewel Changi Airport

Our departure was at 5.35am, and we didn’t get any sleep the night before. Imagine the exhaustion we felt as we arrived at Terminal 4 at Changi Airport at 10am! The trains that lead to the city itself are in Terminal 3, located near Jewel Changi, so we had to ride a free shuttle service from Terminal 4 to take us to the airport-slash-mall. We were definitely excited to see what the world-famous Singaporean icon looked like in the flesh.

But, all that excitement didn’t fill our stomachs. Before anything else, we scoured Terminal 3 for a place to eat. Good thing that there was a Kopitiam at Terminal 3’s basement level. This humble food space showed us what to expect when indulging in Singapore’s flavours. I ordered a breakfast platter for something easy to eat and authentically Singaporean. The cheong fun is soft and tastes pretty simple with its sauce, which goes well with the robust flavour of kopi-C. I missed eating kaya toast, so tasting the real thing, along with soft-boiled eggs, is a memory I will never forget.

After eating, we made sure to stop by the Rain Vortex, located right in the middle of Jewel Changi. It was a beautiful sight, a true architectural marvel in the modern era. It’s amazing to think that it’s just four hours away by plane from Manila!

We returned to Terminal 3 to board the famous Singaporean subway lines. After a line transfer and ten or more stations, we reached the neighbourhood of Jalan Besar. We stayed at a hostel named 7 Wonders near the famous Little India and Serangoon Road. We rested until sunset to prepare for a night walk. Like most tourists, I could not pass up the chance to take a photo of the ornate Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. It’s just so eye-catching!

Marina Bay Sands and Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre

After exploring the neighbourhood, we boarded the train to reach The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. To say that this is a high-end mall is an understatement. The brands that set up their shops here are usually attached to famous celebrities (and I went to the mall wearing slippers (lol).

There was a lot of walking involved, which left us all starving. So, we ventured to Telok Ayer to eat at the famous Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre. This food space seems to be packed at any time of the day, but we were fortunate enough to get seats as well as catch some open stalls. Lau Pa Sat is the perfect introduction to Singapore’s hawker food culture because of the variety of cuisines that customers can take in. Biryani, satay, Chinese noodles, daing na bangus, and tacos can be explored and enjoyed all in one space. What a foodie dream!

Also read: 10 Best Hawker Centres in Singapore That Locals & Travelling Foodies Swear By

Day 2: Gardens By the Bay

So, remember my complaint about the lack of sleep and exhaustion earlier? This came to bite us back because we couldn’t move a muscle the next day. All the walking had our energy spent, so we agreed to continue our plans in the evening.

We resumed our Singapore itinerary by visiting Gardens by the Bay. This attraction is not just all pretty light shows and sounds. It is also a horticultural achievement, as it replicates environments and conditions to cultivate plants from all over the world and gathers them all in one place. This garden also has the potential to preserve these plants, trees, and flowers. Flower Dome is an excellent example of this, where native plants from Australia, California, and Japan, just to name a few, can be observed in full bloom. Apart from that, Christmas-themed attractions can be enjoyed right at its centre.

After going through Flower Dome, Cloud Forest was our next stop. This attraction simulated a thriving environment for mountain plants. Coincidentally, our visit to the attraction had a tie-in with Avatar: The Way of Water film. So, we found the Na’vi and some massive creatures native to Pandora hiding among the plants!

As we exited Cloud Forest, I chanced upon a friend from college who now works in Singapore. (Should you happen to read this, I hope you are well, JC!)

As expected, we were all tired after the adventure in Gardens by the Bay, so we went straight to rest after the trip. Besides, there was a huge, huge day ahead of us tomorrow!

Day 3: Tekka Centre, Universal Studios and Hong Lim Food Centre

Tekka Centre

At the heart of Little India is Tekka Centre, a wet market, but more importantly, a hawker centre! While this hawker centre is mostly dominated by Indian food options, there are also a good number of Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian, and even Japanese cuisine choices. From here on out, our breakfasts would usually fall to this place since it’s only minutes away from our lodging.

Among my favourites here are the laksa noodles, kaya toast, and Penang cendol. The chocolate and cheese rotis are also sumptuous to eat. Meanwhile, the kopi tastes robust and flavourful, so I recommend grabbing a mug!

Also read: How to Travel to Singapore From the Philippines on a Budget

Universal Studios Singapore

No Singapore itinerary is complete without a trip to Universal Studios Singapore (USS)! I’m on the fence when it comes to amusement parks, but I like Shrek a lot, so I was willing to visit the attraction.

By the way, if you’re going to visit this theme park, let me share a few time-saving tips, just to maximise your Singapore itinerary! First, patience goes a long way when waiting for a photo of the legendary USS globe. Think of it as the cherry on top after enjoying the park!

Second, start exploring the park by starting on the former Madagascar section of the park. You can easily avoid crowds and queues by starting here instead of the New York section on the right. There’s a Madagascar-themed carousel in this part, should you want an early ride. This path also leads to Far, Far Away, or the Shrek part of USS.

Third tip: Do not queue in Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase, or not right away, at least. As much of a Sesame Street fan as I am, I don’t think the ridiculously long queues are worth it. Besides, the line thins down by afternoon. Meanwhile, take pictures of Big Bird, Oscar, and Cookie Monster instead. Their statues are very well made, with colours popping out!

You can also explore Lights! Camera! Action! Hosted by Steven Spielberg. It’s a thrilling, firsthand experience inside a Hollywood soundstage, where you get to experience special effects that simulate a level 5 hurricane! If you want to delve inside the mind of the genius responsible for films like Jurrasic Park and Jaws, you can’t miss this attraction.

Tip number four! Prepare a change of clothes if you want to ride Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure — or dress for the occasion, at least. I made the mistake of wearing good shoes on this ride, plus my wardrobe was drenched right after. We should’ve bought the ponchos.

Finally, do not miss riding Revenge of the Mummy (in the Ancient Egypt section) and Transformers: The Ride 3D. I think I instantly became a rollercoaster enthusiast after going through these two! Admittedly, Battlestar Galactica: CYLON duelling roller coasters was too intimidating for me.

Make sure to schedule your visits in the New York section of the park. This is where mascots from popular DreamWorks Animated Films appear, like Minions and even Sesame Street. My mom and dad got a chance to take a photo with characters from Madagascar, as well as a few other Christmas performers!

For dinner, we alighted the train at Chinatown Station and walked to Hong Lim Food Centre. Only a few stalls were opened that day, but this is where we tasted one of the best-roasted duck rice meals we have ever had. We also had the famous bak kut teh soup. 

Also read: Top 15 Things to Do in Singapore & Around Sentosa — UPDATED for an Exciting Stay!

Day 4: SEA Aquarium, Cable Car Ride, and Maxwell Food Centre

SEA Aquarium

It’s one big day after another. We returned to Sentosa Island to visit the SEA Aquarium. This attraction deserves to be in any Singapore itinerary just because it simulates what it’s like to be among thousands and thousands of marine life. That’s a lot of seawater in one place!

Some of the highlights here include seeing how dolphins prepare for their leaps to the sea’s surface. My mom applauded every time the dolphins came up close to the glass wall as the dolphins cut through the water. These dolphins sure know how to put on a show.

There were also translucent jellyfish that reflected the changing lights inside their tanks. Visually, they were beautiful to observe, but as most people know, these animals can make a human being feel ill in seconds. Good thing there was glass between us.

When we reached the centre of the structure, we were stunned. A gargantuan aquarium that spanned several metres in length and height gave us a view of the marine life housed in the SEA Aquarium: Manta rays flying with grace in the water; fish of different colours zipping past each other; starfish resting on the seabed. My dad and I were awestruck. The experience reminded me that we are truly a part of something far greater than what we think we are, and this world depends on us to sustain it.

The trip to SEA Aquarium concluded by going through a tunnel filled with sharks! While I would have loved to see a great white shark inside the aquarium, its fearsome nature warded off the other fish inside. Or worse.

Cable Car Ride

I could not imagine myself being suspended a hundred feet in the air, but I did it anyway. Only in Singapore, I suppose! After returning to VivoCity, we went to the Cable Car Station nearby. These cable cars take guests to Mt Faber Station, back to VivoCity Station, and finally to Sentosa Island. Upon alighting at Sentosa Island station, guests can also ride another cable car to Siloso Point. Siloso Point is where beach bums can enjoy the sand and waves of Palawan Beach. Where have I heard of this name before, hm?

While the views are nothing short of spectacular atop the cable car ride, the height is definitely anxiety-inducing. I really held a tight grip on my seat, especially when the car went directly above the sea! Nevertheless, this ride should automatically be considered in a Singapore itinerary, just because the experience is unique and breathtaking.

Also read: Singapore Cable Car: Ang Best Place Para Matanaw Ang Singapore

Maxwell Food Centre

Maxwell Food Centre is pretty far from VivoCity, but we were very determined to reach it. After alighting at Chinatown station, it was a long walk to this legendary hawker centre. Little did we know that a train station next to it was opened just a few weeks ago! That aside, it was instant relief once we reached this food space.

It is always packed in Maxwell Food Centre, and tonight was just like any other night. Customers of all nationalities queued up on Hainanese chicken rice and lor mee stalls. Just for the long walk, I ordered roasted chicken rice and tom yum noodles. I strongly recommend getting chicken rice here because the flavours are delicate, and they come together so well. Many would recommend adding this hawker centre to any Singapore itinerary, so take this as an official endorsement!

Day 5: Mandai Zoo, National Museum of Singapore, and Chinatown Complex Centre

Out of all the days of tirelessly walking around Singapore, a trip to the zoo just had to come last. But Mandai Zoo has to be another integral addition to any Singapore itinerary; the efforts to replicate an environment where animals of different species would thrive are simply impressive. Also, animals are pretty cool, they make me feel like a kid on a field trip!

We took the bus going to Khatib Station and got to see Singapore up close, thanks to their double-decker buses. I wish we took the buses more for sightseeing, but a train’s speed is just undeniable. This commute is also one of the lengthiest in our Singapore itinerary. It spanned for more than an hour. Thank goodness for state-of-the-art public transportation systems in this city-state!

Mandai Zoo

Mandai Zoo, at least in my estimate, is as big as a district in Manila. Isn’t that massive? The zoo had signs all over to mark walking trails. Not long after, we got tired. It was only in the middle of our visit that we found out about the trams going around the vicinity, so we rode these instead of walking.

We had a blast inside the zoo. Seeing kangaroos, hippos, rhinos, and giraffes is a rarity, and we are very glad to have seen such majestic creatures in the flesh. It’s not every day that we can see how these creatures thrive and survive, so the zoo is easily a strong recommendation when in Singapore.

However, the unpredictability of Singapore weather can be cumbersome. A strong thunderstorm that lasted for about an hour had us stuck inside the reptile house. Just as we were about to leave, too! Good thing the facility had air-conditioning because a few guests decided to take a nap on its benches while waiting out the rain. I may or may not have been one of those guests.

Also read: How Singapore Prevails as a “City in Nature” With Flowers All Over the Island

National Museum of Singapore

Since we had an hour taken away from us by the rain, we rushed to get to the bus station again and back to Khatib Station. From there, we exited through Dhoby Ghaut Station just in time to catch a few galleries open inside the National Museum of Singapore. We had about an hour left by the time we stepped foot in the museum lobby, so we didn’t get to visit the other galleries.

We went through the main gallery, which detailed the history of Singapore. I learned so many details about Singapore’s history inside the museum’s gallery. I was particularly interested in the revolutions that Singapore went through, the Japanese invasion during World War II, and Singapore’s eventual rise as a first-world city-state. And all of this happened in just a few decades! 

Truth be told, this museum was a last-minute addition to our Singapore itinerary, but one that I really pushed for. I would have loved to explore more of the museum, but time was not on our side. That said, don’t let my stay deter you! I’m sure the National Museum of Singapore holds many interesting artefacts, artworks, and exhibits for guests who have the time and enthusiasm to spend.

Chinatown Complex Hawker Centre

Our next stop was Chinatown Complex Hawker Centre, which was near Hong Lim Food Centre. This is where I had a taste of the nasi lemak. It had intense flavours that were very promising, thanks to the fried fish and chicken. The sambal included was a bit too sweet for me, however. There is also a dim sum place here that serves the best xiao long bao I have ever tasted in my life!

After the sumptuous dinner we enjoyed at the hawker centre, we visited the nearby souvenir stalls outside. It was an opportune time to buy small gifts for friends back in Manila. We combed through a few stalls to compare prices, and half of our souvenir shopping was done!

Day 6: Lucky Plaza and Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre

Lucky Plaza

The receptionist of our hostel, who also happens to be Filipino, directed us to shop in Lucky Plaza just by Orchard Rd for souvenirs. Most of the stalls in the mall serve Filipino needs and interests, and we saw a lot of our kabayans inside. So if you’re missing the taste of sinigang or chicken inasal, this is the place to go! The community inside is thriving, and I could not be prouder to see them happy and productive. 

Here’s another unsolicited tip: Some of the money changers in Lucky Plaza have good exchange rates!

Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre

Our last hawker centre on our Singapore itinerary also happens to be one of the oldest residential areas in the city-state. Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre has one of the most beautiful hawker centres in the city-state, with the off-white walls painted with some murals being a welcome sight. As for the dishes here, the fish curry was decent, while the fish soup was a welcome concoction of complex flavours.

As we were about to board our last bus trip, it rained heavily. The rain was still torrential by the time we reached the last train interchange going to Changi Airport. We share the same sentiment, Singapore. It’s sad to leave you too!

Also read: How I Spent 3 Days in Singapore For Less Than ₱6,000

I’ve never really thought about travelling abroad. Before all of this, I was fine with the weekend drives to places like Baguio or Tagaytay, and maybe the occasional flights to Cebu, Bacolod, and Boracay. That all changed when we, as a family, flew to the Little Red Dot. This Singapore itinerary lit a fire inside my belly that our adventures had only just begun. Look out for our next journey!

All photos credited to the author and his family.

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