2 months, 2 kids, 2 continents (technically)

MattA

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Long-time lurker, occasional poster, first-time trip reporter…

My wife and I, along with our two kids, are Europe bound this evening on a trip that was planned in 2019, booked for 2020, cancelled, rebooked for 2021 and finally rescheduled to 2022.

We both have long service leave, so we will spend two months away all up, in the UK, France and Spain, with a few nights in Singapore on the way back to break up the journey. We'll be visiting friends and family and revisiting old haunts (I'm from the UK originally; my wife is from Australia but we met in London and lived there together for 8 years before moving to Melbourne). Coming back at the end of July we fly out of BCN, partly because we love the city, but also for the old trick of avoiding UK APD by not flying premium longhaul out of the UK. Well over AU$1k saved in taxes covered LCC flights for the 4 of us to BCN and half our accommodation costs there, which seemed like a good deal to me.

But tonight we start with MEL - SIN - MAN in SQ J. Saver redemptions. Locked in almost a year ago when bookings for these dates opened. At the time we didn’t even know if we’d be able to travel, or if we’d be testing or have to quarantine.

But here we are. Cook has been booked. Fair to say I’m quite excited. Let’s go…

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Pushka

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Long-time lurker, occasional poster, first-time trip reporter…

My wife and I, along with our two kids, are Europe bound this evening on a trip that was planned in 2019, booked for 2020, cancelled, rebooked for 2021 and finally rescheduled to 2022.

We both have long service leave, so we will spend two months away all up, in the UK, France and Spain, with a few nights in Singapore on the way back to break up the journey. We'll be visiting friends and family and revisiting old haunts (I'm from the UK originally; my wife is from Australia but we met in London and lived there together for 8 years before moving to Melbourne). Coming back at the end of July we fly out of BCN, partly because we love the city, but also for the old trick of avoiding UK APD by not flying premium longhaul out of the UK. Well over AU$1k saved in taxes covered LCC flights for the 4 of us to BCN and half our accommodation costs there, which seemed like a good deal to me.

But tonight we start with MEL - SIN - MAN in SQ J. Saver redemptions. Locked in almost a year ago when bookings for these dates opened. At the time we didn’t even know if we’d be able to travel, or if we’d be testing or have to quarantine.

But here we are. Cook has been booked. Fair to say I’m quite excited. Let’s go…

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We are currently in the UK too. Enjoy the non Covid life here.
 

MattA

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MEL - SIN is in the regional A350 product.

I spent quite a bit of time pre-departure trying to work out the best seating layout for the four of us. I was weighing up between a 2 and 2 behind each other vs along a row—problem with the row is the divider between the middle seats that blocks us from getting across if we need to help the kids with anything (ours are 3 and 8; 8yo is mostly self-sufficient, but the youngest still needs help with the belt and the IFE etc).

Couldn’t really find a definitive answer—I guess tips for flying J with a 3yo is kind of a niche problem—but ended up plumping for along a row on this first flight. So we are row 19, which is the first of the mini cabin at the rear of business, it’s also the one with extra legroom in A/K (I’m 6ft4). So the kids are together in the middle and the adults are on the aisle in A and K.

The mini cabin is also a good choice for us as there’s only 12 seats in total and we are 1/3 of them. My kids are generally well behaved but at least there’s only a maximum of 8 strangers for them to annoy if things go pear-shaped at any point.
 

MattA

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Row 19 turned out to be a good choice. The middle seats where we positioned the kids have a divider that doesn’t drop below seat level, so as I expected you can’t cut through, but there’s a narrow passageway just in front where the toilets are to allow us to get across to the other side easily when needed.

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And make that *7* strangers for my kids to potentially annoy: 21A at the back was sitting empty. *Might* have been the only empty seat on the plane, too, as, from what I could see back to Y and forward to the rest of J, there didn’t look to be any other spare seats. Travel is well and truly back, baby.

For dinner we had booked the cook from the somewhat limited menu available on this leg. Except somehow my choice hadn’t been loaded. Crew extremely apologetic and gave me a $150 krisshop voucher in compensation (totally unprompted, of all my BTC selections, I really wasn’t that fussed about this one). I had a very tasty (and nicely spicy) Kung Pao chicken off the regular menu instead.

So the seat: I know this regional config is not universally popular and even with the extra room in 19A I did find it a bit tight at 6ft4. I could *just* lay flat with my head pushed against the back of the seat and feet right on the wall. The seat is quite hard too, as I think I’ve seen commented elsewhere.

But these are minor quibbles really. I’ve done this route way too many times in Y and it’s clearly worlds apart.

We all slept well.
 

Matt_01

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MEL - SIN is in the regional A350 product.

I spent quite a bit of time pre-departure trying to work out the best seating layout for the four of us. I was weighing up between a 2 and 2 behind each other vs along a row—problem with the row is the divider between the middle seats that blocks us from getting across if we need to help the kids with anything (ours are 3 and 8; 8yo is mostly self-sufficient, but the youngest still needs help with the belt and the IFE etc).

Couldn’t really find a definitive answer—I guess tips for flying J with a 3yo is kind of a niche problem—but ended up plumping for along a row on this first flight. So we are row 19, which is the first of the mini cabin at the rear of business, it’s also the one with extra legroom in A/K (I’m 6ft4). So the kids are together in the middle and the adults are on the aisle in A and K.

The mini cabin is also a good choice for us as there’s only 12 seats in total and we are 1/3 of them. My kids are generally well behaved but at least there’s only a maximum of 8 strangers for them to annoy if things go pear-shaped at any point.
I will follow along just for the travelling with kids in J part of the report. A bit OT, I have always been a supporter of kids flying J or F, I flew in F as a kid and for the past 15 years have always travelled in J or F internationally with our daughter. Flying J or F is not a niche problem, if you have the points or cash and choose to fly in these cabins you have every right to be there and stuff what others may think. In our 15 years of travelling with our daughter the cabin crew on every airline she has flown on be it SQ, EK, JL, QF, CX, QR etc. are well trained to deal with families and kids of any age in premium cabins. I have written a few TR's about travelling with kids.
 

MattA

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I will follow along just for the travelling with kids in J part of the report. A bit OT, I have always been a supporter of kids flying J or F, I flew in F as a kid and for the past 15 years have always travelled in J or F internationally with our daughter. Flying J or F is not a niche problem, if you have the points or cash and choose to fly in these cabins you have every right to be there and stuff what others may think. In our 15 years of travelling with our daughter the cabin crew on every airline she has flown on be it SQ, EK, JL, QF, CX, QR etc. are well trained to deal with families and kids of any age in premium cabins. I have written a few TR's about travelling with kids.
Oh for sure. It wasn’t so much that I felt we shouldn’t be there with kids, more that it’s just less common. Most of the stuff I read about the points game seems to focus on travelling either solo or in groups of 2. Partly that’s an availability thing. Apart from SQ I don’t know how many programs have good enough availability to get 4+ J redemptions on the same flight.

Crew were fantastic with the kids of course. Would expect nothing less of SQ.
 

MattA

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SIN - MAN is on the longhaul A350. This time I picked us a 2-2 combo: 19A/D and 20A/D. The divide between the middle seats is much more substantial on this cabin layout so it seemed like a better option to group us together compared to going across a row. Adults on the window and kids in the middle. As the tallest in the family I took dibs on 19A, which is another seat with more legroom at the bulkhead.

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First impressions comparing this to regional: it definitely *feels* bigger, with the more open design. The regional product is much more cocoon-like, whereas this seat seems much wider without the big side table area, and the whole cabin just feels bigger in general. I assume this is just an illusion, given that they are both A350s.

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Another full flight. Not a single spare seat in J.

I booked the cook again, and, well, I had to try the famous lobster thermidor. It was…fine. Tasty. Very cheesy. Not entirely sure it deserves its reputation. No regrets in trying it but would I get it again? Probably not.

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After that, it was bedtime. The flat bed config is certainly wider than regional. Most of the extra legroom in 19A is directly in front of you, due to not having the back of the seat in front there, but at my height I still had to sleep diagonally with my feet in the little nook on the left. Again I could *just* fit. Bed a little softer too. I think for me all up longhaul A350 J is a better product than regional, but really both are fantastic. The service has been impeccable throughout, and we’re very lucky to be able to access it at pretty much the cost of Y or less through playing the points game.
 

MattA

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BTC waffles for the kids for pre-arrival brekkie.

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Nasi Lemak for me. Nice flavour and just the right amount of spice.

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Looks like we’ve taken a bit of a detour down there for some reason…

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It’s always sunny up here…

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Not so much down here. Welcome to England.

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MattA

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To be fair, that rain cleared and it did turn into a nice sunny day later on. Mum had the bunting up in honour of the Jubilee (looks a bit more of a Bastille Day vibe to me, though I don’t think that’s what she was going for).

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The next few days we’ll be relaxing with family in the northwest of England so probably not much of note to update here.

I’ll pick this up again in earnest when we set off across the Pennines to our next destination in about a week…
 

MattA

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The first few days of our trip have been fairly quiet. We’ve been staying with my family in my hometown, Southport, a somewhat faded Victorian seaside resort on the North West coast. With the shuttering of the borders it’s been the longest break between seeing them since we came to Melbourne so it has been lovely to catch up.

Southport is perhaps most notable internationally as home to Royal Birkdale, which is one of the courses that hosts the British Open golf tournament every few years (most recently the 2017 event, which was won by Jordan Speith; Aussie Peter Thomson won two of his five British Opens here in the 50s and 60s).

There’s some nice walks through the sand dunes alongside the course. A lovely day earlier in the week so we headed out for some fresh air to blow off the jetlag cobwebs.

The art deco 1930s clubhouse building:

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Heading down to the sand dunes:

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Southport is also home to the second longest pier in the country (just over a kilometre long). On a clear day you can see the North Welsh coast and across to Blackpool tower.

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What you can’t see is the sea itself. That photo is from the *end* of the pier and it’s still just sand beneath. The tide goes very far out here.

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MattA

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I can’t remember who it was but I’m sure there was another trip report here a while back talking about squirrels in the UK. The red ones are the natives, the grey ones the invaders. Unfortunately the greys brought with them a disease called squirrel pox, which is fatal to red squirrels and has all but wiped them out: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/formby/features/red-squirrels-at-formby

There’s only a few spots in the country left where red squirrel populations survive. One of those is just down the road from us in Formby.

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Thought the kids would enjoy it but not only did the traditional British summer weather turn rather soggy, there was not a squirrel in sight.

Lovely walk through the pine woods though, if a little damp.


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That’s it for us in the North West. Next stop Newcastle.
 

MattA

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After a week in Southport we are on the move today. Catching the train from Liverpool across to Newcastle to visit some old friends.

Trans Pennine Express, who operate this route, don’t have the best reputation, but our journey is very pleasant. We’re in the small first class carriage at the rear of what turns out to be a very crowded train. Train tickets in the UK can be phenomenally expensive when booked at short notice. If you can plan ahead, though (usually about 12 weeks) there are some very reasonable advanced deals available. First class for the four of us, booked back in March, is cheaper than a walk up standard single for one passenger.

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Worth it for the extra space, in my view, especially when travelling with family and luggage. Standing room only in standard so this seems to have been a good decision.

Very friendly staff decided that 3yo’s baby needed a ticket too so they handed out a stack of blank tickets for the kids to draw on.

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First class on longer journeys in the UK typically includes some kind of refreshments. Just snacks and hot drinks today. The coffee is about the quality you would expect of train coffee, but it is hot and wet.

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Some nice views on a sunny day as we trundle through the countryside…

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Happy Dude

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Southport is perhaps most notable internationally as home to Royal Birkdale, which is one of the courses that hosts the British Open golf tournament every few years (most recently the 2017 event, which was won by Jordan Speith; Aussie Peter Thomson won two of his five British Opens here in the 50s and 60s).

Don't forget the Fabulous Baker-Finch Boy in 1991!! I saw O'Meara win there in 98 but it was 17yo Justin Rose's hole out on 18 that I remember producing the loudest crowd roar I've ever heard.

Great TR btw. I'll be treading a similar path with kids in the near future so watching with interest. Keep it up :)
 

MattA

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Don't forget the Fabulous Baker-Finch Boy in 1991!! I saw O'Meara win there in 98 but it was 17yo Justin Rose's hole out on 18 that I remember producing the loudest crowd roar I've ever heard.

Great TR btw. I'll be treading a similar path with kids in the near future so watching with interest. Keep it up :)
You’re absolutely right. I’m a bit young to remember too much about the ‘91 tournament—would have been at high school—although I do vaguely remember the Open being on and the buzz in town that came with it. I think I went to one of the days, although probably had other things on my mind as a teenager than being dragged off by my parents to watch golf.
 

MattA

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The Harry Potter fan in the family (8yo) very excited to spot Durham Cathedral through the window. Some scenes in the early movies were filmed there.

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There will be more Potter-related elements to this TR later. Heading to Kings Cross on Monday, and the studio tour next week.
 
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