Feb 12, 2010

Traveling with kids: Manila

An actual travel tip, for once. Actually, here are a couple:

We have family in the Manila area, but usually it's simpler for us to stay in a hotel, even if we're only there for the weekend. After trying quite a few of the major hotels in Makati, the business district, I've found THE one that hands-down, is the best with kids: The New World Hotel in Makati, also sometimes known as the Renaissance. The hotel itself is fine - in general, it's on par with the Mandarin or the Peninsula and maybe even the Shangri-La. But it's the location that's key--on the Makati Greenbelt, with gobs and gobs of cafes, restaurants, shops, and little gardens, most of which is actually stroller friendly and walkable (and if you've ever spent a lot of time in Manila/Makati, you know how uncommon that is!). Use hotelscombined.com to get an aggregator rate, then compare it with what they are offering on the site to get the best deal.

Matias and I flew to Manila from Singapore on discount carrier JetStar. The seats, unsurprisingly, were tiiiiiny, not much fun when holding a lap child for a 3.5 hour flight. But not many people know that you can get one of the "extra leg room" seats for only $20-30 more--you can actually book it ahead of time on their website, which I did for the Singapore-Jakarta leg of our recent trip to Indonesia. They have the first row marked as an exit row, which normally you can't occupy when holding or traveling with a child-- ignore that. Most of their Asian fleet are A-330s, on which the first row is actually a regular bulkhead row and not an exit row. On our trip to Manila, I hadn't booked ahead of time, but those seats were empty so I was able to move and paid the $30 on the spot. A no-brainer!

Third tip is the little contraption clipped to the top of Matias' stroller in the picture above. A stroller fan with foam blades - it runs on two AA batteries, and has made a huge difference in Matias' comfort when out and about in the heat of the tropics. And because the blades are made of foam, I can clip it close to him with no worries about his little fingers or toes. There are more expensive ones around, but I bought this one for 6.95 SGD at Mothercare in Singapore, and have seen similar ones for sale at Watson's as well.

So that's my contribution to the world of usefulness for today.