New Parent Flying with Kids for the First Time

Last Updated 18th June 2020
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Mum traveling with child
The time came. It was January 2014 and our first born was 4 months old. We decided to bring him back to our roots for a first time meeting his great grandparents in Tawau, Sabah, a part of Borneo, a truly beautiful place in the world. Tips for stress free family travel with kids was on top of our minds.

First time flying as a family we wanted the quickest and easiest route from Melbourne to Tawau. Malaysia Airlines MH128, departing Melbourne (MEL) at 00:20 to Kuala Lumpur (KUL) 06:00, transiting in Kuala Lumpur for 1:30hours then flying MH2660 from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) 07:30 to Tawau (TWU) 10:20 was the one! We did what most new parents will do which was to consult our dear friend Google for tips and tricks for flying with kids. Our little one wasn't the best sleeper, but he can generally get between 2 to 4 hours at one stretch. We chose an overnight flight. That worked well for us, giving us a couple hours of shut eye at night.

Fast forward a couple of hours (it was a blur), as we approached Tawau International Airport, the view was simple amazing. Mountains of greenery, terraces oil palms and evenly squared off fish farms. One-word Wow! The airport is about an hour's drive away from town centre. Sabah has as a world heritage site Kinabalu Park, if you do visit It is worth spending at least 2 to 3 nights in Tawau to indulge in the local culture. There are plenty of local coffee shops, seafood restaurants and beautiful islands dotted around, this leads us to our highlight.

Other than visiting relatives and family back home (of course), the highlight of our trip would definitely be the islands. A very highly recommended must do and to jot on your to do list. Sipadan Island is well-known for diving and being divers ourselves it was on the list. It is considered one of the most beautiful dive places in the world. Check it out.
Mabul Island
The drive from Tawau to Semporna town/port is about 1.5hrs. There are myriads of islands to choose from depending on budget. A simple hop on a boat will get you there from Semporna. This time round with a child in tow we went to Mabul Island which was about an hour boat ride and closest Island to Sipadan Island.

Sipadan Island used to be a habitable Island. Flashback to my first trip to Sipadan in 1992. I remembered back then there were 3 resorts on site and the one we stayed in was simple yet pleasant. It was a wooden hut, equipped with two single wooden beds and a bathroom. It was the experience. Sipadan Island has a shallow reef from the main beach. As we head out from the beach with the crystal-clear waters you can literally see the reef wall suddenly drop down a few hundred meters. Scary but fascinating. Fun filled and worry-free days, love it! When night came, we went looking for coconut crabs and if lucky you can even witness and experience turtles laying eggs.
Sipadan Island Borneo
The marine life around Sipadan Island is simply magical. Seeing sea turtles is pretty much a guarantee, not one but probably 10-20. Schools of jackfish creating a tornado like motion is a sight to see. Often one would have to stay a minimum 3-4nights on an island to have the opportunity to dive in Sipadan Island. That was Sipadan.

Mabul Island has its own beauty, from wreck dive to mud dive. Each Island with its own beauty and mystic. Opposite the Island is a decommissioned oil rig. Diving around the old rig I was lucky enough to encounter the smallest seahorse in the world, the pygmy seahorse. A captivating sight!

The idyllic lifestyle on the island makes it the best vacation. From lazing on the hammock to all-inclusive buffet meals throughout the day. If you're up for an adventure, go for a stroll around the island. You will be able to meet some locals, have a chat and experience their culture. Souvenirs are also plentiful if you wish. An opportunity also arose during our trip for a visit with real life sea gypsies. It's an eye opener to witness their way of life.

Our first trip as parents we will cherish for life, no road is long with good company and we have definitely learned, tried and tested plenty of tips for traveling on a plane with kids

All we can say is, fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.
Stay well, be well and take care.

Have a wonderful day wherever you are and safe travels.
Tack and Hoe Ping Founders Tern-x
Authors: Tack & Hoe Ping
Founders of Tern-x, avid travelers and proud parents to two little energetic balls of energy. We create, innovate and marry needs to situations.
Love you guys! 🙂
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