Tripping on Space A

What exactly is “Space A” travel and how does one do it?

To some, traveling Space Available (commonly known as Space A) is intimidating. Whether it’s the rules involved or the uncertainty of traveling without a pre-paid plane ticket, many are missing out on this terrific travel opportunity. Don’t let terms like “AMC” and “EML” scare you! Especially from Okinawa, Space A is the perfect way to check out Asia – for FREE! For in-depth info on the how-to’s of Space A check out Space A for Dummies, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Space-A But Were Afraid To Ask, or An Idiot’s Guide to Space A.

Already know about Space-A but think it can’t be done with kids? Think again! Okinawa Hai reader Melissa Thurber is here to tell you just how easy traveling Space A with children can be. She and her family recently spent an unforgettable week in Singapore!

CONTRIBUTED BY MELISSA THURBER

Kids

Our kids are 2 and 4: traveling with little ones is always a bit of a challenge, but thanks to Space-A the trip was actually quite easy. Initially we spent some time in Tokyo, and then caught a hop from Yokota to Singapore.

Planes, Trains and Taxicabs:

Dc8

Our flight was on a DC-8 that was outfitted to hold cargo and passengers. It was run by ATI and they did a bang-up job! The plane’s passenger capacity was 32, but there were only 15 passengers with two flight attendants. According to the flight attendants, flights are only full during the summer and holidays. Our plane left about an hour after the scheduled departure, but once in the air everything went smoothly. They fed us more good food than we could possibly eat, and seven hours went by pretty quickly watching movies.

Taxicab

Once on the ground in Singapore, we grabbed a cab from the airport to our hotel in Sembawang, the “American Military” part of Singapore. It took about 30 minutes and cost about 20 dollars. Some of the cabs take credit cards, but plan on having cash to pay. On_the_train

Train

Since English is the country’s primary language it is quite easy to get around. We walked to the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station and rode it everywhere. They do have a tourist pass, which I would recommend. You can purchase it at any of the MRT stations. Kids under 100cm ride free.

Navy_inn

We stayed at The Navy Gateway Inn, which was fabulous and cheap! The outside doesn’t look like much, but once inside our room, we were very pleased. We had a 3-bedroom, 2-bath apartment with laundry facilities right outside the kitchen door for less than $50 USD/night. If you’re traveling Space-A, you can only call 5 days prior to your scheduled arrival to reserve a room. They have an email address, but we found it didn’t work so well. You do need to pay for the room in cash, so keep that in mind when planning how much cash to have on-hand.

There isn’t an American Military Base in Singapore, but rather an American Military SPACE, located in a building at the Singapore Navy Port. It’s home to a very, very small commissary/NEX, which isn’t much larger than the shopette on Foster. There is a Navy Federal bank there and a cash cage to exchange money. At the time of this post, 1 US dollar was worth 1.5 Singapore Dollars (SGD). We were able to hit the bank and commissary/NEX and buy some necessities for the room the first day. They do have very limited hours and are not open on Sunday.

Singapore and More!

Tiger_zoo

The kids loved the Singapore Zoo. There are no metal cages at this zoo; instead the animals are kept in realistic habitats surrounded by dry or wet moats. Thanks to this “open zoo” plan, we really got up-close and personal with the animals. There were parts of the zoo where we walked with orangutans over our heads on the cables and trees. We were all able to ride an elephant (and have a picture taken while on it) and had we known earlier, we could have had breakfast with the orangutans.

Mall

Vivo City Mall is an attraction all it’s own, with event spaces, al fresco dining along a 300 m promenade and a large roof top amphitheatre. It also has a station for the Sentosa Express monorail, which is a fun four-minute ride to Sentosa Island.

Sentosa_island

Sentosa Island is home to many attractions, one of which is Underwater World. Personally, I didn’t think it was worth the admission price of $22 SGD per person, because it didn’t hold a candle to Okinawa’s Churaumi Aquarium and Ocean Expo Park.

We did see a nice dolphin show which featured pink dolphins. However, we didn’t actually see any pink looking dolphins. My daughter kept asking me where the pink dolphins were! After the show started, we learned something interesting: unlike humans who “go gray” with age, pink dolphins start out gray and “go pink” with age. The dolphins in our show hadn’t matured enough to turn pink!

Dolphin_lagoon_1

They’ll look like this when they’re older. 🙂

Song_of_the_sea

You don’t want to miss a nighttime on-the-water laser-light/fireworks extravaganza called “Songs of the Sea”. It was the best $8 SGD we spent! Photographers mingled during the show taking pictures for about $20 SGD. Ours turned out really nice, especially since we don’t have many family pictures from our vacation.

The shopping in Singapore is out of this world! Downtown Singapore has every big-name store you can think of. Unfortunately, the prices are astronomical: a bottle of OPI nail polish was $30 SGD. We did buy a few souvenirs, but mostly we did a LOT of window-shopping. It was so nice to be able to read everything and see tall buildings! We spent a whole day downtown just walking around and looking at the sites.

Chinatown

Chinatown was really nice and clean. The vendors were a little pushy, but not horrible. I highly recommend visiting the Hindu Temple that is in Chinatown.

Bugis 

Bugis Street was a ton of fun. It’s Singapore’s largest outdoor market. It goes on and on for blocks. Vendors sell fruit, food, clothing, touristy trinkets, and everything in between. As with all great outdoor markets, prices are negotiable – haggling is as much fun as shopping!

Singapore has alot to offer. Whether it’s bargaining in an open-air market, meditating at an ancient shrine, upscale dining or down home cooking – Singapore is the ultimate smorgasbord of adventure. But don’t take my word for it, pack your bags and see for yourself! Thanks to Space A, traveling through Asia is now a snap!

*****

For additional Space A flight/registration inquiries contact:

Kadena Passenger Service
Commercial: 011-81-611-734-0153
DSN: 634-0153/632-6487
Fax: 634-4221

Yokota Air Base Travel Information Desk
Commercial: 011-81-31175-5-5662
DSN: 315-225- 5662 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              315-225- 5662      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              315-225- 5662      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax: 315-225-9768


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14 Comments
  • November 27, 2010

    Hey Steve, when I went I registered for the flight back when I landed in Singapore. I am not sure if you can call ahead but I think I remember that you had to be there first as I was already on an active flight registration from Yokota (something like that!). I stayed in Singapore for a week. I went in Feb (myself and 2 kids) during school time and I was cat. 4. All the Cat 6 retirees got on the plane. It was easy to get back, but going there I got stuck in Yokota for 5 days! It’s the luck of the draw!

    Reply
  • November 25, 2010

    How difficult is it to go from Singapore to Yokota. Do you have to send Singapore a Space A Registration that is good for 60 days or is it first come, first serve when you are in Singapore trying to get back to Yokota? Thanks

    MSG Steve Rosenzweig, retired
    Reply
  • January 28, 2010

    Hi Danielle,
    Yes, you can do that. There are a few flights that go out of Kadena each week back to the States, but none are actually scheduled, except for what they call the “Patriot Express” which is a flight that goes from Kadena to Seattle every Friday I believe. It is hard to get on this, especially during “peak” seasons. Are you traveling with your sponsor or without? If you are traveling with your sponsor, you are much more likely to get on a flight, but if you are a spouse traveling alone, it is far more difficult. At the Space-A workshop I went to, the guys were answering questions, and told me that if I was trying to get back to the States alone, I pretty much had no chance on the Patriot Express and to try to get out on one of the other “un-scheduled” flights back to the US during the week. I’m hoping to try it soon (alone back to the States), so I will post on here about my experiences if I do!

    Cortnie
    Reply
  • January 28, 2010

    Does anyone know if you can take a Space A back to the states? Like Okinawa to Seattle or something like that?? Thank ya!

    Danielle
    Reply
  • August 16, 2009

    Hello everyone,

    I have a slight problem. My husband will be in Atsugi, Japan next month and would like for me to come. I was wondering if anyone had information on things to do there? I would appreciate resources also.

    Thanks

    Lora
    Reply
  • July 27, 2009

    apparently you can book reservations out 30 days… and they go FAST!! the guy on the phone told me that the rooms only allow for three persons per room configuration (even in a suite!) as per fire marshall, so if you have a family of 4, you may have to do some slick talking. maybe we’ll get to go some day….. =(

    MA
    Reply
  • March 23, 2009

    We are looking into talking our first EML space-a trip. Does anyone have a reccomendation for how much time my husband should take off work?

    Reply
  • February 1, 2009

    Julie,

    About how much does it cost to take the bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpor? And do you think I could do this alone with my 1 year old?

    I had wanted to go on the Singapore/Malaysia trip, but it was $4,000 for my son and I to go and I have a feeling Space-A and the Navy Gateway Inn would be a cheaper route. The only problem is, the tour provides other people to travel with, where if I go by myself, I’m on my own.

    Keirnan
    Reply
  • January 19, 2009

    HI Julie, Dasha, et al!
    Thank you SO Much for this info on space a to Singapore, as I hope to make it there w/in the next couple of months. Can I ask whether you think it’s easier to catch a hop from kadena or mainland (Yokota) as I will be coming from Oki w/a baby! I want to make it as efficient as possible….also, I’d like to consider the Navy Lodge if it’s fairly central? Thanks again for any tips!

    Maria
    Reply
  • November 11, 2008

    Wow…. I thought I was looking at my pictures of this summer and reading my own diary! How funny! Some girlfriends and I, and our kids, did the same thing this summer. We traveled space A from Kadena to Singapore, shopped everywhere, did everything, rode the MRT everywhere and stayed at the Navy gateway inn (which I will add has a fully stocked kitchen too). We then took a bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur for a couple of days and did the same thing there. Then back to Singapore where we caught the flight back to Yokota, (we were stuck there for almost a week), took the train to Atsugi and caught a flight back to Kadena from there. Was one hell of an experience i’ll never ever forget! One tip, when bringing kids, plan a fun day for them, a break from all the sight seeing and shopping. I took mine to the Sunway Lagoon in KL. Was a huge amusement park and a lot of fun. Also, the taxi you have pictured (the blue comfort taxi) they’re the only honest ones there, stick with them. Next on the list is Korea and Australia (hopefully), oh, and can’t forget Thailand!!

    Julie
    Reply
  • November 8, 2008

    Thanks for sharing all your great tips on space a travel. It really got me thinking about planning a trip.

    Reply
  • November 8, 2008

    Hello Dasha,

    Great post!
    Thank you Melissa for sharing your vacation with us.
    DH and I were looking at Google Earth the other night to see what locations we would like to go see that are near Oki.
    Granted I know that I might not want to get near a plane any time soon after arriving but its good to have a game plan. 3 yrs will go by in a blink of an eye.
    Keep the Space A adventures coming!
    Take care ~ Denise

    Denise
    Reply
  • November 7, 2008

    Thanks, Dasha! Have been wanting to do Singapore- and I had no idea there is a Navy lodge….and Space A seems do-able! Thanks for the info!

    Staci
    Reply
  • November 7, 2008

    Thanks for sharing, Melissa!

    And Dasha, thanks for giving up your day to make this picture, linky perfect!

    Reply