Holidays with kids are tricky things – too much adult stuff and the kids are insufferably bored (and let you know about it). But too much kid stuff and the people who are paying suddenly start losing the will to live (or at least the desire to ever book another family holiday).
So when you find a destination that balances both, just a short seven-hour flight from Sydney and cheaper than yet another trip to the Gold Coast theme parks, it's almost part of the parent code to shout it from the rooftops.
And so, I present to you: Legoland Malaysia, also known as paradise on earth for kids of all ages and their parents.
Getting there is simple – my five-year-old daughter and I boarded a Singapore Airlines flight at Sydney Airport one Monday morning in November, and touched down at Changi Airport just seven hours later.
Thirty minutes after arrival (Changi has super-speedy "parents with children" express lanes that make it a breeze to navigate with kids in tow), we had already been reunited with our baggage and were getting into our airconditioned private transfer across the border into Malaysia.
Despite some traffic, we pulled into the Legoland Malaysia Resort driveway less than 90 minutes later, stepping into a lobby so spectacular my daughter instantly declared she liked Legoland more than Christmas.
WHERE TO STAY
Almost everything is made of Lego, including a life-size pirate ship, a castle and two pits filled with more than one million bricks and a good portion of the children (and their parents) staying in the resort.
The motto of Legoland is "everything is awesome" and this is evident everywhere – even the lifts are decked out with disco balls and loud music, making them an instant highlight.
The resort has 263 rooms, all of which are themed – Kingdom, Adventure, Ninjago. Our home for the next few nights was an Egyptian Adventure room, which contains a spacious bathroom, kids' bedroom with bunk beds, and a separate adults' room (a key element for a family holiday where parents can actually relax).
Again, absolutely everything in the room is awesome – from the intricate and vibrant wallpaper and carpet to the tarantulas, scorpions and birds (all made out of lego of course) decorating the walls, it's like being in a movie, complete with your own quest, where kids must answer questions to discover the combination to a comically large safe in the corner of the room.
After a feverish search (how many lizards are there on the carpet?), we got the combination right and our reward was a gift of (you guessed it) Lego.
WHERE TO EAT
Anyone who has ever spent more than a few hours with a young child, knows how difficult feeding them can be.
On holidays, this problem often goes into overdrive – when your little person only eats green food, or yoghurt with pictures of red giraffes on the packet, how can you risk going somewhere where supply of these items is not guaranteed?
The only answer is a buffet and at Legoland, Bricks Family Restaurant is just the ticket, with a spread including everything from plain pasta or rice to spicy Malaysian curries or made-to-order noodle soups.
Everyone is happy, and that's before you get to the dessert section, which contains 25 different types of cakes, ice creams and even some local traditional options.
If you're after something a little fancier, there's Di Mattoni, which serves up family-friendly Italian cuisine, including pizza, pasta, soups and desserts.
There's also Kai's sushi bar, a new Japanese restaurant on the premises, and Coffee @ Bricks, which offers cakes, sandwiches and pastries served alongside barista-made coffee.
WHERE TO PLAY
After a good night's sleep, we are ready for what we came here for – the theme parks.
Legoland, Malaysia's first international theme park, opened its doors in September 2012. We are waiting when it opens at 10am and spend the entire day exploring its eight themed areas, including roller-coasters, water rides, a train, the world's first virtual reality rollercoaster and MINILAND, where Asia's most iconic landmarks are recreated using more than 30 million Lego bricks.
The park has several well-priced food options so you don't need to leave during the day, but be aware there are height limits on almost all the rides, which can make things challenging for younger children (although my 120cm five-year-old could go on everything).
LEGOLAND WATER PARK
Legoland's water park opened in October 2013 and is the largest of its kind in the world. There is an enormous wave pool, more than 20 water slides, interactive splash parks for older and younger children and the Build-A-Raft river, which allows children to customise their own rafts using soft Lego bricks before floating down a lazy river. Again, there are height and rider number restrictions (some slides require a minimum of three riders in a raft, making it challenging if you're only a twosome), but we found plenty to keep us occupied for a very fun day
SEA LIFE MALAYSIA
After two days out and about in the heat and humidity, we were pretty cooked, which must be a fairly common complaint as this May, Legoland opened SEA LIFE Malaysia, which allows you to get out of the sun and into the airconditioning for a few hours of indoor fun. The aquarium is home to more than 13,000 sea creatures including seahorses, jellyfish, sharks, sting rays and all manner of fish. There is also an amazing section where children can colour in their own fish, then set their virtual creation off swimming in a 'tank' made up of huge screens on the wall.
FOR THE PARENTS
While a stress-free, high-fun holiday for the kids is obviously great, you might be wondering where the "parent-child balance" comes in. The answer is less than an hour away on the up-and-coming Desaru Coast, a new tourist area with some serious luxury clout.
We chose the Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast, which opened last year. Along with the level of luxe you would expect from a Hard Rock Hotel, this property crucially has a kids club, which my daughter is happy to play in while I enjoy some cocktails by the Instagram-friendly pool and a massage in the day spa
Dinner here is another buffet – hey, it's a winning formula, don't mess with it – and if you're so inclined, you can check out the adjacent Desaru Coast Adventure Water Park, which is home to rides and slides for all ages (and handily accessed through a private gate direct from the hotel).
Once you've recharged, you can get back to Singapore by ferry in just 30 minutes where you can fly home, or choose to stay a few days to enjoy everything that world class city has to offer.
We stayed for a day, taking in Gardens by the Bay and Afternoon Tea at Raffles before jumping on a night flight home – and my daughter slept from before takeoff until after landing, the perfect end to a perfect family holiday.