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New trip plans

May 20th, 2024 at 06:30 am

So I ended up cancelling last thursday our trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon because the Narrows was closed and unsure if they were opening.  I didn't want to do a trip that honestly the highlight was the narrows.  The national parks website says it's partially opened today but I would really want to do everything and hope it was calmer than just below the opening number.  So instead I rebooked the trip for next memorial day and crossing my fingers it's better next year.

Instead I rebooked us to Washington DC.  This was a trip I had on my calendar for next summer, but it was a bit daunting since I had been thinking of doing it over 10 days or a week and two weekends.  I was thinking of doing it with Philly and NYC.  But honestly a trip of that magnitude seemed overwhelming long and too much.  So when this opportunity arose, I thought let's just do DC.  Yes it's more expensive to do three trips back to the east coast, but at the same time, I think doing DC, NYC, Philly and still planning a Boston/New England trip seemed like a lot.  Instead we'll just do a week in DC, then maybe a week in NY/Philly and then Boston another time.  

Zion and Bryce is still on my bucket list and making the reservation now for next Memorial makes it still seem possible.

Well I managed to snag mileage tickets going into Reagan Airport and arriving at 9 pm on wednesday for 30k miles one way for each of us.  The tickets are runnign around $700 per person one way otherwise.  I then had a 40% bonus on Chase Ultimate Rewards points for transferring to Marriot and instead we are staying in DC for 200k for 5 nights until Monday 5/27.  Then we move for the night to IAD Marriott Hotel for $90 including taxes and fees so we can leave 5/28 at 9 am out of IAD Dulles.  Both flights are non-stop to and from DC.

Between our free "hotel" and free one way airfare, and I paid $370 per person to flight on 5/28 home for a total of $1480 plus $90 hotel, we are looking at $1570 so far.  All the museums are free and we may do a bus or trolley tour.  This trip will be mostly eating out.  Will it be cheap?  Pretty reasaonable.  

I'm guessing we can get away with $200/day in Lunch and Dinner out for a family of four as long as we don't go to a nice sitdown place.  How does it compare to Bryce and Zion?  Well it's substantially more to go to Bryce and Zion because I was paying $250/night to stay in the lodges in the park so $1000 for 4 nights.  Then a night in Caesars and a night in Manadalay Bay coming and going out of las vegas.  Then $300 for a rental car.  Our flights were around $400 round trip per person.  So I would say that we just happened to have points for the hotel and if we didn't I think we would have found a hotel chepaer than $250/night.  

So yes we are struggling with no capital tour and no timed entry to african american museum, and I have to hope i get the washington monument.  But at the same time it'll be pretty nifty.  I was told the kids ages 11 and 14 are a great age to go. I went at age 13 (8th grade like my DK1) to Washington DC from Hawaii.  Can you imagine? It was incredible to go so far from home on a school trip without my parents?  

It was the start of my love of traveling.  Till today I still love traveling. Although now as I get older I notice I need a bit more comfort and better seats. I'm looking at trying to upgrade my seats to premium economy.

Singapore & Thailand financial wrap up

January 11th, 2024 at 11:46 pm

So we went to Singapore and Thailand and had a lovely time.  I had fun posting only some of the photos.  The photos were better than I posted. But I guess I have to do a financial wrap up.

We flew to Singapore on Singapore Airlines connecting through LAX.  I used miles for me and both kids.  I bought a one way ticket for DH.  Miles on Alaska airlines for me and both kids were 47,500 each one way plus $54 cash.  Then I bought DH's ticket for $786.50.  So our miles were worth 1.66 cents/mile.   I also upgraded our seats for $150 or $50 for each of us for front of the cabin premium seats.  These seats allowed us to not have anyone sitting next to us so we had 3 seats for me and DK2, DH and DK1 also had 3 seats for the two of them.  So we were able to spread out and sleep better.  Worth every penny.

Then I used miles on United to return through SFO.  That flight was 58,100 miles and the cost of the tickets fees were $206 for 3 of us.  DH's ticket was $863 one way so the miles we got were 1.49 cents/mile.  Which wasn't as good but we also don't normally fly united, and we've been trying to burn the miles.  Then I got offered a deal for upgrading to premium economy for $450 per person or $1800 total.  It ended up going for thousands more in premium economy.  Premium economy on united dreamliner is like domestic first class seats.  It really helped with sleeping and the jet lag.  

Then our flights from singapore to thailand round trip was $544.74 including seat selection.  So in total we spent $4405 on 4 tickets round trip to Singapore with a detour into Thailand with premium economy and economy plus seats and of course miles.  It did wipe out a lot of my alaska miles and thankfully our united miles which we've been trying to use for years.  

Then when we got to Singapore we stayed at the JW marriott hotel for 5 nights because we booked with points.  Marriott has a deal where you book 4 nights with points you get the 5th night free.  Average cost there is $500/night if not more and the location is spectacular and the hotel as well.  We paid $328.49 in fees plus 199,000 marriott points so averaged around 40k points a night.  At 1 cent per mile it's $400/night and I think it cost much more than that.

Then we went to Krabi and stayed at Centara Resorts with a private pool.  For 3 nights we paid $735 including airport transfers.  Then for our last night in Singapore when we returned we stayed at the Marina Bay Sands.  I'm cringing to write this but we paid $844.59 for 1 night although it included breakfast at a super fancy buffet.  Was it worth it?  Yes.  I don't know if we'd do it again. I've never paid that much for a hotel for one night or airbnb.  But it's not just any hotel. I could have used points to cover the trip if I wanted, but i just decided to pay for it.  

What else did we spend?  Well gocity cards in singapore for $1166 for the four of us.  Did we get our money's worth?  Well adult tickets for everything we did would have cost around $714 adults and $398 for kids so yes we did.  Now universal I would have skipped but for the pass because we literally rode like 3 rides.  But it was fun and we had a fantastic time eating there and we always like eating the local food of amusement parks where we go. I did mention the best buffet i've ever had was disneyland hong kong right?  I mean asian fusion buffet with inexpensive labor means premium food and disney quality and hong kong is just world class dining to begin with just like singapore.  Also shows in these parts are often much nicer than you would think because they start working at a much more inexpensive cost and put on a bigger production.

We spent $380 on other entertainment like feeding rhinos, extra tickets to things not covered, tour in thailand (was $100 for the 4 of us!!!), etc.  We spent $859 on food, eating is cheap in asia especially Thailand.   And $545 on ubers in singapore/thailand other travel expenses.  

All in our trip for about 12 days cost us $9265. This is not a realistic budget though because many people would not have the miles to pay for tickets for 3 out of a family of 4.  Also most people would not be upgrading to better seats necessarily.  And many would not pay $844 for a hotel for 1 night.  So I think it could be done similarly if you didn't have miles and made some changes to the itinerary.

But overall right on target for what I was hoping to spend if not less than what I budgeted for disney.  That being said on our macchu picchu trip, I need to start a spreadsheet.  I have spreadsheets for all my trips to figure out the total cost.

Singapore Day 5

January 8th, 2024 at 04:57 pm

Since someone asked I decided to finish up photos and posting of the trip.  Our last full day in singapore we spent doing a Michelin Hawker Food tour included in our singapore Go City card for $80.  It was delicious and fun and we even got historical facts on the walking part as we ate and walked through a couple of hawker centers.  My favorite part of traveling is walking and hanging out and eating like a local.  When we were in singapore i used grab (like uber) to go places and rode the transit and ate at the hawker stalls or hole in the wall restaurants.  Some of the finest dining is in singapore, but we just couldn't get ourselves organized and honestly that interested over just exploring the city.  Here are some of the places we stopped at.

We interestingly ate there unknowingly while wandering on our own in the area the first day.  

We love curry puffs.

My DH ate here on the first day and it was great.  I wouldn't say everywhere took cards so cash was still needed.

Then we chilled in the pool and hotel room the rest of the day until that evening when we went to the Night Safari.  This was also included on our go city card I think if i had bought the package of the zoos and night safari it was like $100 SGD+.  It was pretty fun.  The nicest part about the go city card was going to places and not feeling guilty if it was only a few minutes or longer. 

Since you have to make a reservation for the night safari, I made a reservation to feed the rhinos.  One of the highlights of the trip.  The night safari is just a ride on this tram through a different zoo to see the animal at night, especially the nocturnal ones.

The next day we left for thailand.

 

Tickets to hawaii pricing for the year

December 31st, 2023 at 03:36 am

I usually never travel this much to hawaii.  So I was curious how the year stacked up.  I know from chatting with friends who always ask me LAL what's a good price and when should we go? I tell them end of April and late October is typically cheap and easy. Also January after MLK weekend is another cheap time to come to Hawaii.  January might even be better with hotel pricing and winter for many folks.

But what have you spent LAL and did you get a good deal?  I am about to do an end of year shakedown which normally I would cringe about spending so much but life is short.  And my DH said when I mentioned it, this is a short term spending because when will I be coming to hawaii so often?  Never again.  

Traveling on 12/19 and returning 1/1 we paid $2034 for 4 tickets.  We used two alaska airlines companion fares which on each purchased roundtrip ticket.  That means the $95 annual credit card fee for a $121 companion ticket (this is the fees) was used as a BOGO on $896 ticket for DH and me.  Pretty good ROI on $95 was $896.  Average cost of Xmas ticket?  $508 per person which for hawaii at christmas is a steal.  Miles run around 50k one way if you can land it.  Hawaii is very expensive always to visit at the holidays and I don't recommend it.

October 12 $179 one way

October 17 $179 one way

August 9 $115 one way per person (1 paid for 3 of us) = $345

August 15 $102 one way per person (I paid for 3 of us) = $306

June 23rd $323 one way per person (I paid for 3 of us) = $970, our flight was cancelled that day by Delta and I had to rebook in a emergency, I had bought tickets on delta for 17,500 miles one way per person Frown

July 6th $265 one way per person (I paid for 3 of us) = $795

May 3rd $269

May 7th $228

Feb 20th $347, i flew to hawaii via boston and hawaiian airlines direct with miles I believe 35k miles.

Total for year for me was $2515 for me out of pocket 6 round trip tickets = $419 average round trip ticket to hawaii.  Total spent? $5652 for a total of 6 LAL + 3 DK1 + 3 DK2 + 1 DH = 13 rountrip tickets for an average of $434 per roundtrip.  

So if I were a family looking to budget I would say $450 to be conservative from the West Coast as long as it's not Xmas holidays. 

I had my suspicion but if we backed out the Xmas tickets which I think blew everything out of the water, the spending on our airline tickets to hawaii wasn't bad.

Next up?  Maybe our total travel spending for the year.  All in I am going to guess we're close to the $20-25k/year I budget and use in our numbers.  

Day 4 Singapore

September 18th, 2023 at 06:43 pm

Day 4 

Our fourth day in Singapore was super busy.  We were heading to Sentosa Island for Universal Studios Singapore.  But we started out by heading to the Mount Faber Cable Car ride to Sentosa Island. It's a neat view of the city and the man made island.  Cost $28 SGD and included on the Go City Card. 

We then did the Sky Helix  at the sentose cable car station cost $18 SGD and included on the Go City Card.  We also did the 4d ride cost $30 SGD included and the Luge  but not included with the go city card so we paid $88 total for 4 of us.  The luge is basically think a downhill non snow sled ride.  The kids had a great time.

Then we cable car to Resort World Universal Studios.  The cost? $80 SGD but included in the Go City.  We got there around 1 pm but had lunch first outside at their malaysian food court.  Again pricey since it's universal (cheap compared to North America) but expensive for the area.

What was Universal like?  It was pretty crowded but overall fun.  A super small park easily doable in 1 day.  We rode like 3 rides and enjoyed the singapore foods with a twist.  Just like Mcdonald's. 

We left around 5 pm riding the monorail back to Singapore island.  We had to use all forms of transit - cable car, monorail, bus, and uber that day!  Anyway we had dinner again this time at the Suntec Food Court and Monster Curry.  Running total for the day $138 + $357 SGD = $495 SGD.  

Would we have done so much without the card?  Probably not.  Mostly because we wouldn't have gone to Universal.  $80 for a pretty small park.  But included?  For sure.

Traveling as a family of four

September 6th, 2023 at 06:13 am

We had a lovely trip to Singapore and Thailand at the end of August. I'll post some photos and notes in the next few days.  But I have to write a bit about my experience reading blogs about travel and traveling with kids.

I read a lot of posts about "saving" money while traveilng.  Mostly about transportation cost, using miles, hotels, etc.  Of course there are a bunch of bloggers writing about traveling with kids first class because of miles and getting free airline hotel comps or cruise comps.  They aren't exactly average joes looking for a deal.  Their job is blogging and ads and evaluating where they are going.  So it's not really easy to discern how expensive traveling with kids is or how easy or hard it really.  And of course there are a ton of bloggers who are single or couples doing it super cheap not constrained by school schedules and use to paying for a family of four.

So I just wanted to put it out there reality wise for all those blogs I read about food, transportation, etc.

1.  When you travel as a family of 4 or 5, sometimes it's cheaper to use a cab.  No public transit is not cheaper.  I can prove it with my uber rides versus paying $2 a person for a one way subway and having to walk.  We did use the subway/bus/walk because of the experience and fun.  But the truth is that with 4 people it's often more economical to use a grab.  I made a conscious decision not to buy a $5 transit pass card because I suspected that using ubers would be more efficient and I was right.

Also after a long day it's often times easier to go straight back and not waste an extra 30-60 minutes navigating a subway/walking/waiting with kids and maximize rest times.

2. Hotels often in Europe and Asia are built for 2. It's way more expensive and harder to find rooms accomodating families.  You can easily get 2 rooms but then you are sharing with one adult one kid.  The rooms are smaller and meant for couples.

3. Food stalls are awesome as a single or couple. It's somewhat painful to go eat at food courts with a family where you have to get your kids food, navigate a seat, get your food, and navigate trying to accomodate everything.

4. Kids need down time. Even older kids aren't as resilient as adults.  A lot of flexibility and change need to happen.

5. Carrying around a lot more and spending more. I already had a backpack on the entire time filled with sunscreen, 1 water bottle, napkins, tissues, hand sanitizer.  And I still spent more than those couples/singles with their one bottle. I bought from vending machines and 7-11 drinks because it's awful to carry around 4 drinks.  I learned that years ago.  1 bottle of water to refill in case of emergency and you buy everything else you need along the way.  Water/drinks are cheap compared to the effort of carrying it.

6. Food - i missed the michelin star food hawker stalls in singapore because trying to find it and wait in line impossible. I had fantastic food and we had a fabulous time, but as a family? You have to let go and go with the flow rather than making perfection happen.

7. Sometimes you just do the experience in front of you instead of what you planned.  There were all these itineraries of "travel" warriors for seeing everything.  Couldn't be done with my two kids ages 11 and 13.  They just couldn't hack those days.  Our itinerary was jammed packed for a family, but it still didn't come close to what bloggers write.

8.  I paid extra to sit up front in economy going and we lucked out to have no one sitting next to DH and DK1 grabbed and empty row.  Coming back I forked over $450 per person for economy plus on our mileage tickets and it was worth every penny.  

9.  Find a hotel with an amazing pool.  We had three crazy pools and it was incredible.  We needed downtime to just relax.

10.  When you land you pay a premium to eat either in the hotel as a family or nearby but often you are too exhausted to care where or what you eat.  Our most expensive meals were when we couldn't move.

I just had to post a few thoughts on traveling with kids.  I guess I found myself a bit cynical after reading a lot of blogs about itineraries and ideas.  But none really hit on traveling with kids.  

FWIW, it's awesome and fun to travel with our kids.  We always have a blast and our experiences if you've read my blog the photos have been good.  But for anyone who thinks it's what other bloggers write? Or try to experience or do it on the cheap?

It's not.  Even reading about people going to disney?  There are way to do it cheaper but cheap? Or to do it the way some single or couples do it?  with a family?  Impossible.  So cut yourself a break and enjoy the ride.

Further Flight Deals

July 31st, 2023 at 08:12 pm

So how good of a deal did I get?  Well last week I managed to book me and the two kids round trip tickets to hawaii for $655 total for 3 people.  That works out to $218 per person round trip.

Alaska airlines was having a 2 day sale for BOGO to and from Kona.  So the price of our one way ticket was $103 per person.  That is $309 for all three of us returning from Kona.  Then going the same thing happened except it was $347 for 3 of us or $115 per person.   I had already reduced our fare a couple weeks ago to $200 one way pers person so our total trip already was $1200 for the three of us.  Now I got it almost 50% off.

I sent it to my friends but some people can't get out of their own way.  Instead they kept their booked tickets and paid $600 per person to go to hawaii.  I get it.   Once you book your tickets the idea of sitting there and snagging a deal is hard to wrap your head around.

This is the reason why booking the main cabin tickets for $40 per person with seat selection is worth it. If you buy saver fares you have to pay $150 to make a change. Instead you can cancel your ticket and use the credit to buy the new cheaper tickets. Or if you are hesitant if you talk with the airlines or through chat you are able to get them to give you airline credit for the overage.  I currently have around $679 in alaska wallet credit to be used in the future.   

So sometimes it's worth checking airfare much like checking the pricing of a hotel room or car rental.

playing the points and miles game

June 15th, 2023 at 09:32 pm

So I guess I'm sort of becoming one of those points people.  I had to unfortunately cancel our WDW at the end of august but DH said he still wanted to do something.  Why?  Because he wanted to relax and he had been looking forward to something.  So I had to come up with something that seemed fun but not as strenous.

So interestingly I found a us tickets to singapore. I managed to use miles on Alaska to fly to singpore for me and the two kids at 47.5k miles each.  Then on the return I managed to use 58k miles on united for us to fly back.  The fees for all of this was $216.50.  We have layovers going through LAX and returning through SFO.  I paid $50 each = $150 for us to choose our seats going.  DH I bought his tickets same flights with seat selection for $1649.65 for a grand total of $2060 for 4 round trip tickets.  Then we are going for 4 days and three nights to Krabi, Thailand.  Roundtrip those tickets with seats for 4 were $544.74.  Our flights total was $2605.54.  

I tentatively have booked a hotel for one night before we leave, 3 nights in Krabi, and I'm waiting for a few more miles to seal the hotel we want in singapore for points mostly.  The krabi was $2318 for 3 nights, i'm not sure if we should spend that much.  It's a lot because we needed 2 rooms.  In asia it's very common to not be able to fit a family of 4 in 1 room. So you typically need to book two rooms.  The beds and rooms are small.  There are other cheaper hotels so I haven't decided yet if we are keeping this "resort" style hotel or downgrading.  I also booked our last night in Singapore somewhere fancy and that was $844.59.  That I think we are keeping.  That indulgence had been suggested to us and I really do want to stay there. 

So for hotels so far $3163.57 plus the points for the other 5 nights and $400 cash at a marriott.  What's left?  I was looking at GoCitycards, about $1000 USD for activities, $320 for upgraded singapore universal passes (only me and the kids).  DH will likely just walk around and not ride anything.  Amusement parks in Asia are different and very interesting.  The food is really fun and cool and so different.  Typically the parks are busy but not crazy like the US, probably because it's not a "thing" in asia.  But we like to see their take on amusement parks.

Then food in singapore and thailand? I plan on a couple of michelin restaurants but they are going to be the food stalls. I am not sure I feel like eating at a super fancy or expensive michelin place with the kids.  And typically in Asia we tend to just stop and eat whatever looks interesting.  And food is usually so good and so cheap.  

My goal had been under $5k.  If I cancel the krabi hotel and go to a really cheap hotel (I am out of points) I think we could do it.  But I'm not sure I want to do that.  I spent more than i was expecting on flights around $2500.  When I started pricing it out I thought I could do it for $1000. But DH flights and paying for seat selections ended up more than I thought.

But we'll see.  I'm sure people are curious how much bang for the buck I can get.  Personally I got a lot of bang I feel from my miles for 3 of our tickets.  And our hotel points I also got a lot of bang for the buck so far.

retirement and covid

August 6th, 2022 at 03:06 pm

We've been pretty good about covid these past 2.5 years.  I think we are done for knock on wood.  About to leave for a trip and I'm pretty sure that my DK1 got covid from a friend.  We tested daily for the past 8 days and no symptoms for her.   But I woke up feeling tired.  I don't know if it's stress or prelude to covid.  My guess is she was positive earlier in the week and asymptomatic but vaccines worked and she didn't have high enough levels to detect it.  I have no idea.  I tested again today and we were all negative.  The naat thursday said negative.  But I just feel tired but could be stress over all of this.

Looks like the market rebounded slightly. I have nothing to report other than I am looking forward to a week away.  I hope to just chill.

 

Las Vegas Trip and NW update

June 2nd, 2022 at 09:44 pm

We've lost $300k on retirement alone and $100k on our taxable accounts.  We were very aggressively invested in our retirement accounts.  Say La Vie.  We have a long time until we retire.

We went to Las Vegas for the weekend and it was a lot of fun.  We had a great time with the kids.  While people don't think Las Vegas is kid friendly we found it to be.  It was a lot of fun.  We also spent a ton of money but that's what we chose to do. I think Vegas can be done cheaper especially the eating out and activities.

Prepaids $1668 for 4 flights, $1214 for Hotel, $1021 for O show, $253 Blue Man Group, and $688 for Go City Las Vegas Card = $4845 before we landed had been spent.  So not exactly cheap for a trip, but we were ready for fun.  I rented a car the first day so we could go to dinner, fremont experience and pick up friends from the airport.  That was $15 parking, $18.34 car rental ($40 free expedia point i had been trying to use), $8.50 gas, and $4 parking.  One day car rental then we used uber/lyft, taxi the rest of the time. 

We paid $171.97 for the rest of the days for uber including a $25 tip to the airport when the driver stopped and allowed us to grab our luggage from the hotel, drove to front, then loaded it, and waited for us to get it from bellhop.  He made the same as driving in tip.  He didn't have to but it was super nice of him.  We also tipped $5 to the maids daily in cash and a few other cash, so i'm unsure where the $120 in cash I had went (likely tips).  

The kids bought a necklace and MM and $10 games for $59.40.  That was the extent of our shopping except for some sunscreen and lotion from CVS.  We did only handcarry after all.  We also spent $5 gambling.  

Our biggest expense was eating out for $1914.37 for 6 days family of four.  That averages out to be $319/day.  Yikes.  I know we skewed it with a few fancier meals $362 morimotos (for adult couple only), $260 for Wynn Buffet dinner, $249 at hotel for drinks at cabana/pool, hotel.  So $1043 really for most meals I would guess $173/day for family of four sounds more in line. 

But the buffet (which wasn't great for the price and I am not a huge fan of buffets to begin with) the kids loved it. They had been asking about going to a buffet and on the last night we had a reservation at one of two open dinner buffets and they had a GREAT time.  They ate well (not the value of their $40 dinner) but they did try at least 1 new thing and surprised themselves by eating so many different varieties of food they normally wouldn't eat.  It was a lot of fun and we spent the full 2 hours eating and relaxing.  That day was ridiculous because we rented a cabana by the pool all day 9 am - 5 pm then uber to and from the wynn and sat and ate dinner and that was it.  The DH and kids had a blast.  Buffets are not good value and are not good food.  But they are fun and they are easy with a large group.  So you suck it up and go. 

Maybe I'll post some pictures.  We did a lot of touristy things with the kids like marvel station, linq zipline/high roller, helicopter ride over strip, bus tour, illuminarium, ny nyn roller coaster, excalibur 4d movie.  So overall the kids had a great time.  But it was not a cheap weekend.  $7705 all in for the family of four for 6 days.  And that is gambling with $5.  Had we been into gambling (mostly my DH, I wanted to but he kept saying no), then it would have cost us more.  But I have to say I loved it.  I liked the heat, the nightlife, the energy.  I can see why everyone from hawaii loves it and it's the 9th island.  Totally my cup of tea.  My family had a great time.  I think it could turn into an annual trip to seea a show, eat some buffet (yuck), and hang out.

Traveling is expensive

April 22nd, 2022 at 08:18 am

So I don't understand how people who have a family of four talk about how cheap it is to travel.  Okay maybe if we only used points for every plane ticket.  But how do you get so many tickets to travel every year if you aren't a big spender and no longer have work travel to help gain points?  I don't get it at all.  

We are planning on a 5 day trip to Las Vegas.  Tickets for the family will be $1669 roundtrip for 4.  Hotel will be $1215.  So before we step foot there we are out of pocket $2884.  So people who go for a week to europe or anywhere I always wonder how? I mean the only answer I have is that they get free hotels and free airfare because I can't seem to figure out how else to stay under $3k for a family of 4 on airline tickets.

That being said we  bought tickets to O for $1021 for the 4 fof us.  I'm also considering the go las vegas card for $900 for the 4 of us and it includes the blue man group, hoover dam (No one wants to do this with me) and a bunch of other activities.

I also just bought tickets to hawaii for our summer trip.  $588 for DK1 and DH, but his was using chase sapphire preferred points of 47,040 points.  I used a coupon and some discount codes we had for $614.73 for me and DK2 using a companion fare and codes.  So far we ar in for $1202.73.  Of course our lodging is covered mostly and we may go stay in a different city in hawaii for a few days so we will have hotel and rental car.  And of course I spend a lot on eating out and paying when we go so there is that.  But again How do you go for a week and spend $3k or less for a family of four when hotels are solidely $250-300/night other than free flights and hotels?

I also used our miles to fly to Canada this summer, unfortunately it's only booked 1 way so far to go to DH's cousins wedding.  We I need to figure out how to transfer more miles to use miles to fly back.  Although on a budget airlines the airline tickets are pretty cheap so maybe that would be worth it.  I also paid for 50% of the airbnb which I need to figure out if we are staying only there.

What are you thinking for travel?

Travel is coming back

September 22nd, 2021 at 07:34 pm

Well at least for us.  I booked a ton of reservations.  It's interesting that I decided that 2022 is it.   Started with Christmas 2021.  We are going back to Hawaii. I booked using a combination of miles and points.  Then I booked our tickets in February 2022 to Mexico.  Using the travel companion fare on Alaska it was $1500 for the 4 of us on the only direct flight.  We also paid for today our friend's timeshare for $1800 for the week.  It's a very fancy resort and for $1800 we got a 2 bedroom suite.  That is huge considering that $250/night is not unreasonable nowadays especially for a 2 bedroom suite which technically can fit another family.  If we wanted to save money we could easily invite another family for $800 for the week.

Finally I booked a flight to Canada for DH's cousin's wedding.  I finally snatched up and used our united airlines miles.  So we booked 4 tickets for $12 each and 26k miles.  Considering we've been sitting on our miles for years and never earning or using them.  I'm glad to be over and done.  1 less account to worry about.   We basically now always fly hawaiian or Alaska mostly because we want to fly direct.  Flying direct is a premium always.  This is also why using our unused miles is so nice.  We get to use miles we don't earn anymore and we get the only direct flight considering alaska didn't have any direct flights!

I am so excited right now.  Last hold up is DH's passport.  He sent it off for renewal this month and they said 18 weeks.  That puts him at January.  But I think we should be fine by then.  

Can you feel the energy?  I think life is getting back to normal.

4/7 Spending Update

April 7th, 2021 at 08:27 pm

So we went away this weekend and I haven't quite sorted out everything on that.  However I did manage to compile some.  So here is our spending for the month so far.

$252.40 for Groceries
$20.50 Eating out
$70.92 Alcohol
$66.09 Dog
$45.57 Gas
$427.31 Utilities (water, internet, xm subscription)
$14.90 Home Depot
$35.27 Haircuts
$6.60 Auto (windshield blades)
$77.13 Home Goods
$75.57 Gifts (Bought some stuff)
$9.61 Misc
$173.49 Kids ($135 piano lessons)
$71.56 Gas for road Trip
$494.79 eating out for trip/musuem/activities etc
Total $1841.39 so far for the month

So we are settling up the groceries for the VRBO with friends.  Personally I budgeted $1000 for the weekend and we will come in under.  I think the groceries and couple of meals out shared will be ~$250.  Also it doesn't include our share of the VRBO of $710 which I paid last month.  Personally I know we spent more on the weekend doing it with friends.  

I found it difficult to travel with one of the families and I won't be doing a VRBO again with them. I don't think we mesh well.  We haven't traveled together last summer in a road trip but we had our own rooms and kept food separate. I hadn't ever agreed to a VRBO before and now I know why I didn't.  They totally waste food and run up bills and don't care.  They have too much money and not enough time.  Even if we have money I can't stomach watching the food just get thrown away and wasted on such a large scale.  There is no scaling back excess.  I think it's better we keep things separate and try to separate out our eating.  

And example of the excess, the morning we left we got take out breakfast from a cafe they wanted to try.  LAL's family ordered 1 order of Eggs benedict came with side of 3 pancakes.  We shared that for 4 of us.  DH and I split eggs and kids ate the pancakes and fruit and yogurt at the VRBO.  2nd family (the shoppers) ordered 2 adult meals for the 4 of them and they mostly finished it.  The KUWJ family ordered 4 meals and threw away 50% of each meal if not more.  This is standard for them.  Even cooked meals they will serve their kids enormous portions then throw out whatever they don't eat.  There is no sensitivity that others probably want a portion.  I don't know that we can travel so up close and personal again.  I will also add that I realize I'm picky and this was my 1st and only trip we will be doing a VRBO with anyone again.  I suspect we'll only do hotels and keep things to ourselves.  

But otherwise it was fun.  FWIW we have traveled with Shoppers before multiple times and they are more along our lines of spending.  They do spend more than we do, but they are typically pretty thoughtful.  They realize they are traveling so they watch how they order so they don't waste food. They typically aren't just in excess of life and just throwing money around.  Everything is thoughtful.  Yes they spend money but they don't just waste it.  I can't explain the difference.  I

guess it's where they look for a good deal on a hotel "the shoppers" but the KUWJ just book the nicest place possible and to them $500-1000/night is normal.  The Shoppers will see $400 and be willing to ante up to stay but want to be sure it's a good "deal or value".  LAL's family?  $400?  No.  Don't want to spend that much even if we can afford it.  Goes against principals but will bend if we are traveling with other people to an extent.

Overall we had fun.  Next trip planned?  Camping at a family Camp May 21st Friday to Sunday.  Then a second camping weekend 6/4-6/6.  We are paying more than normal because we're "camping" in a cabin at a YMCA.  Basically renting a cabin they usually use for overnight summer camps.  Should be fun.  We are provided food and activities.  These are local camps and if our kids like it maybe they will want to do an overnight camp one day.

This month we are also booking 1 week of summer camp. 

my experience flying to hawaii

January 11th, 2021 at 10:22 pm

So we obviously flew to hawaii for Christmas.  We spent 3 weeks and when we went we tested 72 hours before for a negative test.  It was good we got our results back 24 hours after our test.  Anyway we flew out and the airport was empty.  It took us about 15 minutes from car to gate.  We arrived at the airport 1:45 minutes before our flight.  We arrived at the gate 1:30 minutes before the flight.  We then took 20 minutes standing in line at the gate to get our pre-clear bracelets from alaska.  This was to allow us the opportunity to bypass the forms in hawaii.  We wore kn95 masks and disposable kid masks, face shields, and gloves.  We then sat down, I bought a water and we went to the bathroom.  We were on a 5 pm flight PST arriving in hawaii 9 pm HST.  It was a total of 6 hours on the plan and 2.5 hours extra in airport.

So the airport wasn't busy.  But airlines started boarding 1 hour before departure.  They were supposed to board 40 minutes but they started early because they were boarding by rows.  Also the middle seats weren't sold so there should have been less people.  Actually this wasn't true. If you had bought your tickets early you were able to keep the middle if you rebooked your ticket from March-May.  

So the boarding should have been smooth but instead people were rushing.  They were called and they got up and rushed to board.  I think what happened is people were standing in line and then missed their boarding then felt pressured and naturally rushed to board.  UGH.  We were at the front having paid for the premium seats row 7.  So we waited till the very end.  Plus I was nervous about sitting on board just waiting. 

Overall it was good.  I was surprised how many people decided to use the bathroom on the plane.  The airlines handed out single packages of chex mix and one can of soda mini.  I didn't drink my drink or eat anything.  My kids only drank the soda with a straw.  We wiped down the seats, trays, seatbelts, etc.  I did test after flying and was found to be negative. I am also testing now after flying back last week. None of us have symptoms so it should be negative again.

I would not travel with children younger than my 8 and 10 year old. I think it's hard to sit there with a mask and faceshields and not eating or drinking. I think that it's hard to sit with masks and not eat or drink. I told my mom I was glad we made it but it was not an easy flight.  

I'm glad we went. My parents needed to see us.  They have been struggling so islolated and zoom is not the same.  They were so happy to see us and feel the social interactions they have been missing.  Besides the fact that my mom is used to seeing us every 6-12 weeks.  To go since Feb 2020 and no see us for 10 months was hard.  Typically she would come december, january, april, june, and october.  And we would typically go back Feb and August to see them or travel with them. So she was used to being able to be part of our lives.  It was just magnified that they were also unable to see their friends or other family. 

Hence why we decided it was worth it.  I will also say that hawaii had so many less covid cases and was mostly open that made us feel safer.  My kids loved swimming for hours a day.  They came back super tan.  We went out to eat both outdoors and indoor.  It was just felt so much more normal.  Anyway I'm hopeful that we might go back in April.

I'll write about hotels and activities later.

thanksgiving - it's time to be thankful

November 18th, 2020 at 06:41 pm

It's thanksgiving and it's time to be thankful for everything we have.  Yes I am frustrated with my parents.  I'm frustrated on so many levels but I decided I have to let it go. I can't stop them from going out. I can't stop them from getting on a plane and going back and forth between islands of hawaii. I can't stop them from riding the bus.  I can only say it is what it is and hope we make it out alive. I mean it makes me angry for my mom to say things like we'll "we're 90 and 69 year olds.  We've lived a good life so if we are meant to die, we die."  That's not the most positive thing I want to hear or think about but it's not worth arguing.  Nor is it worth arguing about fake news.  

I decided that I am pissed over my mom joining what I feel is a cult.  That I'm perfectly fine with legitimate values different from myself.  But watching fox news and spewing things that are completely fake news drives me crazy.  I have a lot of friends who are "republicans" and don't watch fox news and can tell me the values they have.  My mom - republican values of personal responsibility and the government doesn't get to tell me what to do.  And of course the fake news of everything else.  If she doesn't like it she pretends it's not real.  Sigh.  Again I have to "let it go."  Sometimes you can't argue with crazy.  For awhile there my mom told me that she heard covid wasn't real.  Yeah I know.  I don't know when this whole fake news will even if ever.

But I decided I need to bite my tongue and be thankful that they are healthy, we are healthy, and we stay that way.  I had a mammogram last week my first.  I was called on monday that I needed to come in for further testing. I had another mammogram and ultrasound on tuesday and luckily it's a benign cysts. I'm grateful they could fit me in the next day.  I'm glad I'm healthy. I can definitely feel the lump they are talking about and I had been panicking.  So it put into perspective. I can stay mad at my parents and think they are ridiculous.  Or I can say it is what it is.  At least they are healthy.  At least my family is healthy.

And I'm thankful that we've made it through this year and i hope to get older each and every year.  It certainly makes you appreciate everything you have.  But it also makes you appreciate how slow life has gotten with covid.  It makes you appreciate the idea that there is life outside of work.  I know the worry of the lump made my DH realize he has to slow down and stop pedal to the metal. I don't believe he works so hard because of $$.   The money he makes is a effect of him loving what he does.  But he works that hard because I think he likes the accolades and accomplishment.  That is a post for another day.

But face with our mortality?  Faced with the idea of us not being perfect?  It's hard.  It is real.  But I'm still thankful for everything I have.  Now we have to make it through thanksgiving.  DH's brother is visiting us and I'm nervous.  I'm also flying to hawaii for Christmas and nervous.  We'll see how that all goes.

 

Weekend away - it was surreal

May 25th, 2020 at 09:21 pm

We went away Friday to Sunday. Not far, just the coast about 3 hours from us. What a difference it makes. No one there was wearing a mask. People were going into stores without masks. They were not social distancing. They were going to eat in restaurants at 50% capacity.

We stayed in an empty cottage that hadn't been used since March 23rd. I'm not sure when we are going away again since we now prefer to not stay at a hotel. But then I'm not sure we are comfortable with VRBO or Airbnb when you can't be sure how much time between clients or if they really clean it. I mean that's a plus for a hotel is that you are more likely to have rules for cleaning.

We cooked and ate in the cottage but we had a fabulous time. We went and spent all day saturday and Friday afternoon and sunday morning at the beach. We flew kites, ate snacks, social distanced from all the rest of the people and the kids got super dirty and we played in the sand. We just relaxed. Everything I wanted for my birthday. I told DH I wanted a mental break. No homework, just fun playtime for all of us. He didn't bring work, I didn't bring work, kid's didn't do homework.

We just did nothing but fun all weekend. We slept in, and just played at the beach. Sounds crazy but I love the sand and the beach. In my heart it makes me mentally happy and I love seeing the water. Me and the kids run looking at horseshell crab shells. We just walked and let the dog play fetch. It's totally something we do in hawaii. Sit all day and play and get dirty then at 4 pm go home shower, eat dinner, watch tv, play games.

I guess this is why I miss hawaii. I miss these sort of days. My kids are very much beach/sand kids. No matter where we've lived in the summers we always go to the lake or beach and spend all day playing in the sand. I shake them off since the time they were 6 months old, with my pop up tent and we even snooze in the shade of my umbrella or tent. My DH isn't super thrilled and he doesn't quite find the same pleasure but to me I am happiest just sitting and reading or relaxing. Mental unwinding. My kids like to just dig and find tons of ways to expend energy and when it's hot they snooze as well.

Next up...thinking about our life... I'll post about it later.

Happy Mother's Day...i did nothing!!! Read below!!!

May 11th, 2020 at 09:44 pm

Happy mother's day a day late because I was enjoying not being online for a day! Whew. I read a bit on my tablet but overall I refused to do everything I do.

DH was so tired from doing everything (on a weekend) that I normally do he went to bed very early and took a NAP during the day.

He got up at 7 am with the kids, made me pancake breakfast. He then had to clean and walk the dog. I gave him a break and he went out and got takeout lunch because he could barely keep up with doing the dishes (loading dishwasher) and wiping table. Then we bought sushi for dinner and again he was "exhausted" by his day of just cleaning and i made him walk the dog again.

Yep. I did a load of laundry but I refused to wash a dish, pick up a dish, everything. I normally walk the dog 2-3x/day, I cook, I clean tables (kids bring their plates to sink) and they fold their laundry. But DH tends to not pick up or clean anything. He eats and leaves. And yes I do the dog and dinner and I even LAUGHED and said when we get takeout I always order, pick up and do everything.

So it was a GLORIOUS mother's day and hope every other mother had a glorious day as well. I just for once in 2 months felt like I didn't do ANYTHING! And I didn't!

spending 2020 money already

November 6th, 2019 at 08:00 pm

So today I booked girl scout camp for 1 week for DK in August 2020. $25 deposit each but the camp will be $500/each including transportation and 1 overnight. They are going with a couple of friends and their first overnight away from us. So we decided to go for it. If they hate it we won't send them away. Interestingly a lot of kids in our neighborhood went last year to sleep away camp for a week and a bunch are going this year. My DK1 is not willing to try it. I figure by the time she's going into 6th maybe?

I booked a cruise in Japan in June 2020 through costco on Princess. For the four of us it's $5356 including free gratuities, shipboard credit, and free upgrade. I think we are planning on using our miles for the flights. I did find a flight to return through Hawaii on Air Asia for $168 per person and return home for $260. So that is on the table. I'm also getting the marriott bonvoy credit card for $95 and 3 nights free I want book and hope to use for our trip. I'm going to budget $10k for the trip not including the miles for airfare.

We also have a couple weeks away for 3 nights each and ~$200 so we are spending $600 for hotels 2x and I'm going to guess $200 on food each day plus gas and parking. That takes care of our trips thus far and spending for 2020.

I also booked hawaii in Feb but I had miles for that so I guess it was $40 total in fees. I also stay with family and don't rent a car so for the 6 days I'm guessing we'll spend $200/day eating out (gotta treat the parents and family so maybe more).

I have one more October/Thanksgiving trip in 2020 to plan. I am hoping to go to southeast asia. I will be out of miles but I may have points from Chase sapphire reserve that I might use for some of it. I'm hoping to come in around $10k for that trip depending on how long we go for and where. Tickets will be the cost eater. I'm hoping to stay under $4k for the four of us which will likely decide where we go.

I'm curious if these miles and free nights work out.

WDW part 2

October 30th, 2019 at 07:50 pm

So then on Monday 10/14 night we checked into WDW Marriott Swan hotel. Unfortunately for us the power went out that day in half the hotel. So checking in took over 1 hour and it was a ZOO. Had we known we'd have gone to eat out before arriving at the hotel and assuming we could eat there. The restaurants were closed and we had to go to the Dolphin and it was busy.

So besides the parking how much spending did we do? We spent $64 on magic bands to make using our fastpasses easier. It really helped with the kids. I sort of wish there was a way to buy express passes for disney like Universal or buy more fast passes. I hated waiting in lines and while we mostly skipped anything with lines, because of our compressed time frame it would have been nicer to have all rides planned.

I want to add we stopped at publix and bought 8 pack of coke and 8 pack of powerade to drink in the park daily. The kids each had a bottle of powerade and water daily and we refilled. DH had cokes and I had water. This saved us on paying park prices but was only possible because we had a car to shop. If we were really frugal we'd have packed lunches daily and lots of snacks. But I felt like part of the fun was eating disney themed food.

But 10/15 we went to HS by boat and we spent $103.70 on food for the day. We mobile ordered at Docking bay 7 while doing the millenium falcon ride during EMH and it was good. The ride was awesome and we waited around 40 minutes. Other than that counter service we ate at the Epcot food stands for dinner. We made it to Epcot riding the gondolas which took around 30 minutes. Then we drove that night to AK for the River of lights show. We did Frozen, star tours, and Buzz on fast pass 2x and I snagged the River of lights on my phone. Other than that we didn't really wait in line for anything else.

On 10/16 we went to AK and took and uber round trip $22 including tips. We spent $177.54 on Food at Harambe Cafe for lunch (mobile ordered), snacks at cart, and dinner again at Epcot. We loved animal kingdom just walking around and doing a few rides. I wish we had more time to spend there. We did the Navi River, Kali Rive, and Safari bus on FP and did shows rather than wait in lines. We did dinner at epcot because I snagged FP at 6 pm for soarin. Then off to bed because we were up early for AK

The next day we went to EMH @ AK and waited 45 minutes for the flight of passage ride. We had fast passes for 10/19 but weren't sure we would do it. It was great. We ended up ubering there and back again for $25. We also took an uber from the Swan to the front of Epcot since it was our epcot day for another $10 instead of the free boat because we were running so late and about to miss our test track FP. We also did nemo and space on FP. Then we waited in our longest line probably 60 minutes for Frozen ride. I couldn't get fast passes no matter what.

Then we headed back to the hotel early around 3 pm and swam. Our meals for that day at epcot was $129.33 mostly because DH and I had I believe 3 drinks each. We also went to dinner at Todd English Blue Zoo for ~$125. It was nice. So we spent around $255 for food.

On Friday again we used uber to get to magic kingdom when they opened for EMH at 7 am. I took the uber to the contemporary hotel. It was 10.91 and worth every penny. We did the 7 dwarf train in 25 minutes, winnie the pooh, haunted mansion, it's a small world all before 8:25 FP to buzz lightyear. then while in line waiting for the train I got a reservation for breakfast at Be Our Guest at 10 am so it was our "brunch" for the day. The meal cost $109.70. It was nice but not really worth it. The kids I guess aren't huge Beauty and the Beast fans so they didn't care much about the castle or seeing everything. It was a nice break.

Then we did our splash mountain and peter pan FP and pirates and called it a day after seeing a few shows. We left the park by 2 pm because I had reservations at mama melrose's for Fantasmic dinner packages at 5 pm at HS. It took us an hour to get to our hotel after waiting for the bus. Then we took the boat to HS from the swan. If my DK could have walked to Contemporary I would have uber it back. The meal including tip was $152. Well worth it. Mostly because I couldn't get FP for the show and I liked not waiting in line for it. Plus we had a nice sit down meal and rest. The show was amazing and we loved it. It started to rain so we bought 4 WDW ponchos for $48. Turns out we needed it the next day. So our daily food total was $261.

We went back to HS to ride slinky dog at 730 am in a torrential downpour 10/19. There was NO LINE because it was POURING. I mean hurricane Norman was heading to florida. Then we rode the millenium falcon 3x in 1 hour before 9 am and the park opened and the line jumped to 90 minutes even in the rain. We checked out of the hotel and grabbed sandwiches to share for $20 in the lobby. We went to AK and rode Pandora 2x for DK1 and myself. DK2 and DH went to walmart and bought extra socks and long pants for the kids. We didn't know where the pants they wore coming was. It was in the mess of dirty laundry and our socks were soaked. So they shopped at walmart for 2 hours and we enjoyed the AK. We left by 1 pm AK and headed to tampa. We had a fabulous lunch at Ulele for $110 including tip then off to the airport for our 6 pm flight home.

All in all a fast and fun trip. All in our trip cost us $8500. Better than the $10k I was predicting. My surprise was how little we spent on food. $1400 for a week is probably less than what we spend here on food if we ate out 2x/day on average. But where we are eating out is expensive. Plus I think we tend to undereat when we travel so we don't have leftovers. We tend to at most order 3 meals because we know the kids can share and DH and I for the most part shared every meal.

Would the disney dining plan been worth it? Probably. We could have saved since it would have cost $175/day. But I'm not sure because a lot of our costs came from alcohol at Epcot. That would not have been covered I think in the entirety. But we would have had a lot of food.

But it really was a nice trip. The photos are great. I have to say I like how many group shots there are of us when usually it's just one of us taking a photo.

Orlando Trip part 1

October 29th, 2019 at 03:09 pm

This a multi day post. My prior posts to may were deleted. Anyway how did our trip to Orlando WDW and Universal go? Great. Very nice we had a lot of fun but didn't obviously do everything. We plan on going back but who knows when?

So our tickets were $654 to Tampa for four people and leaving Tampa $853 for a total of $1507 for tickets. Our car rental (hyundai sonata) was $200 for the week all taxes and fees. Our parking was $28 for 1 day at universal and $25 a day at disney * 6 = $160. I filled up just before returning for $30. So $390 for the week. Did it beat the price of flying into Orlando? Yes. The orlando ticket price for red eye flights which we didn't want was around $1000 each way for 4 of us which was $500+ - $800 savings for tickets alone. The same daytime flight for us into Orlando was closer to $1200 for 4 of us negating any savings of flying into orlando and my DH wasn't about to do the red eye.

Plus the Uber between universal and WDW would have been $25 minimum, Uber to Universal $35 minimum, and Disney Swan to Orlando airport $75 minimum (not including tip, traffic, or surge pricing). So we were looking at another $150. If the prices for flying into orlando had been better I would have done that and used uber/lyft the entire time.

That being said we then paid $1551.85 for 1 night and two days park hopper at Universal staying at the Loews Royal Pacific. Worth it for many reasons. We did it to get express unlimited passes. Even though it was "low" season I don't know I could have survived without the minimal line standing.

We bought one adult and one child prepaid meal with refillable drinks for $55. We bought two Harry Potter wants (cho chung and hermonine granger) @ $55 each and a $35 wand stand. We only had 2 butter beers each day (total 4) 2 were covered as park snacks as well at 3 chocolate frogs for $33. We had dinner at Margaritaville $110. The night we arrived we spent $95 at Yard house and $8 in drinks at the airport. The second day we ate lunch at universal ~$35.

So the trip so far we were at $3582 with tickets, universal, souvenoirs, and food.

But my DK1 loved it. She spent hours playing with her wand doing magic in the Harry Potter world. The hogwarts express was amazing. It was definitely worth the park hopper passes. The train ride had different experiences going from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade and the reverse. She already asked to go back again. She said please don't make me wait 2-3 years until DK2 reads all the books. So she really had a great time. I admit it was really amazing the harry potter worlds. We'll see when we go back.

vacation planning

September 6th, 2018 at 07:00 pm

I consider myself somewhat savvy with vacation planning. I typically can find good deals on flights, hotels, and just stuff in general for trips. But we've decided to go to WDW next August 2019 and I'm overwhelemed. I'm even stupid to be honest.

So I might as well write here the step wise intensive planning I'm doing. Somehow even international travel seems easier than WDW.

I'm starting with knowing I want to go the last week of August. It's still a month too early for plane tickets which will obviously influence our hotel. But right now the thought is Friday to Sunday of labor day. We may fly into ft lauderdale and then drive to disney to see friends.

I found a website that sells off the DVC timeshares that seem reasonable. 5 days at animal kingdom is $900. But it was suggested we stay at the 4 main resorts by magic kingdom. I'm not sure what to do. It's around 5 days for $1500.

So the next few weeks while waiting for my airline ticket is to figure out where we want to stay. I am realizing that going to WDW it's not the flights or hotels it's the cost of the tickets. Wow is it expensive to go to disney.

I think this will be our 1 in a lifetime trip. I'm doubtful we'll want go back. We're more likely to travel elsewhere but we want to do WDW before the kids get too old to enjoy the magic. While we might go back when they are older my older one wanted slightly better rides than the younger one this last trip.

Ugh I suspect this will be a very expensive trip comparatively. I just did 2.5 weeks in asia for probably less than 10 days will cost us at Disney. The flights while pricey compared to last year were still reasonable. Last year we went for $2800 for 4 people, this year we paid $3600 for 4 of us. Our hotels were around $150/night on average we spent around $2000 in total. Then another $1500 on tickets for activities including disney and universal and bus tours, entry fees. Then eating out probably another $2000. We did it less than $10000.

I see Disney being $2000 hotels, $2000 flights, and then tickets alone being around $1500 not including buying that line cuts. I'm forgetting rental cars and food. I'm not sure even what to budget for that since it'll likely be park food.

That being said the disneyland hong kong buffet was the nicest buffet I've ever been to. Way better than normal buffets plus it was cute for the kids. Pricey? Way more than anywhere else we ate in hong kong but we sat and relaxed for 2 hours. And since it was at the end of our trip we needed the destressor. We stay at the hotel and literally just walked upstairs and relaxed before and after the meal and then left the next day. PERFECT.

We'll see how this all plays out.

busy summer and London Trip and lots of spending

September 4th, 2018 at 07:35 pm

I've been busy all summer with the kids. We literally just go back on Sunday from Hawaii and school started today. I am a bit breathless seeing that it's the start of 3rd and 1st grade. I can't believe time is flying. I thought the years would go slower but it's not. I feel like screaming stop already I don't want them to grow up. Where is the time going? I swear I blinked and we had just moved and my DK1 was holding up her 2015 1st day of kindergarden sign. No no no. I can't imagine sending them off to college (I teared up a lot reading about Texaxhusker and CCF sending theirs off).

Anyway though we spent most of August traveling 2.5 weeks in Asia and 1 week in Hawaii. We also decided to do a week in October in London. I can't wait. I couldn't figure out a reasonable plan for adding Dublin in with my DH since he's working both places so we are doing London for a week. Now we need ideas for what to do. It was $1500 for tickets for the 3 of us and our hotel is covered staying with DH.

We also bought 5 day snowboarding tickets this year with a trip planned in March. I also plan on signing the kids up for lessons.

Also on the agenda booking our Feb Hawaii Trip and deciding next summers trips. I think we're doing Disneyworld last week of August. And my parents and in-laws have to pick what they want to do for a week each. I'd like to do a week in Singapore but I'm unsure right now. My dad turns 88 in october so I think we might do a weekend when they visit at Christmas.

credit card arbitage

April 24th, 2018 at 05:08 pm

I'm interested in starting to use credit cards to get rewards and miles for traveling. I am reading a bit. But truthfully right now I'm still really busy with catching up after tax season, finishing setting up in the house after the remodel. I am actually proud to say we have been trying to be more thoughtful about putting stuff away and asking if it makes us happy and if not we are donating or selling it. (thank you to everyone in FB organized friends I have been both inspired and motivated reading stuff you purge).

That being said I really would love to have a lot of miles to travel with. So what cards do people love and use? Right now we don't really use travel cards but it's more laziness and we hadn't wanted to bring our credit down with too many inquiries.

But we have a house and car now so I'm thinking it might be okay. I have to wonder though I've found it difficult to use miles so flexibly as people who do these credit card arbitage. I've a friend whose always done it but he travels last minute on a whim. Literally he'll book a ticket the night before knowing they open seats and is willing to take the risk. Also he has a job where if he doesn't show up it's not a big deal. He can work from "home" and remotely if need be.

But it's not as easy for us. Until now we've never had jobs so flexible.

But how do people really use miles to travel so much? How does it align so easily with school vacations and breaks? I find that I end up paying a lot of the times because of our more rigid dates.

Disneyland is not for poor people

October 22nd, 2017 at 05:41 pm

Our first trip to disneyland with kids is complete. It was really fun for the kids and the Halloween decorations and ambiance was fun. They were still pretty scared of most of the rides, frightened of Pirates, haunted mansion, etc. But we did a lot of the smaller toddler rides and they like looking at different things. Two days one at California Adventure and one at Disneyland was more than enough for us adults. I think our kids could have done a day more at each park and we could have taken it easier but the taste and fun was enough. Going during the week was nice especially Thursday it wasn't busy really. Friday it was a lot busier. I will say that staying across the street was well worth it. Very convenient and just easy.

But Disneyland is not for poor people. I've heard from people say going to amusement parks are where poor people go to waste money. The comments that it's a waste of a vacation. But personally DH and I have had fun at all the disneyland locations we've been and the kids had a great time.

But interestingly it's not a cheap vacation and I really doubt any poor people are going there. Actually if I had to guess it seemed more like middle to upper middle class people in terms of income were there. The tickets alone run around $90/day per person. Let's assume you have an annual pass and live locally. Then yes it could be very cheaper fun. But the annual passes from what I can tell still are around $1000 per person.

Then assuming you aren't local you have to pay for pretty pricey hotels, we spent $200/night. Which for us is a lot considering I usually consider $100 an indulgence. Then the flights and car rentals.

But then with all these people wearing paraphanelia which on average is around $20/each piece I'd say that no way does a poor or even really a middle class family afford this vacation. Not to mention the food. For the four of us I'd say skipping breakfast and eating lunch at the park and dinner outside we spent on average $50 for lunch. The kids shared or got a kids meals but with tax and tip and bringing our drinks in. We could have brought in prebought sandwiches from the stores on the way or panera but it wasn't that much of a savings actually. Panera and even mcdonalds for the 4 of us would run around $40 and we'd have to lug stuff all morning.

So I'm curious why people think Disneyland/world/amusement park vacations are so cheap? How they seem to think the average family can afford it? How do people have this stigma about it? Personally if anything after this visit I think the foreigners visiting must be upper echelons of money from their countries, and most americans did not seem local to southern california, probably are in the top 25% of income if I had to guess. We were asked if we were locals probably because we weren't dressed up and very casual about rides. But even the couple of locals we talked to, everyone had an annual pass with maxpass upgrade, and said they had to with all their friends and families they always came with.

I know my family in southern california always used to come with us to Disneyland when we would go. My first trip was at age 5. My mom scrimped for about 3 years to go but interestingly my family was known to travel on a dime and I know my aunts and uncles helped a bit financially. A single aunt traveled and stayed in our room and my uncle paid for my grandparents and we ate outside the park across the street where we stayed. Plus back then we booked huge rack room deals with connections we had and traveled en masse. All my aunts and uncles were massive savers and extremely thrifty when traveling and still are. In my family we are totally into trying to outdo each other with the best travel deal (i've been winning a lot lately!).

But I don't think people do disney the way they used to. Before talking with friends they would talk about how their parents would also do disney on the cheap. DH hadn't gone till after we met and even then it was for a day once until now.

But disneyland is not for those on a budget. I'm still astonished how much it can cost and how people can afford it. But the truth is I think most people are in the top income %.

What do you think? I'll put up some photos later.

success - last entry trip photos

September 19th, 2017 at 05:38 am

See below entry

Trip Photos

September 17th, 2017 at 03:31 pm

Okay I managed to resize some of the photos. I will start adding them probably in no reasonable order because I'm finding it difficult enough as is.

Asakusa Temple Daytime in tokyo.


Asakusa Temple Night


Asahi Brewery


Asahi Extra Cold


Tokyo Disneysea



Disney Sea Food (mochi ice cream and Gyoza dog)



Shinkansen (bullet train)


Kobe Beef


Kobe Cable Car, Port Tower, Zoo




Nara Deer park and Todaji Temple (day and night bon festival)




Osaka Castle, Kaiyuken (aquarium), Skybuilding


- one of world's largest


Hong Kong - Victoria Peak, Big Buddha, glass tram, buns





Hong Kong Disney


Quick Trip Summary

August 31st, 2017 at 06:54 pm

So we just got back from our trip. I can't wait to post pictures. They were amazing.

Our entire trip was around $10,000 for 3 weeks - 2 weeks in Japan and 1 week in Hong Kong. The breakdown.

Tickets $2850
Hotels $1240 - my parents covered the hotels for the part we were were traveling with them except for 1 night. The total cost was $4500 for 14 days for both our rooms and theirs. So I covered the last night @ $179. Then we paid $745 for the week in Hong Kong and at the last minute we decided to do the last night @ Hong Kong Disney Hotel for $316. This is the most we've ever spent on a hotel by far. I mean $315 for 1 night. It was a little insane. We typically spend $100/night and Japan was expensive because it's Japan but we were spending around average there.

We spent $660 on tickets to Tokyo Disney Sea, Hong Kong Disney, and other attractions. We spent $1360 in cash on who knows what eating out, stuff, etc. Finally we spent $1724 on our credit cards on eating out, uber/lyft from airport, etc.

Our total spending on the trip was $7835 for 3 weeks. About 50% of what I budgeted and expected. I actually thought we'd spend between $15-20k. Even if I added in the $2250 for hotels my parents very generously gifted us, we've still be at $10,085. Which for 3 weeks isn't terrible for a family of 4 traveling for 3 weeks without cooking a single meal.

But to get away with under $8k for 3 weeks? That included all the transporation, we used trains and cabs (which is were most of the cash went), I have to say we did well.

I'll discuss it more in depth later. Can't wait to share photos. But disney in Tokyo and Hong Kong was ridiculously cheap the tickets. For us 1 day at each place we spent $222 for 4 tickets and $246 for 2 adults, 2 kids, and my FIL senior ticket. Crazy. That's the price of entry to Disneyworld and Disneyland for 2 adults. Strangely the food in the parks was CHEAP. I've been to enough parks to be surprised that they were charging like $5 for a meal which in the US runs around $10-$20.


What will you do?

August 8th, 2017 at 11:58 pm

DH and I were chit chatting in the car, seems like we always talk in the car. Probably because the kids are strapped in and can't distract us as much as in the house fighting. Maybe because we're trapped in two seats and not focused on our cell phones, cleaning, work, dealing with kids, cooking.

Anyway I asked him in 5 years at 45 or so would he retire if he could? I was running numbers and it's highly possible if not sooner. We could potentially do it now if we were willing to cut our lifestyle. But seriously 45 is not improbable.

His answer? "And do what? Why would I want to?" I said "follow your zen". His answer "I'm following my zen now. I spent a year finding my zen, moving with you, and finding my dream job. I don't need zen. I really like what I do. If I stop liking it I'll tell you again and we'll talk. Until then I'll work and be content."

I sat there stunned. Here i am on a savingadvice forum/blog, I read early retirement forums and blogs, and I'm not married to a spendthrift. I married a guy who wants to work.

He further goes on to say "LAL your dad is still working at 86! My dad is still consulting at 66. I am not sitting here at 45 doing nothing." I said "do something you like." DH "I am doing something I love. Who else plays video games pretty much all day everyday? Who gets to be a gamer and paid for it? If I had told 10 year old Mr LAL your job will be video games I'd have died laughing and kissed the ground." LAL says "okay when it stops being fun, quit." DH "okay deal."

So back to the drawing board. Seriously I don't know when or how I'll be dragging him away from work. We're about to embark tomorrow on a 3 week vacation, I'll try to post pictures but I won't have a computer just my phone so we'll see. First trip for DH in a year and he's not even sweating it. I'm dragging him away since he hates traveling. He'd rather stay at home and do nothing. Hence retirement is not his cup of tea in that sense. He doesn't want to travel and see the world.

Have you actually planned your retirement? And thought about what you would do?

miles to burn

April 18th, 2017 at 06:07 pm

Trying to iron out the days we want to travel is stressful. I'm not sure hawaii will work out this summer because of timing and costs.

I've got $100 credit for me and the two kids. DH has $50 credit from late flights. We also have a travel companion certificate we can use as well as miles. I typically hate miles because I'm particular about not having connections and flight times.

But lately I've been talking with friends. I wonder if it would be better to focus on flights that we pay for and instead use miles to book hotel rooms and save money that way? I say that because I'm considering switching to the Marriott rewards card I think Creditcardfree and Disney Steve have. I'm just struggling to redeem airline miles with trips that work.

I mean honestly we also aren't airline loyal so we have a bunch of miles spread across whatever is the cheapest and I can get a deal on.

This whole figure out how to use miles is stressful. Do you use airline miles on flights? Have you had a lot of success? Or do you find it easier to use it on hotel rooms?

crazy good travel deal

April 9th, 2017 at 02:52 pm

OMG I scored an insane, did I mention INSANELY good deal on our asia trip this summer? $762 round trip for 3 weeks and 3 cities? Yes that's per person from Stateside to asia then 2nd country then back again. Woot woot! We're going and it was $2853 for 4 of us. 8/8 to 8/29. Yeah I'll post pictures.

Now onto booking hotels and figuring out what we are going to do. I've picked cities but I'm not much of a planner type.

I'm going to guess that hotels will run us around $100-150/night depending on exchange rates. So for our 20 days I am guessing $2500 to be conservative. that means we are at $5k for basics not counting train tickets or meals. Another $1k in train tickets and meals solid $2k at $100/day for a family of 4 and treating people. I think my parents and in-laws are joining us at certain stops.

This does not include fees for any touristy things we do. I am thinking $12k for entire almost 3 week trip for a family of four. That is phenomenal deal. And I couldn't get miles to work so whatever. This deal was so cheap it'll earn us a ton of miles way below 2 cents a mile.

Now onto the planning. I'm so psyched because for the rest of the summer we have a ton of other small trips planned. Now that i've ironed out part of it i'm super excited.


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