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vacation planning

September 6th, 2018 at 12:00 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 12:35 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 10:08 am

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 10:41 am

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 18th, 2017 at 10:38 pm

See below entry

Trip Photos

September 17th, 2017 at 08:31 am

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 11:54 am

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 04:58 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 11:07 am

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 07:52 am

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.