spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

A tour of My Planning/Trip Binder

Hey friends (and several new followers)!¬† This post was requested by Jen ūüôā¬† She wanted to know more about my Trip Binder and how I organize this low-tech item.¬† So here we go!

planning binder11

Here she is at my office.¬† That’s my eBags Kayla Town Square bag that I use for work.

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Planning for Aulani

Hey hey, my niece and her personal assistant, AKA my sister, are coming to town soon!  We have a bunch of fun stuff planned, including trips to the Honolulu Zoo, Sea Life Park, the Oahu Railroad Train Ride, the beach/pool, and of course, Aulani.

candace heart eyes

This will be my niece’s first official Disney Experience.¬† I’m thrilled that I can be a part of it- you may recall that DD’s first Disney Experience was a Disney Cruise and WDW trip with me and my sister.¬†My being a part of this Aulani stay with my niece means another Disney tradition continues!

Since we’ll have 5 people (DH has to work), I once again looked at renting DVC points from David’s DVC Rental.¬† We needed either 2 rooms or a¬†small villa, and cash rates WITH Kama’aina discount were coming in at nearly $1000.¬†¬†¬†Looking at the points rates on the DVC rental site, I saw that going through them would save a huge amount.¬† We wound up securing a standard 1-bedroom villa (sleeps 5) for $660.¬† Since my sister and I are splitting the cost, it’s very reasonable.¬† Our past Aulani stay was in a regular ocean view room.¬† It’ll be nice to have the extra space and kitchenette.¬† Here’s the floorplan:

aulani 1br

The bed is king-sized….me and both kids can probably fit on there ūüôā¬† The pullout bed in the living area is queen-sized.



I tell you, the property is very beautiful, well-appointed, and includes all the Disney details you would expect…but I think the thing I’m most looking forward to is the lazy river.¬† That thing is AWESOME.¬† Another thing I’m looking forward to is the Menehune Adventure Trail.¬† I think DS will really like it, as it involves puzzles and is a scavenger hunt.¬† And depending on how DD does grade-wise this quarter, I may look into booking a¬†treatment for her at the Painted Sky Teen Spa.

I’ve prepped homemade empanadas (my niece is crazy for them), got my jigsaw puzzles up and out of the way, hung a bell on the front door in case of any escape attempts, purchased a variety of yellow beach/pool accessories (her fave color), and unearthed the outlet covers that we used when DS was a toddler.¬† Hurricane Niece is coming to town!

But wait, there’s more!

  • Kama’aina, I found this great discount for Sea Life Park, which expires soon (3/19/17)!¬† You just bring a receipt from Times Supermarket for $20 or more to get 2 adult tix for $25, which is $15 off each ticket.¬† Nice deal.

Perhaps I can persuade my sister to do a guest post on her experience traveling with a toddler, following some of my tips…get back to you guys in a few weeks on that.¬† Also coming soon, by request, a post about my physical trip binder(s) and how I put them together.¬† I have one specifically for Disney, and one for all other trips- see below.¬† Have a great day!


The lowest of all possible techs

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“Show me your papers.” NOPE*

*on a domestic flight, that is.¬† Of course, you must be prepared to show your passport/appropriate visas/International Letter of Consent when completing international travel.¬†¬†That’s the law, folks, because you landing in whatever country essentially means that you are asking permission to enter it.

Here are various accounts of a¬†recent incident, including Customs & Border Patrol’s statement, which occurred on a Delta flight from San Francisco to New York.¬† Some thoughts:

  • it’s not international travel, and therefore, when you land, you are not “requesting permission to enter the US”….because, you were in the US when the flight began, and in the US when the flight ended.¬† Your ID requirements for before, during, and after the flight¬†were set by the airline you flew.
  • Customs and Border Protection agents¬†can ask you to cooperate with certain things in a official capacity.¬† In this case, they were looking for an individual adult identified by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement¬†agents who was properly documented, but served an order of deportation, and they had information the individual would be on this flight.
  • CPB¬†cannot¬†require you to cooperate by showing your ID on a domestic flight.¬† In this case, everyone did and that was the end of it, because they did not find the individual in question.
  • in my opinion, it does make¬†some sense to ask to check everyone instead of just people that matched the suspect’s physical description.¬† This avoids racial profiling.¬† If I had been asked nicely to show my ID, I would have asked if it were required, and then taken it from there.¬† The whole thing makes me very uncomfortable, though.¬† It’s weird that there are multiple reports of the agents just checking IDs, without reference to checking names off¬†the passenger manifest.¬† Another point:¬†domestic IDs like driver’s licenses rarely, if ever, provide information on¬†immigration status.¬† So they weren’t checking documentation in the immigration sense.

So what advice would I give to people traveling domestically?¬† Read the ID requirements of the airline carrier you are using, and follow those to the letter.¬† I’d add the following to be totally safe: with babies, carry a copy of the birth certificate for proof of age.¬† With toddlers, it’s easy to make a laminated ID card with a recent photo (see example below, lol), and I’d carry the birth cert copy, too.¬† With school-age and up, school ID plus the birth cert copy.¬† In my experience, the TSA agents that check your boarding pass and ID before the security obstacle course do the simplest of all checks….they call out the kid’s name.¬† If your kid responds to the name on the boarding pass by looking at them, or verbally responding, they’re usually good to go.¬† These front-of-the-line agents will usually let sleeping babies lie, unlike their x-ray machine counterparts, who will make you take said sleeping little one out of the stroller or carrier before letting you pass, naps be damned.


Ha, ha.¬† Kids’ IDs also generally include date of birth,¬†descriptive info like hair and eye color, height/weight, and names/#s for legal guardians.¬† It may be worthwhile to list any serious allergies here, too.¬†


Pro tip: make your own laminated ID at home with self-sealing luggage tags.¬† I like the ones with the loops versus the clips, because you can securely attach them to the inside pocket of your bag, and no chance of getting a wee finger caught in the clip.¬† And the ones with neither loops or clips are too big to fit in a wallet, and easy to lose/drop.¬† Finally, many daycares provide a Child ID of some sort, and you can certainly carry that instead if it has relevant info.¬† IDs are¬†good way to help¬†a kid recognize their written name, so you get a¬†side benefit.¬† Another one:¬†it is fun for your child’s comfort object to also have an ID.¬† Long ago, DD made a small, crayon-colored passport for her doll Jessica, and it was helpful for “playing airport security” at home.¬† We even stamped stuff into it.¬† Good times.

OK, now…proceed as normal.¬† We all know the old line…kids are like horses-they can smell fear.¬† If you are anxious, they will pick up on it.¬† If you are traveling solo, make sure someone knows your travel details.¬† But I won’t be packing my passport or naturalization certificate for domestic travel nor¬†will I¬†be afraid to speak to my children in Spanish on the plane/at the airport.¬† Happy and safe travels!

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Quincea√Īera Trip Report Part 1: HNL to JFK

Me¬†upon hearing/seeing the name “JFK airport”…


This is because, despite it being only 20 miles away from where I grew up in NJ, it can take over 2 hours and nearly $30 in tolls to get there.  Plus, the most direct driving route takes you through midtown Manhattan, so you need nerves of steel, a healthy rage-vocabulary, and catlike reflexes as well.

Here’s what I knew in advance: the party was going to be the Friday after Thanksgiving.¬† I would stay at a hotel because a bunch of relatives were coming from all over and I didn’t want to inconvenience anybody by taking up all the space at Hotel Mami/Papi with my people and a fluffy dress.¬† I would need a car to go back and forth to the hotel, to arrive early at the party, etc. Read the rest of this entry »


Post preview: travel, Quincea√Īera, and general world news

This isn’t a full post- no time, as we just got back to Honolulu today and must get ready for school/work/life starting again tomorrow.¬† But a general idea of what will be coming up in the next few weeks…

  • travel via Alaska Airlines to JFK, picking up a rental car and dropping it off in NJ.¬† Includes details on Budget’s e-toll service.
  • our reward stay at Holiday Inn Secaucus, paid for by IHG points.
  • travel via United’s nonstop from Newark (EWR) to¬† Honolulu (HNL). Spoiler alert: nope nope nope.
  • a modest Quincea√Īera trip report.¬† It was a wonderful, beautiful, fun event.

Finally,¬†a general support statement regarding the US Presidential election outcome.¬† All are welcome here.¬† No hate, no discrimination, equal rights for all.¬† If you don’t agree, leave.¬† If you do agree, please enjoy the posts coming soon ūüôā

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Unaccompanied Minor Services- a comparison

Buckle up, everybody- your captain has turned on the ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign.¬† This here is a crazy ride through the huge variety of services, policies, and practices of the rules for Unaccompanied Minors (UMs) on¬†6 US-based airlines.¬† Each airline name is a link directly to the Unaccompanied Minor policy of that airline- some pages were difficult to find navigating from the home page, so I figured I’d save you the work ūüôā¬† Also, I would have torn my hair out trying to decipher what is recommended versus¬†what is required for international travel, given that they all advise you to call in for that info AND it can vary per country, so I limited this chart to domestic travel policies, unless noted otherwise.¬† Some basics that apply to most major airlines: Read the rest of this entry »

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International travel, party of 1

Ok, so I’m off to South America soon, and have followed my own travel planning tips.¬† But…it’s downright weird.¬† I’m going alone, so my spreadsheet is puny and there are no touristic plans since I’ll be having a medical procedure and mostly resting.

Packing has been bizarre, I had to force myself to do it.¬† No color-coordinated list.¬† Just my stuff, and some gifts for my¬†nieces and nephews.¬† It is exciting to take my new backpack out for her first gig as a carry-on, so there’s that.

I may or may not have mentioned this before, but I actually really hate the “taking off” part of the flight.¬† LOL, I’m white-knuckling the armrest, and tears are threatening to spill out of my tightly-closed eyes, and OHMYGOD I just remembered¬†what that swoop when the plane levels off feels like in my stomach and I’ll be right back, going to cancel my tickets.


Thanks, Baymax.


Got a little too close to the ledge there.  Did not cancel.  *deep breath*

I won’t have DD or DH or DS’s hands to squeeze during takeoff, so¬†I’ve¬†created a “YOU WILL BE JUST FINE” playlist on my iPod, which is a mixture of Disney stuff that makes you feel happy to fly (the soundtrack from Soarin’, naturally), and some “remember when you were young and hip and stayed out all night dancing” fast-paced salsa and cumbia tracks.¬† I may even have a drink (!), which would be an all-time first.

My next post will probably be from the lovely land of Ecuador.  Wish me luck!

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New travel gear :)

Hey, so I mentioned that I had totally scored on my ideal travel backpack, and I’ve since received it.¬† It’s fabulous, and I did a “test-fill” to see how it would hold up to my usual carry-on packing needs.¬† Here it is, with most of my typical carry-on stuff, roughly clockwise: rubbah slippahs, Travel Planning Binder, puzzle book, pashmina, water bottle, powder flavoring, spare clothes,¬†makeup bag, glasses, gum, inhaler, chargers, hair clip, smartphone (see how the phone case matches the backpack? squee!), chargers, watch, pen/highlighter, travel wallet, snacks, small first aid kit (in the red pouch), portable charger (the shiny blue thing), headphones, 7-day med case, Charmin To-Go & Wet Ones, and 3-1-1 bag with toothpaste/sanitizer/lotion.¬† Plus, the new backpack of course!¬† It fit beautifully, with space to spare.


test carry

Not pictured: my neck pillow, which I would clip to the top handle of the bag, more protein-y snacks like pepperoni, and my iPod Touch (because I took this picture with it)!


Also, remember this post about the Disney TAG (Travel-Accessories-Gear) collection?  Well, one day I received a free shipping code from Disney Store, so I decided to browse around the site.  What did I come across but the single solitary item from the TAG collection available on DisneyStore.com?  So, I hate umbrellas, and usually just get wet rather than use one, never mind carry one around.  But this one is adorable, and I had the free shipping code, another offer for 25% off Disney Parks items, and 3% back from ebates.  For $15.63, not including the ebates rebate, this umbrella is mine and the children/husband have been instructed to never ever touch it, lol.  So now I have something from the TAG collection, and it gives me hope that other items will be sold online in the future.

TAG umbrella1

Also, you guys, I’m seriously considering ending the blog.¬† Posts get very few views, and with so little feedback, I’m not sure what people are wanting to hear about.¬† The renewal date is coming up in a few weeks.¬† Just FYI.

We’re moving right along on the Quincea√Īera planning…finalizing invitations in the coming weeks!


Bits & Pieces: FastPass+ update, Disney Dollars, Disney Cruise out of NYC

  • Disney updated their FastPass+ system, for the better!¬† This applies to WDW only.¬† Previously, once you’d used up your initial 3 FP+ selections for the day, or the time to use them had expired, you could choose a 4th option in the same Park or another one,¬†if there were times available,¬†but only at an in-Park kiosk.¬† You could see availability on the app, but not choose it until you’d traveled to the next Park.¬† Now, with the enhancement, you can choose a 4th option (again, after you’ve used the 1st 3 or their usage time has passed) from the My Disney Experience app on your phone, no need to be in the Park!¬† This saves time, always a premium at Disney.¬†Note: the in-Park kiosks,¬†with a Cast Member present to help you use them, will still be available.¬†Other great improvements: the ability to only make 1 or 2 selections instead of being forced to make 3 per day, and being able to make selections for individuals instead of the whole group (there was a way to do this before, but it was pretty complicated and often caused all the other people’s selections to temporarily disappear).¬† On my personal Wish List for the next upgrade…being able to make selections in different Parks in a single day, for when you plan to Park-hop.¬† If you could just have that in place before we go back in 2021…


  • A sad Disney announcement: no more Disney Dollars! As allears.net reports, the manufacture of Disney Dollars has ended.¬† Disney Stores that still have them in stock will sell until they run out.¬† The Dollars have no expiration date, so if you have some and want to use them in the Parks, you still can.¬† I remember using Disney Dollars as prizes for a Disney trivia game I made up for DD and DH before our 2008 trip.¬† This was a neat way to give kids money to save for Disney, since they can’t be used anywhere else.¬† But I guess the move makes sense- I didn’t buy any Disney Dollars in anticipation of this recent trip, because gift cards are just so easy.¬† Aw, farewell, Disney Dollars! dollar
  • When I think about an extended family vacation that doesn’t involve Ecuador, I think about a cruise.¬† What, no WDW,¬†you say?¬† You wouldn’t want to have 9 people (my parents, my sister, her DH, my niece, plus the 4 of us) touring a Disney Park at the same time?¬† The answer is no.¬† So, what’s better than a Disney Parks vacation for extended family?¬† A Disney Cruise Line vacation.¬† You unpack once, visit cool ports of call, the ship is beautiful and air-conditioned, Disney characters are available for greeting, and most lovely of all- the ship is contained.¬† You can’t get too far away from each other, so meeting up for food/shows/games/swimming is fast and easy, but you still have your cabin close by if you need privacy.¬† Disney Cruise Line has announced itineraries departing from NYC for Fall of 2017.¬† No specific dates released today, but this year’s NYC cruises are all in October.¬† I would LOVE to do this itinerary: depart NYC, days at sea, stop at Port Canaveral, go to Epcot/MK since *1 day Park-Hopper tickets to WDW, including port transfers, are part of the cruise price*, go to Disney’s private island Castaway Cay (pronounced “key”), days at sea, back to NYC.¬† Alas…..too many school days missed,¬†because of travel time.¬† My other dream cruise is the Mediterranean one that includes Greece.¬† Very pricy.¬† Ah well, a girl can dream…


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2017 trip…what to do?

 Warning: This is a very first-world problem.

I’ve been putting all of my organizing energy into my daughter’s Quincea√Īera coming up later this year.¬† I set up the flights:¬†outbound, and return.¬† I was able to use IHG points (accumulated from good-old credit card spend and a recent bonus promo) to book 4 nights at a hotel near the venue for us so that¬†visiting family from Ecuador could use¬†my parents’ guest room.¬† I¬†redeemed my husband’s¬†last Barclay Arrival + points* for a $100 gift certificate for Budget Rental Car, and will be combining the cert with a great price I got from Costco Travel, which has historically been my go-to place for low rental car deals.¬† I recently booked a fabulous DJ/emcee/lighting service, and my next project is to firm up the invitation design.¬† Still lots to do after that, too! Read the rest of this entry »