spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

Award travel success so far, European hotels

Yeaaaaaaaaaaah buddy! We currently have 4 of 7 hotel nights needed covered with points, with 2 of the remaining 3 hopefully covered by certificates later this year.  I shall now regale you with my recent adventures in hotel booking.

Um, have you ever noticed that European hotels (even American chains) rarely sleep more than 2 people?  I’ve had quite a time setting up 4-person rooms in London, Paris, and Barcelona.  We are lucky to be able to stay with family or friends in our other 3 stops (North Carolina, Seville, and New Jersey).  My chart:

Location # of nights needed # of nights booked on points # of nights paying OOP % nights covered
North Carolina  3-4  3-4 sister points  0  100%
London 1
Paris 3
Seville 3  3 friend points  0  100%
Barcelona 3
New Jersey 2  2 daughter points  0  100%

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Flights and Mice- Part 3

This is our last installment, where my sis boldly (ha!) details her adventures on the flight home from Honolulu.  My comments in RED.  I’ll be back soon with a regular post, lots of Disney news lately 🙂

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Flights and Mice- Part 2


This is a combo post.  My sister’s words are bolded, and my comments are in RED again.

I think I speak for most of us when I say that it’s hard to be friends with your sibling when you are young, simply because of forced togetherness.  My sister and I shared a room our entire lives until she went away to college.  We went to the same small grammar and high schools, just one school year apart.  We lived in a bad neighborhood and our parents did not let us play outside unattended.  In short, we couldn’t ever get away from each other. Read the rest of this entry »


Flights and Mice- Part 1

Hello, there! Something exciting: my sister has graciously agreed to share the details of her experience traveling with my favorite niece.  It’ll be her report of the travel TO Hawaii, then I’ll interject an Aulani Report and some reviews of other local activities, and then it’ll end with her travel FROM Hawaii.  These are her words- any comments I add will be in RED.

and away we go

And away we go…

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Quinceañera Trip Report Part 5: making our way home

Unfortunately, it was time to leave NJ.  As arranged, my husband left first, driving the rental car to the Budget return area, and taking all the checked luggage with him.  He was flying American, first to Dallas from Newark, then onto Honolulu after a 2-hr layover.  I woke up with him to say goodbye, but let the kids sleep, since it was 5am.  I put the last bits & pieces away in the carry-ons, and woke up the kids about 90 minutes later.  Once they were dressed and ready, we did a last sweep of the room to check for easily-left-behind items.  Having my original packing list in hand to use as the Repacking List helped quite a bit.  I triple-checked that the envelope w/DD’s cash gifts was deep in my backpack, and that the carry-on with her new fancy jewelry was securely fastened shut.  Pro-tip: I used DS’s carry-on for the jewelry, and included the tiara and corsages, plus saved some space to shove our gloves and hats on top.  I figured anyone casing us for valuables wouldn’t check the bright green bag with the monkey on it first. Room cleared, we made our way downstairs. Read the rest of this entry »


Quinceañera Trip Report Part 4:one day more

I just reread the ending of my last post and cried again!  Jeez, I need to get it together.  OK, let’s continue…

Today was Saturday, our bonus day to do whatever we wanted before traveling home to Honolulu on Sunday.  We definitely slept in.  We had only one concrete plan for this day besides packing, and it was to eat at Olive Garden.  Did you know that Guayaquil, Ecuador has an Olive Garden, and the US state of Hawaii doesn’t?  I would like to enjoy overpriced chain-restaurant Fauxtalian food, too, you know!  There was a location planned for Kapolei Commons, but it is on indefinite hold.


“Patience, Iago.”

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Quinceañera Trip Report Part 3: eyebrows, holograms, and the Circle of Life

The day of my daughter’s Quinceañera dawned bright and sunny.  In fact, we had excellent weather during the whole trip.  It was cold but not freezing, and clear for the most part, with just a few sprinkles here and there.  Anyway, I had gone to sleep mentally reviewing the list of things that needed to happen today.  First, we got up and dressed, and stopped by the front desk to check into the extra room we reserved for tonight.  Then we made our way to my parents’ house, where DH and DS would be heading to the bus stop.  They were going to my beloved American Museum of Natural History, one of my favorite places in the world.  To use a British term, I was gutted not to be going with them.  My husband made my son very happy by spending the day with him at the Hayden Planetarium in the Rose Center for Earth & Space, since he’s been pretty into space and planets for a while now.  They made sure to stop and get some yummy NY food, too.  This worked out well, because everyone else was getting ready or doing last-minute things and my son would have been bouncing off the walls with boredom.  He got to ride the bus, go through the Lincoln Tunnel, then ride the subway and be in this room, which I love: Read the rest of this entry »


Quinceañera Trip Report Part 2: showers, donuts, Thanksgiving

At the end of Part 1, we had arrived at my parents’ house after the long journey to NJ from Honolulu.  They were, of course, thrilled to see us, and it was mutual.  DD had a hair appointment right away, to get her ready for the extensions she was getting for her party ‘do.  First, we had to buy the actual hair, and the boys had to go get fitted for their tuxes.  We split up, with my dad, DH, and DS headed for the tux shop, and my mom, me, and DD off to the beauty supply place. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quinceañera 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 »


13, 437 miles and 4 different airlines later…

…I’m back!  I successfully made it from Honolulu to Guayaquil, had my surgery, recovered really well, and traveled to my parents’ place in NJ for 2 nights before flying back to Honolulu.

This was a nice trip in that I got to spend a lot of one-on-one time with my mother, without husbands or kids!  Plus, since she was helping me after the surgery with everything from scheduling medical appointments to getting dressed, I felt like a little girl again ♥. She flew down to Ecuador a few days before I did, and then did the whole trip back with me, first to NJ, and then to Honolulu.  She stayed about a week to hang with my babies- her grandchildren, and is now, after a month away from NJ, comfortably back in her own home.

We had some airport adventures, and you know what that means…lessons learned.

  • my itinerary to Guayaquil was as follows: Honolulu (HNL) to Phoenix (PHX), Phoenix to Miami (MIA), Miami to Guayaquil (GYE).  Three flights in a row, which I was fine with because I was traveling solo and with only carry-on luggage.  I booked this trip using Alaska Airlines miles, though all 3 flights were on American Airlines.  Because I hold the Barclay Aviator AAdvantage card, I had Priority Boarding, which was AWESOME in Miami when I finally got on my flight.  The first 2 legs went like clockwork.  I was supposed to have a 2-hour layover in Miami before boarding the flight to Guayaquil.  Well, we boarded, left the gate, taxied to the runway, and the captain mentioned some “weather” nearby that was causing some takeoff delays.  We sat on the runway for a bit.  When we were next for takeoff, the captain announced that the weather radar on our plane was not working, and we had to return to the gate to have the mechanic look at it.  Back to the gate for about 30 minutes, then the captain announced that it was not fixable and we needed a different plane.  Off the plane.  They announced a new gate, so we all trooped over.  Waited another 45 minutes.  Gate agents announced that we had a new plane.  Waited some more.  They announced that our new plane was at yet another gate.  Trooped over.  Plane was not there yet.  They provided free sandwiches, chips, and drinks 🙂 Waited some more for the crew to arrive.  The captain finally showed up once the plane was there, and proceeded to grab the gate area microphone and say that this “plano es muy bueno.”  Listen, I don’t need him to speak fluent Spanish, but he should at least know the word for airplane!  It’s ‘avión,’ sir. Anyway, a bunch of people were upset and confused about the new boarding process and clogging up the gate entry, so I took advantage of the Priority Boarding benefit, sailed by all those folks, and calmly took my seat.  We finally took off after we should have landed- 5 hours late, landing at 3am Ecuador time.  As a cherry on top, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a harder landing.  Whatever, I was grateful to finally be there.  I had a moment when I thought the passport control lady would make a stink about the fact that my Ecuadorian National ID card and my passport have slightly different last names (because I got married in the US and the name change doesn’t transfer over to the Ecuadorian Government’s records), but nothing happened.
  • what did I learn from all this? Basically, patience.  I half-heartedly checked the AA app for other flights to Ecuador that night, and there were two: one to Quito (no thanks), and another to Guayaquil scheduled to depart 1.5 hours after my original flight, but was disrupted in much the same way ours was (I later found out they landed 3 hours after my flight did, so good thing I didn’t jump ship).  So I ate some yummy food from Lorena Garcia’s quick-service kiosk near the Bacardi Mojito bar and chilled, thankful that I alone was inconvenienced by the delay vs the whole family.
  • On our way from Guayaquil to Newark, we had a short layover in Panama City, for which I needed wheelchair assistance.  The wheelchair helped our case when we realized that our seats were not together anymore- we were 2 rows apart!  My mom spoke to the gate agent, who saw me sitting there looking positively green (the breakfast sandwich they gave us on the Guayaquil-Panama City leg on Copa Airlines did not sit well), and moved some stuff around so we could sit together on the United flight to Newark.  Lesson learned: none- I knew that since we had booked separately, our reservations weren’t linked, and could be subject to seat changes.  Luckily, my condition helped us to change it back.
  • Traveling back to Honolulu, we had a very long layover in Seattle- about 8.5 hours.  These flights (Newark [EWR] to Seattle [SEA], then SEA-HNL) were on Alaska Airlines, for which I had used my Alaska Airlines Visa companion fare.  I had the airport agent wheel me to the Board Room, Alaska’s lounge.  I was able to purchase 2 day passes ($45 each) for me and my mom to be comfortable during the layover.  It worked well, we had Ivar’s clam chowder and various other snacks and drinks.  Happily, that’s the last time we will ever have that superextended layover on the Newark to Honolulu journey- Alaska announced a 3rd daily flight from Newark to Seattle starting in the next 6 months, which should cut the layover down to 4.5 hours, enough time to pop out to Pike Place market and back before going home to Honolulu 🙂  Lesson learned: the day pass is a great option for very long layovers.  Keep in mind, if the club is full, they will only accept full members of the lounge.
  • Alaska Airlines finally did something wrong!  We used the Self-Tag Express program, where you print your own bag tag and slide it into a reusable plastic tag holder, then attach it to your luggage.  At the airport, you just drop your tagged luggage at the kiosk and head to the security area.  Well, with the Alaska Visa we were each entitled to one free checked bag, and additionally, the website gave me the option to check a carry-on for free as well.  So we had a total of 3 bags.  2 made it to Honolulu just fine, but the 3rd (my mom’s!) somehow went to Portland and Anchorage.  The Alaska agent here in Honolulu was quick to make a report and issue me a customer service voucher towards a future flight (he was so quick to do it in fact, that I didn’t get a chance to say that I would prefer to have Alaska miles instead of the credit, per their Baggage Guarantee.  Oh, well.)  Unfortunately, it took them 2 days to deliver the bag to my house.  So I am waiting on the reimbursement for clothing we bought for my mom on the meantime.  Lesson confirmed: always keep those baggage claim tickets safe, we needed the # on them to identify the bag and for them to deliver it to us.

I’m now back at work, and still a bit sore, but doing just fine considering I had major surgery.  I missed my babies something fierce.  I had handwritten them each a note to read every morning that I was gone, so they could start the day with some words from Mama, and talk to her every night via FaceTime.  I was able to send regular pics and updates to my husband, and he did a great job doing all the things he already does, like keeping the house clean, the children alive, and his cool during situations like this:


Last, some highlights:

  • I got to see my grandfather again, daily for almost 3 weeks.  Bliss.
  • More time in Ecuador is always good for me.  The language, the culture, my relatives, etc.  Plus, they sell ceviche in the mall food court, you guys.
  • My doctor found something major that my Hawaii docs missed, and was able to repair it during the surgery.  Dodged a bullet there.
  • I got to see my niece during my very short stay in NJ.  Now she’ll for sure recognize me more easily when we’re at the Quince in November.
  • Laughed with my mom SO MUCH.
  • Played cards with my Aunts a bunch of times- competitive and hilarious.
  • My new carry-on backpack.  10/10, would recommend.  My sister said that if I were transformed into a bag, I would be that backpack.
  • My health was greatly improved by the procedure, and I can now publicly shout that MY HUSBAND WAS RIGHT, and we needed to spend the money on my surgery rather than on another vacation.

Still planning on that post re: Unaccompanied Minors, I promise I didn’t forget.  Talk soon!


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