spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

Bits & Pieces: Laptop ban update, Alaska CC, Southwest to HI, Referral links

    • Here’s a long article from Bloomberg News about the possible laptop ban from Europe into US airports.  They….didn’t make a final decision, and are still fighting it out.  The prediction is that they will try to implement it, get a lot of ire over it, and  retract it.  Sounds good to me.

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Bits & pieces: Pandora, Happily Ever After, Music of Pixar-Live, deals

Some Disney News!

Confession: I have never seen Avatar. So when Disney announced a few years ago that they would be recreating the world of Pandora: World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World, I was all, “meh.”  Now that the work is mostly completed, and they are airing TV spots, and the opening is slated for Memorial Day Weekend 2017, I’m all, “…still meh.”  However, a few things that might make me change my tune: Read the rest of this entry »

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Travel = Education

This is something I know firsthand: traveling forces you to open to your eyes and see how people outside your bubble live, work, worship, and raise children.  If you have any sense at all, you observe, absorb, learn, and whether you agree with them not, RESPECT the cultural differences.

On my first trip to Ecuador that I can remember, we drove around the city and I saw little children my age working in the streets, barefoot.  I also saw some big, beautiful homes grander than anything I had ever lived in.  Later in life, I took a Greyhound bus from NJ to Florida which made several stops in small Southern towns- I saw things I had only seen on TV or read in books, like general stores and swamps.  At school, an Egyptian friend hung out with the rest of us (mostly Latino) kids, and I saw that our teachers and parents didn’t treat her any differently, so I didn’t either.  During college, I tried French Onion Soup in Paris, and learned that I hated French food.  Disney is a global brand, so any visit I have made to the Parks, Resorts, or Cruise Line rewarded my ear with many languages and accents.  Exposure to all of that was priceless.

I urge you not to be influenced by those in the government who would have you become afraid of your Middle Eastern friends, discriminatory towards your LGBTQ family members, distrustful of the immigrants you know, disrespectful to women, or any other ridiculous fear-mongering behavior put forth by people who are desperately trying to hang on to power.  I also urge you to not blindly follow the recommendations of whatever the majority of people are saying on Facebook for example. Find resources listing the actual facts, otherwise known as the truth, and follow your gut.  Fellow immigrants supporting bans on immigration, HEAR THIS: we do not get to close the door behind us.

If you are reading this blog, you have probably either traveled already in your life, or are planning to.  This means you are at least open to accepting the culture and people of a place that is not your own.  Make it your mission to travel for fun, to see family, to make friends, but most importantly, to LEARN.

coexist

I’m not sure who created this image, but I saw it on a bumper sticker near UH-Manoa and thought it was awesome  It says “coexist.”

 

 

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Matthew and Mickey

Hurricane Matthew is obviously a huge concern for anyone in the Southeast US and Caribbean right now.  Legacy US carriers like American, United, and Delta have announced the usual *free* changes to anyone flying in/out of Miami International Airport (MIA), Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL), and Orlando International Airport (MCO), plus many airports in the islands of the Caribbean.  Contact your airline if you are scheduled for any connections or flights to or from that area in the next week.

hurricane-matthew

Walt Disney World (the Theme Parks, water parks, Disney Springs, miniature golf courses and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex ) will be shutting down early today, and 5p EST, and will be CLOSED on Friday, October 7th.  CLOSED!  And the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Parties scheduled for today and tomorrow at the Magic Kingdom are cancelled, obviously.  I keep thinking back to last October, when we attended this party during the exact same time frame.  We had no weather issues and no disruption to our plans.  And today, vacationing families are probably pretty concerned about their safety.  From what I’ve read, Disney does an excellent job of communicating with its Resort Guests and providing supplies, assistance, etc.  I would feel good in their hands.

Stay safe, everyone!

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Bits & Pieces: T-A-G, Elena of Avalor, Crayola Store

  • Remember my post about Disney T-A-G, and how I hoped more items would be available on DisneyStore.com eventually?  Well, I got my Disney wish!  I got an email this morning offering 25% off plus free shipping (use code: PARKDEALS) when you order any Disney Parks item…including newly added T-A-G offerings.  There are 20 items listed, ranging from $14.95 for a curling iron case to $199.00 for a 28″ rolling suitcase.  Oddly, the umbrella that I bought is not among the offerings.  But this lovely Jewelry Organizer is:

Why do I love this so much?  If you know me in real life, you know that I never change my understated earrings, can’t stand to wear anything around my neck, and only wear bracelets on very special occasions.  So I really have no use for this.  But…pretty!

  • Elena of Avalor: Disney’s first Latina princess!  She is independent, bilingual, has a smart ‘n spunky sister, great hair, and rides a magical flying jaguar.  Yes, as a matter of fact I am flattered that Disney Channel chose to create a show based on my life story.  Hahaha.  Anyway, the show is cute, funny, and includes wonderful messages about believing in your own strengths and abilities.  Disney Parks Blog has announced the debut of Elena at Walt Disney World, with a special show in front of Cinderella Castle called “The Royal Welcome of Princess Elena of Avalor,” to be live-streamed online.  The first show on August 11th is the one to be live-streamed, but after that they will have it several times a day for Park guests.

elena

  • Finally, a shout-out to Crayola’s online store!  I decided to create something in the Crayola My Way section, which allows you to create a custom crayon box where you choose the colors you want.  I repeat: YOU CAN CHOOSE YOUR OWN CRAYON COLORS, for 8-count and 64-count boxes.  You can also add a photo to the front of the box, choose holiday and birthday-themed boxes, customize an art case, and even get your kids’ doodles made into stuffed animals.  Anyway, the shout-out is for their Customer Service team….I got an Amex Offer for the Crayola Store, and loved the idea of customizing a crayon box.  So I went on the site, created something, ordered it, and completely forgot to use the card that had the Amex offer attached to it.  I realized it an hour later when I noticed that I hadn’t received the “You’ve just used your Amex Offer!” email.  I called them, and spoke with a rep, who stated that because it was a weekend she couldn’t make any changes to the order, and a manager would call me on Monday to see what they could do to change the payment type.  On Monday, I called again, and a different rep said she would have a manager call me right away.  10 minutes later, I spoke with the manager who unfortunately couldn’t make the change, because of course the payment was already authorized to the card I had used, and as custom order, there were no refunds/cancellations.  So I didn’t get my statement credit for using the Amex Offer, but guess what?  I didn’t really mind, because all 3 of the ladies I spoke with were so kind, friendly, and genuine in wanting to help me.  I messaged the company on Facebook to praise their service staff by name.  It was my mitzvah for the day.

    crayola

    I clapped with delight upon seeing this on my screen!

 

 

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2, count ’em, 2 years of blogging under my belt

I wrote this on 7/23/15:

Here’s a time capsule paragraph for when we look back at this post 1 year from now…

My family and I are less than 100 days away from my little boy’s 1st trip to WDW, and I’m putting the finishing touches on the planning spreadsheet as I get ready to make FP+ reservations.  Our next big trip will be to the East Coast in November 2016 for my daughter’s Quinceañera- planning on using miles for that, so expect blog postings re: redemptions beginning in December 2015.  I may try to sneak in a Neighbor Island trip in the spring, too, because I can’t bear the thought of a year going by without setting foot on a plane.  And we’re definitely due for a Europe trip within the next 2 years.  I will continue to accumulate as many miles and points as possible to make it easier to show my kids the world!

Breaking this down point by point…
Well, we all know how that trip went!  Super, super, super fun!  Additionally, we booked our fares to the Quinceañera using miles, just as predicted.  Re: the “Neighbor Island trip for the spring”… that morphed into a full-blown East Coast vs West Coast gangsta rap-style war, and has since been hugely downgraded to practically nothing, sigh (explanation to follow).  Europe 2018 is still definitely on, though.  And, of course, I’m still accumulating miles and points like a boss. Read the rest of this entry »

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Disney T-A-G, and a personal bag

It’s been a rough time for me emotionally, though of course my suffering is infinitesimal compared to those who actually died/were injured/are missing in the Earthquake.  No new (safe) donation opportunities haves popped up specifically for Hawaii.  I sent money to my cousin’s car service, and from what I understand, it was helpful.  I will continue to send aid in that manner.  It was really great to see that communities with lots of Ecuadorians (NY, Miami, etc), were getting together Facebook Groups to organize donation drives via the airlines or local travel agencies.  There have been lots of inspiring stories of rescues, international aid arriving, and huge quantities of donations from the less-hit areas of Ecuador.  The inevitable political sniping and accusations of favoritism are alive and well, too.  There is still along ways to go towards rebuilding, of course.  Time to put those donations to work and get on with it.  Ok, Disney time! Read the rest of this entry »

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Earthquake in Ecuador

It’s now been about 48 hours since the devastating earthquake in my beloved Ecuador.  The 7.8 earthquake struck near the western coastal city of Muisne, in the province of Manabí.  Many of the coastal towns are practically destroyed, and my birth city of Guayaquil suffered huge structural damage, with bridges collapsing and many buildings reduced to rubble.

Ecuador is used to earthquakes, so many buildings are not built out of wood, as in the US, but out of solid concrete.  Unfortunately, even concrete can’t fully withstand the seismic forces at play here, and so you see piles of cracked concrete blocks with rebar sticking out on the news where buildings once stood.

It is well-known that Ecuador is a third-world country, and many of the hardest hit areas are poor.  Many are asking how we in the US (especially faraway places like Hawaii) can help.  There is no easy answer here.  Corruption is rife in my country- you cannot be sure that your monetary donation will ever reach the organization you’ve sent it to, and even if it does, it might not be used in the way you want it to be.

My cousin in Guayaquil is using his executive car/taxi service as a mobile donation pickup service.  Many are unwilling or unable to leave their homes but can still help in some way, so they use Twitter to let his business know that they have donations, and one of his fleet will pick up the donations and deliver them to the official distribution centers that have been set up in the city.

Another cousin, in Florida, has a friend who has purchased tickets to Ecuador, and will be using all his luggage allowance for donations and supplies purchased in bulk.

These are probably the only ways I would help as of right now.  I’d use my parents’ account to send money to pay for the fleet’s gas/employees, or send a check to my cousin to buy goods on my behalf.  In other words, I’d only send $$$ to people I already know and trust. 

My family is going to let me know if there is a reliable way to send money to Ecuador, and if I have something, I will certainly share it here.  In the meantime, please hug your loved ones, and keep my vibrant and resilient Ecuador in your thoughts.

ecuador176

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Bits & Pieces: Alaska/Virgin America surprise and Daily Getaways

  • Wow- in a surprise move, this week Alaska Air Group (which is the holding company for Alaska Airlines) announced that it was acquiring Virgin America, with the deal announced now, the purchase (hopefully) officially approved by Jan 2017, and the 2 airlines flying under a single operating certificate by 1st quarter 2018.  See the combined route map below.  Of course, there might be some consolidation to the map over time.  What does this mean for us in Hawaii?  On first glance- not much.  Adding Virgin America to Alaska’s route network doesn’t open up any new routes/cities to/from the islands directly.  But I do see some new connection cities, like Fort Lauderdale (where JetBlue announced directs flights to Quito from last year).  Here’s the full press release, and some handy FAQs.

Alaska Virgin America combined route

  • Virgin America currently has a referral bonus for joining their frequent flyer program, called Elevate.  If you are already a member and want to get some points for referring others, start at flightswithbennies.com.  Both the referrer and the referred get 500 points.  You can also leave your referral link in the comments for any reader to use.  I’m currently assuming that any Elevate points you currently have will be converted into Alaska Airlines miles by 2018, so it’s a good idea to stock up where you can.
  • Finally, the U.S. Travel Association is currently offering their yearly month of travel-related offers, called Daily Getaways.  I didn’t see anything that would work for me this year, but last year I was able to take good advantage of the $50 Alamo gift card for $25 offer that will be up for grabs soon- I wound up purchasing 3 certificates and paid very little for my rental from Pittsburgh to Newark.  I was intrigued by the Busch Gardens ticket offer, for a trip to Washington DC/colonial Williamsburg/Busch Gardens Williamsburg I hope to piece together for 2017.  $45 + tax per person.  Pretty good deal, considering rack rate prices are $77 + tax per adult, a bit less for kids.  But when reading the fine print, <dead horse> I learned that the tickets would expire before the projected date of our trip, so it was a no-go.  Also, the Busch Gardens site has various vacation packages available, which have nice value-added options like free parking or even free food.  So I’ll look into those once I can lock some more dates/details in place.
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Bits & Pieces: more SPG drama, a good Amex Offer, new Citi Costco card

  • Previously on Merger Drama 2016Marriott and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) were going to merge, then the Chinese company Anbang submitted a superior bid, then Marriot counter-bid, leaving us all in suspense as to whether Anbang could (or should) increase their offer?  Well, they did!  And then, they didn’t!  So as of right now, Marriott emerges victorious.  Should be official later this year.
  • I got this good Amex Offer in my account: 10% cash back when using my Amex (this is my SPG card) to pay my wireless bill online. cell offer

According to the fine print (always read it!), the statement credit should appear within 90 days of 6/30/16, so it’s not an instant statement credit like other Amex Offers.  Also, it’s limited to $30 total that you can get back.  Make sure you don’t use a third-party vendor, as it might not trigger the credit…use the provider site directly.  This is a good offer, since we always pay the phone bill online with a CC for the points/miles 🙂

  • We also received some information about the TrueEarnings Costco Amex’s upcoming conversion to Citibank.  I was all ready to cancel the card and just use other Visas that we already own for our Costco visits.  But…they’ve improved the terms, to include 2% back at Costco, which we can’t beat with any other no-annual-fee card.  So we’ll be accepting the new card.  This post from blogger One Mile at at Time sums it up quite nicely.
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