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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8:07-8:45a, 1/13/18

This screenshot from my cell phone, plus the message, “We just received this message from the Civil Defense.  We are all together in the house.”


That’s what my parents, my sister, and my daughter’s father received from me at 8:12am Saturday.  I had woken up due to the distinctive sounds of the cellular emergency alert- Hawaii residents have heard it quite a few times over the years, due to tsunami warnings, hurricane watches, and flash floods.  I opened my eyes and read it, then stared at the message uncomprehendingly.  It felt like minutes went by but it must have been seconds.  I yelled at my husband to read it, yelled for the children to come to my bedroom, turned on the TV, and sent that message to my loved ones.

After a few moments of chaos in the house, closing the windows and shutting the doors, we all settled into my bed.  We did a short explanation of what was happening to the kids.  I desperately searched the channels for anyone offering more information.  My brain was pushing forth random bits of knowledge: the local news said a few weeks ago that we would have about 15 minutes available if a missile was launched from North Korea and aimed toward Hawaii; that if it were possible to aim such a device precisely, they were split on whether it would head toward the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor with all the military presence or toward Waikiki for maximum loss of life; that if it were nuclear, then all bets were off; that I hadn’t heard the new sirens that went into effect 2 months ago; that I needed to add some things to my “throw in our bag if we have to evacuate” list; that now nearly 10 minutes had gone by and no one was saying a damn thing on TV.  It was 8:22am.

I tried to quiet all these thoughts as I explained to my DD that we had the recommended amount of bottled water and canned food in the apartment, plus a crank radio and candles, and where all those things were.  I told her that our living trust and wills were updated, with my parents and sister having a copy of everything they would need to access our life insurance and other important documents.  I said all this and dimly thought that I could be proud of having done so without breaking down. At first I thought I had started crying, but it was DD.  Her phone was buzzing nonstop, her friends all expressing how much they loved her and each other.

I realized that I hadn’t said “I love you,” in the message to my family.  I decided to do so once some news outlet confirmed this nightmare for me.  I figured I would start with a voice message recorded on WhatApp so the “I love you” could be preserved and uninterrupted.  Then I would call, and go through the whole situation and answer their questions.  It was now 8:27am.

I was mentally writing a script when several things happened.  My husband’s phone started pinging with Facebook messages, screenshots of Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s tweet saying that it had been a false alarm.  My own phone started buzzing with texts to the same effect.  Finally, a local news network interrupted the college basketball game we had muted in the background to report on the story.  They were leading with Gabbard’s tweet, and also expressing surprise that no official retraction/correction had been made, well past the time we would have all been attacked.  People were floating stories of possible hackers to the system, Pearl Harbor-style early warnings that shouldn’t be ignored this time, and impact/fallout survival basics.

Finally, at 8:45am, we received the official “false alarm” message.  It made little impact to my state of mind.  OK, false alarm, but of what?  Had something been in fact launched, but shot down before reaching us?  Was it an asteroid headed our way that set off the warning system on some satellite?  How could this have happened?  Where we just supposed to have a normal Saturday now?

I decided that no one was leaving the house that day, and we cautiously left the bedroom.  I talked to my parents on the phone, and texted my sister on and off.  At one point or another, all 4 of us had splitting headaches.  I made chicken quesadillas for lunch, my son’s favorite “crispy fish” for dinner.  We watched our favorite funny movie, “Big Business,” which contains this line that makes me belly laugh every time.

My son was a little harder to settle for bed that night, needing some music and his sister to be in the room before falling asleep.  I talked to one of my best friends from college on the phone, and she made me feel better by saying that she’s trying to come for a visit sometime this year.  I did some trip research and booked our London hotel (Crowne Plaza- King’s Cross) with IHG points.  There is a Platform 9 3/4 store there in the terminal, plus a fun photo op!  This improved my state of mind.  But I knew the nighttime would be rough.

And I was right.  I was terrified to sleep, thinking about waking up tomorrow to same situation, Groundhog Day style.  I hadn’t cried yet, and was waiting for it to hit me.  I delayed as long as I could, and finally drifted off after 3am.

Today was Sunday, and as it happened, I had a rare weekend day to myself.  DD had a school event for extra credit, and DH/DS were off to watch the Sony Open (a golf tournament).  With my time, I made our weekly bread, cleaned the house a bit, exercised, read, worked on a puzzle, etc.  I was feeling OK.  But it finally hit me as I was washing the dishes.  Reader, I cried.  I sobbed.  It will take a long time for me to come back mentally from holding my kids and husband close while planning the last conversation I would ever have with my parents/sister.  And I was lucky- we were all home!  If this had been a few weeks ago, or a few weeks in the future, we might have all been scattered around town, at baseball games, theatre rehearsals, or work.

All this distress over a warning system that had to be put in place over what amounts to a dick-measuring contest between 2 imbéciles.  

It’s now been confirmed that the whole false alarm thing was down to human error, which occurred during routine testing of the system.  So, now we know it works, which is a positive.  But, should there be a next time, I wonder how many will take it as seriously as they did this time?

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Some lighting, some watching, some planning


Lighting: I hope everyone had a Happy Hanukkah if your family celebrates the Festival of Lights.  This year, my son was finally old enough to remember the candle-lighting prayer from one night to the next.  He previously would just hum along with big sister and dad, but now he knew the words and sang more confidently.  This bodes well for the future, since my husband’s family tradition is that the youngest family member leads the singing, and my little guy will have to step up to the musical plate once DD leaves for college.  I received some fun Disney-themed gifts for Hanukkah this year, including this trading pin jigsaw puzzle and Mickey sanduche-caliente maker.

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Hawaiian Interisland Trip Report, Island Air shutdown

Hi!  Super busy lately, but I’ve got a bit of local stuff to share, so here we go.

I recently went on a work trip to Lihue (LIH) from Honolulu.  I hadn’t been on a Hawaiian Airlines plane in at least 5 years.  We don’t use them to the mainland because: they offer a daily nonstop 11-hr (blergh) flight from Honolulu to the East Coast arriving at JFK (double blergh), which you know is not my cup of tea.  Anyway, this trip was booked on Hawaiian because a) my employer has a corporate account with them, b) the flight times worked out with the business need, and c) I could add my personal HawaiianMiles # to the reservation.  Tiny score on that last point, as the days of 500-mile minimums are gone and I earned 102 miles each way. Read the rest of this entry »


Southwest announces flights to Hawaii in 2018

Yes, you read that right.  After months of speculation, and some recent confusion here in Hawaii, tonight Southwest announced they would start selling tickets to Hawaii in 2018!  The recent confusion had to do with the Hawaii Global Tourism Summit last month- for the first time, Southwest signed on as a major sponsor of the event.  Many (including me) thought that it was a clear sign of an imminent announcement regarding flights to Hawaii.  The Summit came and went without any such announcement.  But today…this! Read the rest of this entry »

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Travel deal FROM Honolulu! And DLP details :)

If ever I planned to fly in a westerly direction, I would totally take advantage of this deal from AirAsia.  Fly to Osaka from Honolulu for $129 one-way!  Here is just a sample of their fare deals, full chart at this AirAsia link.  As you can see, there are many other destinations available at reasonable prices.  Though it says “All-In Fare,” there are are some additional fees for transaction is US Dollars.  But the fare is so low that it won’t detract much from your savings.  Book by this Sunday, September 17th.

airasia honolulu

I took Japanese in college, and if I was in the position to take advantage of these kids of short-term deals, I would definitely jump on this one!


As far as my personal planning for trips I can go on, I’m waiting to be able to book hotels in Paris, Barcelona, and Seville over the holiday season.  I check every few weeks, and the calendars still don’t go out that far.  I’m wanting to use some rewards points, and the availability is understandably limited.  If I were just paying out-of-pocket, I might not reserve so far in advance, but they only release a certain amount of rewards-eligible rooms for that week of/after Christmas.

Since I’m in a holding pattern on hotels, I’m currently working on making the itinerary for Disneyland Paris.  We’re only spending the one day there, so I’ve looked at the attractions descriptions and maps for both Parks, and made a chart that highlights our must-do rides and such.  I am spending all of our time on stuff that is different  or unavailable in the US Parks.  Here’s a sneak peek:

dlp details

Looking at this list makes me so, so happy.

candace heart eyes

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Yes, I am still here!

Again, it’s been a while, but I wanted to pass along a few items I found interesting…

  • Hawaiian Airlines announced some new West Coast routes: year-round nonstop service from Oakland to Kauai, Los Angeles to Kona, and Portland to Maui.
  • Disney Parks Blog did a live-stream of Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom tonight: click the link to the video if you’re into spoilers!
  • My kids are back to school, and avalanche of notices, syllabi, reminders, upcoming field trip forms, etc has begun to slide in.  You know what I mean, guys- it’s Paper City!  My solution is an accordion file, one per kid.  For the High Schooler, I label the tabs with each subject, plus one for papers/info about the Open House, one dedicated to her semester schedule for easy reference, and a few miscellaneous for things like receipts from School Store purchases, the combination to her gym locker in case she forgets it, etc.  For the Grammar Schooler who doesn’t have syllabi yet, I have tabs for receipts on school lunch deposits, upper halves of permission slips (including the $ paid, date paid, and payment form written on them for confirmation), one that has the sheet the school provides to stick Box Tops for Education on, and a few miscellaneous for the school year calendar, fundraiser/school picture order info, and past monthly lunch menus (the current one gets stuck to the fridge).  Both kids have a tab dedicated to report cards and progress reports. I just realized that my accordion files are basically a 3D spreadsheet for physical items!  <heart eyes emoji>

    accordion folder

    This is the kind I use, except mine have 12 tabs each.  I also store them in the “permanently open” position standing upright next to my desktop computer- ain’t nobody got time to be opening and closing them over and over.

Their placement by the computer is perfect- on one side of them I have a bin of items that need to be shredded, and on the other side, a dedicated space for scrap paper.  I can easily get through a big pile of stuff while sitting at my home desk by sorting quickly into these systems.  Shaves seconds off my day, lol.  I’ll take it, because nothing gets lost.

As Tigger says, Ta-ta For Now!


3 years of blogging under my belt!

It’s that time of year again!  The anniversary of this blog 🙂

3 years ago, I started this project in hopes of helping other Hawaii families plan their travel away from the Islands.  Based on anecdotal evidence, it has worked!  It’s still quite a small blog, but I know people have benefited from the information therein. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bits & Pieces: new HI routes on United, Virgin America partnerships, Disney media

My posts have slowed down some- work has gotten much busier lately, and so my usual routine of getting started with the main text of a post while at the office, then adding the finishing touches/pictures at home for posting has been disrupted. Boo.  Still, as the days go by I add items to my Post List so as not to forget them when I do have the time.  Here’s what I added to my Clipboard of Fun over the past few weeks: Read the rest of this entry »

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Hey, I’m learnin’ here: Disneyland Paris

In a unique position here: planning my first trip to a Disney Park!  One specific Disney Park, to be exact: Disneyland Paris.  My sister went once, but that was in the Dark Ages when it was called Euro Disney Resort.  Of course I will take any info she can provide, but I’m essentially starting from scratch.  Here’s what I know about Disneyland Paris: Read the rest of this entry »