spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

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 »


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…

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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American Express stuff: Small Business Saturday and Amex Offers

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

tragedy comedy

I personally like to hear the bad news first, so I am temporarily bummed but still have the potential to be cheered up.  I’ll list the news thusly, then…

BAD NEWS: If you aren’t already aware of the American Express promotion Small Business Saturday (SBS), here’s a quick history.  They started the promotion about 4 years ago to try and give local stores/restaurants/service providers a chance for more business during Thanksgiving weekend.  Of course, Small Business Saturday was scheduled for the day after Black Friday, when many people shop the big-box stores, chain department stores, and wholesale retailers for good deals on holiday gifts.  It was also a chance for Amex cardholders to save a lot of money, because some sort of statement credit was usually involved.  Last year it was a $10 statement credit for any purchase of $10 or more, up to 3 times, on each participating Amex card.  Between my husband and I, we had the Costco Amex, we each had an Amex Serve card, and I had the SPG Amex- that meant a total of 12 different $10 statement credits available to us.  We searched the SBS site for local business and identified which we wanted to patronize.  In some cases, we just bought a $10 gift card to use on another day- free money.  In other cases, we waited to purchase something we wanted from the store, and got it at a $10 discount that day (I’m looking at you, Ono Cheese Steak).  This year, they are still promoting Small Business Saturday, but are not offering any statement credits for Amex cardholders.  Bummer!  They do still offer lots of resources for small business owners to market their services, and seem to be very supportive of local shops.  We all should, and this is pretty important in Hawaii- the whole Shop Local thing.

Now for the good news: Amex Offers are a yearlong perk to having an American Express Card.  Basically, they are targeted offers that differ depending on your zip code, spending patterns, or whatever other information Amex gleans from your credit card applications and statement.  Many times an Offer includes a statement credit, such as “spend $50, receive a $15 statement credit.”  Occasionally they will have a special offer for cardholders, such as “Omaha Steaks package for $45 with free shipping.”  You can go to AmexOffers.com to log in with your Amex card login, or FB/Twitter.

amex offers1

Scroll down, and simply select an offer that is on your list.  In some cases, the offer has a hashtag associated that will add the offer to all of your Amex accounts.  I don’t do Twitter, so I just look at my list.

amex offers2

You can click the offer to see the terms and conditions.  ALWAYS read them- they can be very specific, restricting what qualifies as a purchase for the offer, plus they contain an expiration date.  Usually, there is not problem with starting your shopping trip at an airline shopping portal, or something like Ebates, which can make your deal even sweeter.

amex offers3

Once the offer is added and you use it correctly, you’ll get a confirmation email, generally within minutes of the transaction:

amex offers4

Then you just look out for your statement credit!  A few tips:

  • again, always read the terms and conditions.
  • if you have multiple Amex cards, there are usually different offers for each card.  Check all of them!
  • check your statement- technically they have up to 90 days to post the statement credit, but I usually see them within 3 days.
  • keep an eye out for the confirmation email.  In rare cases, you won’t get an email.  You can either reach out to Amex or wait about a week to see if the credit posts on its own.
  • the minimum amount required is based on the total charged, including taxes and shipping costs if applicable.

GOOD NEWS: One of these lovely Amex offers just popped up for transactions at Undercover Tourist!  See my screenshot of the offer above- it’s a $30 statement credit when you spend $150 or more.  You may remember that we purchased our Disney and Universal tickets on the site not long ago.  They are authorized to sell tickets to all these cool places, and even more, like local whale watching trips, and even rental cars:

•Walt Disney World
•Universal Orlando
•SeaWorld Orlando
•Legoland Florida
•Kennedy Space Center
•Universal Studios Hollywood
•Six Flags Magic Mountain
•Knott’s Berry Farm
•Madame Tussauds Hollywood
•Pirate’s Dinner Adventure Anaheim
•SeaWorld San Diego
•Legoland California
•San Diego Zoo
•San Diego Zoo Safari Park
•Sea Life Aquarium

I think you know what I’ll be looking to purchase using this offer!  San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, baby!  I should know by the end of December -when the offer expires- when we can take that trip.  Looking at the (what else?) terms and conditions of the e-tickets sold for the Safari Park, for example, they are only valid “during the calendar year when purchased.”  So I don’t want to buy them too far ahead of time.

So there you have it- the highs and low of credit card perks: Amex edition.  As always, I don’t get any compensation/special stuff for talking about it.  See my disclaimer.  I just want everyone to get a good deal.  Have fun shopping!

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Travel Strategies for Hawaii residents- Hawaiian Airlines

Sorry for the break in posting- got pretty busy for a few weeks.  Now back to normal, ready to discuss Hawaiian Airlines 🙂

Hawaiian is the big name in travel to in the islands (duh).  They fly nice planes around the islands and to/from Asia, Australia, the South Pacific, and North America. Once again, in keeping with the focus of the blog, I’ll detail the nonstop routes to and from Canada and the US mainland on Hawaiian (HA) metal:

  • from Honolulu (HNL): Las Vegas, NV (LAS), Los Angeles, CA (LAX), New York, NY (JFK), Oakland, CA (OAK), Phoenix, AZ (PHX), Portland, OR (PDX), Sacramento, CA (SMF), San Diego, CA (SAN), San Francisco, CA (SFO), San Jose, CA (SJC), Seattle, WA (SEA).
  • from Kahului (OGG):  Los Angeles, CA (LAX), Oakland, CA (OAK), San Francisco, CA (SFO) beginning Nov 2014, San Jose, CA (SJC), Seattle, WA (SEA).
  • from Kailua-Kona (KOA): Los Angeles, CA (LAX), Oakland, CA (OAK).  Both of these are summer seasonal routes.
  • from Lihue (LIH): Los Angeles, CA (LAX), Oakland, CA (OAK).  Both of these are summer seasonal routes. 

OK- travel strategies for kama’aina on Hawaiian Airlines!  All residents know that HawaiianMiles are fairly easy to accumulate locally.  There is a co-branded credit card, miles given for shopping at Foodland, and miles-earning shopping events at malls around the state.  This one is coming up at Windward Mall, and they have events at Kahala Mall and Ward Centers, too.  The standard mileage-earning opportunities apply as well: there is a shopping portal, partnerships w/hotels and rental car companies, a dining program, and even a MilesFinder toolbar you can install.

Two HawaiianMiles features I haven’t seen too often in other frequent flyer programs:

  1. you can earn HawaiianMiles for processing a travel visa
  2. HawaiianMiles program members get 40% off checked baggage fees on Neighbor Island flights
  3. you can share your miles with anyone: the receiver must hold a personal Hawaiian Airlines credit or debit card card, but the giver just has to be someone with a valid HawaiianMiles account.

So you can earn miles a bunch of ways…now how to spend them?  Here’s what you need to fly to/from the mainland on HA metal, along with the guide to the different Award types:

One Way Flight Awards Coach SuperSaver Coach Saver* Coach Flex First Class Saver First Class Flex
North America To/From Hawaii
North America–Hawaii 20,000 30,000 40,000 40,000 80,000
North America–Hawaii Upgrade 25,000 50,000

All awards are one way flight awards
* Coach Class Saver level awards may be purchased online only

Hawaiian Airlines Awards

  • SuperSaver – the lowest mileage Coach flight award.
  • Coach Saver– available when SuperSaver awards are not. Coach Saver awards may be purchased online only.
  • Coach Flex– can be redeemed for travel on Hawaiian Airlines with twice the miles of a SuperSaver award when both SuperSaver and Saver award seats are not available.
  • First/Business Saver – the lowest mileage First/Business Class flight award. This award does not have to be purchased online.
  • First/Business Flex – can be redeemed for travel on Hawaiian Airlines with twice the miles of a First/Business Saver award when a First/Business Saver award is not available.

Partner airlines include ANA (All-Nippon Airways), American Airlines, China Airlines, JetBlue, Korean Air, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic Airways, and Virgin Australia.  Of these, only American and JetBlue (UPDATED 4/7/15: and Virgin America) offer routes to/from the mainland:

American Airlines

Roundtrip Award Award Mileage
Economy Business First
1 Roundtrip between North America and Hawaii 45,000 90,000 110,000
1 Roundtrip between North America and Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America; within the Caribbean; between the Caribbean and South America 35,000 70,000 85,000
1 Roundtrip between North America and South America 60,000 120,000 150,000
1 Roundtrip between North America and Europe 60,000 120,000 150,000
*Awards for the routes listed above must be on flights operated by American Airlines only. Awards may not be issued for flights operated by American Airline’s partners. Awards on American Airlines flights must be based on roundtrip travel only. All are subject to change with or without notice. Note: Bolding is mine: when using HawaiianMiles on AA, you must have a roundtrip itinerary.  To be able to book one-ways, you can use American AAdvantage miles on Hawaiian flights.  Definitely use AAdvantage miles if you can- the Coach Saver RT price will be only 35K miles as opposed to 45K HawaiianMiles as shown above. [IMPORTANT re my note: as of 9/1/15, AAdvantage miles cannot be redeemed for Hawaiian Airlines flight to/from the US mainland.]


Estimated JetBlue
Ticket Value
Award Mileage
From To From To
0 99 10,000
100 179 15,000 20,000
180 259 25,000 30,000
260 339 35,000 40,000
340 419 45,000 50,000
*Miles required for redemption will vary based on ticket value. Chart above shows an ESTIMATED mileage redemption amount.  Note: the only flight you can really use this benefit on is the nonstop from HNL to JFK.  The only way to calculate how many TrueBlue points you will need for the fare is to search for the dollar cost, call JetBlue directly to book the flight (no online booking on partner awards), and then expect to pony up 1 point for every 1.2 cents of value, which kind of contradicts the chart above, but seems to be the norm for Hawaiian flights on JetBlue.  Not a good value unless you are swimming in TrueBlue points.
One-way HNL-JFK on JetBlue, random date

One-way HNL-JFK on JetBlue, random date.  This would likely cost ~42,500 TrueBlue points (509 divided by .012)

So, using HawaiianMiles on HA metal and American is pretty straightforward.  It’s nice that one can fly Hawaiian flights and credit them to America/JetBlue, and vice versa. Decent flexibility there.  Unfortunately, they don’t fly any routes to Canada at this time.  We’ll have to settle for WestJet’s Vancouver nonstop.

Saving money on Hawaiian flights (mostly with the co-branded credit card issued by Bank of Hawaii/Barclays Bank):
  •  Primary Cardholders are eligible to earn a one-time 50% off discount toward one published roundtrip coach fare for a companion upon new account approval and is good for 13 months from the time the credit card account is open. Note: must be used on HA metal, no partner airlines.
  • Primary Cardholders are also eligible to earn a one hundred ($100) discount off one coach companion ticket on each credit card account anniversary upon payment of annual fee and is good for 12 months from account anniversary.

On the non-Hawaiian CC holder side:

  • they frequently have great deals on West Coast travel.  There is a special price on the San Francisco-Kahului flight for travel on selected dates in January- $398 roundtrip!  Read the wording on the specials carefully  though, most are non valid in both directions.  This special fare, for example, is only good when the travel originates from San Francisco.  You can sign up for Hawaiian fare alerts here.
  • Starwood Preferred Guest members can get special fares (usually a flat 5% off) most flights.
  • You can get $1 (yes, just $1) back when booking Hawaiian flights through ebates.
  • some local employers also offer discounts: HGEA, Air Force Association, and I’m sure many others.
  • there are also constant offers of contest to win HawaiianMiles, like the one HMSA currently has.
On a personal note, the logo and brand colors on Hawaiian appeal to me.  Just like the iconic Eskimo on the tail of an Alaska Airlines plane, the Hawaiian lady on the tail of an HA plane gives me the warm and fuzzies.  While I personally abhor the smell of flowers and hate receiving lei, there is nothing more whimsical than giant versions of common items:
You can barely make out the huge lei on the nose of the plane.  Photo from airlinereporter.com

You can barely make out the huge lei on the nose of the plane. Photo from airlinereporter.com

Any questions on Hawaiian Airlines?