Category Archives: Holidays

Printed Itinerary for Z

When I was younger, I used to gloss over the itineraries provided by travel agencies. Fast forward to today, since most of our trips were free and easy, there was no itinerary except for a trusty excel template.

Z asked many questions and repeated questions about the trip. So much so that I decided to make him his very own version of the itinerary. It would save my breath from telling him what we would be doing from day to day, where we would be staying and more.

I was so happy whenever he asked me anything about the trip that I could tell him, “Go read your itinerary!”

A 2pp Tri-fold itinerary   


The feedback for this from a parent’s point of view was awesome. Z stopped asking me repeated questions and had a very good idea of the itinerary. He went as far as to tell his preschool teacher and friends about it. His teacher noted that he remembered many details by heart. It showed how he was able to grasp a big picture when he was passionate about something. Didn’t we always? 

Arranging for ski lessons

I talked about how hard it was to book ski lessons despite making my intentions known very early. We eventually sorted that out but I thought I would like to record the ski lessons’ booking schedule and costs.

1. 22nd Dec: Private lesson for 4 of us, Tomamu resort, English instructor, 9-11am, 42K yen

2. 23rd Dec: Private lesson for 4 of us, Tomamu resort, Japanese instructor with basic English, 12-2pm, 40K yen

3. 25th Dec: Class lesson for Z & X, Rusutsu Shin Crayon Ski school, 945-1515 including lunch, 16K yen per child

*We were on waiting list for the 1030am English class.

4. 26th Dec: Class lesson for Z & X, Rusutsu Shin Crayon Ski school, 945-1515 including lunch, 16K yen per child

*We were on waiting list for the 1030am English class.

Psyched about the holidays #postdated

At the point of recording this, we were 10 days to the departure date. 

The itinerary was confirmed in June. I had purchased the USJ express pass in September and the Disney Park tickets in October.

It was so far back that I had to recap what I had booked, revisited the navigation plans and took the chance to file the documentation. I also showed the kids videos of kids skiing to get them excited and mentally prepared about a snowy holiday.

Meanwhile, this was our travel itinerary in a nutshell.

17th Dec – head to the airport 

18th Dec – Osaka

19th Dec – USJ

20th Dec – Osaka city 

21st Dec – Tomamu resort, Hokkaido

22nd Dec – Tomamu

23rd Dec – Tomamu

24th Dec – Rusutsu resort 

25th Dec – Rusutsu 

26th Dec – Rusutsu 

27th Dec – Otaru

28th Dec – Tokyo 

29th Dec – Fuji-Q

30th Dec – Disneyland

31st Dec – Tokyo

1st Jan – Odaiba

2nd Jan – Shopping

3rd Jan – Home sweet home!

Booking ski lessons

Booking a ski trip during peak season not only meant we had to pay through the nose for ski lessons, it was also very difficult to secure ski classes. It was no thanks to the rigid nature of their customer service. In person, Japanese service was great. Over email, the customer service became non-existent.

I started hounding the hotel over ski lessons’ booking since Jun 2015. However, they kept saying the schedule was not out. After repeated reminders, they finally replied to say that the website was opened for booking. However, it was only available in Japanese. To rub salt to the wound, the system was buggy.

I ended up without a private lesson…

I had to call them directly at this point (and incurring international call charges!!!), kicked up a fuss over email and eventually had a favourable response from them.

Lesson learnt: Just pick up the phone and call.

Though on the other hand, I had perfect support via email from another resort. 

Getting a Data Sim Card for Japan

JAPAN LTE DATA SIM 5GB (2) Qty: 2 @ ¥5,300 = ¥10,600

Fri Dec 18 2015 – Sat Jan 2 2016 (16 Days)

In May 2015, I tried a basic sim card at ¥1,900 which offered 7 days * 100MB a day due to this ‘Fair Usage Policy’. Once you exceeded the first 100Mb of the day, the speed be reduced to nearly non existent. I could barely upload much pictures or blog on the go. While there was wifi in the hotels, there were some places which did not provide wifi.

In Sept 2015, I tried the portable wifi router which cost ¥920 per day and offered 1GB for every 3 days. After which, the ‘Fair Usage Policy’ kicked in. Another painful part was that the battery of the router would drain alongside with the phone. I could conserve its battery turning on only when I needed to use it but the boot-up time was annoying. Sometimes, things got critical when you only wanted to check the maps.

Given that we would be going in winter, I was sure that the cold weather would drain battery very fast, given how the Tateyama trip drained my power bank before my phone battery was even dead. What was the point of a power bank? On hindsight, I should have tried to keep it warm.

Furthermore, having sim cards instead of a shared router meant Mr H & I could split up at theme parks for queuing and not worry about being unable to find each other.

It was apparent that I preferred a sim card to a router. My friend did the homework and found this Sakura Mobile sim card. There was a promotion of 20% more data for usage in Dec-15 & Jan-16.

There were 3Gb, 5GB & 7GB options. We picked the 5GB each because we knew we probably had to share with the kids, partly because the price difference between 3GB & 5GB was only ¥1000. It seemed like a pretty decent deal. That being said, if only Singtel had a similar product like M1 Passport, that would have been much more awesome.

Introducing Harry Potter

To be honest, having spent more than S$300 on USJ express passes for us to visit Harry Potter land, an introduction for my boys to Harry Potter was in order.

I had considered reading the books as bedtime to them but figured out they might not have the patience to hear me read through the 7 books. While it took me only 2 hours to speed read the thickest volume, reading out loud was a different ball game. 

Here came the backup plan – watching the Harry Potter movies. As usual, I came up with the idea and Mr H executed the plan. He got us the Harry Potter movies and I briefed Z & X on the story.

During the first film, the boys were mildly interested. At the second film a month later, they were more keen. By the time we got to Prisoner of Azkaban, my 2.75 year old toddler was totally getting the groove of wizardry and waved twigs at me. He was shouting, “Run!!” when Harry & his friends were faced with Lupin the werewolf. They loved the film though there were some scary scenes. 

Mr H was amused. I was pleased.

I somewhat passed down my “teenage hood/early adulthood” legacy.

When I showed Z this picture we took in 2013, he was confused beyond words and truly believed that we had gone through the platform!

//edited: On 12 Nov 2015, both boys completed all 8 installments of the movie. What a major achievement unlocked! 😜

Buying an Universal Studios Japan Express Pass

We planned to visit Osaka because we wanted to visit Universal Studios Japan, largely for Harry Potter land. I was a big fan of Harry Potter. Despite the fact that it would be in Japanese, I just had to go.

I discovered from various reviews that queues for the Harry Potter rides could be as long as 3-4 hours. You would also need to exchange for a free but limited timed entry pass to enter Harry Potter land. Everyone recommended the purchase of USJ Express passes. If you checked the site in English, you could only buy these passes in the park. These passes were limited and were usually sold out online.

You could only purchase the passes 3 months in advance.

There were 3 main types of Express passes – Express Pass 7, Express Pass 5 and Express Pass 3. The Express Passes had pre-planned rides tagged to it. An Express Pass 3 did not include Harry Potter rides or timed entry to Harry Potter land.

We sucked it up and bought Express Pass 7 which cost a whooping 9,800yen per person for weekend use, regardless of child, adult or senior citizen. This did not even include the admission costs!

When I booked the Express Pass 7, I also selected the time to enter Harry Potter land which was 10am ~ 1pm.

This was what my pass covered.

These 4 rides were predetermined and could not be changed.

○ 10:15-10:30 Flight Of The Hippogryph
○ 10:45-11:00 Harry Potter And The Forbidden Journey 
○ The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man · The Ride 
○ Space Fantasy - The Ride

For the next 3 rides, there was somewhat a selection. I would pick the one in bold. I doubted I would need Express pass for Sesame Street 4-D Movie Magic and I did not plan to watch Shrek (had enough of that in USS!).

I was tempted between the old school Back to the Future but I guessed Jaws might be more fun for the boys.

Hollywood Dream - The Ride or Sesame Street 4-D Movie Magic TM / Shrek 4-D Adventure TM 
☆ Jaws (R) or Back to the Future (R) · The Ride 
☆ Jurassic Park - The Ride (R) or Terminator 2: 3-D (R)or Backraft (R)

I purchased the Express Passes online in September because the website could issue QR codes via internet and email. However, I opted to buy the admission tickets at the hotel the day before I went to the park. If I opted to buy online, I had to go to the park and exchange for admission passes.  There could be a queue for the exchange. As mentioned earlier, there was unlimited sale of admission passes.

The entire USJ web store was in Japanese so I would recommend using Google Translate to get through every step.

1. When you are at the web store, click on the icon “pass” and select your date up to 3 months in advance. Select your date. Then click the big yellow box under your date.

2. You scroll the menu till you see the Express Pass symbol and use Google Translate to make your selection.

3. Pick ‘Direct In’, add to cart and create a ‘Club Login’ account. You have to use Google Translate to add your name in Katakana to the account. You can use the hotel address and telephone number.

4. The website accepted international credit cards and did not check against the Club account’s address. Picked “lump sum amount” and ticked all boxes before the big yellow box could be clicked.

The transaction would be completed with QR codes all listed in the account. You could print the QR codes or use your phone to flash the QR codes.

//Edited at 1.5 weeks’ to USJ: When I was buying the express passes, I had wanted to buy the USJ admission tickets at the same time. However, the system only offered ‘Exchange at Park’ or ‘Deliver to Home’ options. The latter was only for Japanese addresses.

Shortly prior to departure, my friend messaged me that I could buy USJ tickets online now. I went through the same process as stated above and realised that I had a 3rd option now which was admission via ‘Direct-in’. It was the same as per my Express passes where QR codes were issued and I could use the soft copy in phone or print out the hard copy.

With these in hands, we were all set for USJ!