Tag Archives: japan

A first award redemption on Star Alliance Partner Airline – ANA

It was in June when the award flights for the preferred travelling dates for Singapore to Tokyo & Osaka were fully redeemed. While all the accommodation had been booked and some had been pre-paid, I was unable to purchase air tickets for the domestic leg of Osaka-Sapporo & Sapporo-Tokyo. I wrote to Peach, Vanilla & ANA to enquire when they would open the flight bookings for domestic. However, all replied that I should check for announcements on their websites.

Meanwhile, I could see Skyscanner selling ANA & JAL flights for these sectors. It was about S$1,500 for 2 adults and 2 children to travel one way from Osaka to Sapporo and another $$1,500 to return. I was not impressed with Expedia’s untruthful search results of offering $500 per way for 2 adults and 2 children. When you clicked to Expedia’s site, it actually showed $1,500 as the final payable amount. I gave feedback to the Expedia but little could be done by the

Faced with fast-selling situation for Sapporo hotels and Rusutsu Resort, I was concerned if the tickets would be as hot selling. I was pretty firm on my schedule and had zero room to bend. That was when I wondered if I could redeem my KF miles for these 2 one-way domestic flights.

The award chart was listed on Singapore Airlines’ website. It cost 25,000 miles to redeem a return flight for domestic sector. Given that it was a 2 hours’ flight from Osaka to Sapporo and a 1hr 40min’s flight from Sapporo to Haneda, it seemed like a fair deal.

However, I could only do the redemption via form or telephone. Given how anxious I was, I called the Krisflyer hotline for assistance. I was delighted that the customer service operator had all the flight schedules. While I was mentally mapping out my itinerary, she informed me that I could not make an award redemption till 2 months prior to departure date. I was too stunned to quiz her further.

Mr H made the call the next day and the operator helped him to process the redemption booking. It was seamless and fast. However, any further changes to date would cost $20 per ticket. I was not sure of the cancellation policy. We would also need to call ANA ourselves for selection of seats.

After redeeming 25,000 miles per 2-way ticket per person, we only had to pay $3.20 per adult and $1.60 per child for taxes.

Planning a F&E Ski Holiday

The actual date stamp of this post, as opposed to the scheduled date stamp, was 6th Jun 2015.

That was how far back I had concluded & finalised the planning of this holiday.

How it all began – with the commitment to Z’s school that he would be in school for the entire period leading up to his graduation concert on 27 Nov, we were left with December to plan for a holiday.

It was either a wintry holiday in Europe or a sunny holiday in Australia, or so I thought. I contemplated Barcelona & Turkey but the sheer thought of only sightseeing might not be suitable for Toddler X. It would be a pity to have his terrible twos/threes to mar the beauty of the scenery too.

We had just returned from Tateyama-Tokyo trip when the thought of returning to Japan, especially Hokkaido (after Mr H verified with AVA that food imported from Hokkaido was definitely safe from radiation). We had only been to Hokkaido in 2007. After seeking Mr. Google’s help, I found a particularly useful blog which helped us to decide on going to Hokkaido.

While I had been very familiar with Honshu, planning a F&E trip for Hokkaido had been a different ball game, which led to unbelievable stress at one point. I actually thought that it was 10X more stressful than Primary school registration. I chose the period of 18 Dec – 2 Jan.

First, I had to deal with the lack of award flights for redemption on SQ, so I bought the sweet deals tickets at $3,715 for open jaw Sin-Osaka-Tokyo-Sin flight. It was in June but the sales of domestic tickets were not available till Jul/Aug. I was fine with that till I realised my Tokyo accommodation options were disappearing. Metropolitan Ikebukuro was fully sold out, as per some other favorites which were more affordable, limousine bus stops at lobby or near the train stations.

Next, once I decided on what to do in Hokkaido because the options were plenty but the snow and the lack of flexibility in transportation (long hours, cold & costly) forced me to have a crash course on this island. At one point, Mr H was so frustrated that he decided driving was the best idea. That left my heart pumping overdrive in anxiety after googling for videos on people driving in snowy Hokkaido. We prioritised what we really wanted to do, what we could do with 2 kids with us and the pricing of the options. I was truly grateful to the above mentioned blogger, Bumblebee Mum, who took the trouble to explain and help me with my planning.

Thirdly, even the chosen (costly) ski resorts were getting SOLD OUT. At one point, I was left ‘resort-less’ on Z’s birthday which was on Christmas Day. I was so upset that I could not sleep, all because I mulled over the selections and was a tad too slow by a couple of minutes.

Fourth, even the preferred Sapporo city hotels were getting sold out. Travelling with 2 kids meant we needed a triple room or a room big enough to add an extra bed. That was challenging, and I wanted hotels with metro access so that we did not have to walk in the cold. I ended up overbooking so many hotels, thanks to free cancellations, to review my options without the fear of them getting sold out.

Lastly, I decided to redeem award flights for the domestic leg. While processing half way, the operator told me that I could not redeem till 2 months before departure date and subjected to the quota that their star alliance partner eventually decided upon. Mr H called in, supposedly to appeal, but the new operator actually processed the redemption. Hence, we were 100,000 miles poorer but we only had to pay $9.60 for taxes.

That made my day.

Then I managed to get the resort on Z’s birthday.

That made my day further, and before I knew it, the entire plan was flushed out.

I should be gushing about Z’s going to school but really, at this point, I thought I would like to share the stress of planning this trip. As much as I would like to deny, there was a tiny perfectionist streak in me.

A brand new day in 2016

For the very first time for the family, we are spending the New Year Day overseas. When I asked Z what he thought of 2015 and moving onto 2016, he said he could not bear to leave 2015. It had been such a great year for him!

I thought my boy had grown up significantly.

As for X, the moment he heard it was a new year, he said it was his birthday and told us to celebrate for him with a song. When asked what he would like to do on the actual day, he said he wanted to go to a hotel. Such a funny toddler to be asking for a staycation!

We would still continue to enjoy our last 2 days in Tokyo before a new adventure, a new year began. 

Looking forward to a White Christmas

Information taken from Tomamu Resort. What exciting plans they have in stall!!

Reservation required:

Tomamu7

Tomamu6

tomanu8

*Need to buy present in advance for Santa to give:Tomamu

 

Reservation not required:tomamu2tomamu5tomamu3

tomamu4

Shopping for a ski holiday

It started way back in June when there was massive clearance discount on everything to do with snow & ski. After checking out our options locally (boutiques: Winter Time, Lemmi, The North Face & scanning more floors), I turned to online.

I checked out many websites from USA, Korea & even Taobao. I was not able to find the cheap buys sussed out by a mommy blogger on Taobao. Hence, I decided to buy from the below websites. I already had an inkling of what I wanted to buy before going to these websites.

For X, I wanted to get this jacket in 3T. It was US$130 but I got it at US$85. It was a 2-layered jacket so I figured I would get more mileage out of this as opposed to buying 1 thick ski jacket. I also did not want to get a pure hard shell jacket in case it was too loose to work with our own fleece jackets. I wished I could have gotten the Boundary Triclimate Boys’ Jacket though as that came with a polyester lining inner jacket. We decided against an one piece suit for ease of bringing X to the toilet. After adding in international freight, I probably paid S$130 for this.

Presenting The North Face Toddler Boys’ Vortex Triclimate Jacket (from http://www.moosejaw.com/) – real weight 0.65kg, volumetric weight 1.15kg (9*13*3inch)

SNOBL

For Z, I bought this The North Face Dubs Triclimate jacket in S (7-8yo). This was US$170 and could be purchased at US$130, US$75 or S$244 (after 25% discount locally). However, the Dr Jays website only offered smaller sizes so I had to pay US$130 for this before shipping. After working out the math, I reckoned I paid S$190 for this which only rendered me S$50 savings.

Specs of the jacket:

  • Fabric Rating: Waterproof / Breathable
  • Shell Jacket Material: 100% polyester HyVent fabric
  • Inner Jacket Material: 100% polyester taffeta
  • Inner Jacket Lining: 100% polyester
  • Inner Jacket Insulation: 160g Heatseeker


Other accessories or apparels were purchased from http://mountainwarehouse.com/https://www.decathlon.sg

From Mountain Warehouse, we bought the kids’ snow boots (heavily marked down from US$100 to US$29,99, and US$60 to US$14.99), beanies at US$1.99 each, ski socks at US$4.99 for 2 pairs (marked down from US$22.99), kids’ salopettes at US$22.99 (marked down from US$75), kids’ micro fleeced top at US$7.99, kids’ turtle necks at US$2.99 and more.

From Decathlon SG, we bought my Quecha snow boots at $59.90 (very affordable French brand), Mr H’s ski pants at $39.90, thermal trousers for the kids at $8.90 each and for the adults at $12.90 each. They were out of sizes for my ski pants, so I guessed I would wait and see.

From Amazon, we got Mr H’s shoes at US$60.57 with free shipping.   

From Dick’s Sporting Goods (which we had to buy via Vpost Shop4u as they did not accept payment from Non-USA billing addresses, not even paypal), we bought Mr H’s jacket. This would have cost S$546 SRP, or at best 20% discount or US$280. It was either buying via Borderlinx’s US$209.97, top up 5% for concierge charge and pay for international freight or Vpost’s offer of SGD338. We picked the latter as Borderlinx was experiencing some system error.

Featuring The North Face Men’s Alpen-Blitz Triclimate Jacket in Asphalt Grey/Fiery Red, 2015 Model
pDSP1-19074874p275w

 

Spects of the jacket:

  • HyVent® 2L shell
  • Heatseeker™ insulated zip in jacket
  • Classic fit
  • Waterproof, breathable fully seam sealed
  • Adjustable, removable hood
  • Reverse-coil chest pocket
  • Underarm vents
  • Handwarmer zip pockets
  • Wrist-accessory pocket with goggles cloth
  • Adjustable cuff tabs
  • Internal goggles pocket
  • Two-snap, snap-down powder skirt with gripper elastic
  • Adjustable hem system
  • Zip-in liner jacket
  • Zip hand pockets in liner
  • Fabric: Shell –  160 g/m² HyVent® 2L—100% nylon Taslan® / Liner – 65 g/m² 53% recycled polyester, 47% polyester / insulation: 100 g Heatseeker™A
  • Style C428
  • Weight:2 lbs 15 oz (1330 g) / Length from Center Back:shell: 31”, liner: 27.5”

From Gear Gut, we bought my jacket via Vpost Shop4u too. Similar to the earlier website, they did not accept payment from a non USA billing address. It worked for me too because the jacket was retailing at US$280 and this website was offering it in a sold out colour at US$140. Other websites were selling at US$196 at best after 30% markdown. It seemed a little too good to be true, so I was very happy to pass on the risk to a 3rd party. Together with the Vpost discount codes I received earlier, I paid S$214 for this jacket. It was a total steal from the local pricing of $546 SRP (or $420 after discount).

In the end, I had to buy my jacket from BobWards at US$195.97 because Gear Gut’s inventory system had a glitch and misrepresented the stock availability. It was still discounted but not as much discount as I had expected. Sobs!

Featuring The North Face Women’s Kira 2.0 Triclimate Jacket in Rocket Red, 2014 Model

download

Spects of the jacket:

  • 3-in-1 alpine ski jacket pairs a waterproof exterior shell with a zip-in liner jacket that features ample 100 g Heatseeker™ insulation
  • [Liner Jacket] Zip-in liner jacket
  • [Outer Jacket] Waterproof, breathable, fully seam sealed
  • Adjustable, removable hood
  • Reverse-coil chest pocket
  • Underarm vents
  • Hand zip pockets
  • Wrist-accessory pocket with goggle cloth
  • Adjustable cuff tabs
  • Internal goggle pocket
  • Two-snap, snap-down powder skirt with gripper elastic
  • Adjustable hem
  • Zip hand pockets
  • Fabric: shell: 110 g/m² HyVent® 2L—100% polyester plain weave / liner: 58 g/m² 100% nylon / insulation: 100 g Heatseeker™
  • Style: CU74
  • Weight: 2 lbs 4 oz (1020 g) / Length from center back: shell 27”, liner 25”

What’s left as to buy: my ski pants (to buy or borrow), Balacavas, the kids’ ski gloves and the kids’ ski socks

Day 8 – Japan, Tokyo

We let the kids sleep in as much as they could because of how hard they played in the last 2 days. By the time they woke up, got ready and checked out, it was almost 11am. We even went downstairs to buy more Disney merchandise before taking the Disney monorail for the last time. From the JR station, we took the keiyo line to Tokyo station for 10min and transferred to the Chuo line to Shinjuku for 15min.

We wanted to eat at Takashimaya but the restaurant was closed for renovation so we settled for Japanese western cuisine. We shopped at Lumine EST, Bic camera and Isetan from 1 to 4pm.

Z at my favorite store
We went back via the same route and this was X taking the JR for the last time on this trip.  

We had left Tokyo a tad later and had to rush back to the hotel for the airport limousine bus which cost 2450yen per person. We had booked the 1706h bus for our 2050h flight.

Last view of the hotel

We reached the airport by 615pm and took some time to repack our luggage. We were finally done by 7pm and processed our check in. I had thought that the customs to check the tax free goods was prior to check in. It turned out that you did not have to show the duty free goods. You only have to bring the passport to the officers who would remove the stapled receipts and file it aside.

Z waiting patiently 

After the immigration, we went to Fa So Lah to pick up gummi mallows, Shiroi Kohibito biscuits, potato farm and more.

We made do with Macs for dinner at 8pm. It was a good thing we did because our A380 flight was so full that we were only served dinner at 11pm+.
With that, the holiday came to an end.

Day 7 – Japan, Disneyland

This was the most epic theme park day ever in my personal history, for Mr H and for the kids too. We clocked 14 continuous hours in Disneyland, with X only napping for an hour and Z with zero nap. Both kids played well and hard. No meltdown, great job my dear boys!

We arrived at the park entrance at 830 to queue for early entry to the park at 845. The park opened at 9am and to be honest, I thought they could be more generous with the early entry but anyhow, the 15 minutes helped us to gain a head start.

I would say that because we completed 21 attractions (unique theatres/rides), 2 parades, 1 lunch-on-the-go, 1 tea break, 1 tea break-on-the-go and 1 dinner entertainment in a day. I had to say the entire family party was very cooperative in order for this to happen!

While DisneySea was fun, Disneyland totally rocked and was a lot more fun (for the kids). I was glad that I arranged to visit Disneyland later instead.

Dressed for the day  – I was happy to fit the kids’ size of 150 because it meant that  my t-shirt was cheaper by 400yen. The boys’ tees were 1600yen each, mine was 1900yen and Mr H’s was 2300yen. I thought it was quite cute to have discriminatory pricing based on sizes.

We started with Tomorrow Land. We walked briskly to the first ride of the day for us. It was “Monster Inc. ride & go seek!”. We waited less than 5min and got to the ride. Each carriage sat 2 persons and we were supposed to use torch lights to shine at the monsters. X loved it, so did we! It was really good!

We ran over to “Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters”. We had taken this ride a few times in Hong Kong and Paris but this was slightly better. It was actually harder to hit the targets but the experience was awesome.

Next up was “Grand Circuit Raceway” while Mr H went to pick up the Fast pass for Space Mountain.

X drove a grand auto!

Racing was serious business

The boys managed to ride this twice.

We hopped over to “StarJets” and munched on snacks. We had woken up so early, by our standards, that we barely ate breakfast. After “StarJets”, we took the “Space Mountain” ride while Mr H & my dad babysat X. When we were out, Z took the ride again with Mr H while I went to the food court to buy fast food as early lunch.

We had seen people sitting on the floor so we realised they were waiting for the parade. The park attendants allowed us to ‘reserve’ seating spots on the floor by placing personal items to chope the place, not unlike our tissue-blocking culture. We ate the fast food while waiting for the parade to save time. Meanwhile, Mr H picked up the fast passes for Winnie the Pooh. Though it was only 11ish, the fast pass timing given was 1735-1835h. Another sold out ride…

We camped under the hot sun from 11am for the 1130am parade, which only reached Tomorrow land at almost 12pm
*caps, umbrellas & sunblock were essential!!

It was such an orderly wait and the floats were so gorgeous that it was a well deserved wait! I liked the part where there was no jostling and you could take photos/videos to your heart’s contents.

Awesome floats at the parade (repeated in the afternoon at 330pm too)

More happy floats

X loved, loved, loved the parades, so did Z. When my kids were happy, I was happy too!

We popped over to Fantasyland when the parade was over. We went to “It’s a small world” & “Alice’s Tea Party”.

Spinning Alice’s tea cup

I wanted the kids to try “Haunted Mansion” since there was no queue or minimum height requirement. Mr H felt it was a bad choice. I reckoned X would have been fine if Z did not start wailing. In any case, we made it through with screaming/crying boys. The ride was so dark that X fell asleep. That was a great outcome, in my opinion!

Since X slept, unsurprisingly after such a long morning, we went to Critter Country. The “Splash Mountain” looked really wet and required a 70mins’ wait. We gave that a miss and went to “Beaver Brothers Explorer Canoes”.

Canoe ride

It looked interesting and was fun till… we got tired. It was a pretty long canoe ride around the river.

We walked over to Westernland and picked up the Fast pass for “Big Thunder Mountain”. I was surprised because I thought we had to take the winnie the pooh ride before claiming another fast pass. We took a break with ice cream, popsicle, drinks and Katsu curry don at almost 2pm. We shopped a tad more & Z got bored. He wanted to take more rides. We queued 25min for Peter Pan’s Flight and woke X up for this. He had only napped for an hour but he was raring to go.

We also watched “Mickey’s PhilharMagic” which was like a 4D show without the shaking but it gave us a good respite from the heat and walking. The kids were very amused though.

We went for another round on the Castle Carousel & we visited the Cinderella’s castle as there was no queue.

Cinderella’s throne

There were Dumbo’s Flying Elephant ride (similar to Star Jet & Jasmine’s Flying Carpet), Snow White’s Adventures & Pinocchio’s Daring Journey which we missed. The former had way too long a queue so we gave it a miss. There was a warning that the Snow White’s ride might be too scary for children and I did not want to risk making X cry. My kids did not know who Pinocchio really was and opted to play other rides… okay, totally my bad to not have revised the older fairy tales with them.

We returned to Westernland and claimed the “Big Thunder Mountain” ride before proceeding to Adventureland. We took a rest stop at “The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha E Komo Mai”. The show was quite bad in my opinion but the kids were amused…?!

We proceeded to queue for the Wildlife Expeditions Jungle Cruise. There was a 25mins’ queue. It was already 5pm so we were surprised that this was still so crowded. Whilst queuing, I bought grilled ‘deboned’ teriyaki chicken legs. The kids enjoyed so much that we had to buy more.

The wild jungle cruise

As the Jungle Cruise and the Western River Railroad shared the same station, my mom & I brought X up to the railroad while Mr H & my dad brought Z to take “Pirates of the Caribbean”. There was an odd note for the latter that “guests who cannot maintain a stable sitting position alone in a moving vehicle may not ride”. Hence, I was afraid that X could not take the ride and brought him to take the train ride which he would so love anyway.

Mr H said there was no queue for the “Pirates of the Caribbean”, so after both our rides ended, I passed X over to Mr H who accompanied the kids to watch a Mickey performance at “Theatre Orleans” which was also the mid point of both rides. I was surprised that the boat ride for “Pirates of the Caribbean” was similar to the boat for “It’s a small world”. Initially, I thought we should have brought X for this.

There was one part where there was a gentle drop into the water. I supposed that probably was why X could not ride. The exhibits could also be too scary for X.

After this, we rushed back to “Winnie the Pooh” ride. Even at 630pm, there was still a snaking 70min queue for Winnie the Pooh! It was an awesome ride, nonetheless, and X refused to leave the car. We dragged him to Toontown. I had hoped to take another photo with Mickey but it was a 40mins’ wait so we skipped it.

Mickey’s car

We took Z on “Gadget’s Go Coaster” while my parents babysat X.

We skipped the characters’ home and headed for Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. This attraction was showing signs of aging. It was not as fun as how I remembered it used to be. No wonder no fast pass was required. It felt like a ‘has been’ ride.

By now, we were all exhausted and Z wanted to reride the Grand Circuit Raceway. My mom took him to the ride while we shopped, changed X’s diapers and waited for the 730pm night parade. It was superb! I was blown away, so were the kids. The floats kept coming and I had zilch phone battery at this stage.

The night’s electrical float

Electrifying Cinderella’s gown

Illuminated Minnie

Mickey on Float

After the parade, we bought more merchandise from Disney Stores because we had a dinner reservation at the Diamond Horseshoe at 2040h which I had reserved via the Travel Case and paid in full earlier. It was 4940yen per adult and 3900yen per child to dine and watch Mickey & Company perform on stage. It was so much fun and a really cosy experience.

Finale photo from Mickey & Company Dinner

The dinner ended at 2215h and we took our time to stroll out of the park, and to make last minute’s purchases.

This instagram post of mine said it all, except that I realised I miscalculated. We spent 12 hours at DisneySea, not 10 hours!