Tag Archives: travel

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.

Advertisements

Booked the next trip

With Z going to primary school in the coming year, our traveling periods were synchronized with the MOE calendar. 

In late October, I redeemed the air miles for a June holiday. The beauty of using air miles was the fully flexible tickets which came with it.

Z was so excited that he was a very good boy till the next morning. We were waiting for X to finish up his milk in the morning and I realized my boy had made very good use of the free time.

It was only a pocket of 5-10 minutes but he picked up his Chinese book to read. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

My studious boy  
Meanwhile, I had a good 10 months to plan.

At the back of my mind, I was also making plans for the 2016 Dec holiday. 😱

My favourite travel insurance

I would usually stake out for the bi-annual travel insurance promotion. It would be offered during NATAS period. At 50% off for single trip policy, it was too good to be missed!

Apart from the coverage for loss of valuables (in particular loss of cash due to theft being capped as $500), the general coverage was pretty comprehensive and generous. It was also generally easy to claim from Tenet should anything really crop up.

unnamed

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!

Day 6 – Japan, Disneysea

We started the day very early because I aimed to reach Disneysea at 9am. Working the sums backwards where Ikebukuro to Tokyo station would take 30min and Tokyo station to Maihama station via Keiyo line would take 20min, we had to check out by 715am. That was quite impossible but we managed to reach Maihama station by 9am.

Instead of leaving the luggage at Disney Welcome centre at Maihama station, we pushed our luggage to the Tokyo Disneyland hotel because it was such a short walk away. We checked in so that we could receive the complimentary Monorail pass which was provided to all guests. We could also have collected it at the Welcome centre but there was a long queue too.

Our monorail pass, retailing at 1100yen but was complimentary for hotel guests which could be picked up from the Welcome Centre or the hotels 

By the time we made our way over to Disneysea, it was 10am. We were in time to catch the fashion parade at Mediterranean Harbour. Given that the parade was on water, the floats were too far away from the main viewing area. I would suggest camping along the waterside for a better view. While we were at the show, Mr H picked up a fast pass for Tower of Terror at 1130-1230.

Waiting for the Gondola ride

We left just before the show ended and were amongst the first in queue for the Gondola ride which reopened at 1110am. We headed over to Tower of Terror at 1130am and Z was pretty scared by the ride, so much so that he cried. Thereafter, we wanted to try the Toy Story Mania ride but the fast pass was for 2125h!!

There was no point locking up our fast pass priority, so we walked about and had lunch at Restaurant Sakura. There was a queue but thankfully, I had made reservation prior to the trip as part of my hotel travel case booking. The food was pretty good and rather reasonable.

Our priority booking slips

The meals

We queued for Toy Story Mania at 125pm and it was a great ride for the kids. While we queued, Mr H picked up another fast pass for Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Thankfully the queue was only 35min instead of the original 60min. It was so much fun, using the shooters to score points. I even snapped a shot of my score against Z. It was a brand new ride which I had not seen in HK or Paris.

We popped over to the Big City vehicle ride which pleased the boys to no end. The ride was a round trip at the “New York” area.

How the Easter decorated Big City Vehicle looked like

We made our way up to Aquatopia and were lucky that there was hardly anyone so Z took the ride twice.

On Aquatopia

It was time for our next fast pass “Journey to the centre of the earth”. There was a light drizzle, so the crowd for Storm rider had somewhat dispersed. It became a 15min wait for this 4-D show which left Z in tears. He thought the roof was really torn apart and he was going to be hit. 😂

We headed up to meeting Mickey. It was a 30min wait to take a photo with him. It was followed by Raging Spirits roller coaster ride for the adults before we moved on to the kiddy rides.

Z & X loved Jasmine’s flying carpet ride so they rode it twice. The entire family rode the Sinbad Storybook Voyage, then the carousel.

On the carousel, and it was around 6pm at this time

We were done with the Arabian coast and headed for the Mermaid’s Lagoon which was designed for kids. We started with a mini roller coaster “Flounder’s Flying Fish Coaster” which Z could take but X was below 90cm so he had to give it a miss.

We then proceeded to the Mermaid Lagoon where more kiddy rides were. It was fully sheltered so it would be a great hideout if weather turned bad. There was a Disney food court selling pizza and sandwiches here.

Inside Mermaid Lagoon

We played the Whirlpool & the Blowfish Balloon Race before heading to Mermaid Lagoon Theatre. It was odd that the theatre offered a Fastpass option so I assumed it should be pretty good.

The Whirlpool ride

At the Mermaid Theatre

It was a 14 minutes’ performance and was really entertaining. Too bad my boys were not well acquainted with the story of Little Mermaid!

After the theatre, we took another ride.

The Jumpin’ Jellyfish ride

By now, it was almost 8pm and we were starving. We wanted rice and noodles for dinner, so we brought the family to the nearby cafe at Mysterious Island where chinese cuisine was served. The kids wolfed down the fried rice, spring rolls and wanton soup. At 410yen for a 2-pieces-of-wanton soup, it was very steep! However, we wanted soup stock and had no choice. The fried rice was really good though and more reasonable at 980yen.

It was raining so we took the Electric Railway back to New York area. Thankfully we had umbrellas, raincoats and stroller rain cover. We managed to keep the kids dry but my ferra flats were totally soaked. We were distracted by the Disney shops and shopped till 945pm! We bought a number of T-shirts, checked out the Disney-Tomica cars (which I later found Bic Camera to be selling at 200yen cheaper!!) and bought a photo (the one taken at Mickey’s house) at 1540yen.

It was 10ish when we finally returned to the hotel and collected our room key.

Our room at 52500 yen a night which could sleep 4 adults and 2 kids, the trundle bed and cruise bed not pictured in this shot

On this day, we were at DisneySea for almost 12 hours, had 2 meals, visited 17 attractions (theatres/rides) and watched 1 parade on water.

Day 5 – Japan, Tokyo

It was a less hectic day. We had breakfast at the nearby Doutor which was my in laws’ favorite cafe, and Mr H’s as well. Having visited Tokyo several times and staying at Ginza, Shinjuku and Shinagawa, it was the first time we stayed at Ikebukuro. Based on how near Metropolitan Hotel was to the JR station and how refreshed the rooms looked, it was a pretty nice place to stay at.

Featuring a good night’s rest from the day before  

Breakfast


We took the JR from Ikebukuro to Ueno which took 17minutes. We transferred to the Ginza metro line and took the metro to Asakusa station. It was only 3 stops away so it cost 170yen per adult and 90yen per child above 100cm or so. I could not quite remember the chargeable height.

We exited via exit 3 where there was a elevator to take us to the ground level. We only had to walk 20 meters ahead and turned to the right for the shopping belt which led to the Asakusa temple.

At the parallel but quieter shopping belt

The main belt

We visited the Asakusa temple, with the boys playing with the water, fanning smoke towards themselves like what the locals did and making wishes on coin tosses. Z asked what wishing was and it was really hard to explain.


We walked back the main belt to take metro.

An ice cream break which offered many flavours of soft serve ice cream and I really enjoyed the white peach flavour


We took the metro from Asakusa to Ueno and swung by the Ameyoko Market. We went to these 2 stores at the market which specialised in selling the Japanese titbits and candy. We bought about $300 worth of snacks and had 5-6 bags of loot. If anyone was interested, these 2 shops were located near the ABC Mart.

At a small corner of the shop

Since it was lunch time, we settled for a simple meal at Ameyoko Market before returning to Ikebukuro for shopping.

Lunch
 We went to Seibu for my mom to check out LV, for me to suss up the H store and most importantly, to buy my favourite Mogu cushion from Loft, located on the 9F-12F of Seibu. I had been hugging Mogu cushion to sleep for almost 8 years, shockingly. My first was a large heart-shaped Mogu, then I had 2 flower-shaped Mogu and progressed to this functional looking Mogu cushion. I wondered if anyone would bring in this to sell in Singapore again.

We also popped over to Uniqlo located on the 10F-11F of Tobu where the boys bought their Shinkansen T-shirts and Mr H refreshed his supply of bermudas. This store was special because it had dedicated counters for tourists to do tax free shopping.

We shopped for so long that it was 730pm. We ended up going to the few floors above Uniqlo, where we had Ten Ryo, for dinner.

My Sukiyaki dinner

I love this snoopy design on Pocky, so kawaii desu ne!

A glimpse of our candy loot (this is only part of the loot which we got at about $100)