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Hot! $200 off any Airbnb Booking

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December 01, 2017, 01:21:36 PM
Re: Free night Hilton Certificates I am selling 3 Hilton Weekend nights from Gold account. 2 of the nights expire 7/15/18 and third one expires a year from now. I prefer to sell them to one person. Price is $750.
February 21, 2018, 09:03:20 AM
Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit) Introduction

Our family just completed a 3-week trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong (plus an overnight in Detroit) mostly with points and miles. A little background of our family so you can better understand the trip report. First of all, we love to travel and see the world. This passion has developed strongly because of our ability to travel worldwide thanks to miles and points. Over the years the more we have traveled we find ourselves thirsty to discover more and see the world. Since many of our trips have been with our children, they too (especially the older ones) have developed a strong interest, desire and appreciation for travel. We have 4 children ages (19, 16, 10 and 7) with the older two being boys. My husband has the ability to work remotely during the less busy times of the year, which includes the summer and thankfully that allows us to travel over a longer period of time. My children have traveled a lot over the years and are real frequent flyers in that sense. They are very accustomed to the airport routine (baggage check, TSA/security, customs, lounges, boarding etc.) which makes flying a breeze with them. They all have Global entry/ TSA Pre check as well, which further assists in reducing stress and saves lots of time. The children have experienced First/ Business class travel in the past and know a lot about many types of planes and airlines.

I have been an avid miles and points geek for many years now. I know this is not typical of a woman, however this is truly one of my hobbies. Since I enjoy numbers and math, I have been doing our family finances exclusively for close to 15 years. This has allowed me to be fully involved in all aspects of credit card spending and furthermore strategic spending in order to maximize our miles/points earning potential. Being organized is key in this process and I love every minute of it. I also enjoy trip planning and have planned every single one of our trips (awards and activities) on my own. My husband is very supportive in this process however focuses on his business and does not really play the “points and miles game”.
This is my first ever trip report that I am writing here on DDF. I have gained so much over the years from this website and the DDF community that I would like to give back whatever I can…I have a lot to share. Thank God, everything worked out better than planned. I hope you enjoy following along.

The Planning Process

Travel during the summer works out really well for our family for many reasons. We have concluded that a three-week trip is about the maximum amount of time we can be away. I try to plan it over one half of the summer this way my children can be enrolled in camp for the other half. Between the pre-trip excitement and packing and the post trip jetlag / enjoyment of just being back home, we are all set for one month in the summer.

Generally we have a travel bucket list (one as a couple and one for our family), however some of our travel ended up as a result of an award sale or price glitch ( a big one was a family trip to Australia where we flew Business First to Melbourne with miles and returned from Sydney with Virgin Australia tickets that were approx. $100 in the summer of 2016 – the deal was posted on DDMS back in winter of 2016). Since we have 3 weeks to enjoy traveling, it is ideal for us to travel farther and/or combine multiple destinations in one area which we wouldn’t be able to do in a shorter trip. We also “splurge” on award travel in first or business class when we take long flights. Splitting our family between economy/business/ first does not work for us and we all fly the same class.

I have accumulated and spent lots of miles/points over the years. However, since I work hard to accumulate a large volume of points (without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year) I tend to be “stingy” with them and try to maximize its value and make them go farther and work for us longer (kind of the same way we look at our finances). Since we are a family of 6, award travel in J or F round trip adds up to a hefty sum. Keep in mind that we need 2 hotel rooms at a minimum and are aiming for suites as much as possible (we do Vrbo/Airbnb as well when it makes sense) so lots of points are needed to make a 3-week trip to anywhere far.
Thailand has always been on my radar being that it’s a beautiful country, with Chabad restaurant/s- and Shabbos meals in all major tourist areas, the USD goes really far there and there are lots of unique cool attractions/sightseeing to do. However, my greatest concern was safety for my family. (I have read/heard too many stories in the news and the risk wasn’t worth it.) I kind of felt that would be a destination I would visit one day without the children. Long story short…Amex MR was having a 30% bonus for points transferred to Virgin Atlantic. There are some sweet spots to Asia (with Delta and ANA). The sweet spots are to Japan. To be honest Japan was never on my bucket list, perhaps I would have wanted to visit during the cherry blossom season but that was never a good time for me to travel. So, I quickly did some travel research about family travel to Japan… and I concluded that it’s a great safe place to visit and it would be our gateway city to Asia. I realized that since we are pretty close to Thailand it would be an amazing opportunity to take our family there. I needed to research practical ways to make Thailand work for us. In the end I concluded that we would only stay in 5-star hotels/ resorts (with brands that we are familiar with in the States) because of the security and international hotel standards. Since we weren’t renting a car, we would book trips through a travel agency with local travel guides with lots of references. Also being that we don’t have real little kids and we are 4 adults (2 adults and 2 older children) with 2 children ages 7 & 10 that are accustomed to traveling, I would be comfortable with the idea of traveling to Thailand.

The Booking Process

After a week or two of searching, I found award space for 6 from various Midwest cities to Tokyo/Narita in Delta One Suites for the dates I wanted. The price was 60K Virgin Miles (just under 47K Amex transferred) per person in Delta One Suites! I found awards for 6 from MSP and DTW- now I had to choose a departure city. I have never been to either city and would have love to check out that city prior to the flight to Japan. Visiting Mall of America in MSP would have been nice, but I went for DTW. I decided to surprise my husband for this pre-trip to DTW, he had grown up in Detroit and had not been back for 27 years! I would plan the most amazing day for our family there. Delta was also having an award sale from various cities for 6K one-way Delta Miles basic economy (Since we have the Delta credit card, we can choose our seats and get 1 free bag per person). So, I booked the 6 award tickets from DTW- Tokyo/NRT for 60K Virgin x 6= 360K Virgin Atlantic (only 278K AMEX MR) in Delta One Suites. I also booked 6K Delta miles from PHL-DTW. (we live in the tri state area and can chose between PHL/ EWR/JFK). The Tokyo flight was departing mid-day and we booked the PHL- DTW leg the previous morning. Leaving us a full day to discover Detroit.
Now I had to start thinking about return tickets in either J or F. There are many options in that part of the world with so many different alliances with different miles/points. Luckily, I had enough points/miles in different currencies for me to be flexible.  I wanted a direct flight back and I wanted to spend the least number of miles in J or F for our entire family. I went through many options and practical ideas and concluded we would end our trip in Hong Kong and would aim for Cathay Pacific Business return ticket to JFK. (After much research I concluded that realistically I can find 6 J award seats - there are over 30 seats in business on those flights. I would never find awards in F for our entire family). The cost for business class seats are 50K Alaska miles per person (50K x 6= 300K Alaska miles). We were about 2.5 months away from the time we were planning to return. I was flexible with a few return dates however I already had a ticket to Japan and had to work on all other shorter flights as well (Japan to Thailand, inter Thailand flights, Thailand to HKG). This was a daunting task to coordinate it all, find all the awards/ tickets for 6 people, stay the ideal time in each location (plan Shabbos at hotel that is walking distance to Chabad) and of course find 6 Cathay J tickets with dates not on or close to Shabbos. At this point there was zero availability. I would check many times a day on British Airways (Alaska doesn’t show Cathay availability). Occasionally I would see some premium economy for 2 or 3 passengers, but nothing in J. I spent a lot of time researching this particular award route – HKG to JFK in Business and when the awards open up. All the comments/research showed that it will be released slowly 6 weeks out (that meant 3 weeks prior to us departing!) I have to admit I have never had tickets booked for a family trip that last minute but I was confident that I would find the tickets and the 16-hour flight in a lie flat business seat would all be worth it. I had many back up options including economy with stopover booked via Chase. Obviously, I didn’t want to do it and I also knew that no matter what we are all flying on the same flight. There are 3 flights a day to JFK or EWR (all with lots of J seats) I checked BA countless times a day for the next month. Here and there I would find one seat and would speak to Alaska agents from time to time and they all shared with me that they have never seen more than 4 Business seats available at one time. I started to get worried, but I knew it had been done and I would give it my best shot. I devoted all my spare time to working on the other flights, hotels, and activities.
Luckily things started to fall into place. Literally to the day of 6 weeks prior to the departure of that flight I started seeing 1, 2 or 3 seats in J for different flights on a given day (all were < 6 weeks prior to departure). I started having hope and then started actually contemplating which flight time would work best for our family. (I never thought I would have that luxury of choice between different times.) I chose the 6:45 PM flight from HKG to JFK which arrives in JFK 16 hours later at 10:45 PM (hence HKG is 12 hours ahead). I figured that would be amazing for sleeping and arrival into JFK as well, so we can sleep some part of the night at home and function somewhat the next day. I can’t believe I actually did such a thing, but at first, I booked the only 3 seats in J available for that flight. (I booked my husband and 2 younger children first). I had 24 hours to cancel but hoped I would find more space in the interim. Just before the 24 hours were over, I found 1 more seat in J. I booked it for my second son. 24 hours had passed since the original booking and I had faith that since one more opened up recently, hopefully additional seats would open up. In the worst-case scenario, my 19-year-old son and I would fly together (or even separately…) Another day passed, and another seat was booked in J for that same flight. Luckily late that night I found the 6th and final award seat that I needed and we were all booked! What an ordeal.
The other flights were fairly straightforward and I will discuss them throughout the trip report in chronological order. I will also discuss our hotels and the decision-making process related to our family needs. We did lots of activities and learned so much. We took thousands of pictures. I plan on sharing some of them in this report.
I definitely believe that years of travel with and without our children have given us the experience needed to make the many decisions we are faced with when booking such a lengthy family trip around the world. We also learned valuable things along the way that will help us for future trips as well, which I will share.

Basic Itinerary

Tuesday – 7:00 AM / PHL-DTW / Stayed in Embassy Suites DTW
Wednesday- 12:15 PM / DTW- NRT Delta One Suites
Thursday – arrival NRT 2:05 PM / Stayed at Stayed at Sheraton Miyako Hotel
Friday – Sheraton Miyako Hotel
Saturday – Sheraton Miyako Hotel
Sunday- Hyatt Regency Tokyo
Monday- Hyatt Regency Toky0
Tuesday- Hyatt Regency Tokyo
Wednesday- 10:35 AM – 3:05 PM / HND- BKK Thai Airways Economy stayed at Intercontinental Bangkok
Thursday- 9:15 AM -10:45 AM / BKK – USM Bangkok Airways Economy Stayed at Conrad Koh Samui (2-bedroom Villa)
Friday – Conrad Koh Samui
Saturday – Conrad Koh Samui
Sunday – Conrad Koh Samui
Monday – Conrad Koh Samui
Tuesday – 10:00 AM – 11:50 AM / USM- CNX Bangkok Airways Economy stayed at Le Meridian Chiang Mai
Wednesday – Le Meridian Chiang Mai
Thursday - Le Meridian Chiang Mai
Friday- Le Meridian Chiang Mai
Saturday - Le Meridian Chiang Mai
Sunday – 6:05 AM – 9:45 AM / CNX- HKG Air Asia Economy stayed at Intercontinental Hong Kong
Monday - Intercontinental Hong Kong
Tuesday - Intercontinental Hong Kong
Wednesday – 6:45 PM – 10:45 PM / HKG-JFK Cathay Pacific Business

July 31, 2019, 09:51:31 PM
Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit) Detroit
As mentioned earlier we used 6K Delta miles per person for 6 OW tickets from PHL- DTW. The flight was smooth and uneventful landing us in Detroit at 8:30 AM. After getting our luggage and rental car (booked via Chase portal with points) we checked into our hotel which was a 5-minute drive from the airport.
Embassy Suites DTW – points bookings are 40K vs HH cash rate at $120/night, did a cash booking using HH Aspire card. This was a great choice for the 1-night stay, as we get a 2-room suite for that price which includes breakfast. I reserved 2 queen beds plus we had the sofa in the second room, giving us enough sleeping space for the one night. The hotel lobby open areas were recently redone and were very nice and clean. After checking into our room, we ate a quick breakfast which we had brought from home and drove to the Henry Ford Museum 15 minutes away.
Henry Ford Museum- I had purchased tickets in advance for the museum/factory tour combo. The Museum is part of Greenfield village- an open-air museum which has over 80 acres of historic districts of 300 years of American Life. Since we had a busy day planned in Detroit, I only purchased tickets for the actual museum and factory tour and did not explore the village at all.
The museum is massive and is top rated in the country. I have never been to a museum that big anywhere in the world. We spent much of our time in the car, train, plane areas as well as in many of the interactive exhibits. We spent close to 3.5 hours in the museum alone and could have easily stayed another hour or two.
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We then took the shuttle to the Ford Factory. The shuttle leaves every 15 min until 3 PM from the museum. It was a ten-minute ride to the factory, which is a world in itself. Note then when purchasing tickets to the factory tour they do not guarantee you watching the actual assembly line in action. However, you are guided throughout the plant and can see it all. We were told once we arrived that they were not in production that day, it seems that the first 2 weeks of July is switchover from the previous year to the new year car models, as well as do scheduled maintenance throughout the plant.
The Ford factory tour has multiple stations as they call it. 2 Theaters, the first one being more historic of Henry Ford and how it all began. The second is a Manufacturing Innovation Theater which is a 3 D experience showcasing the engineering of the F150 truck. The main lobby area has a “Legacy Gallery” which showcases some famous Ford cars like the ’55 Thunderbird and ’65 Mustang. We then proceeded to the observation deck for panoramic views of the plant with a guided tour and a Q&A. The final part was the tour was of the Assembly plant of the F150. Although there were no workers assembling the trucks at that time, we were able to see all of the trucks in the assembly line and all the areas of assembly. Very complex equipment, robotics and skilled workers can produce a complete F150 truck in 1 minute at full line speeds (per museum website)!
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After we completed the factory tour, we traveled to the Jewish section of Detroit to eat a very late lunch. We checked out Jerusalem Pizza, got to taste the famous chicken pizza, which was recommended here on DDF. We liked that, however also enjoyed the breakfast pizza which had (mostly facon and eggs).
After lunch my husband gave us a tour of the town, he spent his childhood in. We drove by his old house, his neighborhood park, yeshiva etc. We had to stop at the famous Zeman’s Bakery (99 years old and Kosher, apparently the oldest kosher bakery in the US) and tried the famous seven-layer cake, which was delicious.

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We had a quick dinner at Kravings and drove back to the hotel for the night. We managed to get a quick evening swim in the pool which is half indoors and half outdoors. Later that evening my husband returned the rental car and the complimentary hotel shuttle brought him back to the hotel. This was our only car rental in this 3-week trip!
Breakfast the following morning worked out well for us Kosher eaters. The hotel staff were very accommodating in showing us the wrappers for the bagels, breads and pastries (most of which was kosher) so we can actually enjoy much of the food. They brought us disposable plates etc.  They had kosher yogurt, cereals, plenty of fruit and they even brought us a new bottle of almond milk since we don’t drink dairy!
We left the hotel at 9 AM with the complimentary hotel shuttle to the airport. We were refreshed and excited for our big adventure. Delta One Suites all the way to Tokyo!
To be continued…

August 04, 2019, 10:54:20 PM
Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit) Before I discuss our flight to Japan, I wanted to discuss some of the stuff we packed including food (we are on a strictly Kosher diet). I realize I should have written it prior to the Detroit segment, nevertheless I will discuss it here.

Packing for this trip

I am a firm believer in being organized as much as possible with packing as it makes things so much easier and less stressful. When planning for such a large trip with so many details, there are obvious things that may go wrong, so many things that are beyond our control, but one thing for sure- I can prepare and do many things in advance in order to make things easier, save time and most importantly reduce a whole lot of unnecessary stress. I will explain.
My best advice for travel is to get packing cubes. I like the large ones, personally I use the one from ebags which come in a set of 3 which is what we used on this trip.
Each family member has a different color and we each brought 3 bags on this trip. Initially when I was introduced to these bags, I thought they looked small and won’ t fit much but I was pleasantly surprised. We pack each bag with similar category belongings so you can easily find what you are looking for (socks, underclothes, pajamas etc. in one bag). Everything stays folded in those bags no matter how many times the suitcase is thrown around! When we arrive at a hotel (even if its just one night) I pull out each family member’s bags and make a pile near their bed. We literally can be unpacked and settled in a hotel room in under 15 minutes. The packing/unpacking process at home is also much easier as I pack straight from the drawers to these bags and unpack in a similar matter. We put our slides/flip flops in these bags too. For this trip we brought 9-10 days of clothing since I wasn’t sure exactly when and where we would be able to do laundry. Since we were staying only in hotels, I knew I wasn’t paying the hotel laundry service $10 to wash a t shirt, I had to find other alternatives, which we did and I will discuss later.
Some of the odds and ends I packed for this trip: A large Ziploc bag filled with laundry supplies (Tide pods, dryer sheets and gel stain remover stick). Sunscreen and Off spray. Small first aid bag (band aids, bacitracin, hydrocortisone, gauze pads/roll, medical tape, disinfectant, tweezers, nail clipper.) Medical bag with over the counter medicines. I bought small clear pill bags from a pharmacy and filled and labeled each bag with medicine (Motrin, Tylenol, Tums, Zantac, Melatonin, Benadryl, Claritin, etc.) We took chewable Motrin, liquid Advil, Epipens, variety of eye drops and ear drops, Mupirocin etc. (I know this seems crazy…but I am a nurse and especially going to foreign counties I feel more comfortable being prepared.)
For this trip we checked in 6 bags and took 4 small carry ons. The 6th bag we checked in was a soft duffle bag made by Samsonite
This contained a large cardboard egg box filled with lots of food, about 1 week into our trip we were able to discard the box and fold this duffle bag and put it into another suitcase. From then on, we checked in only 5 suitcases. All our suitcases are different colors and we try to pack certain ones with food/ cookware etc. and other ones with clothing so that we can easily find things when we need them. As far as our carry ones, I designate different ones for different things. One particular one is for electronics (laptop, tablets, headphones, camera, chargers, converters, luggage scale etc.) this way at any point in our travels we know exactly where to find things. One suitcase with have clothing for the flight (sweatshirts, sweatpants, leggings, pajamas, change of clothing for younger ones etc.). One suitcase will have tefillin (we were traveling with 3 pairs) & toiletry bags etc. The final one will have food for flight (and delicate items) as well as tradition soup cups (I find they get destroyed in a regular suitcase). The purpose of these soup cups is backup food at any point in our 3-week trip. For example, one child hated all the food on the flight to Tokyo so he had a soup. It really came handy during some occasions and as a parent you always want to have food available to a child that is hungry.
Food for this trip

Since we keep a strictly kosher diet, I had to find out the different food options in the various countries we visited prior to the trip and plan accordingly.
Detroit – obviously no issue- we were one day into our trip and brought along breakfast and snacks and ate out for lunch and dinner.
Japan – Was by far the hardest country with food. I was getting conflicting reports regarding being in meats ( deli) and other frozen items that had no labels on them (like homemade meals) so I decided to totally avoid bringing those items in. If I would bring them in and rely on these foods as meals, should they take them away we would be stuck. I decided to take a medium size soft cooler with a number of packages of shredded cheese, potato knishes, blintzes etc. I avoided larger frozen dairy foods like frozen pizza b/c of the space it takes. This cooler was stored in the commercial freezer of each hotel we visited in this entire trip. My husband explained to them we are kosher and all hotels were very accommodating in storing the cooler. We were only staying in Tokyo for this trip so we ate at Chabad of Tokyo for dinner most nights and for Shabbos. Also, In Japan you cannot find any food with kosher labels. So, the only thing we can buy was fresh fruits and vegetables and eggs.
Thailand - Bangkok (Meat & Dairy restaurant), Koh Samui (Meat & Dairy Restaurant) Chiang Mai (Meat Restaurant). All Chabad houses in Thailand have their own bakery and will sell you pita, rolls, baguettes, pastries, cakes etc. Note that variety and quantity may be limited at times. Shabbos in Thailand we can eat with Chabad (if staying nearby) or order entire Shabbos meals from them as well. No stores sell any food with kosher labels; however, Chabad houses do sell a small variety of Israeli products like Bisli, pickles etc. Just like Japan we can only purchase fruits & vegetables and eggs.
Hong Kong – Has a couple of kosher restaurants (Dairy and Meat), you can find international stores with some foods labeled Kosher. Some Haagen Daaz ice cream bars in stores like 7 eleven were Kosher. There are options for Shabbos meals, although we weren’t there for Shabbos this trip.
I had to pack breakfast for the entire trip (excluding Conrad Koh Samui where we got free kosher breakfast from Chabad through the hotel as a HH Diamond member). We are not dairy milk drinkers so that solved some problems. I took along shelf stable soy milk and almond milk. I packed lots of cereal, granola, many boxes of oatmeal packets and pancake mix. I brought along an electric burner, frying pan, small pot, spatula, big spoon, peeler and a knife. We also brought along a sandwich maker and tons of loaves of bread which I froze prior to the trip. I knew the bread had to last us until Thailand so I planned accordingly. Some other foods I took: bottle of oil spray, variety of pasta (elbows, spaghetti, orzo), rice and rice pilaf and tuna fish cans. I brought along tons of snacks, snack bags, individually wrapped pastries, cookies, pretzels, granola bars etc. I packed along a large bag with mini condiments such as ketchup, mayo, salad dressing, pancake syrup, salt, pepper, etc. I took along disposable plates, bowls and cutlery. I packed precut foil, many Ziploc sandwich bags, large Ziploc bags, couple of disposable small storage containers (for tuna salad, cut up fruit etc.) You would be surprised how many things you can make if you have the right staples and cooking supplies, combined with eggs, fruits & vegetables that we purchased along the way.

The flight to Japan

Checking in DTW for the NRT flight was easy and quick. A new hack I used that I had read somewhere was to label the back of the passports with a sticker with initial of each person. This way you can easily find the passport you need. I also keep them in a Zipper Ziploc bag so it’s easy to grab. During check in the agent wanted to know when we are returning to the US and on what flight. Since the entire trip was booked one way from A to B, B to C etc. I had to go though our general itinerary with her and eventually she said she needed the confirmation numbers only for the HKG-JFK leg. After check in and security we took the in-airport train (pretty cool and not underground) to the Delta Sky Club. There are 3 Delta Sky Clubs in Terminal A, we went to the one across gate A38 b/c that was the only lounge that had showers. Lounge was great overall and very spacious. We had some coffee, drinks and fruit. Some of the adults took showers with no waiting time at all. My children really appreciate the quiet time in a relaxing area prior to the flight. We boarded the flight about 45 before takeoff. As we walked onto the plane the young male flight attendant greets me and says “Welcome to you and your family, thank you so much for flying with us today”. he then whispered loudly in my ear “You know, your family alone is the revenue for this flight… so really thank you so much”. I smiled and was laughing inside. I guess it’s a great thing that the flight attendants don’t know how much you paid for the flight and we all get treated the same. We all love window seats and I try to reserve them as much as possible as long as we can remain in the same area. This flight was on an A350. We had seats 2A, 2B, 3A, 4A, 5A and 6A. Row 1 has only seats B & C in the center of the plane. So, 5/6 of us had window seats which worked out well. The sliding doors is a cool feature, obviously anyone walking around can see straight into your cabin but when you are lying down you feel like you are in a little room. Doors must remain open during takeoff and landing. Delta gives out amenity kits by Tumi. The flight was 13 hours long. Not ideal for sleeping even if you have a lie flat bed. We all took melatonin and got between 4-6 hours of sleep overall. We got a lunch meat meal after takeoff and breakfast before landing. Food was decently OK.

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August 07, 2019, 04:30:30 PM
Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit) Japan

Our arrival to Japan was on time and we departed the plane quickly. Unfortunately, we waited in line over 1 hour at immigration, the large room was under renovation and the was pretty warm. Many people do not speak English in Japan and this was our first real encounter with the reality we were about to experience over the next 6 days. By the time we were done with immigration, our luggage was waiting for us. I must say the airport itself is very nice, clean and the important signs are in English so it’s definitely not hard to navigate. Our first stop was at a money exchange counter. Many places in Japan do not take credit card so we exchanged some money. Little did we realize that we would be needing more cash in a few days because very few places will take foreign credit cards. The exchange rate at the time was around 101 JPY to 1 USD. We bought tickets for the Keisei Skyliner at the ticket counter in the airport. This is the cheapest way to go from NRT to Tokyo. Price is 1380 JPY per person ($13.80 approx.) The counter was very helpful in giving us detailed directions, I told her we were going to the Sheraton Miyako Hotel and she gave us clear instructions where to switch lines. We switched at the Mita station and took another train for about 3 min to the Shirokanetakanawa Station. That station is a 10 min walk to the Sheraton. Total train ride was about an hour and a half. The ride was comfortable and smooth. The train had a storage area for our luggage so that was great. We arrived at our final stop tired especially after schlepping all our luggage up all the steps to get to the street. Our goal was to hail down a cab to take us to the Sheraton from there. We realized we would need 2 cabs to take us all to the Sheraton (6 people + 10 suitcases!) After about 15 minutes of trying to hail down cabs, we gave up and decided to walk to the hotel. I don’t know why it was so hard to get a cab, but many taxi drivers slowed down to look at us and all our luggage and gave up… most taxis are small cars so even though we were willing to split up we had no chance even explaining that to the drivers. I will point out that we also called the hotel to see if they can help. They do have a shuttle at different times to 2 of the bigger stations that are near the hotel. This was not one of them, they advised us to walk. We walked the seemingly endless 10 min partially uphill walk to the Sheraton.

Sheraton Miyako Hotel

We chose this hotel because it is the closest points hotel that is walking distance to Chabad. We were eating with Chabad for Shabbos. Since this hotel is not in the center of the city I wanted to stay in a more central touristy area for the other nights. My plan was to stay here for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. This hotel is 50K Marriott points per night. However, there were no rooms available to book with points via Marriott. (I searched for a few weeks and couldn’t even find one room for the weekend stay and we needed 2 rooms.) So, I came up with plan B. I had a $900 gift card (from Pixel 3/ Google Fi promo in winter) and booked 3 nights with that. (After signing up for the rewards program where you get a free night after staying 10 nights - the free night is an average of all nights booked). The second room was booked on the Chase portal with CSR card. Total for the 3 nights was 34,500 Chase points. Both rooms were 2 queen beds and I emailed the hotel prior to make them connecting rooms and combine the reservation. They promised they would try to get connecting rooms. We checked in to the hotel and were told that there were no connecting rooms available but we were upgraded to recently renovated rooms on the 10th floor and the rooms were next to each other. Luckily, we have older children so this didn’t bother us that much and it was only a 3-night stay. I must say that the room looked brand new and spotless, they must have just been renovated. Everything was perfect and clean, loads of bathroom amenities, mini fridge and comfortable beds and pillows. The hotel stored our cooler bag in their commercial freezer by the way and was very helpful with that. I am not sure how many of the hotel rooms were renovated but the entire tenth floor was redone. Also, I want to point out the tipping is not customary in Japan, our tip was actually refused twice. Here are some room pictures:

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Hallway on 10th floor

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Bidet toilet- seat was heated and look at the many cool features of this bidet. My kids loved it.

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Since the flush is part of this bidet system, we needed it disabled for Shabbos. The hotel is familiar with Shabbos since they have many observant Jews stay there. They disabled this bidet for Shabbos. We had to pull a string for 30 seconds near the bottom of the toilet in order to manually flush the toilet. It took them about 20 minutes to disable this system for both of our rooms.

General Interesting Info about Japan

Some general info about transportation and life in Japan. Japan driving is on left side of the road (like Australia & England). Tokyo is a big city and most people get around by public transportation, the subway. There is a large railway system in place in the Tokyo Metro area. There are 13 color coded subway lines in this Metro area and one JR Yamanote Line which is a loop line and connects Tokyo’s multiple city centers. Note there are way more subway/ train lines around Tokyo, but these are the ones in the center of Tokyo you will encounter. Easiest way to get around is to purchase a reloadable train card called Suica or Pasmo. We bought the Suica card and it was best thing ever, we took so many trains over the next few days and it saved us so much time and was no hassle. The train system will seem very complicated at first especially getting used to all these Japanese names. My advice is to carry around a subway route map and ask around. However, after 1 day of travel you will be able to do it on your own. Each route is color coded like I mentioned before and the signs in the train station are that way too. The subway train itself has clear maps and will announce and display upcoming stops. People are so polite in Japan, no pushing or shoving to get into busy trains. People are quiet and do not talk loudly in the train (they are not even talking on the phone while they are in the train). Signs will tell you to be courteous of fellow passengers and mute your cellphone ringer and volume. During travel most people will be using their phones, reading books or playing video games (Japan is obsessed with video games btw). We saw a really old lady playing Nintendo on the train and my boys thought it was funny! Another aspect of Japan which is so culturally different than other places I have visited is there obsession with cleanliness. Nobody is eating anything on the train (besides for the occasional tourist), the trains are spotless. All subway stations we have been too on this entire trip were spotless, it was very rare to find a garbage can in the station or on the street. Countless times we took our garbage back to the hotel with us. The streets are clean and spotless even in the busiest areas of the city. People are not eating while walking on the street besides for us crazy Americans! We even saw people sweeping leaves from the sidewalk during our walk to Chabad on Shabbos, and that was in front of a big building (not a private house). Steps are marked with a line halfway through to divide the people going up and down, and everyone is following those “rules” or “guides”. We were amazed how the largest subway stations at rush hour had extreme order and the flow of traffic was pretty smooth and quick. Many sidewalks will have color coded bricks to guide the flow of walking traffic in each direction. Smoking is not allowed on the street and there are designated areas on the street for smoking. In general Tokyo is a very safe city and we felt extremely safe there. I cannot say anything about other cities in Japan because I have not visited them, however I have heard it’s the same way. My son figured out to use Google Translate live (it needs to be downloaded offline) and then you can do live translating. Basically, your phone will scan the foreign language and display it on your phone in English. Pretty cool and we used it a lot as many things weren’t translated to English. Japan is expensive in general. Food is pricy as well, we walked in to a large supermarket and a dozen eggs were about $10. Fruits and vegetables were very pricey as well. All kinds of fresh fish is sold everywhere and was so much cheaper than poultry and meats. The Japanese diet is really the sushi type- fish and rice! One more thing, Japan is getting ready for the Olympics next summer in Tokyo. We saw so many signs all over that have the Olympic logo with words Tokyo 2020 on it.


We arrived to the hotel around 5:30 PM. After quickly settling into our rooms we walked to Chana’s Place the only Kosher restaurant in Tokyo which is part of the Chabad house, a 10-minute walk from the hotel. Food was homestyle and delicious. Menu is small and we pretty much tried most things throughout our stay in Japan. We tried the schnitzel chicken, pargit chicken, beef kebabs all served with white or fried rice. This was our first hot meal (airline food doesn’t count) since Tuesday night dinner at Kraving’s in Detroit and it felt really good. Prices were close to $25 per plate of food (main dish + rice). Chabad does take credit cards. We returned to hotel, showered and all went to bed before 9 PM that night. We were definitely jet lagged; Japan is 13 hours ahead from east coast USA where we are from.


The Sheraton hotel offers free shuttles to Meguru and Shinagawa Stations. They have schedules at the concierge desk. These shuttles were very convenient to us since I wanted to avoid unnecessary walking for our children. I knew our days were full of walking and didn’t want to wear them out. Other option is to walk to the closest station (10 min) and then have to take potentially more trains to get to your destination. So, it was worth it for us to plan our day around these shuttles. They also pick you up from the station and return you to the hotel.

Meguru Train station
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Purchasing the Suica train cards, note the train route maps
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Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden- Japan is famous for its gardens and this one is located in the Shinjuku district. Apparently its very popular during cherry blossom season due to its proximity to being in the Shinjuku district which is one of Tokyo’s busiest business, shopping and entertainment district. Garden was beautifully manicured and was an oasis in this busy city of Tokyo. Park has a small entrance fee.

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Next we walked to the entertainment district, my kids were seeing signs for the Robot Restaurant and it looked cool so we walked to see what the hype was all about. We saw the outside of the restaurant/bar and took some pictures. Definitely not somewhere I would go to again and was a waste of time.

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After a few minutes of being in the entertainment district I had seen enough so we walked towards the Tokyo Metropolitan Building which was our next stop. It is a 20-minute walk and we walked through so many gaming stores and ones like this which we stopped in for few minutes:

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We walked through many big shopping areas and eventually making our way to the business district with lots of business and skyscrapers.
Tokyo Metropolitan Building- There are 2 buildings North and South, with free observation decks which provide panoramic views of Tokyo and beyond. The North building observation deck was closed for renovation, so we went to the South building. Observatory is at a height of 202 meters and is one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo. During a clear day you can see My Fuji. Many of the summer days are cloudy and we were able to see it faintly in the background. Note many attractions are closed on Mondays or Tuesdays in Japan. The south tower is closed the 1st and 3rd Tuesday each month. It is a really cool sight to see to gain perspective of the size of this city. Pictures we took really don’t do justice as to the 360-degree view, we had. Here are some pictures of the view:

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We then stopped on the main floor of building so see the Tokyo Olympic Exhibit. This was not something we planned or knew about in advance but it looked interesting so we stopped to look around and take pictures. The Olympic flag is displayed there and there were lots of cool things to see.

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Olympic flag

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Mush of my Japan research and itinerary were from 2 websites, Tokyo Cheap and Japan Guide. One of them had a self-guided architecture walking tour in Shinjuku which I was thinking of doing it we were up to it and had time. However, I still wanted to do Shibuya crossing today and we spent too much time at the Olympic Exhibit so I dropped that plan. We did see some of the cool architectural buildings walking to and from the Tokyo Metro Building. Here are some:

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Shibuya Crossing – We then took train to Shibuya Crossing. This a famous intersection where thousands of people cross an intersection in all different directions when the crosswalk symbol turns green every few minutes. Alternatively, when the crossing symbol turns red cars fill the street from all directions as well and of course not one person is in the street. We were there in the middle of a weekday, definitely lots of people however not like the pictures and videos I have seen online. Since this is a busy shopping district the many screens and flashing lights make this a sight to see at night as well. Obviously, I couldn’t do each attraction at the optimal time, however this was cool for us to watch. The best view is from the Starbucks 2nd floor, which we did. No need to purchase anything there, tons of people just come in for the views.

Shibuya crossing before the crosswalk turns green

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View from Starbucks

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We then headed back to the hotel, made my kids some pasta for dinner pre-Shabbos as the meal was late for them. We took care of getting Shabbos keys at the front desk as well as disabling the bidet/toilet flushing system as mentioned earlier. Hotel is very Shabbos friendly and will keep the room keys at the front desk when you leave on Shabbos and will escort you to the room when you arrive back to the hotel.

Saturday/ Shabbos

We ate all 3 of our Shabbos meals with Chabad of Tokyo. Paid reservations must be made in advance and can be done online. We made reservations online and total cost for our family of 6 (4 adults and 2 children) for 3 meals was $380. Shabbos was beautiful and a very nice experience. We met people from all over the world and got to hear their stories and what brought them here. We had around 40 people for Friday night, 25 for Shabbos lunch and under 15 for Shalosh Seudos. Worth to note that there is a small garden that belongs to the Sheraton in the back of the hotel which is very nice. There is also another really nice garden around the corner from the hotel which people say is very nice. We took naps all afternoon and didn’t make it there.


We checked out of Sheraton Miyako hotel and took the free hotel shuttle to Shinagawa Station. From there we took a train to Shinjuku Station, followed by a free Hyatt Regency hotel Shuttle directly to the front door of the hotel.

Hyatt Regency Tokyo

Why did I choose this hotel? There are many points hotel options in the Tokyo area and it was a decision that took me some time to make, in the end I concluded that this would give our family everything we needed and were looking for. First of all, I wanted a brand I was familiar with as I wasn’t taking chances in a foreign country. Since Japan is so expensive many of the luxury points hotels were pricy too with points, keep in mind for every night I am needing 2 rooms. For us this was also not the trip of a lifetime; we travel a lot and will be doing many more God willing. So, no need for us to spend 60K night (2 x 30K) to stay in the Park Hyatt, which would cost us 180K for 3-night stay. It’s obviously different if we were traveling with no kids, but this just made sense points wise for our family. We like staying in hotels and enjoy the amenities it provides. We stay in VRBO/Airbnb places as well, but this made sense for this stay as we were in a foreign country. We wanted a hotel with a pool, gym and free shuttle to the train station. The hotel is in the business district of Shinjuku and across the street from the Tokyo Metro building where we were on Friday. It was near 2 train stations, shopping and in a safe area of town. Hyatt Regency cost 12K Hyatt points per night vs the paid cash rate of $380/ night at that time. So really good value for our points. I used an annual free night (from the Hyatt credit card) for 1 room for 1 night and the 2nd room was booked via Hyatt at 12K points per night, 2nd and 3rd nights were booked the same way. Total cost was an annual free Hyatt night + 60K Hyatt points transferred from Chase UR. There was a Hyatt 10% promotional rebate on points bookings during that time, so I will be getting back 6K points making the stay cost only 54K points+ the free night. I emailed the hotel after the booking to combine the separate reservations, give us connecting rooms and requested early check in. They couldn’t guarantee the connecting rooms, sounds familiar 😊. We arrived at the hotel at noon, a little later than I had originally planned however I knew since it was a rainy day, I had to revise our plans anyways for the day so we weren’t pressed for time. After checking in and giving them our freezer cooler, we were informed we got nice connecting rooms (with a view) but they weren’t ready. I was counting on making lunch in the room with the sandwich maker before we went out to do some activities, but I had to think of plan B. We were getting hungry for lunch and going to Chabad for lunch wasn’t an option (2 trains + walking, would get us there in an hour and by the time we would go do our activities it would be so late in the day). So, we remembered our tradition soups we had brought for this type of situation. Finding hot water in the hotel (without having a room) was challenging. The only place we would get hot water was in a café 1 floor down. When we got there, we were told we couldn’t just get hot water, we had to order something else from the menu. So, we ordered a cup of coffee (cost us $5) and got 6 cups of hot water. Luckily the hotel lobby is very large and has many areas to sit and relax with privacy. We ate our soups, packed up some snack for the way and went outside to wait for the shuttle. The Hyatt has a free shuttle to Shinjuku Station (one of the larger trains station in Tokyo) every 15 minutes in each direction. While waiting we ordered dinner from Chabad to be delivered to our hotel at 6PM. It is very easy to order online. There is a delivery fee, however don’t recall how much.

Streets in Shinjuku

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Our original plan for Sunday included Akihabara (the electronics district), Asakusa to visit famous temple and see the old time Tokyo and finally the Tokyo Sky Tree at night. The sky tree is the tallest building in Tokyo for a view of the city at night.
We spent a couple of hours around Akihabara, where practically every building is electronics related. Many of them sell electronics and many of them are video game related, literally buildings many stories high and each floor is packed with video games and more video games. And then you watch the Japanese play these games and it’s really something else. Just seeing the sheer amount of video game stores will make you realize the insane obsession the Japanese culture has with this stuff. We all tried many different games, Mario kart, car racing games, etc. Over Shabbos we met a man who had just visited Akihabara and told us to stop in the Sega store for an amazing VR game (for adults only). So, after getting to Akihabara we found a Sega store, but no VR gaming room. We asked around and were directed to another Sega store which had no VR gaming room either. Finally, we were directed to a 3rd one which had the VR game room on the 6th floor. There are multiple games to choose from. This one is called Mortal blitz and is played with a machine gun. My husband and boys did the game and enjoyed every minute of it. Game takes about 20-30 minutes. I would highly recommend it. Here is a picture of the building:

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Akihabara video- click on picture to watch

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More Akihabara in the rain

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Caption this?

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After going to Akihabara in the rain and spending a couple of hours there, we all decided we had enough and returned to the hotel. At this point we got our room keys and went to check into our rooms on the 16th floor. Here are some pictures of the room and the view.

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Daytime view (was raining)

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Night time view

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Hyatt Regency Lobby

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Around 6 pm my husband waited in the lobby for our food to be delivered after the hotel informed us that they do not accept deliveries from outside restaurants. To his surprise the Chabad Rabbi himself delivered the food! He told us there were no delivery guys available so he came with his own car. Such amazing service. We ordered sandwiches for dinner (lox, grilled chicken, schnitzel and grilled turkey). Food was delicious and then we decided to check out the pool and go for a quick swim.
Hyatt’s pool is indoors and is located on the top floor of the hotel with the fitness center. In order to go to the pool area, you must be in a bathing suit and hold your swim shoes, you then have to pass through an area around 1 foot deep with antiseptic solution for your feet. Then you have to proceed to another area around 2.5 ft deep for further cleansing (this is all after you are technically supposed to shower before entering the pool). There is no way to bypass these areas, plus there is a pool attendant there at all times to make sure you do the right thing. If you are using the pool or hot tub you must wear this ugly green bathing cap as seen in the picture below. Otherwise the pool and hot tub were great. There are some great views of the city from there.

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Hyatt Pool (Note green bathing cap that is required)

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Plan for Monday was to spend the entire day in Odaiba. Odaiba is a man-made island in Tokyo bay which focuses on entertainment and shopping. It is supposed to have a futuristic theme to it as well. Over Shabbos we met some people that went to Odaiba and told us they visited the digital art museum there and it’s an absolute must to see and experience. At first It sounded like an art museum and that wouldn’t really work for our family, but I decided to look it up on Sunday night and boy was I surprised. After reading about it, looking at pictures and videos online I was truly convinced that it would be an amazing experience. I was told to buy tickets in advance but there were no tickets left on Sunday night for Monday admission. At that point I was disappointed and really wanted to visit that place. So, after googling some more, I found a secondary website selling tickets for the museum for Monday (website was called Voyagin). The price was a little more but I didn’t care and was happy to get the tickets.
Odaiba has lots to do on the island. There are even big hotels there and you can be busy for days. Lots of stuff for children and families to do as well as adults. Some of the popular activities are the Mori Digital Art Museum by Epson, Fuji Tv Building, Aquacity, Divercity, Venus Fort, Toyota Mega Web, Ferris wheel and Panasonic center. There is even a mini Statue of Liberty there (1/7 of the size of one in NYC). Note: many attractions (just like in the rest of Tokyo) are closed either on Mondays or on Tuesdays. We went on a Monday and had plenty to do. In order to get to Odaiba you can take a train over the famous Rainbow bridge (you can walk the bridge too btw), drive over the rainbow bridge or take the Tokyo water bus – like a water taxi and enjoy views of the harbor.
We opted for the train over the Rainbow bridge. The train is called the Yurikamome and it is a driverless train. The Suica card will not work for this train. Make sure to be in the first car and you will see views like this:

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Rainbow bridge

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Our main goal in Odaiba was to visit the Mori Digital Art Museum. We got off at the first stop in Odaiba and walked to see the mini Statue of Liberty which is pretty neat. We also got so see views of Tokyo from across the water and was nice too. Here are some pictures of that:

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All attractions in Odaiba are within walking distance to one another. We then walked about 15 minutes to the digital art museum. It is located near the big Ferris wheel. Admission to the museum is only for pre purchased ticket holders. The line was so long out the door and we waited about 45 min in order to get in, but it was so worth it.

Mori Digital Art Museum by Epson

I will discuss the museum in depth since it was the highlight of our trip to Tokyo and one, I would recommend every visitor to visit. It is unlike anything you have ever seen before. The museum has been open for about a year and has become Tokyo’s top attraction. The museum is over 10,000 sq. ft and has over 500 computers and 470 projectors that creates an experience that will stimulate all five senses. The museum is constantly changing, so stay in the different areas for a while to explore. The music is a very big part of the atmosphere and experience. I honestly can’t describe this place in words that will resemble anything close to what we saw and experienced. Watch the videos on the museum’s website. . Honestly, it’s just a fraction of what this experience is about.  Here is another great video I saw on another website  This also has a good description about the museum and lots of tips for visiting. This website has amazing pictures as well:  The museum is very family friendly and has exhibits for children too. Plan to stay between 3-4 hours. Here are some of our pictures and videos.

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The next few pictures are from same area, with lights changing colors and different views

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This area you can color pictures and they are scanned into the computer and then incorporated into the artwork on the walls and floor

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Example of whale that someone colored

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Climbing activity

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Here are a couple of videos we took: You must click on the photo to watch the video on Flickr

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After the museum we visited Toyota Mega Web which is next door. Mega web is a car theme park to 'Look', 'Ride' and 'Feel' automobile. There are 3 facilities based on each theme. A hands-on car showroom called Toyota City Showcase. An amusement park with ride studios, is for visitors of all ages with thrill rides, racing simulators, and a 5D movie theater. You can also test drive various Toyota’s on a test track. They have a History Garage, which was interesting as well and a technology zone. There also is a Sports zone where you can experience Paralympic sports that are sponsored by Toyota. Some of them were wheel chair basketball, stick hockey, which we all took turns playing and really enjoyed. Greatest thing is everything is FREE. Very high-tech place and really cool for any car fan. After Toyota we headed back to the hotel via train over the Rainbow bridge, it was evening and we were able to see Tokyo from across the bay and enjoy the rainbow colors that light up the rainbow bridge at night.

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wheelchair basketball

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Stick hockey

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Packed subway on way back to the hotel

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My original plan for the day was to travel out of Tokyo on a day trip to Hakone. That is a beautiful lakeside town which has amazing views of Mt Fuji. They sell something called Hakone Free pass which includes round trip trains from Tokyo, Hakone Cable car, Sightseeing cruise, Hakone ropeway and more. The pictures online look beautiful and I really wanted to go. We wanted to enjoy some nature and scenery amidst our trip to the big city of Tokyo. It is about 1.5 hours (or close to 1:45 hours) away from the city of Tokyo. Once we came to Tokyo and were sharing our itinerary with people we met and hotel concierge they recommended we skip this day trip. Summer time is cloudy season in Tokyo and we were told our chances of seeing Mt Fuji was about 20%. We were open to switching our itinerary (Sun, Mon & Tues) but it was pretty much the same chances. So, we decided that since it is a long trip not to bother since the chance of seeing Mt Fuji was slim. We were disappointed but nevertheless made the best out of the day.
Our kids were tired in the morning hours and wanted to chill and swim. So, I took advantage of that and quickly googled a laundromat. Today was day 8 of our trip and tomorrow we were scheduled to fly to Bangkok. I needed to do laundry. Luckily, I found a self-serve small laundromat only 10 minutes away by foot. I put all the laundry in a suitcase and walked through a park to the laundromat. I wish I had taken a picture of the massive and interesting machines they had there, all with instructions in Japanese. Not one thing in English. I thought I figured it out and put 1000 JPY in the machine, some detergent and pressed start. About 45 minutes into the cycle it sounded and looked like it was drying the clothes. I wasn’t sure until the cycle was complete and the door unlocked. Sure enough the clothes were dry, go figure. It turns out the same machine washes and dries the clothes. Little did I know I wouldn’t be able to take things out after the wash to hang dry… guess I still learn about new things every day.
After eating lunch in the hotel, we took a train to the Imperial Palace. There are daily tours in English at 10:00 and 1:30 PM. Unfortunately, we missed the 1:30 PM tour, so we were only able to walk around part of the grounds by ourselves. Fortunately, the weather was a perfect 75 degrees so we were able to walk around and explore. We took our time and made some family memories b/c that’s ultimately what counts. I wanted to have happy children with amazing memories of this trip and they were complaining about all the walking we were doing. They are not used to all the walking that needs to be done when you take trains and are in a city. We ended up taking a train to Chabad for our final dinner in Tokyo. It was great to have fresh delicious hot food after a long day. After dinner, we were deliberating doing the Tokyo Skytree but the kids voted to pass it up. I am sure if we were on this trip ourselves, we would have gone to it even though we were tired. However, we were traveling with the family and you need to be ready for changes and can’t always do everything you want to do as adults. We experienced a lot in this city and had a great time and we try to have that perspective even though we may have to change or cancel some plans along the way.

Some of the grounds near Imperial palace

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Dinner at Chana's Place / Chabad

Chicken Fried Rice

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Pargit with Rice

IMG_20190709_181635 by cr**, on Flickr

Schnitzel with Rice

IMG_20190709_181629 by cr**, on Flickr


After checkout we boarded the Airport Limousine Bus (regular bus, no limo) which has scheduled pickup at the Hyatt Regency, Park Hyatt and few other hotels on the way, directly to Haneda airport. We booked this shuttle the day we arrived to the Hyatt Regency. The shuttle cost was 3200 JPY ($30) adult and 1600 JPY ($15) for a child. After all the subway traveling and walking around with our luggage on the day of our arrival, we wanted door to door service. I would rate them 5 stars and would do this again even though it was expensive ($150 for all of us). It took us about 45 minutes to get to Haneda.
Next up… we travel to Thailand for 12 days!!! 

August 15, 2019, 09:08:15 PM
Re: Family trip to Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong ( with a stop in Detroit)
Fascinating and mesmerizing!

My one question is how you have enough points to take such extravagant trips yearly? You said you are very stingy with your points since you "work hard to accumulate a large volume of points (without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year)" but still, this trip cost a few hundred thousand points, how do you recoup so much so fast that you can take another trip in just a year?

If you don't MS (which to me is spending thousands a year) what do you do to net such large amounts on a yearly basis?
Thank you! First of all not all of our trips are that extravagant. This was by far the most exotic and most costly with points. For example; last summer we went to Israel for 3 weeks and we all flew coach ( since this is an area we frequent I didn't want to create high standards for my kids by flying business every time). We did 5 nights at the WAJ / 2 rooms, opened a couple of Hilton cards for my husband and I, combined the points and took advantage of the points sale they had last year at WAJ + 5th night free of course. Although it took lots of planning and strategy, my kids say it was their favorite part of the trip. We also stayed in apartment through airbnb in Jerusalem (purchased with gift cards at 5x points with ink cc), spent a week in an apartment in Safed (our base for trips in the north) booked via Orbitz (took advantage of Daily Getaways deal $1000 voucher for $650) and couple of nights at points hotels in Tel Aviv and Dead Sea area.
I usually plan trips way in advance so it gives me time to focus on earning a lot of points in a particular area. My best advice I can give is to accumulate lots of points in different points /miles currencies so you can take advantage of flying the best way to a particular area cost effectively with points. Of course I focus on Chase/ Amex, but I love to have Jetblue, Delta, AA, Marriott as well. Of course things are constantly changing in the miles and points world so I constantly reevaluate. Personally my husband does own a business so definitely extra spending there but its not the kind that spends thousands a month. We spread our spending across many credit cards each month in order to maximize the ability to earn more points. I don't mind getting lots of bills each month ( they are mostly paid off before the statement closes- for credit score purposes) and I stay organized by tracking things online. I take advantage of fee free gift cards at Staples purchased with 5x points, as well as other store gift cards from there as well. I don't overdo any of this for obvious reasons. I also keep myself in the loop for many other ways to earn more points throughout the year. I guess in a nutshell I would say its many strategies combined as when to open a particular card, where to spend, take advantage of many offers, bonuses and every possible way that exists to earn additional miles and points as well as maximizing miles redemptions when booking tickets.

August 30, 2019, 10:37:07 AM