Dusting this thing off…

It’s been far too long since I’ve written here but we haven’t done too much travel – mostly local stuff. That is all about to end. I just booked a spur of the moment Spring Break trip back to Kauai and I couldn’t be more excited!!

It will just be my son and I for this trip. My ¬†husband goes to 2 different schools and of course their spring break schedules are a week off. So he doesn’t get a Spring Break. Boo!ūüė¶ My son’s preschool is out so either way I would have to take time off of work. I’ve been trying for months to figure out where to take him. Disneyland was out because my husband wants to be there for the first time. I was going to do San Diego but a friend had to back out at the last minute and then that just got too expensive and I didn’t want to drive there by myself. I could fly but when I worked out the costs it made more sense to spend that money for a trip to Hawaii. I looked at lots of other hotels but my husband wasn’t that comfortable with me taking my son to Mexico or the Caribbean on my own (and I felt the same way) so I decided to go back to my favorite place, ever – Kauai!

I have 2 nights free at any Hyatt that I intended to use last summer in Huntington Beach but the dates never opened up. They expire at the end of June so this was the only shot I had to use them. I also didn’t want to waste them on just any resort/hotel. I transferred some points from my CSP so I now have 4 nights booked at the Grand Hyatt Kauai! I did pay for the airfare as I wanted the miles and very specific flights since this is the longest flight I’ll have gone on alone with my son.

I’ve heard such wonderful things about the Grand Hyatt Kauai and I can’t wait to experience it for myself. Since it is just my son and I, I am looking forward to just relaxing by the pool and playing in the ocean. Maybe a short hike or a bike ride to mix things up but we’ll mostly be staying put.

Independence Day Staycation


Wow – I haven’t posted in quite awhile even though I’ve been meaning to for weeks! I’ve been travelling a ton for work and when I’m doing that I have ZERO downtime.

I’ve never really done a “staycation” before but when my plans fell through to go to my parent’s cabin in northeastern Arizona I started looking for other options to stay cool here in Phoenix. My husband was in summer school and works Friday & Saturday nights for some extra spending money so he was basically out of commission for the weekend and also needed quiet time to study. I found a great package deal at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge, which I had never been to and always wanted to check out.

The package was $169 per night and included the following:
– $50 resort credit daily
– free kids meals 12 and under with paying adult
– free resort fee which included free internet and self parking (a savings of $47.95/day)

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Prior to booking my stay I reached out to the hotel through twitter to ask if there would be any way to view fireworks from any of the hotel rooms. I was told that depending on the room, it would be possible to view neighboring fireworks displays.

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I went a head and booked a room for my son and I then contacted the social media director who gave me her contact info and asked her if I could get a room where we could view the fireworks. She put a note in my reservation and now all we had to do was wait!

The JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa has several pools and a lazy river. As my son is an avid water kid I was excited to spend 2 days just relaxing by the pool and playing in the water.

We arrived at our hotel around 10am on Friday, July 4th. The place was PACKED!! I was able to check in to my room early and my son and I got settled. We changed into our suits and headed straight to the pool.


IMG_8376IMG_8378And the pool was even MORE PACKED! It was nearly impossible to find a lounge chair near the pool where I could play with my son and keep an eye on our stuff. Despite the crowds, my son and I did have fun playing in the water and riding in the lazy river until it was time to get cleaned up.


When we arrived back in our room we were greeted with an amazing gift from the social media director. On our coffee table there was a tray with milk and cookies for my son, spa amenities and a reusable infuser cup for me. She even included a free drink at the bar for me! I was completely blown away at the surprise and tweeted a Thank You! immediately.

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There were tons of activities going on all weekend long but my son was most excited about the opportunity to make his own pizza. The cost was only $10 and worth every penny!




The chef was awesome and gave each child their own chef hat, dough and a rolling pin. We frequently make our own pizza at home so my son has a little experience. He had a blast though making his own pizza and was in his element. They had tons of toppings to pick from and it was finally time to pass the pizza over to be cooked. We waited in the shaded grass and my son made some friends running around while his pizza was cooked. Soon it was ready and time to eat!

After his pizza we headed back up to our room and rested up until it was time for the fireworks. We sat on the balcony and saw lots of fireworks going on far off in the distance but the closer ones didn’t start until about 9pm. We had an awesome view thanks to my contact through twitter.


The next day we slept until we got up and my son had breakfast in the room with some food I had brought with us and stored in the mini fridge in the room. We got down to the pool as soon as we could to stake our claim and play until a couple of my friends came to join us at the pool. We had a fun, exhausting day playing at the pool and even took a nice walk to the huge garden on property that is used to supply vegetables and herbs to the kitchen.


The next morning on our last day we woke up to my husband knocking on the door delivering me my beloved Starbucks. He was able to join us that morning to enjoy brunch before we had to leave to go home.

All the food we had was wonderful – even poolside! I would definitely go back to the JW Desert Ridge but I would probably avoid holiday weekends in the future. I did love being able to see the fireworks from our room but I’m just not a big crowd loving person. It wasn’t as relaxing as I’d hoped by the pool because there were just so many people! You can get the same package at other times during the summer so next year I’ll probably plan to go at a different time. The crowds didn’t bother my son though and he had fun regardless!

FTG Reader Success Story

I’ve been reading A LOT of travel, miles & points blogs over the past 10 months since I started this little hobby. Frugal Travel Guy is one of the blogs that I read daily. I have learned a lot that helped me put our family trip to Kauai together. But one of it’s regular features, “Reader Success Stories,” inspired me to keep moving towards my goal.

I’m so excited to say that my story was recently selected as a Reader Success Story and was posted today. ¬†Go check it out!ūüôā

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Thank you FTG!



Toddlers on Planes: Mommy, I have to go Potty!

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Another story on twitter from @Flying With A Baby regarding toddlers on a plane. This time a toddler was forced to urinate in her seat because the flight attendant would not allow her to use the lavatory while the flight was sitting, delayed, on the tarmac at JFK. You can read the full story here.

I’ve been in something of a similar situation. My son potty trained early (at 27 months) so when we traveled to Seattle 5 months later I was ecstatic that our luggage would be lighter since I would no longer have to pack all those diapers and wipes! Given the fact that he did potty train early I was always sensitive about long trips in a car, in a store, etc as he just doesn’t have the capacity to hold anything for very long being so young. When you gotta go, you gotta go!

I made sure we used the restroom before we boarded and he did great the whole flight up there. No issues. The issue arose on our flight home. My son was exhausted and fell asleep soon after takeoff. He didn’t wake up until right as we were making our descent into Phoenix. His first words as he awoke, “Mommy, I gotta go potty!” Well, as you know, there was nothing I or anyone could do at that point for him. We couldn’t get out of our seats. I felt helpless. I explained to my sleepy 2 1/2 year old that the plane was about to land and that we couldn’t get out of our seats until the plane reached the gate because it wasn’t safe. I also told him “If you have to pee your pants, just do it. Mommy won’t get mad.”

How could I expect him to hold it for the entire descent, landing, taxi and wait for deboarding?? That could take 30-45 minutes – an eternity to a 2 1/2 year old! I just didn’t see any other option. He refused to take me up on my offer and – amazingly – held it until I was able to rush him off the plane to the restroom (he didn’t want to use the lavatory on the plane for some reason). I was grateful to be traveling with my Mom who was able to gather all of our things while I rushed ahead to get him off as quickly as possible.

The lesson learned in all of this? I now always fly with a couple of pull ups in my carry on. If I am ever in this situation again, I would have no qualms about stripping him down in the seat and putting one on him to go potty in. You never know what is going to happen when traveling with a toddler. We’ve all heard the horror stories of being delayed for hours on the tarmac and clearly in this little girls’ case, they didn’t allow her to use the lavatory even then. Oh, and another tip? Always carry spare clothes for your toddler in the carry on as well!ūüôā

Traveling with Toddlers and Car Seats on a Plane

Yesterday, I was pretty alarmed when I read this story via this tweet from  on Twitter:

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You can read the full story here. I am pretty appalled that this happened and don’t know what I’d do in this situation myself. I have travelled MANY times with my son in his car seat on an airplane. I firmly believe it is the safest place for him to be in the event of any turbulence that a flight could experience. Consider this, which just happened earlier this year. I don’t know about you, but during a situation like that, I wouldn’t want to rely on my arms to ensure my child’s safety if they were flying as a lap child, or the seatbelt for my toddler who is 3 and still weighs only 29 lbs. The seatbelt won’t fit him and it surely would do absolutely NOTHING to restrain him in an incident like this. If you are planning to travel with your car seat, plan ahead! Ensure your car seat is approved for airplane travel. Read the label on the side of the car seat. Based on the experience in the tweet I referenced above, read and print the FAA Regulatory Requirements linked here, in the event you encounter any pushback from any Flight Attendents. The FAA also has some good information on Child Safety to review prior to travel on their website.


I currently have a car seat exclusively for travel. This may seem excessive but I have a very large, very heavy Britax Marathon for every day use. I travelled with it one time and my back paid the price. I invested less than $50 in the Cosco Scenera car seat for travel (It also doubles as a great car seat for when my son spends time with his Nana!). We have already used it on 6 flights and more to come this summer. The bonus is I have a safe car seat to use in our rental car at our destination. Who knows what those car seats have been through that you can rent!

I carry my carseat in this clever backpackScreen Shot 2014-06-11 at 8.24.13 PM. For me it makes sense when I’m already usually pushing a stroller or pulling a carryon and corralling a kid. I can’t tell you how many compliments I have received on this backpack. Mommy¬†Points has some other really great suggestions here.Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 8.15.40 PM

Another option for airplane travel if you don’t want to lug a car seat through the airport include the CARES Airplane Safety harness. You can purchase one¬†for about $75 if you plan on using it a lot or you can rent one¬†on eBay for about $13-$15.

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If you are bringing your car seat on board and you are traveling with both parents or another caregiver, do yourself a favor: One of you board first with the car seat and a couple carryons while the other parent or caregiver hangs back with your child to board later. This gives your child more time to run around and get some energy out, while you can get the car seat installed and your things situated without holding up the boarding process. When you are installing the seat, the easiest way to do it is to first push the seat all the way back. Install the seat by threading the seatbelt through the path in the back of the seat tightening as much as you can and then bringing the seat back up again. Putting the seat back just gives you more room to maneuver in an already tight space!

During the flight:

If you are in standard economy seats and are using a car seat, it is important to know that it is very likely the tray table will NOT lay flat. In those situations, I bring this Munchkin Travel Tray Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 8.16.13 PMalong which attaches to the car seat. It packs easily in the backpack with the car seat and works decently enough for my son to hold his drink and snacks in flight, color, play with some toys and balance a video player.

If you can get into Economy plus seats with extra legroom (like Main Cabin Extra on American like we did to/from Kauai, Hawaii) the tray table will lay flat.

Another important thing to bring along are snacks! I really limit the sugary snacks in an effort to avoid a post sugar high melt down, but I do try to include some fun treats that aren’t offered everyday. Airplane travel can be stressful enough! Some of my son’s favorite travel snacks are:

These also all double as great snacks to have on the go once you reach your destination. You never know when you will have a hungry kid and it’s always good to have some quick, healthy snacks ready to go!








What are your tips for traveling with infants and toddlers? I’d love to hear them!

*None of the links contained in this post are affiliate links and the companies have no idea who I am

Our next adventures…

I’ve been super busy planning upcoming trips both for work and pleasure. I have several business trips coming up for the summer and one of them happens to be our annual team meeting which will be held in Huntington Beach, CA. I LOVE when this location is selected because it is so easy to bring my family along for a few days at the beach (although it is tough when I’m stuck in meetings during the day!).



HB 2 years ago!

HB 2 years ago!

While it’s taken my leadership longer than I’d like to solidify the plans, I know that we’ll be staying at the Hilton Waterfront and I know the dates. ¬†I went ahead and applied for the Chase Hyatt Visa for the free 2 nights. I have always wanted to stay at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach next door to the Hilton Waterfront but the opportunity has never presented itself. At the current $499/night, it’s not an option for me on cash. With the minimum spend already met I’m waiting for my free nights to post so I can book 2 nights following our team meeting. With the card, my status was upgraded to Platinum so here is hoping we can also score some sort of an upgrade! We’ll stay 3 nights at the Hilton Waterfront and 2 nights at the Hyatt Regency HB and I couldn’t be more excited! My son is very excited to spend some more time at the beach, though I’m hoping it won’t be too cold for him after Hawaii. ¬†We will also have to hit up the Aquarium of the Pacific again in Long Beach:

Long Beach Aquarium

I’ve also been busy working on strategizing maximizing my miles and points. I have 2 trips to Seattle and at least one to the D.C. area this summer. I’m really hoping to at least hit Silver this year with USAirways so I’m carefully tracking my miles and booking my trips to maximize my miles. I’m also registered for some Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton promotions so between all these trips I’m trying to carefully select where I’ll be staying to reap the benefits of those promos.

Next up, I’m in the beginning stages of planning a spring break trip to Disneyland! I haven’t been in years and I think it is finally time to take my son. By that time he will be almost 4 (just 2 weeks shy). I would LOVE to stay at the Grand Californian to get the full on DISNEY experience. After I meet the minimum spend on my most recent acquisition (Citi Exec AAdvantage) I’m thinking of transferring all spend to my Barclay¬†Arrival Plus to use for a Disney trip. I’ll also apply for the Southwest cards at the end of the year if the 50,000 bonus points come back to shoot for the companion passes for both my husband and I. Until then, no more credit card apps – I think I’m done for awhile!

Any advice on planning Disney trips using Miles and Points? What are your summer plans?

**None of the links contained in this post are affiliate links and the companies have no idea who I am. I am linking to them so you can find the most recent bonus offers, etc.

Monitoring Miles & Points Balances Effortlessly

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I was talking with a close friend today about miles and points. He is the one who first talked to me about building miles and points balances with credit cards years and years ago…but I was too fearful to do it! If only I’d started then!!!

He mentioned that he had some American Airlines miles that were going to expire soon and he was going to have to buy some so they wouldn’t expire. I couldn’t believe he wasn’t aware of miles and point shopping portals! I showed him how to log on to the AAdvantage Shopping portal to buy something he would normally buy anyway to get miles. The miles he would earn from his purchase ¬†would extend his balance longer without spending money on buying the miles directly (which you usually can’t get at a good rate, so it’s rarely a great idea). He was incredibly grateful for the information.

I then asked him how he monitors his balances and he said he did it manually, logging into each account, one by one. He had no idea about Award Wallet. I use Award Wallet to track all of my miles and points and also my husband and son’s miles and point balances. Everything is updated on one screen. I also love that I don’t have to remember all of my logins. I click on the program I want to login to and it automatically logs me into my account on that programs specific website. Below you can see a sample of the Airline accounts I manage for my family. I can see when my points will expire and can login to those accounts directly from this page. I love seeing all of my Airline and Hotel balances in one place!

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Award Wallet¬†is completely free, however you can purchase an upgrade which gives you more detailed reporting and faster syncing of your accounts. There is no set fee for this upgrade. YOU choose how much the service is worth to YOU and pay that fee for 6 months, at which time you’ll be asked again if you want to pay to continue your upgraded account. You can also download their free iOS or Android app and keep track of your balances on the go!

If you click the Award Wallet links in this post to create your own account, I get a referral bonus towards my account. You can also use this coupon code to get a free upgrade for first time users: free-radxts

How do you manage and monitor your miles and points balances?