Monday, May 22, 2017

PaMa Tang is in Town... How to Travel Across the World for $400

Mama and Daddy Tang are back in town!! It has been 1.5 years since their last visit so it's great to have them around again, and stay longer (3.5 weeks) this time. =) Their last trip here was mainly for our reception and to visit Orlando, but this trip was mainly just to visit us, all thanks to super cheap flights (more details at the end of this post). =P

Long trip for the parents...Penang-KL-Tokyo-Minneapolis-Miami-Atlanta, but they definitely maximized their time in Tokyo. Caught the very last glimpse of sakura at Ueno garden, visited Ueno zoo for free, enjoyed Tokyo's night view for free from Metropolitan Government Building, and tried the famous Ichiran ramen during their short 2-night transit in Tokyo.

Apr 23, 2017 (Sun): World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta
I was still stuck with work in Atlanta the week they arrived, so instead of them flying into Huntsville, I decided to pick 'em up from Atlanta airport on Sunday morning. They've only had a few hours of sleep at Miami but the sightseeing started right away at World of Coca-Cola. =P 

My last visit was back in 2008, and this place didn't change much at all. Dad enjoyed looking at all the exhibits and reading the history. =P

Korean food for lunch at SoKongDong Tofu House. 

then jet lag hits as soon as we checked in the hotel :P

The parents chilled at the hotel and took the complimentary hotel shuttle to the nearby shopping area while I was at work during the week. At least I was able to get off at a decent time for dinners with them.

Apr 28, 2017 (Fri): Rock City Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga
Wrapped up my work in Atlanta Thursday evening and took off Friday to do more sightseeing with the parents. I definitely optimized this work trip by adding in sightseeing in both Georgia and Tennessee, since they've never visited these 2 states. Worked out perfect!

Another place that I last visited in 2008. Not much changed but I wanted to bring the parents here coz I enjoyed the views here. Fortunately, it was a pleasant day for sightseeing.

It was a lil' challenging for dad to navigate these narrow areas and steps but he was a good sport. It wasn't crowded at all so we were able to take our time exploring. Mom certainly enjoyed walking through these narrow walkways.

Two main highlights...Swing-a-Long Bridge and Lover's Leap.


Visited the in-laws on our way back to Huntsville. Full day of activities through 3 states in a day...shopping at Calhoun outlet in the morning (Georgia), sightseeing at Rock City in the afternoon (Tennessee), gardening in the evening (Alabama). =P

The bosses knew that my parents were in town so they were very nice to allow me to work from home on the final week of the audit. =) Yayy to home-cooked meals with the parents after 2 months of eating out.

May 7, 2017 (Sun): Fishing at PawPaw's

After a full week of working from home while the parents chill at home, we finally had some family outdoor time!

Started the day with breakfast at the parent-in-law's and a quick check on the garden. Broccolis are growing well!

Quick stop at Guntersville dam.


And spent the afternoon fishing at PawPaw's place. Mom and I both caught 2 fishes each, first timer's luck. :P

Ended the day with seafood dinner at Top of the River.


May 8, 2017 (Mon): Southern breakfast treat from the in-laws at Big Springs Cafe. Took a week off from work to spend time with the parents. Good timing for a break coz I needed a good break after 4 months of busy season and gotta burn some vacation time before they get forfeited. :P


May 10, 2017 (Wed): Went over to the in-laws' to do some gardening while mom swam and enjoyed the jacuzzi. 


May 11, 2017 (Thurs): Dinner with MIL's uncle and cousin at Yoshi Sushi Fushion. Thanks mom for arranging this dinner. 


May 14, 2017 (Sun): This year's Mother's Day is special coz we got to celebrate it with both Moms! =) Thanks to the in-laws for arranging this fish-fry & pool party, letting my parents experience the chillax, outdoor-sy lifestyle here.


Thankful to be able to celebrate this special day with both parents, families and friends! 


May 17, 2017 (Wed): 3.5 weeks flew by very quickly and it's time to say goodbye. Sent off the parents to Miami, where they spent a night before heading to Tokyo. Even though we didn't travel around too much this trip, it was a great visit and we're happy to be able to spend some quality time with the parents. The in-laws also dropped by the day before to say goodbye and brought some farewell presents. =) 

Travel Hacking for the Parents
I mentioned about the super cheap tickets I was able to get for my parents at the beginning of this post. What do I mean by cheap? Approximately $800 for TWO return flights from Penang (Malaysia) to Huntsville (US)!!! Note that both origin and destination are not main airline hubs, so tickets are typically more expensive, and the cheapest flight I've seen so far for this route is at least $1,000 per person!! But by using frequent flier miles and taking advantage of mistake fares, I was able to cut the costs significantly, let's see how we did it. =)


Thanks to Secret Flying, I found these super cheap tickets from Tokyo to the US back in January. Since it doesn't work the other way around and I couldn't take advantage of this deal, I asked my parents if they wanted to come over instead. We had to figure out the flights between KL-Tokyo and Miami-Huntsville, but I don't think I'll ever find a return ticket between Asia and US for as cheap as $265 (30,320 yen) per pax, so I went ahead and booked the flights for them.


Mom was able to get a free return ticket on Airasia between KL-Tokyo, so they only had to buy a return ticket for dad. For the return flights between Miami and Huntsville, I was able to redeem their flights for 9,500 miles+$5.60 per pax each way with my Delta Skymiles, not bad at all. So the total cost for their flights (2 person) was only approximately $800 + 38,000 Delta Skymiles + 1,500 Airasia Big Points. =)


The parents' route across the world (23,451 miles)...Penang - KL - Tokyo - Minneapolis - Miami - Atlanta - Huntsville.


Apart from flights, I was also able to use Hyatt points for hotels in Miami and Tokyo.

Hyatt Place Miami Airport-East with complimentary shuttle to and from Miami airport and free breakfast for 8,000 Hyatt points or 4,000 Hyatt points + $55. (P.S. This hotel would have costed $130/night.)

Hyatt Regency Tokyo for only $75 (instead of $326), thanks to the Chase Hyatt visa annual free night. The hotel is conveniently located in Shinjuku, with complimentary shuttle to Shinjuku station, complimentary access to the indoor swimming pool for Gold Passport members, and late check out at 2pm with my Explorist status.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

母亲节之有感而发

今年的母亲节很高兴又可以和妈妈一起庆祝。自从来到美国后,这些所谓的大日子基本都没办法和家人一起庆祝。虽然每年都尽量飞回国探望家人,不过因为还得工作,每次最多也只能呆两个礼拜。


今年年头刚好看到机票超便宜,所以就买了两张机票让父母飞到这里,来享受较悠闲的生活,也让我们有多点时间陪他们。这短短的二十三天虽然还得工作,不过除了第一个礼拜必须到公司之外,其余的时间都尽量呆在家里,花多点时间陪他们。这段时间有他们在家,让我们家多了一些乐趣,也很感谢父母帮忙一些家务,还特地带了燕窝来煮给我吃。父母亲就是这样,就算我们都已经出社会工作,但在他们眼里,我们都是永远需要被照顾的孩子。其实这次他们大老远飞到这里真的不简单,而我却因为一些小事语气不好,对他们感到有些亏欠。不过希望他们知道我只是嘴硬,心里其实很珍惜和感激能和他们在一起的时间。


今年的母亲节可以说是悲喜交加;高兴的是能和两位母亲一起庆祝,而伤感的是今年是他祖母的最后一个母亲节。过去的五年里她很勇敢地对抗癌症,即使到最后都还是没放弃。我也很庆幸有机会认识她,并在过去的两年半里抽出时间探望并陪伴她老人家看球赛。她的离去是我们平淡生活中的提醒;提醒我们时间是有限的,提醒我们珍惜生活中的点点滴滴,提醒我们要感恩且知足,也提醒我们在忙着长大的同时,别忘记了父母也在老去。


当父母行动比较慢时,我们可以伸出年轻有力的手扶持; 当父母记忆力没那么好时,我们可以给他们多一些时间回想;当父母听觉衰退时,我们可以多一点耐心重复几遍;当父母对新科技和事物不知所措时,我们可以耐心地解释帮他们理解。有时间的时候多包容一下父母,毕竟他们包容了我们几十年;有时间的时候多陪陪父母,毕竟他们用了大半辈子陪我们;有时间的时候多看看他们,毕竟我们是他们看着长大的。


前阵子看到了一篇关于 “親情計算題” 的文章 - 假设我们和父母分隔两地,每年我们能回去几次,一次几天?除去睡觉和应酬朋友的时间,我们有多少时间真正和爸妈在一起?我们还能陪爸妈多久?真正算出来的数目是一个触目惊心的结果,所以我们更应该好好珍惜与父母相处的时间。Life goes by fast, make the most of it!


We Love You...Grandma Lucille!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Busy Season Continues...Part 3

I have only one word to describe March and April...WORK, WORK WORK! Busy season this year is pretty much similar to last year, lots of traveling but flight travel was replaced with road travel this time around. As soon as I wrapped up the job in town at the end of February, hopped on a plane to Texas and Ohio for 2 weeks, followed by 8 consecutive weeks of driving back and forth to Atlanta, with no break at all in between. Not a fan of road travel for work, and spending at least 8 hours driving each week while gaining an hour on Fridays and losing one on Sundays ain't fun. Glad that it's finally over! =) As boring as work life has been, I did some random things to keep my work-travel life interesting. 

Hotel hopping - Marriott Perimeter Center, SpringHill Suites Alpharetta, Fairfield Inn & Suites Alpharetta, Westin Perimeter North, Sheraton Perimeter North, Le Meridien Perimeter.

Not too fancy with food...mainly room service, lounge food, and take-outs.

Things I do on my 1.5-day weekends...cook for the hubby...

...and gardening!! We're focusing on broccolis this year, hope they turn out well. Thanks to Donny for fixing up the nice fence for the garden. =)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Thank you Delta... See you next time Iceland...

As I'm typing this, we would have been in Iceland and probably enjoying the Northern Lights. But instead, I'm typing this from my hotel room in Atlanta, getting ready for my 3rd work week here, and continue to run my busy season marathon that started since January. Since I have no vacation to blog about for awhile, I shall blog about this planned 'vacation' that ended up being cancelled. Here's a chronological recap of what happened:

Thanks to the Delta Amex sign-up bonus and some work travels over the last 2 years, I accumulated a good bit of Delta Skymiles. And when my Skymiles balance hit 6 digits, I can't help but to start looking for good options to use my miles to travel somewhere. Iceland has been on our bucket list and when I found flights for 60K Delta miles + $51.46 taxes per person for a round trip from Nashville to Iceland, I went ahead and booked the flights for March 2017 (still in time for Northern Lights). Considering that Delta's miles aren't the best/easiest to use, 60K to Iceland is actually quite decent.


Right after completing the booking, I realized mistake #1 that I made. I accidentally used the corporate credit card that was stored on Delta's website, instead of my personal Delta Amex. I was 100% sure that I typed in my personal CC's expiry date and CVV number, but somehow the transaction still went through even though the card number didn't match. =.= Lesson learnt, don't store any cc details online! Mistake #2, I could have just cancelled the booking without any fees within 24 hours and rebook the same tickets using the correct cc, but instead, I called Delta asking if they could change the cc details and they said I have to call the Amex to do it. I called Amex to explain the situation, and it took about 4 months and several phone calls before the charges finally got switched to my personal cc. And this brings me to mistake #3, I could have gotten a $50 credit for using my Delta Amex for eligible Delta purchases within 3 months, but since it wrongly charged my corporate card, I didn't get the credit. =(


Mistake #4 happened 1 week after I booked the flights. Delta had a Europe award deal that brought the miles required for the same flight down to only 49K per person. Seriously?!?! The difference of 22K miles is equal to a roundtrip domestic ticket!! =.=


So I decided to call Delta and ask if they could do anything to help. I explained my situation and was lucky to have a super helpful rep that helped redeposit the miles difference!!

After finally sorting out the flight situation, we started planning for the trip. Our plan was to rent a campervan and drive around the entire island in 5 days. I even mapped out our routes and made an itinerary for the entire trip. But fortunately, we hadn't made any reservation for the campervan or accommodations.


Then 2017 came, Delta made some changes to the timing to our departing flight and hubby switched job, so we had to cancel this trip. I called Delta and was assisted by yet another helpful rep, and was able to cancel our flights without any fees (would have costed $150/pax to redeposit the miles). 

Looking back at all the mistakes/changes I had to make while booking our flights, this trip was probably not meant to happen anyway. Even though this trip didn't work out, I should give full credit to Delta's customer reps for being absolutely awesome!! Hope that I'll get to use these miles for another trip with Delta in the near future. =)