Monday, May 13, 2013

I'm Famous!!!

Well, maybe not famous, but like my father before me (who had his photo in the New York Times a few years ago), I made my own appearance on a very popular travel / miles & points blog called Mommy Points this past weekend.

I checked it out this past Saturday while we were driving up to McCall, Idaho, and my family got some nice comments (OK 1 nice comment) from the readers.

If you haven't seen it yet, you can click here or just scroll down and read it below.

From Mommy Points (post dated May 11, 2013)

First, can you tell me a little bit about your family?

My parents and I live in Manhattan and are pretty frequent travelers. In fact, my Korean-American father actually met my Uzbekistan/Russian mother in Israel while he was on a 14 month around-the-world travel adventure after quitting his Wall Street job at a hedge fund back in 2008. I realized early on that being a part of this family means loving travel.

If you’re good at dates and math, you’ll realize that I’m pretty young. I’m about to turn 18 months old. I was born in November 2011 and had my own passport 19 days after I was born. My first flight wasn't until February 2012 when I was about 3 months old, but flown almost 100,000 miles so far before my 18 month mark.

Earlier this year, my parents encouraged me to start blogging our travel at Lap Child Diaries so that I’d have something to look back on when I’m older (since I’m likely not to remember most of what happens before my 4th birthday). But what started out as a travel diary for me has evolved into something that helps my parents’ friends keep tabs on where we are and how we were able to pay for it. It’s not really a “points/miles” news blog as much as it is a travel journal, but I try to address requests and questions we get about the frequent flyer points/miles.

How have your traveling patterns changed (or not changed) since you have had kids?

Well, I’ll have to speak for my parents on this one since I wasn't around for the “Before” part. I’d say they've had to make some adjustments, but they've refused to turn me into an excuse for not going somewhere. My father works in finance and my mother stays home with me, so we are pretty flexible with our four weeks of vacation a year. One week is spent in Israel visiting my grandparents, two of the weeks are spent somewhere in the US/North America, and one week is spent in a distant international destination such as Argentina or Japan.

After I was born, they kept to this strategy, taking me on every trip, even the 10-15 hour flights. The biggest change is having to check luggage, bring a car seat, and what we plan to do when we’re at our destination. Having me around doesn't let them enjoy the nightlife, fine dining, or adventure excursions, but my parents are very happy just enjoying spending time with me wherever we go.

Where all have you traveled with your children, and what have been some memorable experiences on some of those trips (both good and bad)?

Well, this might be a short list for some people, but I've tagged along with my parents to Chicago (3x), Miami, Block Island, Houston, Phoenix, San Francisco, Corpus Christi. Internationally,we've been to Israel (2x), Bermuda, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Turkey, Thailand, Argentina, Chile, and Canada.

My personal favorite was Miami where I went swimming for the first time, and also Thailand where we spent five weeks visiting Chiang Mai, Chaing Rai, Bangkok, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Krabi. And my all time favorite moment was going to Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai where I was able to play with a real baby tiger.

What are some tips for traveling with kids that you have learned along the way?

My parents used to get bulkhead seats when flying to give us some extra space and bassinets, but found that it’s easier to keep me under control when I don’t have so much space.  Now we sit one to two rows behind the bulkhead. Also, we prefer sitting closer to the lavatories because, well, you know…

Another new trick is to fly overnight on longer flights (5+ hours) so that I’ll be more likely to sleep. Of course, it does run the risk of me not sleeping and frustrating everyone around us while they’re trying to get rest, but I’ve been able to keep it together for most of the time.

And finally, the thing my parents always bring with them on flights is a few cheap plastic bags – the kind you get from the drugstore. Apparently, lap children like me create a lot of trash between all the plastic wrappers, dirty wipes and snacks, there’s no way a flight attendant could keep up. So we just keep a plastic bag with us to keep all our garbage until the flight attendant comes by.

As for hotels, we’ve found that the nicer luxury hotels such as St Regis Bangkok, Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, and Conrad Koh Samui ones are generally VERY family friendly. The next tier down with hotels such as W Hotels, Westin, Hyatt Regency isn’t quite as family focused in our experience because they seem to cater more to the business travelers, though there are many that do have amenities for children.

How do points and miles figure into your family travels?

We’re very fortunate in that we can travel more often than most. Points and miles allow us to make those trips better. For example, last year, we were going to fly to South Korea so that I could meet my two great-grandmothers living in Seoul. Instead of flying economy on United, we used our MileagePlus miles to fly round trip business class on United and Asiana. From reading the blogs about free stopovers, we added a few days in Tokyo on the outbound so we got to enjoy two cities on one premium class trip. Since I flew as a lap child, we only needed two award seats. We were planning on staying at the Westin Tokyo anyway, but it was a perfect time to use our Capital One Venture Rewards card that came with 100,000 points at sign up. That was enough to cover three nights at the Westin Tokyo.

Another example is when we were in Koh Phangan, Thailand this past February when Hilton decided to devalue their program. My father had 240,000 Hilton HHonors points (from opening Hilton Amex and both Hawaiian Airline credit cards), so we used the GLON Award for 6 nights at the Conrad Koh Samui for 225,000 points. After the devaluation, a night at the Conrad Koh Samui costs 80-95k points for just one night! Since my father learned how to get instant Hilton Gold status, we were enjoying free breakfasts every morning!

Sometimes, the points/miles/status thing isn’t necessarily intentional. We decided to go to Mendoza, Argentina to visit the wine country. Obviously, I’m too young to drink, but my parents thought it would be a nice change of pace from Buenos Aires. So we paid cash for four nights at the Park Hyatt Mendoza and used 6,000 Hyatt points to upgrade to a regular suite. But since my father was a Diamond, they upgraded us again to the amazing Presidential Suite. It was amazing!

What future trips are on your horizon?

Well, my parents and I are going to Berchtesgaden (Germany) and Paris at the end of May for about ten days. I’ve never heard of Berchtesgaden, but my father reads and Lucky mentions how much he loved the Intercontinental, so we decided to go there. He signed up for the Chase Priority Club Visa to get the 80,000 Priority Club Point sign up offer to almost cover three nights at the Intercontinental.

Then for Paris, we couldn't read all the blogs talking about how amazing the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome is and not go, so we’ll be there for six nights. We got two of those nights in a suite after signing up for the Chase Hyatt Visa and status-matching challenge to Hyatt Diamond.

What would you say to other families that are nervous about the logistics of hitting the sky (or road) with the little ones?

I realize that not all babies are the same, but you can’t let your children become excuses. The first few times might be painful for everyone, but very few things in life are so simple and easy. Know what the process will be like (getting to/from airports, getting through security/customs, etc) and pack very light. We babies are remarkably resilient and don’t need as much “stuff” as some American parents probably think. You can probably get most things you’ll need when you’re there. Remember, no matter where you’re going in the world, they probably have babies there too!

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