Planning for a family trip

Now that Buddy is almost 3.5 years old, we decided to try an overseas vacation. We were rather reluctant to take him on a flight when he was younger because we were afraid he wouldn’t like being on a plane. (Well, actually we were also not sure if we could handle him since he would be restless and might end up crying and making the whole plane-load of people hate us.)  He’s now at an age when he can articulates what he wants, and this makes it easier to manage him. Besides we’ll be bringing along the ipad to keep him entertained.

I’m not sure if we are being overly cautious, but we had to consider the location carefully. Since Buddy is still young, the place should be one where it is easy to get good medical treatment, and preferably no language problem. Add to that, we don’t want to travel too far since it’s Buddy first trip, and there must be some attraction for him. So we decided on Hong Kong as the destination where we can take him to Disneyland. (He calls it “Toyland” after he saw the Toy Story characters at the resort on a YouTube video.)

First thing on the planning list is airline: should we opt for full-service or budget. My husband feels that since we are on a vacation with no time pressure, and flight time is only a few hours, we can go for budget. A colleague who went with her family, including a 3.5 years old son, to Hong Kong in June, opted for full service airline instead as she wanted the entertainment for her kids. To be honest, I’m not sure if Buddy is willing to put on the headset. (He’s very particular, and doesn’t jump into the bandwagon like most kids.) So taking the full-service airline may not be much use to us, and besides we’ll bring along the ipad for him. As for food, the budget airlines do provide it as well. So it doesn’t seem logical to pay a premium when the differences are not stark for a short distance trip.

Anyway I did check out the fares for both the full service and budget Airlines. After all, the former do offer promotional fares in response to the stiff competition. Unfortunately, for the full service airlines, either the cheap fares are unavailable on the date of the trip or the flight time sucks. On the other hand, the budget Jetstar airlines offer pretty reasonable fares and good timings.

However when I realized that the fare is not refundable, I didn’t want to make the booking right away, though I suspect the fare might go up nearer to the departure date. I was afraid there might be last minute changes, like something might happen which stop us from going on the selected date. So I waited, and when I wanted to book the flights about a month from departure, the total fare had increased by more than a hundred buck. My husband told me I was irrational to wait, since I was able to confirm my leave and I should go ahead with the booking then. My fear of any last minute changes basically doesn’t make sense when unpredictability is part of life. So, too bad, I have to pay more for a lesson learnt.

It’s the same with accommodation, prepayment rate is cheaper than the refundable one. And I had the same nutty fear of non-refundable rate even though the discount can be quite substantial. Then there is also the question of where to stay. As expected, most people stay within the city, in Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok, Nathan or Jordan areas, or within the central area of Hong Kong Island. But a Hong Konger colleague adviced that it was alright to stay in the suburbs because the public transport system is efficient and doesn’t take long to get to the city. Besides the hotel rate is much cheaper and rooms are spacious.

Since we don’t plan to shop in HK, the idea of an accommodation in the suburbs sounds appealing. Especially when we can have a king size bed in a spacious room (which would have cost an arm and a leg for a hotel close to the city). I used Booking.com to check for good rates and found Crowne Plaza at East Kowloon. This is a relatively new hotel located at Tseung Kwan O, near to Sai Kung town. The guest reviews are pretty positive, many are pleased with the amenities, room size, and the friendly staff. The hotel is located atop a mall and a subway station, so transportation is convenient. In fact one guest wrote that he timed the journey from hotel to city on the subway and it took only 25 minutes. Best of all, for me, I can reserve the room on the website and not having to prepay until 2 days before check in. Of course, I can only know for sure what the hotel experience is when I am there, but so far we are happy with what we have found out. For a 2-night stay plus breakfast for two, the cost is only $399 excluding tax.

For the Disneyland trip, we decided that it will be easier to stay for a night at one of the two hotels there to maximize our time at the resort, as well as a chance to watch the fireworks in the comfort of our room if we want to. We have to make upfront payment, and bought the early bird package for one room night and 2 two-day passes while getting an extra child pass for Buddy. (To be honest, there is almost no difference between the early bird and other similar packages available.)

The aim of the trip is not just Disneyland, but also for food. So I have done some research on the places to go for some famous HK cuisine such as the roast goose/meat and shrimp dumpling noodle (wanton meen). This turns out to be quite easy because there is so much information out there, in various blogs. Type in “recommended food in HK” and you get a long list of sites to check out. Anyway, considering that we only have one day for food crawl, we will focus only on two areas: Central and Causeway Bay. I was pleasantly surprised to find that these eateries are located pretty close to each others. Like within Central, we can go from Tsui Wah Restaurant (tea café or “Cha Chan Tang”) to Yat Lok (for roast meat), followed by Mak’s Noodle for wanton noodle, then to Tai Cheong Bakery for egg tarts, and Kau Kee for beef brisket. From the Central train station to each of these dining joints and finally to Sheung Wan train station (nearest to Kau Kee), the distance is only about 1.5 km. If we have time and energy, we will check out Causeway Bay for congee and dessert.

So far the plan is for a 4-day/3 nigh trip, when we will take it easy on the first day after arrival. Perhaps to check out Sai Kung town if we feel up to it. Otherwise we can go to the mall below the hotel, which has a Tim Ho Wan restaurant. The second day is allocated to food crawl, and we will move to Disneyland on the third day.

Though I hope to visit the famous cheongsam shop, Linva, I am not sure if that is possible with a little monkey in tow (Buddy). Maybe I will have a chance to take a picture of the dresses since it is located in central area. So let’s see.

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