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The mad rush to get ready for Japan

To make sure you’re all caught up with my Japan blog entries, start here:

Ok, here goes. In case you missed it, 19 members of my family are headed to Japan. 12 of us got FREE tickets to Japan. Here’s how we did it. Click here. How we got 12 Free tickets to Japan. You too can begin traveling nearly free. This is the perfect starter card to get you traveling nearly free. Click here.

If you’ve been following my blog entries in the past, you would know that we are professional late packers. No excuses, but life back at home is just so busy. With the weeks leading up to the trip, I reminded our group of 19, yes…19….that we should only bring a carry on luggage and backpacks. Our vacation to Japan is just under two weeks and I’ve shared with them that it could be done. My immediate family has done it many times, and thankfully, I was able to impart that message with the rest of the family.

So when did we really get serious with our packing

As always, packing the night before was the way we best prepared for the trip. We got home around 9pm after shopping at the local factory outlet. I still managed to cook a late-night dinner. By 10pm, I decided it was time to pack. I just grabbed what I thought I needed, and tried not to put too much in the carry on. Honestly, I got tired from the preparation. So at midnight, I called it quits. I set the alarm at 4am, that’s when I woke up and finished my packing.

What’s in my carry on luggage

  • Jeans – 1
  • Khaki pants -1
  • Shorts – 3 (including swim shorts)
  • Beanie
  • Scarf
  • Gloves
  • Nautica V-Neck Sweater
  • Shirts – 5
  • Underwear – 5
  • Socks -5
  • Nike Running Shoes
  • Belt
  • Ralph Lauren Rain Jacket
The black shoes eventually DID NOT make the cut

What’s in my backpack

  • MacBook Air
  • Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones
  • Meds
  • Anker 3 port Power bank
  • Charging cables (for the MacBook, Fitbit, iPhone)
  • Underwear and under shirt (just for back-up)

Nancy, on the other hand, finished all the packing for her and two of our youngest kids. That was a bigger task. Ethan (18) and Madison (15) packed on their own. They knew not to bring too much, and I’m glad that they were old enough to take care of their own luggage.

What I wore on flight day

With a nearly 12-hour flight from Los Angeles to Japan, I’m all about comfort when it comes to dressing up for my flight. I ended up wearing my:

  • Skechers Goga Walk shoes
  • Nike Running Pants
  • The North Face light jacket
  • Compression Socks
  • “I Travel For Food” T-shirt (a gift from my brother)

Making our way to the airport

Our flight was scheduled to leave at 12:35pm out of Los Angeles International Airport. It’s always so tricky with getting to LAX. If we were to follow the rule of being at the airport 3-hours before our international flight, we needed to be at the airport by 9:30am. We made it a goal to leave at 6:30am. For this flight to Japan, there were nine of us flying together. Along with us were my brother-in-law, Kuya Nelson, and two of sisters-in-law, Ate Tonie and Ate Eve. 

We planned on taking our Honda Odyssey in order to fit the six of us in one vehicle. Once we learned that my brother-in-law was bringing his Toyota Sequoia, we decided to bring our Prius instead (a 5-seater). We had Ethan ride with them to the airport, while Nancy and I had the other 3 kids in the Prius.

It was quite traffic that morning, and the GPS advised us to go through Malibu Canyon. We then got on the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Monica. We were only 12 miles away from the airport, but the traffic was so bad that it took close to 40 minutes just to make it to the airport. The traffic eventually cleared as we got on the 405 freeway. We parked our vehicles at Fox Auto Park. We took their shuttle and we made it to the airport within 10 minutes. 

What you need to know about ANA at LAX

Although we checked in online, we were advised by ANA that our mobile pass won’t work at the gate. So we had to get our boarding passes at the ticket counter. Thankfully, at 9am, there was no line at ANA.

Shortly thereafter, we headed towards security to the TSA Precheck line. All of us were TSA Prechecked. No lines. Extremely easy-going morning at Tom Bradley International.

9 passengers. Just 8 carry ons, 9 backpacks. No checked luggage

Alaska Air Lounge using Priority Pass

We still had over two hours to kill before the flight. Four of us decided to head to Alaska Lounge to use our Priority Pass. The rest of our party stayed upstairs over at PF Chang’s, also part of our Priority Pass access. PF Chang’s was due to open at 11am.

My Kuya Nelson, Ethan, Evan, and I walked over to Terminal 5 from Tom Bradley. It was a good 15-20 minute walk through tunnels. The Alaska Lounge is known to deny Priority Pass cardholders access to their lounge when their lounge is crowded. For today’s visit, as expected there was a sign that informed PP cardholders of this message. I’ve done this many times. I told my group, “let’s go up and ask anyway.” 

It always pays to ask nicely. Right as we entered the lounge, we learned that they were about to allow PP members access again. When they saw our group of 4, they decided that we’d be the only group to be allowed in. So there, we got in!

My kids have been at this lounge many times. Not the fanciest lounge, but heck, free is free. I’m thankful for the free coffee, drinks, fruits, soup, oatmeal bagels, etc. Evan, my 9 year old, ate a bunch of pancakes. He’s a regular at the Alaska Lounge.

How to eat for FREE at P.F. Chang’s LAX via Priority Pass

We left the lounge around 10:30am and made our way back to Tom Bradley. We made it back just in time to join the rest of our group at PF Chang’s. We didn’t have much time at PF Chang’s. Our boarding time was set at 12:10pm. Our goal was to eat quickly at PF Chang’s, and head to our gate by 11:30pm. But we were prepared. I had a link for the the LAX menu, and our group picked our orders even before the restaurant opened.

For this recent visit, there was quite a crowd that built up. It’s a good thing that the rest of my family stayed behind, and we were one of the first ones to enter the restaurant.

This was my second time visiting PF Chang’s at LAX right when it opened. The first time was last October when Nancy and I flew to Amsterdam. Here’s what I wrote on how we accessed PF Chang’s for free at LAX. So what’s the deal? Since we hold premium credit cards that offer Priority Pass access as a perk, each card holder could bring up to two guests and order up to a $30 value at PF Chang’s. That’s $90 per cardholder and two guests. In our group, we had 4 premium cardholders. Since there were nine of us, we could’ve used up to $270 worth of food and drinks. Amazing! The only out of pocket for us which was not included was the tip.

Alvaro, our waiter was the best. He took our orders quickly and within 5-10 minutes our food and drinks were served. We had hot-n-sour soup, poke, beef broccoli, shrimp, fried rice, just enough to feed our group of 9. We were done by 11:35 am. We did not pay for our food. It was all covered by Priority Pass. All we had to pay out-of-pocket was our tip for Alvaro.


So there! That’s it….that was our journey to the airport. Next entry, our 12-hour flight to Tokyo. Thanks for following our journey.

In the meantime, to the inquiring minds:

How can I begin earning points to travel for nearly free?

You have an option to begin flying for nearly free, but you will need miles and points. There was always one card that stood out, perfect for a lot of those who are getting into the game.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred (click here) is a perfect starter card. With its 50,000 bonus points, those points alone have gotten us two tickets to Hawaii, just as an example. The sign up bonus alone can be worth as much as $1,000 or more in travel.

– 60,000 Ultimate Rewards sign up bonus after $4,000 in spend in the first three months
– Points are transferable to:

  • Hotel Partners
    • Hyatt
    • Marriott
    • IHG
    • Ritz-Carlton
  • Airline travel partners
    • JetBlue
    • United Airlines
    • British Airways
    • Southwest Airlines
    • Singapore Airlines
    • Flying Blue
    • Virgin Atlantic
    • Aer Lingus
    • Iberia

– Points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal
– Primary rental car collision damage waiver
– Earn 2X points on all travel and dining
– $95 annual fee

If I were just starting out in earning miles and points, I suggest starting out with this card,  the Chase Sapphire Preferred. We have two upcoming trips in 2019 and we’re very excited.

I wrote different entries on How We Travel for Nearly Free, and most recently, I updated my favorite travel credit cards. I’ve also written this recently:

To apply for my favorite Top Travel credit cards that I use most, click here

Lastly, here Reader Success Tales that I featured on my site.

2 thoughts on “The mad rush to get ready for Japan

  1. I enjoyed your article since we are considering traveling to Japan as well. Lots of good information – thank you. If I could make a suggestion – thorough proof-reading would be it. Unfortunately I have an eye for finding mis-spellings or misused words and there are many in your article. Just an FYI.

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