The Road to Hong Kong

Rommel and I have always talked about travelling with the kids. We didn’t really know how we’d do it or when we’d start, because let’s face it, travelling costs A LOT. All we knew is if we wanted it to happen, we’d have to do something about it.

Mid-2016 was when we seriously started talking about taking the kids out of the country for their birthdays. Thankfully, their birthdays are a day apart. Hooray! We chose Hong Kong because Disneyland is there and even if Rommel has traveled quite a lot for work, Hong Kong has never been one of his stops. Besides, it’s where I was born and I’ve always wanted to go back with my own little crazy family.

Hello there, Disney!

#CreateAndExplore Field trip no. 1 for 2017: Disney!

By September, I was already looking at plane ticket promos and even downloaded an app that sent me alerts whenever there were good deals. By October, we finally found the deal for us via Cebu Pacific’s seat sale. I compared all the days and travel times and the ones that were cheapest were towards the end of the day. The flight we were eyeing left on a Monday at around 4pm, which was awesome because we didn’t have to wake up at such an ungodly hour to rush and catch a plane.

We were debating on whether to stay `til Friday or Saturday, but the huge difference in prices decided for us. Again, we had our hearts set for another late flight, one that leaves at 7:40pm on a Saturday. Prior to booking the flight, I’ve read articles about how awesome the Hong Kong Airport is to explore, so leaving that late would give us a few hours to explore it. Perfect!

Rommel and I don’t own credit cards by choice. If we were to book flights or anything online, we’d have to have the cash ready to pay for it. We figured that it’s the wisest way to manage our finances. If we had the budget when the seat sale was available, then you could say, it was meant to be. Needless to say, we booked the flight at a really good price for a family of 4. I think if you’ve always wanted to travel, that’s the first step. Save up for the plane tickets (ours was around 18k all in), have the money ready, book the tickets, pay for it right away and start saving even more for accommodations and pocket money.

The moment we paid for our tickets, we told the kids that things were gonna change in the way we spent. We needed to work together as a team to save up enough for our family trip which was then a few months away. Obviously they were on-board but I don’t think they knew what they were getting themselves into!

If we ever went to the mall, it was at our local mall which didn't really have too many temptations!

If we ever went to the mall, it was at our local mall which didn’t really have too many temptations!

We love going to malls and that was one of the first things we had to change. Amazingly, the only time we really hung out at a few malls was during the Holidays coz you know, Christmas and we needed to get a few gifts.

We also love eating out and that was the other treat we had to hold back on. Instead of having dinner somewhere after church, we’d go home and eat a home-cooked meal. If we ever did eat out, we ordered wisely. We shared whatever could be shared and ordered just enough.

It was great training coz the kids ate whatever we ordered for them during the trip and they had no qualms eating in small restos like this where locals ate.

It was great training `coz the kids ate whatever we ordered for everyone during the trip and they had no qualms eating in small restos like this where locals ate.

I told Rommel that we could cut the grocery budget by half. For three months I turned grocery shopping into a game and I needed to win every week by getting the most out of our money. I prepared a lot of budget meals (scrambled eggs galore and more) and we cut down on snacks too.

We aren’t really a family who loves to shop for clothes and shoes so there wasn’t really much sacrifice in that department. Books on the other hand were a challenge. I gave in and spent a reasonable amount during a book warehouse sale because I had to buy books we could use for the whole of 2017. (Excuses, excuses!)

I didn't spend more than 2,000 on those books! What a bargain, right?

I didn’t spend more than 2,000 on those books! What a bargain, right?

However, our weak spot was hit when Moana, Star Wars and Saving Sally were in theaters. Other than eating, we love watching movies. Food is something you can cook at home, but movies, that big screen experience is tough to recreate without the proper gear. But…no regrets. They were all great movies and well worth our time and money.

Throughout our saving-up months, it was such a delight to see the kids making really wise decisions when it came what they would ask for. The concept of identifying what was a need vs a want was reinforced during these months. They were such troopers for eating whatever I prepared for them, be it sardines or yes, scrambled eggs, again. Several times we would be at a store and our little Audrey, who loves the idea of shopping, would say “we can’t buy it coz we’re saving up for Hong Kong” then she’d walk away.

A few days before their birthdays, they needed to bring canvas and acrylic paint for their art class. I had it wrapped nicely and gave it to them as an advance birthday gift and they were both excited about it. Plus, they came up with really great paintings in class `coz they were using their birthday gifts. It's just a matter of perception, guys.

A few days before their birthdays, they needed to bring canvas and acrylic paint for art class. Since I needed to buy it, I had it wrapped nicely and gave it to them as an advance shared birthday gift. Since they weren’t expecting it, they were both excited about it. Plus, they came up with really great paintings in class `coz they were using their birthday gifts. It’s just a matter of perception, guys.

As Christmas approached, we had to constantly remind them that they wouldn’t be receiving anything grand and since that expectation was set, it was pretty easy to surprise them with one treat each for being such troopers during the past few months. But then two weeks after Christmas, it was time to celebrate their birthdays. Again, we had to set their expectations that they really wouldn’t receive anything grand on the day of their birthdays because the Hong Kong trip was their gift anyway. Audrey was thrilled to receive a 150 pesos flower crown and Kristo got Rommel’s phone (which he’s been eyeing anyway). Audrey received a huge cake from her grandma and aunties and since there was a whole lot more two days later, that’s the cake we used for Kristo’s birthday too and he had no qualms about it. Whew!

The cake that has served two birthdays! Hooray for family and huge cakes!

The cake that has served two birthdays! Hooray for family and huge cakes!

Right after their birthdays, the countdown to Hong Kong began. As the kids got more excited, Rommel and I were getting nervous by the day. We had saved up whatever we possibly could the past 3 months, but it wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. Looking back, I’m glad we didn’t have as much as we had hoped for because the situation pushed us out of our comfort zones in so many ways. It challenged us to look for as many free attractions as we could. I don’t think we would have done the things we did on our trip if we had way more than we had in our pockets while we were in one of the most expensive countries in the world! (More stories about starting tomorrow!)

We all can't wait to travel again!

We all can’t wait to travel again!

Were those three months of saving up worth it? Absolutely! Our trip was adventure-filled and we all had such a wonderful time exploring whatever we could in Hong Kong. Moreover, this whole experience will hopefully inspire our kids to travel the world if they want to. Hopefully they’ve learned as early as now that not everything can be served to them on a silver platter. BUT they can definitely work hard, make wise spending choices, make a few sacrifices here and there until they save enough to buy that plane ticket and book that room or bed. Oh, I can’t wait to see where their curious toes take them.

I am happy to say that our family has been bitten by the travel bug. We’re already talking about options for our next trip. We can’t wait to see where God is gonna take us next.

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