Preparing for the Trip of a Life Time

Deb's Digest Blog

As I begin writing this blog, a few happy tears are coming down my face. I KNOW how blessed I am. My life has taken me through lots of highs and lows, but one of the biggest highs was starting Deb’s Disney Digest back in January 1996. I have met so many wonderful people and traveled to so many wonderful places all due to starting the little website 18 years ago.

Now I am just a couple weeks away from what I feel is my ultimate Disney fan trip of a lifetime.

When Disney theme-park fans talk about the Holy Grail, what comes to mind? Tokyo DisneySea, of course! I can tell you this has been on my bucket list for years. And I have been talking about a trip to Tokyo for years. And I have been saving my frequent flyer miles for years. And now, it is really going to happen!


And since I’ll be on the other side of the world, why not visit Hong Kong Disneyland?!


And on the way back home, we’ll stop at Aulani in Hawaii. I’m typing this and even I can’t believe it! Here come those tears again.


Some say it all started with a mouse and my dream certainly did, but it got kick-started by a Jack and, like Walt, he dared to dream.


Two years ago my dear friend Jack celebrated his 50th birthday by running his first full marathon and throwing an elaborate character filled party! The theme of his party was his dream of visiting every Disney theme park within the next 5 years. Jack and I spoke afterwards and talked about how cool it would be to visit Tokyo together.

About a year ago, we decided the time would be 2014. The first hurdle was deciding exactly when we would go. We didn’t want to go in peak season and we didn’t want to go when it was freezing cold, so when? I’m not sure how exactly, but we decided on early March.

You can imagine the complexity of planning a trip of this magnitude. We’ve been organizing for months and months and, now, 2 weeks away, we are still finishing all the details. We are spoiled here in the U.S. with Walt Disney World’s website because the park hours are listed months in advance, and you can make hotel and dining reservations months in advance. Not so with the Asia parks. Add to that the time and culture differences, and planning was a bit tricky, to say the least.

Eight of us are part of this journey — AllEars Bloggers Jeanine Yamanaka (all three locations), Laura Gilbreath and Lee Zimmerman (Hong Kong and Tokyo) ; AllEars photographer Linda Eckwerth (all three locations); my pal Jack and his friend Pete (Hong Kong and Tokyo) and AllEars Senior Editor Deb Koma (Aulani).

With everyone’s different work schedules and living on opposite coasts, we decided to choose two “core” days we would be in Hong Kong and three “core” days we would be in Tokyo — as the ones everyone would plan to be there. This has worked well, as we will all be coming and going but also be spending a good amount of time enjoying the parks with each other.

In early March, Linda and I will begin our long journey to Hong Kong. We plan to take a couple days to get use to the time change and then head to Hong Kong Disneyland for the start of this amazing trip.

So stay tuned as we chronicle our journey through Twitter and Facebook and here on AllEars.Net. You don’t need a Twitter account to follow us, just go to this link:

If you have been to Hong Kong Disneyland in the last few months — we are looking for recommendations in the park and hotels for dining (counter- and full-service). Please leave a comment below. In Tokyo, we have reservations at Magellans and Blue Bayou. Where else shall we dine (again full- or counter-service in the parks or hotels)?

We are excited beyond words, and I’m looking forward to sharing this adventure with all of you!

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51 Replies to “Preparing for the Trip of a Life Time”

  1. My family was lucky enough to live in Japan for 3.5 years and we visited Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea several times. One thing that served us well, both in the parks and elsewhere, was to get in a line for a food vendor if it’s a long one- that usually means they are selling something good! And don’t be scared of the curry- flavored popcorn. It’s mildly flavored and yummy. (As are just about all of the popcorn flavors).
    The other thing I would recommend is to walk in to the counter service restaurants and take a look around, even if you’re not eating there (Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall and Grandma Sara’s Kitchen especially).
    Consider ordering a children’s meal at some point and pay extra for the keepsake plate, (which they will wrap up for you). It’s a fun thing to have. I suspect it’s more sentimental to me than to my children now!
    The technology of Pooh’s Hunny Hunt is not to be missed.
    And I would recommend seeing “Under the Sea” at the Mermaid Lagoon Theater in Disney Sea- it has a decidedly Japanese ending!
    Enjoy everything! And don’t ever worry about a language barrier. You can communicate an incredible amount of information with just a few words, hand gestures and smiles.

  2. So excited for you! We were lucky enough to do Aulani for our Honeymoon in November (it was amazing!), and we will be headed for a cruise of China, Korea and Japan next spring. Tokyo Disney and Hong Kong Disney are on our list of things to do. I can’t wait to hear about your trip and gain some helpful tips for our trip. Have a blast!

  3. Sounds like the trip of a lifetime Debs, hope it’s amazing!

    I’m off myself on a little jaunt to Tokyo Disneyland in the morning. Four whole days all the way from the UK and so I’m feeling a little excited myself.

    Have a great trip and I look forward to comparing notes when you start your trip blog.


  4. Hi Deb –

    I can feel your excitement through your words. I would be lying if I said I didn’t envy you and your group. Have a wonderful time!!

    – Jeff

    PS – I’ve been visiting your site since ’98

  5. Congrats to you Deb!! I’m so excited for you and the team! I live and Australia and have been such a avid allears fan since 07! The trip of a lifetime for us is just to get to the “world” (Disneyworld) once a year! Have a wonderful time I wish you all the best! I’m hoping one day you will have a meet and greet when I’m there so I can thank you and the team for the fantastic work you do every day keeping the disney dream alive for those of us almost 1/2 a world away! Enjoy you trip and the memories of a lifetime! Regards Lisa

  6. I can just feel the excitement by reading your story of anticipation (I got goosebumps just reading it). What a “trip of a lifetime” this one will be. It’s so nice to be part of a world of people who “get it”. Have wonderful and safe travels and I can’t wait to hear all about it.

  7. I know you are going to have a wonderful time.

    My trip to Japan in 2008 is one of the highlights of my life. We spent 3 fantastic nights at the Tokyo Bay Hilton at the Tokyo Disney Resort after spending 2 weeks touring Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. If I had one piece of advice it would be to get away from Disney at times to see the other amazing sites Japan has to offer. One of my favourite memories was of the day trip I took out of Tokyo to the resort town of Hakone. I got a pass which took me on a tour up a mountain by switchback, funicular and gondola to a fantastic view of Mount Fuji. I would go back in a heartbeat.

    (And Journey to the Center of the Earth may be the best ride in any Disney Park)


    DEB: Great suggestions Kevin!

  8. Hi Deb
    I know how exciting this is for you, as I’m going on my first trip to Tokyo Disney this year also. It has been top of my ‘bucket list’ for many years.
    I am not going until May, so looking forward to reading all the tips you share to help me with my planning.
    Hope you have a fantastic time

    DEB: WOW, you are going in May! How cool is that! Can’t wait to share it all with you.

  9. Both Plaza Inn (in the Park) and Crystal Lotus (Disneyland Hotel) in the Hong Kong Disneyland serves authentic Chinese cuisine. I didn’t like most of the counter service food in Hong Kong Disneyland though. Most times I just eat at the Plaza Inn, which I felt is value for money.

    If you are adventurous, you may like to try the grilled squids offered at some of the concession stands. It may be too fishy or spicy for people who don’t grow up eating them though.

    The egg tart from the Main Street Bakery is also a local favorite snack.

    Have fun.

    TIAN: Thanks so much for the suggestions.

  10. So excited for all of you. May your trip be safe and carefree. I look forward to the tales you will share with us.

    DEB: Thanks Lisa! Glad you’ll be virtually joining us 🙂

  11. Hi Deb,
    “When you wish upon a star”….sometimes those dreams DO come true! How exciting for you and I am so happy that you are going to experience this lifetime dream.

    Have a safe trip and I would say wonderful time but I know that is a given because Disney will make sure of that.

    I’ll be looking forward to reading about this trip.

    Take care,

    DEB: I’m so excited and nervous at the same time. It will be amazing!

  12. I can feel your excitement and true happiness, wishing you magical days and safe travels! Bring home many memories to tuck away and many stories to share with us!

    DEB: Memories – yes, I’m sure we will have so many fun times to remember and share!

  13. WOW ! I am so excited for you and “The Team”. Ya’ll are going to have a fantastic time, and I can’t wait to read all about it. Don’t forget to take pics of your plates for us “Foodies” !

    Lots of Love,

    DEB: Oh yes, food pics.Glad Laura will be along for that 🙂

  14. I am so excited for you. It sounds like you have a great trip planned. I was hoping to celebrate my 50th birthday this year in WDW but life got in the way. My husband was diagnosed with cancer last July. After a surgery and chemo treatments we’re so thankful to say he’s cancer free today. So our plans are now to go in the fall to celebrate our wedding anniversary and his beating cancer. I wish you the very best. I know you’ve faced cancer and beat it and I admire your upbeat attitude and how you raise money for breast cancer research. God’s Speed and I look forward to your posts.


    DEB: Thanks so much Kathy. Glad to hear your husband is doing well!

  15. Disney Sea…my dream vacation! But add in the other 2 resorts…Magical!
    I can’t wait to read about it. Have a safe, wonderful trip of a lifetime!

  16. Deb,
    I am so excited to hear that you are going on this trip. As everyone else has stated, I cannot wait to read all your blogs about your fantastic trip! We were blessed to visit our son when he was stationed in Japan with the Air Force and go to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. They are both so awesome. One thing we did was take a tour (like those at WDW and DLR). It was so cool because we were the only two people on the tour! You should definitely check on that. Also, I finally meet you on the Maiden Voyage of the DISNEY DREAM. What a thrill for me! I love your website and read it nearly every day!

    DEB: Great tip on the tour! I’ll look into that. Wow, the Dream was already, what 3 or 4 years ago? Time is flying.

  17. I’m heading to two of your three destinations also in early March! I’m going to Japan first though….my mom and I will be at Tokyo Disneyland from March 7 to 10 (the last day being my 45th birthday) and then we will be at Hong Kong Disneyland on March 12 and 13.

    We were in both five years ago (my 40th birthday was my first day at HK Disneyland which was my last of the 11 to visit for the first time!) I enjoyed the buffet at Hollywood Hotel (where we stayed last time and will again this time). At breakfast I managed to get a picture of the wasabi formed into the shape of Mickey’s head before anyone ate it! We had my birthday dinner at the Enchanted Garden restaurant in the other hotel and recall it being good. We had a traditional Chinese meal at Crystal Lotus. It was neat because the veggies were shaped like Mickey heads, hands and shoes but the portions were small….rice or noodles not included in main dish.

    I have no recollection of meals at Tokyo DL other than Crystal Palace which allowed me to experiment with some Japanese food. I wish I knew someone who read Japanese as I’d like to get reservations at Magellan’s and Blue Bayou too!

    DEB: How exciting for you. You mean there are no menus in English. ?!? Sounds like we will be passing in the airport so I’ll be sure to wave. Safe travels and enjoy!

  18. Deb: For counter service restaurants in the parks, we liked Tahitian Terrace in Hong Kong Disneyland, Cape Cod Cook Off in Tokyo DisneySea (try the Japanese curry) and Cafe Orleans in Tokyo Disneyland. I hope that you have an amazing trip!!\

    DEB: Check out Alice’s great article on visiting the Hong Kong and Tokyo Parks!

    Thanks Alice, I have more questions for you too — need to email you 🙂

  19. Deb, I am so happy for you!! AllEars has brought me so much joy over the years and this amazing trip couldn’t be happening for a more deserving person. Tokyo Disney has long been on my bucket list too, and I can’t wait to read about your experience. Bon voyage!

    DEB: Much appreciated Colleen!

  20. Tickled to bits for all of you! Care to pass me your Bucket List? It seems you have chosen well!

    DEB: Slowly things are getting crossed off the list. There are so many places I want to see – especially areas of the United States Park Service.

  21. How many miles did you save. What airline? We are doing the same after Shanghai opens up. We would probably do Tokyo, Hong Kong, then Shanghai in that order. But not sure yet since we want to hike Mt Fuji so maybe Tokyo would be a trip by itself.

    DEB: It cost us approx 375,000 miles each to fly First Class from the East Coast to the 3 destinations. We booked in October. I know if you book when the tickets first become available it is less. We are flying Delta with a co-branded credit card (that’s what really made the difference).

  22. This is a well deserved trip for all you and your website have done to make so many Disney trips magical here in the US for all of us. It’s good to hear about dreams coming true. Can’t wait to hear all about it. Have a safe and wonderful trip.


    DEB: Thanks so much. We feel very blessed to be able to do this.

  23. I’m so Jealous, I hope you all have a wonderful time, and have no Hick-ups in your long trip. I will be reading and enjoying the pix you will post. Have a GREAT TIME.

    DEB: Thanks Sara!!!!

  24. Deb, I am so thrilled for you! You deserve this. What an adventure! I’ll admit I am a bit jealous:) Tokyo Disney has been a dream of mine since day one! Cant wait to read all about it!

    DEB: Glad to have you aboard for the journey

  25. I too have enjoyed your site from almost the beginning. And was thrilled to have met you at the first tour of AOA Resort. So happy you will get to go on such a great whirlwind trip! I’m very jealous. Can’t wait to hear all about it so I can live though you. Congrats & have fun.

    DEB: Thanks Jennifer! It will definitely be an adventure!

  26. I cannot wait to read your report. I will be going to China in May, my daughter is currently in Beijing. I have booked two nights at Disney’ Hollywood Hotel and we want take a day to tour Hong Kong. I am sure I will be able to get great advise from your report. I would have loved to visit Tokyo as well but it was too expensive to do everything in this trip. It is on my bucket list though. If my daughter stays in China for awhile then Tokyo will be in my future.

    DEB: Hong Kong is reasonably priced compared to Tokyo – I should have mentioned in addition to saving all those frequent flyer miles, I’ve been saving money too!

  27. So thrilled for you Deb, and the whole gang! I am looking forward to reading all about the trip, especially Hong Kong.. My bucket list has a trip to Asia in it somewhere down the line. Bon Voyage and safe travels!

    DEB: Thanks Karen. I hope this helps pave the way for others to plan a trip like this too!

  28. I’m sooo jealous & sooo happy for you at the same time!!!

    that’s one of my dreams also, to visit other Disney parks in the world!!!!

    you are inspiring me!! I will do my trips!!!!!

    have an awesome time & I cannot wait to read/see about yours!!!!


    DEB: I know what you mean, every time someone I knew came back from Tokyo Disney Sea, I’d be in awe. This has been years in the making!

  29. Tokyo Disney is fantastic!! We were lucky enough 5 years ago to turn a 12 hour layover into a 4 day layover and visit this park. DisneySea was awesome. I’ll be looking forward to your posts!!

    DEB: So excited!

  30. Congrats Deb! You will LOVE Tokyo DL & DS! I was just there last summer, it was amazing. We stayed at TDL Hotel, great spot, and the monorail was so fun. While I can’t recommend any food places, as the ones I went to were Italian so that my vegan friend could eat, I recommend the following:

    -Go see every show you can!!! They are all amazing, and don’t miss the shows on the lagoon in Tokyo DisneySea.

    -Try the Mickey and Minnie bars, they are fruit bars, very yummy.

    -One restaurant I wanted to try was the Queen of Hearts Buffet, we didn’t go – meat. So amazingly themed. Also there is a Chef Mickey at the Disney Ambassador Hotel that I wanted to try too. Just to compare.

    -Attractions not to miss: Everything in TDS, but especially Tower of Terror, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and 20,000 Leagues! Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, and Monsters Inc. in TDL!

    Enjoy! I’m jealous about Hong Kong, but someday I’ll get there:)

    DEB: Thanks so much Dana! Great suggestions!

  31. Congrats to you. Enjoy your trip and I can’t wait to see your pictures. Also thank you for all the work on your site. You’ve helped us plan dinging reservations as well as resort reservations. So THANK YOU for that and again enjoy your trip.


    DEB: You are so welcome! Thanks for your well wishes!

  32. Deb, very excited for you guys. But still jealous. That is like the ultimate Disney trip. I look forward to see what you guys come up with to tell us all about your trip. Have fun and be safe.

    DEB: Thanks so much. When I recently turned cough60cough, I decided the time to do this trip was NOW!

  33. I am excited for you for this trip! I cannot wait to “read all about it”. As I approach 50, this very trip is on my bucket list – I can’t wait to live vicariously through you until I can do it myself! Have a wonderful, amazing, safe time!

    DEB: Thanks Anna. I recently turned a decade older than you and decided it was time!

  34. Went to Tokyo a year and a half ago and visited Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Sea. An amazing trip! Wish we had also gone to Hong Kong, because the flight was hard on our old bodies and I don’t know if we can survive the flight to HK.
    Have a magical trip! Can’t wait to read about it from your perspective and compare it with ours.
    Be safe and store up the memories. As Kodak always said, “…makin’ memories, makin’ memories…”

    DEB: Yes, we were a bit concerned with the long travel, hence the Frequent Flyer upgrade and also we have nothing planned the first 2 days we arrive. At first we weren’t sure about Hong Kong, but then thought – when will we ever come back!

  35. My DD visited Hong Kong Disney about 2 years ago. It was a day trip, as she was on her way to the airport from the city, and it is a stop on the subway. She had intended just to go to the gates, take a picture for her Disney loving mom, and get to the airport. But it ended up that she had a few hours, the park admission was affordable (about $50 then) and so she did some touring. She was surprised at the small size but loved the Toy Story area. I don’t know if you will need two whole days at Hong Kong Disney, but hopefully now that you know it is convenient to the airport, maybe you can find accommodations at the airport and commute to the park. Your trip sounds absolutely amazing, and you are traveling with such a great group of people I know that you are going to have a fantastic time!

    DEB: Thanks so much Lynne! We are all excited beyond belief 🙂

  36. Will be eager to hear all about it as visiting all the Disney parks is also on my “Bucket List” , but my Hawaii trip in May comes first!
    Have a great time!!!!!!!!!

    DEB: Thank you Penny!

  37. I just want to say, have a WONDERFUL time! I’ve gotten hours of enjoyment and so much helpful information from this site over the years and I’m so glad you’re getting to fulfill this dream. After all, you’re helped my family (and countless others) fulfill ours. 🙂

    DEB: Thanks Jill. It really is a dream come true~

  38. How wonderful!! Very excited for you, Deb–you deserve a great trip!! I’d love to do this someday. Looking forward to following along at home 🙂

    DEB: Hoping cell service will be great so we can send many photos back to everyone!

  39. Really looking forward to read about your trip! I think there is no one who deserves this more than you. And we are blessed because we can virtually go with you!
    Greetings from Vienna, Austria

    DEB: Thanks you Andreas!

  40. Over the past 4 years I have visited each Disney parks at least once a year and I can say: you are in for a treat! Dining wise try the Royal banquet hall as a quick service ( loooove the seafood pasta set and the dim sums). The enchanted garden character DINNER is worth every penny. Breakfast is nice food wise, but character wise a rush and also very noisy so a little expensive for the experience you get.
    In TDR you should try one of the diner shows: Polynesian terrace and mickey and company or both very cute shows and the food is great too (fixed menu)
    Have lots of fun!!!

    DEB: Thanks for the food suggestions!

  41. Wow, sounds wonderful and while I truly hope you have the time of your lives, I can’t help but be a little bit jealous…lol! Look forward to reading about your trip in the months to come! Have a great time!

    DEB: Just as I was always a tiny bit envious when I saw other people post photos from the Asia parks 🙂

  42. Having visited your website since nearly the beginning, let me just say how HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY I am for you! You are right – truly a trip of a lifetime. And I just know we, your loyal readers, will get to hear all the details upon your return

    DEB: Thanks Eva — should be lots of reports during and after the trip!

  43. WOW, Deb! That’s one heck of a trip. I certainly hope there will be many photos and blog posts about it.
    We’re so happy for all of you. That is going to be one memorable trip. I’m glad you finally got down to doing it. So many times, lots of us say we want to do this or that, and it just doesn’t happen. Time gets away from us.
    Haven’t been to any of those places yet, but I know it will be worth it.

    DEB: You are so right Scott. Last year was a rough year and after turning another decade I decided it was time!

  44. I am so beyond incredibly happy for you! You made me cry! Disney is all about dreams coming true, certainly. But,if we don’t ever go for it in life and pursue those dreams, we end up doing nothing. I am so glad that you are pursuing your dreams! Yay!! I can’t wait to hear all about your journeys- what an amazing trip! Have a blast!

    DEB: Thanks so much Michelle – it all seems surreal since I’ve been thinking about this trip for so many years. Dreams do come true 😉