I’m not sure I can pull this off.

We are leaving in less than two weeks, and I’m not ready at all.

I have so much to do.

Let me be clear that I want to roll my eyes when other people say that to me about their upcoming trips. I think, “How hard could it be? Just throw some clothes in a bag and make sure you’ve got your passport. Whatever.”

But no. No. It’s not like that.

This is a BIG TRIP, and I’m just so overwhelmed.

And I’m such a hypocrite.

I would laugh, but I’m a little too stressed for humor.

In nine days…NINE!…we’ll be en route to Tokyo, followed by Kyoto, Paris, and Barcelona. It sounded like a good idea at the time.

I have no idea how to get from the airport to my hotel in Tokyo. I haven’t bought our train tickets yet – even though I know we have to buy them before we leave to get the deal.

I’m kind of freaking out.

Sadly, this freak out is not of the productive, adrenaline-fueled variety. Instead, I find myself intensely studying Kooba bags on Tradesy at midnight. Why? Who knows. But I’m certainly not taking care of any business. I need to make a spare key for our housesitters. I need to figure out the European power outlet thing. I need to write a bunch of copy for the Holiday Look Book at my new job.

But instead, here I am, writing this post.

I know we’ll make it out of here somehow, but at the moment I’m not quite sure how – and I know that I’m not helping things with my extreme, inexplicable, paralyzing procrastination.

Words of wisdom? Advice? Similar issues? Please share!


  1. Go with the flow. There are limosine buses to take you from NRT/HND to the hotels. You can buy tickets whilst out there, but they cost a pretty penny.

    And don’t freak out – going with the flow and enjoying it is part of the journey 🙂

  2. Break it up into a few things a day. Make a reasonable ‘to do’ list and stick to it. (I’m in city two of four in two continents in three weeks and it’s all good so far!). You’ll get there!

    • Points Pixie says

      Ann – Your trip sounds similar to mine!

      Ha ha – maybe that’s my problem – my “to-do” list is all handwritten and crammed onto a piece of huge construction paper. Just looking at it is intimidating.

  3. Have an amazing time!!! What train deal for Tokyo are you referring to? The rail pass? I was in Tokyo a few years ago and I was there for a week and it wasn’t enough. If you have time, you need to hit up the two Tokyo Disney theme parks. It’s not like the US parks at all – think no annoying/bratty kids and the parks sooooooo clean. It’s a completely difference experience. If you only have time for one park, do Tokyo Disneysea. It’s unlike any other Disney park. Go to Jiro’s, tempura bar, eel bar, shop around akihabara (sp?), eat puffer fish, go to harajuku, shop at uniqlo, go to hello kitty land, visit Harry Potter world at Universal Studios Tokyo, buy kit kat and oreos and visit a themed restaurant for kicks! I don’t know where your hotel is so I hope it’s near a train station. Mine was right outside of Shinjuku train station so it was very easy to get from the airport to my hotel (bought ticket at booth, hopped on train, got to my hotel in an hour). Also, at every station, there is an info booth and they are sooo sooo soo helpful. I can’t read or write or speak Japanese and I had no cell phone and no issues getting around. All you need is a map! Good luck! Have fun! I am heading there in Dec 14 and Feb 15! Can’t wait! My one week wasn’t enough so I hope you are there longer.

    • Points Pixie says

      Ang – Thank you!! Great tips!! You are fueling my procrastination because now I need to look at Tokyo DisneySea!

      Yes, I am referring to the rail pass. I just peeked at the comments below and I think FirstClassQueen is going to yell at me for not getting it before now. I’m doing it now, I promise!

      We are staying at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo so hopefully it’s convenient 😉

      I have no idea!!

      • No yelling…Park Hyatt is very convenient to the Narita Express stop at Shinjuku Station. Just beware that Shinjuku Station can be a bit overwhelming this first time. It is the world’s busiest train station and expanding!

      • Awesome re Park Hyatt Tokyo! I am using my two free night certs there in Dec or Feb. I haven’t decided yet, but will soon. I read that it is quite a bit of a walk from the train station so be prepared. I read the Grand Hyatt Tokyo is better in terms of location since it is closer to the trains. I also read Hyatt Regency Tokyo is good too, but still a walk, but not as far as PH Tokyo. I am also looking at staying at Andaz Tokyo. If it helps, I didn’t find the Shinjuku train station to be that overwhelming… then again I am from NYC so I am used to busy train stations. You’ll be fine! Can’t wait to read your trip reports since my trips are still months away!

        OMG promise me you’ll seriously consider Tokyo Disneysea!!! They are huge on Duffy (the bear and he has a new feline friend they are introducing this month) and buckets of flavored popcorn. Google the Tokyo Disneysea Gyoza dog and hunt it down. They have a toned down version of the turkey leg so I’d give that a pass. They have a chicken leg that was quite good, but small. They are also very big on dressing up in costumes. From Shinjuku train station, it took me about an hour to get there. You have to switch trains a few times though and that can be overwhelming, but just follow the signs and you’ll be fine. Also, when you get off the train at the final stop, you have to pay again to go on the Disney monorail/train (it’s not free like it is in Disneyworld). I did both parks back to back and I wish I stayed at the hotel there after the first park night since it was a bit exhausting traveling back to the hotel and then back again the following morning.

  4. Hyacinthe says

    “I’m a little too stressed for humor” but apparently not too that stressed/rushed enough, since you took some valuable time to post on this blog. 😉

    • Points Pixie says

      Hyacinthe – I know!! That is totally my issue – I’m paralyzed with procrastination!! 😉

  5. Use jrpass.com for the rail passes ASAP. Get the green car. It is worth the extra $$. The JR Pass includes the Narita Express to/from NRT and Tokyo, but If you are going to be there a day or two over the 7-day or 14-day or 21-day pass validity periods, buy the 1,500 yen Narita Express one way (ordinary car only and TO Tokyo only) from NRT to Tokyo and then pick up your rail passes once you have only 7/14/21 days remaining.

    Best of all, Japan is about the safest, cleanest place you can go in this world, so don’t stress too much. People will be there to help you along the way, without trying to get a buck from you.

    • Points Pixie says

      Gene – Oh, you would totally say to get the Green Car. You are with FirstClassQueen!!!

      I’m going to call you.

  6. Darth Chocolate says

    As far as the plug adapters go, get a universal one from Brookston for around $25-30. Works anywhere in the world and has 2 USB ports for charging phones, kindles, iPads, etc. Alternatively, look into the Kindle Powerfast travel kit for around $25 which comes with interchangeable plugs for other parts of the world.

    Note this does not change the voltage or phase, but make sure all of your chargers are rated for 110/240 V 50/60 Hz. You will find that some items charge more slowly due to the lower amps with the higher voltage. If you have curling irons/hair dryers, make sure they can work on both voltages or you will destroy them.

    • Points Pixie says

      Darth Chocolate – Argh, head spinning from all this info. I’m going to make my husband Josh deal with this. Can you believe I’m so lame right now? I totally can’t deal! What’s happening to me???

      • Darth Chocolate says

        Can I believe in your “lameness”? Yes.

        My wife has known for 2 months she would be leaving for a 6 week Fullbright Scholarship in Beijing. He first flight left at 6:00 this morning. She finished packing at midnight, and the car picked us up for the airport at 4:00. She spent untold hours Thursday-Monday pulling weeds instead of packing.

        At least she finally got the last of her tax stuff together on Wednesday. That’s right, 2 1/2 months late (we filed an extension).

        If it were not for deadlines, nothing would ever get accomplished.

  7. All you can do is one thing at a time. Start with making an extra key (get up and go to a 24-hour Home Depot or something). As soon as you do one thing, the rest will follow.

    • Points Pixie says

      Garrett – I LOVE the idea of going to Home Depot in the middle of the night to make a key. That totally sounds like something I would do. Love it, love it.

  8. Dear Kendra,
    I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while now and all I can say is …Good God woman! Get a grip
    and get with the program ( that you know so well) . Focus and just do it. Make a list and get task oriented immediately. There, I hope that helped.

  9. I feel a little guilty but my husband and I have started going to Walmart to buy underwear and socks that we can throw away on the trip. Also try to pack a couple of things that are worn or aren’t getting used to shed on the trip.
    Focus first on the absolute essentials, medicine, spare contacts lens etc. You will be places you can buy other things you might forget.
    Also consider this a learning experience. Maybe you will love the variety, but personally I would go to fewer places and have less travel time. We spent almost two weeks in Japan last summer and obviously almost no amount of time is too much for Spain and France.

    Hope you all enjoy your trip!

    • Points Pixie says

      Kate – Thank you!! We are packing super light because I know I will be finding great stuff while we are there. Josh is also a big fan of washing stuff on the road so that’s another thing I’m going to let him handle, ha ha. 🙂

      I’m starting a series titled, “Would We Do This Again?” I can’t wait to find out the answer 🙂

  10. Marilyn B says

    Take a deep breath and try to relax as best you can. Focus 1st on the most critical things that are time sensitive. I fully understand that paralyzing procrastination where you find yourself doing anything than what you SHOULD be doing (in my case, I have to make some critical decisions regarding healthcare options in 2 weeks, having let 2 months pass by creating photo albums, gardening, etc., etc…..).
    It might help if you put it all down on paper, prioritizing things. I find this helps me find my focus. Then you can check things off as you go, maybe “outsource” a few to Josh.
    Again, try to relax, or your stress is going to affect everyone else – and you don’t need that with your kids on such a big trip.
    Also, please exercise care in Barcelona. Great city, but lots of pickpockets. Since it’s at the end of your trip, you want to end on a good note. A little vigilance goes a long way.
    You will get it done.
    All the best for safe and happy travels, Kendra.

    • Points Pixie says

      Marilyn B – Great comment packed with great advice and also a lot of understanding. Thank you!

  11. The to/from airport stuff can get to be tough and stressful for trips like that. Personally I say scratch that part off the worry list for most cities and just use Uber or a cab if you can’t get it sorted ahead of time. Yes public transport is cheaper and “cooler” in some travel circles, but it is also more time consuming to plan and figure out. No worries if you need to hit the Uber easy button and get whisked to your hotel once or twice! I used it in Paris and it was easy peasey. I also bought train tickets in Tokyo when we got there and it was not the end of the world at all. It’s okay if you don’t do it “perfect”. Promise!

    • A taxi from NRT to Park Hyatt Tokyo will set you back more than $500, so I don’t think that is a good option in this case!

    • Points Pixie says

      Mommy Points – Thank you. I know you “get it.” I know Josh and I will be fine, but my kids (especially my 9 year-old) are probably going to be thrown for a serious loop after 16+ hours of flying.

      I love your phrase “Uber Easy Button.” Very descriptive!

  12. Stephanie says

    You are in SF right? I remember reading that somewhere in one of your posts… There’s a place downtown where you can go buy the pass: http://www.yelp.com/biz/jtb-usa-san-francisco

    It seems like you can actually pick it up right there. I looked into something similar (HIS Travel, another major Japanese travel agency) in Los Angeles.

    While you’re there, maybe you may also want to pick up tickets to the Ghibli Museum? http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/ You have to buy tickets in advance for that, and while you can do it in Tokyo at a Lawsons convenience store (similar to 7-11), it’s easier to get it in the States. You should be able to do that at JTB too.

    Please feel free to email me if you have any other questions 🙂 I’ve been to Tokyo about five times now. I also have really great guidebooks for Tokyo and Kyoto. I’m in Berkeley… maybe I can loan them to you?

  13. Stephanie says

    Oh also, this map from the PHT may help… They have a complimentary shuttle bus from Shinjuku station to the hotel – this is for if you take the Narita Express train. The map shows where the stop is.


    I think I might have pictures of the stop… I’ll try to look. 🙂

    Alternatively, you can take the airport limousine bus straight to the front door of the PHT. You can buy tickets at the airport. I can’t remember if it’s cash only though… You may want to have some Japanese yen in your pocket when you arrive just to be safe. There are ATMs, but it’ll be easier to have the cash on hand already.

    Here’s the airport limousine bus specifically for Narita -> PHT:

  14. You will thank me forever: toandfromtheairport.com
    For everywhere!

  15. I remember my first trip to Japan, how overwhelmed and unprepared I felt. Now I live in Japan.

    My first time visiting was back in 2002 when detailed maps and train schedules weren’t online yet. I arrived at Narita and had to get to Hiroshima on the train. What and experience.

    I just kept in mind the immortal words of Douglas Adams “Don’t panic!”, took everything slowly and carefully and did the one thing that no American male would ever consider….I asked for help 🙂

    With this site you can (in English) enter where you are and where you want to go and the start time and it will show you routes (including airport buses) as well as fares. http://www.hyperdia.com

    Google maps also features a public transit option but seems to work better if you work with it in Japanese.

    This is the website for Limousine Bus for Narita and Haneda https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/

    This site lists free and cheap events and things to do around Tokyo http://tokyocheapo.com/events/

    Quick tip: SkyTree, Tokyo Tower and Roppongi Hills (my office is in Roppongi Hills) have observation decks with great views of Tokyo, but all those locations charge an access fee. If you go to NishiShinjuku to the Tokyo Metropolitan Govt Building, you can go to the 45th floor observation lounge for free.

    I hope you are able to enjoy your trip here.

  16. The first time I went to Tokyo Narita, I took the limo bus into town (I was staying at the
    Hilton near Shinjuku). Big mistake – there was heavy traffic and it took like 2 hours. Taking a cab would not have been any faster, only more expensive. I doubt that the bus ever exceeded 30mph because traffic was so bad. Needless to say I now take the train. It has been several years but I don’t remember major differences in price. I used to worry about every little dollar but over time I have learned that there is definitely value in paying a little bit more for something if it will reduce stress or increase comfort – isn’t that one of the reasons that you are on vacation in the first place? In Paris, if you are staying in a central location then I would just take the RER B train to the nearest stop to your hotel on that line – then grab a short taxi (or walk if you can). Unless you are traveling really light, I wouldn’t mess changing lines to the subway, since much of the Paris metro system is lacking escalators and carrying luggage on crowded stairs is not fun.

    • I like the RER B train idea, but take the Roisee Bus to l’opera ! You get to stay about ground and see all the sights. You buy tickets right before boarding. Cheaper than the RER too I think !

    • Points Pixie says

      Erik and Ben – Great tips, thank you!! Really grateful – this is reducing my stress as I read what you wrote. 😉

  17. Sounds like my normal pre-trip M.O. and I have always made it. I leave a week behind you for a big trip so I might not sound so cocky this time next week. I’m probably in denial.

    I like the 50:80 rule. Tell yourself you only have to do 50% of any daunting task. Odds are, you will end up doing more, but even of you don’t you will 80% better because you got something done.

    • Points Pixie says

      Hottie – Denial is super fun but I find it always bites me in the bootie after awhile. 🙂

  18. Been to all locations and for me depends on the time and how many bags. PH Tokyo, we had arrived late and decided to take the limo bus which stops directly in front of the hotel. Cost about 3100 yen. Then to Kyoto, we took the taxi to get to Tokyo station because it is weekday morning, and good luck trying to find space to get on the train to get to Tokyo station. Of course, we took the Hikari train using the Japan pass. But we did not just stop at Kyoto. We also stopped at Himeji, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Osaka.
    For Paris, my sis had this medium size bag, yes, you could take the trains to get to the city but I had a bad leg that time, so it was not strong to balance me and my bag to go up the stairs. The hotel – Du Louvre, has several lines nearby, but the yellow no.1 is the closest. However, that line does not connect to the airport. You have to change at Gare Du Nord station. And depending on the exits, some do not have lifts/ elevators, and have only stairs. That hotel is also next to the Louvre museum, and I could actually peeked into one part of the museum from my room. Anyway, took a taxi because it was easier for my leg.
    Barcelona, again took a taxi. However, you can find a laundromat near the La Rambas area. Getting around via metro is easy.

  19. Points Pixie says

    Damon – Thank you, thank you. Fabulous tips!!

  20. Ugh…getting ready for a big trip is the worst. I think we have finally travelled so much that I maybe have hit a groove and it’s a little easier for me to do the prep work. I can even usually manage to throw everything together for a last minute trip (talking an hour to get to the airport) with our kids.

    Remember that you can purchase a lot of things abroad. If you forget socks, oh well. Like others have said, focus on the things you can’t replace as easily when you are out of the country. Take a back up pair of glasses for example. Bring plenty of meds.

    I have no advice on getting around but just know that things will work out. They always do. I find when I am most prepared, that is when something happens with my flight that throws everything off. It all evens out in the end!

    • Points Pixie says

      Erica – You are right, things always do seem to work out somehow…and if they don’t, it’s always a great story. 😉

  21. I’m a cab kind of person myself. Most of the time I’m traveling int’l is for work, and I’m given guidance on transportation whether cab, airport pickup, etc.

    I have two sets of travel adaptors – a SKROSS original as well as a Jensen adaptor kit – happy to loan!



    My most memorable unprepared int’l trip was in 2007, trip to Prague. I was training for a marathon and ran 22 miles with my team Sat morning, only to rush home, eat and pack in a 2 hr period, totally exhausted feeling like a zombie (why did I not pack in advance?). Hopped on the plane that afternoon, passed out, booted up laptop somewhere en route to find out where I was going so I could tell the cab driver.

  22. Robin Lance says

    I have no advice for travel to Tokyo, but I do know this; you’ll have plenty of flights/trains/bus rides to research the next stop. Don’t obsess too much about the European segment of your trip… You have time!

    As far as procrastinating and being in a panic have you ever heard of Flylady? She has an interesting website… But since you don’t have time to read thru it I’ll give you some of her best tips:

    *When you get overwhelmed with everything you sit down (with your favorite cup of coffee or tea) and write out three lists 1) What to pack 2) Things to do before we leave 3) Things to do when we get back. Just writing it all down will make you feel more calm.

    *Use your phone timer! Set it for only 15 minutes. (You can do anything for 15 minutes). Work for 15 then take a break for 15… Or switch off between a physical task (packing) and a computer task (ordering train tickets online). You won’t exhaust yourself or get distracted with the computer if you only have 15 minutes.

    *Work with your kids individually for 15 minutes each so they have “ownership” of what they’re packing, but you have an idea of what they are bringing.

    *Dont expect a “perfect” trip. Remember the “biggies” (prescription meds, extra glasses, a comfort item for each person) and realize that they have stores in Japan : )

    The two other websites I can personally recommend is “The Man in Seat 61” which is a website exclusively dedicated to rail travel worldwide and the European Travel website “Rick Steves; Europe through the Back Door.” Both are a HUGE time savers for me when I travel.

    Relax, delegate to Josh and enjoy your trip!

  23. As I was reminded this at 4:21 this morning, it is good to have access to Japan’s earthquake early warning system. Most cell phones here have the capablity built in. If you are interested in this, there are apps available for the iphone and android phones as well.

    The iphone app is called Yurekuru.

    Android is called Namazu

    both can be used with a wifi connection.

    Safe journeys.


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