I’m 36 & This Is How Much My Family Spent On A Dive Trip To Indonesia

Welcome to Travel Diaries, a Refinery29 series where we tag along as real women embark on trips around the world and track their travel expenses down to the last cent. Here, we offer a detailed, intimate account of when, where, and how our peers spend their vacation days and disposable income: all the meals, adventures, indulgences, setbacks, and surprises.
This week's travel diary: A 36-year-old chain supply consultant goes on a dive trip to Manado, Indonesia with her husband and teenage daughter full of long spa days. 
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Age: 36
Occupation: Supply Chain Internal Consultant
Salary: $115,000 plus an additional $30,000 from licensing consulting business
Travel Companion: Husband
Travel Companion's Salary: $140,000 plus an additional $25,000 from private consulting
Travel Companion: Teenage daughter
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Trip Location: Manado, Indonesia
Trip Length: 12 days (including travel), 7 days on site
Annual # Of Vacation Days: 20
Companion’s # of Vacation Days: 20
Cost: From Austin to Jakarta, roundtrip tickets for the three of us came at $5,625. Then from Jakarta to Manado it came to $1,428.
Total: $7,053
Costs: For our 15-hour layover in Jakarta, we booked a night at the Orchardz Hotel Bandara that included breakfast for a total of $54, including fees and taxes. It was a great deal at a three-star property. 
In Manado, we are staying at the Tasik Ria.  We bought the all-meals-included option that also has all the dives and boat time for my husband and daughter and covers everything but alcohol.  I don’t dive anymore due to previous medical issues, but I love the other experiences on these types of trips. All in at Tasik Ria was $3,400 for eight nights.
On our return, we needed a hotel in Los Angeles since our flight got in late and the final leg home didn’t board until 6:30 the next morning.  We stayed at the Courtyard Los Angeles, but paid in points so our cost was actually $0.
Total: $3,454
Miscellaneous pre-vacation spending: Because all three of us travel frequently and own all our gear, pre-vacation spend is usually pretty low for us. The only money spent was on health-related items. There are prescriptions we take with us “just in case” because we have experienced the need previously and things cleared right up. I’ll just say, we’ll never travel without meds for traveller’s diarrhea ($156). I also got a recommendation for ear seeding to reduce jet lag from a friend of mine.  I’m the guinea pig for the family on this one and I had it done the day before departure during my regular chiropractic/acupuncture appointment ($10 added to normal visit cost).
Total: $166.00
Miscellaneous post-vacation spending: The kennel fee is the largest part of our vacation budget outside flights and accommodations. We have two dogs, and they get an 8-by-6-foot room together for the duration of the trip. They have three potty breaks and a play time every day and the room includes treats and a 24-hour live feed that we can access over any internet connection. We also have whatever shots and check-ups done that are needed while they are at the kennel so it isn’t an extra trip for them. This time it was two shots and an annual exam for one of the dogs and baths and nail trims for both ($1,236).
We use the Travel Pass on our phones so they just work in whatever country we are in. We pay for it every day on my husband’s phone and mine just as needed (like when I have to make sure I have service for an interview!) This tacks on $10 per day of use per line used. ($120)
Total: $1,356

Day One

3:30 p.m. – I wrap up my last call and load the dogs up to go to the kennel while my husband finishes vacuuming and making the bed so it is fresh when we get home. Our dogs are super co-dependent (one has pretty extreme separation anxiety issues) and will be in a premium room together. We specifically board in the higher rate rooms so we can see a live stream of them and because extra walks, treats, and playtime are all included.  
4:50 p.m. – The kid gets home from the bus; we all take a final passport check and we head to the airport! We take the tollway to avoid some of the horrible I-35 traffic, but we have the TexasTag, so it just bills to that account automatically and we replenish as needed. At the airport, we head to the Admiral’s Club where the kid and I eat Lunchables we packed and some fresh veggies and soup. We have access to OneWorld clubs due to my husband’s and my flyer status (mainly from work travel). My husband isn’t satisfied with that, so he and our daughter go to TacoDeli and end up getting three tacos each. $35.22
7:40 p.m. – Off to LA on the first leg. It is only about a 2.5-hour flight. We will spend approximately two hours in LA, then take the long flight to Hong Kong. At Hong Kong International, we will have about a three-hour layover and then a 5-hour flight to Jakarta. Once we arrive in Indonesia, we have a 15-hour layover with a hotel stay and then a domestic morning flight to our final destination of Manado in North Sulawesi. It’s going to be a long couple of days. 
9:25 p.m. (LA time) – New time zone. We land in a little early and head over to the Cathay lounge in Terminal B at LAX. We have about 2.5 hours to wait for boarding our next leg. The food is better here and we all have a plate of marinara pasta with bread. I grab a glass of Champagne. My husband walks around for a bit and when he gets back the kiddo and I do the same. This way I don’t have to carry a backpack while I talk myself out of buying any designer items since they are duty free. We board the next flight for Hong Kong a little before 11:00 p.m. local time.
12:45 a.m. – We get our dinner on the plane. We all have beef cheek with potatoes and zucchini. There is even vanilla Haagen Dazs for dessert. My policy on the fights is no alcohol if it is over six hours. I get dehydrated enough so it’s only water or sparkling water for me. After the meal, we all lay back our seats, put up the footrests and I do a quick Boscia water mask and pass out.  
Daily Total: $35.22

Day Three

(It is actually 2 days later due to time zone changes and transit time)
1:45 a.m. (Hong Kong Time) – New time zone for Hong Kong. We all slept a solid eight hours and wake up feeling pretty good. I attribute this to a number of factors: the lie-down seats, wearing Lunya Restore pajamas with a long sweater, compression socks (a must for me on any long trip), and the creature comforts of my silk sleep mask and pillowcase that I take on all trips.  
2:30 a.m. – We are served a meal of fried chicken and noodles for breakfast with a croissant, fruit, and yogurt; all of which are delicious. It tastes like ramen topped with all the good stuff from fried rice. Our daughter opts for an omelet. After eating, I run through a facial moisturizing routine with moisturizing eye gel, Clinique Pep-Start, Too Faced Hangover Rx, and more Boscia water mask prior to landing.
6:00 a.m. – We make it to the Cathay lounge in Hong Kong International and all take quick showers and change. We have about two hours until our flight to Jakarta boards. The showers feel glorious and I’m back to being human again after what is pretty close to my normal morning routine just with travel size toiletries. Being in a flying metal tube for 15 hours makes anyone not smell quite right. The lounge has a great selection of fruit, so I have some dragon fruit, strawberries, and watermelon with an iced latte and strawberry mint water. My husband opts not to eat for now, but I’m all about ‘free’ food that is included in any way.
8:30 a.m. – I once again walk past a load of duty free designer stores (I’m looking at you Burberry and Dior) and refrain from purchasing. I make no promises about my willpower on the return trip. When we’re on the plane we have a mushroom quiche and I help my daughter work through her algebra that she will miss in school. The eye rolls and pissiness are strong with this one and I reassure myself part of it is jet lag with this being the longest in-transit trip she has taken.
01:45 p.m. (Jakarta Time) – We have 15 hours here in a hotel and then the last flight to Manado, so in another literal day we will be at the resort. Fuck. They left my bag in Hong Kong. Fuck Fuck Fuck. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. This is literally the third time I have had this happen to me where the rest of my family gets their bags and mine just didn’t get loaded for some reason. After a mercifully short wait with the lost luggage group, I find that my bag will literally arrive tomorrow as we take off for Manado. Fuck again. Well, on the bright side, they are sending it as a follow on to Manado when it arrives and they front me the equivalent of $22 (the exchange rate is crazy!) but what will buy a decent outfit for me to wear while I wait. I’m told that if I go over, I can submit receipts for the balance. Honestly, I’m glad it was my bag and not one with dive gear. I can get clothes. Replacing or renting dive gear is expensive and a much larger pain. Glad I always pack one change of clothes in my carry on.
03:45 p.m. – We finally wrap up at the airport and hop the transfer to the hotel in Jakarta. We are staying in a hotel so we don’t have to wait 15 hours at the airport for our flight out to Manado. I tip the driver ($7) and the bellman who sets up an extra bed for the kiddo in our king suite ($7). I’m sure with the exchange rate I just gave them two days worth of pay at the minimum. The Orchardz is the equivalent of a nice Marriott or Hilton in the US and it's only $54 a night! I can put a little extra in the pockets of the people here who help us out! $14
5:00 p.m. – A couple we know actually lives in Jakarta and they come over to the hotel for dinner. It’s nice to see them, since it has been about a year at this point. We chat about how all the kids are doing (ours is already asleep in the room) and how they won’t understand how lucky they are with all the travel until they are much older. After around two hours we head back upstairs and pass out.  
Daily Total: $14

Day Four

5:30 a.m. – We’re all up and feeling refreshed. We shower and I put on one of the kid’s shirts with the jeans I changed into in Hong Kong. I’m glad we’re the same size in this case. We head down and have another amazing breakfast of omelets, fried rice, honey croissants, and fruit.  We tip the waiter and the bellman on our way out ($2 each, we learned this is plenty from the front desk) and find that we also have to pay $14 for kiddo’s rollaway bed. $18
7:45 a.m. – Back at the airport and all checked in. Business-class tickets for the four-hour flight to Manado gain us access to the Batik Club, so we spend a little time there and my husband and I have espressos before heading through regular security and onto the final flight in at 9:25 a.m. Our daughter is doing really well with this traveling and I’m reminded how thankful I need to be about having her around.
2:00 p.m. – Off the flight and into the resort shuttle, still without my bag. I call the baggage office and I’m told it isn’t even in Jakarta yet. Who knows if I’m going to get the damn thing today or if it will be sometime tomorrow. It is an hour's drive to the resort even though it is barely 35 miles. Island traffic is apparently the same on any island anywhere. As we pull in, we see the rest of the dive group. They flew in from Illinois. The only people we know on this trip are the owner and one other person who went on a trip with us to Belize a few years ago. The shop owner is shocked to see how big kiddo is since she was about a foot shorter when he saw her last in our dive trip to Bonaire in 2017. We all get big hugs.
5:00 p.m. – Everyone heads down for the dive briefing and to watch the sunset over one of the peninsulas. It really is beautiful. We have a couple of hours until dinner so my husband starts setting up his camera for tomorrow and my daughter and I go up to the main lobby so we can get wifi. I run through and clean out my work inbox and set up a time on Friday (day 10) for a Skype interview while she messes around on Instagram like a typical teen and impatiently counts down until dinner is served at seven.
7:30 p.m. – My bag is in the country! The manager lets me know that the bag finally made it to Jakarta and will be on the next flight out here. They are sending a driver to pick it up for me so I’ll get it sometime tomorrow morning. There are three couples, our family, two single guys, one single woman plus the shop owner on the trip (13 total).  We are the only ones who brought a kid along since the others are all older and their children are in their 20s+. The whole group sits down and has a dinner of rice, fried chicken, steamed veggies and an amazing Indian beef dish. We finish off with an orange mousse that is just as wonderful as everything else we have had. I obviously travel for food.
9:00 p.m. – We have all retreated to our rooms for the night. I check on our pups’ camera and see them being fed breakfast. Kid passes out in two minutes and I hear my husband snoring as I finish up reading on my iPad. Maybe these ear seeds worked better for me than I thought. I feel pretty normal after only one day.
Daily Total: $18

Day Five

6:30 a.m. – Everyone is up and moving. Kiddo and husband are gearing up and packing their dry bags. My trusty duffle gets delivered by the resort staff and I shower and put on a bathing suit and sundress. We head down to the pier for breakfast and have an omelette with my new favorite hot sauce: sambal. The divers head out immediately after eating and won’t be back for at least seven hours.
9:00 a.m. – In talking with one of the main hostesses, T., I express my want to go into town and buy a few things (including a jug of sambal to take home). She has off tomorrow and wants to go shopping as well so she offers to take me along with her. I’m more than happy to have a personal guide! It makes me feel like I won’t get ripped off just because I’m not a local.
11:30 a.m. – After hanging out and reading by the pool in the shade for a few hours, I head to the spa to make appointments for the week. I’m reading Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics. I’m a nerd. I head over to the pool bar for lunch and have a local fruit salad of guava, pineapple, cucumber, and mango. They top it with a honey coconut milk sauce and a mild shredded cheese. It sounds odd, but tastes delicious! I finish off with Neapolitan ice cream while talking to T. about our plans for tomorrow.
2:00 p.m. – I head to the spa for my first treatment of the week, a massage. I am treated to a traditional Indonesian footbath and tamarind juice before an hour of relieving tension in my body. After I am served tea and cakes in a private pergola. I make an appointment for my husband to get the same massage for when he gets back from the dive and pay ($36) and tip for both treatments ($3). I can’t believe the exchange rate! $39
5:00 p.m. – After a long, arduous day of relaxing for me, the divers are back and putting their gear away. My husband heads to the spa for his massage and my daughter showers and immediately heads to the front of the resort to access wifi. Withdrawal is real for a teen on Instagram and I can’t say that enough. I check in on our dogs and make sure my interview is good to go. The pups aren’t doing much since it is 5:00 a.m. at home.
07:30 p.m. – We head down to dinner and have an Indonesian version of chow mein. I really can’t get over the food here. There is a dense chocolate cake with some papaya pineapple juice to finish off. After dinner, we head back to the room where my husband takes a Sprite from the mini bar ($2) and I have some chocolate almonds ($1.50) before all of us pass out again. $3.50
Daily Total: $42.50

Day Six

6:15 a.m. – We wake up and the others pack their dry bags, put on sunscreen, and then we all walk down to the pier for breakfast. Another omelet with sambal and a cinnamon roll with coffee for me and my husband while kiddo has some toast with Nutella and a chocolate muffin. It’s going to be another beautiful day.
8:00 a.m. – The dive boat takes off and I head to the beach with my travel yoga mat for about an hour of vinyasa. It is so peaceful and the perfect temperature right now. When I’m done, I head to the main lobby and chat with the manager for a while. He moved to the country 16 years ago from London. I envy him in many ways, but I’m not sure I could give up some very American things like Amazon, lol! We talk about having a special cake for my daughter for dinner on her birthday. The people here are awesome.
11:00 a.m. – I am changed into something more appropriate for walking around downtown and grab some fruit at the pool bar while I wait for T. She gets to the resort around 12:15 p.m. and we immediately hop a public bus. T. pays for the bus and I don’t see how much it is. The busses don’t have AC but it is actually cooler than just sitting by the pool. Our first stop is the Hypermart where buy a bunch of drinks and snacks: 12 pack of Coke, 6 sparkling waters, 2 green tea, Noori chips, 3 Red Bull, cappuccino candies, chocolate crunch cookies, chocolate ball cookies, some sort of local banana leaf-wrapped nougat, 4 local beers, a large sambal to take home, 2 kinds of canned coffee, and some of the “special” coffee where the berries are eaten by civets and then the beans are collected from their poo (it’s a big deal around here and super expensive in the States). $45
2:00 p.m. – Our next stop is the mega mall and I pay for the bus this time ($2). It is like a weird version of the Mall of America that is spaced into three buildings across multiple blocks. While we are walking I try one of the canned coffees. It’s… okay. I wasn’t paying attention when I bought it and apparently it has little jelly cubes in it. It’s something to experience, but only once for me. I also eat the Noori chips which are pretty good. At the mall, T. buys some of her face moisturizer and foundation. I get three small pair of silver and white topaz earrings, one of which is for my daughter since she left her favorite pair of small hoops in Hong Kong ($17). I also get T. a necklace she was eyeing to say thank you for taking me around on her day off ($14). $33
3:45 p.m. – Final stop of the day is the Merciful Building and we take a car instead of public transit ($3). It has a bunch of local items and tchotchkes that are more of what I like to take home to remember a trip. I get a batiked sunglasses case, a small muscle rub, and a carved wooden box made to look like a salak, which is also known as a ‘snake fruit’ for its skin ($38).  When we head back, the new driver doesn’t have a change, so I give him what is considered a large tip. The total for the ride with the tip is still only $7. $48
5:30 p.m. – T. and I get back to the resort in time to see my husband for a minute before he goes out on a night dive and I take my daughter up to her massage appointment. After her massage, she asks for another to be scheduled. Like mother, like daughter! I mess up and grab the wrong bill, so the tip is really low. I’ll make up for it tomorrow. $18.50
7:45 p.m. – My husband comes back from his dive and our kiddo is already passed out in the room. He rinses off and we head down to a dinner of rice, sweet and sour pork, curried potatoes, and cheese stuffed tomatoes. We finish up with strawberry roll cake and more orange mousse. My husband buys a Coke, even though we now have 12 in the mini-fridge. $2
8:30 p.m. – After dinner, we head back to the room and my husband goes through the first two days of photos on his laptop. There are some real contenders for our photo wall at home! A black nudibranch and a frogfish are determined to be the top two, however, we will hold final judgment until the week is over. We head to bed soon after.
Daily Total: $146.50

Day Seven

6:30 a.m. – Up and going! My husband and I spend some ‘alone’ time in the shower to separate from our daughter. She is horrified at the thought that her parents have sex, but I continuously tell her she should be happy we love each other and are still together when so many of her friends’ parents are divorced. We all get dressed and head down to breakfast. Today I have a cereal that is kind of like flattened Cocoa Puffs and some tamarind juice.  
8:00 a.m. – The dive boat is off! I talk with the manager and book a jungle tour for our family tomorrow. My husband usually likes to take a dry day halfway through to give his ears a rest from the pressure changes. One of the staff brought in her foster puppy today. I can tell I miss ours because I wrestle with him for a good half hour. He also likes to play with a laser pointer like a cat it’s hilarious to watch him try to climb the wall after it!  After saying bye to the pup, I head down to the beach for another peaceful hour of vinyasa.  
10:00 a.m. – The marathon spa day begins for me. It starts with the footbath and tamarind juice again with an hour massage. I then have a full body scrub and a ‘natural softening mask’ that is not for the modest. I am covered literally by a washcloth on my nether region and that’s it. You had better be extremely body positive or just not care in this part of the world! After the attendant rubs the mask off with oil, I take a half-hour soak in an herbal bath while I’m served tea and cakes. I then shower and proceed to my two final treatments: a manicure and pedicure. All told, I’m at the spa for a little over five hours. My skin feels like heaven. (I know some of you won’t believe the price, but I swear it’s accurate and even includes a $7 tip!). $62
3:30 p.m. – After such an arduous day, I’m not sure what to do with myself! I head back to my room to soak up a little AC while my nails finish drying and do some reading. I have one of the Cokes I bought and love the taste but instantly regret the bloat. I have stuck with sparkling water and haven’t had any type of soda in almost a year so my body is really wondering what’s going on. I have seltzer and some of the chocolate cookies as well.
5:00 p.m. – The divers are back for a few before they head out for the night dive. We hang around and chat with everyone while they set up their camera rigs and then kiddo and I go back to our room. I read some more and end up finishing my book while she lays down to watch an episode of Jane the Virgin and falls asleep.
8:00 p.m. – My husband is back in the room, so I must have dozed off too. Kid really isn’t feeling well and I knew this was going to happen. She is due to start her period any day and it wipes her out (another thing we have in common). We leave her be and head down to a dinner of cream curry chicken and rice. The desserts tonight are an avocado mousse and cream puffs. Yum! The manager brought in some of his pineapple home brew cider for us to try and it is amazing and dangerous. You can’t taste the alcohol. We also sample the local distilled palm drink where the name literally translates to “rat piss.” It is... an experience. One that I will never choose to have again.
10:00 p.m. – The two of us walk up to the main lobby for wifi so my husband can upload some of his pictures in LightRoom. He is especially proud of one he took of a baby cuttlefish on the night dive. When you see it compared to the grains of sand on the ocean floor it is so tiny. I would estimate the size of your pinky nail! After he does all the uploading, we head back and crash hard.
Daily Total: $62

Day Eight

8:00 a.m. – Can I call it or what? Kid started her cycle today and is in some serious pain. I give her some meds to take the edge off and head down to breakfast. My husband isn’t even up yet. Eleven dives in three days have him a little waterlogged. I have an omelet and sambal while chatting about travel with the manager. I really enjoy learning about his transition into Indonesian culture and his experiences and family.  Half the fun of travel is meeting people like him!
11:45 a.m. – We were supposed to leave at eleven, but the guy N. from the group going with us shows up late. Oh well. Island time is universal I guess. The cost is $70 per person, but you get private transportation, an individual guide, lunch, water for the hike, and the admission to the reserve. I’ve got a backpack full of water, camera gear, and period paraphernalia all ready to start our jungle trek. It’s a three-hour bus ride out to the nature reserve, so the kiddo watches more Jane the Virgin while my husband and I talk about how his photos have progressed over the years and where we want to go next as a family. We are seriously considering the Palau trip with the same dive shop next year, but I also want to spend real time in Scotland.  Maybe both for 2020? $210
1:45 p.m. – We stop for lunch at a local spot which is included in the tour cost. We are served grilled whitefish, rice, a curried fish stew, sautéed watercress, cracker cakes that look like mini funnel cakes but taste kind of like rice cakes, and bottled sweet tea. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it may be the best grilled fish I’ve had. After lunch, we stop at an Alfamart and I get a 1.5L Coke and two packs of ChaChas (basically M&Ms) for kiddo. She takes some pain meds to handle her period. I totally understand and I’m actually really surprised she is doing this well today. $2.50
3:45 p.m. – We finally arrive at Tangkoko reserve to begin our jungle hike. Very quickly we run into a family of 90 black macaques. It’s incredible. There are a ton of them just wandering through the trees stopping to eat and randomly have sex in front of us. The kid instantly ignores her cramps and gets to snapping pics like her dad. She gets a few good ones of the babies learning to climb, one of which we may blow up and hang at home. We hike around a while more and find multiple types of hornbill, couscous bears (the only marsupial in the region), and the reason we came out: tarsiers. They are little bug-eyed monkey things with long tails that have kangaroo type legs. They look alien. My husband and daughter get some photos and I take a video to record their sounds. Seriously, look up a video online. I thought they were birds at first!
6:00 p.m. – We make our way out of Tangkoko and it’s dark enough that we use our phones to light the path for the last half mile. I tip the guide well. She was the perfect leader for our foursome: pointed out things we never would have seen and talked about the region’s conservation efforts and natural areas along the way. We did about three miles total and are all a sweaty, stinky mess when we pile in the car to return. Kiddo and husband both scroll through the photos they took. There are some real winners. I’m so proud of how she does with diving, photography, general travel, and so many other things. She is a great kid who is growing into an interesting and informed woman. $14
8:45 p.m. – The driver makes it back to the resort in great time and I tip him the same as the guide.  He spent a long time with us and helped us learn more about the history of the region. We head to dinner after dropping our bags. Tonight is Italian night so it is chicken parm, lasagna, beef stuffed tomatoes, calzones with coffee mousse and rum balls for dessert. I also have one of the beers I bought earlier with my meal. $14
10:00 p.m. – My husband goes through his pics of the day and there are a few clear winners.  One is of a pair of the tarsiers hanging on in their tree. It is something you definitely won’t see anywhere else and I’m really glad we made the trek. Kiddo has already showered and passed out. My husband and I do the same.
Daily Total: $240.50

Day Nine

6:30 a.m. – My husband’s first alarm goes off and I’m awake. I’m already starting my next book, The Venom Business, when he leaves the room. The divers are headed to Lembeh for some of the world’s best muck diving today, so he gets to be on a bus literally back to the side of the island we were on yesterday. Kiddo opts out of diving there or even on the home reef today because she is totally wiped out and I head down for a breakfast of flat Cocoa Puffs again. I take back some jelly toast for her.
8:45 a.m. – Another round of vinyasa on the beach. I head up to the front desk to check out any other excursions. I want to do the kayaking, but it is a minimum of two people and I know I’m going to be alone, so that’s out. I leave a little disappointed and sit at the pool to read some more while drinking a seltzer. 
10:30 a.m. – It’s alive!  My daughter shows up at the pool looking forlorn because she isn’t diving. The breeze at the pool is nice while we talk a bit. I try to explain to her that she has to start wearing tampons if she wants to dive. The look of sheer disgust on her face makes me want to laugh but I hold it together and go back to the room with her for a quick tutorial that does not go well.
1:00 p.m. – I’ve been laying by the pool reading and the kiddo has been at the spa for a facial ($11). She forgot to get cash for the tip from me, so I give her the money for the attendant and make up for her massage tip as well ($4). When she gets back, we sit at the pool bar for lunch. I have beef rendang and rice and she has a chicken quesadilla with a Shirley Temple and we both finish off with ice cream ($4.50 for the drink and ice cream). $19.50
3:00 p.m. – Back in the room to get some AC after being out in the heat almost all of the morning kiddo and I watch the first episode of Carnival Row. Well, I watch and she falls asleep. It is the first bit of TV I have watched the entire time since we got here. After it’s over, I leave her to nap and head back to the pool for some more reading. I haven’t been checking on the dogs today because the radio transmitter for this part of the island is down so there is no wifi.
7:00 p.m. – Still no wifi and the divers aren’t back yet. Kid is starving so she goes down for dinner. When she gets back she passes out immediately. I understand how her cycle wipes her out, and hope things shape up for her tomorrow. I watch the second episode of Carnival Row and then read for another bit. 
9:15 p.m. – The divers are back and when we head to dinner I’m regaled with stories of tiny seahorses and the three-hour bus ride that turned into five and a half hours due to downed power lines. I guess that’s why the wifi’s out. Most of the group is still in good spirits, anyway. When we head back to the room my husband does some picture editing and I fall asleep. He isn’t far behind.
Daily Total: $19.50

Day Ten 

7:30 a.m. – The alarm goes off and my husband is out for the last day of diving. Kid decides not to go and it kind of pisses me off that we are halfway around the world and she won’t take meds and make the effort for one last day. Whatever. Today is her birthday though, so I am more inclined than usual to let it slide. I head to breakfast (omelet with sambal) and chat with a few of the other non-divers.
9:30 a.m. – Back in the room my daughter is moving. Barely. She heads down to breakfast while I prep for my interview this evening and make sure my phone connects to Telkomsel (the local cell service provider) since the wifi is still down. I then head over to the spa for a “short” massage. I’m going to hate paying normal prices when we get home. $15.50
12:00 p.m. – My neck and back are loving this every other day massage timing. I head to the room and kid is awake, showered and doing her initial pack out. When she’s done, we head down to the pier and hang out waiting for the dive boat. While I read on my iPad, I let her use my phone as a hotspot so she can clean up some of her notifications and check her school email. She’s going to have plenty of work on the way back and the class hours to make up when we’re home.
2:00 p.m. – Kid and I head to the pool bar with one of the non-divers from the travel group from our dive shop in Illinois for lunch. She has a quesadilla and I get the grilled tuna and eggplant. We both finish up with scoops of ice cream just as the diving group comes and jumps in the pool. It turns into a full-on party with a lot of booze and people trying to ride an inflatable unicorn in the pool. Kiddo comments that adult parties and stories are more interesting and fun than the ones with her friends.
5:30 p.m. – The whole group heads back to our respective rooms to rinse the chlorine off and change for dinner. My husband and I give kiddo the presents we bought for her (a Mario Badescu set and a new hoodie she wanted). She didn’t expect anything and is happy with the gifts. I read for a bit and my husband wanders off to take some pictures of the sunset and do some post-processing on others. The whole trip has been peaceful for me and very informative in chatting with the locals.
7:00 p.m. – We head to the pier for dinner. Another great night of grilled prawns, rice, and some sort of beef. There is also a chocolate mousse for dessert that tastes like cake batter and does not disappoint. I duck out a little before 8:00 p.m. to go make the phone call for my interview. I think it went well and I’ll hear something in a couple of weeks after all the HR shuffling is complete.
9:00 p.m. – Back down at the pier and they bring out a birthday cake for kiddo! She is thoroughly embarrassed and I love every minute of it. It devolves into a drunken karaoke night since the rest of the group leaves tomorrow, but we still have another day. Kid and husband grab their cameras for some astrophotography at the other end of the pier while I hang around and have four rum seltzers. One of the other divers picks up the tab for everyone.
11:00 p.m. – My family is nowhere to be seen, so I head back to the room. Kid is already asleep and my husband is looking through photos of the week debating which is going to make the cut for the wall at home. There are a few real options between various nudibranch, clownfish, the baby macaque, and even the tarsiers. We talk for a bit in bed before falling asleep.
Daily Total: $15.50

Day Eleven

7:30 a.m. – Since we aren’t leaving until tomorrow morning, there is no real reason for me to be up. I lay in bed reading some more while my husband still snores.  
9:15 a.m. – We all get up and dressed and head to the front lobby to say goodbye to the rest of the group. I’m sure we’ll see some of them again. I even found out one guy works at the same company as me and ends up in Austin periodically, so I’m sure we’ll get together when he’s in town. After they leave, we have a light breakfast of toast and coffee and chat with the manager for almost two hours. We learn a lot about the political landscape of the country as well as how the locals live.
11:30 a.m. – My husband is already back in the room when kiddo and I go to pick up her fins and computer and settle up with the dive shop. We have to pay for all the nitrox they used ($126), her gear rental ($66), the T-shirt and patches she bought ($29), and the Cokes my husband had on the boat ($4). I also add a tip for the dive crew for the week ($210). We go back to the room and start the great pack out. $435
3:00 p.m. – Kiddo is laying down and my husband and I go for a late lunch by the pool. I get the quesadilla and he has a burger and a Coke ($2). I start to feel a little queasy, so I go back and lay down as well. He goes to his last massage appointment but forgets to take cash for a tip. $18
5:00 p.m. – My husband comes back and my daughter heads out for a massage and facial.  I’m apparently still passed out during this. $29
7:00 p.m. – I wake up and decide I should probably take some of that magic medicine I brought. I guess it’s a good thing this is happening on the last day. The stuff really is a miracle and I start feeling better shortly. We go meet kiddo at the spa and bring the tip for the treatments. None of us feel like eating yet, so we jump in the pool for a bit. $5
9:00 p.m. – We decide to make it up to dinner at the main restaurant tonight instead of the pier. It’s a great final meal of ginger beef and rice finished off with vanilla mousse and layer cake. My lovely husband, once again, has a Coke ($2). We spend some extra time chatting with the manager and D., who is on duty until 10:00 p.m. I run up to the front desk and pay out our full tab for the week and add in a tip ($210). They asked us to tip at the end in bulk so everyone at the resort gets a share. It really has been a great trip. $212
11:00 p.m. – Back in the room we all shower and finish the pack out. Tomorrow is literally going to be a 39 hour day with the flights and time changes.
Daily Total: $699

Day Twelve

4:30 a.m. – Yeah. I don’t want to leave, let alone be awake right now. We pick up our last few things and get on the shuttle at 5:00 a.m. to Sam Rangulani airport. This time it only takes us 35 minutes in transit, and I tip the driver. Still, we end up taking until 6:30 a.m. to get checked in and up to the gates. The airline counter lines take forever. $2
7:00 a.m. – Past security, kiddo buys a Dive Bunaken T-shirt and some weird motorcycle in a bottle (like a ship in a bottle) she likes and I get a wooden keychain in the shape of North Sulawesi that says Manado on it. At the last second, we find out that the flight changed from Gate 1 to Gate 2. Not a huge deal but the language difference makes it awkward. We get on the flight after a little help from the Google Translate app. We are reversing out our route in.  We will go from Manado to Jakarta on Batik Air and have a four-hour layover so we have enough time to get bags and check in with Cathay. From Jakarta, we will have to go through customs and head to Hong Kong, where we have three hours-ish until we take off for LA. In LA, we will have around nine hours on the ground before we catch the last flight home to Austin. We are getting a hotel so we don’t have to stay in one of the lounges all night at the airport. $21
11:00 a.m. (Jakarta time) – It takes a bit for the Cathay counter in Jakarta to open and we finally check-in and make it through. We wander around and buy three packs of locally made chocolates ($93) and make our way to the lounge. It turns out that for some reason, even though our daughter is a minor, they will not let her in with us since she doesn’t have airline status. We pay $42 for her to get a day pass ($42). $135
2:30 p.m. – The flight out to Hong Kong boards and we get our meals. I finish my book and watch two episodes of Carnival Row. This day is going to just keep going…
8:20 p.m. – (Hong Kong time) – In Hong Kong and we head to the lounge. I’m fucking exhausted of flights and airports already and we still have a literal day of flying to go. My husband and daughter grab Starbucks on one of my gift cards. Kiddo settles in finishing up her homework while she has wifi for the online stuff. I zone out completely and surf the Internet. My brain doesn’t want to focus on anything like starting a new book or a new show.  
11:55 p.m. – We board the flight to LA and take off.  We’ll actually land at 10:20 p.m. – before we take off due to time zone shifting. That makes this an extremely long day. We all eat dinner on the flight, which is a pretty good fried chicken and noodle dish with more vanilla ice cream like on the way over. After, we all pass out pretty quickly. They offer something for breakfast, but none of us are awake enough to eat at that time.
10:15 p.m. (LA time) – We land and stumble off the aircraft through customs. We all have Global Entry, so it is really quick for us. By some miracle, we only wait five minutes and our bags are some of the first off the plane! We grab them and hop the shuttle over to the Courtyard hotel LA Airport only 15 minutes after deplaning. We’ll stay here overnight until our final flight into Austin. Even with sleeping a full night before on the plane, we all shower and crash out quickly.
Daily Total: $158

Day Thirteen

4:45 a.m. – Another super early morning. Being able to just lay down totally flat for a bit helped though, and since we paid in points, it didn’t cost anything to us. We get the shuttle back to the airport and check-in. We have to get new bag tags since we took them with us last night instead of dropping them and checking them through.
5:30 a.m. – PreCheck is wonderful. We are through security and in the Admiral’s club in LAX in no time. We all eat a bagel and my husband and I have some coffee. We are all in a pretty good mood, which I find surprising considering the pace of the last 24+ hours. We board around 6:30 a.m. and end up on our final leg home.
12:15 p.m. (Austin time!) – Off the plane and ready to not be traveling for the moment. We get our luggage relatively quickly and head out to the truck. We pay for parking, which includes a five day discount for my husband’s veteran plates. The kid continues to play on her phone now that cell service is back. $175
1:30 p.m. – We make it to the house, which smells nice and is clean because of our obsessive need to make sure everything is handled before leaving on trips. I’ll head to pick up the dogs after he unloads the luggage. It was definitely a trip to remember!
Daily Total: $175
How did you prepare for this trip?
We linked up with a dive shop, Sea Level, when we lived in Illinois and we keep up with some of their more far-flung adventures. There is no association fee with the shop, but they usually get some sort of cut from or reduced rate at the resort where the group stays. In general, the shop finds a dive location and works with the local provider to negotiate a group rate for lodging and included dives. Depending on the location and resort, it can be all-inclusive or it can be lodging or diving only. It just depends on what the various resorts offer. The shop acts kind of like a travel agent and sometimes provides airline booking as well. We chose not to allow them to book our airfare since we were starting from a different city than the other attendees. In this case, the total we paid to the shop included lodging, all meals, and the dives with regular air for my husband and daughter. Once they collected from everyone, the shop put in the full amount with Tasik Ria. Sea Level is very helpful and pretty flexible with special requests and upgrades, as long as you are willing to pay the difference. We liked the look of this trip, but added a day so we could have time just for the family in addition to making sure that all meals were included. There were other options, but it was easier to do a “one and done” payment. We did a lot of research on Trip Advisor and my husband IM’d with the friend we have in Jakarta to find out any particular things we should watch out for since that family hops to Manado to dive at least twice a year.
When did you book the flights? Do you think you got a good deal?
We booked November 2018 on a special Travel Tuesday deal after Black Friday. We got premium economy seats for less than the regular economy rate on a major international carrier. We like to book premium on flights over six hours if we can’t use miles from our work travels to get business class, that way we have a little more room to stretch out since my husband is over 6 ft. We booked business class on the in-country flight on Batik Air to make sure we got a meal before landing, so we are ready to go when we hit the ground
Did you use credit card points or miles to pay for parts of this trip? If so, please explain further: We only used points on the stay in LA on the way back. We are both gathering miles so we can use them on business class flights for the family on our big trip next year, for which we still haven’t agreed on a destination.
What was your favorite part of the trip? 
My personal favorite was the Tangkoko hike. Seeing the variety of wildlife that isn’t found anywhere else in the world as well as rare trees (iron wood, teak, and ebony specifically) is a peaceful and heartwarming experience. Being in the middle of a literal jungle and having the ability to walk to the edge where it is the ocean is unreal. Walking out as dusk turned to night was a symphony of sounds you will not hear anywhere else!
For any divers, the Lembeh Straight is probably the highlight. My husband brought back pictures of seahorses, a baby cuttlefish the size of a pinky nail (you can see individual grains of sand stuck to his face!) and multiple types of frog fish. We still haven’t decided which picture is going to get blown up for our wall at home!
What was the best meal or food you ate while you were there?
The best new food find for me was the sambal to take home. The best overall meal was the whitefish on the way to Tangkoko. All the local fish is excellent and just flakes off on your fork.  You can get it at just about any restaurant, but I highly recommend going with a local guide/driver to make sure it is a location that serves quality food prepared in a clean way that the American GI system is used to.  
Do you have credit card debt as a result of booking this vacation? If so, how much?
We paid for the flights far enough in advance that it was a non-issue. We ended up with no incurred debt as a result of the rest of the trip either. We generally put the large purchases on the card and pay them off immediately. 
What advice would you give someone who is traveling to the same location?
Go with the flow. Shit happens. If your bag gets held up, it isn’t the people’s fault behind the counter. Most locals are incredibly nice and will help you out in any way they can. Also, download the Google Translate app and make sure you have the Indonesian language set to use offline before you come. It is helpful in smaller areas where the signs may not always be in English. Finally, don’t carry US dollars! Pull rupiah at an ATM when you land. Money changers and banks there only change out large currency (US $100 is preferred) and it can be difficult if you aren’t prepared. Cash is king and you won’t get told a wrong exchange rate if you just carry local currency!
Would you stay at your hotel again?
We would definitely book at the Tasik Ria again if we come back to Manado. The staff is warm and friendly, the food is consistently good quality, the spa was worth every penny, and most importantly the dive operation is top tier. However, after talking with my husband we would probably get a suite so our daughter could have some of her own space instead of being on a rollaway bed right next to us. The rooms are comfortable and the open concept shower was interesting. There is literally no separation from the sink to the toilet to the shower; not even a half wall! It was also amusing to us that there was a second outdoor shower attached to our room. Not a normal experience, but I could get used to it!
Where were you located in the specific city and would you recommend staying in that part of town?
We were in the Minahasa part of Manado. The resort was oddly right off the main drive, but it granted some easy access when we needed to get to other parts on the north end of the island.  t is a great location for divers since the boat rides are relatively short from this area over to the Bunaken or Manado Tua islands. I prefer the coastal option to the highlands as the volcano area has become a definite tourist area and our family generally stays away from those experiences. The entire island has spots of austere living right next to areas of high commerce.You are never going to be far from either.
 Is there anything you wished you had time to do, but didn’t?
I wish we would have done the rafting as a family. I like water sports, but just don’t dive due to ear issues. I also found out that when we were there would not have been a good time to go anyway since the region is in the middle of the five year cycle of the extreme dry season and hasn’t had rain to feed the rapids in three months. This is the second trip where I skipped rafting and I’m not doing it again, damn it!
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