Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Travel Log: Getting to Brisbane

I tried to figure out the best way to share my girls trip experience in Australia and all my photos, well, some of my photos. I decided that I'd do a travel log of each day and have enough info that someone who is planning to travel there who has never been will find it helpful. But it will probably have more info than anyone not planning a trip there will want to read so feel free to skim or just look at the photos. 

We bought tickets from LA to Brisbane, but we live in Utah. We were gonna buy tickets from Salt Lake to LA, but it would be cheaper to drive to LA and spend the night at a hotel.

So we drove though Utah, into a corner of Arizona, through all of Nevada, hitting HORRIBLE traffic just west of Las Vegas with all the California drivers going back home after a weekend in Vegas. We were at 0-17 mph traffic for 2 hours through the rest of Nevada and into California. And driving straight into the sun. We finally got to the hotel in LA and checked in, had dinner at a restaurant across the street and went to bed. 
Our view from the hotel room window, zoomed in
The next morning we had the complimentary breakfast at the hotel and then checked out. Sabrina wanted an adult coloring book and we needed some last minute things so we went to a couple of stores. I tried to buy Sabrina's book with my debit card. The register wouldn't accept it. We went out to the parking lot and I called my credit union. I had gone to the credit union the day before I left to let them know that I was traveling and to pick up my new debit card. There was a problem with my PIN and they had to fix it over the phone and it was a long phone call with them trying to figure out what was going on. I was worried because I wanted to use it in Australia, but finally that was taken care of. 

Then we went to Manhattan Beach and actually found one open spot in the small parking lot right next to the pier. And that spot had 35 minutes left on the meter. We walked on the pier and took pics, but we didn't want to get wet and sandy right before the long flight so we didn't get in the water. 






 The beach was right there and it was sad to not get in. It was cloudy and windy and chilly though so not many people were in the water. 






We drove around for a while trying to find a place to eat lunch. We actually passed a Cafe Rio (super popular in Utah and other places), but we wanted to try something new so we drove on. We finally ended up just getting pizza since one of my daughters is super picky. 

From there, we went over to the long term parking. My girls said it was way too early, but I wanted to be early to avoid last minute problems since I had read online that the shuttles take a long time to come. Good thing! It took us a while to get our things from the stores together and into our bags and put locks on bags (took a while to open the packages to get the new locks out). Then we went to a shuttle stop where it got darker and colder. The shuttle didn't come and didn't come so we moved to another stop and then we finally got picked up. We got off the shuttle at the wrong terminal and were totally lost. After walking around a bit, I found someone to ask and they told us to go 2 terminals down. We rushed over there. Okay, I rushed with my girls trailing far behind me like they did the ENTIRE trip. Then we stood in line a bit for check-in. During check-in realized that we have 1 bag per person allowance and we have 4 bags. How did I not thin of that? We were gonna be charged $170 for the extra bag. I asked about something on my reservation papers that said extra bag $1 if prepaid so the associate actually helped me "pre-pay" for that bag online on my phone as I stayed right there holding up the line. Way nice! 

We went up to security and were one person away from going through the body scanner when they decided the line was getting too long so they sent us over to just the metal detector to walk through. We quickly found the correct gate since it said Air New Zealand it was going to Brisbane. We sat there and I found 2 missionaries and a lady from Springville. I took my usual missionary photo and texted it to mom. After a while sitting there, I figured out that they were calling for NZ flight 1 and we were NZ flight 5. Wrong gate. We went down to our correct gate and still had time to sit and wait for a while.

We got on the plane for our long 12 1/2 hour flight and on each seat was a blanket, a pillow and headphones for the movies, TV shows and music that we could choose from on the screen at each seat. Anyone who has flown knows that you have to sit through the safety instructions from the flight attendants. Well, Air New Zealand has a different way of sharing their safety rules. We got to watch this video at the beginning of both flights there and both flights back. On the plane it actually has captions so it was easier to understand than the video below that doesn't include them.


Air New Zealand has apparently been using unique safety videos for a while, as you'll see if you search it on YouTube. 

A 12 hour flight with very little leg room even in the "extra room" seats we had was really long.  Near the beginning of the flight, we had dinner. There was a choice between lasagna and chicken. All 3 of us chose lasagna that came with a roll and with hazelnut mousse so Sabrina (whose allergic to all nuts) couldn't eat it and she was bummed because she likes sweets.
Sisters sleeping on each other
After dinner, they dimmed the lights so those who wanted to sleep could. We left LA at almost 11 pm so most people were ready to sleep. I have never slept on a plane before, no matter how tired I was so I took a sleeping pill and actually got a little sleep after watching a movie. I woke up on time to watch some more movies before breakfast. They had a hot option of scrambled eggs and a cold option with fruit and yogurt. Breakfast included a carrot muffin. I asked the attendant if they had nuts. She didn't know. The well-meaning lady then told me that I cold request a gluten-free meal for her next time. I told her she was fine with gluten, not nuts. All the special meal options online were kosher meal, vegetarian meal or gluten-free. Nothing about nuts. 

We had left LA at night on the 13th and got to New Zealand on June 15 due to date change and long flight. It was still dark and cloudy when we touched down so we couldn't see much of New Zealand. Just enough to see that it is very green. We had to go through security there before we could get to our gate. While in line, I asked a security screener if we had to take off our shoes. "No. That's an American thing." 

When we got to our terminal, I checked the screen with the flights, determined not to go to the wrong gate this time. I see our flight and instead of saying a gate number it says, "Relax". All part of the New Zealand way of life. I asked someone at the counter and they said that it's a small airport so they don't announce the gate until an hour before the plane leaves. Finally, the screen told us which gate to go to. As we waited for next flight, the sun started coming out and we saw a rainbow. 

They boarded us all a bit late. The flight was 3 hours with another meal and then we were in Australia. They checked our passports quickly and we went to baggage claim. On the questionnaire everyone flying into the country has to fill out, the first question was "Do you have medicine, illegal drugs, illegal weapons..." Since we had Sabrina's inhaler, and migraine medicine and sleeping medicine, I had to check yes. That was a strange question to me since there's a big difference between bringing in medicine and an illegal weapon or drugs. Since we checked yes, we got to have our bags and us sniffed by a cute, but professional dog. Then we headed to an ATM to get Aussie dollars. I had read online that it saves money to use an ATM to get Australian dollars than it is to bring American dollars and exchange it. We headed right outside to get a taxi and there was one waiting there. Tony from India was friendly, but he didn't understand what I was saying some of the time. He dropped us off at our hotel for Day 1 in Brisbane, which I'll write about in another post. 

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