Family US Holiday – Day 0 – It Begins

Well, we’re finally here – Vegas, baby!

Normally, using the word "finally" would imply that during the regular length trip to the US one or both kids were frustrating in some way and made the trip seem even longer than it should have been. However, this time, it was nothing to do with how well behaved they were (which was pretty darned good I should say). No, I say "finally" because of the various delays we experienced, causing a trip that would normally take about 24 hours door to door, up to around 29.

Yep – we left home at 7.40am on Wednesday and walked in the door of the hotel room at the Tahiti Hotel in Las Vegas at 12.40pm on Thursday (both Australian times – over here it was still Wednesday and feeling like the longest Wednesday we’ve ever had).

It all started at 7.40 when the shuttle driver knocked on our door. We’d only decided on Monday to go with the shuttle. Initially, we were thinking of doing a taxi to Gosford train station, then train into Central and then change trains to catch another to International Airport. Brainy me said something like "but for us to get our 1.25pm flight would mean we need to book a taxi for around 7.30 – that’s too early! Let’s think about alternatives."


The kids on the shuttle

*sigh* Well, I ended up saving 10 minutes on the departure time, but in both foresight and hindsight, the shuttle was so much better than the original plan. The driver was friendly and full of jokes for the kids, and it was nice being able to sit back with Glenda and be excited about the journey ahead rather than stressed about which train we’d need to get.

Traffic was great until we got to Sydney – as expected – but even Sydney traffic seemed to be flowing better than when I was commuting – probably, as expected when factoring in Murphy and his law – and we were having a great time until we hit the Sydney Harbour Bridge. At that point, the first delay hit us.

Now, you’re probably thinking that there was an accident and the traffic was banked up. Or maybe that the shuttle broke down.

In either case you’d be wrong. Before my phone totally died (a completely different story), we got a phone call from Qantas informing us that our flight had been delayed. My initial reaction was "fine, it’s only going to be a 10-20 minute delay." That changed of course, when the friendly voice on the other end said that our departure time had been revised to 5pm – close to 4 hours late. She was very friendly and letting us know "in time so we didn’t have to wait at the airport" but we were almost there already. The tactic might have worked for someone who lived in Surry Hills or Mascot but not for a family out of the Central Coast.

Anyhow, we got there around 10am, checked in at the Business Class counter thanks to Silver Frequent Flyer status and were told that we were so early that they (a) couldn’t tell us what gate we would be boarding at, (b) didn’t have any revised connecting flight information for the Los Angeles to Las Vegas leg of our trip and (c) didn’t have lunch vouchers for us to recompense our delay.

So, we strolled around for a while, then heard the announcement that our vouchers were ready and headed back to receive $75 worth of lunch coupons. After a very nice lunch at the food court (including one of those amazing Fried Mars Bars that I’d been dying to try and will most definitely be having again), we still had hours to kill and we started looking for things to do. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a lot to do at the airport, and with a number of other travellers starting to join us in our wait, seating became difficult. However, after multiple trips to the newsagent, book store, crystal figurine store and miscellaneous others, we’d finally wasted enough time to go through customs.

We did this without much fuss, and found ourselves at the gate. Again, another wait ensued but it wasn’t really that long, so we’ll move on in our story to the flight itself.

The family clowning around, waiting again 

When we eventually took off, the captain informed us that because we were running late he was going to try to make up some time and estimated that we’d do the trip in only 12 hours rather than the original 13.5 that it should take. It took 13 hours.

Most of us got at least some sleep, but Jake, our 10 year old didn’t sleep at all. We were thinking that this might occur because last time he had difficulty in sleeping on the plane, but we had hoped that he’d exhaust himself and just fall asleep. It didn’t happen. In fact, he was awake for the entire trip – a full 29 hours.

When we got to LAX we were told that we had to go to an outer "gate" which meant we needed to travel by bus back to the terminal. We then had to experience yet another long wait because the immigration line was so long. This was due to us arriving out of order and backed up behind another plane load of visitors keen to get into the country. Eventually, we got directed to the now empty American Citizen queue and through to the baggage claim.

At this point we found our luggage easily and also a friendly groundswoman who gave us our new connecting flight information. 4.45pm to  Las Vegas made us groan, thinking we were going to wait for hours but it turned out that if it was any earlier we would have missed it, because…

…we had to take this through customs to the re-ticketing desk where we found what appeared to be a short line but which actually turned out to be another lengthy delay. Since they had to handwrite all the replacement tickets, and re-tag all the luggage manually, the process took some time for each person or group. We did eventually make it through, got the new tickets and baggage tags and dropped the luggage off at the transfer machine and went in search of the terminal bus.

Yet another wait occurred as bus after bus arrived – none of them the elusive Bus "A" – but eventually we got one and with the rest of the mass of humanity who wanted to travel between terminals did the trek around the circle of terminals until we got back to Terminal 1. Check in went fairly smoothly until I saw the dreaded SSSS printed on our boarding passes. I knew this meant that we had randomly been chosen to go through an extra security check and jokingly told Glenda that we had cavity searches to look forward to.

(as a side note, I should point out that when I’m tired and with other tired people, I like to try to make light of the situation to try to cheer people up. Mostly, Glenda doesn’t appreciate humour at times like this, which makes for an interesting time)

So, Glenda glared at me and muttered something about not entering the US if they were going to insist on such stupidity – I realised that it wasn’t worth my life to point out that we were ALREADY in the US, and her intended refusal would have only meant that we couldn’t fly from LA to Vegas, and most likely could have ended up with her in detention as reward for rebellion against the authorities.

I started getting a little worried at this point, thinking that we really could be in trouble if my joke turned into reality, but thankfully, it was what I expected and we were subjected to the more intense search of our carry on bags and a pat down of all of our bodies. Looked quite cute when the kids were done. 🙂

By this stage we had just enough time to grab something to eat on the way to the gate and then boarded – eating McDonalds on the plane. The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful although none of the airport shuttles service the hotel we’re in because it’s 2 miles off the strip (don’t go there).

Overhead of Tahiti

The room is perfect for us – separate bedroom, massive bathroom, good sized loungeroom. Kids are swimming, Cirque du Soleil tonight (Day 1) – life is good.

Kids swimming!

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