4 Kids and 10 days in the USA

Discussion in 'Trip Reports and Trip Photos' started by harvyk, May 25, 2014.

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  1. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

    Apr 15, 2009
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    Day 1.
    Our morning started at 1 am (actually the Mrs never went to bed). I had a couple of final things to pack, and load the bags into the car and wake up the kids. We finally left home just a little past 2am for the drive up to SYD, stopping briefly at Marulan to stretch the legs.

    We hit the M5 parking lot at around 5am, and slowly made our way into SYD airport. It was about this point in time that I was really grateful that we had chosen to give ourselves more time up our sleeves than we would ever need.

    Arriving at the airport just after 6am, we found a car park and wandered down to the terminal, me, the Mrs, and the 4 little darlings (monsters).
    We made our way to the check in desk to pick up boarding passes and drop our checked bags to be greeted by a check in agent who had obviously gotten out on the wrong side of the bed that morning.

    After the unpleasantness of check-in was over and done, we made our way to customs, handed over the express pass and we could not fault the customs / security scanners. They were quick and efficient, and helped us with our kids beautifully. Before too long we were all up in the JLounge in their kids section with about 2 hours before boarding.

    After some breakfast I went down to the Duty Free store to buy some Aussie plonk to take to our friends in LA. We also went for a bit of a walk around the airport since I figured the kids were about to spend 14 hours in a seat, stretching the legs was probably a good thing.

    Just before 10am we got the boarding call and went down to board, dropping the stroller off at the gate.


    QF107 – B747
    I have a tradition, I have never left the country on anything other than a B747, and I saw no reason why to change that tradition. Thus when choosing flights, it was a pretty easy choice (once we decided to go with the Red Roo).

    Once on board, we had barely sat down when pushback started. The FA’s where still closing the overhead compartments.

    After about 10 minutes in the queue for the runway we were finally in the air and on our way. After dinner we settled down for the long haul, annoyingly however the FA didn’t enforce closing of all windows on lights out, so there was one window (whose owner was actually asleep) lighting up the cabin.

    We used the collection of toys, as well as AVOD to keep the kids entertained, and they were pretty good for most of the flight. I just wish my youngest would learn to verbalise her desires such as “I would like a drink of water” rather than screaming. That said it was not our kids who was keeping the cabin awake (there where a few kids on the flight).

    The Cabin Crew where fantastic (and the Mrs agrees). They were attentive, they were accommodating, and it’s always the little things which make the biggest differences, and they were looking after the little things spectacularly. Simple things like making hot chocolates and adding little more milk to cool it down for my eldest, made the difference and totally made me feel justified in taking QF.

    By the end of the flight, my 3 eldest where working the AVOD system like pros.
     
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  2. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    1.jpg
    Early Morning at SYD Airport

    2.jpg
    Getting stuck into dinner


    3.jpg
    There is a lurpak joke in there somewhere
     
  3. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    Day 1, reboot (Since we crossed the date line)

    On landing in LAX, after making our way down to immigration we saw the lines, and just as we were getting ready for a really long wait, one of the officers came over and directed us directly to a counter just behind the self-serve machines. The officer took one look at us and asked “Holiday?” “Yeap”, “How long?”, the formalities took no more than 2 minutes. We then went down to baggage claim. Since we had skipped the queues there was a lot of bags on the carousel, but the Mrs’s found ours pretty quickly. I started walking over to the oversized baggage claim when a QF rep walked over to us holding our stroller saying here you go. Another customs officer came up to us and said “follow me” and directed us down the express lane.

    I never thought I would say this, but LAX CBP was quick, efficient and friendly.

    We made our way outside of TBIT to catch the bus to the car hire place (Alamo). On arriving there, I went to the self-serve machines, unfortunately it told me I needed to go to the counter, but that was to pick up the car seats. After dodging the insurance upsells as best I could, we had our car seats, the staff then assisted us in fitting them into the car. Alamo’s rules actually prohibit this, but we were confused since US car seats are different to Aussie ones, so a bit of help was certainly appreciated.

    As pulling onto the first of the LA freeways, the Mrs (who doesn’t like driving) turned to me and told me she was happy I was driving. Luckily I have had previous LA freeway driving experience, so I knew what to expect. To put bluntly, lots of lanes, lots of cars going very fast, speed limits not exactly followed, and it is not uncommon for multiple (eg 3 or 4) roads all splitting off at the same time, meaning it’s really important to be in the right lane at the right time. I’ve driven in both SYD and MEL, and I don’t think anything our two biggest cities have even comes close.

    After about an hour we arrived at the hotel. Let’s put it this way, I don’t think we’ll ever stay here again. It was cheap and could fit 6 people in the room. That is where the good things end. Perhaps the most annoying thing is the curtains which don’t close, coupled with a tiny bathroom. Let’s just say, getting undressed / dressed at night time does normally mean providing the entire neighbourhood with a free nudie show. Luckily we had two carabiners attached to water bottles which I managed to fashion into clips to close the curtains all the way.

    After a couple of hours sleep, we made our way down to the nearby Walmart to purchase the items we said we’d purchase once we arrived. After that we went down to downtown Disney, an ice cream later the mrs entered a Disney store, where she went to purchase anything she could see.
     
  4. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    4.jpg
    Thanks grandma for the ice creams at downtown Disney


    5.jpg
    Not anti nudity, but am anti showing off my bare **** to all of anaheim. Luckily we had these in the bag to close the curtains.
     
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  5. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    Day 2 - Disneyland

    Our morning started nice and earlyish. We made our way to Goofy’s Kitchen where we did one of their Character Breakfasts. Let’s just say, the food was plentiful, but was hardly going to win any Michelin stars. But that’s not the point. We had various Disney characters come around for a chat and a photo / signing of the autograph book. We had

    - Princess Jasmin
    - Snow White (eldest daughers favourite)
    - Chip / Dale
    - Goofy
    - Pluto
    - Raftii

    The kids absolutely loved it.

    After that we went to Disneyland. Let’s just say, it was an interesting time. It was very hot (we are in the middle of a heat wave), it was crowded (and this was on a normal Tuesday), and our 4 where still suffering the effects of jet lag.

    Surviving involved drinking loads of fluids, realising that we were not going to see everything, and just trying to relax when the kids where a little slow at walking. Did I mention the fluids? On first arriving, we only had a couple of bottles of water, which had gone well before we had gotten through the gate. We found a place selling bottled water which cost us $10 for 3 bottles. Finding a bubbler at the entrance to fantasy land was like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

    We spent some time at fantasy land before making our way to tomorrow land, where we went on one of the best rides in the park, the “star tours” a star wars ride, where you go on a “spaceship” and end up in the middle of a battle with the empire. Let’s just say, as a star wars fan, it was so very very cool.

    We made our way then back to fantasy land, and then into toon town, where we got a photo / signature with “the mouse”. Mickey was hiding inside his “studio”, it was about a 15 minute wait, but that was 15 minutes in an air conditioned room where they had old mickey mouse cartoons playing.

    After that we went and watched the parade, finally making our way back to the car around 8pm.
     
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  6. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    6.jpg
    Princess Jasmine

    7.jpg

    8.jpg
    Pluto

    9.jpg
    Snow White

    10.jpg
    Dale
     
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  7. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    11.jpg
    Raftii

    12.jpg
    Tram to Disneyland

    13.jpg
    A very very happy little girl

    14.jpg
    Down the rabbit hole

    15.jpg
    Leaving my son in charge of altitude
     
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  8. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    16.jpg
    This is not the little girl you're looking for

    17.jpg
    Can we keep him dad, can we?

    18.jpg
    The Mouse

    19.jpg
    Also The Mouse
     
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  9. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    Day 3 - California Adventure

    Decided not to set the alarms to allow the kids a bit of a sleep in, after getting up we drove down to California Adventure (aka Disneyland, except the entrance on the opposite side). Starting off with an Ice Cream, we went on the carousel (since the kids loved it the day before), then onto Mickey Mouses Farris wheel. One of the boys decided to sit that one out, my eldest and other son where all very much so “I’m so brave, but daddy, I might sit a little closer to you”. My youngest on the other hand has no fear of heights, so was perfectly happy, even at the top.

    After lunch, we went to meet buzz light-year. Let’s just say, I’m glad there was no lines, since you were not allowed to take personal photos (they had a professional selling photos), and he did not sign autographs, so there is no evidence of the meeting.

    After realising we’d spent all day at Paradise Pier, we walked over to bugs life where they had some water fountains the kids could play in to cool off, after ensuring that everyone was completely saturated, we made our way over to cars land. By the time we got there we were all dry, it was just that hot.

    We went on one of the rides at cars land, one which you ride in a tractors trailer, and you get flicked from side to side, the kids absolutely loved it. On the way back to the car, the 5pm parade started. Unlike the parade in Disneyland, this parade focused on the Disney Pixar characters. After a quick stop over in Hollywoodland we made our way back to the car to go out and get some dinner.

    We went to a nearby Denny’s, since where else outside of Macca’s could you feed a family of 6 on the cheap? IMHO, this was by far the worst meal of the trip, and I’m including dinner at macca’s the night before. I asked for my steak to be rare, not so undercooked that the cow walked to my table and said “dig in” (I sent it back and asked them to actually cook my steak please). Dessert was handed out before dinner plates had been cleared, in fact our dirty dinner plates where still there when we left. We did however get a little bit of a fright that night, I handed over the plastic, and it was rejected. What the? Thankfully we had the cash to cover dinner. On the way home we stopped past Walmart since they had large cases of water available (we are all over the LA water, it’s “drinkable” but doesn’t exactly taste good), I tried to pull some money out of the ATM there, again my card was not accepted (again had the cash, but it was dwindling quickly), I decided to try the servo over the road from the hotel since they had a Chase machine rather than a crappy generic machine. Luckily it spat out some cash, and thus we were again no longer in danger of singing for our supper.

    On getting back to the hotel, we gave mum a call, just so the kids could be the ones calling family back in Australia.
     
  10. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    2.jpg
    "Big Mouse" is always watching :D

    3.jpg
    This isn't that high.......... I hope....

    IMG_1008.jpg
    I'm big and brave, but I'm going to move slightly closer to you there daddy.

    5.jpg
    Heights... Meh... :cool:

    6.jpg
    Don't worry kids, you'll be dry in 2 minutes (and they were)
     
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  11. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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  12. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    Day 4 - Disneyland Again

    Back to Disneyland today, we had intended on taking advantage of Magic morning (aka early opening by an hour), however we overslept and only turned up about 10 minutes early.
    As the park opened we joined the rest of the mob in running for fantasy land to get the signatures of the frozen princesses (all 4 kids are big frozen fans), unfortunately the line was already 3 hours long within 30 seconds of the park opening, so we gave that up as a bad joke and went across to space mountain. After both me and the mrs (with my eldest daughter in tow each time) had had a go, we went to a couple of the more family inclusive rides. At lunchtime we made our way out to “downtown Disney” for lunch where we were met a friend of the Mrs. We found a Mexican restaurant which was pretty good (I had the taco’s) and was certainly much better quality / cheaper than inside the park.

    After lunch we said our goodbyes and went to the monorail station with the intention of catching it back into the park. Unfortunately it was hot (100 degrees in the shade) and the monorail wasn’t running (we think the heat had gotten to it). So we made our way back into the park, and did a round on the “Disneyland express” train. Whilst on the train the conductor came over the PA and advised everyone that due to the extreme heat all cafes where giving out free iced water. This made a nice change from the $10 we were charged on Tuesday. After getting some much needed rounds of water, we went to the haunted house, the big thunder railroad and over to the teacups for one last time. After that we went back to the hotel for a little bit of a sleep before we went out to dinner at the rainforest café.

    Unfortunately the kids where not the best behaved at the rainforest café, so dinner was “interesting”, that said I had the steak and shrimp which was really very good, and we shared the the “volcano” cake, which was basically three pieces of chocolate mud cake, placed around vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.
     
  13. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    2.jpg
    Sleeping Beauties Castle
     
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  14. Atleastonce

    Atleastonce Active Member

    Apr 18, 2013
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    Harvyk, we have done this with little kids many a time. Try IHOP for breakfast if your hotel does not come with any type of breakfast. Do the feedback survey and get the verification code to get a free short stack of pancakes on your next visit. Another good place for food supply's is food for less. When driving on south harbour boulevard away from disney entrance, turn right onto Katella and it is about 2km up the road on the he left hand side. It is a supermarket with great prices, and huge packets of everything. We usually buy 24 packs of water for Disneyland and lots of chips etc.. For the kids. My kids are all over 16 now, but still love visiting here for the candy we can't get in Australia. We have done disney and California adventure about 15 times and love it. We are at LAX in the *A lounge at the moment after a trip back from Alaska, and if our Seattle flight was earlier we would have done a 1/2 day in Disney, but not to be this trip. Have fun, and any questions, just ask.
     
  15. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    Day 5 - Hollywood Walk of Fame

    We woke up and went down to the hotel lobby for some waffles for breakfast. After brekky the mrs went back to the room to clean up and pack the bags, I kept the kids down in the lobby and put on a movie on the iPad to keep them out of the way. We figured that the packing back in the room would go so much faster without the kids there.

    After the car was packed we made our way to the Hollywood walk of fame. We first had a cold drink overlooking the Hollywood sign (well more like the sign was in the distance) from the top of the “Kodak / Dolby” theatre. After that since we are both pretty big star trek fans (actually I think the Mrs is a bigger fan than I) we found most of the stars belonging to the original cast members (just missing Nicole Nicholls). We found a burger joint along the walk so we stopped there for lunch. We had intended on making our way from there to Santa Monica, however we were not used to LA traffic at peak hour, so after an hour of sitting in traffic we gave that up as a bad joke and made our way up to northern LA to meet up with some friends who we would be staying with over the weekend. After ordering pizza for dinner, and then playing darts into the night / reminiscing over previous trips we called it a night.


    3.jpg
    The Hollywood Sign, as seen from the Dolby Theatre

    4.jpg
    The Original Star Trek cast
     
  16. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    Day 6 - Our most stressful day... :cool:

    Well this day was stressful. We woke up, quickly went down to the shops to get a few things we needed, the set up the slip n slide / paddling pool / slide / lounge chairs and then spent the rest of the day drinking cocktails whilst soaking up the sun. My friend cooked up “white tip” on the BBQ, (M is a really good cook), and I cooked up some dessert which went down very nicely.

    We brought over a couple of bottles of aussie reds which went perfectly with dinner. Again more games of darts was had, more drinks was had and we all had a great time.

    5.jpg
    As you can see, today was really stressful
     
  17. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    Day 7 - Vegas Baby

    Well after the obligatory Facebook photos, we set of for Vegas baby. We went via Vasquez Rocks. Didn’t spot a Gorn / Captain Kirk or Bill and Ted, but we did give it a good going over.
    After some photos we went onto Barstow. Dad had actually live there for a little while when he was roughly my oldest daughters age, however the apartments he used to live in had since been demolished, so all we really saw was a patch of dirt he would have once called home.

    After that we continued onto Vegas. We were saying at the Desert Rose Resort. Ok so had we been able we’d have preferred to stay on the strip. That said this hotel was very nice, and was easily the pick of the hotels we stayed in. It was a 2 bedroom apartment which meant we could have a kids room and a parents room.

    After check in we went across to New York New York (via a trip up the strip) for dinner, again pizza by the slice. It was ok, but pretty expensive, far more expensive than we were expecting. A few slices of pizza, a couple of drinks and some ice cream cost us nearly $80. Hardly the cheap Vegas’ value we kept hearing about.

    6.jpg
    Couldn't find a Gorn, Captain Kirk, or Bill and Ted, but I'll keep looking
     
  18. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    Day 8 - Viva Las Vegas

    After getting up, we asked the concierge where they would recommend for breakfast. She recommended Coco’s which was just around the corner. Both the mrs and I got the smallest breakfast deals. Let’s just say, we’re both happy we went for the small, and it would have been enough for 2 meals.

    After breakfast we made our way up the strip and went to Circus Circus. They have an indoor amusement park under the pink dome. We played 9 holes of mini golf and the mrs / kids had a go at winning some toys via sideshow alley. We went past a souvenir store where the kids got some milk shake cups with vegas printed all over them, and I picked up a new poker set.
    We then made our way down the strip back to Excalibur for their buffet. Again there was way too much food, I didn’t think overly highly of the seafood (so shrimp / crablegs), but the pork ribs where beautifully done.

    You were also spoiled for choice with dessert, luckily they were mostly of “sample” size which meant you could take a tiramisu, a panna cotta, a caramel tart and a cheesecake and not feel like a pig doing so.

    After dinner we made the mistake of walking down to the Bellagio to see the dancing fountains. I say it was a mistake since went we got there the kids (and the mrs and I) where all pretty tired and didn’t fancy the walk back. The kids loved the dancing fountains. After the show we went into the Bellagio, and after realising just how expensive everything was we put $2 into the pokies there (just to say we’d done it) and left.

    After the long walk back to the hotel we were all ready for bed, and we all went straight to sleep.


    7.jpg
    The Strip

    8.jpg
    The Bellagio - There are dancing fountains here every 15 minutes
     
  19. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    Day 9 - Goodbye Vegas

    After getting up and checking out, we went back to Coco’s for breakky, however we each ordered the smallest thing we could find this time. We then went across to MGM Grand, where the Mrs put a couple of dollars onto the pokies, and I turned $20 into $40 on roulette. (You can tell we’re big gamblers). It was more to say we had done it and it did provide us with an hour of entertainment.

    We made our way to both the MM store, and the coke store. The MM store was interesting, and we purchased quite a nice little collection of knickknack’s and a variety of flavours / colours of MM’s, but the coke store was pretty forgettable.

    We made our way back to our car to find our GPS had died. A less than quick trip to target, and $150 later, we purchased ourselves a new GPS, and where sort of ready to tackle LA’s freeways again, except I didn’t really have time to learn the new GPS’s lingo, or configure it how I like. Thus it was a pretty stressful drive.

    We finally got to the hotel in LA at around 10 at night. Let’s just say, I’d received an email a couple of days earlier with check-in instructions, it was really lucky I had kept tabs on work email, otherwise we’d have had no idea where to go, since I received arrival instructions well after booking the hotel (whilst we were on holiday). They then didn’t have a record of the $25 we’d paid for parking our car there. Again luckily I had an email confirming we had a parking spot reserved. After finally getting a car spot (not ours, but ours already had someone in there). Finding the room itself was then a challenge, there was no signage to say which room was hiding where, and there was no map, not to mention the corridors of the hotel would give most mazes a good run for their money. Once we finally found the room, it was dirty, and I don’t think maintenance was high on their list of priorities. We also had inserted under a door a warning starting that once of the garages (we didn’t know if it was ours or not) was going to be locked for cleaning from 11am to 2 pm the next day, and thus if our car was still in there at 11am (check out time) we’d be locked in. Nice of reception telling us that little detail.

    9.jpg
    The MM Store, so many colours and flavours. :D
     
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  20. harvyk

    harvyk Senior Member

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    Day 10 - Farewell USA

    Well the next morning, we got up and packed the bags ready for the flight home. On getting to the car we saw a “parking violation” on the windscreen warning us our car was about to be towed. WTF?

    On checkout the Mrs tried speaking to reception whom was completely uncaring. Needless to say, avoid the Downtown Residence Apartments at all costs.
    We made our way up to Griffith’s Observatory, as it turned out it was extremely busy, and thus we had to part a little way down the mountain. The observatory was interesting and best part was free. After exploring there we drove down to Santa Monica, where we walked along the boardwalk eating ice cream.

    After the ice cream the Mrs explored some of the shops. Finally we went back to LAX where we filled up the car (make sure when you pre-pay at the gas stations, they actually put you dollars against the right bowser), returned the car, checked in and made our way up to the very crowed old JLounge. Luckily a new one is opening shortly.
    After a shower and a change of clothes (kids had managed to get ice cream all over themselves) we made our way down to the gate. After a bit of last minute shopping by the Mrs at the new and vastly improved TBIT we were on the plane and ready for the ride home.

    QF12 – A380

    Well this was to be the Mrs and the kids first A380 flight, however something tells me that to them it was nothing more than “a plane which would take us home”. My youngest had fallen asleep within minutes of taking off, so we decided we wouldn’t wake her up for dinner. I myself barely managed to get a movie in before I was off in the land of Zzz’s.

    Day 11 – Didn’t exist

    Day 12 - Still flying

    We all got between 9 and 11 hours of sleep. I woke up a little bit before breakfast and got in a single episode of big bang theory. After breakfast we went through the fun of filling in 6 arrival cards. I get annoyed at the amount of duplicate information those cards already ask for, so writing in our address 12 times was not fun.
    Again on the flight the crew where perfect, I couldn’t fault them.

    On landing one of the pax cart drivers at the gate offered us a lift to immi which was very much appreciated. After a quick stop over at duty free we got our bags and made our way to the car ready for the drive back to CBR, which was no fun for me, but we made it, and ultimately only an hour after we would have otherwise been had we flown from SYD-CBR.
     
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