QF WP’s do Disneyland (LA), Seattle and beyond

Discussion in 'Trip Reports and Trip Photos' started by QF WP, Jul 1, 2018.

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  1. QF WP

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    #1 QF WP, Jul 1, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
    Well it has been a long hiatus for me and Trip Reports, 3 years to be exact and even then I didn’t finish it.

    But this time I intend to finish, as it will be live as much as possible (but I have a little bit of catching up to do as we are already a couple of days into it).

    Fueled by @juddles musings, but still personalised as there are other players in this report. A family with all its failings and emotions - sometimes frustrating yet glimpse of sheer exhilaration as we share moments that will become indelibly printed on the retinas in our soul. Together time. Memories.

    So, onto the preamble. For a 3 week trip of this magnitude, one would expect that I’d have started booking flights 355 days out. No, that’s for people with a mountain of points and a clear direction of where they are going. After working out with family and friends we were visiting when they were all available, it was only then I was able to put the flights in place. January to be precise, 5 months before D-day. Using my TA (an AFF’er of course @Travel Guru), someone who understands my predilections for FF points and status so it had to be in status-earring fares. No Qantas this trip for us, with a family of 4, I can re-qualify Gold with VA on this trip using Family Pooling. Good timing as well, given I’m only on 220 for my member year and it finishes in August.

    Then I really had a rest for months as so focused on work. The only thing we did toward our holiday was to go to the Brisbane Travel Show and organise the Disneyland tickets (4 day hopper passes, that allowed us to go between both parks) and an LA hotel. I’m not sure what I was thinking about the accommodation - getting a hotel near to Disney shouldn’t have been difficult, but I made it that way. We learn more from our mistakes than our successes and this was my first mistake in hindsight.

    Easter came and went and I was meant to have done all the other planning. Nah, nothing like bringing it all together nearing the last moment - but my wife was starting to get concerned so in the true “happy wife, happy life”, I extracted my digit and put together a spreadsheet with all the items I needed. I love doing the research but there is always the issue of over-complicating and always looking for better deals. I spent nights at my laptop, searching for accommodation in Seattle and Everett, with a list of “must haves” and “like to have”, until I had narrowed them down and was happy to book.

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    Slowly I ticked off my list, starting with applying for new passports for me and my daughter, to learning about ESTA’s. This was eye opening for me, as the last time we went to USA (back in 2005), the I94’s were still in vogue. I did love the ability to do all my family members ESTA’s in a group, particularly when it came to paying once for all 4.

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    Similarly, last time I went to USA I’d used my mobile and international roaming which cost me a packet. This time, I was forewarned and forearmed, we did a little bit of research plus lucky that we had friends in USA who assisted in the search and were able to buy us the SIM and have it Fedex’ed to our LA hotel.

    Another mistake I made that I won’t make again - booking codeshare international flights and organising the seating through Delta’s Manage My Trip. Why, you might ask - and a good question! When booking the flights, it had come up being cheaper on the DL codeshares than VA. Yes, I had also ensured the internal DL flights were in the correct fare buckets that earned status, but hadn’t considered the bigger picture. Therefore I had the DL booking reference and as we had internal flights, organised all the seats through Delta’s Manage My Trip without realizing the mistake I was making.

    On the first flight, I’d chosen 30ABCD - not to bad for a Gold member. Then 3 days before departure day, I got an alert from AwardWallet (which I use to manage all my family travel programs) that the seating had changed to 32 BCDF. What the?? I hadn’t rung up and changed seats, especially not to much worse seats. Ringing VA, I found that by not ringing VA to organise the seating, I had unwittingly self destructed our seating. They CSA explained that the history of the booking showed that DL had released the seats yesterday. Could so get them back? No, a full flight and others had picked up the seats already. Having to tell my family that we’d lost my preferred seats wasn’t easy - well, to my wife anyway. She had wanted us to have a window and a row of 3, so we weren’t sitting next to strangers.

    As we get older, indeed time goes quicker. This was no exception as before we knew it, the day was upon us. Packing was done the night before but we had been setting things aside for a couple of weeks into a pile. I had to be home early the night before so we weren’t packing the morning of our flight, as we had done previously.
     
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  2. QF WP

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    #2 QF WP, Jul 1, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
    Thursday, 28 June

    The day had arrived. We were going to get up early to try and help our children with the time zone change ahead, but we gave up on that idea knowing that our kids were only going to be engrossed in watching screens on the way over. They were excited enough, being taken out of school 2 days early as well as kidding the first week of the next term. They only needed to worry about packing a backpack with a couple of toys, a book to read and their iPad. I think we can go overboard with packing lots of things for flights then find that almost everything remains untouched. Why tempt fate? Less is more and never truer words were written.

    We had my wife’s father come to pick us up and drive us to the airport. For an 11:05am flight, we left home at 8:30 for the 20 minute drive, the only issue was dodging the school traffic. Arriving as expected, we were offloaded and ready to enter the International terminal for our experience to begin.

    Whilst it has been 3 years since we’d been overseas, old habits die had. Scanning the board, I saw that we were checking in at Section 7. Thankfully having VA Gold status, we had access to the Business Class line. 1 person ahead of us, against the 100+ in the Economy Class line. Don’t worry, we’ll soon be joining you back there.

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    Getting through C&I, using Smart Gate was a breeze. Glad I did this research

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    Knowing that the VA/NZ partnership was over, I knew we couldn’t access the Air NZ Koru Club Lounge anymore. I’d asked a travel journalist who I knew well and travelled ex-BNE what was the new Lounge a VA Gold could access. He’d advised SQ. Great, I’d asked the important question but forgotten about the follow up ones - like where it was :eek:.

    So here we were, down on the Departure Level, but unable to find the Lounge. Again and understandably, my wife gave me grief. So only my phone, messaging @Travel Guru and a good friend @IainF who both would know where they are. They both came through within minutes - the other end, you idiot. I’d been so used to heading into the Qantas Lounge, I’d been blinded by my historic experiences.

    So off we schlepp - there they are, up there

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  3. QF WP

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    #3 QF WP, Jul 1, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
    So we headed up the escalators to an expected oasis of bliss - away from the maddening crowds, with breakfast awaiting us until boarding was called.

    Turn left here:

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    Up to the end of the corridor we head

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    and ask the ladies at the front desk for entrance by handing over my BP.

    “I’m sorry, you’re only allowed one guest”...again, another moment of failure. I hadn’t checked...and looked dumb again. Aaarrghh.

    “We are a family, can we enter in that basis?”

    “I’m sorry” came out again “but you can check around the corner - maybe they’ll let you in”...
     
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  4. QF WP

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    #4 QF WP, Jul 1, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
    Okay, don’t even say it - or think it. I know, I failed again. Lack of research sucks...and my wife is giving me a look that would melt glass. My kids are a bit disappointed but they don’t know what they are missing out on. Then again, neither do I as sovereign not been in the SQ BNE Lounge previously.

    Back we go to the Premium Plaza Lounge, cap in hand, knowing nothing about it and it’s eligibility criteria. Will I fail yet again and succumb to being one of the many downstairs hanging around their Gates. That would be admitting defeat. No, I can’t and I won’t. Chin up and be positive.

    I head inside and give over my BP and ask plaintively “are we eligible to come in?” The lovely Japanese girl checked her folder and agreed we were. Arigato. Letting out a short but explosive breath, my body relaxes after tensing up over the last couple of minutes. Crisis averted, for now anyway - one win doesn’t mean the battle is over. She scans all our boarding passes and in we go...

    Now to find a group of seats with a view - nice, a group of 4 in the corner, overlooking the departure area below. Well that is a small win for me. My wife settles in and the kids are off to explore the breakfast offering:

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    We were given two chits for alcoholic drinks. Thanks, I think I deserve them and whilst I’m on holidays, it’s a little too early even for that. There’ll be time enough for that onboard.

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    Breakfast time for me - well, my second version of breakfast. A hot chocolate finishes it off and a couple of sneaky sweets I snuck onboard.

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    My daughters exploration had been successful, she found a group of these pods in the corner at the front - nice to hang around whilst waiting for that boarding call

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    which comes all too soon. Knowing that we were back at Gate 82 and had a bit of a walk ahead, off we go with a spring in our steps.

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  5. Major

    Major Established Member

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    This is going to be interesting :)
     
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  6. cove

    cove Enthusiast

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    #6 cove, Jul 1, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
    Have a great trip QF WP. I remember taking our two sons to the US. I do think it makes them more street wise when they become adults. We used Embassy Suites and Residence Inn to house the four of us.
     
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  7. QF WP

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    Some points of interest about the Lounge, being my first time here. There are a range of seats, from the pods and bean bags in the front right corner to the ones along the front glass like we had above. There are also groups inside and a long large bench seating perfect for the individual traveller. The buffet and drinks are at the back with servers awaiting for your chits for the alcoholic drinks and a barista for you coffee aficionados. The offerings are simple but in Australian terms, more significant than similar American lounges.

    There are a number of departure boards

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    some interesting single work pods (love the privacy aspect)

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    and I made sure I checked out who had access here

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  8. QF WP

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    Getting to Gate 78, we headed past the long Economy line to the Priority Boarding line. Not quite sure what was going on, but a group from a dance studio had invaded the line. What, all of them were Golds and Plats - surely not! Not about to rock the boat so we waited patiently - we were all going to the same place at the same time, after all.

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    I slipped back to the window to get a snap of our aircraft whilst we waited. My first long haul international VA flight - as AKL and NAN don’t qualify.

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    After getting through the boarding process, down the ramp we go and a final snap - City of Noosa Heads, take us away

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  9. QF WP

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    #9 QF WP, Jul 1, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
    VA 7 (codeshare DL6795)
    Type: 777-300
    Rego: missed getting it

    My first 773 flight. I know, I don’t get out a lot. Not internationally anyway. So excuse me for my foibles. Like snapping this as we boarded:

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    So nothing special about Row 32. My daughter was ready for the flight

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    and the obligatory in seat entertainment screen shot

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    Not as exciting as the ones I usually see in Business or First and no Champagne. This is Coach, after all and a family holiday. Nothing fancy, as it would be lost on my kids. They’ve already experienced Business and First but it was 7 years ago and my daughter barely remembers it (she was only 4). There’s plenty of time in the future to give time to collect more AA points to use them. As most here may have experienced, try finding 2 x Business and 2 x First awards seats in the same flight, almost improbable but it can be done.
     
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  10. QF WP

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    #10 QF WP, Jul 1, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2018
    Dinner was served at what was our lunchtime, but we were already starting to think in USA times, here are both the options (lamb and chicken breast)

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    I had the lamb which was really nice. Supplemented with a red wine in a plastic cup (okay, I’ll admit I was already missing sitting up in Business Class sipping a quality wine from a glass).

    Tried to then go to sleep in line with US time, but only got to the dozing stage, as my daughter kept throwing her leg over me or pushing her head under my arm and into my ribs. The joys of parenthood, sucking it up and contemplating this was quality time with my daughter. She was feeling comfortable and that’s all that mattered - we could have a sleep when we arrived.

    The flight went reasonably quickly, after watching a multitude of Outback Truckers and some movies; along with the necessary leg stretches up to the back of the plane, we were here:

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    it was time for breakfast, Australian style...the last time for 3 weeks. Beggars can’t be choosers.

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  11. Denali

    Denali Established Member

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    Love a good travel plan spreadsheet and love your daughters green bow, so cute.
     
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  12. kpc

    kpc Senior Member

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    Getting 4 J award seats for family travel is always fun! Pardon the pun, have some fun...don't spend all night doing this TR live! Ps the kids have grown alot :)
     
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  13. QF WP

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    Would never even think there would be 4 x J awards available apart from 355 days out, so always been easier trying for a mix of J & F, as we did in 2011.

    Was doing this live this morning over here, as the kids slept until midday and we are off for an afternoon and evening session at Disneyland
     
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  14. QF WP

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    There was a bit of information on lines above that I didn’t include as has personal details on them.

    Didn’t want to miss doing anything important lest my wife be upset if things went south

    My daughter loved your comment.
     
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  15. cove

    cove Enthusiast

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    Sneakers on....it’s time for walking.
    Have you arranged Fast Passes at Disney?
     
  16. QF WP

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    #16 QF WP, Jul 1, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2018
    Wouldn’t have it any other way, @cove. We’ve been using it the individual Fast Passes yesterday and will do a couple today, but Tuesday is our MaxiPass day (get in an hour earlier than everyone else and get a bunch of the popular ones done before the hoi polloi come in, plus Fast Passing all day).
     
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  17. Pushka

    Pushka Enthusiast

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    This sounds fab. I think we both know the Travel Guru. He is an Adelaide guy hey? Your kids will have a ball and they look like seasoned travellers already.
     
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  18. kermatu

    kermatu Established Member

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    Would it be rude to say I'm in seat 30B with shadows in 30A and C for this journey?

    Just kidding. I'm in the cargo hold stowing away again.

    It's clear from the photos already how prominent and important your family is to the holiday. Have a really fabulous trip.
     
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  19. kpc

    kpc Senior Member

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    #19 kpc, Jul 1, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
    When we went to Disneyland and Disney Adventure Park a few years back, we spent a day at each.. We went midweek in non American school hols in January, so the Qs were quite short...20 mins was the longest Q time. We didn't buy Fast Passes as just buying 5 normal passes using Aussie pesos was painful enough! It was an exhausting couple of days ;)
     
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  20. QF WP

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    Was originally but lives on GC now
     
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