To Infinity........and BEYOND!

clipped_wings

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Hardly the most cerebral-stimulating trip report you're ever likely to read. But if anyone out there is happy to peruse the following piece of fluff in our latest Griswold-inspired pilgrimage to the USA, read on. This one is more about how much fun we can have as an extended family, than how much American culture and history we can impart to our adult children (I use that term loosely). Next week, we escape work, housework and people we don't particularly like - and take off to enjoy 3 glorious weeks of a Californian winter. Mr Clipped, myself, our four kids and two handbags (boyfriends). That's 8 people who don't get on at the best of times. Are we excited? YES! Are we crazy? Probably. After hearing so many horror stories of families travelling together in tight proximity - we are nervous for what lies ahead. We can only hope 10 days at the Happiest Place on Earth can weave it's magic...........

If you've read past the opening paragraph and are still here - WELCOME to another USA sabbatical. Join us as we battle crowds of galactic proportions in Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland. Take a seat as Conor McGregor returns to face Donald Cerrone in Las Vegas. Marvel at how many baby back ribs Mr Clipped can actually consume in one sitting (SPOILER ALERT: this one's a fizzer, because his eyes are always too big for his belly).

Buzz Lightyear took a leap of faith when he jumped off that bed in Toy Story. We're taking a leap of faith with this one. Cross fingers we are all still friends at the end.

Stay tuned.
 

Denali

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Family Road Trip!

Toy Story Disney GIF
 
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VPS

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You're very brave but I enjoy your TR so it will be fun - good luck and have a great time
 

clipped_wings

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I know the dizzying lights of Hollywood and LA theme parks isn't everyone's cup of tea. But as strange as it sounds, our idea of relaxation after breaking our backs all year at work - is breaking our necks on gravity-defying rollercoasters. We have visited Disneyland more times than I can remember. But it still holds a very special allure and every few years it calls us back. The much-anticipated Star Wars Galaxy's Edge was opening in June 2019, so we figured January 2020 would be a great time to visit, as most of the crowds and technical kinks have been ironed out. Plus it's cooler. We also have a daughter + boyfriend in the film industry. So it made perfect sense to arrange our latest LA sabbatical in the post-Christmas, pre-Oscars period.
We had a nice stash of points, so the best case scenario was Mr Clipped and I in Business - and the kids in Economy X. I started looking at flights 11 months out and after searching every day for a month - I secured 2 x J SYD-BNE-LAX. Grabbed a couple of economy reward seats for our youngest boys . Then began the impossible task of finding return flights in rewards for appropriate days.
Hit the jackpot a week later with 2 x J LAX-SYD on VA2 and another couple of economy rewards for the tin lids.
All I had to do now, was wait for some discounted revenue economy tickets for the others (2 daughters and their handbags). In the first week of April, I conceded that $1800 pp was as low as they were going to go. I paid the money for 4 pax.

As Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman: BIG mistake. HUGE.

Two days later the fares plummeted below $1000. My watery eyes glazed over as I read my original booking Fare Rules: NO CANCELLATION OR CHANGES.

I range VA anyway. I figured the worst they could say was No.

They said No.

I spent the next 48 hours kicking my own butt. Finally, I gathered the gumption to ring them again. They listened. And they were quite empathetic. For starters, I got the same VA consultant. She patiently allowed me to plead my case once more, then set about cancelling the original booking. She waived most of the penalty, so I had enough cash to upgrade the kids to Economy X on all sectors. SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

In the end, our itinerary looked like this:

VA J SYD-BNE-LAX for Mr Clipped and myself - YX for 6 kids.
Eldest daughter + boyfriend DL F LAX-LAS for 5 days then back to LA
3 days at Universal Studios, then 15 days at Disneyland Anaheim
3 more days at Hollywood + Universal
VA J LAX-SYD x 2 and VA YX for kids

All up, we managed the above flights for around 560,000 points and $7400. All fees were paid in cash.

The only things that could stop us now were beyond my control. A closure of the M1, cyclonic weather in QLD, or the tight connection of <1.5 hours at BNE for VA7. (Ok, that last one was probably within my jurasdiction. But in all fairness, I DID book us on an earlier flight. However, it got cancelled and VA promised me they'd get us connected to the international flight in time).

Next installment: A wing, a prayer.....and a lot of bags.
 

clipped_wings

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I forgot how much stuff twentysomethings pack. They need their stuff. Hair straighteners. Shoes. Makeup. Shoes. One daughter even brought a portable printer the size of a wallet. Who does that?

I'd given everyone explicit limitations on luggage. It was to be all soft sided and roller-enabled. I even bought them the bags for Christmas. Everyone was to have one bag each. So when eldest daughter's partner turned up with his giant hard trolley bag, backpack AND matching cabin bag - we were a little dumfounded. Someone clearly didn't get the memo. The other kids screamed "NOT FAIR" and scrambled to their rooms to pack more stuff as I tried to mentally calculate the volume of luggage we were dragging. I began to feel a little queasy.

Fast forward and the skies were clear for D-Day. (Departure Day). We had a 5am pickup in a 12 seater and cantered down the freeway to Sydney in record time. Our decision to upgrade paid off as we walked straight to the front of check in at T2. But the staff member was new and our complicated booking in different classes and itineraries was beyond his expertise. His machine was not scanning our passports and he had to load all information manually. Then he needed more assistance and wandered off for 15 minutes to find help.
Our check in took nearly an hour and we were beginning to regret the Brisbane deviation. But, as always - everything pales into insignificance once you settle into the Virgin Australia Lounge and order the first of many cappuccino's. Thanks to strategic use of Amex cards, we all managed to gain access. I truly felt like a million bucks the moment I took a sip of my creamy coffee. My newly straightened haircut helped that feeling. Mr Clipped & I toasted what we hoped would be an amazing family holiday.

After a quick breakfast, our party cruised onto VA925 for a glorious flight to Brisbane. Cabin crew on this short hop were impeccable. Sparkling or juice offered on the tarmac and pleasant but not intrusive conversation. We passed on breakfast, but the hot option was some kind of frittata and it looked really good.
It was overcast and drizzling when we landed, but not enough to spoil my mood. Or my hair (ladies, you know what I'm talking about). I was just glad we'd arrived on time. The transition to International was relatively smooth and we were airside with 20 minutes to spare.

VA7 was almost full, except for 4 seats in business opposite us. I settled the kids into their cabin before sinking my own derriere in 2A, just behind Mr Clipped in 1A. The cabin is well preserved and seats are still very comfortable. The larger white and purple lumbar pillows have seen better days. Both were flat like insipid pancakes. Alas, the beautifully full, fluffy latex pillow I insist on travelling with each time, was sitting back in economy with Child #3.
I stole extra pillows from the spare seats in Business and glued my nose to the window as we climbed into the pale blue sky. It was one of the more turbulent flights across the Pacific, but not enough to stop the fabulous hospitality VA is renown for. Crew were amazing, although cost cutting was definitely evident on this flight. The usual starter of edamame, olives and parmesan cookies were not offered after take-off. We were instead served a small bowl of warm nuts, with a non-vintage Ayala. Crew introduced themselves immediately we were airborne and took our lunch orders.

IMG_5849.JPG

Current SYD-LAX menu is as follows:

IMG_5841.JPG


IMG_5842.JPG


IMG_5843.JPG

I chose the Thai soup as a starter, followed by the Beef for mains and cheese dessert.

IMG_5850.JPG

The soup was delicious, a nice spicy kick, but nothing that would conjure a Dumb+Dumber toilet scene later. The Beef was tender, with just the smallest hint of fat to add flavour. Vegetables were perfectly cooked and that ordinary-looking sauce was actually a highlight - it had a divine peppery, almost thermidor note and I did something I only do in the comfort of my own home: I mopped it up with my bread roll.

IMG_5851.JPG

My cheese plate was enormous, the truffle honey oozed deliciousness and I ate the lot. I was glad I wore my stretchy pants at this point. Almost thought of exchanging my small PJ's for the next size up.

IMG_5853.JPG

Lunch over - I checked on the kids, who booed me out of their cabin. I sheepishly returned to my seat, which was now, magically - a bed. Ever grateful to the cabin crew, I climbed in, donned my eye mask and forgot about the world while VA7 rocked me to sleep.....

"Sleep - perchance to dream."
William Shakespeare
 

Pushka

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I forgot how much stuff twentysomethings pack. They need their stuff. Hair straighteners. Shoes. Makeup. Shoes. One daughter even brought a portable printer the size of a wallet. Who does that?

I'd given everyone explicit limitations on luggage. It was to be all soft sided and roller-enabled. I even bought them the bags for Christmas. Everyone was to have one bag each. So when eldest daughter's partner turned up with his giant hard trolley bag, backpack AND matching cabin bag - we were a little dumfounded. Someone clearly didn't get the memo. The other kids screamed "NOT FAIR" and scrambled to their rooms to pack more stuff as I tried to mentally calculate the volume of luggage we were dragging. I began to feel a little queasy.

Fast forward and the skies were clear for D-Day. (Departure Day). We had a 5am pickup in a 12 seater and cantered down the freeway to Sydney in record time. Our decision to upgrade paid off as we walked straight to the front of check in at T2. But the staff member was new and our complicated booking in different classes and itineraries was beyond his expertise. His machine was not scanning our passports and he had to load all information manually. Then he needed more assistance and wandered off for 15 minutes to find help.
Our check in took nearly an hour and we were beginning to regret the Brisbane deviation. But, as always - everything pales into insignificance once you settle into the Virgin Australia Lounge and order the first of many cappuccino's. Thanks to strategic use of Amex cards, we all managed to gain access. I truly felt like a million bucks the moment I took a sip of my creamy coffee. My newly straightened haircut helped that feeling. Mr Clipped & I toasted what we hoped would be an amazing family holiday.

After a quick breakfast, our party cruised onto VA925 for a glorious flight to Brisbane. Cabin crew on this short hop were impeccable. Sparkling or juice offered on the tarmac and pleasant but not intrusive conversation. We passed on breakfast, but the hot option was some kind of frittata and it looked really good.
It was overcast and drizzling when we landed, but not enough to spoil my mood. Or my hair (ladies, you know what I'm talking about). I was just glad we'd arrived on time. The transition to International was relatively smooth and we were airside with 20 minutes to spare.

VA7 was almost full, except for 4 seats in business opposite us. I settled the kids into their cabin before sinking my own derriere in 2A, just behind Mr Clipped in 1A. The cabin is well preserved and seats are still very comfortable. The larger white and purple lumbar pillows have seen better days. Both were flat like insipid pancakes. Alas, the beautifully full, fluffy latex pillow I insist on travelling with each time, was sitting back in economy with Child #3.
I stole extra pillows from the spare seats in Business and glued my nose to the window as we climbed into the pale blue sky. It was one of the more turbulent flights across the Pacific, but not enough to stop the fabulous hospitality VA is renown for. Crew were amazing, although cost cutting was definitely evident on this flight. The usual starter of edamame, olives and parmesan cookies were not offered after take-off. We were instead served a small bowl of warm nuts, with a non-vintage Ayala. Crew introduced themselves immediately we were airborne and took our lunch orders.

View attachment 204699

Current SYD-LAX menu is as follows:

View attachment 204694


View attachment 204692


View attachment 204693

I chose the Thai soup as a starter, followed by the Beef for mains and cheese dessert.

View attachment 204698

The soup was delicious, a nice spicy kick, but nothing that would conjure a Dumb+Dumber toilet scene later. The Beef was tender, with just the smallest hint of fat to add flavour. Vegetables were perfectly cooked and that ordinary-looking sauce was actually a highlight - it had a divine peppery, almost thermidor note and I did something I only do in the comfort of my own home: I mopped it up with my bread roll.

View attachment 204700

My cheese plate was enormous, the truffle honey oozed deliciousness and I ate the lot. I was glad I wore my stretchy pants at this point. Almost thought of exchanging my small PJ's for the next size up.

View attachment 204701

Lunch over - I checked on the kids, who booed me out of their cabin. I sheepishly returned to my seat, which was now, magically - a bed. Ever grateful to the cabin crew, I climbed in, donned my eye mask and forgot about the world while VA7 rocked me to sleep.....

"Sleep - perchance to dream."
William Shakespeare

Truffle honey is wonderful. Yumm. And I’d dip my bread in the sauce anywhere if it was extra special.
 

Di Payne

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Nov 27, 2014
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A word of encouragement re travelling with family.
My family - myself, husband, son, son's partner, my sister, BIL, niece, nephew, nephew's partner & partner's mother! - travelled in Europe for 7 weeks over Christmas/New Year 2013-14.
At the end of time in London, Paris, Strasbourg, Venice, Florence, Rome & Dubai we were still talking to each other!
We spent lots of time together but also made sure smaller group or individual time was a priority.
Hope you have a great trip.
 

clipped_wings

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Posts
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For all the money and effort we invest for Business Class - I never really sleep soundly on a plane. I think I just power down and enter a twilight state. So long haul flights remain, well - long haul. The shorter 12 hour sector from Brisbane to LA seemed to make this one less painful however. I grabbed a coffee mid-flight and smashed out some TV. The IFE selections on Virgin are nowhere as comprehensive as some of its rivals, but it does the job.
I wandered through the bar in the wee hours to find the once-robust crowd had dwindled to a small group who were holding up the bar stools in an effort to see the whole flight out. Every one was wearing the VA pyjamas with its little silver insignia. We all looked like cloned extras for a Star Trek episode. I wanted to say "Nanu Nanu" but I bit my lip.

I returned to my bed and watched as our twinkling starry ceiling gave way to the famous sunrise with its gentle hues and soft lights.

IMG_5855.JPG

Cabin crew brought warm towels and wished us good morning as they set our breakfast trays out. I always choose a hearty option, because it is literally hours before we get a chance to eat again once in LA. Today's version didn't disappoint:

IMG_5856.JPG

Before we knew it, the plane was preparing to land. It was still dark as we flew dead straight into LAX off the ocean - no banking or circling. First time I've ever experienced this and it was a fun deviation from the usual landings. A textbook touchdown and that was it. One of the shortest taxis to TBIT saw us reach the gate ahead of schedule. Which was a remarkable feat, given that we had departed an hour late.
It was a great flight and I was grateful for being in Business as we deplaned ahead of everyone else. I sauntered along the aerobridge, free as a bird.

That was until REALITY hit and I switched to Panicked Mom Mode as I remembered I had 6 kids on this flight who were nowhere to be seen.

Now, you can't just stop moving forward when you're on an aerobridge. You have to keep the pace or get out of the way. Ignore this fact and you will incur the wrath of 300 other sleep-deprived passengers - most of whom did not enjoy the same comforts of Business Class. I scrambled for a wall cavity and scanned the human glacier as it idled along. Eventually our brood materialised. All intact. After a quick head count - we made our way to Immigration and Baggage Claim.

The redevelopment at LAX is coming along nicely. It is a slow process when you are towing a large group, but we have travelled here enough to know exactly where we are going and I think that familiarity helps. We bid Daughter #1 and boyfriend a hasty farewell as they made their way to T3 for their Delta flight to Las Vegas, before stepping out into the crisp LA morning for a shuttle ride to the Alamo vehicle hire depot.

When in America, Mr Clipped has one stipulation: he gets to choose the car we roll in. Now, for those who don't know, my darling husband is a politically/ecologically-incorrect Petrol Head. He loves his V8's. We couldn't all cram in the Mustang convertible he wanted. But there was no way he was piloting a mini van for 8 people. Therefore, our ride for this trip was a gargantuan Ford utility that was so big, it would probably require an escort on Australian roads. It had a boot you could hold a tailgate party in. (I've been to an NFL game - they actually do this). Now I am a pipsqueak at 152cm, but it had a smooth, gliding side step that presented when I opened the door. It had enough grunt to easily give Mr Clipped a sense of respect, plus the all-important luggage space.

First stop: The Tilt Hotel at Universal City for a few nights. Our usual choice, it is a convenient hotel that is central to the Park, Hollywood or Burbank. Annual passes are cheaper than 2-day tickets, so we can come and go as much as we like. We checked in and made our way to the front gates by 12 noon for an afternoon of wild rides, kitschy tram tours and corn dogs.

I was thrilled to be back here. I love the happiness that theme parks bring. There's anticipation and a kind of comical fear. Laughter wherever you turn. Most people are smiling and it's so special to see our daughters bring their partners to experience that unadulterated joy from being a kid again.
What wasn't so special, was my gorgeous straight hair getting thoroughly pummelled, courtesy of a wave of vanity-destroying cold water from Jurassic World - The Ride. I entered looking like Cameron Diaz. And I exited looking like Bette Midler in Witches.
 
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jase05

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Am following this closely as we are heading to the US for the first time in October and Disneyland is the one of the must do’s for Mrs Jase so I’m hoping to garner as much knowledge as possible from yourself and others
 

Logan^

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Can 100% relate, two years ago we did Disneyland, Vegas, London, Bristol (my home town) Paris, Venice and then back. We had 9 in our group.

Myself, Wife + our two kids
Sister in law + husband and their two kids
Mother in law.

We had one blow up, which was on the Paris underground when we were arguing about which line got us to cdg. All in all, went well.
 

Major

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We stayed at the Hilton Universal city just so we could walk over to the rides etc. It makes it so much easier.
 

clipped_wings

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Am following this closely as we are heading to the US for the first time in October and Disneyland is the one of the must do’s for Mrs Jase so I’m hoping to garner as much knowledge as possible from yourself and others

I have literally walked through the Disneyland gates in Anaheim over 70 times. Any questions, just ask :)
 

clipped_wings

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We stayed at the Hilton Universal city just so we could walk over to the rides etc. It makes it so much easier.

Yes the Hilton Universal is one of our last stops at the end of the Anaheim stay on January 31st. A strange and unexpected result - as we had already booked a Hollywood Hills home. But you'll have to wait to hear how it all unfolded......
 

jase05

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I have literally walked through the Disneyland gates in Anaheim over 70 times. Any questions, just ask :)
Is it better to stay nearby or is it fine to stay somewhere else in LA an get transport out there? We will have a hire car for trip. Being both in our 40’s and having no kids in tow, how many days should we allow to have a decent look around the place bearing in mind we probably won’t go on many rides. Any other tips or ideas on tickets etc would be amazing
 

clipped_wings

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@jase05 I suppose it depends on your prorities. If I was a couple with no kids - I would stay in the local precinct near Disneyland, rather than the horrendous I5 freeway from LA each day. The Grand Californian Hotel comes with attractive benefits, including an exclusive gate access from the Park. However it is expensive and you need to weigh up the cost against accommodation that is cheaper, but further away. Anything beyond a 20 minute walk is torture after a few days. And if driving each day - there are substantial parking costs involved.
We stay for 2 weeks, so we rent out a house across the street for AUD242 a night. It has 4 bedrooms/3 bathrooms, a pool/spa and games room. A hotel would be cost-prohibitive for 8 people so this suits our needs. We can watch the nightly fireworks from our front porch. A 3 day ParkHopper ticket (available from Flight Centre) is the minimum I would do. It provides unlimited access to both Disneyland and California Adventure. You can't go to Disneyalnd and not ride! There are so many amazing experiences that are not rollercoasters. Soarin' Around the World is an incredible hang glider experience, Guardians of the Galaxy is a freefall that will make you weightless for a couple of seconds. And Pirates of the Caribbean is a classic underground boat ride that remains a sentimental favourite of ours.

Happy to answer any other questions via message :)
 

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