Have got to an internet cafe and have the chance of reporting in without having to share with the kids!
We left the UK on 25th June. Those last fews days were really hectic. The packers were whizzing around the house packing everything they came into contact with. I would really recommend putting stuff not to go into one room or sticking post-its on them. Several things got packed that should not be packed ... I just hope NZ MAF does not find them! In addition to the packing we had lots of financial papers to sort out and potential purchasers looking at the house. It really was hectic.
On the day we left, I ran around like a madwoman. A minibus taxi was supposed to pick us up at 10.45am but it did not turn up. Fifteen minutes it did and he had to rush to get us to the airport for our connecting coach and missed it by two minutes. Luckily for us we had the last remaining seats in the next bus some 40 mins later.
Check in at Heathrow was hectic with four kids and 11 suitcases - there really is not provision for that! We are going to NZ without PR being settled, so we are basically just visitors and need return or forwarding tickets. The lady at the check in did not hesitate in asking for them. I showed her hubby’s return (as he is coming back late July) and our forwarding ones to Australia (which I hope to cancel as soon as PR comes through). She very nearly did not let us through ... why? ... we did not have Australian visas. I had to promise to apply for them when we are in NZ.
The plane journey was not too bad, considering. As expected on a NZ airline there were no personal tv screens. I had bought the kids a portable dvd to watch in flight, but in the confusion forgot to charge the battery. So they scribbled and read books ... and survived. There was definitely more leg room on the planes. Ten and a half hours flight to LA.
LA airport was not too bad for us as we had kids. We queued up with everyone else and a chap indicated for us to go onto another aisle. They take fingerprints from adults and kids over 14. Within an hour of arriving at LA we were outside the airport looking for the Supershuttle bus rep who arranged our minibus to cater for us and 11 suitcases and we arrived at Anaheim 45 mins later. This cost us $92 ... we thought a $100 would do for the fee and tip but have since learnt that the tip should be about 10-15% plus $1 per suitcase. Also, the bellman (porter) at the hotel expects to be tipped at least $1 per suitcase - even if he is just putting it into storage, as he did most of ours.
The hotel was fine and comfortable. The staff largely hispanic which makes being understood sometimes difficult. A shuttle bus left the hotel to go to Disneyland every half an hour and cost us $3 each per day (unlimited trips) - tickets bought from a machine outside the hotel. Disneyland was as expected but very busy. Soon there were long queues for rides and I had to separate from the rest of the family to cater for my 5yo who really did not want to wait 30-45 mins in a queue. However, some of the queues in the little kids’ sections were just as long. There is another theme park at Disneyland - Adventureland and this was less busy and a lot more fun in some respects ... there is a great Bugs Life area for kiddies and it felt a lot better being away from the queues ... however, later on it did get busy. Don’t think there will be less crowds in the evening ... we found that was not the case. The weather for the day started out cool but soon got rather hot ... so anyone coming here at this time of year remember the sunscreen lotion. In fact, I would suggest getting a fastpass ... more expensive but worth it.
Apart from Disneyland, we went to Universal Studios - arranged at the conceirge (sp?) desk at the hotel. A bus took us to a coach terminal and from there we were coached to Universal Studios. We were a tad little fed up with the queuing in Disneyland and did not want it to ruin what should be a big treat for the kids, so we bought a VIP ticket. Now, this IS expensive ... around six hundred pounds, but it really was worth it and we had a really good time going around the studio lots and getting to the front of all the queues. I personally feel Universal is far superior to Disney and the kids think so too.
There are different check in centres for different airlines at LAX and the taxi driver could just drop us off outside the NZ centre where we only had to walk a few yards to the check in counter. Here, again, the check-in lady looked at our tickets and asked if we had PR in NZ. Again, we showed our return and forwarding tickets. Here, hubby decided to be truthful and said we were hoping to emigrate there; the check-in lady said in a rather firm voice to JUST show the return/forwarding tickets. I must say that this subject was getting me rather stressed and worried ... I was imagining us being refused entry into NZ. There is not much in the departure lounge at LAX but fastfood snacks and a couple of shops. All in all, we were glad to be on our way out of the US. It was a night flight and within minutes of taking off we were all asleep and slept almost through to breakfast.
At Auckland we queued at the dreaded immigration desk ... would they pick us up on our ’not so honest’ future travel arrangements. Did they heck ... they just looked at the passports and waived us through - no questions, no accusating looks. Couldn’t believe it. I could have kissed the ground! (Now, a warning - this is just our experience and it may not happen that way for you). We collected our luggage which was looked at closely by customs. A sniffer dog picked up the kids’ sweets which I had declared, and the x-rays picked up a jar of Marmite (which I had also declared), the kids wellies and my eldest son’s coin collection. They checked the wellies were clean and then we were through. I phoned up for our rental minibus and we went on our way up north.
(Big tip here - if you have a lot of suitcases put stickers on them. We stuck several shiny stars on each side of each suitcase so that they were immediately recognisable.)
It was sooooooooooo nice to be back in NZ. The weather was sunshine and showers and a little cooler than we were used to but we were soon through the traffic and over the bridge. On the North Shore we went to a couple of car dealers - Chrysler and Toyota. We were intending to buy a used car on the forecourt or a new one. We discounted Chrysler as I would have to take the car back to Auckland to service, and got a good deal on a Toyota Previa. A couple of hundred kms later, we arrived at the Whangarei Toyota dealer and got an even better one by playing the two and ordered our new car. By the time we got to Kerikeri we were too exhausted to think much about our new town or country and we all hit the sack pretty soon after.
Continue to Part 2