THIS is what happened when time was on my side. I had close to 15 hours inside our Virgin Australia flight back to Los Angeles to reflect on our trip. This entry is all about my favorite part of blogging. It’s my takeaways. I get to jot down my thoughts, things I learned, things I want to remember from this entire trip. It’s now Saturday, three days have now passed since we arrived back in Los Angeles, and I just now got the chance to get it ready for publishing. So here goes.

Thursday, November 24, early morning in Sydney

We came back to our hotel around 10pm last night. We stopped by Coles and Woolworths, local supermarkets here in Oz. We bought a few candies and chocolates for us to bring home to our family.

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woolworths_town_hall_2011-03-30-arsydwol-061-efa-gallery1128_may14163155Here’s our Oz trip by the numbers:

  • # of vacation days = 10 (including travel days)
  • # of flights taken  = 4
  • # of miles flown = 16,000 air miles (approx)
  • # of airports visited = 3 (LAX, Sydney International, Melbourne International)
  • # of luggage before going to Oz = 2 luggage + 1 backpack
  • # of luggage after leaving Oz = 2 luggage + 1 backpack + 2 boxes (whattt???)
  • # of blog entries written = 10 (including this one + one in draft)
  • # of miles walked = 80 miles (approx)
  • # of steps taken = 180,000 steps (approx) with an average of 16,558/day
  • # of calories burned = 31,008 with an average of 3,100/daily
  • # of Facebook posts about the trip to Oz = 45
  • # of AirBNB stays = 3 nights in Melbourne, 3 nights in Sydney
  • # of hotel stays = 2 nights at the Park Hyatt Sydney
  • # of Uber rides = 10
  • # of train, tram, light rail, and bus rides = too many to keep track of

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Think outside the “box”

During our flight to Oz from LAX, we brought two carry-on luggage that we ended up checking in because of their weight. Virgin Australia allows two checked luggage per passenger at 50 lbs each luggage. We only had 1 checked luggage for me and another one for Nancy. The thought of buying candies or chocolates, along with the souvenirs that were given to us by Ria, and the souvenirs we bought ourselves, we just knew that we would be needing another luggage or bag. 

img_9858img_9860Exactly a year ago, this same dilemma happened to us. On our way back home from Prague, we had to find another luggage or bag just so we could bring home the goodies we purchased. Fortunately, there was a sturdy luggage that we found on sale for $20. 

This time around in Oz, I dreaded the idea of looking for the same type of deal, and then it occurred to me. Of all places, I thought about this while we shopped for the heavy candies and chocolates at Coles. We could get a BOX. We could fill up the box with the heavy things we’ve purchased. Oh and I wasn’t thinking of buying a box. Instead, I went to the customer service manager and asked for a box or boxes. At first, the manager was hesitant and gave me all these reasons that they don’t hold on to boxes yada-yada-yada. Then I said, “well, what about the 2 empty boxes behind you?” His eyes grew big. He was surprised that he had empty boxes behind him. He didn’t argue, instead he handed the boxes to me. 

15219512_10209985431645294_1521398988962672133_nSo there’s my new takeaway. If ever we find ourselves in a jam where we have to bring home more things from a trip, I will no longer spend time looking for a luggage. I will find boxes instead.

Pack, run, pack

Once we got back home from the store, we decided to just go to bed and wake up early. Our goal was to leave the hotel by 8am. Our flight was scheduled to leave 11:50am.

img_9852I set the alarm to wake me up at 5am. I wanted to run in the morning, a quick run. After all, how many times will I get to say that I ran and got distracted with viewing the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge? So I ran. I knew I’d get distracted….but I ran anyway. It was  a brisk early morning, probably in the low 50’s. I was able to witness the sun rise right behind the opera house. It was a beauty to watch the sun try to peek through the house. Here’s a quick video of what I saw.

15138548_10209989432105303_8873408334145063387_oThere were a few people taking pictures with the use of a tripod. There were also a few of us who were running, and stopped to admire the view. I’m glad I got to watch this morning’s sunrise.img_9845

 


After my short run, I ran back to the hotel. Nancy was already showered and got started with packing our boxes. We ended up using both boxes. The front desk also gave us a packing tape so we were set. The morning went by quickly and it was time to go.

The Uber Takeaway

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I’ve been a fan of Uber for as long as I can remember. It is especially a great deal when there is more than one in your party. Although there is a train that takes you directly to the airport, the fare per person = $19. So for both of us $38. But it also means that we will need to walk to the Circular Quay Stations (about a 10 minute walk…which is not bad). However, we had to factor in that we had two luggage and two boxes. So walking, while doable, would be a bit difficult.

Uber quoted me between $32-$42. We took that option instead. There was no walk to the station, Instead, Uber picked us up right in front our hotel. It was a bit traffic getting out of the city, but we made it in good time at Sydney International Airport.

Airport Timing Takeaway

We allowed ourselves three hours before our flight to get us through the airport circus. Upon arriving at SYD, we snaked through a Disneyland-style line for about an hour. There were a lot of travelers who flew Virgin Australia. Once we handed our boxes and luggage with the agent, we had to fill out immigration forms which took another few minutes. Then we had to surrender those forms with the Australian Border Force, pictures were taken, and we were taken to another line for a careful scrutiny of our documents, and thankfully, no other questions asked.

img_9853Done, right? Nope. We then went through security, another half hour or so was spent. I thought my family was known for bring way too much on board. There were these travelers in front of us who had 4-5 hand carry items (2 purses, a backpack, a travel bag, a shopping bag). I didn’t know what to say. I’m just glad it wasn’t us.

After going through security, we were finally free. It was around 10:10am by then. 

One last pampering at the American Express Lounge

Screen Shot 2016-11-26 at 11.28.56 AM.pngWe looked for the American Express Airport Lounge. Access is only available to select American

Express cards. I knew I carried one of the approved cards, my American Express Platinum Card.

This card also allowed me to bring in up to 2 guests with no extra charge. The lounge was located close to Gate 24, while our Virgin America flight was leaving out of Gate 53. So we had to make a quick visit.

img_9879img_9871img_9868img_9875My impression about this lounge? It was tiny, compact, unlike the Korean Air Lounge at LAX which was massive. However, American Express had their attention to details down to the T. They served a full hot breakfast with chicken sausage, pancakes, waffles, scrambled eggs, baked beans….lots of muffins and pastries, cheeses, fruits, cereals, cookies, a coffee bar…..it was all made available in this tiny little lounge. It was just right for us to have had our late breakfast. With all the packing we did this morning, we didn’t get a chance to eat breakfast at all. Thank you, American Express.

I’ll stop right here. I’ve got my Part Two already drafted and will be published soon. Thanks for following our journey.

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