Less than a month to go

Been a while since that last update.  I’ll get on it.

Typing has been problematic.  I’ve got a nerve issue with my right arm, with pain and numbness shooting the length of my arm into the shoulder.  Makes for miserable sleeping and waking. Starting to get a handle on it, and there’s a bit to write about since the last update.

Nothing really interesting until we leave.   However, scattered throughout my blogs are travel tips from a former professional.  Airline employee and travel agent.  May be boring, but if I can save someone somewhere some money, it’s worth it to me.

Working the way geographically…

I was checking google flights on Halloween to see if there was a better routing for the return flight.  When I originally booked, the return was Melbourne, Los Angeles, San Francsico, Pasco (WA).  This was a nice routing as we would arrive in Pasco at around 2:30pm.  It’s still a 3 hour drive home, but at least we would get in at a civil hour of the day.

August comes and…Ulp, airline schedule change.  The early afternoon flight from San Fransisco to Pasco was moved earlier, making us miss that flight.  So,  United conveniently booked us via Denver, arriving in Pasco at about 10pm!  That sucks.  We would have had to get a motel room, as I didn’t feel comfortable driving that late at night after 30 hours of plane/terminal time.  Plus, Denver can be a real turd weather wise in the winter.

Halloween night.  Time to start tying up loose ends as it’s a month to go and…United had reinstated that afternoon flight to Pasco!  Ah HAH!  I called their reservations immediately to whine about my lot in life.  Lucky for me, a very sympathetic reservations agent named Mary took my call.  After an explanation, she looked at my reservations and indeed confirmed I’d gotten a raw deal.

We exchanged friendly banter back and forth.  I do this on purpose.  One, it breaks that agents monotony in the reservation office.  Two, I become a person rather that a client.  Three, being nice opens doors.  Nothing puts off an airline employee quicker than an “irate”.

She went off the line twice (to talk to the supervisor) and came back on the last time with good news.  Flights back to the original plan at no charge. (This is a standard procedure, but you HAVE to ask for it.  The airline is not obligated or legally responsible to contact you in this situation.)

I casually mentioned I might be interested in upgrading to premium economy seating.  Premium economy has more leg room and better seats with more recline.  As Praxy and I are short, I wasn’t too worried about the upgrade.  But hey, why not ask?  I cautiously inquired about pricing.

Mary quickly overrode me, telling me that the upgrade would be free. ” Ok”, I asked.  “What (flight) segments?”  “Oh, Melbourne to Los Angeles”, she airily replied.  Fine with me!  Then continuing on?  Yep.  Los Angeles to San Francisco, then San Francisco to Pasco.  “Er…how about from Los Angeles TO Melbourne?” I asked VERY cautiously, holding my breath.  “I’ll do that right away for you!”

SWEET!!  $1,000 worth of upgrades, no charge.  This was easy to accomplish and justify.  I was one of the first people to book and pay for those flights, and upgrades can be based on purchase date.  We’d been negatively displaced by a schedule change through no fault of our own.   Also, they can sell our old seats at a higher rate.  The new passengers think they are getting a “deal” as the LAX-MEL flight was truly sold out in regular economy.  (I already knew that before the call, you can check online if you have a reservation on that particular flight.  I was going to use that tidbit as a bargaining chip.)  I didn’t push my luck from Pasco to Los Angeles on the outbound.  At this point, I don’t care.

So, that covers to Melbourne.  Two nights in Melbourne needed to be booked.  No way we wanted to go on the Adelaide after 22 hours in terminals and tubes.  The Southern Cross motel in downtown Melbourne fit the bill.  Two nights, near the river, near the zoo, near Southern Cross station.  Expensive, but a comfortable motel.  We’ll need it.

While in Melbourne, we’ll get a phone simm.  I purchased a cheap, unlocked, smart-phone for international travel last week.  This phone will work in both Australia and the Philippines.  A smart-phone seemed wise as you can get a GPS app.  A month of service with 2 gigs of data runs around $60 or so.  No problem.  Worth it.

Southern Cross Station is a 5 minute walk.  We have two train tickets to Adelaide for Saturday morning December 3.  Advice on Trip Advisor said to fly, but both of us wanted to take the train.  Praxy, because she has never rode a train.  Both of us, because we want to see the countryside.  This will be a rather boring 11 hour trip across miles and miles of farmland.  No problem, again.  Praxy part owns a farm and we want to see Australian cropland and farming practices.  Neither of us will be in a hurry, and when you fly you miss the land underneath.

Once we arrive in Adelaide, the future turns into black box.  Our train passes right through our final destination, Mount Barker, but there is no scheduled stop.  It should work out that our friends can pick us up after they get off work.   If not, we’ll figure out something.

The first few days in Adelaide will be for us to get our bearings.  We are still considering renting a car or camper van.  Also have to figure out the upcoming trip to Kangaroo Island.

Back at home, I lined out our Australia visas.  Good for a year, we are allowed a three month stay with multiple entries.  A very generous visa for the price, around $15.00 USD.  I also messed up and got my birthday wrong on my first visa request.  After guessing a bit,  I found my incorrect birthdate.  Nothing to do about that but resubmit and pay the fee again.  At least they accepted the corrected visa with no questions.

This is an important note to readers.  BE SURE TO FOLLOW THROUGH ON EVERY THING YOU PURCHASE OR RESERVE WHILE TRAVELING.  This would not have turned out well at LAX.  Checking in with an invalid visa.  Very best I could hope for was a delay.  I easily could have been denied boarding and lost my trip to Australia.  No excuses work in these situations.  Customs and Immigration can get snotty about errors, even innocent ones.

Also have to get our credit cards ready.   Warning–Call each and every card company that you plan to use and get that card authorized for the country you are visiting!– I found out after a purchase that the Costco Citibank card has a foreign exchange fee and it’s a hefty fee.  Won’t be using that one as Capital One still does not charge for that.  Capital One DOES have an outrageous cash advance fee, so we’ll be using a debit card for cash.  I’m planning to charge most items and deal with paying when I get home.

Still have to search through my stuff and find the Aus-USA electrical adapter.  The only things we’re taking that need electrical power are cameras and computers.  All of those (thankfully) have 100-240 volt transformers.  Gotta get on this.  Might have to get one on line.  I’m sure it could be purchased at the LAX airport terminal at twice the price.  Yep, bought two on line.  Should receive them on 11/7.  

Australia’s electrical grid is 240 volts, 50 cycles vs. our 120 volts 60 cycles.   Check your electrical stuff before leaving the US.  Otherwise, you might turn something into a crispy critter.  Most newer electronics, computers, cell phones, tablets, etc. are fine.

Uh oh.  Gotta find my travel pillow too.

This morning, 11/4, I’ve exchanged emails with a possibly new friend in Melbourne.  He is a “travel expert” from the Tripadvisor forums and enjoys touring Eastern Samar and other far flung destinations in the Philippines.  Of all the people on that forum, he’s the only one that seems to be interested enough to request information from Guiuan and the surrounding area.

We had been exchanging TA messages and moved to emails as that is more convenient.  We will all be in Melbourne about the same time so Praxy and I are hoping to meet up with him.  I noticed he was in the USA this past summer, so he gets around.

That’s all I can think of for now.  Unless something comes up, next post will probably be from Los Angeles.


About Ken

I am a federal employee that loves to travel. I don't get any time off during the busy salmon tagging season, March through November. So, I save my leave and explore the warmer parts of the world during the winter.
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