Day 1 (September 8, 2012)   Flight to Los Angeles


    We have a flight to London at morning, and then it is expected to lunch in Heathrow airport, once we’re ready for our trip around the world, which starts at 16:15h with a flight to Los Angeles.

   Although the flight takes 14 hours, as we’re going to follow the sun, we will land in LAX airport at 19:45h. The plan would be as easy as going to the hotel nearby and sleep the jet lag. But if we want to go out for a while we could go to 3rd Street Promenade.

Map around LAX 

   The good is everything we need is close:

0- LAX airport
1- Travelodge Hotel at LAX
2- Dollar office
3- Highway to Santa Monica


   We indeed take a flight to London at morning which lands in Stansted airport 10 minutes before the scheduled time. We’re lucky about that, as we need all the time for the transfer to Heathrow. Check in closing time for our next flight is specified as 2 hours before departure time, that is, 14:15h.

   When we’re on the row for immigration we notice this is the slowest row due to that non-written law which is valid for supermarket rows as well. This is our situation: it’s 12:45h and it takes one hour to get Heathrow from this airport, where we must be before 14:15h. We still have some leeway.

   When we meet our driver, once taken the baggage, it’s 13h. Minivan is in the furthest point of the parking and as I can see how tight we’re I try to verify times: “It’s one hour ride to Heathrow, right?”. “If there is no traffic, yes”, he answers, “It uses to be traffic on a Saturday afternoon?”, I insist, “No. Saturday should be fine”. Ok, that’s what I wanted to know as we’re finally leaving the airport at 13:10h

Stansted to Heathrow trip   When we are in our way for a while I could check there is no traffic indeed, but I feel we’re being quite slow, so I try to accelerate the van by explaining our situation to the driver. “14:15h?... Buf… It’s so tight, the normal is taking one hour and twenty minutes from Stansted to Heathrow”. “But if you just said it was one hour”!!; I’m claiming to myself as I don’t want to bother our driver. Somehow, when we’re reaching the city traffic gets denser and we get stopped some times. I’m in pain and ask to the driver if is it normal to get stopped at this point, looking for verifying if this is counted on the given time, but he answers: “Yes, it is normal, but no way of being there at 14:15h”. And that is something all in the van understand.

   The silence is filing the whole vehicle as we’re thinking things like “That is going to be all?”, “Our big travel is going to end here?”. That’s right, the clock in the van is getting us closer to a sleeping –in-London-streets travel than a trip around the world one. When that same clock is displaying 14:15h I ask hysterical to the driver how far Heathrow is as we couldn’t see even a sign about it. He answers is going to be 20 minutes more but he tries to explain getting a bit late use not to be a problem. But I’m thinking may be 10 minutes is not a problem, but it will be a time where it is a problem, and I think we’re reaching it!

   Every minute in the clock is taking one month of life out of me. I won’t live too much as we arrive to the airport at 14:50h. More than 30 minutes late! Our plan now is I’ll run to the desk and fight for any chance of checking in while the rest take the baggage and come to the airport. We follow it, but my hopes of being able of checking the baggage almost 40 minutes late are quite low.

   When I get the desks determined to do anything to be in that plane, my desperate attitude contrasts with the calm of Air New Zealand staff: the man in the only desk tells me there is no problem, just join the row. But the row is long and it can take 20 minutes more for us so I’m thinking I’ve not been clear about the flight we want to take. So I go to a woman in the Business check in area begging for being able to fly: “Calm down. You’re already here and will be able to check in”. This answer is heart by the rest of the group but is hard to understand how easy this is after the awful time we’re coming from.

   There is no mistake, we’re in the row and I’ve already checked everybody in there is going to take the same fly to L.A. than us, so we’re already laughing about the experience and my lost months of live. Who is going to give them back to me now? We’re thinking the indication in our tickets about check in closure time 2 hours before departure must be a system to assure everybody is on time and, additionally, a pact with the devil to feed him with part of my soul today. The driver has his part here too: first telling me it’s one hour drive, as the company website says, and then being raising the needed time until the almost two hours it has finally taken. How lucky it is Saturday!

   We’re starting to believe in our travel but I won’t forget to suggest to anybody wants to do the same allowing a minimum of 5 hours.

   Anyway, we’re seated in the plane at the scheduled time watching movies on our individual screen but, when “Prometheus” is close to finish and we haven’t moved an inch I’m thinking I’ve been scammed as I’ve wasted those months of live in a very silly way. Our flight to L.A. takes off with almost two hours of delay, but is going to be 10 hours instead of 14. I think we’re still winning.

Economy seats in an Air New Zealand's plane   Comfortable seats, enough led room, a great entertainment system with a big screen and a bunch of movies, series and games and a surprising catering for dinner and lunch… with real cutlery! I’ve never seen that in any plane before They also have an interesting system of free drinks and snacks which you can always be served by going for it to the tail of the plane. Every chair has a universal power plug, USB and iPod connectors. As we’re going to spend a lot of time flying, it should be good

   As weird things use to happen to me, I must say my entertainment system hung in a way never seen before by the staff of the plane as it haven’t could be even restarted. Don’t use the golf game!

   And we finally arrive to Los Angeles with a little bit of delay: 20:15h. Immigration rows are fast and after taking our baggage we still have another passport control. I’ve got the feeling of being 30 hours doing nothing but showing my passport.

   A very nice woman in the Information desk, just in front of the exit door, allows me to use her phone to call Travelodge for being picked up. When the funny driver arrives he makes us stop thinking in our tiredness and waking up: We really are in L.A!. We keep kidding with him while being taken to the hotel and he offers himself for taking us to the Dollar office to picking the cars up. It’s clear we’re not going to use the cars tonight but, as the whole group can’t wait to see things of this city, we all go to Dollar office.

   I must say here that, as can be seen in the map at the beginning of the page, Travelodge is two blocks from LAX airport and on block from Dollar office, the “block” size is not the one we use to know and we can check in our way, that single “block” could be easily 15 minutes walking along a completely dark and lonely street.Car rented in Dollar at LAX

   Once in Dollar, they want clearly our money – as the name can suggest – and that was different than our experience in 2008 with them (same state, different city, as we picked up the car in San Francisco airport). On despite of having all the insurances, we must allow a credit card for ho0lding a deposit of 400$ per car! Also, they take the money corresponding to a whole tank of fuel per car, which costs more than the rent itself and we know we’re not going to spend it in a single day. We agree on paying the tank by cash on delivery tomorrow. At least, the cars are big and nice: one red and one black. We still meet one more problem for taking them off from there as the man at desk had two cars and two drivers but, instead of the logical relationship one drive per car, he has set two drivers in one car and will see for the other car. Clever.

   We finally drive to our hotel. We sit around in the garden and talk about all the excitement of this first day of travel – a lot for a trip that has not practically started – and we go to bed after midnight. We agree on meeting for breakfast at 8 AM. Rooms are spacy and have two Queen Size beds each of them. We’ve paid 99$ for each room.

Swimming pool area in Travelodge at LAXRooms area in Travelodge at LAX