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ColB
12-27-2009, 03:07 AM
Instead of a trip report, I'll do a 'things to remember' report, as it will benefit some people here more than just hearing about my trip.

First of all we flew V Australia from MEL to LAX. All went well and we arrived on time in LAX.

We went straight to the Purple Rental Shuttle Sign at LAX and took the National Car Rental bus to their dispatch centre.

Fuss free, just needed an Australian Drivers Licence (not International) and a credit card.

Just watch out for them trying to give you a vehicle class lower than what you paid for. I booked a Chevy Tahoe and they tried to give me a Standard SUV. I questioned them on it and it was an 'honest mistake'.

As I was renting a car on three different occasions throughout the trip, I bought my own GPS with a US map. I highly recommend doing this as I was familiar with it and had pre-programmed in all our locations before I left Australia. All I had to do was switch it on and point it to my first pre-programmed destination (Santa Monica / Malibu).

I went straight to the West Hills Walmart (already in the GPS) and purchased two prepaid mobile phones with 300 minutes credit for $40 each.

I also used the ANZ USD Travel Card EVERYWHERE! It was great.

We stayed at the Renaissance on Hollywood and Highland. It was a great hotel and we had a good view of the Hollywood Sign. The only downside was parking, which was $10 a day or more if you went in and out all the time.

24 hours before leaving for Orlando, I checked in online with Delta and prepaid my checked luggage. The Renaissance has a computer downstairs so you can check-in and print out your boarding passes for free!

At LAX, all we had to do was go straight to the bag drop and show our passports and boarding passes, nice and easy.

When it was time to leave LA, I dropped the family off at the airport with the suitcases and drove the car to National, catching the bus back to LAX. A far easier option than lugging the suitcases on and off the National bus. I should have done that when I arrived.

Flight to Orlando was good, bring your own headphones because they charge you $2 for theirs! They also have inflight Wi-Fi, so you can surf the net to pass the time.

We didn’t get our WDW Travel tags in time so we had to take our luggage on the Disney Magical Express with us. It wasn’t a hassle at all and I tipped the driver $10 for handling 5 suitcases. 45 minutes later we were in the Wilderness Lodge and checked in.

We spent 7 days at WDW and if I did it again, I’d stay 10 – 14 days. We were rushed to see everything and would have liked to relax a little more. We were also on the Dining Plan which was an excellent service. We had left over QS’s at the end as there was plenty to eat at the Character Buffet’s.

I’d definitely recommend staying at the Wilderness Lodge, even the cold early morning boat rides were fun! DTD is about a 22 minute bus ride, but again, I was on holiday, so it didn’t really bother me.

We rented anther car at National, this time driving to Islands of Adventure and Kennedy Space Center, both pre-programmed into our GPS.

We had a 7 am flight out of Orlando to LAX and was picked up by DME at 4am. FUN!

On arrival at LAX we took the Disneyland Resort Express to the DLH and checked in. We were lucky enough to get a newly renovated room in the Dreams Tower. Very Nice.

I noticed that DLR visitors don’t use the fastpass system nearly as much as the visitors to WDW, so we took the advantage and I ended up with fastpasses bursting out of my pockets. LOL.

The DLR castle is SO much smaller than WDW, I dare to say it was disappointing (it wasn’t really, just a shock at the difference). WDW is a resort machine, where DLR is just an awesome theme park. I can’t say one is better than the other, just that you have to do both, as they give different experiences. I went to the Magic Kingdom on Tuesday and DL on Wednesday, so I could definitely appreciate the difference.

We then took the Disneyland Resort Express back to LAX and hired another National Rental Car, driving to Las Vegas. Vegas was what I expected, but not being a gambler, it was more for the novelty value. We stayed at the Venetian. If I went again, I’d stay at the Bellagio.

We did a day drive to the Grand Canyon South Rim, taking Route 66 and stopping at Hoover Dam. It was snowing up at the Canyon which made the experience even more memorable. It was a long day of driving, 6 hours there and 5 back, but worth it.

I’ve missed a ton, but you get the general idea, I’m sure if your trip is planned with some of these things, you’ll ask a question to jog my memory.

Good luck with all your upcoming trips!

I’m planning the next one, 2011 here we come……

mikipe2
12-27-2009, 07:09 AM
Nice, thanks for all the tips and info. I'm sure you had an awesome time :thumbsup2

darren123
12-27-2009, 02:12 PM
Can not agree more about having your own GPS, I have heard a few stories about hiring a GPS with the car only to find it does not work, sure they will refund your money or give you another but that is no use to you being stuck in the middle of nowhere, no knowing where to go it is less trouble to buy the USA maps for your own GPS and add in the places you want to go.

Toy Story
12-28-2009, 12:53 AM
Thanks for the trip tips.

We are booked in to POR from April 19-26, I am glad I added a few extra days if you think 10-14 would have been better. This is our first trip to the US.

We will be flying into Orlando on the 15th (still trying to work out accommodation for the 15th-19th), on one of these days we plan on driving out to Kennedy Space Station, so I would appreciate your advice on driving out there - how long it takes etc. Would you advise we hire a car for the 4 days we have prior to checking into WDW to use for getting around Orlando?

ColB
12-28-2009, 01:48 AM
Depending on your budget, I would spend the extra days at WDW and hire a car from there for convenience, to save you lugging and packing suitcases after only four days.

You can hire a car from Alamo/National at the WDW Car Car Center, where you can get the free Alamo shuttle pick you up from your WDW Resort.

Again, bring your own GPS with destinations pre-programmed in.

I would definately hire a car for the four days to drive around, we went to supermarket, Islands of Adventure, Shopping Outlet Stores and NASA.

NASA takes about an hour and a half to drive doing the speed limit. ;), it's a very easy drive along a couple of highways and VERY easy to find. The second big shuttle parked out the front......the first is the Astronaut's hall of fame.:lmao:

Toy Story
12-28-2009, 05:02 AM
Thanks for the driving tips.

Our plan is to stay off site and do some non-Disney type things, including Outlet shopping. We will have been in NY for 10 days so thought it would be a good break in between.

awesomebrownfamily
12-28-2009, 05:03 PM
Were looking at going straight to the shops when we arrive too (to get a GPS & phones) at the Westfield in Culver City, as it looks like its actually on the way (more or less) from LAX to our Hotel in Santa Monica and they have a best buy and a Target.

Out of curiosity, why did you go all the way to West Hills to get your phones? Was there something in particular about that shop or location?

ColB
12-28-2009, 07:20 PM
I'm embarrased to say, but my wife wanted to go to the Kardashians' shop 'DASH' in Calabasas.....;)


We also went to Six Flags Magic Mountain if anyone is thinking of going there.

Oz-kateer
12-29-2009, 02:42 AM
Sorry to get pedantic but why did you have to pay for your checked baggage on Delta?

I thought when you fly V Australia you get 2 bags internationally and then Delta, being the partner airline, honoured the 2 bags thing on your domestic legs as long as it was all part of the same round trip itinerary.

I know when we flew Delta all the way from Sydney to Orlando in October 2009 (even on broken journeys/stoppovers) we never paid for our checked baggage.

The next trip we are taking in Sept 2010 is via the V Australia/Delta thing and they said I didn't have to pay for checked baggage on the LAX -MCO flights, even though we were stopping at LAX in both directions, if it was all part of the same itinerary/ticket - I don't want the 5 of us to get to the airport and find we have to pay for 5 extra bags!!!

ColB
12-29-2009, 03:54 AM
I booked the LAX - MCO leg well before V Australia and Delta were partners. Unfortunately they were seperate bookings.

lovintheland
12-29-2009, 04:20 AM
Hey ColB, the Dash store was on our (my) list of things to do on our last trip but we didn't get there. Did your wife like it? did she buy anything? see any of the girls? I don't imagine they work too often or hard. lol!

ColB
12-29-2009, 04:40 AM
She liked it for the novelty value (ie, from the show). None of the girls were there, but my wife said she recognised some of the staff from the show!!!! LOL.

She did't buy anything as we had just stepped off the plane and I think for once in her life she wasn't in a shopping mood......I need to get her to fly more often.:lmao:

ColB
12-29-2009, 04:54 AM
Other things that I took with me that I considered invaluable;

Asus Eee 901 netbook for;

Compact Size (7" Screen)
Preloaded with movies for long drives (4 hours to Vegas, 6 to Grand Canyon) for a bored 6 year old.
Internet Connection - To check emails, flight information / check in, maps, anything and everything.

WD 160Gb portable Hardrive for storing Photos and Video in case the Video Camera SD card fills up.

Bluetooth Headphones (so I don't have to listen to the movies as described above :) )

Power Inverter to charge devices while in the car and keep the laptop powered on long drives.

Sanyo Xacti HD2000 Camera, full HD Video and 8 MP Camera in one. All recorded to 32Gb SD Card. Very Compact, cheap and easy to operate.

Tom Tom XL GPS with USA Map pre-programmed with all our destinations, restaurants, car depots and hotels before departing Australia

darren123
12-30-2009, 03:04 AM
Tom Tom XL that is what I have had no problem with it
ColB how did you enjoy Magic Mountain
Did you ride X2 and Tatsu insane rollercoasters makes the rides at the Gold Coast all seem kiddies rides

ColB
12-30-2009, 03:21 AM
Yes, rode them all, only Goliath was down for the day :mad:

Had a ball, although my spectator family were slightly bored watching me spin upside down all day. :lmao: and waving like an idiot.

ehsmum
01-02-2010, 07:14 AM
Sounds like a great trip! Can you give us more of an idea of what you did in Orlando? We are there for approx 11 days - 8 days at WDW, 2 days Universal and 1 day Kennedy Space Centre. We are staying at The Dolphin Resort for 8 nights from 30 June to 8 July, then was planning to move to a Universal Hotel for the other 2 - 3 nights. Do you think we should hire a car and stay at the Dolphin the whole time?

ColB
01-02-2010, 10:36 PM
We were there 9 days, 2 days coming and going (Arrived 6pm and Departed 7am), 5 at WDW, 1 at Islands of Adventure and 1 at Kennedy Space Centre. We also did three at DLR, hence only 5 at WDW, but I plan to do 10 there next time as we were definitely rushed.

I would stay at the one hotel the entire time and hire a car. IMO the time it takes to pack and move is wasted time for the same experience, a hotel is a hotel.

There is plenty more we could have done, but there just wasn't the time. The longer the better in Orlando. Two weeks for us next time.

aussietravellers
01-03-2010, 02:09 AM
ColB, can I ask about the weights of your luggage when flying on Delta.

We are flying over and back on Qantas, I am about to book our MCO to LAX flights and the Delta flight from Orlando to LAX is the best time and is direct. But their luggage allowance is 23kgs per checked bag (you can have two and have to pay). We will be travelling the rest of the way on 32kg limit, so it will be hard to check decrease the weight of our bags on just that one flight.

Did they weigh your checked suitcases and were they over 23kgs? If so did they just ignore that.

I have only flown AA on that leg before, connecting with the Qantas flight home so they have never questioned the luggage weights, they honored the 32kg limit. We will be checking our bags with Delta right through to Australia (I hope, I hope Delta can through check baggage with Qantas) so I am just trying to research the luggage weight thing before booking, otherwise we will have to book the AA flights (that leave much earlier and connect through Dallas).

Thanks

ColB
01-03-2010, 03:23 AM
I'm afraid I can't help much with that one, all our bags were 20 - 23 kgs.

They did weigh them, but obviously we were not asked anything.

You probably already know that it's $15 for the first bag and $40 for two.

I would try to bluff them and tell them that you are on an international stopover, where the 2 bags are free, but the 23kg limit may still be enforced, which is the case if you book V Australia from MEL to MCO, who use Delta on the LAX - MCO leg.

Oz-kateer
01-03-2010, 04:24 AM
I second the notion of staying at one hotel and renting a car. Moving from hotel to hotel is a pain and a waste of time and money.

We're also staying 2 weeks later in the year as the 10 day trip we did last October just wasn't quite long enough.

aussietravellers
01-03-2010, 04:30 AM
Thanks for that. I have just looked on Delta's site and there is a $90 per bag fee for bags over 23kgs. As we are checking in with Delta and going to get our bags tagged through back to Aust I hope they give the 32kgs allowed to international travellers. If not we will just have to pay the extra for excess baggage. The Delta flight is direct and late afternoon and the AA direct flight is early afternoon giving a 7.5hr layover at LAX, so I think we will book the Delta flight, risk the excess baggage, hopefully they will let it slide, then we will only have a 3hr layover in LAX.

We already have our tickets from Aust to NY, NY to MCO then LAX to Aust, there was a special so we grabbed those. Just need the MCO to LAX ticket. We are flying Qantas as that was the deal and we had a voucher for Qantas after minor problem with a plane, we were compensated with a voucher or change travel at check in (ah who is going to leave the airport at checkin for an international flight :rotfl:) so we wanted to use our voucher. We flew back from LAX on the 23rd with V Aust and LOVED it, but had already got our tickets for our next trip with Qantas. Shame because we would have flown with V again.

Oz-kateer
01-03-2010, 07:47 AM
We would give V Aust/Delta a go this time but decided against it as we have to fly from SYD to MCO without a break at LAX (just a touchdown, do the immigration thing and then back on the plane).

V Aust/Delta leaves SYD late in the day and gets you into MCO very early in the morning.

Prefer the Delta schedule of leaving SYD in the morning and arriving at MCO in the evening.

After flying for 24 hours with 3 kids I'd rather arrive in the evening, get them to the hotel, fed and into bed and start the next day fresh than have to try and figure out what to do with them arriving in Orlando exhausted and it only being breakfast time.

If V Aust start flying out of SYD in the mornings can someone give me a shout???