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USA Travel thread #32

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#1 Chelli

Posted 16 January 2013 - 09:24 PM

This topic is popular!

New thread time. Last thread is here


#2 Mellie Kate

Posted 16 January 2013 - 09:30 PM

GOLD yay

#3 Fairey

Posted 16 January 2013 - 09:31 PM

Silver cool.gif

#4 mum234

Posted 16 January 2013 - 09:32 PM

Thanks for the help with answers to my questions original.gif I've been able to find a few nice hotels so far.

A couple of other things now you guys have mentioned shopping. Anyone had issues with paying taxes and declaring items when coming back into the country. I know that clothes  are easy to bring in, but 35 pairs of shoes?!

Last time we went, the dollar was about 69c. I still have my Calvin Klein jeans that I bought over there. I haven't worn them for a long time though, lol.

My youngest says that she will be spending all of her money on La La Loopsy dolls! My son wants to buy electronics. My other daughter will be the clothes shopper.

Oh that was my other question. Has anyone spent Christmas Day OS with just your immediate family? What did you do? Anything special?

#5 Mellie Kate

Posted 16 January 2013 - 09:53 PM

i know this is an odd question, but just wondering what size(as in cm please) is your biggest suitcases?

as im going on what the airline website says which is • not exceed 62 inches (157 cm) when you total length + width + height, but this doesnt seem very big compared to some of the suitcases that i have seen people with.

and my case is 158cm do you think that will matter?

Im looking for recommendations for airport transfers for New York and Honolulu please

#6 blackcat20

Posted 16 January 2013 - 10:00 PM

QUOTE (Mellie Kate @ 16/01/2013, 10:53 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
i know this is an odd question, but just wondering what size(as in cm please) is your biggest suitcases?

as im going on what the airline website says which is • not exceed 62 inches (157 cm) when you total length + width + height, but this doesnt seem very big compared to some of the suitcases that i have seen people with.

and my case is 158cm do you think that will matter?

Im looking for recommendations for airport transfers for New York and Honolulu please

I've never seen a suitcase measured, 1cm won't matter.

#7 ~Kee~In~Hawaii~

Posted 16 January 2013 - 10:12 PM

Another new thread already ....

I missed joining in the discussion about the shopping and the NYC hop on-hop off busses in the last thread so I'll add a few things quickly now.

I second everything already said about the amazing shopping. Each year in Hawaii I go crazy shopping up a storm and then last year when I got to the mainland, it was even more amazing. It's not just the prices, it's that here in Australia you might be looking for an item in particular - say a suitcase for a trip. You might have a choice here of 3 different stores and each store stocks the same 3 suitcases. In the USA, you could go to 7 different stores and each store has 10 different suitcases. In supermarkets, there are whole isles of one product! I went into Wal-Mart for a hair colour while in Hawaii last trip and rather than the choice of Garnier, Nice'n'Easy or Loreal in Coles, I had about 15 different brands to choose from, and more shade choices that I've ever had before. Some came with bonus hair treatments, or colour protective conditioners. Some came with bonus hair brushes and some came as a complete kit with hair cap, professional re-usable gloves, application brushes and mixing bowls. It really was a huge level of variety for each product, the likes of which we don't have here. I was in awe, and in heaven! As also mentioned, plus sizes are so readily available and in styles not reminiscent of your grandmother. It's ok to be plus size and fashionable in America.

DH and I pack light to head over there each year and buy up big for current and future seasons. I purchase the standard 20 or so kilos of luggage allowance for the trip over and pre-book 40kgs at least for the trip back. Jetstar charge you something like $70 for having the extra pre-paid when you book online or $100 per kilo at the airport if you go over. It's far better to pre-purchase when you book your flights.

Last trip we took a large 4-wheeled spinner bag each with a medium spinner bag inside it. We packed our clothes in the medium bag inside the large one so we still only had to wrangle one bag each for the trip over and the first few legs. By half-way through the trip we had done enough shopping that we had to take the medium bags out and fill the large ones too so on our flights between New York and Vegas and then Vegas and Hawaii we paid for 2 suitcases to be checked in each. It was handy having the spinner bags because they roll very easily and we just placed them back to back so the handles touched and were able to roll 2 suitcases in one hand each. We also took cabin sized spinner bags as carry on but these because insanely annoying. Once we had 2 suitcases being pushed along in one hand, and then the carry on spinner bag in the other hand, we didn't have hands free and I was also wrestling with my handbag/camera bag and DH had the laptop in his carry on and had to stop and unpack it each time we went through security - which by the end of the trip was 12 times. We knew after only one leg of the trip that the best way to take carry on was in a backpack so you can wear it and have your hands free. It also makes it easier to get the bags down during your flight to get things out if your carry on bags are not hard case spinner bags.

Next trip in September, I have bought a firm-sided duffel bag. It's not hard but it's not all soft and squishy either. I put pics on my blog a while ago when I bought it after the last trip. I liked it because it's deep and I plan to buy my whole make-up kit and camera lenses that need to be in boxes so normal suitcases just won't be deep enough for those boxes to be packed into. I found a couple of durable soft duffel bags at the airport last week that I am going back to purchase this week. They are completely folded down into a small pouch and we'll take them over with us packed into our other bag and then fill them with all the clothes we'll buy over there and they will then be our second bag on the way back. In some instances it might be annoying to some that they won't have wheels but we found that at all the airports we could easily get a trolley and push our bags so having the roller bags was a little useless really. We didn't get trolleys because we didn't need them but they were easily accessible if we had needed them so I don't get the point of spinner bags anymore. There really isn't a point where we had far to go with our suitcases. We got out of taxis at the front door of airports and hotels and only had a few steps to walk in before checking in our suitcases. When we got off flights, it was a few steps from baggage claim to the front door and into a waiting taxi. I had been all hyped up about the spinner bags when I bought them before the holiday and a little over it when we were finished. Plus they were trashed by baggage handlers so I felt like I didn't even get my money's worth from them. The wheels were ripped off because they stick out and they were battered and dented by the time we got home. They've all gone in the bin since then.

Long story short, we're taking one duffel bag each with a collapsible duffel bag inside for the return home, a backpack each as carry on and I'll have a handbag.

Ok, the hop-in, hop-off busses in NYC. I found that they were totally worth it for our trip. We bought them with New York City Passes so we had admission to 50+ attractions. It was $300 for 2 adults total. We had 3 full days to do everything we wanted and the busses were awesome for getting around NYC both uptown and downtown. On our first day we took the downtown loop and got off at the 9/11 Memorial. We did the memorial, walked down to Battery Park and got the Staten Island Ferry over to watch a baseball game there. We came back to Manhattan and walked up Broadway via the Stock Exchange to the entry to the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked over the bridge and back and arrived to find a bus waiting right at the end of the bridge so we jumped on and continued on the loop. We went through China Town and Little Italy and we got off for about an hour at each stop for some food and a little look around. Then we jumped back on the bus and headed up towards Times Square. We went to Top of the Rock (the bus pass thingy gets you express entry) and then we went to the Empire State Building. The last leg of the bus we got off at the street our hotel was on and went into Madame Tussaud's.

On the second day we did the uptown loop and got off the bus at St John the Divine's catherdral, then took the bus to Harlem and wandered around there. Next was the Upper East side and the museums (loved them all!) and then we got off on Park Avenue and rode bicycles around Central Park (also included in the New York City Pass). We walked over to Columbus Circle and did some shopping (more shopping - Wholefoods Market is fantastic!) and then we got back on the bus and did a whole uptown loop all over again so we could hear the whole commentary from the guide. That is by far the most valuable part of the busses, the information and history the guides tell you as you drive around taught me so much about New York. I'd do the busses again just for that.

The last day we rode both uptown and downtown loops just to go back to places we liked the first 2 days - and to get photos of things I missed out on once my camera battery went flat. It was really easy to get around on the busses and there were plenty of bus stops near all the attractions. I had read so many bad reviews about this bus service but they were on time, easy to use and really enjoyable. They helped us get our bearings of the city quickly too.

Wow, I totally babbled there! If you read all that then you're a champ!

8 months and 2 days til I get back "home". Well, it's pretty late so it's almost 8 months and 1 day - not that I'm counting at all  rolleyes.gif

Sorry I just wrote an essay, that's what happens when I get busy and forget to come in here to keep up to date with you all!

ETA: Mellie Kate: In Honolulu I use A8 Taxi every time. I think I linked their website on my blog under the page about Oahu and getting around. The owner Chris is so used to us we just call him up and tell him our booking with only our first names and he knows who we are. For $30 - $40 you get a private, clean, air-con van for up to 4 adults and all your luggage. That price is per car, not per person. You only get charged slightly more if you go over 4 people per car.

In NYC, don't use Super Shuttle. Just DON'T. They were terrible - late, rude and then hit me in the head with my suitcase and nearly knocked me out! DH went off at them but the driver didn't even care and then when he got us to our destination, he still stood there with his hand out waiting for his tip!

Edited by ~Kee~In~Hawaii~, 16 January 2013 - 10:17 PM.

#8 Mellie Kate

Posted 16 January 2013 - 11:17 PM

Kee with the honolulu transfers to you pay online or in cash when you are pickup/dropped off?

#9 ~Kee~In~Hawaii~

Posted 17 January 2013 - 06:04 AM

Mellie Kate: With A8 Taxi, you just call the number on their website and give them your details (name, flight number, date, scheduled landing time and hotel) and they book you in. They will then keep track of your flight status and once you land, you can just give them a quick call using either your own phone once you clear baggage claim and get outside the terminal or using the payphones at the front doors of the terminal to say you are through customs etc. They park about 2 minutes down the road in the airport waiting bay and once they have your call, they will come right to the front door of the airport to pick you up. You pay cash to the driver as he drops you off at your destination. It's a flat rate and you just add on a tip for the driver. There's no additional charges per bag etc. On our first trip using this company, we took the driver's business card - not realising it was the actual company owner who was driving us - and called him during our stay if we needed to get anywhere else. He charged us $20 to pick us up and drive us from Waikiki to the cruise ship terminal for our cruise and was there waiting for us to take us back to our hotel when we got back to the pier at the end of the cruise. I can't fault them, they've always been wonderful and Chris took great care of my Mum when she travelled over on her own to holiday with her best friend.

Here's the link to the website now I have time and am awake enough to find it original.gif

A8 Taxi

#10 Peanut

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:42 AM

For those interested in New York transfers, we used Dial7 and they were very good.  

Dial7 Website

#11 wilson99

Posted 17 January 2013 - 09:18 AM

can you change mine to December 2013. Going to LA, San Diego and maybe Hawaii

we had to change our plans because of work and will now be doing christmas at disneyland

#12 rob6712col

Posted 17 January 2013 - 10:06 AM

mum234 - in regards to taxes etc I beleive if any one item you are bringing back in is more than $1000 then you will have to pay on it so be careful with electronics. Saying that though if your DS is looking at apple products their pricing is very similar to here. Otherwise if it is for personal use you are pretty right. If you had 35 pairs of the same shoe then there would be a problem. We had 5 people in our party and bought lots of shoes for personal use (35 different pairs in different sizes). BUT we were advised to take all new tags off clothes and mix with your worn/dirty clothes just in case you get checked and get a painful person.  I suppose we did not buy alot of one item, just alot of stuff in general. What they are checking for is if you have bought stuff to on sell at a market stall mainly.

Depending how many are travelling for your transfer in NYC but if all can fit in a normal taxi with luggage they have a flat rate from JFK airport to Manhattan for $45 (may have gone up to $52 now) which is a really good deal. It is not the flat rate from Manhattan back to the airport though.  I know everyone says to steer clear of Super Shuttle but we did use them for our shuttle to JFK and didn't have a problem at all. Driver courteous, on time, van clean so perhaps it does depend on the driver etc.

#13 2anewme

Posted 17 January 2013 - 10:28 AM

Hi there,

Can you change me to Hawaii December 2012

yee ha!  I have just booked our accommodation at the Aston Waikiki Beach hotel - in a beachfront room. So excited!!  Was a little bit more expensive than what we wanted, but we just couldn't pass the location.

Now just to wait for the flights to be released!

#14 blackcat20

Posted 17 January 2013 - 10:36 AM

QUOTE (~Kee~In~Hawaii~ @ 16/01/2013, 11:12 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
In NYC, don't use Super Shuttle. Just DON'T. They were terrible - late, rude and then hit me in the head with my suitcase and nearly knocked me out! DH went off at them but the driver didn't even care and then when he got us to our destination, he still stood there with his hand out waiting for his tip!

I love Super Shuttle, but I'll agree that they arent that good in NYC. One of my drivers stopped his van in the middle of the road (just left it in traffic), hopped out and went to buy food from a street cart! Over on the west coast I found them fabulous though.

As an aside, can I please be removed from the list? While Im a bit sad not to be going to the US this year, I'm very very excited to be going to Europe instead!! Just booked yesterday biggrin.gif

#15 regandrog

Posted 17 January 2013 - 10:51 AM

Hi all, can I join in here for some advice please? We are thinking of traveling to New york / orlando in late Sept 2013.

My first question is about flights, airlines don't seem to have many good prices for flights at that time of year yet, when might I expect sept / oct flights to be included in sales?

There are so many things to plan and I just would like to have flights sorted first, or should I just book hotels and worry about flights later?

Ideally  our trip would look like SYd - NY - Orl - Syd so we want to do  an internal flight from NY to Orl, . So not sure if it more cost effective to include NY-orl in international booking or just do it separately.

I haven't been to US since 1983 so am super excited that we have decided for sure to go!

Edited by regandrog, 17 January 2013 - 10:51 AM.

#16 blackcat20

Posted 17 January 2013 - 10:55 AM

QUOTE (regandrog @ 17/01/2013, 11:51 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
My first question is about flights, airlines don't seem to have many good prices for flights at that time of year yet, when might I expect sept / oct flights to be included in sales?

I found August/September flights went on sale in Feb, though often September flights arent discounted a lot due to school holidays.

#17 rob6712col

Posted 17 January 2013 - 12:58 PM

I found flights dropped in price in Feb/March for Sept/Oct. We flew out a week before the school holidays last year and got good deals, if we had waited another 5 days the prices went up. We came back 4 weeks after the school holidays.
Get a price with the total flights included but I found it cheaper to book a return flight from Canberra to LA and then booked internal flights to Orlando, NYC, Vegas etc, however we did want a couple of days stopover in LA too. To include all our stops on our international ticket was really expensive and by doing it separately and departing from the same city as we arrived our costs were halved.

Blackcat20 - woo hoo, Europe, we have been tossing up going to the US again or to Europe, may have to stalk you in the Europe thread

#18 Peanut

Posted 17 January 2013 - 01:09 PM

We also flew out before school holidays started, 2 weeks prior actually, and the prices were much cheaper.  Its definitely worth considering.

#19 FionaM

Posted 17 January 2013 - 01:43 PM

kee - i wondered were you had been.

we always take 1 large suit case and pack a medium size suitcase inside it.
there is 4 of us that travel and we always manager to fit all our necessities into the 1 bag on the way over but the way back is always a bit tight !!
DH had to buy another bag on our last trip - so we went with 1 bag and came back with 3 suitcases.

i have never had any problem with customs or anything in relation to the number of shoes or clothes that we bring back.
we would have to be close to 20 odd pairs of shoes and nothing gets said.

#20 lamarque

Posted 17 January 2013 - 02:27 PM

Can I just say, you girls are awesome!  I've gotten so many valuable tips and I really appreciate all the helpful advice given out.

Jo - if you could please add me to the list - Anaheim/NYC - September 2013

So to continue with my silly questions.... biggrin.gif

Where do you get these duffel bags from?  From luggage type stores?

rob6712 - thanks again for your advice about airbnb.  I couldn't find any listings with a description of vrbo (I think I got the initials right)?  There are just so many places to choose from.  Have taken note about your warnings too and will only deal with hosts on the airbnb website.   Did you have your place to yourself?  No shared bathrooms or anything like that?  I like the way airbnb hold your money until 24 hrs after you land too, makes me feel better about the arrangement.  Can you recommend the place you stayed at?   I'm quite fond of a few in the Upper West Side.

I've just looked at the hop-on, hop-off buses, I've noticed on their website they have next to some loops (not hop-on, hop-off) - bit confused about that.  

kee - I read your entire post with interest, thank you.   I remember having a look at your blog last year when I was dreaming of this trip and will take a look again.

regandrog - yes we're thinking of return flights to LA and then booking internal flights to NYC.  

Has anyone flown Air New Zealand and experienced the sky lounge seats in economy?  It looks half interesting but I think my kids will be too tall and it will just cause fights.   biggrin.gif

Thank you for tips on when Sept/Oct might go on sale too.  Hopefully we will be able to book next month sometime.    We aren't going to go in school holidays either.  I think my kids will be back at school or week or two before the holidays start.  

FionaM - thanks for your tips on the bags too.  It will be a real challenge for me to only take one bag, LOL. But the one bag inside the other is a good tip too.

#21 Peanut

Posted 17 January 2013 - 03:08 PM

QUOTE (lamarque @ 17/01/2013, 02:27 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Where do you get these duffel bags from?  From luggage type stores?

I actually picked up a really good tip here in the forum, buy your duffel bag at Wal-Mart over in the USA!  You can get luggage quite cheap over there, far cheaper than from here in Aus.  We took two soft spinner suitcases and bought our duffel over there.

If you really want to bring one from here, I think it was Kee who bought a nice one here?  She could probably help you with that.

As I said in an earlier post, the only downside to the duffel we bought was that it couldn't be secured with locks as well as our suitcases could.  So we put all of our good stuff and new clothes in the suitcases and our unwashed/older clothes in the duffel just in case it got broken into.  As a matter of fact, it was opened at some point on our return trip but nothing was taken.

#22 blackcat20

Posted 17 January 2013 - 03:52 PM

QUOTE (rob6712col @ 17/01/2013, 01:58 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Blackcat20 - woo hoo, Europe, we have been tossing up going to the US again or to Europe, may have to stalk you in the Europe thread

Thanks! Over the moon that I finally made a decision. Will continue lurking in here though in case there are questions I can answer (two trips to the US under my belt) biggrin.gif
Lamarque: there are travel expos coming up next month which might also help with sale flights.

#23 ~Kee~In~Hawaii~

Posted 17 January 2013 - 04:20 PM

I'm another one who changed my dates in September due to school holidays. I was meant to fly out to Honolulu on Saturday September 21st but that is the first day of school holidays in NSW and the price hike was crazy. Instead we booked for the 18th - a Wednesday. Not only was it cheaper before school holidays started, it is also cheaper on Tuesdays and Wednesdays on most airlines. Highest days are obviously Fridays, Saturdays - oh and Sunday nights to come home. I tend to go over most years around September and usually find my flights on sale around February/March. I just happened to notice they were cheaper last month so I bought them but that's only because they were one way flights. If they had been return flights I probably would have waited for them to drop in price further.

My duffle bag that I am taking next trip was purchased from Victoria Station - a luggage store at my local Harbour Town. I think they are in other states as well. For some reason, my blog post about my luggage is gone so I will re-post it so those who are interested can see the bag I am taking and I will take a few snaps and write a little of the details about the other 2 bags I will be buying from the airport too. What a PP said is right though, duffle bags can be super cheap at Wal-Mart, some around the $10 mark but I am really interested in the ones I found the other day because they look really durable. We won't have to worry about anyone going through them on the way home, we get to sail back at a leisurely pace and having a duffle bag means we can shove them under the bed on the cruise ship a lot easier.

Blackcat: I'll be picking your brain for the Europe trip in 2015 then! How exciting for you! original.gif

Fiona: I guess it seemed odd I wasn't in here when the topic was shopping! lol  wink.gif

Edited because I was just incoherently rambling again. I need food! I need Denny's  tongue.gif What I'd give for a Super Bird sandwich right now ... or even a Lumberjack Slam. There needs to be a drooling icon on here!

Edited by ~Kee~In~Hawaii~, 17 January 2013 - 04:23 PM.

#24 blackcat20

Posted 17 January 2013 - 04:23 PM

QUOTE (~Kee~In~Hawaii~ @ 17/01/2013, 05:20 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Blackcat: I'll be picking your brain for the Europe trip in 2015 then! How exciting for you! original.gif

Not a problem! Hopefully Ill get to Hawaii one day....

#25 kirsty38

Posted 17 January 2013 - 04:55 PM

Can you add me to the list, going to Honolulu on 26th May-4th June. almost 4 months to go.

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