Arrived safely in Orlando.
After a total of 24 hours in the air and 11 hours in transit.
35 hours since we left home.
Couple that with very little sleep and much drama the night before we left ……I am feeneetos. Feeneeshed. Kaput.
I’m going to say something really stupid now……………
I was so excited about the trip I didn’t think clearly about how far away America actually was.
Our first night we stayed at Courtyard Orlando Marriot in Maitland – comfortable, clean with very large rooms, before moving on to our accommodation for the rest of the week.
First impressions of Orlando? Looks and feels a lot like Durban. Very hot and humid with art deco buildings everywhere.
Driving on the right hand side of the road takes lots of concentration – the fast lane is on your far left. Drivers here don’t stick to the speed limit. However, no aggression on the road. Nobody flashing their lights at you. Missed Joburg like that.
Our first evening in Orlando was pretty uneventful. We’re so tired, there was just enough time to grab a chicken salad and burgers from one of their fast food chains, Wendy’s. I’m hoping this is not the start of what’s to come ….more fast food and heat.
So, with nothing exciting to report back one, here’s a few travel tips I’ve picked up so far …..
- It’s more expensive to fly directly to New York. Much more. But, here’s where early planning comes in – it may be cheaper if you get in early. It’s more comfortable to fly directly, limiting the amount of time you spend in transit. In our case, just over 8 hours in transit at Abu Dhabi International while waiting for our 02:55am flight. Uncomfortable. And even after claiming a few soft sofa’s, US Customs and Border Control moved more than two lounges full of passengers so they could prepare for their lengthy check in process.
- The US Customs and Border Control security checks can be quite intimidating. Many times I felt like I was in a movie. Don’t mess around, it takes time (took us nearly two hours just to go through their various security checks). All the staff were friendly but it’s clear they mean business and I wouldn’t want to find out what happens if you don’t play by the rules.
- It sounds really obvious but to save time and last minute panic, keep all your travel documents in one of those plastic pockets with a press stud – easy to access quickly. Chuck a pen in too for just in case!
- Pack your on-board luggage with care. Apart from the usual story of keeping your liquids down to 100ml containers, you will take your shoes, jackets and belts off many times. Rather keep your jewellery down to a minimum because you often have to take off even your watch.
- Abu Dhabi International was freezing. Hard to imagine the 36ºC night air was just on the other side of the double-glazed windows overlooking the runway. Dress warm especially if you have a long layover.
- Like many international airports you pay for a trolley for your luggage. $6 per trolley. Multiply that by R12.50 and you will wonder if you really need it. We did. You can use your credit card to pay for it if you don’t have change.
AIRLINE LOW DOWN
- We flew on Etihad (operated by SAA out of ORT).
Nicest crew by far. Tasty food (their chicken masala with roasted veggies was outstanding). Moist and just right, something which is difficult to get right with a chicken breast at the best of times. Very comfortable seats and the entertainment system was adequate (just enough variety of the latest blockbusters to keep you happy for the nearly 9 hour flight to Abu Dhabi).
- We stayed with Etihad for the nearly 14 hour Abu Dhabi/JFK leg but this time the flight was operated by Jet Airways. Seats were smaller. Crew not all very friendly but the entertainment system more than made up. Boarding became a bit rough when people began pushing and shoving (shocker) at the boarding gate, but it was after 2am and I think most nerves were frayed after the entire US Customs and Border Control process. The food was so-so. But, in fairness, I had completely forgotten to ask for a special low carb meal ahead of time. Won’t make that mistake again.
- Jet Blue Airways more than served the purpose for the JFK /Orlando jump. Low cost airline but you get a packet of chips and something to drink for free. Everything else comes at a cost – you pay for headphones (we rustled up two pairs for the kids) so that they could watch live TV (tv for every seat – not bad for low cost). However, if you want to watch a latest release to keep you occupied for the 3 hour trip, then it will cost you $5. Exceptionally friendly crew. All smiles and happy to help with anything. JKF is relatively simple to navigate. Helpful staff, well sign-posted and you get to ride on their internal train to change terminals.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
- A deliciously funny SAA crew member confided to me that “sparkling water” is requested as “water with some activity” by some of our African brothers when traveling on our national carrier. I’m stealing that one for myself but if you want to borrow it, you can, just make sure you credit DeviHQ.com where you heard it first.