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Los Angeles to Las Vegas US Tour 2012 – Part 1

I think it was in April this year that I decided to go on a tour. Well, more like a proper holiday. The first one in my life, to tell you the truth. I knew I wanted something special. I didn’t want to spend a week in some big city, sleeping in the same hotel room, eating the same food, seeing the same places. A tour was the perfect way to go I thought. And it was! And I’d like to share my thoughts with you now.

About the tour

This tour was officially an eight day escorted trip starting in Los Angeles, going to San Diego, Phoenix, Sedona, Grand Canyon and finishing in Las Vegas, the America’s playground. We only stayed in a hotel in LA, Phoenix and Las Vegas. The rest of the tour we stayed in different camps, which I thought was the fun part!

I would suggest getting to LA a day earlier, just in case you need extra time to rest after a full day trip from Dublin. I was really happy I flew a day earlier. It gave me enough time to get used to local time (UTC -7 hours during the summer time) and the air temperature and humidity. And I saved a bit of money flying a day earlier despite having to pay an extra night in LA as well.

Departing Dublin

Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-200 after we landed in Atlanta

Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-200 after we landed in Atlanta

I flew with Delta Air Lines from Dublin to Atlanta (approximately 9 hours) where I changed planes (I had about three hours between the flights) and continued to Los Angeles (another 5 hours). I flew Delta Air Lines on my way back from Las Vegas to Dublin with a change of plane in New York (total of almost 14 hours, including the time between flights). I thought about flying Air France from Dublin to Paris and then direct to Los Angeles but this was more expensive than Delta Air Lines. On the other hand I may have missed the only opportunity to fly that big beautiful double-decker beast, the Airbus A380…

To enter the United States I would normally only need to apply for an entry permission using ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) website. But since I’m a holder of valid US VISA I was spared answering of all those interesting questions.

Dublin airport is lucky to have US Customs and Immigration pre-clearance office. This saves you time that you’d be spending doing the same after arrival to your first US airport (and the fact you’re undergoing this procedure while still fresh is priceless in my opinion). This also means that your checked-in bags are going to be checked-in all the way to your final destination. If you think you might need something at a later stage of your journey, keep it in your cabin bag, if possible.

I was told that the pre-clearance could take up to an hour, depending on the traffic so it’s best to be there early. I was lucky, no queues in sight, passed right through pre-clearance assisted by a very seriously looking American immigration officer.

I should probably mention that all US flights are despatched from Terminal 2 (the new, nice and shiny, strangely shaped building) and the pre-clearance interview takes place after you go through your first security check. The second security check follows after you run through the pre-clearance office and only consists of (yet another) x-ray screening of your hand bag and personal belongings. Be aware that once you pass this point, there isn’t much to do before you board the plane. So, if you planned to do some duty-free shopping, do it before you go on with your pre-clearance.

Onboard the plane

I flew long haul before but it was many years ago. I was really very impressed with the onboard services on both the international and domestic flights. Each flight was fitted with a very nice entertainment system. You can watch movies (I think ‘Brave’ was my favourite), listen to music, play games. The selection was impressive, though for some of us with a very specific taste not so impressive.

Once in the US airspace (as far as 100 miles from the US mainland), onboard Wi-Fi was available, too. This was a paid service but for less than 12 US dollars for a day pass, this was one hell of a bargain to me. Saying hello to my friends on Facebook while cruising at 32,000 feet. Wow!

On international flights we had two meals (one main meal and a snack meal) with selection of hot and cold drinks, some biscuits, peanuts for free (kind of—I paid for the ticket, right?). The service onboard both domestic flights was very nice, too! Biscuits, peanuts, coffee or tea, water for free. If you feel hungry, some of the sandwiches looked really tasty. And there were some hot meals you could buy as well. The staff on all of my flights were very nice and ‘kept their cool’ even when flying through some very turbulent areas. All and all, it was a great experience!

The US Airports

Power outlets to charge your laptop and mobile phone

Power outlets to charge your laptop and mobile phone

Power outlets to charge your laptop and mobile phone are available, classic (US) power outlets as well as USB power ports (to charge your phone using a USB cable). After surfing the web on my phone onboard the plane this was a very nice touch! And the chairs in most of the waiting areas (gates) were really—well—chairs. So comfy one could easily fall asleep in them!

Atlanta, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York JFK are very busy airports indeed. I would highly recommend allowing for some extra time so that you don’t need to rush to move around those places.

The US airlines tend to overbook their flights heavily as I found out. This didn’t concern me too much because I was checked-in to my final destination and my seats were therefore confirmed all the way to Los Angeles. However, there were a lot of stand-by passengers eagerly gazing at flight status screens, trying to spot their names in the ‘confirmed seats’ part. Very disturbing as this makes a lot more gate staff announcements to listen to, making it difficult to catch the important bits related to the flight itself.

There was another thing that got my attention right away. The vending machines. They sell consumer electronics (mobile phones, headphones, computer parts) the same way as we sell coffee or chocolate bars!

Read on Los Angeles to Las Vegas US Tour 2012 – Part 2!