Our annual journey to Melbourne has begun!
Every year Addam and I make the arduous trek from Northwest Arkansas to Melbourne, Australia. We’ve been wanting to bring Geneviette with us for awhile now but plane tickets across the world aren’t cheap. This time we found a way to make it happen!
There’s no way to travel less than 24 hours to Australia from NWA so we consider ourselves to be well-seasoned travelers. You learn a lot about humans when you hop around airports and destinations. I don’t want to keep my learnings to myself. So, as I live yet another XNA to MEL experience, I’ll share my unfiltered thoughts and tips.
Traveling when you have two homes is super emotional and hard
Say hello to captain obvious because he’s staying for the duration of this paragraph. I have two homes: Melbourne and Northwest Arkansas. There’s people and animals I love in both locations. That means when I leave one home for another it hurts. On the bright side when I arrive in the other home it’s always happy.
So today I cried for my three meowmigos. They’ll be fine. We have friends who will check in on them and love them in our absence. Since I started my business and work from home I’ve spent way more time with my cats than is probably healthy. It’ll be really hard to go from having three overly loving cats to no pets. I’ve already asked Bec, my brother’s girlfriend, if I can be her dog’s step mum while I’m in Melbourne. I also might need to make a trip to the cat cafe in Melbourne.
Long Distance Air Travel Never Gets Easy
If you don’t travel for awhile then it’ll feel uncomfortably new when you make your next trip.
My body follows long-established habits formed after enduring countless flights. I don’t need to think about what I need to do to get from Point A to Point B. But somehow the emotion part never gets easy.
Air travel requires bravery in the face of mortal risk. It’s like jumping into a black abyss, and trusting that the professionals will catch you on the other end. If you fly enough times you’ll see the rituals people perform to feel safer: prayers, bartering with a deity and reading the safety card during takeoff and landing.
I used to be a thrill-seeker, but the older I get the less interested I am in throwing myself into an abyss. Can you tell these are the ramblings of a pessimistic person on a plane?
What I’m trying to say is flying both horrifies and surprises me. We are so lucky to live in an age where we can travel around the world with ease.
How we bought 3 roundtrip tickets to Australia for the price of 1
We saved enough points on United and American Airlines to redeem a roundtrip journey (minus fees) on each airline. So essentially we purchased 3 tickets to Australia for the price of one.
Unfortunately, it meant that we had to travel separately. So I’m on United whilst Addam and G are on American. This is the first time we’ve done this so it’s kind of weird to be traveling “with them” but not with them.
It takes a long time to earn enough points to travel to Australia. It’s by far the most expensive ticket to redeem. When you read travel blogs, most recommend that you pick one reward program and stick with it to earn and redeem points faster. If you travel often I don’t recommend doing this.
Addam and I have always purchased the cheapest tickets. Sure, it took more time for us to earn enough points on each program, but if you travel often as we do you it’ll pay off in the long term.
Never book flights with less than an hour to make your connection!
XNA > IAH > LAX > MEL
When you book flights with reward points you scrape the bottom of the barrel with connecting flights.
For example, on their return flight Addam and G leave Melbourne in the evening and have an overnight stay in Sydney before their long flight back to America. It’s not ideal, but that’s better than building a flight plan with unfeasible connections.
As I write this I’m sitting in the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas. This is the first experience I’ve had at this airport where I can sit and relax. Usually my connecting flight here is less than an hour. All of my missed flights have happened here, including one a few years ago that caused me to miss my once-per-day LAX Melbourne flight.
That night half of our plane missed their connecting flights in Houston. The guy sitting next to me bought me a drink at the airport bar and gave me $100 to spend in Hollywood the next day. Addam thinks he was hitting on me, but he never gave me his number and after we landed in LAX I never saw him again. (Maybe he was just glad for the company?)
Treat yourself on long distance air travel
In just the past few years airport amenities have improved dramatically. I’m sitting at a Houston bar/restaurant right now called Olio. At every seat there is a smart tablet, which I used to order my food, check social media, watch live sports and read the news.
These tablets can be found across the airport. I was really confused about how people were dining in seats where there was no restaurant but I guess if you’re in the vicinity of one you can order their food and they’ll bring it to you. There’s also outlets and free wifi. Unfortunately the food is expensive (and tastes so-so), you have to pay for water (seriously, come on) and it won’t be your cleanest dining experience.
Layovers can be super exhausting when you’re flying around the world so it’s important that you treat yourself to little fun experiences. Addam and G have a 7 hour layover in LAX. I’m certain he’s treating himself to airport wine to pass the time. There’s a fancy-looking whisky bar in the Houston airport but I need to save being tired for later.
Always get a second (or third) opinion when shit hits the fan
Our Houston to Los Angeles flight was fully boarded and then the Houston curse struck. “We have no captain, everyone will need to deplane, and this flight is delayed until 8:30pm”, a flight attended said over the speaker. A 2 hour delay meant many of us would not make our connecting flights.
Earlier I’d passed the United service desk so I ran over there and lined up to find out if I could get on another LA-bound flight. My Melbourne flight was scheduled to start boarding at the exact time our delayed flight would land.
The United employee was kind to me. She couldn’t put me on another LA flight, but she was able to hold a seat for me on a later Qantas flight if I missed my United flight.
So back to the plane to wait. An elderly man boasted to his neighbors that he’ll be 90 years old in January and he worked 70 hour weeks until a few years ago. He was so proud of how healthy and fit his body is and of his life accomplishments, I wanted to go give him a handshake and thank him for making me think about the positives during a crisis but I didn’t. I just listened to him from afar with a smile on my face.
We boarded at 7:45pm and the plane was off at 8:30. Turns out United had to call in another pilot, with no word on what happened to the original. We all applauded the pilot for saving the day.
Toward the end of the flight he announced that this Houston to LA plane would turn into the LA to Melbourne plane on its next leg. What luck! Well, don’t ever take anyone for their word when you’re flying. I deplaned and discovered that my flight to Melbourne was a few gates away. They were boarding just as I arrived so my bags may still be delayed.
That plane was not the same plane I was just on. I have no idea where people get their information in airports because honestly, the staff seem to be just as confused as the passengers. The moral of this story is always get several opinions to piece together the truth.
You haven’t really traveled until you experience a 15+ hour flight
Sorry, you just haven’t. Speaking as someone who’s done this more times than I can remember, it’s a truly unpleasant experience to sit in 3rd class with strangers for 15 hours. It smells, it’s hot, it’s uncomfortable, time drags and you’re trapped. On the bright side I always feel safer on these big planes. You’ll get turbulence but it never feels as bad as it does on those small planes. My top tip for enduring this awful achievement in human aviation is medicate yourself to sleep. It wipes away time like magic.
I got 8 hours of half-sleep and now I’m sitting here 38,000 feet in the air, over the Pacific Ocean, listening to The Lumineers with approximately 2:45 hours left on this flight until we reach Melbourne. How great is it that we can use the internet while in the air? Only $28.99! 😉