Monday, 20 August 2012

Something crazy - involving the TFs Ride in LA

I was really disappointed earlier this year, when I had to abandon my planned trip to Singapore to try out the Transformers Ride at that Universal Studios (when they had the Transformers convention there in mid-March).  In May, the second one opened up at the Hollywood Universal Studios (in California, America)... and I was equally disappointed that it was just 2 weeks after I was in America for the Annual BotCon convention. So I missed that one as well.
Now I was forced to wait until the middle of next year, for a chance to check it out, as I'd plan a visit on the way to where ever the Transformers convention is that year.

But after looking through some photos people were posting up in America about the recently opened Transformers Ride there, I started getting an urge to go sooner, rather than wait another 12 months, to try out the ride, as well as buying a number of items from the gift-shop I was interested in.

Being fairly experienced at travelling to and from America, via LA, I started mapping out the logistics of travelling there (from Brisbane, Australia), in the shortest timeframe possible (to keep the total cost down - each day there has accommodation and day-to-day expenses).
I then started to look into the viability/possibility of not staying a night in America, at all.
After all, I knew that flights arrive in America at the crack of dawn from Australia, and leave America just before midnight... giving you about 18 hours in America.
So a couple weeks ago I had a look at the QANTAS website for flight options, and the prices I'd be looking at.  To make it as economical as possible, I would have to get a discount/sale fare, so looked for any days that were around $1500 (or less), and were on a day that had direct flights both ways (to reduce the amount of "wasted" time travelling).  I may well sleep on the flight back, but between the two flights, I'd be looking at about 27 hours doing nothing constructive. (plus about another 4-6 hours at both airports doing nothing)
Since I wouldn't be staying overnight, and would have to carry around luggage with me everywhere, I don't want to risk taking a computer to damage or lose (and the power wouldn't last long on the 13 hour flight anyway).

The planned trip would have to be a Tuesday or Wednesday, because it would be the quietest days at the Themepark (from my experience at being at a few over there), and would be the two quietest days at work to improve my chances of getting time off.
I found a day (Tuesday August 28th) with the cheapest direct flights, and almost booked it.  But being hesitant at spending any large amount of money, I held off, wanting to confer with a travel-agent first (to see if this short trip would be a problem).  In the end, I was told that a lot of business people will do the same thing - fly over in the morning for a meeting, and fly back that night... so that wasn't a concern now.
The biggest barrier now was convincing myself to part with $1500.
I have the money, and want to do this (not just for the Ride, but also for the story to tell others of a crazy "day trip" to America).
Breaking it down as a dollar value, it would be $1500 for 18 hours of fun/adventure (8 of which would be at the Theme-park).  A big hourly rate, yes, but on par with what I spent to see the three Transformers movies on IMAX - I had to fly to Sydney or Melbourne, as they were the only IMAX theatres showing it, with each trip to see a 2-hour movie costing me about $500.
In a way, this would be more economical... but still didn't make it easier to willingly hand over that amount of money at once. (heck, I even hesitate when it is that much money for a 2-week trip to America... so this wasn't because of the shortness of this trip).

I didn't end up booking that flight, and I let it go for a week (I was still recovering from a nasty virus, so didn't feel too energetic to commit to anything at this time).
At the end of last week I got more motivated about it, thinking that if I don't do something now, I won't be going before the end of the year (school holidays start at the end of September, and the pre-christmas period after that makes it very difficult to get time off work from October to January).
So I looked again and found I only had two days left with cheap seats both ways, before the school holiday period (which didn't have discounted seats).
I went into the travel-agency the next day to book it, and knowing my luck, it was all boarded up with no signage to say if they were moving, renovating or just completely shut down.
I returned home, thinking that I'll just have to book it myself through the airline's website (something I only do for domestic flights, as it they don't cost as much if I make a mistake)... but I give the Travel-agent's phone-number a call first, just to see if they had relocated.
The phone answered, and was told that they were just renovating for 2 weeks, but no one had put up signs yet.  And during that time, they were working out of another branch a few suburbs away.
I told her what I was planning, and how the previous person I saw a week ago never got back to me, and she told me that she would organise the flights and get back to me.
Paying over the phone, I didn't need to drive all the way over to where she currently was, and when they returned to their old location at the beginning of September, I could just drop in there and pick up my paperwork (including the all-important Travel Insurance - never leave the country without some).

So there you have it.  I'm now booked in to "day trip" California from Brisbane, leaving on a Tuesday and returning on a Thursday - missing only two days work (Tuesday & Wednesday) because I work at night.

My planned itinerary is:
Tuesday 10.35am - depart Brisbane
Tuesday 6.40am - arrive LA Airport (crossing dateline, so it is actually the same day)
8-9am - bus to Downtown LA to catch a train to Universal Studios
10am - Universal Studios (park is open 10am to 6pm on that day)
 Before 6pm (or earlier if I get bored) - leave themepark by train to Downtown LA, then back to the Airport
(during this time, until 10pm, if I don't have too much stuff to drag around (from the gift-shop), I would be catching a Taxi to the nearby Target for toy shopping... or, if the check-in desk is open early enough, I can check in my luggage and do a quick visit to Target and hope I don't find too much stuff there to buy)

(10pm - need to be checked in by now)
Tuesday 11.45pm - depart LA
Thursday 6.45am - arrive Brisbane
8am - home... sleep, if I feel like it
2pm - leave for work.

There is a lot of on-the-spot planning with this trip, as there are variables I can't plan ahead for.  But if this trip ends up working out without too many dramas, I'll then look at doing the Singapore one as a day-trip as well. It will be cheaper to fly to, but it is unfamiliar territory, that may have some challenges for an English-speaking tourist with no (time) margin for error.

Hmmm... I gotta remember to purchase a new 2-year visa-waiver too, as the first one finally expired in June (managed to get to 3 BotCons with it, but now have to pay for a new one).


  1. I love the way that you arrive in LA before you left Brisbane! Thats some nifty time travellin'

  2. Wow, that is quite a commitment for the TF Ride. I did a trip like that to Las Vegas once (I'm on the eastern seaboard of the US) so it wasn't nearly as intense, but I was dead dog tired by the time I got back home. Good luck, hope it goes well!

  3. Well Singapore is not that big a place and is mostly connected via its MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) system, just got to know which trains to take to get to your decided locations.

    Lodging can be rather cheap if you don't mind hostels or budget hotels (there are quite a bit of them for such a small place).

    As for language do not worry, Singapore is a predominantly English speaking country (English is the first language in Singapore)