USA/Canada Diary : Getting to Canada

I thought I’d share excerpts from my diary that I kept during our last trip – interspersed with some pictures of course. This first section is more a lesson on the things NOT to forget when going overseas , but first, a picture to distract you 🙂

Driving through and witnessing scenes like this were the stuff of our dreams and they came true :)

Driving through and witnessing scenes like this were the stuff of our dreams and they came true 🙂


We had been preparing for this trip for several months beforehand and one of the most ironic things to have occurred is that we completely forgot a major detail : that my passport had expired and that Charlotte’s was expiring in 5 months. We had all of our clothing packed, all of the locations we were going to visit packed, all of the people we were going to meet organised and everything was all set with one last step to check in online on Saturday night before our planned departure on Sunday morning . WRONG. I couldn’t check in and kept wondering why until I looked with horror that my passport had expired in June!!!!! Marianne and I were deeply upset as no doubt, this would have been the best lead up to a holiday that we’ve had with good health and so many things to look forward to on this trip.  I just had a sense of profound hopelessness as I went through the motions of ringing the DFAT, Air New Zealand and asked if anyone through social media knew of anything possible that I could do to get on a plane within 12 hours. Not happening…..

Early on Sunday morning, we had to break the news to the kids who really didn’t seem to mind!! To get our minds off the fact that we should actually be travelling, we decided to head to Monarto zoo instead. So this actually, was the start of  our holiday albeit back home and not in San Francisco. It was a great distraction and that night, sleep did not come well as I concocted plans to obtain a new passport urgently on compelling grounds. Favours needed to be pulled and the guys from Nisi were amazing in dealing with that with a cover letter from Andrew Code (from Nisi Australia) stating that I was on an equipment testing trip that could not be cancelled. I am forever grateful to them for that act of kindness , any image from this trip is Nisi’s to use as we literally would not have been there without that letter.  As a side note, I realise that many people were trying to be helpful but I managed to bust a heap of travel myths that were thrown at me (all in good faith of course).

  1. You do NOT need to have a valid passport for 6 months when visiting the USA or Canada (just valid for time of travel)
  2. You do NOT need to have a valid passport for 6 months on re entering Australia (just valid on reentry date)
  3. ESTA visa is practically instant and not a 72 hour wait. Same for the new Canadian equivalent.
This Giraffe was a little curious, a little confused - kind of like us on that Sunday really

This Giraffe was a little curious, a little confused – kind of like us on that Sunday really

Monday morning was the date of the imagined inquisition I would have from the office. This never eventuated. I turned up just after opening time at 830am and was 1 hour early. Fortunately the first appointment was running late so I snuck in and managed to very quickly talk my way into getting the passport done by that day! I was still not counting my chickens as I wanted to actually feel happy again only after I had my passport in hand. This occurred at about 2pm after we took another distraction to Marion aquatic centre. These last two days with the kids made me think that even if we were at home doing stuff with them every day, that wouldn’t be such a bad holiday!

Monday afternoon was a happy one . With passport in hand, we managed to rebook our flights (albeit at a loss of big $$$ due to the specials that we booked our original flights on). I contacted everyone to tell them that we were on our way and they were all extremely sympathetic and even willing to bend their schedules to meet our unusual circumstance. Brent Lok in California was particularly friendly offering to shift our dates at the cost that we had already paid!. Sleep did come well on Monday night and 28 hours later, this was the actual start of our holiday.

Tuesday October 25: (Aus and USA)

The  flight was always going to be a tiring one but I must admit that the kids were better than predicted (though Jaime was a handful). From Adelaide to Auckland, Jaime did manage a tiny nap when lying flat with a blanket over the top of the seats. Despite very little rest, they managed the very quick turnaround time in Auckland airport very well. As we left Auckland to board our skycouch seats, the weather was epic there with rainbows and pink skies surrounding us – using up our trip’s light mojo dammit!!!!

Sucking up some light mojo!

Sucking up some light mojo!

The long haul was on two sky couches. Marianne and Jaime in one and Charlotte and me in the other. I think that it definitely has a comfort advantage with 2 occupants but with three, it would be of questionable benefit. Better than premium economy I suspect. Out of all of us, Charlotte got the best sleep while Jaime only had about 2 hours of solid sleep for the whole flight. I doubt that Marianne and I actually had any sleep ! Food was good, service was good and overall, couldn’t really fault Air New Zealand for their effort on the flight.

Our arrival at SFO was a very uneventful one in the late morning. We managed to get our rental quickly, head over to the rental accommodation at Mill Valley. Throughout that afternoon, things started to clear and looked as though it might actually be a decent sunset. When we arrived at our accommodation that our preprogrammed GPS expertly pointed us to ,we instantly regretted (further) our inability to spend the full three days at this location . It was beautifully set among the redwoods and had a great ambience to it. It would have been an absolutely amazing location to get over jetlag and relax. As it was, we had an early dinner at 430 in the evening and put the girls to bed.  I went out for a shoot at Rodeo beach which fizzled badly and when I returned at 7pm , all were fast asleep. By the time I managed to get everything ready for bed, it was 9pm and by that time , the girls’ body clocks were far from adjusted. We had to get them out of bed at 10pm to play for an hour before they finally did go back to bed at around 11 something for the rest of the night. The next morning, they were sleeping like the dead when we woke them for our airport run.

Two travel tips :

  1. Loading POI’s onto your GPS is easily done through the site POI editor which saves your points of interest as GPX
  2. Travelling to the USA , you can prepay a USA  SIM (from Australia) to insert as you land from Mobi Passport.
Rodeo Beach : Where an amazing sunset threatened but ultimately fizzled

Rodeo Beach : Where an amazing sunset threatened but ultimately fizzled

Wednesday Oct 26 : O Canada!

After cajoling the kids into action, we dashed off to the airport and returned the car with no hassles. Golden light was glowing across the golden gate bridge and the kids loved the airtrain ride to the airport passing through all of the terminals. Check in was relatively painless though security was quite a painstakingly long process. No tanties in the line, nothing but well behaved kids ! We had some time on our hands afterward due to a slight delay on our outbound plane to Calgary. The plane itself was a small one with 2 x 2 seat rows in economy but made up for it with leg room.  The lack of sleep did catch up with everyone as Jaime, then Charlotte fell asleep on the relatively short 2.5 hour flight.

Kids on trains, plains and automobiles , with smiles

Kids on trains, plains and automobiles , with smiles

Upon arrival, there was indeed no issue with Charlotte’s passport expiry and after a scare that one of our bags hadn’t arrived (it actually had but was placed upside down on the conveyor belt fooling me!). Rent-a-wreck rental pick up went smoothly as we ventured out into an overcast Calgary evening. For some reason, the rental operator seemed a bit paranoid that we didn’t want to take out collision damage waiver? We haven’t to date with any other company?? Oh the irony as we would find out later in the trip ……With the GPS set, the kids excited to be in Canada , we headed off to Banff!

As the mountains approached, everyone was falling asleep in the car (except for me since I was gawking at the  beautiful mountains approaching looking for any hint of a sunset stop that didn’t eventuate due to poor light). By the time we arrived in the beautiful township of Banff, set beneath Cascade Mountain, it was past 8pm and pretty cold by our standards! The choice for places to eat was overwhelming and so , with a sigh, we resigned ourselves to a meal at MacDonalds  (which would be our last !). Check in at Inns of banff into a three bedroom unit was also uneventful and we settled for what we hoped would be a good night’s sleep. And so it was for the kids who slept until 10 the following morning but not for us as we didn’t get to bed until past midnight despite severe deprivation. We were at last, in Canada !!!




Posted on December 10, 2016, in Canada, How we..., M&D Corner, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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