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USA Trip of a Lifetime Report

Somerset
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USA Trip of a Lifetime Report

USA Trip 2008

The following is my “USA 2008 holiday of a life time” report. Our trip began on the 23rd August 2008 – lasted for 3 weeks and we returned home on the 13th September 2008. I am writing this report after the event and I shall write it a day at a time as if we were writing the report as it were happening.

First of all can I thank all of my Trip Advisor friends that provided me with such a lot of very useful help and guidance which served to provide us with the holiday that we will never forget and lived up to the billing of “a holiday of a lifetime.

Ok some background information – my name is Ray I am 57 remarried to my lovely wife Lyn who is 56. We have been married for two years and between us we have 7 children – only one still at home now, she is 18. We live in the South West of England on the border of Somerset and Dorset.

My wife was recently left a small inheritance by her mother and wanted to treat me to my “holiday of a lifetime”. It has always been a boyhood dream of mine to see the sunset over the Grand Canyon and so the preparations began.

Our itinerary evolved after much discussion with Trip Advisor members – goodness you provided us with a wealth of useful information some of which lead us to destinations that we will remember for as long as we live. Our trip was incredible and I’d like to take this opportunity to share some of it with you.

Ok the itinerary and some basic facts – I hope this may be useful to other that may consider this trip or one that may be similar.

The Itinerary

Flew out from London Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic £556 ($1,056 – conversion factor of 1.9) each

Day 1 & 2 - 23rd & 24th August – Las Vegas

The Luxor Hotel

2 nights

£71 ($135) per night

Pick up Dollar rental car from Luxor – Chrysler pt Cruiser 4 door – platinum package – 19 day rental period – including GPS - £275 ($524)

Day 3 & 4 - 25th & 26th August – The Grand Canyon

The Maswik Lodge

2 nights

£45 ($86) per night

Day 5 & 6 - 27th & 28th August – Lake Powell

The Lake Powell Resort

2 nights

£88 ($167) per night

Day 7 & 8 - 29th & 30th August – Bryce & Zion National Park

The Desert Pearl Inn

2 nights

£109 ($206) per night

Day 9 – 31st August – Death Valley

Stove Pipe Wells

1 night

£60 ($115) per night

Day 10 – 1st September – Mammoth Lakes

Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites

1 night

£80 ($151) per night

Day 11; 12 & 13 – 2nd; 3rd & 4th September – Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Lodge at the Falls

3 nights

£120 ($228) per night

Day 14; 15 & 16 – 5th; 6th & 7th September – San Francisco

Holiday Inn at Fisherman’s Wharf

3 nights

£112 ($213) per night

Day 17 & 18 – 8th & 9th September – Monterey

The Centrella - Bed and Breakfast

2 nights

£80 ($153) per night

Day 19 – 10th September – Cambria

The Fogcatcher Inn

1 night

£85 ($163) per night

Day 20 & 21 – 11th & 12th September – Los Angeles

The Four Seasons

2 nights

£325 ($620) per night (mates rates)

I make that a running total so far of £3,744 ($7,113) – that is the total cost of flights; car hire and accommodation (including taxes).

Day Minus 1 – 22nd August 2008

Ok here we go then – I’m starting this report the day before we fly out to the states for a very good reason, as you will see. Both Lyn and I worked the Friday before we flew out and arrived back home around 5:00pm to start “the pack”. Well packing was going well until I noticed a small patch of water on the carpet just outside the kitchen door – I thought maybe someone had spilled something and forgotten to clean it up – on closer inspection I discovered that water was oozing through the carpet – we had a leak – oh no not now the night before we were due to fly out to the states.

Two days earlier we had a new mixer tap fixed in the kitchen – unfortunately the plumber had not fitted it properly and for two days water had gradually been creeping underneath our new kitchen flooring and had now made its way into the living room – water was now coming up though the wooden flooring – looks as though we may need our swimmers earlier than we had anticipated.

Anyway, turned the water off – called the plumber out – fixed the fault – mopped up the excess water and finished off our packing – not really the start we wanted but there we are the kitchen will have to wait until we return – nothing we can do about it now.

Got to bed just after midnight ready for an early start in the morning – need to get up at 4:00am – so looking at probably just over 3 hours sleep – heck!

Day 1 – 23rd August 2008 – Las Vegas

No sooner had we jumped into bed than the alarm clock was waking us to start our American adventure – 4:00am – bleary eyed we stumbled around the house showering, preening and making our last minute preparations.

We decided to book a taxi to take us to and from the airport because 1) it meant that I didn’t have to make the drive and 2) there was probably little difference in cost after you take into consideration paying for a night’s accommodation in London – car parking for 3 weeks – eating out and petrol. We paid £250 (£475) for the taxi.

Our taxi driver (Pete) arrived nice and prompt (in fact a bit early at 5:00am) – out trip had began!!.

Our trip to Gatwick took about 2.5 hours and by the time we arrived at check in it was probably about 8:00am – flight was with Virgin Atlantic and was due out at 10:45am.

Check in went smoothly – we had checked in the night before on line and so all we had to do was go through the bag drop process – in truth the bag drop didn’t seem all that different to going through the normally check – still a long queue - but there we are. Did the normal stroll around duty free (funny how duty free prices seem almost the same as high street prices these days – maybe that nice Mr Brown is not taxing us as much as we think – in your dreams!!). Time for a quick coffee!

So duty free done – breakfast finished – we’re ready!! Unfortunately Mr Branston has other ideas and we receive the news that all long haul passenger dread - our Virgin flight is delayed by 1.75 hours. Oh well there is nothing for it I will have to thrash Lyn at cards. Seven or Eight games later our flight is ready – for those that are interested we played a form of Whist and I won all 7 or 8 games – this is not due to my brilliance at this game but more Lyn’s inability to grasp the basic rules (I could be in trouble if she gets to read this report). Still it wiles away a few hours and keeps us amused.

Once underway the flight was good – first time I have flown with Virgin – cabin crew were great - very efficient and polite – kept us fed and watered all the way throughout the 10.75 hour flight. The in flight entertainment was good – I searched through the selection of films to try and find something that would provide me with an intellectual challenge and some form of mental stimulation – I settled on Kung Fu Panda – it was great. Lyn watched something to do with some guy called Chekhov – it didn’t seem to be as funny as my film.

We cat-napped and dipped in and out of the in flight entertainment and before long we were flying over landscape that we would soon be driving through – it looked fabulous – excitement was building we were almost there.

Lyn discovered that she had left her sunglasses back in Gatwick airport – luckily she had a spare pair (take note of the glasses/sunglasses as they become a recurring theme on this trip).

At last Las Vegas McCarran Airport came into view – we circled the airport for what seeman age and eventually landed – we were so close to the Luxor Hotel I though for a minute that the pilot was going to drop us at the hotel entrance.

We stepped off the plane into the overwhelming Las Vegas heat – it was currently cooling off apparently and was now only 38 or 39 degrees – goodness!! When we had left the UK it was struggling to reach 18 degrees. I now know how a turkey feels when being placed in the oven for the Sunday roast. It was now 3:30 pm LV time and 12:30am UK time.

We took a cab (see already picked up the American variations in our language) to the Luxor – paid $35 (with tip) – cab driver was very informative and pointed out various attractions and more importantly the Coke Bottle – which is where you can get discounted show tickets. The Coke Bottle is besides the MGM Hotel and sells show tickets but in the main they are only for those performances taking place that day – for headline acts like Bet Midler; Cher; Elton John or Celine Dion you will get little or no reductions - Circ De Soleil – of which I think there were 3 or 4 different types of performance you may be able to get better reductions but the lesser acts you may be able to get up to 50% off – it would appear that they would rather sell the seats off at a reduced price than to have a half full auditorium – make the trip its worth it – although you will probably have to stand in line for a while - in the LV sun (make sure you keep turning around from time to time so that you cook evenly on both sides).

Lyn started coughing on the plane and by the time we had landed she had almost completely lost her voice – she was not well and unfortunately was getting worse – it looked as though she was developing flu symptoms – oh no lets hope it was just the effects of the flight.

Checked into the Luxor and began our long walk to our room – these Hotels are enormous – it must have taken 10 minutes just to walk to our room – how will I ever find my way back? I love Las Vegas already.

By this time Lyn was not feeling good at all and she decided that she would try and catch a couple of hours sleep and see if she could sleep it off. I thought that she would have a better and undisturbed sleep if I left her in the room by herself and hit the casinos.

No that’s not true but I wanted to try and get into LV time and beat the jet lag - so I needed to stay up and awake, so off I wandered into the scorching heat in search of the “Coke Bottle”. As it happened I did go via the Luxor Casino but not to play just to see what it was like – goodness these casinos are huge – I mean vast.

Anyway, found my way to the Hotel Entrance walked past the Excalibur, Mandalay Bay, New York NY, which are the closest hotels to the Luxor at the Southern end of the strip – the photo barrage had began – I only have 6 GB of memory card – I hope its enough . Found the Coke Bottle by the MGM Hotel and got a pretty good idea of the offers available.

On the way to the Coke Bottled I noticed that most of the hotels I passed on the way were connected and so to avoid the sun on the way back to the Luxor I tried find my way back via all of there Casinos – try that after being in LV for an hour or two – still at least this way when you get lost its nice and cool in the air conditioned rooms. Not sure how but I found my way back to the Luxor by about 9:30pm and went back to see how Lyn was feeling.

She was feeling a little better and so we decided to try and walk a little further down the strip – great fun but still very hot – it seem to be very hot what ever time of day it was. We thought we would walk as far as the Bellagio and see the fountains by night – unfortunately the last display was at midnight and we arrived about 10 minutes after midnight – oh well not to worry we will have to see the fountains tomorrow.

Had a quick look at Paris; Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace and decided that that was enough for our first day – we walked back to the Luxor and dropped into bed at about 3:30 am – I had now been up for a straight 32 hours and was beginning to feel in desperate need for sleep.

Las Vegas – crazy place – but you can’t help but love it.

Somerset
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1. Re: USA Trip of a Lifetime Report

Day 2 – 24th August 2008 – Las Vegas

Up at 9:30am – oh shouldn’t have stayed up so late last night – need caffeine! Popped down to the Starbucks close to Reception – two large skinny lattes and a couple of pastries – Lyn was still not well and decided to spend a little longer in bed. I decided to pass the time in the Luxor Casino – spent $15 won $138 – wow what a result – I proudly went back to our room booty in hand – the Casino would strike back.

Midday Lyn felt well enough to shower and get ready. We tentatively stepped out into the LV heat and walked to the “Coke Bottle”. A long line had now established itself so I took my place whilst Lyn looked at what was available – eventually we settled on Mystère by Cirque du Soleil – we got category A tickets which were normally $95 each for $72.50 each – we thought this was a great deal as we’ve wanted to see a Cirque du Soleil performance for a long time. At the Coke Bottle you don’t actually buy the ticket you in fact buy a voucher which you have to exchange for a ticket at the hotel where the production is taking place – in this case Treasure Island. That’s ok we wanted to wander into the strip again anyway so that’s what we did- in the midday sun we walked to Treasure Island – after all its only a couple of miles or so and the intense heat would probably sweat the flu out of Lyn – right come on kiddo best foot forward.

Made it to the Mirage where, in a near state of collapse, we fell into the free tram which runs between this hotel and Treasure Island - it runs about ever 10-15 minutes between 9am-1am. Semi revived by the air conditioning we found the ticket office at Treasure Island and received our tickets for the evening performance – show starts at 7:30pm.

Took the free tram back to the Mirage – had a quick look at the couples taking gondola rides on the Grand Canal at the Venetian – that looked like lots of fun – but Lyn was still poorly so we went in search of shade.

We had lunch at the Mon Ami Gabi (I think) which is the pavement café in the Paris Hotel – right opposite the Bellagio and so we were able to see the fountain displays while we ate our lunch – how cool is that!! The food and the service in this café were excellent and reasonable prices – also a good selection for Lyn – who is vegetarian – no meat or fish.

So having had a very enjoyable lunch Lyn wanted to go back to the Luxor for a sleep – still very poorly. We did manage to walk back but again used as many hotels as possible to walk through to avoid the sun.

Lyn slept from about 3:30pm to 5:30 pm which gave me time to return some of the Luxor’s cash that they leant me that morning although over all I was still slightly up on the deal – this was soon to change.

Got showered and dressed for our evening show about 6:00pm and took a cab to Treasure Island – the cab driver decided to takes us via the scenic route which seemed to involve many and various traffic jams and charged us $30 for the privilege – hmm!

Mystère was brilliant - a 90-minute circus-style production that combines grace and beauty with powerful and precise athleticism. It is as colourful as it is amazing. With a cast of 75 artists, a live orchestra playing Taiko drums.

The show starts the second you enter and the unwary could become victim of the production ‘clown’ who plays all sorts of naughty tricks on the unsuspecting audience that are taking their seats. It has all the ingredients of a traditional circus but hidden within a modern guise with incredible choreography, costumes and the usual heart stopping shows of aerobatics; acrobatics and strength. Quite incredible – great family entertainment – thoroughly recommended.

The show finished at 9:00pm ish and so we took our time to have a look around Treasure Island; Caesar’s Palace and Bellagio. We stayed on to take in the fountains at Bellagio and I must say that they were probably the best free entertainment that we saw in LV – the fountains at Bellagio are a must see.

We walked back to the Luxor – Lyn went to bed and I of course went back to the Casino to return the rest of my Luxor loan and add a little donation of my own. In actual fact I was $150 up at one stage but the win came too early and I had settled down for my last session in a LV casino. In the great scheme of things my overall contribution to the Luxor Casino bank balance was not substantial but it was good fun ‘playing the slots’. Oh and by the way I only realised just before I was about to leave the Casinos that the drinks are all complimentary whilst you’re playing – rats another trick missed.

Crept up to bed at about 1:00am didn’t wake Lyn or mention my contribution to the Casino’s bank balance. Tomorrow the Grand Canyon !!! Woohoo!!

2. Re: USA Trip of a Lifetime Report

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