Sunday 07-09-2014 & Monday 08-09-2014.
Day 19 and Day 19.
That long flight did a number on us. We all woke up at 3:00 a.m. Every one of us, even Jackie. We goofed around (some of us dozed off again for an hour or so), caught up on Internet things while we had reliable wi-fi, and all took showers in hot water (it had been awhile since we'd had hot water).
All we needed to do that morning was eat breakfast and get to the airport to catch our flight to New Zealand. Breakfast at the hotel was expensive — a buffet that cost us $26 per person (kids were $13), so I decided to eat a lot. You need to get your money's worth during such ventures. Oh, and Frankie tried Vegemite (something she'd been looking forward to) at breakfast with mixed results.
Our flight to New Zealand was scheduled to leave at 11:35 a.m., so we walked back over to the airport right after breakfast to check in ... and that's when we ran into a small snag.
Dust Up at Sydney International
As we checked in, the gate agent told us we needed to have our hard copy return tickets from New Zealand before we boarded the plane to Auckland. This was a challenge because, even though we knew what flight we planned to take from Christchurch to Sydney on September 23, a 3:00 p.m. departure on Emirates Airlines, we hadn't yet purchased the tickets.
The agent explained that the New Zealand immigration officials always ask to see proof of departure, and they won't let you into the country unless you have said proof. Now this should have been something that turned up in our planning, but somehow we'd missed it. It didn't show up on the New Zealand Entry & Exit requirements on the U.S. State Department's Passports & International Travel site, but turns out that information isn't exactly up to date. We should have checked the New Zealand immigration page, which is pretty specific.
So, yeah, we hadn't yet purchased our tickets from Christchurch back to Sydney. But now we had to get that done as soon as possible. No one was at the Emirates counter in the Sydney airport yet, so we couldn't buy our tickets from them. We could have bought them online, of course, but then we would have needed to find a place to print them out. Our time was a little tight, and we didn't want to risk having to run all over the Sydney airport to find a place to print the tickets in time for our departure. So we looked at other airlines. Virgin Australia had one flight for $40 more than the Emirates flight, but it left Christchurch at 6:00 a.m. (which would have conflicted with other plans we had). Qantas, however, had a nicely priced flight at a comparable rate, they had agents staffing their counters, and they could print us a hard copy. So we decided to go with Qantas.
Then it gets funnier. The Qantas flight turned out to be a shared flight with Emirates, and, for whatever reason, the Qantas gate agent couldn't get us the tickets from Emirates. He was perplexed by this. The whole thing was all very confusing, and while we didn't get the tickets, we did manage to get a print out of the the itinerary we would be taking, which we were assured was all we needed.
Skeptical, but with this new proof in hand, we went back and checked in to our flight. Then as I filled out another set of immigration forms required to leave Australia, Samantha bought the tickets online. But we ran into another snafu with Verified by Visa, a weird pseudo-security program (you never know when you'll need it until after you make the purchase) which kills conversion rates and should be put out to pasture. Now, because Samantha had never needed to use Verified by Visa before, she didn't have a password and the system wouldn't let her create one on the fly, so she couldn't progress to actually purchase the tickets. So , yeah, Verified by Visa is pretty useless. So we had to, again, abandon the purchase of our return tickets.
And then, as we went through airport security (which is the closest to the U.S. we've encountered yet, except you can leave your shoes on) Jackie got held up in security twice. First for her special, special bag of toiletries she got from her friend Alice, and then again for her peppermint hand sanitizer.
We had 15 minutes before boarding (we cut this one close), as we tried to finalize the purchase if our tickets with the free airport wi-fi, but it was pretty crappy and we couldn't get a solid signal. So we reverted back to 3G, making our purchases from the plane just in time (well, a little after) the call to shut off electronic devices came down. But now we had our tickets and we had our hard copy proof of our future departure from New Zealand. All was good.
Anyway, the flight time was a mere three hours, and after we'd been on so many long flights, this one, which took us back across two of the time zones we'd crossed the night before, was over pretty quickly. We arrived at 4:30 and found thatNew Zealand is possibly more zealous about bio-contamination than Australia. So keep your shoes clean (ours were after walking around Santiago in the rain).
Oh, and no one asked to see our proof of departure.
*Note: We counted Day 19 twice because we crossed the international Date Line so we didn't really have a Day 19, and the one we did have was spent on a plane. Maybe not the most accurate of decisions, but for budgeting and journaling purposes it worked.