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3
Mar

Cuddle Class Travel

For those who can’t sleep on long airline flights, there is a solution.  Many of us have wished for a chance to lay down for a nap without having to pay 2-3 times the economy fare for one of those business class seat. It used to be possible back in the old days when flights were not jam-packed full – I can vividly remember the pleasure and comfort of having a whole row to myself (or the envy towards anyone else who won the gate agent lottery for a seat assignment like that).  Now, Air New Zealand offers ‘Sky Couch’ options (aka Cuddle Class), and this provides an opportunity for various seating configurations – all of which are more comfortable than a standard seat assignment.  On the 13 hour flight from LAX to AKL, my wife slept for the first seven hours … which is simply amazing since she can seldom sleep on a long flight.  She would have enjoyed stretching out for longer, except made the mistake of looking at our daughter and subsequently swapping seats with her.

Photo from: http://www.airnewzealand.com/upgrade-to-skycouch

The Sky Couch is a configuration whereby the seats are similar to Lazy-boy chairs, with footrests that come up to seat level (and fill the space where your legs would normally go).  When you do this for 2-3 of the seats, you have a nice wide flat surface where you can stretch out.  Each such row was provided two fluffy pillows and a duvet, so made for a significant improvement over the standard thin pillow and blanket. Additional seat belt components were provided for use in any of the various seating configurations (all very self explanatory once you got used to the idea).

On our flight, I remained seated on the aisle while my wife stretched out with her feet resting in my lap.  She also tried lying the other way, and said that both were quite comfortable.  Many other passengers on our flight seemed to follow this seating configuration, although several other options were clearly possible.  I stayed awake long enough to watch a few movies on what I would consider the most advanced entertainment system I’ve seen on any airplane flight (and I’ve flown extensively on several airlines in the past).

The following link takes you to the Air New Zealand site which further describes the Sky Couch concept:
http://www.airnewzealand.com/economy-skycouch

In addition, here is an external and independent link to the Airline Reporter.com article which gave this revolutionary seat concept an “Awesome Medal”:  http://www.airlinereporter.com/tag/sky-couch/

Dad’s Recommendation:
Take a long trip to the homeland of Air New Zealand, and pay the extra to travel in cuddle class … you’ll arrive more rested than otherwise, for a fraction of the cost of business class.  However, do stay awake long enough to enjoy at least one movie on the high-tech entertainment system.  This seating option is presently available between Auckland, Los Angeles and London.

1
Mar

Disneyland in one day

When you’re making an international move, a great way to get the kids excited about the adventure is to spend a day at Disneyland.  However, a much longer visit is needed to truly experience the many facets of the park and surrounding attractions.

Walt Disney's creativity was simply magicalWalt Disney’s creativity was simply magical

It’s impossible to see and do everything in one day, so for us it was easier to simply have each of the kids identify the 3-4 things that they most wanted to do, and then focus on those few things … although some flexibility is required when faced with an enormous line of people waiting for certain rides.  A Fast-Pass helps by getting you to the front of the line, but you can only hold one pass at a time for each ticket.

Our kids have quite different interests, but we elected to keep the family together most of the time – and made a particular meeting place for the few times that we divided up to pursue specific interests (the pizza place in tomorrowland).  While the teenage boys were not that interested in the spinning teacups, and our daughter wasn’t that excited about the ‘Star Tours’, they did find out that most things were fun for almost anyone.

Spinning teacups are fun, no matter your age

Downtown Disney doesn’t require a park pass, but certainly helps prolong the experience from the previous day.  It was a great way to fill our day before an evening international flight.  There are certainly lots of shopping and dining options for almost any taste or interest.  I would recommend the Rainforest Cafe if you have not been to one before, and most kids would think the Lego store was a pretty cool place (they’re in process of building a new place a few doors down the road)

Dad’s Recommendation:
Plan a few days at Disneyland if possible, but don’t underestimate the benefit of just a single day to break up a long journey.

Use the Fast-Pass system with care.  We would get Fast-Passes for the parents, then use those for the teenage boys in the family – so was one way to maximize the use of these passes.

27
Feb

Travel Tips when Moving

We are traveling across country as part of a move to New Zealand.  This type of travel is much different to the business trip where it’s all about the art of the carry-on, with micro-computers/media devices, ensuring no liquids, metal belts or lace-up shoes.  Our trip is more about maximizing the checked luggage (reference my previous review post about the luggage scale) … so we ended up with 11 checked bags for the five of us (plus 5 carry-on’s and 5 personal items – making 21 articles to keep track of).  The first rule when traveling with lots of people and bags, is that it’s important to keep a good count on everyone and everything – and avoid the ‘Home Alone’ possibilities.

The kids enjoying the Sky Club before departing home in Atlanta

I’ve often wondered what the absolutely most important item is for keeping in your hands for use during the flight.  I’ve tried many things over the years, and often find my iPod is the best since I can listen to some tunes during the long hours on a plane.  My son just bought a Nook colour and I really liked using that as an e-reader – even if it doesn’t provide the same texture, feel and smell of a good book.

Comfy sleep is possible on a plane

However, it’s hard to overlook a comfy eye-shade, blanket and neck cushion as my daughter demonstrates.  It reminded me that we need to consider the different needs of everyone in the family when we’re helping prepare for a long trip.  We made a point of stopping in Dallas Forth Worth (DFW) on our trip since she was born nearby.  There’s not much that compares with the contagious excitement of a young child about the simple pleasures of life – such as visiting the city of her birth.  Sometimes it’s worth making an extra layover instead of simply taking the direct flight.  Not only does an extra layover break up a long flight into smaller segments, but it allows you to experience the culture and atmosphere of a different place.   Each airport seems to incorporate the character of the city it serves, and DFW isn’t an exception – and truly feels like you have landed in Texas.

The boys with a Yukon full of luggage.

Getting a large group of people and bags to and from an airport isn’t a small challenge either.  Using a shuttle is usually the best option, whether a free service or on a cost per person basis.  We’ve used taxi’s and limo’s before, but there are limits about how many people and bags can be moved at one time.  When we landed in LA, we were able to get a GMC Yukon XL, and it was an ideal size for our family of five with all our stuff.  I shudder to think of how we would have managed with a smaller vehicle.  Of course, moving house and home is a much more challenging movement than a holiday, but it’s important to consider these things when planning out the trip.  In addition, with a family of five it’s important to choose a hotel room carefully.  In our case it made sense to get two rooms with a connecting door – the extra space goes a long way to avoiding the pressure cooking experience of sharing a room with a couple of teenage boys.

Dad’s Recommendation:
Plan your family trip so that there is adequate time to visit the Sky Club Lounge (or equivalent) at each of the airports you visit along the way.  Allow an extra 30-60 minutes so that you can relax in comfort, and don’t need to rush between gates.  It’s best to minimize anxiety and stress at every opportunity.

Also, make a point of visiting DFW – it’s also one of my favorite airports and is very well organized. The new SkyLink makes a fabulous way to see the airport from 50 ft above the ground, plus makes for a quick connection between terminals.

 

26
Feb

Time to Move

As some may know, the Traveling Dad is moving home base from Atlanta, Georgia in the USA, to Christchurch, New Zealand.  I am taking a senior role in the infrastructure reconstruction following the significant earthquakes in that region since late 2010.  It is expected that I will actually have more time with my family, more time for blogging, and more time for family travel – instead of the significant amount of international travel that I have been doing for work over the last few years.  Today I thought I would simply offer a few thoughts about making an international move.

Loading a shipping container for the 8-10 week journey

– If it’s just you and your backpack, it’s fairly easy to pack and go (speaking from experience). An international move could be the greatest education you ever get, as it teaches you about yourself and about others.

– As a young couple without kids, it’s also relatively easy to make an international move … just make sure you’re both in agreement about making the adventure together.  Troubles will come, and flexibility is essential … but in the future you will probably remember those times as your greatest adventures. At this time in your life, you can probably sell everything you own and start again in the foreign land of your choice (it’s a lot cheaper than moving a bunch of furniture around the world).

Packing our house for an international move - best left to the professionals

– When you’re a family with children, an international move is a significant event.  This is what our family is doing at present.  Once the move is decided, there are many details to work through – too many to comprehensively cover today.  If a sea voyage is required, don’t trust the moving company that gives you a quote based on land costs (yes, we did get one).  I would also recommend taking the time to downsize, and ensure that you keep only the things that are most important such as – memorabilia, items of sentimental value, things that are “irreplaceable”, items that are expensive to replace in the new country, and items which will make your new place feel like “home”.

Please take the time to sign up for updates.  I’ve been asked by many people to write more about our various travels and activities, so hope to have more time with my new job.  Having traveled extensively, I believe I have enough material to write for a very long time.

Dad’s Recommendation:
Don’t be afraid to venture overseas – the world is much bigger than your country of origin.

26
Jan

World’s Friendliest Countries

This title may not mean much to you, unless your country made the list.  However, most people appreciate the pleasure of meeting friendly people during their travels instead of rude ones.  The following report makes for an interesting read:

http://travel.yahoo.com/ideas/world-s-friendliest-countries.html

This indicates that the friendliest countries are:
1. New Zealand
2. Australia
3. South Africa
4. Canada
5. United States

New Zealand Beach