To recap my last day in New Zealand I walked on three beaches, two on the east coast and one on the west coast and I stuck my feet in both the Tasman and the South Pacific. That's a pretty successful day in my book. 

After my glorious day at the beaches, I set off for the airport, through Auckland during rush hour. I guess I didn't learn my lesson the first time. The return trip was much easier though, it is signed pretty well, I guess airports usually are though.I had decided to spring for a hotel at the airport and I am so happy I did. The Novotel Auckland airport is across the street from the international terminal. I mean right across the street. The commute is one minute unless there is a car coming, then it is a two minute commute. It was a good  decision for me. I didn't want to have to hassle my way there in the morning from the city at 4am or anything like that. In years past I might have, but not this time. The hotel was super clean, crisp and simple, European style. I checked in, returned my rental car, good by Hybrid Camry, and began my epic repack.

The repack.

Unfortunately I didn't get much sleep the night before my flight. Even though I was right across the street, I think I was still worried about waking up. I always I am. I have a lot of trouble getting out of the dream state most days. I woke up very groggy and made my way over to the international terminal, 2 hours early as required which meant that I had to skip the breakfast at the hotel which was included. I wasn't too happy about that. But I already felt like I was running late so there wasn't much I could do about it. 

The day of flights was to go something like this, Auckland to Sydney, lay over for four hours, Sydney to San Francisco, 2 hour layover, San Francisco to Las Vegas. Total travel time somewhere around 30 hours. Once I strolled across the street to the Air New Zealand counter in Auckland I was upset and surprised to find out that my long haul was not actually on Air New Zealand like my booking said. It was on United. My experience on Air New Zealand on the way over was seamless and really wonderful. I guess somewhere during my booking process I missed something that said Air New Zealand operated by United. I think it is possible it wasn't listed because I would normally catch something like that, and I absolutely would have booked a different flight. Or maybe I was sleepy when I booked.  But anyways you must be wondering what my beef is with United. It's not really a beef, I just tend to dislike the American carriers and try not to fly them if I have another option. I know that's kind of crappy to say when our economy is in the can and the airlines employ a lot of people but there are some very specific reasons. First all of the American carriers tend to have much much older planes, which means things aren't as clean, comfortable and almost a guarantee that there are no screens in the seats. Now I know that sounds super spoiled but on a long haul flight it really matters. If the flight was 5 hours and under I wouldn't care but this was a 13 + hour flight. Also for some reason when a plane is old it really gets in my head, again not much of an issue on shorter flights, but long hauls yes. I would always rather be on a plane that looks like it is 10 years old instead of 30. I know it is perfectly safe and they update and check and double check, but it can get in your head a bit. It's like when you have an old car, you keep repairing it, but eventually you stop taking those long drives for fear of breaking down, until you just start borrowing a car or looking for a new one because long drives really are awesome. It's kind of like that in my head with old planes. Ok and another reason I don't like to fly the American carriers abroad is because I can fly them at home. I think part of the fun is to try out foreign carriers when you are going someplace foreign, see what the options are, how they treat their patrons, all that sort of stuff. It's like research. And another sweeping generalization is that well, American carriers are like buses and there are a lot of airlines that cost around the same that are not like that, not that they are limos, but they don't feel like buses. I know this paragraph is totally ridiculous but this is what happens to me when I am about to get on a plane after being in the middle of nowhere alone for a couple of weeks, weird stuff comes up for me. So on this particular day at 7am checking in for an actual Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to Sydney it seemed to be my bewitching hour. 

I flew Air New Zealand to Sydney, got a few quick views of Sydney on the way down and then got funneled into connection security. I did consider at the beginning of my whole trip trying to get out and go see Sydney a bit on this layover but as it got closer and closer I realized that 3.5-4 hours really isn't that much when you are trying to go through immigration, take a taxi to an area, look around, come, back re-check in and then fly out. It sounded so much better in my head than in reality. Instead I just walked around the terminal a lot. I was obviously super early for my connection and I needed to change my boarding pass with the gate. I went to hang out in the gate area and there was only one other person there. About 20 minutes after that, the United ground crew starts to swarm over the area. They start setting up partitions and tables and start to basically cordon off the place. I had never seen anything like it in an airport before. It was like a gate blockade. One of the women came up and asked me what flight I was on and then that I had to leave the area. They were doing an LA flight before the SFO one. Then she changed her mind and said I could be the first one through security so she could change my ticket and then I could leave the area and not come back until my fight. Then she started asking the other guy for his boarding pass and passport, I mean it was just an open seating area, it's not like we were event that close to the gate. So once they were all set up, they searched my bags, did an explosives test, checked my passport an then the lady changed my boarding pass. It was then that I found out my flight actually had three numbers, an Air New Zealand number, a United number and a US Air number. Apparently the flight had been marketed three different ways. Another thing I had never seen before. Once I was done I happily left fear alley and went for a nice long walk around the whole terminal which turned out to be much bigger than I originally thought, thankfully. I stopped in three different book shops, and miscellaneous other stores of interest. I bought book that had been recommended to me during my time in NZ, it turned out to be massive. And then I slept for a long time on the flight and didn't read at all, haha. 

The flight to SFO was totally fine, minus the movie issue. I slept a lot thankfully. I had sort of planned my sleep out to try to minimize my jetlag. This is a nice brain teaser to try with yourself. Customs was pretty quick in SFO, you do have to pick up your bag walk through and then toss it on the recheck belt if you are connecting but that was easier than expected. The issue in SFO didn't occur until I was at my next gate. I was a little in shock at being back in the US, it always happens, not matter how long or short my trips abroad are. There is just this adjustment that needs to happen a re-calibration of self if you will. 
I get to the gate and the ground crew can't figure out where the plane is going. There is a massive gate mix up that goes on for a solid 45 minutes meaning of course that we are delayed. I just sat down and waited but there were a lot of seriously angry people. I suppose I get it, how can you not know where the plane that is parked at the gate is going next, but I also imagine it happens a lot. After spending so much time in the South Island where nothing is a fuss it was interesting to watch to many people get so bent out of shape. I mean we were either going to Vegas from one gate or another and there is pretty much no schedule in Vegas or if there is, it's malleable, so just relax, I thought in my head. By this point I was in travel no mans land and not really sure which day it was except for the fact that I knew in advance that all my travel time was in fact going to be on May 3rd, so that helped. 

En route, my seat mates were pretty amusing. There was a 27 year old guy from CT but originally from Puerto Rico and in the middle a 65+ woman living in the Isle of Man (if you haven't heard of it, it is a banking center on an island in the middle of Ireland and England, think Caymans but not as warm) originally from Ireland. I was sort of in and out of the conversation the whole trip, but since I never sit at the window I did a lot of watching. The woman had just done a 40 something day cruise, which is so much time on a boat, and was now traveling around the US. They guy who was a real talker and kept telling us how he didn't remember anything from his last Vegas trip, was in town for the fight. It was an amusing hour.