California Adventure Day One

On the agenda: Los Angeles, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Malibu, Long Beach and Anaheim.

We scored some tickets on Virgin America at a good price from DFW to LAX.  Our flight was leaving at around 145pm so after getting the animals all squared away at home and a lunch at the airport before the flight, we were up up and away!  Let me tell you, we loved Virgin America.  We are American Airlines flyers usually and there’s nothing special about AA.  But on Virgin, all the seats are a black leather type of material, there is 5 times more leg room than AA flights and every seat has it’s own TV/entertainment system where you can watch movies, listen to music, watch LIVE satellite TV and even order food and drinks from.  The cabin has what they call “mood lighting” with a purple hue.  The satellite TV came in handy because we wanted to keep up on the World Cup and was able to watch a game while flying.  My husband was in heaven!

World Cup at 30k feet!

World Cup at 30k feet!

The flight was good, minus some minor turbulence (I do not like flying) and after the mile long walk and a bus ride, we met my parents at the car rental center.  The drive to Thousand Oaks, where the hotel was, was uneventful and only took about an hour despite LA traffic.  This was probably the lightest traffic of the trip.

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Got settled into the Hampton Inn Thousand Oaks (which was really nice) and headed out for a bite to eat at Carl’s Jr.  We have a few of those here in DFW but my husband and kids made it seem like their burgers are made of rainbows and unicorns….add extra sunshine and diamonds for being a Carl’s Jr. in California! I’m a vegetarian so I just have to take their word for it.

It was an early night because everyone was pooped so we enjoyed the rest of the evening at the hotel.  Day two – Hollywood, Beverly Hills and a drive on the side of a mountain!

Viva Las Vegas Part I

Sorry this is so delayed, it has been a very busy time in the office since I got back from my short two-nighter in Vegas. So my mother and I left DFW early Sunday morning on an uneventful flight. We left from terminal D at the DFW Airport and even thought I worked at the hotel there for 2 years, I never noticed this weird music making contraption inside the terminal.  It was so strange I had to take a picture of it.  You apparently walk around in it and it makes sounds…

Weird

The only comment I have about the flight is that AA flight attendants sure are unhappy with their jobs and it is VERY obvious. We had an older lady who just seemed completely “over it”. To her, I say….go get a new job. We flew first class but were treated like the lowest of the low. I can only imagine how the people in coach were treated.  My mom has since written a letter — we’ll see how much of an impact that makes…if any!

We decided to take a Bell Trans shuttle over to the Aria because we were early and really weren’t in a big hurry. It did take us about 35 minutes total by the time the driver stuffed the filled up the van and we were the 2nd stop. Quick but of info – if you take a taxi you would be dropped off around the Aria’s front drive not too far outside of the check in area. If you take a shuttle, as we did, .they can only drop off in the underground garage area from which you would take the escalators up to the opposite side of the casino from where the front desk is. It is a long walk through the casino to check in. We didn’t mind it, as my mom had never seen the Aria before but if you have a ton of luggage you might take the bellman up on his offer to help with your bags…as you will be walking quite a ways.

View of the Luxor from the route our driver took

Mandalay Bay

Another Luxor View

It was around 10am by the time we got to the hotel and they hadn’t formed a line for check “IN” yet. There was a long line of people checking out and about 5 clerks at the desk. One thing about Aria check in…they are extremely friendly but very slow. I’m not sure what they have to do in their system to check in a guest but from 12+ years of hotel front desk management experience, I can tell you that I could check in my guests in less than 3 minutes each. We had a really nice clerk but he was sure taking his sweet time!

Outside of City Center

City Center / Aria / Cosmopolitan

Aria check in area, fall decorations

Aria casino

The room wasn’t going to be ready until much later so we quickly brought our bags to the bellstand for storage. I only stopped at one machine on the way out the door…the new Ghostbusters transmissive reel machine. $20 gone just like that…nothing,, zilch, nada. Sadly, this would be the recurring theme throughout the trip. We headed out to lunch and like an idiot…I didn’t change my shoes before walking down to the Mirage for our tradition of eating at Carnegie Deli. My dogs were barkin LOUD by the time we got there and I planned on grabbing a pair of flip flops from somewhere before heading back down the strip.

Views while walking

Bellagio

Inside the Cosmopolitan

More of the Cosmopolitan as we were coming down the escalator

Vegas is getting to look more like New York!

Time for lunch!!

Always a tradition to eat here on day 1

Lunch at Carnegie was good as usual…we laughed because we got the same waiter we had a few years back…an older Asian gentleman who just seems constantly confused and forgetful. He’s extremely nice and it’s always a hoot watching him run around like a chicken with his head cut off so we really didn’t make a big deal about having to remind him about our request for pickles 5 times…. We shared a potato knish and a grilled cheese/tomato …just a little over $20 out the door for the both of us. You can barely eat at Mc Donalds for that price nowadays (I don’t eat at Mc Donalds tho…) I swear that the knish size has shrunk however…it did seem much smaller than in the past. Either that or I was just extremely hungry.

Grilled cheese and knish (that is mustard I promise!)

Out of the corner of my eye I saw the purple gleam of light from the new Monsters penny slot machine and headed over there after eating. Not too long and the machine had eaten my $20 for its lunch too. I hit something and saw at the top of the screen it said “45 Wilds added”…sounded good. You can see by the video that I won a whopping $1.80.

What a let down! Of course I had to play my arch-enemy Davinci Diamonds … walked away with about $10 only. We played a few more slots and I walked out of the Mirage about $40 lighter, while my mom played a Wheel of Fortune slot and walked out after doubling her money.

My mom’s win on WOF

$24.21 profit

Next was TI because I knew they had that store where everything is $10 or less and I was in desperate need of some different shoes. We took the tram over from Mirage to TI and I made a b-line for that store. Grabbed a pair of blinged out sandals and my feet cried with relief. After a quick Starbucks run and a bathroom break, we decided to take the tram back over to Mirage and then cross over to do the Casino Royale promo slot and grab a couple of margaritas. My promo $ ran out rather quickly and my mom was able to sit a while longer before hers finally ran out.

We didn’t play any there but went into the Flamingo to get our TR cards (I forgot mine and I don’t think mom even had one). We tried a few slots there. Here is a small bonus win on one of my most favorite slots, Ghostbusters:

And another small win on the Hangover slot machine (another favorite — btw, I had just reduced my bet because I was running out of money and hit the bonus…always happens that way!)

I sat down at the new “Clue” machine and got some random bonus after just a few spins that made me $40….that was the one and only time that “Clue” game paid me anything. I wish I would’ve filmed it but I forgot.  I also played “Aladdin” and made it to the bonus where the chair moves – which was pretty cool if you ask me. I think I made like $15 off of that bonus…I was only playing like $.40 a pull. Mom fell in love with one of those Penguin machines…because her Penguins were pretty active. They were jumping around, leaping and swimming, turning things wild and re spinning…which resulted in about a $50 profit for her. I tried the machine next to her and I think my Penguins were hibernating. I got nuttin.

From Flamingo was a walk past Harrah’s carnival court to get to Paris. They’ve got the sidewalk all torn up over there and it is a tight squeeze to get around. We saw some interesting “characters” hanging around. I don’t know about you but there is something incredibly wrong with a 6 foot Dora just hanging around on the strip! Creepy. Inside Paris we took a stab at that new community Wheel of Fortune video slot and a couple of others. No profits but we had fun.

Creepy Spongebob and Dora

Be afraid kids, be very afraid!

By this time it was nearing 4pm and we needed to see if our room was finally ready…as they never texted us to let us know. I picked up our show tickets from that night at the old Viva Elvis box office…now the “Zarkana” box office.  When I mentioned to the guy that I would be back in February and am excited to see “Zarkana”, he commented that they probably will still be working the kinks out of the show at that time, so it might be a good idea to see it twice.  Once in Feb and once later in 2013.  The box office area was really gorgeous and the show seems like it’s going to be excellent.  He mentioned that “Zarkana” will be a resident show to the strip, similar to the other Cirque shows like “Mystere” and “O”.

Zarkana theater area

The room was available and we were able to change and get ready for our show at NYNY. The room was decent – they had given us 2 beds even though I had made the reservation for a room with one king to avoid the extra $30 they originally wanted to charge me for 2 beds on the night that was not comped. It ended up that they gave us the 2 bed room for free because there was never that $30 additional charged to our room. The room seemed much smaller than the one my husband and I stayed in back in Feb. In my opinion, the huge entry way wastes a lot of space. However, the shower/tub combo thing is awesome.

Tryin out the technology

We took the back way through Monte Carlo to get to NYNY and grabbed a soda on the way. We had tickets for the new show “Broadway Celebration”. Mom and I are both musical theater nerds so this was right up our alley. I had heard and read some not too good reviews of this show but we both thought it was really good. Obviously the chorus/dancers were lip syncing to all of the background vocals while they were dancing. However the 4 main performers, 2 guys and 2 girls, were great and they had microphones. They had amazing voices and outstanding charisma. The guy who sang “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables gave us chills and brought tears to my mother’s eyes. That is personally my favorite musical ever so I was very glad that they didn’t change any of the arrangements and to me this was the best part of the show. They did a great job with it. The show is in a very small and intimate theater and all the seating is at one level. We got second row center and the view couldn’t have been better. The man next to me was begging his wife (before the show started) not to post anything about him going to this show with her on Facebook. He said the guys at the office would kill him if they knew. It was hilarious to me later that he was dancing in his seat, singing along and was cheering loudly at the end of each segment. I think he secretly wanted to be up on that stage with them!

I snapped this shot of the stage prior to the show

After the show was over we were starving. Nothing at NYNY sounded good and we were planning to try out the Lion’s Share machine anyway so we went over to MGM. I’m really getting to dislike MGM…it seems dirty and smelly to me…crowded and just …well, a zoo. There’s constant construction (I can’t remember a time within the last 6 years where there hasn’t been any construction on something) and it’s a pain to walk around without getting trampled by some drunk hoochie in 9 inch heels. Unless MLife comps me my entire stay and offers me a ton of free play to go with it…I won’t be staying here in the future until everything is renovated and complete.

We don’t really do any fancy dinners when I go with my mom so we ate at the Studio Café which didn’t have any line. I ordered the potato skins (4 tiny skins) and my mom had some chicken noodle soup. Add a side of fries and the bill came to $40. What a ripoff.

Thanks so whomever on T2V described exactly the location of the Lion’s Share machine at MGM..because we found it immediately. It’s like they’ve hidden it – it faces the wall of the high limit room! I expected to see droves of people around it but there it was…all by it’s lonesome. My mom and I sank $100 into the machine without even so much as a small hit. It was gone in less than 10 minutes. We were so not expecting that and just sat there staring at the machine once it was gone…..in shock. Hopefully it is still there when I go back in Feb with my husband. I want to kick it.

The infamous Lion’s Share

After MGM we just headed back to the Aria. The crowds and the smell was getting to us and we needed some fresh air. My mom wasn’t feeling too good either. It was either the chicken soup or the fact that we just blew a shot at $2.8 mil In 7 minutes. I could’ve put more money in but I figure that if it were meant to be, then it would’ve hit…apparently someone else needs that money more than we do.

Night view

Once back at the Aria, the gaming began. We played a ton of machines until around 1230am…and thanks to a quick bonus hit and run on the community Batman machine I ended up $50 up for the day. That was the only large bonus of the trip but it came at a good time. It was around $100. One thing I absolutely love about the Aria is the size of their drink glasses. At the Mirage, they are tiny….the Aria’s are huge. The waitresses are quick to return also and pretty friendly.  I think I finished the night with about 5 Vodka/Crans!

Small line hit on Double Davinci Diamonds

My Batman profit

Feeling every one of my 35 years, it was time for bed and hope that the next day would be just as much fun as the first.  Stay tuned for part II…this one took me forever so with any luck, I should have it up by tomorrow night.

Lost in the Airport!

As if I’m not anxious enough about flying on Sunday to Hawaii, I had to go and have a nightmare last night about the flight.  Isn’t it weird how our brains transform our hidden stress into vivid, nerve-wrecking, realistic dreams that no matter how hard you try — you can’t make yourself wake up from when you want to?

It started with all of us waiting to board the plane.  We all had our boarding passes — me, my husband and our kids.  When we bought the tickets we made sure to pay a little more for seats all together so none of us would have to spend either flight (we are connecting in LAX) sitting next to a pervert.  C’mon, you know that if you have to share your personal space with a stranger you automatically assume they are a pervert and try never to make eye contact — well, I do.

Anyway, in the dream right before boarding we looked down at our passes and saw that our seats were all separate.  My daughter got a seat in the middle all the way in the back of the plane and was very upset.  I tried to get the agent to change the seats but she said it was too late.  We got in our seats and then I realized I forgot my bag under the chair in the waiting area!  I went to go get it and somehow (you know how dreams are) the airport suddenly transformed into somewhere completely different and all of a sudden I had no idea where I was or how to get back to the plane — and more importantly, my family.

I finally found a gate and was allowed onto the plane.  I couldn’t see my husband or kids but I just thought it was because I was frazzled and it was a packed flight.  The pilot starts to make an announcement and says “Thank you for joining us on flight yada-yada…non-stop service from DFW to Chicago”  What??  Chicago?  NO, NO!  I’m going to LAX!!

I bolted up out of my seat and ran furiously off of the plane.  Again, I was in the strange terminal and was lost.  Panic completely sets in and at this point one part of my brain knows I’m sleeping and it’s a dream.  I’m trying to wake up because I can’t breath but I don’t.  Finally I make it back to GATE 58 (I even remember the gate number!) and onto the plane.  They are just about to pull away for take off.

I turn around and see my poor daughter stuffed between two weirdos and starting to cry.  That makes me start to cry and at this point my alarm goes off and I wake up.  Thank God!  I was drenched in sweat and still felt like I wanted to cry.

Normally I hit the snooze and try to get in 10 extra minutes.  Not this time.  I was happy to wake up and get ready for work!

Travel Tip Tuesday – Airline Security..hurry it up!

Since I’ m getting ready to get on  a plane in 12 days, I lay awake most nights now thinking about packing and the easiest way to get through security at the airport.  No, really….I do lose sleep over it.  Airport security is one of the most stressful parts of flying to me(besides takeoff and landing) even though I know that it is very important for everyone’s safety.  My pet peeve is being behind a person, or even worse…a whole family, who is not prepared and takes 5 times longer than it should to get through the check.  I totally understand that there are people in this world who have never flown before but really….do your research before you fly!

So, here are a few things I think are important to know and be aware of before going through that dreaded airport security check:

  • Pack your “liquids” before you get to the airport on the TOP area of your bag – I like to have my little quart size bag full of my 2ozcontainers packed on the very top of the inside of my bag so I can pull it out quickly to be put in the bin.  Nobody enjoys waiting while you fumble through the bottemless pit you call your suitcase looking feverishly for your liquid items….be READY.  Oh, and no…that 50 oz can of hairspray is NOT allowed….even if you paid $20 bucks for it.

    $4 at Walmart…splurge a little

  • If possible, wear sandals or “easy off” shoes – What I mean by “easy off” is a pair of shoes that won’t take extraneous amounts of time or energy to remove.  Just slip them off and put them in the bin!  Yes, Marilyn Manson, I’m talking to you.  I personally remove my shoes while I’m waiting in line to have my ID checked.  If you don’t like dirty airport floors…wear socks and stop your bitchin.
Not the best idea…
  • Go visit a CoinStar before you arrive at the airport – I die a little bit each time I’m waiting in line behind the person who has $200 in pennies stashed away in his pockets.  Really…what is the point of this?  Does anyone even pay with cash anymore?
  • Check your gynormous bag– I hate to break this to you but your 60″x72″ 50 lb bag will NOT fit in the overhead compartment nor under the seat in front of you.  No matter how much you kick, stuff, push or shove it into the measuring tool – IT WILL NOT FIT.  I know the airlines charge for checking bags nowadays but damn…you are going on a 10 night caribbean cruise full of caviar and bottles of Dom.  Go crazy, splurge a little….spend the $25 and check your freakin bag. 
Don’t break it
  • Dont touch other people’s bags – This one is important.  I hate having my luggage go through before me.  I’m always afraid someone is going to pick up the wrong bag and take my suff with them to China.  So, please don’t touch my bag — if you are trying to be helpful, thank you but I can do it myself.

Yup, this is you.

  • Give me some space – This one makes me borderline violent.  I have a bubble.  That bubble forms around me in about a 2-3 foot radius.  If you are standing in that vicinity I might just “happen” to punch you in the face — which, would get me detained and I wouldn’t make my flight.  I really need a vacation so please….stand back, give me my space and don’t tempt me.  I can stand on my own 2 feet just fine, I don’t need you to stand on them too and I promise you will get through the line just as fast.

I’m sure there are more annoying things that I have dealt with while in line for airport security but these are the things I stress about.  I’m really not this much of a bitch BUT when it comes to travelling I can be.  I’m already stressed enough about flying 35,000 feet in the air over an ocean, strapped into a 400 ton “machine” , with nowhere to escape while having to breathe in other people’s germs and body odor.  Will someone just give me some wine I can wash this Xanax down with?  Thank you.

What about travelling puts you on edge?