It started with, I kid you not, a 3 am alarm. Urgh! Any other day, it would be too early to get up, but not today. Today is the start of our big adventure and we’re prepared for USA road trip Day 1!
Half an hour later we’re locked and loaded in the rental car, ready to leave our family in Brittas Bay to start our epic three-month RV road trip across America.
Day 1. Wed 19 Sep: From Ireland to America
We caught an early British Airways flight from Dublin at 7:30 to London (LON) Heathrow where we had two hours to catch a direct nine-hour Virgin Atlantic flight to San Francisco (SFO). Despite a shaky start in Dublin when our BA flight took off in stormy winds, we were encouraged by a beautiful bright rainbow as we boarded the plain. All went well with no hiccups at the airports, our luggage or the connecting flight.
I was worried that we may not have enough time for the two-hour transfer at London Heathrow, but it worked out well.
The flight from LON to SFO was as comfy as
Day flights are definitely more challenging with a toddler than night flights.
At one point, she had to be physically restrained by both Brendan and myself during the landing at SFO. In the pure rebellious style of a willful two-year-old, she refused to sit in her own seat. She wanted her Momma! The cabin crew were strict and would not allow her to sit on my lap when that was the only place she wanted to be at that moment in time. Yip, it was tough.
Children older than two must sit in their own seat, buckled up, when the seatbelt sign is on for safety reasons, no matter what.
Nick and Leah stayed up all through the flight watching movies, playing games and drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate. It’s a special occasion so we didn’t hassle them about it and at least they enjoyed the flight.
Clearing US Customs
It took two hours to clear US customs at San Francisco International Airport, to collect our baggage and to catch a taxi to the motel.
The queues at customs were forever long. An angel of an officer started to pull families with little children to the front of a new queue, after about an hour of our arrival. For the first time in motherhood, as we made our way past rows of tired travelers without young children, the tables were turned and I could pity them.
Kate was fast asleep all the way from customs to the motel so my hip-seat was an absolute lifesaver. She will not sleep in a stroller and my back would break if I had to carry her, asleep over my shoulder, for more than two hours without the support of my hipseat! The bebeár hipseat was the best £30 I’ve ever spent. So many people waiting in-lines with us commented on it and said what a great idea a hip-seat was, but that they’ve never seen one.
Two different US customs officers at different checkpoints questioned us:
- About our trip,
- About our plans for the next few years of our lives,
- About our current situation,
- About our finances and
- About our recent past.
They asked for proof of:
- Our return flights,
- hotel reservations,
- and the RV reservation to confirm all our plans.
Good thing I printed off copies of every reservation and confirmation we had, and kept it in date order, in an easy-to-reach folder of our hand luggage.
It’s safe to say that US Customs Officers want to know what your intentions are for visiting the States beyond any doubt.
So be prepared.
From first impressions, in our humble opinion, they inspire respect because it was clear that they take their jobs seriously.
We thought they were very cool anyway in their black police uniforms with their shiny cop badges just like we see in the movies. Police toys and badges across the world are based on these guys! They don’t mess around and they don’t smile much either, but the officers we spoke to were cool enough to crack a joke or two once they were convinced that we were really there to travel and spend our hard earned cash in their beloved country.
Best Advice We Got From A Local
Keep your passports with you at ALL times. Do not to leave it in the car when you’re out and about. If you get into an altercation they’ll ask for your passport first; not your license or local form of ID and there won’t be time for you to go find it somewhere else. You can be neck deep in it before you know it.
We were advised to only speak if spoken to and not to mess around with cops in America if we ever got pulled over or had to engage with them at any point. No pressure at all; what with my strange history of randomly being called to one side for full body scans and searches during airport security checks. I seriously don’t know why but they almost always pick me!?
The point is, they don’t have time to waste and you can get into big trouble fast if you seem to be non-compliant. We took that to heart and hoped our paths would not cross with any cops on this USA road trip. Fingers Crossed.
Mobile Phone Sim cards & Data Bundles
Verizon was recommended as a preferred mobile service provider, so at the airport, we looked for a Verizon outlet but could only find Lycamobile. We got one Lycamobile sim card with a three-month unlimited data package for $170. I decided to wait for a Verizon shop.
In Carson City, we got a Verizon sim card with an unlimited package for $75 per month but, according to the Verizon assistant, it was not compatible with my Samsung Galaxy Note 8. That’s how I ended up with Lycamobile and B got Verizon because Verizon was compatible with his iPhone and not with my Samsung!
In the ongoing battle of iPhone vs Samsung, which started in our house the minute I changed from iPhone to Samsung, the score for comparative performance on our USA road trip now starts with: iPhone 1 / Samsung 0.
Verizon gave us the best reception across the country so we’d recommend it over Lycamobile any day. Only in the most remote areas did we not have any reception or internet.
FOR YOU TO PIN
Definition: Jet lag is a physiological condition which results from alterations to the body’s circadian rhythms caused by rapid long-distance transmeridian (east-west or west-east) travel. The condition of jet lag may last several days before the traveler is fully adjusted to the new time zone; a recovery period of one day per time zone crossed is a suggested guideline.
Hello Jetlag! She’s Not Your Friend
Our total travel time from wake up in Ireland at 3 am was 22 hours, but it was only 2 pm when we arrived in San Francisco the same day. Yes, try to wrap your head around that one.
I’ve heard of this ‘jetlag’ many times. I even thought I knew what it was but boy, was I in for a surprise. We were all floored at 5 pm when we checked into the motel. It was after all midnight back in the UK. It seems we were not as prepared for day one of our USA road trip as I’d thought when my alarm went off at 3am yesterday (technically).
The motel room was basic but large and clean. The place is typical of what you’d expect of a roadside motel looking dodgy from the outside. But like B said; they got the basics right and they were conveniently near the airport, restaurants and a good shopping center.
We dropped our bags, kicked off our shoes, closed the black-out curtains, zoned in on the two double beds like moths to a flame. And. Slept.
- Travel Distance: 9000 mi (Hire Car, Two Flights, Taxi)
- Travel Time: 22hrs
- Overnight: Hillsdale Inn Motel, San Mateo $102
Next Up: Day 2 – Pick Up our rental motorhome from Elmonte RV