What went well:
- Both planes landed safely. That's always a good start!
- There was a super lovely flight attendant on the Auckland-LA flight. It really makes a difference.
- I got the vegan meals I'd requested.
- Actually had a pretty productive time on the planes - read 4 journal articles that interested me.
- I was pleasantly surprised by my hotel (Days Inn Chester Philadelphia Airport) for the night. After reading the reviews, I was seriously expecting the worst (it's 2 stars - I chose it purely because it was the cheapest I could find!), but it's actually ok!
What did I learn?
- Tips for going through border protection & customs
- You have to get through the border at the first place you land in the US, which was Los Angeles, in my case.
- As I was warned, LA Airport is crazy busy (apparently, San Francisco is less busy). Spent literally 1 hour in line (there queue was 6 rows long) waiting to get past border protection. I made it to the gate of my next flight with about 10 minutes to spare so it was fine, but queuing time is definitely worth keeping in mind when booking connecting flights (though they will let you skip to the front if your flight is leaving very very soon). Also, bring a book to read (or practice mindfulness :P) while you queue and go to the bathroom beforehand!
- Also, even though my baggage was checked through to Philadelphia, I still had to take it through customs at LA and then drop it off to be checked onto the next flight.
- Ask (nicely) for help
- When I tried to call the hotel to get the free shuttle to pick me up, the pay phone didn't go through and my phone didn't work either. The person at Ground Transport wasn't particularly friendly, but she did call them for me so it was ok.