Greetings! After 49 days away, it was time my family and I made our way home.
To give you a quick recap of our trip, which began on May 21, we flew from LAX to JFK (all trip reports are below). We spent the first night in White Plains, NY at the Sonesta (I used points). We rented a car from Avis, which was two blocks away (another reason why I booked this location). We went to see my dad in his senior home, then spent the night in Greenwich, Connecticut at the Delamar Hotel.
We drove 90 minutes to Watch Hill, Rhode Island and spent two nights at the Watch Hill Inn and then two nights seven miles away at the Weekapaug Inn. We drove back to Connecticut and spent five nights at the Residence Inn in Stamford before flying to Toronto on June 1.
We were in Canada to catch up with Natalie’s family since she hadn’t seen them in three years thanks to the pandemic. Since we were there so long, we did make a couple road trips. One was to Niagara Falls for a couple of nights (trip report coming soon) because I had a NEXUS appointment across the border in New York which I wrote about in detail here. We also spent two glorious nights at the Park Hyatt Toronto, which I will finish writing about soon.
–Trip Report: Los Angeles to New York on American Airlines Flagship Business
–Delamar Hotel in Greenwich, CT
–Watch Hill Inn in Rhode Island
–Hotel Review: Weekapaug Inn
–Trip Report: New York to Toronto
–My Wife Got Randomly Selected For Covid Testing on Arrival at YYZ
–Trip Report: Toronto to Niagara Falls, NY for NEXUS/Global Entry Appointment
I booked our tickets from Toronto to Los Angeles last August (remember when I advised that people who planned to fly in 2022 buy their tickets in summer of 2021?). I paid 22,000 AAdvantage Miles and $59.52 per ticket.
To give you an idea how good a deal that was: A week before our flight, I priced it out using both miles and cash. To pay cash was $519 per ticket in coach. To use miles it was 50,000 per ticket for coach. Our tickets were First Class, which was now sold out. Crazy, great deal right? See screenshots above.
Because I didn’t want any more stress and didn’t want to press my luck with a rideshare, I booked our transportation with Blacklane (I’m a brand ambassador so I get a certain number of free rides). If you want a reliable car service with a professional driver you can use my Blacklane code JOHNNY15JUL22 to save 15% off your first ride when booked in July for future rides.
On our drive to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport (YYZ), I spotted a Russian Antonov AN-124 on the runway. The driver said it’s been there for months. I looked it up and he’s right. It’s been there since February 27 and according to Australia’s Traveller is “stuck after Canada imposed a ban on Russian-owned or registered planes using its airspace.”
While in Toronto, I watched the local news every morning and there was almost always a story on the chaos at Canadian airports. I was worried that arriving 2.5 hours might not be enough time but I figured that with priority check-in, NEXUS and Global Entry we should be okay. We were.
To enter any airport in Canada, you need to wear a mask and I would guesstimate that 99% of people were wearing one. Some staff had it around their chin but everyone else had theirs on.
What’s great about airports in Canada is that they don’t charge for luggage carts and since we had so much luggage (Natalie is selling her condo), we needed them.
Check-in at American was easy thanks to having First Class tickets and/or priority status. There was just a short line for Priority and a long one for main cabin.
Usually we zip through check-in but it took a lot of time for some reason (same with the people in front of us). Not sure if it was because we had to check four bags, including three heavy ones.
What was nerve-racking was when I turned my mothers-in-law’s bag over (she let us borrow hers) the zipper broke! We had so many so small things in there and it was so packed it was difficult to close. The passenger in line behind us rushed to help close it.
I asked the agent for tape but she didn’t have any except what they use for the baggage tags, which did nothing. I carry duct tape but only a small amount so it wasn’t enough.
In Toronto, you self-load checked baggage so I asked the agent working that section if she had tape or if they still have one of those plastic wrap machines, which I saw years ago at the other end of the terminal. She didn’t have tape, nor did the gift shop but she said the wrapping kiosk should be open. I walked all the way down there and it was closed (it might open later in the day for the international flights). We had no choice but to check the bag and say a little prayer.
FYI: If your bag is overweight (50lbs), the agent has to override the system to make sure you have a heavy tag given by the check-in agent. To use the machine normally, just load the bag on the carousels and scan your boarding pass. That’s it.
Since we all have NEXUS and Global Entry, we had a much shorter security line. It only took about 10 minutes to go through because they’re meticulous. All laptops and iPads need to come out and no overlapping. You do get to keep your shoes on.
Next was immigration. To enter the immigration hall you first need to scan your boarding pass(s) to find out which line you’re assigned. We were assigned line 3 but since we have Global Entry we could go straight there. There was no line for Global Entry and not that long a line for the regular one.
For Global Entry, there’s no more scanning of fingerprints. Instead they use a facial image and you need to line your face up with the machine, which is no easy feat when traveling with little ones.
Our officer was cool and said we’d just missed the morning rush. He said Global Entry is never really long but the regular line can be out the door.
Once cleared, you then enter the terminal, which of course makes you pass through Duty Free, which is such a trap.
Gates were crowded in Terminal 3 but we found one that was empty so we hung out there.
Often when flying from the U.S. to Canada, you have to do a passport check at the counter but not here. They only check your passport when boarding.
We boarded first since we had a bunch of carry-on and the kids wanted to play on their iPads (they only get to use them when we travel). The flight attendants were nice and appreciative that we’d brought them Canadian candy bars. They said they didn’t even get to get off the plane as they had just arrived from Dallas.
Our first leg was Toronto to Dallas on an A319 which has just two rows of first class and eight total seats. Everyone wore a mask during boarding but once the captain made an announcement that you no longer have to wear one, many people took them off.
The plane was really hot during boarding and the first 30 minutes of flight, then it was freezing. I mean cold. We took off 10 minutes late and flight time was two hours and 53 minutes.
We had a beautiful view of downtown Toronto and Lake Ontario.
There were some cool islands I’ve never noticed before, which looked like they’re used for farming. I think it was Lake Erie but there was no live mapping and the WiFi was down. Update: I found the island and it indeed was Lake Erie. Here’s the map.
We pre-ordered our meals, which was a choice of:
-Oven-roasted beef with farfalle pasta, roasted mushroom cream sauce, cherry tomatoes
-Butternut squash risotto with red pepper coulis
We landed on-time in DFW at 3:45pm. It was 104F and we arrived to gate C30. We had to go to gate A16 so we took the Skylink train. While 99% of people wore masks at YYZ only about 3% were wearing them in DFW.
I stood in line at McDonald’s since my son was starving. He didn’t eat the food on the plane as he has a nut allergy and flight attendant’s couldn’t confirm the meal ingredients. While getting some chicken McNuggets and fries, I overheard the manager tell a customer he couldn’t make ice cream because he’s understaffed and it takes too much time. The customer wouldn’t back down and said: “This conversation is taking longer than it takes to make the ice cream.” He made them for her.
There were a lot of Europeans in the airport and a lot of people coughing, which made me nervous.
We tried to find a deserted gate but couldn’t find one in Terminal A. The one we did find was relatively empty but quickly filled up when they assigned a new flight.
We had a two-hour layover, which is the minimum you should allow these days with all of the cancellations and delays but American was doing a good job on Saturday … so much so that there was no line at their customer service desk, which I tweeted out as breaking news.
The bathrooms were pretty nasty but one had a built in step stool which was a nice touch for the kids since the sinks are high.
Our plane arrived late but they turned it around so fast that we ended up getting on at the end of Zone 4. The jetway was packed but it moved quickly and there was air conditioning blowing to keep the air moving.
One of the AA wheelchair workers (who really works for Envoy) was the most pleasant employee I’ve come across and walked up the jetbridge wishing everyone a great, safe flight.
Our plane was an A321 with 20 first class seats. These seats were newer, tighter and didn’t have a wall at the back of the cabin, just a little shield, which isn’t very private.
Food choices for this flight were:
-Cajun chicken salad: Cajun seasoned chicken on mixed greens with charred corn, sliced egg, diced tomatoes and cotija cheese
-Fruit and cheese plate: An assortment of fine cheeses served with fresh and dried fruits
I also pre-ordered an Asian vegetarian dish to see what it was like and it was humus which they also served as a side dish for the fruit and cheese plate.
What was great is that our plane had a handful of channels of DirectTV so I was able to watch the Yankees vs Red Sox game on Fox to pass the time.
American is also currently offering 20 minutes of free WiFi if you watch a commercial.
The worst part of the trip was that a little boy, maybe around two or three, in the bulkhead row of coach, coughed the entire flight. If we don’t get sick, then it’s because of the Wynd air purifier device I travel with that cleaned the air (Update: We did NOT get sick!).
Flight time was two hours and 37 minutes but we were delayed about 15 minutes on the ground for departure and arrival.
At LAX, the plane’s tow overshot the parking slot so everyone had to wait with their luggage in the aisle to get pushed back a few feet for the jetbridge to reach.
We arrived at Terminal 5 and our luggage took about 30 minutes but most importantly, all our bags arrived and the bag that broke in Toronto thankfully didn’t open up. I was worried all of the suitcase’s contents would be going around the carousel, which I’ve seen happen before.
While waiting for the bags I went out to the parking lot to get a free luggage cart instead of paying $6 a pop.
I also knew our bags had made it because AA has a great app and I used an AirTag, which showed exactly where the bag was. Apple AirTags or Samsung SmartTags for android users really are the product of the summer.
In the Blacklane vehicle driving home, I asked my son what his favorite part of our trip was. “Coming home,” he said.
I think a lot of people can relate.