Katie’s First Milege Run

This post is written by Katie about her first mileage run ever to Johannesburg.

We left for the airport at 9:15am, and arrived to check-in about an hour before the initial flight. I checked a rather empty duffel to Johannesburg with some clean clothing.

The Austin airport was surprisingly empty, especially for a weekend.

My mileage run started with a short jump from Austin to Dallas.

Leg 1 – Austin to Dallas – was short but I was happy my free upgrade to first class had cleared.

Once in Dallas, I rode the SkyTrain around the long way from terminal C to terminal A in order to see more planes (including an Emirates A380).

Leg 2 – Dallas to Los Angles – saw my upgrade using 500-mile upgrade coupons clear. Although there was no welcome drink, there were personal entertainment systems and two choices for lunch! I chose the BBQ chicken salad as the chili lentil soup did not sound too appealing.

The warming nuts and bread smelled really good (similar to baking bread) during taxi and takeoff. Drink service was first, followed by the serving of hot nuts. Then lunch was brought out, and it was really impressive! The salad had a good variety of fresh, crisp vegetables and the chicken was moist and flavorful. The bread seemed a bit burnt and hard, but it was not terrible. The post meal warm cookie was a good way to end the meal service. After dinner, I fell asleep until landing.

LAX Terminal 4

In LAX I was lucky enough to not need to change terminals since my arrival and departure were both in terminal 4. I got my boarding pass from a grouchy customer service desk and then headed to the expansive Admirals Club. After dealing with emails for a while, I headed to the gate to take pictures and queue.

My seat on an American 777-300ER LAX to LHR

Leg 3 – Los Angeles to London Heathrow – See my review on The Points Guy for my take on flying economy on this American 777-300ER. The flight went by quickly between reviewing and sleeping.

LHR’s Underground station

Once at London Heathrow Terminal 3, I took the Underground to Barons Court. I was surprised how full the train became. The Olympia Conference Center – where an Adventure Travel Show was being held – was about an easy 10 minute walk from the Baron’s Court underground station.

There was no line to check in at the travel show, and I quickly got my ticket which I had purchased beforehand online for 5£ (10£ at door).

The first talk I was interested in was halfway over and standing room only, so I opted to wander the vendor stands and buy an expensive 4.5£ sandwich.

Journey of the Kebab by John Telfer

Then I went to a variety of talks on a variety of subjects. My favorite was actually a talk during a period where nothing seemed interesting: Journey of the Kebab by John Telfer. This talk gave an overview of many off the beaten path places, how travel has changed, and how it tends to change those who do it. This talk made me want to seek out the less hyped spots and be willing to seek out the good in countries many might assume are unsafe. This talk really spoke to me.

Barons Court underground station

The talks ended at 4:45pm so I walked back to Baron’s Court underground station and caught the next train to Heathrow.

Dinner in the British Airways Galleries Lounge

After returning to London Heathrow, I quickly made my way through check-in (where I got my boarding pass for tomorrow too), fast track security, and to the North lounge. Once there, I grabbed a shower and some food before heading to my gate.

The window seat was my seat for this flight.  Notice all the space between the seat and the window.

Leg 4 – London Heathrow to Johannesburg. I wrote a flight review for The Points Guy on my experience on this British Airways 747-400.  One thing I did not include in my flight review was my experience with a giant ’19 month child’ that was seated behind me.  This child kicked his feet into my seat throughout the entire flight.  There is no way this boy was young enough (<24 months) to be a ‘child in arms’ – as such, he should have been required to have his own seat.

After arriving at 9:50am and deplaning, immigration took forever! I finally left immigration at 11:04am and claimed my bag. After repacking a bit, I left my bag at the left luggage desk at 11:34am.

Comfortable seating on the Gautrain

I was glad I had researched how much money to put on my Gautrain Gold card, as it was certainly not intuitive at the station. I quickly bought my card and loaded money on it at the airport station and then caught the next train to Sandton station.

The sky was beautiful, and it made Johannesburg look very different than on my visit last April. At Sandton station I easily transfer and headed to the downtown Park station.

From the Park Station, I found the City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off bus kiosk and exchanged my pre-purchased barcode for an actual ticket. Then I went to find some lunch since I had to wait 20 minutes until the next bus.

I opted for a spinach and cheese pastry from King Pies. The pastry was cheap and delicious, but it was way too hot to eat as quickly as I needed to before boarding the bus. Hence, I ended up burning my tongue and throat trying to quickly eat the extremely hot filling in the pastry.

Park Station

I boarded the 1pm bus from Park Station, and decided to just ride it around the 2 hour loop instead of getting off and exploring any stops. A few of the stops had seemed interesting, but I had only stored my bag until 4:34pm and I wanted to allow extra time for getting back to the airport and getting through immigration.

Seeing downtown Joburg was interesting!

The commentary on the tour was interesting, insightful, and lively. I’d recommend it as a good introduction to downtown Johannesburg. I’m sure it would be better if one took the time to explore some of the stops though.

Some cars were just for passengers traveling to the airport

Once back at Park station, I caught a departing train to Sandton and then connected quickly to a departing airport train. There was a ton of security on the GauTrain, including cars for just airport passengers on the airport line. It felt very clean and safe.

The airfield viewing area at JNB

Once back at the airport, I followed signs to a Airfield Viewing Area. The signs took you to the end of the terminal, up escalators past military men with large guns, down halls past various offices and finally ended in an area with a large viewing window and exhibits.

Views from the airfield viewing area

I spent some time watching planes, chatting with a guy who was waiting for his wife’s Qantas plane to arrive, and repacking my duffel bag in the Airfield Viewing Area before heading back to the main terminal to check my bag and make my way through security and immigration.

My upstairs economy seat on the British Airways A380.  Love the window compartment.

Leg 5 – Johannesburg to London Heathrow.  I visited the British Airways Galleries Club lounge before riding upstairs on a British Airways A380 for a 10.5 hour flight to London.

This flight was so far behind the other three long-haul legs.

Leg 6 – London Heathrow to Miami. After connecting in London Heathrow from T5 to T3, I visited the Admirals Club Flagship Lounge before flying on on old, not-retrofitted American Airlines 777-200 to Miami.  As you can see in my review, it was a long flight.

Immigration was easy entering the USA since Global Entry actually did save me a lot of time today. However, everyone had to go through security and that took forever. The Pre-check line was closed, but even if it had been open my boarding pass did not show it since it was printed in London.

Once I cleared security, I skipped going to the lounge or eating because I saw I had to take a bus to another terminal and I was not sure how long that might take. This was a poor decision since there was no food besides prepackaged sandwiches and vending machine good in the massively under repair satellite terminal E.

Leg 7 – Miami to Houston. At this point I was just ready to be home, but the flight attendants were cheery at least. I slept for most of the flight.

Once in IAH I had to call the Super 8 to get an airport shuttle to come pick me up and take me to the hotel. The Super 8 used a shuttle service shared between multiple hotels, which actually made a lot of sense.

Super 8 near IAH

I was assigned a handicap room at the end of the hall. The room was nice but had a somewhat creepy storage door in the corner. I was hungry, so I walked to a nearby Waffle House for a quick meal before finally crashing.

The next morning I was unhappy to be woken at 9:30am by cleaning staff knocking on my door. I showered, checked out by 11am, and then worked on my laptop on the lobby until taking the 2pm airport shuttle to IAH terminal C.

From Terminal C, I took the 102 bus 68 minutes to downtown Houston for just $1.25. This bus seemed to mainly be utilized by airport services workers.

I exited at the Travis and Pierce stop, which was right across the street from the MegaBus stop. I was hungry though, so I walked to nearby Chipotle to eat and pass an hour before my 5:15pm bus.

Leg 8 – Houston to Austin.  The MegaBus was uneventful – so much so that I even fell asleep for most of the ride.

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