How to Kill 11 Hours on a Los Angeles Layover

An Oceania Trip: Part 5 (Bonus)

By a stroke of luck or misfortune (depending on how you see it), our flight from Nadi to Los Angeles was scheduled to land around 11:30 AM on Sunday. Our flight back to Toronto was not until 11:00PM.

That left us with approximately 11 hours in Los Angeles. What to do?

We decided to rent a car and go to Universal Studios!

This is a bonus part in a blog series about our November 2017 trip to the South Pacific. Read about Sydney in Part 1, Cairns in Part 2, New Zealand in Part 3, and Fiji in Part 4.

11 Hours in Los Angeles: Day 19

11:30 AM - Landing at LAX

Our flight ended up reaching Los Angeles earlier than anticipated, so we took our time retrieving baggage. You could stay in one of the lounges and basically eat and surf the Internet until your flight, but 11 hours is a long time to do nothing. Plus, since it was early December, LA weather wasn't as hot.

Even if we weren't going to Universal Studios, we still had a rent a car. LA isn't exactly public transit friendly. We hopped on a shuttle to Thrifty Car Rental.

12:00 PM - Thrifty Car Rental

We lined up and rented a Hyundai Elantra for about $48 USD (including insurance) without any pre-booking. Not too bad for a same day booking!

Side note: will car rental places ever figure out a more efficient way of checking into your rental booking? The process always takes at least 10 minutes per customer!

1:30 PM - In-n-Out Burger

Can't leave Los Angeles without trying an In-n-Out Burger. We went to the location near the airport. Unfortunately we were too hungry to take pictures, but it definitely didn't take long for us to finish our meal!

3:00 PM - Universal Studios

We began our one hour drive to Universal Studios Hollywood. I expected a lot more traffic than we encountered on a Sunday afternoon, and the sprawling Hollywood landscape provided a nice contrast to the ocean and forest hills we'd seen in Oceania.

The drive on the way to Universal Studios Hollywood.

I ended up purchasing tickets on my phone while waiting in line, as it was cheaper than buying at the door. Altogether it was about $105 USD per person.

We decided to head to the Universal Studios ride first, which takes about one hour total. Unfortunately, the park was incredibly busy that day, and lines were huge. It would be at least an hour before we got to the ride. Since we had limited time, we made the quick decision to head back to the front of the park and buy a fast pass ($49 USD). This allowed us to skip the line once per ride.

Boy was that a great decision - we managed to get to the front of the line in 10 minutes instead of 90, and were able to fit in so many more rides as a result. I was not about to spend $105 USD on a ride and a half before my next flight!!

The sky was turning pink as we rolled through the Universal Studios set tour, and was a lovely backdrop for all of the attractions. I don't want to spoil the actual ride if you haven't been before, but here's a photo of what our view was in the middle of the ride.

Pink skies during the ride.

Okay I won't spoil the whole thing, but this was pretty cool.  Simulated thunderstorm with rain, and then they actually made a fake flood to go along with it!! You'll just have to experience the ride yourself to see what other practical effects they show you. Hint: there's a lot!

Predictably, Harry Potter World was super popular and at one point, people had to line up to even gain entry into the area. I loved seeing all the Harry Potter references, such as Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and Platform 9 and 3/4.


The inside of Hogwarts featured a ton of references from the books, such as talking and moving pictures, as well as a fantastic floating candle display.

A few of the other rides we went on included Despicable Me, a Simpsons ride, the Jurassic Park ride, The Mummy ride, the Walking Dead ride as well as a few others. If we hadn't gotten the fast pass, I'm not sure we would have been able to go on all of these other rides, let alone the Harry Potter section.

We rounded off the day by grabbing a Butterbeer and keeping the souvenir mug that came with it.

8:00PM - Heading Back to LAX

We wanted to budget enough time to travel back to LAX, as well as return the rental car. Luckily, because the Hyundai Elantra is so fuel-efficient, it was still at a full tank when we returned it!

Goodbye Los Angeles! Until next time.

The verdict? Spontaneous decisions are AWESOME. A long layover in Los Angeles doesn't mean you can't have fun, and is a great way of experiencing a small dose of Hollywood magic. The cost of the pass and rental car added about $300 CAD per person to the budget, but was an amazing way to end the trip.

Thus concludes our adventures in Oceania (and Los Angeles) for two and a half weeks. Scenic landscapes, urban cityscapes, adrenaline-fueled rushes, and good ole' relaxation - all in the same trip. I hope to return one day soon and continue to explore this amazing continent!