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Some Fresh Lessons Learned While Flying/Traveling in Europe


Getting ready to dig in to our yummy dinner!

Just  when you think you’ve got everything covered, you don’t. As I sit here and recover from our big seafood orgy….I mean feast at our Andalusian oceanside resort here in Spain, I am reminded of things I need to remind my readers about, to make sure their travels are stress-free! Without further delay and to make sure I finish in time to meet my friend who arrived yesterday… go shopping of course… are some things I’d like you to cover before heading out that door. Well, and also as you make your way to your destination by air.

Many of you know, the French air traffic controllers’ strike, or should I call it an “industrial action” as they like to call it, hampered our vacation’s progress this time around.  Yeah, it happened again.  It caused us to leave Brussels late, miss our connection and unexpectedly enjoy the beautiful and modern (thankfully) Madrid Airport  almost six more hours than we had originally intended.

  • Always reconfirm your flight’s status the evening before, where you can hopefully still react. Our flight was confirmed and blissful me didnt think much more about it
  • With so many strikes Europe-wide these days, check Easy Travel Report to see if your upcoming travel might be affected.  I typically start checking this about a week out.  All was good up until the night beofore.  As per our bad luck, this particular strike was announced within minutes before departure. This ended up being a good thing, as we were one of the first flights, not already in the air, affected.  We were also one of the first flights cleared to travel through French airspace once the flights already in the air were safely handled and mostly landed. Their first order of business was to immediately cancel all flights going into and out of France. Once that was done, the skeleton staff was able to guide the waiting scheduled flights through French air space. I knew the first batch of flights delayed were to be cleared within 100 minutes.  How did I know all this while most passengers sat nervously unaware if this flight would go anywhere at all?  I follow the Twitter feeds of many European airports along with@eurocontrol. They immediately gave their followers a heads up. I really appreciate instantly knowing what’s going on, and it gives great peace of mind.

As we slowly taxied our way to our gate in Madrid, we finally admitted  that we were indeed going to miss that connection to Jerez.  I already had a copy of later flights to Jerez, something I printed off last minute and knew we could probably get rebooked. Airlines will only hold a connecting flight if feasibly it’s a huge money saver and won’t have too much of a domino effect.  I see it most times with international flights, and only when a huge chunk of passengers are affected.  Not so in our case!

  • Have a copy of what flights come after yours, going to the same destination. Sure, you won’t know how many seats are remaining, but you’ll know where you stand.
  • Have the toll-free phone numbers for your airline! And this is important when traveling internationally. Have those numbers for every country you have a connection in! I didn’t have the phone number for their office in Madrid and wasted time looking for it. If you don’t have toll-free numbers, then just make sure you can access their customer service!

After getting off the plane, hoping a customer service rep from our airline would be there, we were unprepared for the sea of humanity that faced us from one end of the terminal to the other! There were very few uniformed personnel running around, just panicked customers trying to make connections or trying to figure out what to do about their missed connection.

After seeing a long line that snaked through half the terminal and sending my DH down to check out its origin, we realized the people standing in line were all trying to rebook.  I was on hold on the mobile phone and had an idea. My DH was lukewarm to it, but I reminded him it would probably be hours before we got to the front of that line!

I led my family through baggage claim and up and around to the front check-in area. There was a smaller line at one of the customer service lines, so I had my DH stand there while I walked up to the almost deserted check-in counter.

  • If the customer service lines are too long, and you can’t get through on the phone, try to approach personnel manning the front check-in counters.  This can especially be fruitful if it is a big airline with many counter choices.

I made the saddest face I could come up with. Honestly, I made myself have tears in my eyes. I summed up what the problem was in one short sentence and had my old tickets right there in front of me. I also made sure I started speaking in Spanish and kindly asked if she knew some English.   Of course her English was perfect. She immediately took my tickets, checked my luggage tags to get our luggage on that flight and had us all rebooked in 5 minutes.

We now had three hours to leisurely make our way through security, have a nice lunch and then make our way to the gate to await our new flight.

Since we now had more time, I also tied up some other loose ends.

  • I sent an email to our resort and called our car rental company to let them know we’d be coming later than planned. Always keep phone numbers and emails along with confirmation numbers for any business or hotel who is expecting you. Many car services will charge you by the hour for being late and car rental companies may put you down as a no-show. A few hotels will even cancel your reservation if it is not pre-paid or confirmed by credit card. Know the rules beforehand and don’t leave anyone hanging. In the past, before I was smart enough to do that, I’ve called my dad and had him figure it all out and make the calls. Now I would consider that a bit rude and would only do that if I had too many folks to call, and the airplane door was about to close.

Since I knew I had plenty prepaid minutes on my iPhone, I not only made calls, checked email, twitter and all my major newsfeeds. I’m not sure how long it took me to do that, but as I wrapped up my Internet time and checked my account, I had only spent 3 euro.

  • Make sure you are “topped up” and have plenty of minutes on your phone before you travel. Don’t hesitate to use Internet or your phone/text internationally. I’ve used my iphone along with the Internet in at least five different European countries plus calling to/from the US, and it was never as much as I thought it would be. My provider will also show a message with the rates as soon as I start to roam outside of Belgium. If you have a fixed monthly mobile phone plan, do not use the roaming feature unless your life is counting on it! Charges will so high, you’ll probably go blind after seeing your bill!

Since its due to rain later, I’d better get going. My friend is giving me the stink eye, and our eldest son just got out of the pool realizing his itouch was still in his pocket! Oh the joys of vacation!  If you have anything to add, please add below.



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3 Responses to “Some Fresh Lessons Learned While Flying/Traveling in Europe”

  1. Excellent you know how it’s done! So many good tips. You think exactly like me. It’s amazing how we ever get from A-B.

    Thanks for mentioning Easy Travel Report

  2. awesome post thanks for sharing

  3. Robin says:

    Many Americans wouldn’t think of taking the train, yet in Europe this can be as fast, more convenient and as cheap as flying. For example: Perpignan to Paris, five hours at speeds up to 325kmh, first class (sitting in an armchair), book three months in advance and you will pay around €40. And it gets you right to the centre of the capital city you’re visiting. And sure, you do get strikes, but the train services always maintain some trains on the high speed TGV and AVE routes. We gave up flying during the Icelandic volcano ash disaster: always take the train now. The horrors of airports are long behind us !

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