Monday, April 07, 2008

When Traveling by Plane....

Please take along your sense of humour. You may desperately need it.

I am going to share our going to and coming back from Portugal stories. As humans, we love sharing our misery :) and this blog is turning into a documentation of our family's travels. Like it or not, I am better at blogging than I am keeping up with scrapbooks right now.

Travel to:
Sometimes you just have to laugh. Because you might otherwise cry. Or laugh inappropriately. Or make nasty faces at the 3 year old little girl in front of you who won't sit down and whose parents really don't care what she's doing. Did I just write that? Shame on me.

Seriously - if you are going to take offense to my comments and suggestions in the following paragraphs re: traveling with your small children - don't bother reading this post. Fair Warning.

We flew Zurich - Frankfurt, Frankfurt - Faro on our way to Portugal. I don't know that I can liken Frankfurt (or Heathrow) to any other airport in the US as far as hassle in making connections - maybe Chicago. I would avoid either of them if I could but that's unrealistic. Anyhoo, everything was going swimmingly until about 20 min.'s into our flight out of Frankfurt to Faro - this was a 2.5 - 3 hr flight.

The little girl in front of us (approx. 3 -4 yrs old) - more specifically in front of Bart (we had the middle 4 seats together) - stood up in her seat and was peering over to watch the girls. She then proceeded to let loose a hefty sneeze - aimed at Bart who swiftly held his newspaper up into a defensive position against further attacks. I grinned and chuckled (while hoping she had nothing contagious to give my family) while he shot me a dirty look. :) The look that said "great, why aren't you sitting here instead."

She continued to pop up and down - occasionally pulled down by her father who was distracted by his iPod in one ear and the book in his hand. Mom was distracted by the 9 month old who did very well on the flight. Then our dinner was served (yes, airlines still serve meals on 3 hr 'mealtime' flights in Europe) and apparently the girl's a quick eater. Because she wanted to stand up and watch our girls eat their food. And jump up and down on her seat - her dad was not paying any attention to her - she's bouncing right next to him! And bouncing on the seat that is connected to Bart's tray table.

I did catch her eye and gave my head a shake to indicate the jumping was a "no, no" - she flipped her head and kept going. Bart was hanging onto his food and drink to keep it from landing in his lap - he was not happy. And then I started giggling about it and couldn't stop. I couldn't even look at him anymore. And our girls were wondering "what's so funny" and "why does that girl keep standing up in her seat." She settled down a bit but popped up again later. When we were getting baggage, and I was still giggling about it all, Bart said I missed the crown jewel - "she stared at me and then proceeded to lick the top of her seat - the whole thing, from one side to the other." EEEWWWW!

The point of this is: 1. Kids are going to act up when confined in small places 2. Please at least act like you are doing something to help your child in their boredom - be prepared for these trips - the little girl had nothing to do and her dad hardly paid any attention to her the whole time 3. Don't let your child lick their airplane headrest - Eww - I shouldn't have to explain. 4. Have a large newspaper handy to ward off the sneezes of pint-size attackers.

We were really happy to land in Faro.

And all week we had a little standard transmission Skoda station wagon - which made me the official chaffeur and Bart the navigator. I hadn't driven a stick shift in 9 years but once I figured out the reverse trick (opposite of my old Toyota) we were fine. Although now I'm home and I keep trying to step on the clutch!

Travel home (Faro - Lisbon, Lisbon - Zurich):
We were supposed to get home Sat. night but it was Sun. afternoon instead. Courtesy of the inefficiencies of certain airlines we won't name and probably will not fly again - if we can afford to fly SwissAir into Portugal next trip (they can be expensive which is why we tried the cheaper route - and hoping there is a next trip).

We found out the flight was delayed when we checked-in. And, TRAVEL TIP #1- if you are flying via electronic ticket and will be switching carriers (ex. American to Hawaiian Airlines or United to Delta) - it is a good, no, great idea to get the tickets numbers for your flights (each person's) if they are not listed on your e-booking printout. NOTE: ticket numbers/locator numbers are not always listed when you book online thru services such as ebooking/expedia/orbitz, etc... We waited 1/2 hour for them to 'locate' our numbers so we could get our boarding passes - we were on the flight, names were there - but they need the numbers. This has happened to us twice in the last 6 months - and always with the secondary carrier - on the return trip. Also a good reason to get to the airport with time to spare.

So - late flight - made later as certain people saw no need to rush getting on or off the plane. In spite of the attendants trying to hurry things along. I about lost it on the way there due to turbulence and the pilots efforts to make up lost time - it was not a smooth flight plus we knew we might not have enough time to make our connection in Lisbon. I prayed alot.

Once we landed in Lisbon, our next flight was due to leave in 20 minutes and we didn't know if we'd have to go through Passport control for the transfer - every airport is set up a little different. But wait, we were out in the middle of airport no-where-land and they weren't letting us out of the plane because the buses hadn't arrived - for the flight that should have landed 25 minutes prior! Frankfurt does this too - I can't stand it!!! So by time we finally got on a bus (we had now been on the ground for 25 minutes) and to the terminal, our next flight was due for departure. We ran for it - taking turns carrying Kendra who can't run due to her injured toe (future blog) - and then have to wait while the Passport security was very thorough, slow and stamped ALL our passports (who cares! half of Europe doesn't stamp passports anymore!) to arrive breathless at the gate - the plane was already on it's way to the runway. 4 families missed that flight - the last flight into Zurich for the night - it would have cost them 15/20 minutes delay to wait and they would have probably made up the time in the air.

Now my mom is reading this and yes, I know, the flights all have their slots and things are not manipulated quite so easily but - most all the other flights that night were delayed, why not one more?

Once we found someone to help us (we got lucky as it would have been difficult to find), the airline was all prepared to pay for our taxi, hotel for the night and dinner/breakfast at the hotel. Which for the most part was fine. The hotel was clean, food was OK and we saw about 8 - 10 other refugee families from the airport.

But Bart and I didn't get much sleep. Someone (we think maybe below us) was partying - loud music and voices - and banging on things and such. And above, someone took a bath. As the water drained, I was certain I could feel drops on my head - the sound was so close. But the weirdest thing was, Bart went into the hall on his way to complain about the party noise, and he couldn't tell where the noise was coming from - it was quiet in the hall. So he just came back in and we were happy to get up and out of there in the morning. We aren't going to recommend the Roma hotel in Lisbon. No fond memories there - at least we didn't pay for it.

Travel Tip #2: If you have been delayed and find yourself stuck overnight with the option to have the airline hold your baggage vs retrieving it for your unplanned overnight stay, we recommend having the airline hold it. Unless you cannot do without something that is in your luggage - which means you should have packed it in your carry-on bag (glasses, contact case with solution in it, brush, deodorant, extra undies - the other toiletries can usually be provided by your hotel).

This way, your baggage stays checked and they will issue you the boarding passes for the new flight right away. No standing in line again: you simply go straight to security, thru Passport control (int'l flights only) and to your gate. It can save a lot of time - which is important if they've re-booked you on an early morning flight. Think of all the time we saved: we knew what clothes we'd wear - same as the day before, didn't have any makeup with us - washcloth was the main tool, and ponytail holders are great - hides a multitude of hair flaws (except for Bart who simply put his head under the sink). And guess what - all the other families were in the same clothes too! Come to think of it, they didn't look like they got a lot of sleep either. My problem was compounded by not taking my own advice - I had thrown my glasses in checked bags and forgot to have my contact lense case prepared. My eyes were not feeling pretty the next morning in spite of the home-made saline solution (water and salt) - it's always worked before but I think the water at the hotel was really hard.

We are safely home now (more turbulence again into Zurich - I don't think I should sit by the window anymore unless it is a perfect flying day) and it's still snowing in Switzerland. I wonder if we had Spring in February and will move right into summer come May/June? I had planned to throw some seeds out in the garden before we left and I'm glad I didn't have time. Considering the ice/snow we just had, they would not have made it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As I read this outloud to one of my FAA friends we got some good laughs. FYI..this morning briefing...complaints are up 60% in the most recent survey of American carriers. At least when I get stranded the hotels have been quiet. PS. I'm hoping to bring better weather with me in a couple of weeks, we certainly did last summer. Love, MOM-E