Sunday, August 12, 2007

EasyJet - Not So Easy
Things I Learned About Budget European Travel

Well here is a few things that I have learned in my recent travels in Europe. Europe has all these low cost airlines that you can fly and get around relatively inexpensively. However, what they don't tell you online is that when you book a flight to say Paris or Stockholm you may not really be flying into Paris or Stockholm.

Let's use Paris as an example, because that is where my travel disaster began. It actually began in Geneva when our 6:45 EasyJet Flight to Paris (Orly) was late, 4 hours late. Which meant that our 7 hours layover in Paris was not enough to get us to the other airport that was about an hour north of town to make our flight to Stockholm. However, I learned as I sat in the airport in Geneva waiting for our flight that our flight wasn't actually to Stockholm it was to an airport 100km south of Stockholm and we would have to take a bus from that airport to the city which would cost us almost as much as the plane ticket from Paris to not quite Stockholm.

Needless to say when we arrived to Paris we had to make a decision, do we bust our tails with all our luggage (that would be luggage for a three week stay, with two cameras, a camcorder, two computers - we needed all this for our class) across town spending money on buses and taxis just to either just make this flight to not quite Stockholm or just miss this flight. So we said ok, let's try to regroup and see if we can spend one night in Paris and head there tomorrow. Well that didn't happen because we could not get a hold of the Ryan Airlines because they only have office hours Monday-Friday (this was Saturday.) We tried to change our flight online but because it was the day of the flight that was impossible. So we checked other airlines and nothing was under well $1000. So that was out. Then we said ok, let's skip Stockholm. So I had to cancel our hotel which was difficult because I booked it online.

The next plan was to skip Sweden and try to fly to Oslo from Paris on Monday or Tuesday. Well, that proved to be challenging. The airline that I booked the flight from Stockholm to Oslo, would not allow us to use the money from that flight and apply it to a new one. Although the internet said we could adjust the flight, they claimed that was only the date and time, not where you were taking off. I still claim that they need to be more specific, damn you Scandinavian Airlines.

After nearly an hour of Skyping (thank you skype) from our computer in the baggage claim of the Orly airport. We said, "Screw Scandinavia, we are staying Paris." We booked a very nice hotel on Expedia, which actually gave us a pretty steep, yet welcome discount. We called our good friends at Continental Airlines, who after two tries (the first was disrupted because we ran out of prepaid airport internet minutes) was able to change our flight from Oslo to Newark to Paris to Newark three days earlier. I have never been so thankful to great US customer service. I know what you are all thinking: What airline customer service, you have to be kidding me. Trust me I am not. After an hour of trying to deal with European Airlines and Hotels and getting little to no where, the ladies we spoke with at Continental were a welcome change. I think they could sense the frustration of our day in our voices and they were just NICE. It was so refreshing.

To be honest this was the first time this trip I seriously missed the US. Don't get me wrong I missed my family, my dog and cats, our friends and our house, but I think having Bruce over here made it just a lot of fun. But after this horrifying travel day, I just wanted to through my hands up and cry, it was comforting to just have someone on the other end of the phone who was empathetic.

So the last two days have been spent in Paris. I have really fallen in love with the city! It is beautiful in the summer. The last time I was hear was Spring Break '99 with 'Julie Foster' and my friend Griner. It was cold and it was March, I left liking the city but not loving it. But this time, I fell in love. We went up the Eiffel Tower, went to the Louvre, shopped on the Champs Elysees, drank Cafe' ole and just had a great time. We come home tomorrow, a couple days sooner than expected, but I am excited to come home and get a head start on getting things settled before school starts next Monday.

In summation of our disastrous trip to Norway and Sweden that didn't happen. What I have learned is if you are going to go budget, be ready for things to go wrong. When they do, be flexible and be ready for back-up plans one, two and three. Skype is essential for any computer, it made making phone calls in the airport a breeze and at .02 a minute it was easy to call the airlines, without an armload of Euros. And I would have to say that Bruce said it best, you can either go cheap, but when you do that you have to be a backpacker with one bag. Trying to jet around Europe with three-weeks of clothes in very heavy suitcases is nearly impossible, as we discovered from the Metro trip from the airport to our hotel. So tomorrow we have learned and we will be taking a cab to the airport, which the hotel will call for us.

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