Europe 2015 – Part 1: Travel

This is Part 1 of a 4 part series about my recent trip to Estonia, Spain and Germany. This part is about the actual travel. Read Part 2: Estonia, Part 3: Spain, and Part 4: Germany.

I recently had the opportunity to travel to several European countries. It was a fantastic experience overall, though there were snags. I suppose this is inevitable during travel, especially today’s air travel.

Getting to Europe

I booked through Expedia, resulting in tickets on several Star Alliance flights (American Airlines, Air Canada, and Lufthansa). There were a total of 5 flights (ELP > DFW > LGA > YYZ > FRA > TLL). A month or less before my departure, the last two legs of this journey were cancelled (not enough connection time). It was a challenge to get someone at Expedia to help me, and it took several weeks before I had replacement e-ticket numbers.

After making it to New York, the flight to Canada was cancelled due to inclement weather. I was provided the following options: 1) fly from a different New York airport, 2) fly through Turkey and arrive late, or 3) wait until the next morning for a flight. I chose Option 3, and the agent was able to reserve seats for me on LGA > YYZ > FRA > TLL, but was not able to print out the Lufthansa ticket for the last leg.

After finally making it to Frankfurt, I spoke with a customer service agent in one of the terminals. I was informed that I would have to leave the terminal, go to the lobby, and get tickets printed there, then go through security. Frankfurt am Main has a terrible lobby. Ticketing and luggage check-in are separated, and not clearly labeled. I went to “Check-in” and was told it was the wrong counter and they were unable to help me (after waiting in line for 15 minutes). I was directed to the Ticketing counter. The agent’s computer was kaput. So she called … you guessed it, Check-in … and asked them to assist me. The same agent that said she was unable to help was able to help, and printed my tickets within 5 to 10 minutes.

An Aside About Airports

ELP: Small, nice-looking airport (I love the patinaed copper roof). Easy to navigate, but terminal food options are lacking.

DFW: I know many people dislike this airport, but it’s acceptable in my book. I like the train between terminals.

LGA: Never make me go back here.

YYZ: Phenomenal airport. Large and beautiful with free wifi and abundant electrical outlets. There is plenty to do in the terminal while waiting.

YYZ Terminal Sculpture

YYZ Terminal Skylight, which closely followed the curve of the sculpture's walls.

FRA: Okay airport. A bit of a maze, and I had to zig-zag through a duty-free store to get to my gate.

TLL: Small, quaint airport with a bright blue metal roof and some wood flooring.

CPH: Not particularly memorable, as it was a short connection. But one of the hallways we walked down was beautiful.

CPH Hallway

BCN: Again, never make me go back here. Large, with terminals that stretch on forever, offering practically nothing but vending machines. There is very little notice on which gate your plane will be at (perhaps this is partially a Vueling issue). I can’t recall if there was free wifi (I doubt it); there are almost no electrical outlets.

Notes on Flying

  1. In-flight entertainment system comes at the cost of having advertisements forced on you during take off.

  2. Round-trip tickets may be cheaper, but if you’re planning on multiple destinations, one-way tickets are probably better for sanity.

  3. The entire trip, I lugged around a rolling carry-on and my Cote&Ciel Isar Ruckack (read about the bag here). Vueling did not give me any trouble about this, nor did any other airline. As long one bag fits in the overhead compartment and one under the seat in front of you, it’s all good.

Thoughts on Trip Length and Activity

3 weeks might have been a little long or a little rushed; I’m not sure which. I tried to balance doing and relaxing. So many people come home from trips exhausted. Overall, I don’t think the trip caused me to feel this way, but the flights home were a real test due to my poor planning (FRA > BCN > TLL > FRA > YUL > LGA). In line with Point 2 above, I should have purchased a one-way ticket to Estonia and a one-way ticket home from Germany.

The next part in this series will be about my week in Estonia.