18 July, 2017

Camino Travel Lessons: Flow with It

I don't always do well with travel nightmares, whether acts of God or humans. Making our way on two caminos did help me learn a bit of zen in travel matters. We, my 13 year old son and I, are just back from two weeks in Europe on a Baltic cruise and a few days in Copenhagen, and while the majority of the trip flowed well there were some snags for us and our travel companion, a camino friend from the 2016 camino.

We met Diane on the trail near Melide in 2016 and entered Santiago de Compostela together

Planning is probably my forte, it's my strongest Virgo trait. I am all for wanderlust and unstructured days but when turning your money and travel time over to someone else's hands, be it an airline, bus company or the TSA planning makes sense.  I'm also hamstrung by a custody agreement that limits our travel time together (yes I'm bitter about that).

I also try to maximize cost savings with points and loyalty programs to get the most out of a current and future trips, a game the travel industry plays with us. Play it well and see more of the world.

The airline industry changes daily in favor of the companies not the customers, and I find European airlines still provide better service than American ones when going to Europe, with the major exception of Norwegian Airlines.  They are a no fly zone for me. British Airways, Air France, Icelandic and Aer Lingus have all provided good service to us recently, including a tiny pillow and blanket, no upcharge on bulkhead seats (if you know how to get it) and palatable food. Norwegian left us sitting on the floor of a crummy JFK terminal for six hours with one overflowing bathroom and no food or water available, with a kid, without explanation nor compensation. We missed our connecting flights on Iberia and had to buy all new tickets and spend a night in Copenhagen ($$$) so those "cheap" tickets cost plenty in time, money and aggravation.  This past week my travel companion received a text the morning of her flight on Norwegian telling her the flight was cancelled.  Since she had two connecting flights in Europe back to Texas, including an overnight hotel, this created some havoc. With two iPads and two iPhones working the problem for an hour, I noticed a second text come in basically saying ignore the first text.  I was on a "live chat" with Norwegian for 26 minutes trying to get them to confirm their flight was indeed going to happen. Had we hit "buy" on the replacement tickets, she would have been out a big chunk of kroner.  How many people did in fact rebook based on the bogus text? Done with Norwegian. Fake news reigns.

Heathrow gave us a private terminal.
It does serve to remind folks: having technology in hand to reroute yourself can make a huge difference; it is often cheaper to throw out a ticket and buy a new one rather than pay change fees plus the fare difference; be mentally prepared for major route and accommodation changes and have access to funds to make those changes. Travel apps I use all the time include skyscanner, google flights, Rome2Rio, Google Maps (download maps for offline use), each airline's own app, Seat Guru and Booking.com, and Rocketmiles.

Places I found in Madrid thanks to Google Maps

More on why I think American "travel agents" can cost you money in a separate post, and how the bus left us stranded at Logan Airport yet again (fool me once...) in another post.

Buen camino!