There was a time when I hated to travel. That was followed by a time when I loved it. These days I fall somewhere in between.
We’re off on our annual trip to Europe, this time starting in Paris, courtesy of United Airlines frequent flyer miles and ending in Madrid. Courtesy of American Airlines miles. How we arrived at this non-cost adventure is a long tale of smart credit card choices, solar panels and dozens of trips to the grocery store and gas station. Plus a few tens of thousands of miles left over from the good old days of business travel. They add up, and sometimes the result is a nice ticket to somewhere.
We’re making a grand tour this time around, France, and multiple stops in Spain. We timed it well to coincide with the first few days of the horse fair in Sevilla, so we’ll get to enjoy that a second time. All in all, a nice chance to fly some miles and ride some trains.
One thing that wears me to a little nub each time is the planning. And this one was a doozy. Two different airlines, 5 train connections, 4 apartments, and all the associated times and deposits and contacts. While I consider myself pretty good at this, keeping it all together is a challenge. Where do you start? Planes or houses? The answer is both – find some decent apartment options (in itself a slog) and then look at flights. If you can find the seats you want, rush back and put a deposit on the apartment before finalizing the flights. It’s a juggling act and sometimes mistakes get made (like the 6-hour layover at Dulles that resulted in missing our Dublin connection by 50 minutes.) But if you’re diligent, some brainpower and a good Excel spreadsheet can bring it all into perspective.
But make sure you call your credit card first because it’s a pain in the neck to go through the train booking process on Renfe and get denied in the last step.
I completed to process back around my birthday in early February and put everything aside until now. Well, outside of some deposits and such (another story in itself, trying to book rent in France via a VPN from Mexico that resulted in my Paypal account being seized for fraud.) We pretty much sat back and waited for our departure date to arrive, until this past Tuesday morning when all hell broke loose in Belgium. Of course, following the horror in Paris last November, and watching the ISIS new releases about re-capturing the Caliphate of Cordoba in Spain, we thought about wading into this. The attack in Istanbul last month had taken that place off our wish-list, and we’ve seriously dithered about finding the time to ferry across the Med to Tangier from Spain. But this turmoil was too abstract to have a genuine impact. And now it’s close and real. But we considered our options and decided we wanted to keep on going with the understanding that perhaps, they’ve got things better under control.
So today we hopped on the small regional jet to Chicago, had our first tastes of people watching and made our way to the United Club to wait for our trans-Atlantic. Arriving tomorrow in Paris, a bit later than normal (which is nice) and looking forward to a week of taking in the sites. In other words, I’m back to loving travel the way I did, not so very long ago.