This was our third time traveling to Europe together, but my goodness, it was the most chaotic!
traveling coupleGwyn and I left on a Tuesday for Frankfurt from Salt Lake City, Utah. My sister-in-law was getting married (yay!) so we decided to make the trip happen. We flew standby by getting passes from an airline employee, meaning we paid half the price, but don’t have a guaranteed seat. Unfortunately, there is such a thing as priority, and we were the last on the list. Most of the time, other standby people made it on the flight. We just weren’t so lucky. Plus, it was the first week of summer vacation and you really shouldn’t try to fly standby in the busy season. We didn’t quite realize these things, though.
In advance, we purchased our half-off tickets with goal flights. We wanted to fly out of Atlanta on Tuesday morning and get to Frankfurt from Atlanta by Wednesday morning.


It took us three tries to finally make it onto our flight to Atlanta. We even got to the airport extra early, just to give us one more flight to try to get on. No room on the 8 a.m., no room on the 11 a.m… But we did get on the 1:50 p.m.!

It’s quite the adrenaline rush, as you don’t really know if you’ll get on the flight until five minutes before it takes off. You’re literally the last people to board and the whole time, you’re just waiting at the gate, seeing your name on a TV screen listing your priority number and how many seats are available. It ticks down slowly until your name is or isn’t called and you’re given a boarding pass.

Once we were in Atlanta, we were too late for our original target flight to Frankfurt. We decided to stay at the airport for a few hours and try other flights to Europe such as London and Paris, but they didn’t have room for us, so we had to spend that night in a hotel. We used my dad’s hotel points (thanks Dad!) and got some rest at a hotel close by.


At a help desk…. again


The next Frankfurt flight wasn’t until 5 p.m., so we slept in a little, ate breakfast, and headed back to the Atlanta airport. Well, that flight didn’t have room for us either.
By this point, we had been ‘traveling’ since 4 a.m. on Tuesday, making it more than 24 hours and we were tired. We would be happy if we made it anywhere in Europe, so long as we could take a train to our family in Frankfurt. So, after we didn’t get on the Frankfurt flight, we went to the help desk and switched our tickets to Amsterdam. We made it on the flight! We even got boarding passes early on in boarding, which is way better than the anxious, unknown wait.


Once in Amsterdam, we headed to baggage claim. Gwyn’s suitcase was the first one out, which makes sense as our luggage should be the last to go on. Except, mine didn’t show. And then the carousel sign said, “All baggage unloaded.”
Conveniently, I had stowed my favorite items in my carry-on, but you don’t ever pack a suitcase to lose it. We filed a claim and were told we would be contacted if they found our luggage. It seems as my poor little suitcase somehow got separated from Gwyn’s and didn’t make it on the plane. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised. We switched tickets so many times, we were warned that this would happen. Drats. I was a good sport, though. We had been through so many ups and downs already, that this was simply expected. Maybe I was too exhausted to care. Like if you told a zombie you lost their bag.
We left the help desk and headed towards the train station at the airport. Now it was time to find a way to Frankfurt. Again, tired, exhausted, frustrated, we didn’t care what it took to get home (i.e. Frankfurt), we just wanted to be on our way and on our way soon. We went to the ticket desk and asked for two train tickets to Frankfurt. We paid a total of $277 euros. This is WAY expensive by the way, but that’s what happens when you book a long trip spontaneously, and we would also be able to use the fast ICE trains, not the painstakingly slow regional trains. (They’re good for local cities, but not for long distances. You stop so often, it takes forever.)
We were supposed to have only one train switch 30 minutes into our train travels. We got off that first train to hop onto our fast and convenient ICE train and….it was cancelled. While we were on the train platform, checking to see how long we needed to wait for our fast and convenient train to come, and there was a little scrolling bar at the bottom informing us that our train was cancelled. I pointed it out to Gwyn, almost too nervous to admit that it was real. The up side? We might be able to get a refund from the train cancellation.

To our next help desk, then. We were told that yes, the train was cancelled and we would have to catch a different (slower) train and then a bus (??). That train was going to leave in 3-5 minutes. We ran. We caught it. We would now get home two hours later than planned.

We found some people in the same situation as us and decided which route would be best to take. It turned out, there was no bus. We developed a plan in which we would take a different train than advised, get there maybe ten minutes later, but have less train changes, meaning we could stay on the same train and make ourselves comfortable. Ah, yes. To not be running from train to train with our luggage. Good idea. Thank you nice strangers.

At last, we were sitting in a comfy train cabin (similar to Harry Potter, minus the candy carts). We just had to sit there until we came to our stop, where Gwyn’s dad would pick us up.

After a little while, I connected to the wifi and got an email notification from the Frankfurt airport. My luggage had arrived. I guess my bag made it on the flight we tried to get on. Luck would have it that our train was going to stop at the airport. We arranged to be picked up there so we could find my lost and lonely suitcase, and finally head home.

Once at the airport, one of our new train friends helped us find our way to the right terminal. We got special access into the international baggage claim to pick up my suitcase. Before it was our turn in line to pick up my bag, I had to run to the lou. When I came back out, Gwyn was gone, and I had left all my belongings with him, including my phone. I felt like I was five again and had lost my mother.

Luckily, I found someone who worked at baggage claim and asked him where my husband had gone. He realized who I was and sent me to the office where he had sent Gwyn. I had a few moments to think about what that meant before I saw Gwyn. Why would the luggage claim desk send my husband elsewhere? Was my suitcase found and then lost yet again? I didn’t have too long to think such worst-case scenario thoughts, because I found Gwyn and my suitcase past a crowd of people. The only thing that was missing was my luggage tag. (Which in hindsight, the airport probably accidentally kept after using it to find my email and notify me that my luggage was found.) That’s fine. They can keep my luggage tag. I’ll take the luggage.

Apparently Gwyn told them he came from Amsterdam, so they got confused and told him our items would be at a different location, but my bag was there.

The door to my in-law’s house never looked so good.

We left the baggage area and found Gwyn’s dad. Boy, was I glad to see him. We made it. We just had to get in the car and drive home. (After our cousin found us and added Gwyn’s name to her car rental for the wedding) Soon, we could shower and go to bed. We got home at 6 or 7 p.m. on Thursday, after traveling since 4 a.m. on Tuesday (Utah time). I don’t recommend it.

What did I learn in this experience? Standby can be the best worst thing to happen to you. You save money, but it can be very stressful and ultimately expensive. (For example, you could take a different flight, and then have to pay extra to take the train to your destination.)

We also dressed business casual to make us more likely to be upgraded, but ultimately, it seemed as if that didn’t matter. We were a number on a list and we could’ve just worn jeans.

Will this be our last time flying standby? Well, no. Gwyn’s going to be an airline pilot, but it’ll be a different airline and with much higher priority. We’ll hopefully be in that group of people that actually gets on the flight the first time instead of waiting and waiting, and saying ‘screw it’ and spending almost as much money on alternative travel as actual plane tickets to just get home.

We’re just grateful to be able to travel in the first place, and have such helpful people in our lives, like our family, friends and those train strangers.

Home Away from Home.

Standing By for Standby Seats

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