spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

Europalooza Trip Report Part 14: making it back to the US…barely

on July 1, 2019

So after many days of fun, Europalooza was finally coming to an end.  Today was all about travel.  The plan: get to Barcelona airport via DH’s friend, take a short hop from there to Munich on Iberia (via Lufthansa codeshare), then, after a 1 hour and 40 minute layover, fly from Munich to Newark on Lufthansa (9 hours and 25 minutes, ugh).  Then we’d meet up with my parents, have a nice dinner at home, and get a full night’s sleep before having a whirlwind NYC touring day.  Best laid plans… 

Our BCN-MUC flight was scheduled to depart at 11:40a, so we had time for one last hotel breakfast before DH’s friend picked us up.  Having packed and prepped the night before, it was a smooth morning and we got downstairs on time to wait outside.  I have to say that at this point, my feet were killing me- not from pain, but from being covered all the time…I missed my slippers!  Anyway, the ride to the airport was uneventful, and we checked in at a kiosk, got our boarding passes, and checked our bags through to Newark.  We had a bit of a longer line at security here, but still less than 30 minutes.  We settled into a waiting area with a TV with over an hour to spare.

The first sign that something was amiss was the fact that our boarding passes didn’t have a gate number on them.  We asked the agent who collected our bags from us, and she didn’t know why.  She told us that the gate would be assigned soon (it was already less than 2 hours from takeoff, though?), and directed us to the general area to wait in for Iberia flights.

At 10:40a, one hour until our scheduled departure, the Departures board still hadn’t assigned us a gate.  No information was forthcoming.  I was concerned, because our layover in Munich wasn’t very long.  At 11:00a, a gate was assigned, yay, and the scheduled departure time was still the same.  It was quite nearby our waiting area, so we just stayed put.  However, a few minutes later, I got up and went right to the desk at the assigned gate.  Boarding was scheduled to start in 10 minutes…but there was no airplane.  Even if it got there right away, they still had to deplane the passengers, clean it, refuel, load bags and food, etc.  I started to lose hope of leaving on time.  They never did change the departure time on the screen…


I was right.  Our plane didn’t even arrive to BCN until about 12:05p, and we took off at 12:55p or so.  Our layover just went down to about 25 minutes- and that’s sometimes how long it takes to get off the plane!  I told my family that everything would be fine, we were protected on the connection because it was all part of the same reservation even though we were flying 2 different airlines. This was before the captain came on the PA during the flight to announce why our incoming plane had been delayed in the first place: serious snowfall in Munich, with most outbound flights outright cancelled for the rest of the day.  He also said that information was constantly changing, and the flight crew could not confirm/deny the status of any connections we had.

Inwardly, I was quite anxious, mostly because I knew there would be no time in Munich to fire off a message on WhatsApp to my parents letting them know about any delay.  I could only hope they were using FlightAware to track us, as they normally do, in case our second plane left late as well.  And that was assuming our flight hadn’t already been straight up cancelled.  I could only imagine the domino effect already in place from the announced schedule changes.  I started wondering if our bags would make it, etc.  I stopped myself from worrying about things I had no control over by playing a silly game with DS.  We had a nice short flight, and he finally got to see (A LOT) of snow like he had been wishing for on this trip!

The approach to land in Munich was really something.  I could feel the descent, but thought we were in the clouds for an unusually long time…and suddenly we landed.  That’s how bad the visibility was: zero.  We were on the ground, but if you had asked me 5 seconds earlier, I would have told you we were still at 10,000 feet! Yikes!

mickey yikes

Now the drama began.  It was 3:10p.  Our flight time was 3:40p!  We got off the plane, and speed-walked to the nearest Departures board.  Amid the many, many red “CANCELLED” listings, there were a few marked “DELAYED” and “ON TIME.”  And boy, someone was looking out for us that day- our flight was on there, not cancelled, but already listed as “BOARDING.”  And the gate was pretty far from where we were.  What could we do but speed-walk again?


It felt longer, but we made it near our gate in just under 15 minutes.  We could see our gate, and there were still about 2 dozen people there, yay!  But first we had another passport control line!  Ahhhhhhhh!  Luckily, German efficiency was on our side, and it took just a few minutes to pass through.  Sweating profusely and breathing heavily, we arrived at the boarding area. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

They had called the first class folks, and anyone who needed pre-boarding like those with disabilities and/or traveling with babies.  A couple with a calm young boy who looked about about 9 years old approached the agent and asked to be let on early.  He politely declined their request, with a perfectly professional tone of voice, but a hilarious “are-you-kidding-me” expression on his face.  A few minutes later, just as I was getting my heart rate below 100, he approached us and asked how old DS was.  We replied, “8,” and he said, “Ok, follow me,” and let us board right then and there.  I have no idea why he picked us, as we had not reacted to the previous situation in any way, and were actually sitting on the floor recovering from our sprint and perfectly happy to wait our turn.

Anyway, we got on to a pristine, huge, and practically empty Lufthansa plane- right at 3:40p.  Passengers started to trickle on, but there were never many at a time.  The time we should have departed came and went without any announcement from the crew that they were closing the aircraft door.  I think the kids barely noticed, because the seat-back in-flight entertainment (IFE) system was already functioning.  I was simply relieved that we were on a plane at all, and closed my eyes to relax.

30 minutes later, we still hadn’t moved from the gate.  DH and I started chatting about what was happening/going to happen.  Just as we were starting to form a Plan B, they closed the aircraft door.  We looked around the plane.  Many, many rows were empty!  We theorized that we waited so long at the gate to give more people a chance to make their connections.  Obviously not many people made it.  Oh well- more room for us!  DH got a whole row to himself from the start.  I was in a row of 3 with both kids, but there was plenty of legroom.

We taxiied away from the gate about an hour after we boarded, but didn’t take off until almost an hour later, after TWO de-icings.  I had just discovered the airplane cameras one could watch on the IFE.  There was a camera on the wing, on the top of the tail, and below the plane facing the ground.  We all watched as the plane reversed away from the gate, and later had a clear view of the de-icings as well.  It was simultaneously terrifying and fascinating.  Well, to make a long story short (too late!), we did eventually take off, observing lots of snow on the surrounding city, and having a very average flight with minimal turbulence.  It was 5:25p.

And for the 9 hours we were on that plane, it was very nice!  It didn’t feel like 9 hours at all.  We all watched several movies, I watched the first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (love!), and the kids slept comfortably.  The food was also delicious- I had beef spaetzle, and ate 3 salads (mine, and both kids’, haha).  It was one of the most comfortable and enjoyable flights I’ve ever had.  Even the flight tracker map was beautiful.  But it had to end, and after quite a day, we arrived in Newark almost 2 hours late, nearly 9:00p.

This was it!  Our chance to smugly walk past a huge Passport Control line and use our Global Entry benefit!  Except…the lines were very short.  Oh, well.  We still used the Global Entry kiosks, and one of us was selected for additional screening- d’oh!  Well, they opened DH’s backpack and we had to throw away the unopened vacuum-sealed packs of jamón serrano from El Corte Inglés.  We had of course stated that we had meat with us, because we did.  So the agent said that we could only enter with pork that was canned or otherwise packaged, but what these were not allowed.  Whatever.  We were home!


My parents were there to greet us, and when I hugged my mom, she started crying- I immediately understood that the aunt I had wished peace for in the Sagrada Familia must have passed.  I was glad to be there for her, and provide some comfort and distraction with the presence of her grandkids.  There were no further mishaps re: travel this day, because our checked suitcases had miraculously made it to Newark with us.

My parents dropped me and my husband at our hotel, the Fairfield Inn North Bergen, and took the kids to their house.  We made plans for the next day, and said goodnight to them.  DH and I checked in with the super friendly front desk guy.  I usually dislike interactions that require me to hand over an ID, because of the “Oh WOW, you live in Hawaii, you must love it” conversation.  People act personally offended if I am truthful and say I don’t like it at all because it’s too far away from my family, and furthermore I hate being outside in general and especially out in the sun, the beach is boring, and I don’t like pineapple.  So I generally say, “it’s very green,” and hope they move on to something else quickly.  Anyway, this guy was great, welcomed us as Marriott members, and checked us into an upgraded room swiftly.

The room was huge, clean, and comfortable.  We were hungry, so we ordered some food after the nice check-in guy found a local menu.  New Jersey/New York area Chinese food delivered by a Latino is one of my favorite things ever, and it surely hit the spot.  We ate, showered, and fell into bed.  We’d be hitting the Bronx Zoo and the American Museum of Natural History the next day, with plenty of walking involved.  More fun awaits!

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