spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

Europalooza Trip Report Part 16: back to our rock in the middle of the ocean

on July 31, 2019

After a long-planned and fun trip around North Carolina, England, France, Spain, and NYC, it was time to come home.  We’d been away for nearly 3 weeks, and being in our place sounded pretty good.  Obviously, I love traveling.  But there’s nothing like your own bed, a full kitchen, and 2 bathrooms.  WAIT- I’m getting ahead of myself!  All these luxuries were still over 14 hours away from our wake-up time this morning…  

Our first flight departed at 9:30a from Newark (EWR), a huge and very busy airport.  Even with TSA PreCheck, we wanted to have plenty of time to drop our bag at the Alaska Airlines counter using the Self-Bag Tags, and get through security.  That meant arriving at 7:30, which meant leaving the hotel at 7:00a.  My dad said he would be at the hotel by 6:30ish, and arrived right on time.

WITHOUT THE QUESO, CANGREJOS, AND KNISHES!  He walked into the lobby empty-handed, and I joked about him forgetting the stuff, thinking he had left it in the car.  The stricken look on his face told me otherwise.  He felt soooooooooooooooo bad!  DH & I were laughing it off, because it was no big deal, and we’d be back in NY about 2 months later anyway.  But I knew my dad was kicking himself- I myself hate making any kind of mistake, and…I get it from him.



It was still a nice morning- my sister had flown in for my Aunt’s funeral and arrived the night before.  She came to the hotel to quickly say hi/bye to us.  Always nice to see her, though I wish it were for a different reason.  Plus, I was going to be missing a family funeral, again.  Anyway, it was now time to go to the airport.  We loaded our bags, which had increased in number!  We were checking not only the duffel bag (full of dirty laundry again), but the cool backpack we’d been gifted AND DS’s backpack.  All free thanks to Alaska Air Visa benefits.  I just tucked some spare clothes for DS into my bag.

I had brought our reusable Alaska Air Self-Bag Tag Holders with me for just this moment.  I had printed our boarding passes and checked-bag tags at the hotel the night before, so was able to slip them into the Tag Holders and attach them to the bags.  Pro-tip: the printed bag tags have the claim # on them, which is the number on that little barcode you get to keep after the agent tags your bags if you do it at the airport.  Since no agent is going to be handing us anything, I take a picture of the claim #s for my own reference, then delete it later once we retrieve our bags at the final destination.

Alrighty- it was time to say goodbye to my parents.  This wasn’t as upsetting as it usually is, again, because of the short time until our next meeting.  Still, we gave lots of hugs and kisses, then headed to the Alaska counter.  I got in the very short line for dropping already-tagged bags.  Literally 60 seconds later, our bags were scanned and sent on their way.  We headed to security next, and found a short PreCheck line.  About 10 minutes later, we were near the gate.  Boy, that was efficient.


We spent the 45 minutes until boarding looking at our trip pictures and generally relaxing.  I was looking forward to getting a meal on the plane.  My Bank of America Premium Rewards card allows a $100/year credit for airline incidentals like WiFi, food on board, and baggage fees.  It only works on US-based airlines, including American, Southwest, Delta, United, JetBlue, Frontier, and Alaska.  We had used a small amount of the credit on our domestic American flights, but I really like the food options on Alaska, and you can’t beat free.

We departed to Seattle on time.  We ate plenty on board and saw some movies with their GoGo inflight entertainment app.  I also took advantage of their free Texting and WhatsApp use, plus DS likes to use the Flight Tracker to see what cities we are flying over.  I realize this sounds like an ad- FYI, no one is paying me to say these things.  I just really like flying with them.

Once in Seattle, we headed to the United Club Lounge.  Our United Airlines credit cards provide (2) one-time use Lounge passes every year, and since DH and I both hold the card, we had (4) available.  Our layover was about 5 hours, so using the passes was definitely worth it.  Note: in January 2019, it was not necessary to be holding a United boarding pass to use these- that rule (#6) has now changed.  After checking in at the front desk, we found a nice quiet table with very comfortable chairs and power outlets.  We ate complimentary snacks, had several beverages, and used the huge clean restrooms in peace.  It was a nice time.

The hours passed, and we were ready to board our final flight!  Everything went as expected, including enduring the ENDLESS last hour before landing.  It’s just more boring ocean, UGH.  But we made it!  And so did all our luggage!  A quick taxi ride later, WE. WERE. HOME!

Wow- what a trip!  After we’d settled for a few days, I completed the last Trip Tradition™: family surveys.  A few highlights:

  • What was your favorite part of the preparations for the trip? buying outfits- DD
  • What was the most magical moment during the trip? seeing the sparkling castle at Disneyland Paris & Christmas with the family- me…the rollercoaster (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad)- DS
  • What was your least favorite attraction/show/ride/activity? waiting in London immigration -DS
  • What was the funniest thing that happened during the trip? when we were all falling on the ice rink- DD…being convinced to try Telepizza again- me
  • What new things did you try this trip?  What were the results? O’Tacos in Paris!  I got very full- DH…Barcelona!  It was OK, but I prefer Seville & Granada- me
  • Any final thoughts? so grateful to have this last big family trip before DD goes to college- me

Some final thoughts from me:

  1. After the accounting was all done, we ended up about $325 over budget for the whole trip.  This was not bad at all, considering the last-minute car rental in NC, and last-minute hotel stay in NJ.  Calling it a win, especially the Transportation section of the spreadsheet: 4 people traveled over 20,000 miles for ~$4,000.
  2. While in NYC in March, I had a moment with DS at a bus terminal: we were using a kiosk to buy tickets, and he said, “Oh, this machine is like the one at Barcelona airport, not like the one for the London Tube.” I marveled at his little well-traveled self.
  3. I’ll always be grateful we saw Notre Dame before the devastating fire.  It’ll be rebuilt, but will never be the same.
  4. Don’t know how, but hoping to live in Spain again sometime in the future.
  5. I just love traveling with my crew.  Every experience reinforces our decision to prioritize travel above fancy cars, expensive furniture, fine dining, etc.  Those things are wonderful, but to us, bliss is DD saying, “Remember that time in Paris…” 🙂


One response to “Europalooza Trip Report Part 16: back to our rock in the middle of the ocean

  1. gina says:

    I agree, nothing like the memories you created together thru this wonderful adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

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