My mom (Grandma Points) and her sister (my aunt) just completed their very big, and much anticipated, trip across Europe.  This was my mom’s first time outside North America, and her sister’s second time to Europe.  It was the first time for both of them to fly in a true premium cabin.  This trip was a culmination of a great deal of planning, and much intrusion from me when I first heard of their plans to fly coach, pay cash, etc.  I forced miles, points, and lie-flat seats upon them, and it seems to have taken quite well.  My mom plans to share some glimpses into their trip with us from the perspective of a 60-something year old retired former school teacher.  I bring you, Grandma Points….

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My aunt (left) and mom/Grandma Points (right)

After 40 years of teaching school and vacationing only during school holidays, the concept of traveling to Europe in April was amazing on so many levels. My sister and I climbed aboard our United flight straight from a day subbing in the classroom and entered an alternative universe.  We carried with us our invaluable travel itinerary folder that would guide us through the next two weeks.  We had to laugh at our paper preparations as they looked more like plans for teaching a two week unit on Europe than plans for travel in 2014.  We had hard copy of  reservations, printed out city maps, color coded city information, all of which was paper clipped together and highlighted.  Once a teacher, always a teacher.

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A year of planning, jumping on big credit card sign-up bonuses, and acquiring points had earned us business class travel. It must have been obvious that we were embarking on our first trip abroad and that the luxury of business class was a bit beyond our norm. Perhaps it was our taking 20,000 pictures of the pre-flight drinks, the seat as it converts to a bed, the blanket and earphones provided.  Heck, I even took pictures of the silverware and the salt and pepper shakers.  Or, perhaps it was just the smile on our faces.

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Our United flight attendant quickly asked us if it was our first time traveling to Europe. The gracious service she gave us over the next seven hours made us feel as though we were not just watching the movie Frozen about kings, queens and palaces as we crossed the Atlantic, but rather as if we WERE Princess Anna and Princess Elsa.

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The magic began the moment we checked in at the airport. United BusinessFirst entitled us to go Premier Access through security and we even ended up with PreCheck.  “Do not remove shoes. Do not remove liquids. Head straight to the United Club for drinks and snacks.”   It felt as though we were cheating to not participate fully in the TSA Security game. For a few hundred dollars more, or a few thousand points more, the skies for flying are friendlier. Much friendlier!

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As time neared for departure, we headed to our designated gate. Typically, when we reach the gate, we never go to the desk with the gate agent. However, being novice at intercontinental travel, we asked the gate agent to confirm that we were at the correct location and that everything was in order. We wanted to make absolutely sure we were flawlessly on the plane to London. When you are over 60, you ask a lot of questions….just in case. The agent asked to see our passports and marked our boarding passes to indicate the passports had been checked. It puzzled us to have them checked at the gate, but she explained that it eliminated problems upon arrival in Great Britain as you knew that you made it on board with the passport in hand. By doing this check in advance of the actual boarding call, we had one less thing to handle.

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Everything is sweeter with ice cream at 36k feet!

For some, the idea of a seven hour flight in one narrow fuselage, filled with many people is inhibiting and may even stop them from traveling abroad. To us, it was a seven hour spa experience. Keeping in mind that we did step from being the teacher in a classroom to being a passenger in business class travel, our perspective may have been influenced by the stark difference.  The bulk of our flight was at night, and we couldn’t resist looking out the windows into the darkness.  If you ever get the chance to view into the night over the ocean, do it.  Instead of nothingness, you will be treated to a celestial show of stars.  There were stars all the way to the horizon.  The flight over the “pond” was a wonderful springboard to our European vacation, filled with hours of someone trying to make you as comfortable and as happy as possible.

Posted by Mommy Points | 15 Comments

15 Responses to “Grandma’s First Business Class Flight to Europe”

  1. Mike says:

    How wonderful – we are surprising my partner’s mom with a trip to Hawaii for her 60th this year. While it won’t be international class service, it will be on a 767-4 with lie-flats as well, so can’t wait for her to experience it.

  2. Laura S says:

    I loved reading this! What a wonderful gift to give your mom :) More, please!

  3. Paul says:

    Long time lurker, first time commenting…my favorite post in a while. The tips/tricks are great, but the real stories and reactions to traveling are a good reminder that our hobby is worthwhile. Thank you.

  4. alanea says:

    Great post! So happy to see 2 former teachers have this experience – I look forward to your future posts on Europe!

  5. Angel says:

    Great post! Just to feel their excitement by reading their write up is refreshing. Excellent piece and keep them coming!!

  6. Jen says:

    So cool grandma Points!!

  7. Chip Mattucks says:

    Way to go granny! I’d love to give my granny some wings too, but she has never been on a plane before. She says everyone today is in such a damn hurry with these fancy “jet planes” and should just enjoy the journey instead.

  8. Love that you were able to help your mom and aunt fly in comfort to Europe! We are doing the same thing for our mom this summer-we told her which cards to apply for and she is flying to Europe United first class this summer to visit her relatives. Will be her first time in first class so we are very excited she will get to experience it.

  9. Iain says:

    Looking forward to hearing about the rest of their trip. Thank you for posting.

  10. Jeff says:

    Love this article. How incredible that you were able to help your Mom and Aunt have such and extraordinary flight and trip (can’t wait to read future installments.

  11. Patrick says:

    “It must have been obvious that we were embarking on our first trip abroad and that the luxury of business class was a bit beyond our norm. Perhaps it was our taking 20,000 pictures of the pre-flight drinks, the seat as it converts to a bed, the blanket and earphones provided. Heck, I even took pictures of the silverware and the salt and pepper shakers”

    HA!! Sounds like what I’ll be doing in September for my first trip in F to Europe. Only difference will be my picture total will probably be double that. ;-)

  12. This post made me smile from ear-to-ear the whole time I was reading it! Sounds like GrandmaPoints had a trip of a lifetime. Glad you were able to help her do it in style!

  13. Matt says:

    This is awesome and just so refreshing. So many people who read these blogs are always trying to one-up their last trip, scheming to book their next flight in First Class with Cathay, Singapore or Emirates. It’s nice to take a step back and look at things from the perspective of a normal person who finds United BusinessFirst amazing, rather than thinking of it as an inferior premium product. They may not serve caviar and Krug, but it’s still a bed in the sky, and to anyone who has kept themselves grounded (which can be hard to do in this hobby, both literally and figuratively) any flat bed in the sky IS AMAZING.

  14. Flora says:

    This is the a question about how long it takes the ATMs we used in Europe to go through our bank here. We returned April 15th or so and the transactions from Rome and Paris have yet to post. Very inconvenient. Is this normal?

  15. BarbChicago says:

    Currently a teacher and I went to Disney last weekend. It was so nice as it was not as crowded as it usually is during the school holidays. I wish I could vacation more without spending so much money and not on school breaks.
    I would love to go to Europe again soon! Thanks so much for your report.

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