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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….
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.