A Day in the Life of a Traveling Family – It’s Not All Smooth Sailing


July 15, 2018 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Deciding to Travel,Planning,World Schooling



What does an ordinary day look like for a traveling family? Every day is different, and while the idea of travel, sightseeing and adventure is exciting, in reality, things don’t always go to plan! Follow along with the King Family as they document the highs and lows of a travel day from France to Spain. 



THE ALARM… TURN OFF THE ALARM!

I know it’s 9 am but I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night. I don’t want to get up! I don’t want to be awake! And then I realize that today we are off to Spain, which makes getting up a whole lot easier!

We still have to pack. Last night was a busy one. We tried to squeeze in a bit too much, given it was our last night in Paris, so it was near 11 pm before we got home. But it seems that is not unusual these days. With no schedules to follow our days usually start around 10 am and finish around 11pm/12am! But of course, last night my brain just wouldn’t switch off, so while everyone else slept soundly, I was still awake until 4 am!

Our last day in Paris

 

So getting up today is going to be hard work. I’d love to roll over and go back to sleep. I knew it would be hard, so just in case I set the second alarm last night for 9.30am, just in case! Will I need it?

 

 

ALMOST READY TO GO

It took me a good half an hour to get myself out of bed, but with carry-on only, I’ve managed to dress and pack in only 30 minutes.

The kid’s though, are in go-slow mode, which I am getting particularly frustrated with this morning. We need to be out of here by 10.30am. Traveling days are usually highly scheduled to make sure we don’t miss our connections, so it is important we are on time.

Today’s flight is from Paris to Seville. We will be departing from Beauvais, a small French town about 1 1/4 hours north of Paris, the home of budget airline Ryan Air.

 

 

Ryan Air’s flights are cheap and we opted to use this as an opportunity to see some of the French countryside.

So to give us plenty of time and to avoid a mad rush, we need to be out of here at 10.30am… Best get these kids organized!

 

 

WE ARE ON OUR WAY!

With jumpers, jackets, beanies, gloves, scarves, and backpacks on, we are on our way. Spain here we come!

 

 

 

 

As we wobble along, trying to stand upright on a train (whilst writing this), we are already running about 20 minutes late. Luckily we’ve become comfortable with the Met and don’t foresee running into too many problems.

The Met in Paris hasn’t been nearly as hard to navigate as I’d feared. It’s not quite as good as the London Underground, but with a bit of planning, a touch of common sense and a dollop of good luck we have managed to navigate our way through Paris without too many wrong moves.

 

 

 

 

Today we are heading to Gare du Nord station, which means 5 stops on one train and 13 on another!

Let’s hope there are no issues… we don’t need any more delays!

 

 

WHEN THINGS START TO GO WRONG

Why is it that nothing runs smoothly? What happened to our nice, relaxed, carefree morning? Even with decent buffers in our schedule (far more than I normally allow), somehow our time frame is getting tighter and tighter. To be fair, my whole schedule had wiggle room for 2 extra hours at the airport, but I was really hoping to use this enjoying a coffee and a taking a quick look around Beauvais!

 

 

We arrived at Gare du Nord with a 40 min window, needing only to print out boarding passes and purchase tickets for our next train (having not been able to find somewhere to do it earlier!) Ordinarily, that would seem easy, but throw in a foreign language and tasks that need to happen at opposite ends of the station and suddenly your time disappears.

On top of that, when we finally found an Internet cafe (or a tiny convenience store with 1 PC and only enough room for two adults to stand) I suddenly discovered that the keyboard was FRENCH!!! There’s something I didn’t know existed! A lot of the buttons were in strange locations and a 2-minute job suddenly took 15, as I taught myself how to use a keyboard with a difference!!!

 

Just enough differences to make life difficult. The A, Q, Z, W, and M are in different locations!

 

I was soon out the door, tickets in hand! Back to the other end of the train station, we headed – time to buy out train tickets. If only we could figure out which train and which window to get them from.

 

 

ALL ABOARD THE TRAIN TO BEAUVAIS

Having already missed the two earlier trains I was hoping to catch, and now over an hour behind schedule, we eventually found the ticket window we needed. According to the schedule I had, we’d just missed a train and would have a 40-minute wait for the next. But, as luck would have it, we had another option! Two in fact!

 

  • Option 1 – a train leaving in 15 minutes BUT we would have to change trains half way, with a window of only 9 minutes to do so.
  • Option 2 – a direct train, leaving in 45 minutes.

 

Now at this point what would you do? We needed to get there as quickly as possible. So would you take Option 1, knowing you’d arrive earlier, and just hope the change of trains goes smoothly? Or would you go for the safer bet, Option 2, but arrive at the airport only 1 hour and 45 min ahead of flight departure??

Having been reassured that the change of trains was at a small station (which should make it easy) we opted for Option 1, and just hoped that things went to plan. We’ve managed the London Tube and the Paris Met without any major issues, surely we could do this… right?

So, all we needed to do now was to find the right train – but, just to throw another spanner in the works, the Ticket Agent, in her broken English, told us platform 15 instead of platform 12. BUT, with 5 minutes to spare, after waiting 10 minutes on the wrong platform, we realized where we needed to be and made it onboard!

 

 

 

So here we are, all aboard our first train to Creil, France. A travel time of 25 minutes, 9 minutes to change trains and then 35 minutes to Beauvais. Fingers crossed we get it right!!!

 

 

WE DID IT! WE DID IT!

We made a smooth transition from one platform to another. Yay us! Of course, I was almost positive we would, but there is always a tiny bit of doubt in the back of your mind, and when in a foreign country, speaking a different language, if you don’t get it right it’s not always an easy fix. But we did it. Off one train, check the board and move to a new platform! Done!

And these trains! We are not even in first class and they are lovely. Spacious, clean and very comfortable. Our 2nd journey from Creil to Beauvais has us sitting in a set of 4 seats with a table in the middle. Not that the kids have spent any time sitting with us. They are exploring the train!

 

 

 

 

So our time in France is almost done. I’m so looking forward to Spain. I was an exchange student in Bolivia 20 years ago, and whilst I was fluent when I left, my Spanish has faded from lack of practice. I can’t wait to immerse myself in a language that I partly understand!

 

 

DAMN IT! DAMN IT!

So our transition from trains went smoothly, but arriving in Beauvais, we realized it wasn’t quite as smooth as we hoped. As it turns out the kids travel blankets and all of our travel pillows, nicely bundled up into travel sacks, got left on the first train. DAMN IT!

When the kids were first given the blankets as a Christmas present (sorry Aunty Rob Bob) we were a little concerned about their size. Traveling with only carry-on luggage means limiting what we have. BUT we figured out a way to make it work, and they have been a brilliant addition to our packs. The blankets are big enough to be shared between an adult and child on a bus, thin enough to roll up very small and they’re really really warm. On top of that Cam and I spent so much time before we left, searching for what we believed to be THE perfect travel pillow. And we found them… but now they’re gone too.

Goodbye Coco the Rabbit

I know it’s not the end of the world but when you think about the fact that we are traveling with so little, losing anything is a BIG loss.

But, what has upset me the most, is the fact that packed up nicely with Sienna’s blanket, ready for her to use on the plane, was her little pink rabbit “Coco” that she’s had since she was little. How do you tell a five-year-old that her favorite toy is gone?? For now, we are holding off, in the hope that the train company manages to find them and that we can have them forwarded to us. (Edited to add… Coco never came home to us!)

So now we sit at the Beauvais airport, awaiting our boarding time. It’s been a long day already. Kids are tired, Cam and I are tired. Please let the rest of the day go smoothly.

 

 

ON BOARD RYAN AIR

Aah… the moment when you get onboard and any stress you had about being on time just melts away.

As usual, both kids argued over who was sitting next to me on the plane! I hate sitting in the middle seat so that usually means one child next to me, which always leads to an argument. If it’s not planes, it’s the taxi or the bus or at a restaurant… We’ve tried taking it in turns but we generally forget who’s turn it is. This time, it came down to the toss of a Euro… And the winner is… Sienna!!! 😉

 

 

Today is our first flight with Ryan Air (read our full review here). They are a budget airline that offers REALLY cheap flights (if you book well ahead)… But you have to be careful because any little extra will add to the bill. Seat selection is 7 Euros… Check-in at the airport is 8 Euros. But with a little care and forward planning, you can get cheap flights (as low as €9.99 between major European cities).

So as I said today is our first flight with them, and so far so good. They have a generous carry on luggage allowance (10kgs as opposed to most that are 7kgs). This was brilliant for us as we are right on the 7kg limit and we usually have to juggle our belongings around to make sure each bag is within limits. This time, there was no hassle at all!

They do have a policy of only allowing 90 carry on bags onboard, with any additional bags placed in the cargo hold free of charge. To ensure our bags came onboard with us we could either line up really early or pay an addition 2 Euros each for Priority Boarding. We opted for the priority, as we figured it would give us the opportunity to get on board and get settled before the rush of the heard behind us. Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way, with the herd boarding immediately behind us, and even trying to push us out of the way at times.

But overall, we are onboard and ready to relax for our 2.5 hr flight to Seville. I can’t believe that tonight we will go to bed in Spain!!!

 

 

A BARGAIN OR JUST PLAIN CHEAP?

I knew when booking our flights that Ryan Air was a budget Airline. I knew this meant nothing fancy and I knew that it would all be pretty basic.

With flights as low as €9.99 ($USD10.95/$AUD14.95) anyone can travel cheaply across Europe. But there are pros and cons to flying with a Budget Airline. So was it a bargain or do you get what you pay for?

PROS

  • Tickets are CHEAP! From as little as €9.99 ($USD10.95/$AUD14.95) to fly from one side of Europe to the next! You do pay extra to select your seats, but at only €5 ($USD5.50/$AUD7.50) for a standard seat you can get away with a flight across Europe, with a great seat, for far less than on other airlines. To get these prices though you need to book well ahead of time!
  • Electronics are welcome from boarding to landing (in flight mode), which is awesome (especially with kids), and quite different to many airlines. I have been a bit amused and a little confused by the different airlines varying policies on electronics. One airline we flew with recently did not allow ANY electronics at all upon boarding, making us wait until we were in the air with the seatbelt sign off, before we could pull an iPad out (particularly important with two kids in tow). I guess it’s not a big deal, but when other airlines (like Ryan Air) allow electronics for the whole trip, I can’t help but feel a little ripped off, sitting onboard with nothing to do (especially if there is a delay and the plane sits on the tarmac for an extra 30 minutes!)
  • Great Customer service – in 3 languages!!! Every announcement has been in English, Spanish and French, so a huge range of customers are catered for. And unlike some other airlines, we could actually understand the English!
  • A great range of food. It is by far the biggest range of food I’ve ever seen on board. From hot and cold drinks, breakfast dishes, hot meals and loads of snacks there really is something for everyone. You do have to pay for it but the prices aren’t too bad. A drink, main meal and snack is €10 ($USD11/$AUD15).

 

CONS

  • Ryan Air flights generally leave from smaller airports, out of the main city areas. This means extra costs to get to the airport. Our trip to Tille Airport today cost €62 ($USD68/$AUD92)
  • Limited leg room – there’s not a lot of room to spare. Furthermore, the seats don’t recline. I wouldn’t say we are crammed in like sardines, but it definitely feels tighter than most other airlines I’ve flown with. If, like Cam, you get stuck next to a person who thinks they own the armrest and keeps elbowing you in the ribs, you might want to hope it’s a short flight!
  • No food included. I get that these lines are budget, which means you pay for extras (like food), but surely a tea, coffee or even just a cup of water isn’t too much to ask!!!
  • Not so cheap if not booked well in advance. If you are going to be traveling and have a good idea of when and where you want to go, this is a non-issue. Just book well ahead of time. But, if you need to book within only a few weeks of travel, you will struggle to find the awesome prices available to those that book early. One example of a flight I looked at was a €9.99 ticket 6 months out, which became a €30 a few weeks to a month out and with only a week out, I’ve seen prices sky rocket to over €120! So book early!
  • No onboard entertainment. A problem for some but certainly not for us. With 4 iPads, 2 iPhones, a 3DS and a kindle we have no shortage of entertainment
  • No onboard power supply, at the airport or onboard. We might have our own entertainment but if they go flat we’re in trouble. I have to say I love an airline with a USB slot for each seat!

 

 

Overall I’m REALLY impressed. For the price you pay and the money you can save, the pros FAR outweigh the cons. For those that like a bit of luxury this certainly isn’t the airline for you, but for those traveling on a budget whose priority is the act of getting there affordably, Ryan Air ticks all the boxes. A little forward planning will ensure that you get to your destination, without breaking the bank.

 

 

STILL ONBOARD

Not much to say. We’re still sitting here. We’ve been on board 1 hour and 45 min now. Not long to go!

According to the HERE app, this is where we are!

 

 

 

BIENVENIDOS A ESPAÑA

(Welcome to Spain)

We are here – the King family is in Spain! Our flight has just landed and we are waiting in line to pick up our rental car!

The flight went smoothly – no real issues at all, and I would definitely use Ryan Air again!!

Landing in Seville was beautiful, lots of farming and lots of swimming pools – we’re told it gets to around 45C/113F  in summer!

Now we just need to pick up the rental car, drive 40 minutes to our housesit and then fall into bed. We are all so tired. Our beds can’t come quick enough.

 

 

 

LOST, AT NIGHT, IN A FOREIGN CITY

The last hour has been THE MOST STRESSFUL of our whole trip!

We got off the plane, only to discover that I forgot to take note of the House Sit address! If you’ve read my earlier posts you’ll know that I am a big planner, so this is completely out of character for me. But in the interest of stressing less I wasn’t worried! We’ll just log onto the free airport wifi and get it. NOPE – wifi doesn’t work! Ok! I’ll just log onto our awesome offline GPS app HERE and get it. NOPE – it doesn’t work. OK, I’ll get out my laptop and see if it will connect to wifi – YAY, IT WORKS!

So I had the address! Now, we are in a foreign country, with a GPS that doesn’t work, no paper maps and no idea how to get where we need to go! By this stage we’ve been sitting in the airport for about 45 minutes… we should already be at the housesit, but we haven’t even left. A little quick thinking and I’ve got directions – I logged onto Google Maps, pulled up directions, saved it as a PDF and now have it open on the laptop. AWESOME!

We made our way out to our rental car. Having spent a month in the UAE driving on the right side of the road I was more than happy to jump into the car and head off (even after a false start when I tried to get in on the wrong side!) BUT, when booking the car I completely forgot to request an Auto! I can certainly drive a manual, but after a long day of traveling, it is just another thing I’d rather not have to worry about!

So, let’s just recap on how things stood at this point in time. We have the address, we have directions, it’s now pitch black outside and I have a manual car, ready to drive on the right (or wrong) side of the road… I can do this… I can do this (if I say it often enough I’ll have to believe it sooner or later won’t I?)

So off we go. Leaving from a fully lit carpark, I forgot one minor (or major) thing – WHERE ARE THE HEADLIGHTS? By this stage I’m on a freeway, traveling at 100km/hr (65mph), with no headlights, and nowhere to pull over… AND I’m on the right side of the road driving a manual (who put that gearstick on that side of my seat?)

Thinking back on it now it was a huge comedy of errors, but at the time I was getting stressed!

So with hazard lights on, crawling along the highway, I concentrated on the road and looking for the first exit, while Cam used his iPhone light to locate the headlights, finding them nowhere near where you would normally expect them!  A sigh of relief, crisis averted!

Finally, we are on our way, only an hour later than expected… but the best (or worst) was yet to come!

What would you do?

Here’s a question for you – it’s late at night, you’re in a foreign country, on the wrong side of the road, and you miss an exit! What do you do? Me? I get very stressed and very panicky, apparently. But to top it off, we eventually got back on track, only to miss another exit!

 

AAAAGGGGHHHHH!

Could something PLEASE go our way?

 

After pulling over and a few deep breaths, we considered our options. 1) Stop at a petrol station and ask for directions? Nope, my Spanish is good enough to ask, but certainly not good enough to understand the answer. 2) Stop and call the homeowners? Nope, her phone isn’t great, and it’s best to contact her through email! 3) Turn on my Data Roaming, quickly use Google Maps to get directions and turn it off again as soon as possible? At $AUD3.00/mb, we’d want to do that quickly. OK, Option 3 it is!

I’d finally calmed down, and we headed off. I’m pleased to say that at this point I had the manual car mastered, and only every now and then did I reach for the gear stick on the wrong side 😉 lol

Feeling very confident, and happy to be on our way, we looked forward to arriving in only 20 minutes. We were eager to meet the homeowners and hoped that they’d still trust us with their house, given we’d clearly demonstrated we weren’t even smart enough to navigate ourselves from point A to point B!! LOL

And then, as if everything else wasn’t bad enough, the GPS directions sent us through some tiny, albeit gorgeous, Spanish back streets, and then tried to take us down a one-way street! WHAT THE???

 

 

That was it, I’d had enough. Tired, stressed, and ready for bed, I just couldn’t handle anymore – the Data Roaming was promptly turned back on, and we used it every step of the way… and thankfully, we got here, a little frazzled, but in 1 piece.

On a side note: I’ve since looked up and our little GPS data incident used 11.3mb – I’ll let you do the maths!! 🙁

 

HOME, SWEET HOME!

After being horribly lost, there is no better feeling than to finally arrive where you are meant to be!

But tonight, this feeling was even better – we were welcomed by two wonderful, warm people, who could completely sympathize with us. We are told that this place can be difficult to find in the DAYLIGHT, which certainly made me feel better!

It was so lovely to walk into a home, with people you’ve never met, and instantly feel at home. These homeowners are also nomadic, using their home in Seville as a base so they can make trips through Europe whilst others care for their home and animals through housesitting.

We were all exhausted, but we found a second wind as we chatted with our new friends and met their two gorgeous dogs, Skye and Bella.

 

 

And then, to top it off, they announced that dinner was ready – it was almost the highlight of the day! After such a big day, we were all starving. We had planned to grab something on our journey from the airport to the house, but in all of the confusion and stress, it was the last thing on our minds.

So with a yummy dinner of pasta (cooked by an Italian no less), our tummies were full, our nerves recovered and our eyes were struggling to stay open… we snuggled up in our beds and took mere seconds to nod off. 

 

 

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No two days are the same when you are worldschooling, and not everything goes to plan. But, that is the adventure we sign up for. And even when things don’t work out, it makes for a good story to tell people later!

 


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