Why you should pay more to travel

Adrian and I pride ourselves on our bargain hunting. When she comes home from a shopping trip she is more excited to brag about how much she saved then about anything she bought. So when we had to purchase our plane tickets to Germany, we waited months, scouring the internet for good deals. We finally landed two tickets from Boston to Berlin for $500 each. Based on other prices, we probably saved about $100… not bad, eh?

Well that’s how I felt about it till the trip began. The first leg was from Boston to Heathrow Airport in London on a massive Virgin Atlantic plane. We checked in about 3 hours early (4:30 EST) and I paid an expected bag fee of $50… not a hugh problem but I asked the ticket agent if we could check into our next flight as well which was with another airline (British Midland). She informed me we could not. I knew right away I was going to have to pay a second bag fee, but decided not too get stressed out about it.

9 hours later, after a delay for a VIP at Logan (who the hell was so important they had to delay every single other flight leaving Boston?!), security lines, roaming Logan airport eating shitty food court pizza,  flying over the Atlantic watching Bridesmaids (terrible) and Thor (awesome) we arrived at Heathrow. We cleared the passport check and customs without incident and then trekked about 1.5 miles (no joke) to our connection at BMI. That was where the real terror began.

We told the clerk we had 3 bags to check and she informed us we would have to pay for the extra bag. I told her that we already paid $50 in Boston, but she didn’t seem to care. She wrote down the weight of the bag (23 kilograms) and told me to go to the cashier and pay for it. I handed the cashier the slip she gave me and he informed me it would be 12£ (~$18) per kilo. I’m going to school for finance; I know the price of things and there is no way an extra bag, however large, is worth $414. Adding an extra bag to the hold for an airline is essentially free. A marginal bag costs nothing.

At this point, Adrian and I were just starting our trip. I had not slept a wink on the plane. I was sweaty and uncomfortable. I just wanted to get to Berlin, relax and prepare for school. The airline was able to charge whatever they wanted at that point. We weren’t going to leave a bag behind so we had to suck it up and pay. I asked to speak to a supervisor to try and haggle the price down and she “cut me a break” and let us check the bag for $250.

Needless to say, I was and still am pretty upset about the whole escapade but there is a lesson in all of it: when you are traveling, especially if it’s a long distance, it is worth it to pay a premium for a direct flight. It’s a known quantity and it minimizes potential for problems along the way that can potentially cost far more that any initial price premium. Also, read up on bag fees… not just on the first airline you are taking because you never know.

And British Midland sucks.

P.S. British Midland also lost said bag and I went our first two days in Berlin without any of my clothes, so I may have started a few stereotypes about Americans smelling bad in our first couple days here. Sorry about that.

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We’re Finally Here!

After a grueling trip- which included a two hour bus ride from Portland, a 1+ hour delay on the tarmac in Boston (before the 6.5 hour flight), a fight over a $500 baggage fee in London (followed by an additional 30 minute delay on the tarmac there), the 1.5 hour flight to Berlin and then a lost bag in Berlin (which has yet to be recovered)- WE HAVE ARRIVED!  Thank God for hospitable Germans and their beer!

Biergarten in Tiergarten!

We have been trying to stay awake since our arrival with the hope of quickly getting accustom to “German Time”!  Tomorrow we’re going to try and get mobile phones, test out the U-Bahn system and grab a few more drinks at one of the famous Berlin biergartens- because even though the weather is beautiful, most close down for the season come October 1st.  Hopefully we’ll have more entertaining and intriguing posts to follow in the future, but wanted to get the first actual international post under out belts.  We’ll leave you with a few already noticed differences/adjustments we’ll need to be making in the next weeks, months and years….

1. Everyone in Berlin follows traffic signs.  They don’t walk when the light isn’t green even if no cars are present. For our fellow Bostonians- a huge culture shock!
2. Standards tipping etiquette calls for 5-10% of the total bill…should help to lessen the shock of being on the euro.
3. 24-Hour clock, AKA “Military Time”
4. No ice/no tapwater
5.  No more puritan liquor laws!!!  That’s right, we bought a beer from the vending machine in our hotel and I’ll bet we can do so before noon on Sundays if we please:)

Well, look for another update soon and hope everyone is well and life is fabulous! We miss you and love you!

Auf Wiedersehen, 

Daverian

Wilkommen Geld

Just got a letter from the Berlin School of Economics and Law about our upcoming orientation schedule this september and this tidbit caught my eye:

For students of universities in Berlin who have registered their accomodation in Berlin after 19 March 2002, and have previously had a primary residence in another state or country are entitled to receive €100,- as “welcome money”.

Imagine an American city paying all new students $100 just for showing up! Makes this Yankee shake his head in disbelief.