Saturday, August 1, 2015

Ireland, Days 19-21: Bonus Days

Our original plan had been to fly out of Dublin airport yesterday. Things didn't work as planned. Let me tell you The Story.

Ed works for an airline. What's nice about this is that we generally fly standby, which means we don't purchase airline tickets; there might be some taxes and fees, but these fees come nowhere near the cost of a ticket (and international flights are expensive). Not buying tickets to international destinations makes it easier to afford traveling internationally, and means that if necessary we can rent a car, as we did in Iceland, and on this trip as well.

Sometimes we actually do buy tickets - for important events like our wedding, his mother's funeral, a friend's wedding, and when I graduated from grad school; in other words, events in which it's actually important that we be in a particular place at a particular day and time, we buy our tickets like everyone else.

When we go on a vacation, though, there's less of a need. Our vacations tend to happen during times when I'm not teaching (summer holidays, for example), so there's some flexibility; if I don't make it back for a day or two, it doesn't matter. Similarly, because, as previously mentioned, Ed works for an airline, his co-workers understand what can happen if you're stuck someplace for an extra couple of days. (Not only that, but these people have the ability to see what the loads look like, so we could be caught.)

Much of the time we get home when we plan to, although as often as note there might be some excitement involved - being told what our seats are and having the aircraft close behind us as we board. Often enough we've been stuck overnight in Denver, Detroit, or the like, but we have no problem getting home the next day.

This weekend, however, things blew up in a big, not-actually-explosive way. It's a bank holiday; it's summer; the flight from Dublin to Chicago was canceled; flights are overbooked on a regular basis anyway.

On Friday morning we got up at 4 a.m. and got to the airport by 5:30 a.m., before the United gate was open. (The gate agents were busy scuttling around getting things set up.) By 6 a.m., we were given boarding passes, but advised to stay in the area and come back at 7:40 to see if we would have seats. (Only if we were assigned seats would be able to go through security.) At 7:40 we reappeared, and were advised to come back in 10-15 minutes. Ultimately, after even more waiting, we were not assigned seats, so Ed listed us on a Delta flight. We were told to come back to a particular area at 10:25 a.m. to see if any seats were available. We waited until 11 a.m., at which point the gate agent appeared to tell us that there were no seats, that the next flight also looked very bad, and advised us to consider flying to Amsterdam, London, or Paris if we wanted to fly to Atlanta (which is where that particular Delta flight was headed). Once again Ed relisted us, this time on another United flight; we didn't have to wait as long to hear that no seats were available.

I was able to find us a hotel room for the night at an airport hotel, which was fine except that some of the amenities advertised on Orbitz did not actually exist (like the ability to do laundry). Ed took a look at the next couple day's flights out of Dublin and ascertained that it looked just as bleak as it had on Friday, that there weren't likely to be seats until early next week, so we made the decision to rent a car, drive the two-and-a-half hours it would take to get to Shannon Airport, and leave from there on Sunday. I found a handful of rooms available at the Park Inn, the hotel we'd stayed in when we first arrived in Ireland. (One can literally walk from the hotel to the airport in under 5 minutes.) I checked every other hotel in the area; not a single room was available except at the airport hotel.

We scrambled a bit to find a rental car* - there weren't many left, given the lack of notice. our desire to only drive an automatic, the need to only rent the car for a day, and return it to a different location. I found a good price through Fox Rent A Car, but despite my having made a reservation for returning the car to Shannon, their system showed us returning it to Dublin Airport; not only that, but they would have tacked another €100 onto the price to return it to another location, which was not part of the price listed when I made the reservation. Even the rental agent recommended that we try another car rental agency.

Another rental car agency had nothing available; fortunately AVIS had a single car available, for almost half the price Fox had quoted us.

The only car left turned out to be a BMW.

The drive was easy; we made it in about three hours (this included lunch stop). We drove a motorway the entire drive, and along the way we had some beautiful views; this was taken outside Borros-in-Ossory (Buiríos Mór Osraí), Co. Laois, about 75 miles southwest of Dublin.

From Ireland (2015)

And the view from our hotel is nice, too; our first floor room overlooks the Shannon Estuary. 

From Ireland (2015)

Fortunately, the flights tomorrow looks pretty good, so with any luck we'll be home late tomorrow. 

On our drive this afternoon it occurred to me that one of the benefits of our being experienced travelers, having flexible jobs, and not having money be a problem is that we could rent a car and stay in hotels for a few extra days when there are no flights available, and it didn't really cause any undue stress. In other circumstances, we might have been sleeping at the airport and not eating for a couple extra days/nights otherwise. Yes, we're really ready to go home, but a couple extra days are not catastrophic. If we had had children, I'm not sure we'd have the money to travel (although Ed working for an airline would still help with airfare), and staying overnight in an airport with a small child isn't something one would want to do.
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* We could have taken a bus from the Dublin airport to the Shannon airport, but it would have taken more than five hours and required multiple transfers. It might have been cheaper, but it was much more convenient and less tiring to rent a car.

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