Posts Tagged credit card

The Early Bird Who Didn’t Get the Worm

Cypress Point Lookout (17 Mile Drive)

Beautiful view from Cypress Point Lookout along 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, CA

Last month, I visited my oldest friend in gorgeous Monterey, California. No, my friend isn’t that old. It’s a longtime friendship — since 8th grade, in fact!

Knowing that I had an open invitation to visit, I booked my flight in July for a trip in October. I found a great price and jumped on it.

I thought everything was perfectly arranged until the day before my flight.  I checked-in online and discovered that my window seat was no longer a window seat!

Flying across the country is a decently long flight.  After our 30/40 World Tour, I realize it’s not going to win any longest flight contests.  But it’s still nice to have a wall (or Mr. HalfEmpty’s shoulder) for my pillow.

I rechecked my original reservation and noticed that my seat number had not changed. I was still in 23F. What had changed was the plane. There must have been so much demand that they switched from a Boeing 757 with 6 seats across (3-3) to an international Boeing 777 with 9 seats across (2-5-2).

I’m sure the UC Santa Barbara Cross Country Team on my flight helped secure that bigger plane.  Grr…college kids!  Now I sound like a crotchety, old, half empty woman.  Yep, that’s about right. =)

During online check-in, I noticed that there were still a few window seats available.  But they were all considered an upgrade despite being in the same section as my current seat!  I decided not to panic and would request a seat change at the airport.

But at the airport, they told me the flight was full. So basically I got penalized with a middle seat in a block of 5 for booking early.  This early bird did not get the worm!  Lesson learned:  if you want a window seat, always pick A.

I’m really surprised I didn’t learn that lesson on the 30/40 World Tour with all our flights, some booked 6 months in advance.  But perhaps our exotic locales don’t have the same kind of demand as DC to CA.

When I boarded the plane, it seemed like the situation might be okay.  In my center section of 5 seats, only 4 were occupied — a Chinese guy in the aisle seat, a big guy in the 2nd seat, me in the 4th seat, and a woman on the other aisle.  I had an empty seat next to me, but I didn’t assume it would be there for long.  At some point, the Chinese man on the aisle realized that he was in the wrong seat.  So he moved into the center seat on my left.  This prompted the big guy to move into the aisle.

Now I was sandwiched in a middle seat.  It was the worst possible configuration for me.  I didn’t understand why the Chinese guy didn’t move back into the other guy’s seat so that the center seat would be free.  That would have given us both an empty seat on one side.  But now the big guy, who originally had a middle seat, had an aisle AND a free seat next to him!  I got a raw deal.

I was even more irritated when the Chinese guy kept using my arm rest.  At one point, I erected a pillow barrier in retaliation, but he didn’t seem to notice.  The best scenario for my already unfortunate middle seat went to the worst scenario rather quickly.  I was doubly mad because I had been counting on my window seat.

During my stay in California, my credit card number was compromised and used in Chicago.  I’m still not sure which restaurant did that to me, but I have 2 in mind.

On the way home, my return flight was delayed over 2 hours due to fog.  Since I knew about the delay, I went to the airport late. But I was worried the entire time that they might reduce the delay and I would miss my flight.  I was also concerned about making my connecting flight after the delayed flight.  If it had been on time, I surely would have missed it.  But fortunately, it was also delayed.

My final flight was delayed so much that they changed the gate 3 times!  After a while it got a bit comical watching a full flight of people migrate from one gate to another.  The last 2 gates were actually in a different terminal, so that was a long hike.  I wonder if anyone missed the flight because of the gate changes.

I finally arrived back in DC at 1:30 AM.  Even though I had a carry-on sized bag, I had to check it since there was no overhead space left.  So I had to wait for my suitcase, and then head home to catch a few hours of sleep before teaching my morning class.

The C Restaurant (Intercontinental Hotel)

Enjoying sun and cocktails at the Intercontinental Hotel along Cannery Row in Monterey. I’m pretty sure this restaurant was not the one that compromised my credit card.

After reading this post, you’re probably thinking that I had a horrible trip filled with uncomfortable flights, credit card fraud, and flight delays.  But actually, the trip was amazing!  Monterey is beautiful, and I soaked up the sun every day with my friend.  How’s that for half full thinking?

Next time you book a flight, remember the moral of my story and pick A for a window seat.  I’m not sure what to tell those of you who like aisle seats…perhaps, just good luck!

  • Have you ever booked a specific seat on a flight and later found that the seat configuration changed?  How did you react?
  • Has your credit card been compromised?  Did you or the credit card company discover it first?
  • Have you ever had a flight delay change back to an earlier departure time?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Train Ticket Turmoil

Our first morning in Barcelona was spent in our space-themed hotel room at Barceló Sants.  When we finally emerged at 1 PM, we were famished and opted for the nearest food — the hotel restaurant.

Lunch @ Barcelo Sants

A contented Ms. HalfEmpty prepares to enjoy her 3rd lunch course — dessert and a latte

We were the only patrons and weren’t sure if we were early or late for the lunch hour.  After a few misunderstandings due to our limited non-existent Spanish, we were seated and enjoyed a delicious 3-course lunch.  I think wine was included in our meal (as we later learned is customary with 3-course meals in Spain), and our server was quite shocked when we declined the carafe.  She didn’t know that we were still recovering from Germany.

Since we had gotten up at 1 PM and just finished lunch, it was time for siesta.  When in Spain, do as the Spaniards.  You really can’t get enough sleep!

The main reason for including Spain on the 30/40 World Tour was to attend VaughanTown.  It’s an English immersion program for Spaniards in various locations throughout Spain.  The program (including 4-star-hotel accommodations and meals) is free for native English speakers, who are there to help increase the fluency of Spanish business people.

Before meeting up with the VaughanTown group in Madrid, we planned to spend 4 days in Barcelona.  We figured that it would be easiest and perhaps cheaper to get our train ticket from Barcelona to Madrid while in Spain.  So obtaining those train tickets was on our agenda.  We were staying above the train station, so how hard could it be?

It was so much harder than we ever imagined.  But we had an inflexible schedule at this point and needed those tickets.

Our first attempt was online.  Mr. HalfFull was able to see the various times and prices.  He decided that a slow overnight train was our best option because it was less expensive and would save us on a night at a hotel.  He tried several times to book it online, but our credit card never seemed to go through.

At this point, we weren’t too worried.  We just headed down to the train station to buy tickets at the counter.  We saw one area with about 10 windows where people took numbers and waited to be called.  It seemed rather crowded, so we went to the shorter line on the other side of the station.  After waiting for our turn, we were told that this line was only for same day tickets and we needed to wait in the other line.

Sleeping in Train Station

If you had to spend all day in the train station, you might take a nap too! Never miss a siesta…that’s my motto.

Too bad we just wasted time in line, but no big deal.  We went over to the other line and took a number.  Then we discovered that there were 150 numbers in front of us!  It was already 4 PM and unlikely that all those people would be served by closing time.  Plus, we had sites to see.  We decided to try again via the website from our hotel room in the evening.  Hopefully, the site would work better this time.

Mr. HalfFull was so nervous about us not getting to Madrid on time that he stayed up all night trying to use our credit cards on the website.  He even set an alarm to try at various hours to see if that made a difference.  But the transaction always failed.  (We later learned from comments online that only cards issued in Spain will work.  It would have been nice if the website had that info!)

Worrying is usually reserved for me.  Mr. HalfFull is generally the one who tries to ease me out of my tizzy.  But the roles were reversed!

Barcelona-Sants train station

Efficiency was not the strong suit of the Barcelona-Sants train station, but at least Hotel Barceló Sants was right above it, so we could visit often during our ticket quest.

We finally decided that the only way to ensure that we get tickets and don’t spend all day waiting in the train station was to be in line before the ticket counter opened at 6 AM.  Apparently, a bunch of other people also had this idea.  Fortunately, it wasn’t another 150 people.

With tickets in hand, Mr. HalfFull was finally able to relax.  Travel within Spain is not as easy as you might think.  We’ll tell you the tale of the actual train ride from Barcelona to Madrid in an upcoming post.  For now, let’s just say it was certainly another adventure.

  • Do you make travel plans before leaving home?
  • Have you had difficulty with your home country credit card in a foreign country?
  • Have you experienced a painfully difficult time purchasing tickets abroad?
  • Are you surprised that Mr. HalfFull was losing sleep over our tickets?
Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

Tags: , , , , , , , ,