After a whirlwind road trip visiting friends and family, we are now back in Europe for the next 9 months. This year we’ll be going back to the States for Christmas so we’ll have a break in our European sojourn, but for the most part, we are headed back to a nomadic lifestyle for a while. It’s easier this time. It’s not quite as daunting. But I’m always a bit apprehensive before taking off to leave what is comfortable and familiar. Either that, or I just hate to pack.
But it’s done now and we have returned to Europe for more adventures in travel! We were in Milan for 2 days and then we headed to the UK. Full disclosure -- I was wearing the same clothes I was wearing when we left for Europe on Saturday morning. We left for England on Tuesday. To say I would have liked to have my suitcase is an understatement. Let me explain.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I LOVE a good travel voucher – you know…. when you give up your seat in exchange for flight vouchers that you get to use for another flight at a later date. Our family once got $6000 in travel vouchers. Let me know in the comments below if you’d like to hear that story (or anything else!).
When Greg and I went to the airport on Saturday, Hurricane Florence was having her way with the Carolinas. We were supposed to fly from Cleveland to Miami, then Milan, but there was a weight restriction on the flight so the airline was looking for volunteers. For $440 in flight vouchers, we decided to be routed through New York and then Milan, on different airlines than our original booking. We were concerned about our short connection in Miami anyway, so going through New York sounded great. And it was really great! We arrived in Milan Sunday morning about 1.5 hours later than our original flight was scheduled to arrive and we had those lovely flight vouchers in our pocket. Unfortunately, our luggage did not arrive with us.
So, no big deal – pain in the rear but our bags have been lost before. The airlines generally do a good job of trying to reunite their customers with their bags. We filed a claim as soon as we landed in Milan and were told they would deliver our bags as soon as they arrived. They tracked the bags and said they were last scanned in New York.
We travel on a budget and often stay in unconventional accommodations. This time I made our reservations through Booking.com and the arrangements were made with a short-term apartment rental company, not a traditional hotel. It’s a little like Airbnb but I would say it is more commercial. These are not people’s apartments that are rented by the owners – these seemed to be apartments owned specifically for renting on a short-term basis. Our accommodations turned out to be great! The apartment was super clean, spacious, had a nice bed and was in a good location near a metro stop. It was also pretty reasonably priced for Milan at $97 per night plus tax and cleaning. We picked up our keys in an office about a 40-minute walk from our apartment. That is also where our bags were supposed to be delivered. But of course, they never arrived.
Doing our best to turn our lemons into lemonade, I’d like to share the lessons we learned as we tried in vain to reconnect with our bags while we enjoyed our first visit to Milan, then the UK and on to Lake Como.
1) Even when you do everything right, sometimes things still go wrong
We reported our claim, made all the right calls to the airline, the airport baggage handlers and the delivery service, but it still took 5 days to get our bags. Looking back on it, I don’t see that we could have done anything differently that would have produced our luggage. We could have stayed on our original flight, but we may not have made our connection and that would likely have caused a day’s delay in Miami. I think we did everything right, to no avail.
2) There are times when you just have to sleep naked
We walked a lot while we were in Milan and it was HOT. We really needed to wash our clothes before wearing them each day. We couldn’t exactly have gone to a laundromat without any clothes and we didn’t want to spend time doing laundry anyway. We could have purchased a few select items – but we’re optimists! We kept thinking we would have our bags very soon! That is all to say that Greg did our laundry in the sink every night. We used the heated towel rack so well loved in Europe as our laundry rack to dry our things. They were pretty dry by morning. I HAVE NO PICTURES HERE.
3) Aperitivo time in Milan is the bomb
We LOVED aperitivo in Milan! Milan has perfected the cocktail hour. You can easily make a meal out of this tradition. We went to Café Madeira near the Porta Romana and they had a fantastic buffet of salads, pastas, flatbreads and more. We paid €8 each for our spritz and the buffet came along with it. That was more than enough for dinner and it was fantastic!
4) It’s good to get to know a city beyond the tourist bubble
Our struggles with our bags forced us to make telephone calls and visit offices that we would not have gone to if we were only on the traditional tourist route. We interacted with the people who really live in Milan – not just those who are visiting. I like that. I want to know a city from the inside. We got a taste of that during our short stay in Milan. We didn’t volunteer for that experience, but I appreciate our new perspective because of it.
5) Even when the answer is no, there are people to appreciate
Italianway, the company that provided our accommodations, was great! They went out of their way to do a great job for us. I was skeptical of this company when I booked our room. We had to sign a contract almost as if it were a long-term lease when we picked up the keys to our apartment. This was definitely not a traditional hotel. But the young people in this office were extremely professional and they bent over backwards to help us get our bags, even though none of their attempts worked. And our room was terrific! We had lots of space, it was spotlessly clean and we were in a great location. We were very impressed with this company and would use them again. Italianway turned out to be a great option for us in Milan.
6) You can still have a good time even when things don’t go your way
It was a drag not having our bags but all in all it was not a big deal and we had a great time in Milan. We visited the castle and the Duomo, where we got to walk among the spires. We had a terrific lunch and lovely spritzes. We window shopped in this fashion forward city, even though I was wearing the same exact clothes day after day among all the pretty people wearing gorgeous dresses and fancy shoes. We saw the new Starbucks that just opened in Milan, their first storefront in Italy. The line was wrapped around the block! We toured Eataly and can now say we’ve been to Eataly in 4 of its locations. Each one is impressive. We had a great time. Not having our bags was frustrating, but we did not let it rain on our parade!
7) Sometimes you need to make sacrifices
The morning we left Milan for the UK, we planned to do some work at the apartment, call the luggage people, hopefully pick up our bags at the Italianway office and then make it to the airport by 12:00 to catch our 1:50 EasyJet flight to London. I like to be at the airport plenty early and for me, this was cutting it close – but I did want to get our bags. EasyJet has the advantage of being cheap, but they are very unforgiving. The baggage drop closes 40 minutes before a flight and the gate closes 30 minutes prior. No exceptions. They are very upfront and clear about their rules.
Greg called at 8:00 and was promised that our bags would be the first ones delivered. We arrived at the office before 11:00 but the bags were not there. We waited for a bit but felt we had to go in order to go catch our train to the airport. We still needed to buy our train tickets. While we walked that direction, Greg called yet again to talk with the airport handling folks. Just as we reached the train station, they said the delivery truck was in the area and it would arrive at the office in 5 minutes. That was at 11:14. We walked back to the Italianway office and arrived 5 minutes later. No bags. We waited 10 more minutes and finally left at 11:30. The truck with our bags never arrived.
It was a scramble to get to the airport. There are multiple places to buy train tickets at the train station, but not all offices sell the ones we needed. It took a few precious minutes but we found the right office and bought our tickets. The train left at 12:05. It’s a 52-minute ride. We arrived at 12:57 (remember I said I wanted to be there by noon!) and of course it was a long walk to the EasyJet counter and the line to check a bag was LOOONNNGGGG. It was moving fast but not fast enough. We had boarding passes but had purchased a precious bottle of Campari aged in an Oak Cask. There were only 500 cases made and we bought a bottle as a gift for Chelsea and Sam while we were in the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II. We needed to check that bag because of the liquid in the bottle…. but alas, we were out of time. A very surprised woman selling pastries in a kiosk at the airport is now the proud owner of that bottle. We handed it to her quickly as we rushed toward the security line.
We made a mad dash through the security area. A woman tripped right in front of me (I promise it wasn’t my fault) and I stayed long enough to see that she was OK and that there were lots of people there helping ….and I walked around her and proceeded on my way. As we were going down the escalator toward our gate we heard the “last call” for our flight and pressed on……. only to come to a final obstacle…. Passport Control. The young Italian officer seemed unfazed by the sweat dripping down my forehead or the concerned look on my face as he casually took my passport, looked at the boarding pass, and had what felt like a 5-minute conversation with the guy next to him. Finally, he stamped our passports and let us move on. We were the last people in line for our flight. We made it. But we had to sacrifice our special Campari. I really hope the lady in the kiosk enjoys it. It’s really good stuff. We should have taken a taxi…….
After our brief time in the UK we flew back to Italy, hoping upon hope that our bags would have been delivered to our B&B on Lake Como before we arrived. .Alas, that was not to be the case….but 5 days after we arrived in Europe, we were reunited with our bags. A change of clothes and access to all our toiletries never felt so good!
Are you planning a trip somewhere in Europe? We can help with that! Remember that we are always available to you and your friends and family for custom trip planning to Italy, France, Ireland, England and all of Europe. We also still have spots available on our small group trip to Tuscany in May and our small group trip to Piedmont in October 2019! We'd love for you to join us! You can always reach Betsy at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to help you make your travel dreams to Europe come true!