June 27th, 2004


Do The Continental

As I wrote about before going to Europe, Continental Airlines made the time leading up to our trip to Europe fraught with anxiety. Fraught! I say.

Well they weren't done with us. When Lucas and I got back to JFK, our flight home through Cleveland was canceled due to weather. I can't blame Continental for the
weather, but the only option they offered was to stay in a hotel overnight and fly out the next day. No paying for hotel rooms, no putting us on other carriers, no sympathy. They obviously subscribe to the 'tough shit' school of customer relations.

Since I had family in Brooklyn & Queens I asked for a rebooking the following day from La Guardia. We took a $35 cab ride to Park Slope to spend the night. The next day we got up and took the subway & city bus to LGA. Fyi take the 2 train to 42nd street, then take the 7 to the 74th and Broadway station, then take the Q33 to LGA. Cost per person: $4.50, elapsed time 1 hr 15.

We get to the Continental counter 90 minutes before departure, and they inform us that we're on an overbooked flight and they won't give us boarding passes. We can A) stay another day in New York or B) go to Newark for a direct flight to Chicago. No, they won't help us with the transportation cost -- $20 a person. No, they won't get us seats on an alternate carrier.

In other words, Continental -- who originally changed our connection from Newark to Chicago's flight time so that the connection was impossible -- once again fucked us over and showed zero sympathy and zero support for customers put in distress. We ended up out over $80 on transport costs. Luckily Lucas still had some cash left over after the trip, because I hit JFK with $25 in my pocket and no credit cards; otherwise we would have spent the night in the airport with very little money for food.

Anyway, Continental is a bad, bad, shitty, incompetent, stupid airline and no one should ever willingly book another flight on it. If you do book a ticket on Continental be sure to have contingency plans, because they're likely to butt-rape you if there's any problems at all.

Not to sound like a dick

angryrobot asked why I didn't have a credit card when we got back to the US. Well I'll tell ya:

Lucas and I got tickets on one of those 'hop on, hop off' tours of Dublin, and were taking full advantage. Towards the end of the afternoon we'd of course walked several miles and were, as they say, knackered. So we hopped on the top of the double-decker bus and promptly fell asleep. After making another circuit of the city we went to get off near our hostel. Which is when I discovered that my wallet -- a zippered wallet on a lanyard -- with all credit cards, passport, traveler's checks, US cash $250 etc, was gone.

Visions of Karl Malden danced through my head "what will you do? what WILL you do?". We hotfooted it back to our hostel, and I stopped in the internet cafe/call center and started cancelling credit cards, looking up American Express offices (to get new traveler's checks), and the US Embassy (to try and replace my passport).

Once I got back to the hostel, they had my wallet. I was baffled; I called Melissa at home and apparently the story was this: Some american guy from Chicago had found it on the bus and looked through it and found my hostel receipt. He made a trip to our hostel to return it, and then called HER in Iowa to tell her he'd found it. I have no idea what happened that he found it separated from my person on the tour bus -- I'd been kind of falling asleep in the sun, and figured someone had lifted it.

So the happy ending is that my money and passport and such were safe and sound. The only issue was that I'd already canceled my credit cards, so when I came back into the US, I no longer had them as backup.

The whole incident was strange. I had been riding around for nearly 2 hrs on a bus, and if the guy was smart enough to look through the wallet and figure out where to return it, why wasn't he smart enough to look at my passport photo and see I was sitting 2 seats away, sound asleep, drooling like Grandpa Simpson? I mean he was totally being a good Samaritan and all, but it did seem a little weird.

Certainly falling asleep on a tourbus in Europe with your wallet in plain sight was no genius move on my part, but whatever. It all worked out in the end. We moved some money into Sean's checking account and used his bank card for the rest of the trip.

Oh, and if anyone's contemplating a trip to Europe, here's a breakdown of current costs.

Hostel bed: 17 to 25 Euros
Food on Street: 5 Euro a meal
Food in a restaurant: 10 to 20 euros/person (and not fancy places, count on 30 euros/person)
Transport: 2 to 3 Euros/ride in cities, 10-20 euros to/from airports
Museums: 7 to 10 euros, less for minors. In Paris all the musuems are free to under-18
Beer: 2 to 4 Euros, depending on the city and whether you're in a bar. Paris is 5-8 euros a beer
any place you sit down.
Movies: 7 Euros...

In short, I'd plan to spend about 100 Euros ($120-$125) a day unless you're willing to really go cheap on food; then figure on more money for gifts and such. OK ways to save money: 1) walk a lot instead of taking the subway, which is good for you. 2) Find grocery stores and get bread and cheese, etc. Especially in France you can get fantastic food really cheap at places like Fran Prix. 3) Talk to people about any cool cheap stuff. A guy who worked at the Dublin Hostel told us about taking the tram out to Howth, which is an absolutely amazing natural setting, and the tickets were like 3 euros for a return. Plus Howth has probably the best fish and chips shop in the English-speaking world.

The only place we found where record-shopping was feasible was Amsterdam, which had great used and new record/CD stores. Fantastic vinyl 2nd hand shops.