Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Plan R&R Overseas

I want to start this off by saying that I am incredibly excited that we decided to meet up in Europe for Dustin's R&R instead of him just coming back stateside for two weeks. That being said, there are some particular challenges in planning an R&R trip in a foreign country.

1. Flexible Dates and Flights - Sure, when you are just planning on the 30-minute drive to pick up hubby from the airport in America, that is easy to be flexible. But what if you need to buy an overseas flight? I waited until about a month before his "window" of leaving and then bit the bullet to purchase my ticket. Instead of planning my trip for the 15 days of leave he should get, I booked my ticket for 21 days over there, meaning I have wiggle room even if he is a week late getting out of the combat zone. Sure, it means extra hotel costs for the extra 6 days, but it should avoid us having to make a lot of changes in the flight. Also, I did not book my flight through a third-party website, as those tickets are often nonrefundable and incredibly difficult or impossible to change. Instead, I went through Delta, and earned some sky miles. Plus I have the peace of mind that if I do need to change a leg of my flight, it will cost some money in change fees, but it will definitely be possible.

2. Flexible Dates and Hotels - Once I had a pretty good grip on how I wanted our tour of Europe to go, I started browsing to check out rooms. We booked all our hotels through for a couple reasons. Their Welcome Rewards allow us to earn a free night at a hotel for every 10 nights we stay and book through them. Which means, basically 9% off every time we stay at a hotel through them. Also, I only booked hotel rooms that had no cancellation fee. So that means, if we need to completely change our trip dates for some reason, we won't pay a penny for the hotel bookings we made. Sweet!

3. Communicating Sans Cell Service or 3G Network - I'll admit it, I am totally reliant on my smart phone. So what do I do when hubby and I will be both arriving in a foreign country without the ability to text or facebook message each other our arrival? Plus with no clue as to what day he will be arriving. Well, pray that I get there first. Then I am going to terribly butcher the French language while trying to ask someone at the front desk of our hotel to hold a key for my hubby there. Then, I e-mailed Dustin directions to take the train to our hotel, and he will ask the front desk staff for the key with his name on it, probably also butchering the French language just as badly as I will in the process. Hopefully, we will both end up in the same room! And then I plan to never leave his side until his two weeks of R&R time are up.

4. Packing for Two - The last time I traveled abroad, it was just me! This time I have to pack for Dustin as well. Which means I am going to take a taxi from the airport. It will be more expensive than taking the metro, but I simply can't risk having to carry 50 pounds of luggage up and down flights of stairs if my route takes me through one of the many, many stops in Paris without an escalator.

This was my luggage when packing for one!
So far, these are the only challenges that have crossed my brain about the fact that we are doing R&R overseas. I am crossing my fingers that all our careful planning goes off without a hitch and that we can be happily reunited soon! If I come up with any other details that helped my planning I will write another post about the tips, in the hopes it can help someone else navigate the process of planning R&R abroad.


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