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Trip Report--comedy of errors at CDG

Dallas, Texas
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Trip Report--comedy of errors at CDG

We spent two weeks in France with our two daughters, ages 27 and 16. They joined hubby and I at the end of a business trip we took to Italy and the UK. After four days in Paris, we traveled by train to Alsace and Provence before flying home out of CDG on July 30th. If you want to read about the Provence portion of our trip, you can find it here: tripadvisor.com/…60240015

On June 29th, we took the 6 pm TGV from Avignon to CDG. For the next 24 hours, we would make travel mistakes and experience difficulties beyond our control. There were a few bright spots, too. In hopes that others can learn from our mistakes, I chronicle them below.

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France
France
Europe
Italy
Italy
Europe
Paris
Paris
Ile-de-France, France
Alsace
Alsace
Grand Est, France
Charles De Gaulle Airport
Charles De Gaulle Airport
Roissy-en-France, France
Avignon
Avignon
Vaucluse, France
Dallas, Texas
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1. Re: Trip Report--comedy of errors at CDG

We got off to a bad start before we left Avignon. The train was late arriving. Another slowdown going through Lyons put us at least 30 minutes behind schedule by the time we finally arrived at CDG after 22:30. This was not a good thing, as our two daughters had a 7:30 flight out the next morning. And we still had to get to our hotel. Our older daughter had pre-booked and paid for two rooms at a great rate at the Ibis Budget Hotel in Roissy.

For some reason we thought the shuttle bus to Roissy did not run after 10:30 at night. Our first mistake: I should have researched that here on TA. We turned out to be wrong, but we didn't know that at the time. So we follow the signs to the taxi rank.

And find a line of people but no taxis. Every now and then one would cruise past on the other road, notice us standing there, and come over to pick the next party up. So clearly there are plenty of taxis around--just not at this location.

By now it is 23:00. We decide to go in search of another taxi rank. We ask a pilot who gets on the elevator with us where else we can find a taxi, and he directs us to 2F.

Yes! There is a taxi rank, with lots of cabs waiting. We find one with room for the luggage, and the driver generously points out to us that there is a free shuttle that goes to our hotel from a point "just over there." We think briefly about this, and decide to go with the bird in the hand, rather than wait longer and haul our luggage around farther.

So we load into his taxi, and here is where we make our second mistake. We ask him to take us to the Ibis; "the one in Roissy." Ten minutes and €30 later, he drops us at the Ibis, which is buzzing with people. There is a line to check in that is almost out the door. DD gets in the line; I find a seat and guard the luggage. We're approaching midnight now and I long for my bed.

Fifteen minutes later DD returns to say that we are at the wrong Ibis. That's right; we paid €30 to go to the wrong hotel!

Fortunately, there is a shuttle that still runs out to the Ibis Budget Hotel this late at night. We find it, it arrives right after we do, and--well after midnight--we finally check into our pre-paid hotel rooms.

Lesson learned: when giving your direction to a taxi driver, always write down the address and hand it to him. We could have gotten to bed earlier had we done that.

We are flying home in two groups; DD and our teenager have a much earlier flight than hubby and I do. They have a 7:30 departure on BA, connecting through LHR to AA (which involves a terminal change from T5 to T3), which takes them on to DFW. I am a little concerned about the layover, as they will not have much time, but they are on one PNR, so if they miss their flight to DFW, AA will put them on the next one.

The desk clerk at the Ibis Budget has access to all of the airports' departure info. This is enormously helpful. Since the shuttle does not begin running until 5:15, he recommends they take an earlier taxi in the morning. They end up sharing some sort of shuttle van with some other people, and it I think it costs just €5 per person.

Hubby gets up at 4:30 to see them off, but I sleep in--since our flight on United via IAD does not leave until 12:30. What I should have done is wake up enough to check email. Because waiting in our inboxes was a message from United saying that our flight was delayed long enough that we would miss our connection. It helpfully offered us some other departures. The first one was at about 9:00, which we could have taken had we woken up in time.

By the time we do wake up around 7:30, it is too late to catch that flight, but we are able to go on United's website and accept another flight that has a connection in EWR with a 2 1/2 hour layover. We will get home to DFW later than we planned, but still on the same day. The only hitch is that we can't get seats next to one another. It's a plane with a 3 and 3 configuration, not a wide body plane. But we both are able to get window seats, so at least we are not crammed in the middle.

I should mention that the rooms in the Ibis Budget Hotel are very very basic and rather plain. But they do have the essentials, the front desk staff were extremely helpful, and the breakfast was surprisingly good for a budget hotel. There was much more on offer than we expected, and we enjoyed it.

United is in Terminal 1 at CDG. There is no direct shuttle there from our hotel, but the desk staff explain exactly what to look for to find the CDGVal shuttle train, and we have no problems. We do have a little trouble finding the United check-in desk at Terminal 1, but again a helpful stranger points us in the right direction.

The checkin line spills around the corner and down the hall. It took about 30 minutes to get to the front of the line. We notice that the luggage, rather than rolling neatly away on the conveyer belts behind the desk, is piled up behind us. The conveyer belts are frozen and still. A United employee shows up to load the luggage by hand onto a luggage cart. We make sure he gets both of our checked bags on there together. At this time, we have no idea that the luggage problem will have a major effect on how the rest of our day goes.

Boarding passes in hand, we make our way through Terminal 1 to the next stop for boarding passengers. I can't remember how many long lines we stood in that day, but we kept running into the same passengers in each one of them. You know how the airlines always tell you to allow 3 hours for an international checkin? This is the first time I have ever needed all three of those hours.

Finally at the gate, and there is a 40 minute delay in boarding the plane. Our 2 1/2 hour layover window is now shrunk to fewer than 2 hours. On the plane, my husband and I separate to our respective seats. I find my window seat and chat with the guy in the aisle seat. Right before we are due to leave, the middle seat guy arrives and promptly goes to sleep. Or he looked like he was sleeping. Never says a word, not even "hello."

There is an announcement that there will be a delay in our departure, due to the broken baggage system at CDG. I cruise through the IFE offerings and start watching the latest Muppet movie. One hour later, we are still on the ground, I am still watching the Muppet movie, and the middle seat guy suddenly gets up and heads to the back of the plane.

The pilot informs us that while we are waiting for the luggage, they will be loading on extra fuel so that we can fly faster to our destination. That's good to hear. Then we get an announcement asking if there is a doctor on board, and if so please come back to the galley area. Another delay.

While they are dealing with the sick person, I see the luggage cart arrive on the tarmac outside my window. Hooray! Meanwhile, middle seat guy has not returned. You guessed it--he is the sick person! I'm thinking "He's a young guy. He wasn't coughing or feverish...what could be wrong?"

The medics end up escorting the guy off the plane just as the last of the luggage is loaded on. We finally leave, 2 1/2 hours late. But I have what is probably the only empty seat on the whole plane right next to me!

I find out later from the flight attendants that the guy was just hungover and dehydrated. When he got up and walked to the back, he fainted. They said it happens regularly on this route. Often after they are already in the air, and they have to manage it until they land again. I hope he eventually made it to wherever he was going.

We do end up making up time in the air, and when we land in EWR, there is still a hope of catching our flight to DFW. I so want to be home tonight, instead of in a hotel in New Jersey! But we have to get through immigration, customs, and make a terminal change plus go through security again. A tall order in the short amount of time we have (about 45 minutes).

Here is where an investment we made before we ever left on our trip pays off big time. We each paid $100 to join the US Global Entry program. So we don't have to wait in the long line for immigration. We scan our passports at a computer kiosk, answer a few questions on the touchscreen, and take the slip of paper it prints out to the immigration officer.

Pick up our bags, shuttle to the next terminal...and we can get in the short line for security because of the Global Entry program. Yes! Best $200 we ever spent. We run down the long concourse to our gate (why are they always at the end when you are in a hurry?). Everyone has boarded already, but the gate agents know us by name. Which must mean United had notified them that we were coming on a quick connection.

We find our seats--together this time--and soon are on our way to DFW. Whew! I find out when we arrive home that for our daughters, everything went like clockwork. Every flight was on time. I am glad that the trouble happened to us rather than them. And I am so glad to be home!

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Avignon
Avignon
Vaucluse, France
Charles De Gaulle Airport
Charles De Gaulle Airport
Roissy-en-France, France
Jersey
Jersey
Channel Islands, UK
Florida
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2. Re: Trip Report--comedy of errors at CDG

Ouch! I didn't read much 'comedy' in that tale, lol.

California
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3. Re: Trip Report--comedy of errors at CDG

That wasn't any comedy at all. So sorry you all had to go through this. The middle seat guy did not help any too.

I do agree with you that it's a good idea about having your accommodation written down for the taxi driver.

Hope your next holiday will be better.

Boston...
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4. Re: Trip Report--comedy of errors at CDG

It sounds as though you kept your wits, and sense of humor, intact throughout. Good for you! Would that every traveler was so even tempered.

Tucson, Arizona
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5. Re: Trip Report--comedy of errors at CDG

And keeping with the Shakespeare theme. all's well that ends well. So glad you got home when you wanted.

Mill Valley...
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6. Re: Trip Report--comedy of errors at CDG

Isn't traveling glamorous! Much of your experience sounded sadly familiar. Seriously, I appreciate your good humor about it.

Los Angeles
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7. Re: Trip Report--comedy of errors at CDG

Oy... I've only had one flight with a major comedy of errors, it has scared me greatly. Let's just say, I never fly direct to any other Hawaiian island that isn't Oahu.

Thank god you have Global Entry - my husband and I have it as well and it's the best money we've ever spent. Used it for the first time in April coming back from Mexico and we were out of immigration in 10 minutes and that's because it's a lot of walking at LAX. It's so worth the money even if you fly out of the country once a year - but there's also TSA Pre Check that's fab too - it's like flying pre 9/11. I made my mom get Global Entry before our trip next month because it would defeat the purpose if I have to wait for her.

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Le Pre
Le Pre
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Paris, France
Dallas, Texas
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8. Re: Trip Report--comedy of errors at CDG

Thanks for your kind comments. It was certainly not the worst travel experience I have heard of. At least we got home on the day we intended; and our luggage did, too!

Paris, France
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9. Re: Trip Report--comedy of errors at CDG

You have to be particularly careful with the Ibis hotel names now since there are three different kinds -- Ibis, Ibis Budget and Ibis Styles. I'm not sure that it was the best idea in the world for the Accor group to do this. Around airports and train stations in France, there are often all three versions, and lots of people coming from other countries are clueless about this.

However, I must say that if you paid 30€ for a ten minute taxi ride within the airport area, you were definitely taken for a ride by the driver.

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10. Re: Trip Report--comedy of errors at CDG

Wow, Texas-Anglophile, I've heard that Texans are tough guys, now I'm convinced! My wife would have gone berserk! That was quite a story! You do seem a resilient couple. Now that all the disasters have happened I'm sure the law of averages would ensure hassle free holidays for you in future! Bye, if you plan a trip to India, let me know, I'll he you avoid all pitfalls. I thought flight screw ups like you describe happened only in India.