I'm going to Paris. EEEE! I'm going to PARIS! This will be my first time out of the country, and my sister's too since she's coming with me. Bonus? I get to cross goal #3 off my list! This is something we've wanted to do for years, but until recently, we didn't have the money for a flight, let alone a hotel, food and sight seeing. Over the past few years, though, we've both been good about saving money and when I suddenly had a free ticket on my hands, we both knew this was the perfect time to act on our dream Paris vacation.
Here's what happened.
Last December, I bought a ticket to visit my then-boyfriend who was stationed as a Marine in Okinawa, Japan. I was supposed to fly out in early March, over my spring break.
But the trip was cancelled. This turned out to be a good thing, for a number of reasons, including the earthquakes and tsunamis that hit the island the week I was supposed to visit, killing thousands, devastating the region and suspending all flights.
I canceled my flight and was left with a lot of money worth of air travel, a small portion of which I put toward a trip to Connecticut, where I'll be visiting my good friends and going into New York City for sight seeing.
With some value still left on my ticket and prices as low as we've seen, my sister and I decided to spring for the Paris tickets. It turns out, the process was pretty complicated.
First, dealing with airline customer service agents is torture.
But I slowly learned how to get what I want.
Finally, a travel voucher was being sent to me for use toward our Paris trip. It arrived at my dad's house in Charlotte, and not here in Chapel Hill, so my sister fetched it and, armed with all the paperwork and our desired flight numbers, tried to book our flights. We were told that the remaining balance from my ticket to France could be put toward another person's ticket as long as we were on the same trip. This apparently, was not something all customer service agents agreed upon.
It was finally worked out. I could pay for a portion of my sister's flight with my travel voucher -- but only if I bought the ticket. In person. With the travel voucher in hand.
After some frustration with the United States Postal Service (they're always quick when you don't need them to be!), I finally received my travel voucher in the mail and called my sister to reserve our flights so I could buy tickets at the airport that night. She called the airlines only to be told that she couldn't reserve the flight without me also on the line with my voucher information. We conference called the airline again, but this time, I wasn't needed and neither was my voucher information. And it turns out, I didn't need to go in person to the ticket counter, either. We could just mail the voucher back in.
We were uncomfortable mailing things again, especially with something so valuable for a flight we couldn't afford to mess up, so I did end up going down to Raleigh's airport and buying our tickets at the counter. It was very 1999, but totally redeemed United Airlines. Their service at the desk put me in a wonderful mood. One of them even gave me a hug!
Alas, our tickets are booked!