14 July 2009

Summer Plans...

It's been a little harder making summer plans than I thought it would be.

First, the German keeps working Fridays. I thought I signed on to be a single parent Monday through Thursday and having him show up on Friday after the girls are in bed is breaking our bargain. The girls are pretty good, kita is wonderful and we are all trying, but it seems that I am just starting to recover from the flu/bronchitis/pneumonia that started mid-April and felt like it nearly killed me. I am still easily exhausted and I am pretty certain that what I had was originally an undiagnosed and untreated H1N1. After all, I started the entire process of my illness with IV antibiotics and things just went down from there. Clearly should have attacked with the Tamiflu. So by the time the weekend is here I am too tired to do anything and then I feel bad about not doing things. And the German keeps scheduling Friday off, then changing his flights and working.

I hope that next week mellows out, as day camp starts for the girls and it's just walking distance. I will visit a museum next week, I swear!

In bigger news, it took me three days of intense pain (and melting ear drums) to book our trips to the US. We had talked about going for some weeks ever since we decided to up our stay here for at least another two years. I worry about the fact that my children are forgetting Nana and Grandpa, particularly Thing2. Since they just won't get on a schedule to Skype, the kids are obviously going to have troubles remembering them. After all, Thing2 has lived in Germany longer than she lived in the US at this point.

But booking the tickets was a lesson in Catch-22 and circular logic. See, I wanted to book the girls' tickets with (you can't believe how much) money and our tickets with frequent flier miles (half a gift from the parents). But one cannot book children's tickets over the internet without purchasing an adult ticket at the same time. I couldn't book my ticket without knowing the children's tickets because, you know, it might be a bit awkward if 1. I couldn't get them seats on the same flight(s) or 2. if the only way to get them such tickets would be to pay so much for their tickets that I could go ahead and pay for all 4 of us for the sme price.
The second option came up three times with AirFrance and KLM. I spent hours on the phone with agents in the US and Canada (because with our rate plan it was way cheaper than speaking to people here in Germany, which I did just long enough to find them unhelpful at .14 Eurocents/minute). I'm not kidding: three days of spending hours on the phone after the girls were in bed, my brain melting and sweat pouring down my jaw from my melting ear. I got transferred, told to speak to other groups or airlines, repeatedly told to do things that were not doable, apologized to for lack of technical capacity, lied to, put on hold, transferred, dropped, lied to, told how I could do something (on the basis of which I transferred miles and wound up not being able to do that thing and freaking out), was multiply offered tix for the girls that were the same price as the schedule I'd found on momondo or other sites for the girls plus an adult... you just can't believe how horrible the experience was.
Then I spoke to someone at NWA. She was like an angel from heaven. She was able to find me a reasonable flight for the kids (versus the one I had on hold for the price of 3 of us). She was able to book it for me with the note that I had another FF flight with the required adult. She was able to seat the kids with a space next to them that I could fill in. She was able to book it as a KLM flight so that they would stop f***ing with me.
When I went back to KLM and asked them to re-book my FF flight to match the confirm number of the childrens' flights, the call center woman said,"No, it's not possible."

I lost my temper. After I explained how it was possible, the lady was actually to change my reservation to math the childrens' so that we are actually travelling together.

This process should have been easy. It was made extremely difficult and even with my saving angel of NorthWestAir I was required to pay the "over the phone" booking extra fees for the children, which really wasn't fair as it was their own systems which made it impossible to do what I would have preferred: booking on-line.

I haven't booked the husband's ticket yet: that's waiting for the transfer of yet more miles to allow me to do that. Transferring the miles from my AmEx account was problematic because we ditzed out this past month:our AmEx cards had expired and they had a no forward on the replacements. We hadn't noticed because there really isn't a lot of use for credit cards in Germany. But one can't transfer miles without a current AmEx card. So last month we had ordered new cards. They had arrived when the groseltern were taking care of the children and I had them put away where they would be safe.

I can't remember where that place is. Luckily, AmericanExpress' Mileage Rewards has a US based customer service model, and with some discussion theyw ere able to transfer the miles for me. So sometime tonight I should book those flights for him. He will be staying with us for two weeks, with my parents, and then I will be staying on another week.

With us staying here for who knows how long, we thought it was important that they know my parents, my brothers, their cousins. The trip is hideous and I'll be coming back alone with them, which is a horror I wish not to contemplate, but we think it's necessary. I'm not sure we will be able to afford the time or expense next year so I hope we can get some enjoyment this year with everyone.

I'm not looking forward to the 18+ hours travel time, though.


Anonymous said...

Just reading about it makes me anxious and sweaty. I can imagine how horrible going through the process was.

christina said...

Ugh, what an awful experience, G. I'm so sorry they gave you that much runaround for something that should have been so easy. All they want is your money, after all. Why do they have to make it so stressful?

I agree about the importance of your kids seeing their grandparents and other relatives. Flights being as expensive as they are to Vancouver, we can only manage it every other year for five weeks but the boys have still managed to remain very close to my parents.

J said...

Wow, what an ordeal! Finding the best price and way to book it is hard enough for one, I can't imagine doing it for 4. Glad it worked out, though.

BTW, paying a booking fee for booking by phone is normal nowadays - even when it's not possible to book it on the website.

Judith said...

Oh mi'gawd! I would have given up long before the end and opted to stay put. Good for you for winning out in the end.