I’d wanted to go to Ireland all my life. In March of 2001 I boarded Aer Lingus in Chicago for my flight to Dublin. Oh, if only I could have told myself I thing or two before I left! My experience with the country itself was wonderful, but I experienced one nightmare “glitch” after the next during that trip.
Slightly delirious, yet very excited, I stared at the luggage carousel, watching the luggage drop one by one down the ramp. I couldn’t wait to pick up my huge suitcase, filled with the perfect outfits I’d planned for this trip. Still staring, I watched as the last piece of luggage fell down the ramp and its owner picked it up. Where was my bag? Maybe it will come in a few minutes, I told myself. I couldn’t stop staring at the carousel. Nothing. I’d been on many flights and I’d been lucky to have never had any luggage lost. This could not be happening on my first trip to Ireland. At least I was there, I thought. I looked for a representative of the airline to talk to. I sat down with the nice man and filled out a form stating that my luggage was lost. He gave me a phone number and assured me that they would do the best they could to find it, and deliver it to wherever I was. Okay, minor glitch, who cares if I don’t have any clothes, on to call the first Bed and Breakfast that I’d reserved. I located a pay phone, and started to put coins in. The woman on the other end of the line answered, but then we were cut off when the phone said I needed to put more money in. I didn’t realize local calls required lots of change. I went to another counter where I’d exchanged some American dollars and asked for more change. Going back to the phone, I was finally able to complete the call and make arrangements to get to the Bed and Breakfast. Success! Now on to the car rental counter. The representative went over my reservation, then proceeded to tell me the price was nearly twice as much as what I’d been told when it was booked. This would not do. Car rental can be expensive anyway, but this was outrageous, and I couldn’t afford it if I wanted to. The lesson when renting a car in Ireland, is that you’ll have to pay for a Collision Damage Waiver to reduce your possible liability in an accident. At the time, this had not been quoted to me, and I had no idea. I do believe they include this in the quote now, but be sure to double check so you don’t have the same experience that I did. I ended up going to another car rental company and finding something a bit more affordable, but that was pretty stressful on top of the lost luggage and lack of sleep. I picked up the car, and then spent quite a bit of time learning how to shift on the opposite side of the car, while maneuvering Irish roads and roundabouts driving on the left. I felt like I was in Chevy Chase’s European vacation circling the roundabouts several times trying to figure out where to get off!
I finally arrived at Mary’s Bed and Breakfast home, north of Dublin, where I’d be staying for the night. Warm and welcoming, I felt as though I was visiting family I hadn’t seen for a long time. She had the room ready for me, and I fell on the bed and went fast asleep soon after I arrived. At about 8pm, I awoke wide awake and was unable to sleep most of the night. I found out that its very important to only take a nap for 2 or 3 hours or you’ll never get used to the time difference.
In the morning, I began calling the airline to check on my luggage, hoping I could just pick it up in Dublin before leaving the area as planned. When I called, I was told my luggage was sitting at the airport in Chicago. My initial airline had failed to transfer it to Aer Lingus. Aer Lingus was in the process of attempting to get the other airline to put it on a flight to Dublin. At this point there was no estimate of when I would receive it. I had to have something to wear, so I went into town to buy some clothes. Unfortunately, the jeans there are not like American jeans, and the sizes are completely different, so that turned out to be a nightmare in itself. I did end up finding something passable, hoping that my luggage would soon arrive. Three days later, after wearing the same stretched out outfit for way too long, a van pulled up at the Bed and Breakfast I was staying at in Ardmore, several hours away from Dublin! Aer Lingus came through. I finally had my clothes! What a relief. Things should go smoothly from here.
Our next destination was in Doolin, Ireland on the west coast. We drove the narrow, winding roads for many hours before arriving in Doolin that night. I settled in to the Bed and Breakfast there, and then decided to go out to a local pub for a bite to eat. When I turned the keys to start the car, I heard an awful screeching sound, a grinding noise, then nothing. That might have been worse then the awful screech. The car was dead. I walked back into the Bed and Breakfast, and called the car rental company. After quite some time and effort, I was told someone who bring a car there to me, and hopefully by the next day as I was supposed to be heading elsewhere. The next morning, I waited. And waited some more. I decided to walk to the grocery store and get a newspaper to read. The headline on the Irish Times newspaper read, “AER LINGUS ON STRIKE”! Hmm. What would this mean? I read further and found out that flights on the day I was to return home were all canceled. Well, I was still stuck without a car at the Bed and Breakfast, so spending hours on the phone with the airline wasn’t that much of a problem. I was initially told they didn’t know when they could fly me back home, then I was told it would be ten more days. If I had endless amounts of money to spend on lodging and food for my vacation, this would be great news! Unfortunately, I did not. I also had a job to get back to. I began making more phone calls (not easy from Ireland), when my new car rental arrived. At least I had a car! I drove on to my next destination, stopping in little towns and finding pay phones where I could call the airlines and find out the latest on the situation. Finally, after conversations with several managers, I would be put on a flight with another airline going back through London and then on to Chicago. This would just be four days after I was originally supposed to return. Not near as bad as ten days. I took the deal, tried to enjoy my extra time without any additional fiascoes occurring, and ended up flying to London only to be stuck in Heathrow airport for 12 hours before the long flight home. Of course, I did finally make it home, but I have to say that my first trip to Ireland was definitely the worst!
If there is anything to learn from my experience, its to pick up your luggage from the first airline and check it onto the next, if flying on different airlines. Maybe if my luggage hadn’t been stuck in Chicago, all of the other things wouldn’t have happened. They probably would have though, and even after all of that, I wouldn’t take the trip back for anything in the world. I’m just glad I had the opportunity to do it all over again the next year without all of the problems!