Sunday, December 12, 2010

How to Plan a Trip to Europe Using Space-A*

* But not actually get there.

About a month or two ago, my husband and I decided that instead of Christmas presents this year, we would rather go on a little trip, just the two of us, for a few days. After searching all-inclusives, cruises and resorts in Florida, we realized that we really just couldn't afford to fly. As we were discussing other, driveable options, husband remembered the military's Space-Available program. Basically, you can fly for free anywhere the military is flying. We did some research, mostly on and learned that all we needed to do was sign up for leave, send our paperwork to the bases we would hope to fly out of and call to find out the schedule of flights and how many seats were available. Then, you show up to the terminal and find out if you get on the flight based on the priority list of who else signed up. If you are selected, on to the plane you go for a free leg of vacation. Sounds so great right??

Well, last Friday, my husband signed up for leave and faxed his paperwork into Andrew's AFB, Dover, and BWI. We called each terminal that day and found out there was a flight leaving from Andrew's on Saturday night heading to Germany and there were 34 available seats. Score! We drove up to DC, dropped off our son with my parents and headed to Andrew's at the 9:30 'show time'. Shortly thereafter, they called us and another couple up to the counter and informed us that the flight had 4 seats and we were the chosen ones. Double score! Excitement ensued as when finally felt like we could talk solid plans about where we were going to go and what we were going to do on our romantic European vacation. Then, two hours later, as we anticipate boarding, they called our last name up to the counter. The Air Force solider gently informed us that it turns out, there was only room for 3 people, not 4 and the other active duty friend had signed up for leave sooner than us. Dejected, and pretty annoyed/confused at how exactly you go from 34 to 3 available seats, we returned to my parents condo.

The next day, there were no flights to Europe from any of our choice airports, but Andrew's had a flight to Jackson, MS, two hours from New Orleans, with 50 free seats. So we researched some fancy hotels and decided NO was the closest to France we would be getting on this vacation. That afternoon, we repacked out bags, said bye to Baby Boy again and trekked back over to Andrew's. Right away, they told us we would get on the flight, but that the plane was on its way back from overseas and it would be about 3 hours to take off. We decided to stick it out, determined to make it on our romantic va-ca. Fast forward through 2 football games, several issues of the Army Times and some chips from the vending machine, and the plane arrives. A solider gets off and we overhear him telling someone that they have to transfer patients off the plane to Walter Reid Medical Center, then gear up the rest who were headed to the hospital at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio. My husband and I took one look at each other and without needed words, he headed back up to the counter to ask for our bag back.

So here is what we learned:
1. While Space-A is free, you have to be really, really flexible.
2. Take plenty of leave. Kevin took a week, and there was no way we would have made it back in time.
3. Does anyone else have an issue with putting Space-A travelers on a medic plane? I was mortified by this. Those soldiers who were injured overseas deserve space, privacy and all the attention from the medical staff on the plane. Not a couple heading for a New Orleans vacation.
4. Have a plan B, C, D, E and F. While we didn't make it to Europe, we found an affordable, wonderful vacation in its place. You can read more about that here.
5. The Omni Hotel chain rocks. If you read my post on Daffodil's, you find out about our trip to the Bedford Springs Resort. They gave us a $77 a night military rate. Normal rates at $250. High Five for you Omni, thank you for supporting our troops and creating an affordable romantic vacation for travelers on a budget!

1 comment:

  1. I just read this, and it is SO true! It took us almost 5 days to fly to Germany out of Dover AFB. And even then we actually flew into Rota, Spain and paid for a commercial flight from there. But I'd encourage you to try again. The experience of the whole thing was frustrating at times, but really one-of-a-kind. We have so many memories, stories, inside jokes, and one-liners from our trip. And when else was I going to fly on three different military aircraft? Overseas. On a jump seat :)