As promised, we will spend February discussing our travels to the four corners of the earth!
Before we get into specific trips, let’s set the stage as to what it takes to fly to an international tournament. Our events typically happen on Friday, Saturday, & Sunday. That usually means we leave home on Wednesday – typically in the afternoon as most international flights leave in late afternoon or early evening from Houston. The day before we leave we wash our uniforms and make sure all of our weapons are in good working order. We will spend the morning on the day that we fly out, packing our bags and deciding whether we are packing for cold or warm weather. We also need to make sure we have a plug converter as European countries use a different plug system (and 220 volts instead of the US 110 volt system) than we do in the U.S. Without a converter, you can’t charge your phone or laptop! You always want to make sure that your converter and wires are in your backpack as you never know for sure when your checked luggage will arrive. Some of you may know that Kelley spends a great deal of travel time playing games on her Nintendo DS. It was a rude awakening to find out that the European adapter DOES NOT work to charge the DS. An emergency trip to an electronics store in Budapest to purchase a European charging cord — many years ago — was required. That little piece of travel equipment never leaves her backpack!
After a few minutes of telling our puppies goodbye, we are off to the airport! Depending on how long we will be gone, we will either drive our car and park at the airport or we may take an Uber. Uber is definitely easier because they take you right to the terminal but round trip is about $100 on Uber and if we will only be gone 5 or 6 days, parking is much cheaper.
Once we check our bags and get through security, we usually head for the Houston United lounge. It is a good lounge with decent food and free wifi. It is usually quite busy! We always wait until the last minute to get on our flight as we usually want to take a survey of the empty seats before we commit to where we may sit (shhh, don’t tell the flight attendants). We may or may not sit in our assigned seats. For instance, it is always best to have a whole row to yourself so you can stretch out and sleep! We aren’t usually lucky enough to make this happen but it does happen on occasion. This makes for a most excellent trip!!
If we are traveling to Europe, we will likely stop and change planes in Frankfurt or Munich. The lounges in Europe are much better than the ones in the U.S. In most European lounges, you can get real food (for free) and not just snacks. The food is usually native to whatever country you are in. For instance, in Frankfurt and Munich, the food definitely has a German flair (did we mention lots of sauerkraut and sausage?). Sodas and juice are free and, of course, they provide free wifi. Most of the time, we are looking for a couple of comfortable chairs next to an electric outlet so we can shut our eyes a bit and charge our phones. Connecting flights may take us to places like Milan, Paris, Tallinn, Barcelona, Budapest, Warsaw, or Leipzig. After all is said and done, a trip to a European world cup consumes about 20 hours of traveling each way. We leave Houston on Wednesday, arrive at our destination on Thursday afternoon, hope our bags arrive (since they contain our weapons), take a taxi or bus to our hotel, eat some dinner, get our weapons checked, go to sleep, and wake up (usually in the middle of the night) and stare at the ceiling for a couple of hours (as a result of jet lag), catch-up on social media if the hotel has reliable wifi (a luxury in Europe) then get up in the morning, eat breakfast, and head out to the venue as the competition will begin soon.
The routine is pretty much the same if we travel to Asia instead of Europe. The only difference is that it takes longer to get there. Trips to Asia usually take about 24 hours of flying but in most instances, it takes another 2-5 hours on a bus to get to the city where the competition is. For these trips, we typically will leave on Tuesday instead of Wednesday.
We will usually depart for home on Monday morning and since there is a time difference, we will usually arrive home on Monday evening. The interesting thing about traveling to Asia is that you cross the international date-line. That means that when we are coming back to the U.S. from Asia, we often arrive home before we left! Ha! See if you can figure that one out!!
— Continued next week — we will talk about a few of the more scarier flights that we have had!