How far are you willing to go for a cheap flight?

Gracie Weinstein
March 7, 2022

Someone I know once advised my younger friends that if they wanted to study abroad, they needed to start saving last week. It’s expensive here — really expensive. I’m not referencing the groceries and the public transportation. Honestly, that’s cheaper than your nearby Kroger and nightly Ubers. I’m talking about the weekly weekend trips, big and small. So, what do you do? You buy the world’s cheapest flights possible at the earliest and latest times possible — booked weeks in advance, too. But maybe this isn’t always the best idea, especially as 20-year-olds in a country with little-to-no knowledge of its culture and language. 

Last weekend my friends and I embarked on our fifth trip of the semester and packed up for Paris. We all Uber’d separately to the train station, hopped on the airport’s express coach bus, and finally arrived at the airport about an hour later — a lot of traveling goes into even getting to your flight. Anyways. We got through the long security line, got some water and planted ourselves at the terminal gate A5, and we waited. And we waited, and waited. And waited some more. We waited until around nine p.m. after receiving a food voucher for our choice of dinner — choice meaning between two sandwiches from a takeaway panini restaurant. The kicker here isn’t that the plane was delayed and the airport was simply waiting for the problem to be fixed — no, that would be too easy. Our issue this past weekend was that the airport had no idea where the plane was and why it wasn’t there — they lost the plane. 

I’ll just be honest, because even though I believe in the strongest form of kindness and second chances, this blog’s main purpose is to help my readers avoid the mistakes I’ve made and guide them in the direction of where I found success. In this case, my mistake was flying Vueling Airlines. Like I said, cheap flights are a study abroad student’s best friend, but maybe a line has to be drawn at how far we are willing for a $40 flight. 

After finishing our meal and about 45 minutes of researching a cheap flight, train, or bus that could take us overnight to Paris, we heard news that our original flight had been rescheduled… to two p.m. the following day. This was around 10 p.m. at night, and at this point we had no success in finding a cheaper mode of transportation, especially without knowledge of whether we would receive a refund from Vueling should we cancel our flight. Even though this meant nearly an entire day lost from our Paris trip, we reluctantly agreed to the next day’s flight and accepted the airline’s offer to put us up in a hotel room with transportation to and from. When you look up the Bergamo airport, its related hotel looks incredibly nice and new. However, after about 30 minutes of struggling to find the bus, and the 15 minute drive to the destination,  this airport hotel was anything but new. In fact, my friends and I compared the situation to what you would expect your grandmother’s house to look like. Squeaky, bouncy beds, dim lighting, old outlets and furniture — and I think you can imagine the smell. This must be a joke, we thought — no. 

If I can say one thing about my friends, it’s that we can make any situation a fun one. So, we bought a bottle of wine, FaceTimed our friends and had a night in grandma’s guest bedroom. The shower may not have had a curtain and our chargers didn’t work in the wall’s outlet, but we made the best out of it. Finally, we settled down for a long nap on our bouncy-castle-like-beds, as the coach bus would be picking us up at 10:30 the next morning. 

The next morning we woke up in time for the hotel’s free continental breakfast, something like what you’d see in a hotel during the weekends of a sports competition or tournament. Pastries, hard boiled eggs, and some warm milk to accompany some cereal. It was fine; like I said, we know how to make the most of any situation. 

One thing I might add is that when we first got to our bus the night before, we were the only ones on it. The hotel asked us upon arrival where the rest of us were from the flight, as the airline had called and requested about 30 rooms, but it was just us. We were a little creeped out, but we turned out fine. The next day, when the three of us piled onto the coach bus at 10:30, the bus driver insisted on taking a photo to remember this moment. An entire coach bus to ourselves — yeah, that part was awesome. 

When we got back to the airport that morning, we all entered with skepticism and fear — nothing good came from this airport or airline yet. We got in line for security, but just when we reached the front, we were stopped because our boarding passes were no longer eligible. We had no email, message or any form of information from Vueling about our new boarding pass for the rescheduled flight, and we couldn’t get in. We were instructed to wait in line at the check-in counter where we waited for about 30 minutes before being informed that check-in doesn't start until two hours before the flight. It would be another hour until Vueling arrived to give us our new boarding pass. The inevitable question is, why would we be picked up at 10:30 if we can’t even do anything in the airport besides sip cappuccinos until noon? Who knows. We finally checked in around noon and made our way through security. 

A10, new terminal. Familiar faces and, funnily enough, familiar outfits were waiting to greet us at the terminal. We sat for a bit and bought some pastries from a nearby bakery — but wait, the plane is delayed again. And no one knows where the plane is. 

Utter shock is all I can say that I felt — well, and anger, but that’s a given. Immediately, my friends and I started searching online for compensation options from Vueling. Even though we were still planning on getting on this plane, should it show up, we had already been charged for our hotel room in Paris for the night prior. We filled out a long application online, and as of now we’re still waiting to hear back about any compensation we could receive, although it could take a while. 

About 20 minutes late,r we heard the best news one could hear at this point: the plane was coming. My friends and I ran to the terminal to see the large Vueling plane pulling up.

We got to Paris safely — I should emphasize that as the most important aspect out of this entire story. Maybe everything happens for a reason, and we shouldn’t have been on that first plane; however, it’s still frustrating. 

So, what’s the point of my entire story? Not not to fly Vueling. I’ve only taken one flight with them, and even though I may never take another, that doesn’t mean they’re a horrible airline. The point is to be careful with how cheap your flights are becoming. I learned this past weekend that taking a $40 flight is a risk, and you may end up losing time and money in the process. It’s up to you how you want to go about traveling and spending your own money. I mean, I probably won’t even learn from my own mistakes, but be prepared for any disruptions in your travel plans. Take this as a prime example for why it’s best to travel with people, also. If this were to happen to you, then you aren’t alone. Travel safe and make smart decisions about how you travel and who you travel with. It wasn’t the end of the world when all of this happened to me and my friends, but if you can avoid it, I highly recommend it. Don’t steer towards the expensive flights; that isn’t my intention. However, traveling between countries isn't something to take too lightly. Have fun, but stay alert. 

P.S. — Paris still turned out to be amazing


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Gracie Weinstein,

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My time in Italy and Europe as a whole is over after all these months. I've shared stories and advice and just my general thoughts on here for the past 115 days...

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Gracie Weinstein

<p>Hello, my name’s Gracie Weinstein and I am a junior studying political science and journalism. Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved to write and have always tried to use my writing to tell stories with others about some of the best, or maybe worst, experiences in my life. I believe in the power of words and the ability it has to connect strangers with one another through their experiences, whether they are shared experiences or not. Writing humanizes people, and helps others relate to them — it cuts down on barriers such as physical appearances (how one’s life looks) and allows for strangers to understand each other. Whether or not those who read my work or see my posts have themselves studied abroad or plan to study abroad, documenting each scary, fun, jaw-dropping, or brand new experience I encounter is so special to share with them. I am very much looking forward to sharing my next few months abroad with others, and hopefully inspire them to make the same decision that I did. Ciao!</p>

2022 Spring
Home University:
Indiana University
Elmhurst, IL
Political Science
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