One of my childhood and best friends, Nicole, was engaged and getting married at the end of August. There was NO way I was going to miss it!
Since the summer is "PCS season" (Permanent Change of Station = relocation time) in the military and a major travel season internationally, I knew it would be quite a task getting home for free, but I left early and managed to make it home with time to spare.
Let's begin the operation.
How military flights work are; when there is a mission (flight), every time they land (to refuel, load cargo, unload cargo, whatever) they will take as many "space a" (a = available) passengers as they can (or want to) where ever they are headed at NO cost! Then there are contracted flights, which are commercial airlines contracted to fly regularly scheduled flights and carry mostly PSC-ers or people on "official orders." These serve food and are not free for Space-A travelers, but it less than $50. Steep, huh?
It all started two weeks before Nicole's wedding.
My first "try" to get back to the states was was the commercial flight. It made the most sense because it would land only four hours away from my parents. It would play movies, have food, and be like any other commercial airline I've ever taken. Also my good friend Rosanna was on it, as she was PCS-ing back to the states at that time. It would have been perfect. Too perfect. So, as fate would have it - Denied!
Flying Space-A is like flying on stand-by, so having been denied, we gathered up my stuff and back home we went.
I found out there was a military flight (free, but no food) homeward bound in two days, so again, I tried. And again - denied. I've flown Space-A a few times and I've never been denied twice in a row!!! I was taking it a little personal, but I still had just under two weeks to work with, so I wasn't too concerned.
When traveling Space-A, you always meet other Space-A travelers in the same or similar situations. In this case I met about ten. Through working together and an hour of weighing our options, we decided our best option was to get to Germany where the stateside flights are in abundance.
So, seven of us hoped into a van and headed to Germany- five adults and two kids.
After 14 hours of overnight travel, we arrived. Immediately upon checking into that terminal we realized we were way out of our league.
Another thing to know about the Military flights is that everyone is placed in one of six categories. I will not bore you with all the details, but Active Duty (AD) gets priority, then dependents, then retirees. The day you signed up to be put on the Space-A list sets the order for the people in your category. James was not with me, so any and all AD travelers AND their dependents were ahead of me- even if they just signed up that day, and I signed up a month ago. Not to mention, if you know military families they are usually not very small! This is a problem because when there are six seats available, and there's a family of six traveling with their AD member guess who's not going. Yep. That would be me.
Oh, and with a large base comes lots of AD to run the base and with August comes lots of those same people traveling. Not good for me. There were about 100 AD members ahead of me. Plus their families. Plus daily walk-ins. You do the math.
After three days in Germany, we realized we were not going anywhere until the summer was over, and that didn't work for any of us. So we brainstormed and called all the other bases until finally we found another (smaller) base close by with several flights going stateside.
The next day we were on our way to the East Coast- six days after my initial try.
And that's actually the cliff notes of the six days- but I was homeward bound for free (minus gas, food and lodging, but hey, still cheaper than a commercial flight)!
Home Sweet Home.
The reason for my return:
Everything was gorgeous!
I was so happy to be a part.
For the rest of my month-long visit, I got to spend LOTS of time with my nephews. Which is all I pretty much talked about before I left Naples.
Logan turns ONE this month!!!
Forbes (My brother Tony's other son) is too little, so he didn't quite make it on this adventure. But I did get to spend a little time with that cutie too and I love him the same!
Those boys make my heart smile!
My parents are Ethan and Logan's "nannies," so I saw the kiddos almost everyday!
I also gave my parents a hand and watched the boys for a few days so they could do other things.
...Like sleep. Hah! Shh, don't tell Dad...
One day it was raining and the boys LOVE being outside, so I though- "let's go play in the rain!" I remember loving that as a kid, so I knew I'd win some brownie points with that one.
...sadly playtime was quickly over...
I should have seen it coming...
Oh wait, I did... Sigh.
Other random Nephew moments:
I have no idea why Ethan looks so scared of his little brother here, but I just love this, hah!
When living abroad you realize the things you miss, so by the time you go home, you have a list! On my list, other than visiting with friends, family and my home church (and of course smothering those little boys with kisses), were- Chipotle, Red Robin, Panera, Starbucks, TJMaxx, Target and outlet shopping!
I hit all of those and was able to get to the Eastern market in DC with Rosanna.
Rosanna is my "Naples BFF." We loved to go to markets whenever time allowed! She is now in VA (about an hour from my parents!) so, we just had to keep the market tradition alive!
We were joined by my good friend from high school, Janelle.
Love these girls!
Ethiopian food at Ethiopic in DC. Mmmmm.
Janelle is the type of friend that certain things only happen when they are (she is, in this case) around:
This random truck was for sale. And this random dude happened to be looking to buy it.
I personally think they were a perfect match.
Good luck my friend.
And that about wraps up my visit... til next time Maryland!
...Oh, but the adventure doesn't end here.
Back to the Operation.
Remember how I told you the most ideal flight is the commercial flight that lands and leaves four hours from my parents. Well, we were off to try that one. And, as luck was on a roll - denied. I guess that's the lack of luck.
I was in MD for another four days, calling all the military terminals East of the Mississippi (ok, so maybe just in the DC area. Regardless...), my next chance was on Saturday from Delaware. Random. I know. Michelle and Jon (my sister and brother-in-law) so graciously packed up their family and me in their car and off we were. They dropped me off at the terminal and headed out for a family day at the beach. Win - win.
I MADE THE FLIGHT!
Next stop Spain for a few hours, and from there I would sit only for four hours and then catch the MAC flight to Naples. I was sure of it!
If you've been paying attention, you know what happened next.
I think I left Lady Luck in Delaware.
As I was checking in, I was informed that the mission to Naples was delayed for two days.
I was stuck in Spain. Could be worse.
After two days of wandering the base and enjoying the sun (and missing our two year Anniversary!!!) I returned to the terminal, only to be informed that my luck hadn't changed. The Naples flight was cancelled. Not delayed.
Enter extreme stress... and maybe a few tears. Maybe.
The next day there was a flight to Sicily. I actually caught that one, then took a taxi to catch the overnight train to Naples.
(If your wondering why I didn't just buy a flight, it's because I was way over the luggage weight limit and that cost was way over my forget-it-I'll-just-buy-a-flight budget.)
5:45am - Home Sweet Home.
Yep. I was calling Naples "sweet" at this point.
*Note* NEVER go Space-A in the summer. Or even remotely close to the summer.