September 12th - 16th Visit
The Plan | Pre-trip | Getting There | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

Portland -> Houston (Sep 11th)

The Portland -> Houston flight was uneventful (yay!). We arrived at the airport at about 3:30 am. The airport was very quiet, we were at the gate very early. The "cheap ticketswe bought did not allow us to choose our seats, so we were not sitting together. I spoke to the ticket agent at the gate and she was able to move us next to each other.

Houston -> Boston

Our Houston -> Boston flight was another story. It was delayed due to routing of air traffic because of Hurricane Florence.  Unfortunately, the delay caused us to miss our flight to London.

This was our plan:
  • 05:00 PDX -> Houston (IAH) 10:57 - United Airlines
  • 14:20 IAH -> Boston (BOS) 19:10 (20:47 - actual) - United Airlines
  • 21:20 BOS -> London (LGW) 08:40 (next day) - Norwegian Air UK
  • 11:35 LGW -> Split, Croatia (SPU) 15:00 (Sep 12th) - Norwegian Int
We had 33 minutes between flights, however:
  • The gate closed 20 minutes before departure -- leaving us 13 minutes
  • Getting off the plane took 3 minutes (we sped this up by speaking to the flight attendant who moved us to the front of the plane to get off first) -- leaving us 10 minutes
  • Terminal "E" was on the opposite side of the airport (we ran & took a shuttle), it took 10 minutes -- leaving us 0 minutes.
  • We needed to check-in -- would have taken 5-10 minutes.
  • And Norwegian closes the check-in counter 60 minutes before departure (40 minutes before we got to the counter -- or about 27 minutes before we landed).
  • We needed to go through security again (10-15 minutes)
  • We needed to run to the gate (5 minutes?)
We weren't even close to making the flight.  Lesson learned: plan more time before an international flight (Ugh, I knew this already -- I thought). Had United been on-time, we would have had 2hrs, 10 minutes -- which is tight if you figure 30 minutes to get off the plane and get to the ticketing counter which closes 1 hr before departure.  If United was on-time, we only had about 40 minutes of "buffer time" -- not enough! (United was 97 minutes late.)

New Plan

Our tickets are insured (automatic -- not extra insurance) against this type of delay, but its going to result in missing 1 1/2 days in Medjugorje. This was the worst flight in our itinerary to miss. We immediately called Kiwi (the site used to book the tickets), they were helpful (but slow - 2 hours while we waited at the airport) in rerouting us. I also let our car / hotel know about our delay. Our new itinerary looks like this (yuck!):
  • 9/11 05:00 PDX -> Houston (IAH) 10:57 - United Airlines
  • 9/11 14:20 IAH -> Boston (BOS) 19:10 - United Airlines
  • 9/12 19:00 BOS -> Reykjavik (KEF) 9/13 04:30 - WOW Airlines
  • 9/13 06:20 KEF -> Dublin (DUB) 10:05 - WOW Airlines
  • 9/13 14:30 DUB -> Manchester (MAN) 15:30 - Aer Lingus
  • 9/13 17:25 MAN -> Split (SPU) - 21:15 EasyJet
This is twice the stops and twice the time I would have normally accepted -- but it was our only option after missing the US -> Europe connection.

Kiwi provided us with a hotel room (Homewood Suites by Hilton) and some money for food (per their "Kiwi guarantee").

We are getting some extra rest in so we won't be tired once we get to Medjugorje.  Hopefully better news on the next update!

-Ken & Kevin

Boston (Sep 12th)

We spent the night at one of the best Homewood Suites I've visited. We decided to use our nearly 24 hour layover to explore the Freedom Trail in Boston. It was neat, but it was raining through most of it, dampening our excitement. We took a Lyft back to the airport to resume our trek.

Boston -> Reykjavik (KEF) (Arrived Sep 13th)

Wow airlines was cheap (charges extra for everything, even a drink), but friendly and most importantly *on time*.  The flight went smoothly, we arrived about 30 minutes early in Iceland. Unfortunately it was dark when we arrived and I didn't have a window seat when we left, so I didn't see any of Iceland outside the airport.  However, the pictures inside the airport of Iceland looked incredible. :)  Would be neat to explore someday -- volcanos and the northern lights.

Reykjavik -> Dublin (DUB)

Wow airlines again -- same experience (cheap, but friendly and arrived a little early). Once off the plane, however, we were greeted by a VERY LONG line to get through security.  Non-EU citizens had their own "slow line", while EU citizens had a streamlined digital process which moved very quickly. After about 30 minutes, one of the security workers asked for passengers w/ connecting flights at ushered us to the front.

Once through security, we checked-in via our phone to our next flight on Aer Lingus so we could go directly from the customs area back through security. We were able to do this using the free wifi (since we didn't want to use international roaming on our phones -- $$). If we hadn't used our phones, we would have had to go back out to the departure counters, then wait in a longer security line.

A note about Dublin's airport... it has A LOT of walking. The difficult security, and all the long hallways would make me avoid this as a layover if the 2 options had a similar price.

Dublin -> Manchester (MAN)

Short flight on Aer Lingus. Air Lingus allowed us to pick our seats for free (although the front seats cost extra -- we sat in the back). The other airlines until this point did not -- although united accommodated Kevin and me sitting together -- Wow did not (they did put us back-to-back, though).

This flight was 45 minutes late and slow to deplane. This made our next connection tight. We hurried through customs, back through security, tried to find a gate number (the EasyJet app didn't include this info), and rushed to the gate. Once there, we sat and waited for 30 minutes (they were late).

Manchester -> Split (SPU)

Although EasyJet started out late, it made up time in the air and landed about 10 minutes ahead of schedule. EasyJet allowed us to pick our seats the night before -- we wound up w/ a full row near the front of the plane. FYI, EasyJet was the least-full flight, plenty of open seats.

Split -> Medjugorje

The Split airport is small and easy to get through. We cleared customs (good to hurry to customs because the line can backup from all the people on the plane with you). I went straight to the Budget car rental counter (I had called Budget twice to inform them I'd be coming a day late due to our unscheduled extended stay in Boston) -- they didn't know I was coming. Ugh. After some conversation, they got a car ready for us, and we were off.

Off too fast, in fact. I had meant to visit an ATM (there are several near the car rental booths) to get a small amount of cash out, but forgot. I did ask about getting a SIM card for my phone, but the stand that carries them was already closed for the night. Remembering I didn't have any cash for tolls, I decided to stop at a gas stash a few miles from the airport. I bought a SIM card for 20 HRK (Croatian Kuna) paid w/ a $20 USD bill. He gave me a 6 HRK to 1 USD exchange rate (not great -- but I didn't want to hunt down an ATM for a 6.3 : 1 exchange rate).  So the "VIPme" SIM cost me about $3.50 and included more than I needed for internet (note: it's only good for Croatia, though). I got 100 HRK (Kuna) for the rest of the $20 bill.

The roads at 10pm at night were mostly empty. The roads were very well maintained and fast (ranging from 80 - 130 km / h). We took the toll route, which is the fastest way to Medjugorje. The owner at Guest House Mica was waiting for us, and I didn't want to delay any more than necessary. Upon entering the toll portion of the road, you must take ticket to enter. Near the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina, you turn in the ticket and pay the toll (57 HRK) -- you can pay with credit card (so my stop to get money was for nothing). After paying the toll, you drive a very short distance and are stopped again a checkpoint to leave Croatia. Then again a short distance later to enter Bosnia and Herzegovina, they also collect 1.2 KM (Bosnian Convertible Mark). This is about $0.82 (1 KM is about $0.60) -- I used my credit card since I had no KM yet.

Once inside Bosnia and Herzegovina, Medjugorje is no more than 10 minutes drive. We stopped at another gas station just after the border to get something to eat (we were starving). We got some pastries (1 meat, 1 potato, 1 apple, and 1 cheese) and a couple bottles of water -- total cost was about $7.50 USD. I used a credit card.

We could see the cross on top of Mt. Kreuzberg as we approached. Very exciting!  We arrived at about midnight and met Peter, who showed us our room at the Guest House Mica. It was very simple, yet adequate (2 beds and a private bathroom w/ shower). After 4 flights and 5 airports since we last slept in a bed, Kevin and I agreed to call it a night.

We made it!!