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Lessons from Paris.

I love miles. I love collecting them, love to redeem them, I love to have them in general. Two things I hate about miles are as follows:

1)The company devalues them at will, and

2) when they make it extremely hard to redeem miles you already have.

I recently mapped out a route to Turkey via Skymiles that would give me a stopover in Amsterdam on my way to Paris. When I went to book the actual flight on miles, it wasn't available.

Lesson 1: When searching for flights on miles, search the flights using the shop with miles option, so you see what's available to you. I made the mistake of looking for the best itinerary on google flights and then tried to construct the same ticket using miles when those flights weren't available.

After it was all said and done, it left me with a nine-hour layover in Paris' Charles De Gaulle Airport. (CDG) The initial flight, AF 0009, was canceled and replaced with AF 0011. It now gave me twelve and a half hours in Paris, so I decided to make a plan for it. I would land at 10:20 am, spend the day in Paris, and then be back at the airport on time for my 10:50 pm flight to Turkey.

The plans were to find a storage locker at the airport, take the RER-B to Central Paris, have lunch at Le Pain and then head to the Louvre. If time permitted, I would take a Sienne river cruise before returning to the airport.

One of the mistakes I realized I'd made on this trip was not traveling with cash. Despite having it, I left it at home under the premise I wouldn't need it. One, because Paris uses the Euro and I had USD. The problem here; I would pay a horrible rate to convert the money at the airport and have to pay more fees when converting it back when I got to the states. It is why I travel with my ATM card and take cash out accordingly. I have free withdrawals worldwide and get reimbursed for any ATM fees I do pay. This time, however, my card wouldn't work. With no money, I sat at the airport pondering my next step.

My backup ATM card had no funds on it. I needed to make a transfer.

I couldn't sign into my banking app. In Paris, I roam on Orange as a part of T-Mobile's international plan. However, the connection was not strong enough to do anything I needed. I then decided to place a call to have the PIN on my original card reset. It didn't work out since I couldn't verify the account number. So there I was in Paris, with no cash and no plan for my next move.

Lesson 2: Always carry a small amount of cash. Just in case situations like this arise, you can take care of it and not have stress when plans don't go according to plan. Change small amounts to reduce the sting of the horrible exchange rate.

Lesson 3: Keep funds in all accounts you may or may not need. Had I transferred money to the backup account before I left, I could have avoided the whole hassle from the start.

Why did I want cash when everywhere practically takes cards? I wanted to pay for the lockers in the CDG train station and read online they were cash only. I decided to try my luck on the off chance they took cards. The only problem was, I couldn't find it. No one in the airport knew where it was. (No one I asked anyway) and poor internet connection made it a daunting task to locate on my own.

Lesson 4: Have an exact idea of where things are. It was interesting that airport employees were unaware of this service but, I am sure, they had to reason to use it.

I got to the train station and received news the RER-B was closed for the weekend and bus service was the only option to central Paris. I was too tired for the bus; a taxi was my only option to the city and, I still had two bags. No ATM card, spotty cell service, no trains and, I still had my luggage. I decided to take this as a sign and stayed at the airport. I could have taken a cab and paid via card. However, after my last incident, I chose not to.

Lesson 5: Anything can happen with public transportation, always have three different ways to get to your location.

I went back to passport control and got stopped on my way inside. My bags were too big. I explained to the gentleman these were the same bags I left New York with as check-in luggage. He refused entry and couldn't explain why. A second gentleman had to explain the whole fiasco. Air France allows for carry-on items to weigh a max of 12kg.

My bags totaled 18kg after being weighed and, I had to check the carry-on. Four hours later, I was back at passport control.

Lesson 6: Understand the baggage rules in the US are more relaxed than in Europe. There is also a separate allowance for liquid items and what's allowed in your carry-on. Paris especially has some of the strictest rules in Europe. (Between them and the UK)

I returned to my assigned gates (Gate K) and neglected to realize I had no lounge option while waiting. I was operating from Terminal 2E. The only option for lounges via Priority Pass is the Yotel lounge. It's by taking the train to the L Gates. Since I was in K, there was only an Airfrance lounge. Since I wasn't flying business nor Skyteam Elite, I had no access to the lounge. I chose to spend time at a Starbucks instead.

Lesson 7: Know where the lounges are. Had I checked ahead, I would have gone to the L gates for the lounge instead of being in the airport at the K Gates.

After 5 hours at the airport waiting and two gate changes later, I was boarding for Turkey. The day turned out to be a total loss. I wasn't upset. Every day I get to travel is a good day.

Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any parties mentioned. None of the entities mentioned has reviewed, approved or endorsed the content listed in this post.


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