Journey to Italy – How to Overcome the Challenge of Air Travel

If you have tried to fly anywhere over the last few years, I’m sure you have experienced some unexpected delays or cancellations. Therefore, our story will not be a huge surprise to you. In preparing for our trip to Italy, there were a few things we did right and a few we did wrong. I hope that sharing our experience will help you overcome the challenge of air travel when you plan your next trip, especially if you are heading to Europe.

Our Travel Story

Booking Flights

If you live in the Atlantic Provinces, you know how challenging it is to fly in and out of the region. We decided to book our vacation outside of the busy tourist season (typically from May to October). April seemed like a great idea, right? However, with fewer people travelling, the airlines had fewer flights. It meant that our trip from Halifax to Venice included stops in Montreal and Frankfurt – three separate flights. Our return trip from Naples to Halifax also included stops in Montreal and Frankfurt – another three flights. Whew, six planes and two very long travel days!

Our Departure Day

The morning of our expected departure, we received an email from Air Canada (which had come in the night before). It said there were mechanical difficulties on the inbound aircraft and our first flight from Halifax to Montreal would be delayed. We were skeptical about the mechanical problem with our plane because it wasn’t yet en route to Halifax. But alas, we shall never know.

Of course, the delay meant we couldn’t possibly catch our connecting flight from Montreal to Frankfurt. Instantly, our 10-day trip to Italy became 9 days. We spent most of the afternoon on the phone with the awesome folks at Maritime Travel, who rebooked us for the same itinerary the next afternoon. We were very lucky, all things considered. So, instead of arriving in Venice on Monday afternoon and leaving for Florence on Wednesday morning, we landed in Venice on Tuesday afternoon and left on Wednesday morning. Hello Venice! Goodbye Venice!

We were not deterred. We focused on the positive and forged on! In fact, we had an amazing 8 ½ days travelling from Venice to Florence, into the Radda in the Chianti wine region, and then to Furore on the Amalfi Coast via Naples. We stopped briefly at Pompei, stayed overnight in Naples, and headed home again. It was a jam-packed itinerary, but we saw some amazing locations; each was quite different. I will write about them over the coming weeks.

safety pamphlet in airplane seat pocket
Over 14 Hours with this View

Our Return Day(s)

Here is my Facebook post from our trip home.

April 5, 2024 – “Yup, gotta love Air Canada. Not! I’m not one to complain, but I need to vent, so here goes. Flying home from Italy yesterday Naples to Frankfurt to Montreal to Halifax was the plan. They tried to land in Montreal but due to snow were sent to Toronto which wouldn’t have been the end of the world. We can get home from there. However, they wouldn’t let anyone off the plane, so we sat on the tarmac for 4 hours and then flew back to Montréal. It was horrible. No food, rationed water, running out of toilet paper. We had to frantically book a hotel in Montreal (hundreds of people trying to do the same) and this morning we fly Montreal to Ottawa to Halifax and get home at 3 pm. So technically our travel time from Naples to Halifax will be 34 hours. Give me strength.”

One of my clients commented, “Travel is not for the faint of heart.” Sad but so true.

There was one piece of good news, though. Our travel agent got us on a direct flight home to Halifax at the last minute. While we were waiting at the airport, she called and told us to run (literally run!) to the gate because two seats had just become available. That’s what I call customer service!

Prepare for Things to Go Wrong

I know, I know . . .  something almost always goes sideways when you travel. But, being the super positive people we are, we assumed only the best. To help you learn from our experience, here are a few essential tips to overcome the challenge of air travel.

Purchase comprehensive travel insurance to cover cancellations, delays, and unforeseen circumstances.

Only pack carry-on luggage. We were only able to get some of the rebooked flights because we didn’t have checked baggage. A small suitcase and shoulder bag are the best way to travel. In fact, if you’re on vacation, no one cares if you wear the same outfit several times. Additionally, you can always wash a few things at your destination – especially if you stay in a home rental. We also enjoyed the convenience of manageable luggage as we travelled around Italy by train and when we had to walk to our accommodations.

Sign up for status alerts to stay up to date on flight changes. Most airlines have excellent apps which are worth downloading.

Track changes and delays in case you are eligible for reimbursement and/or other compensation when you return home.

Be patient. Airlines can’t control the weather, and fixing a mechanical problem on the ground is much safer than having a mechanical failure mid-flight. Remember to breathe.

Tips to Avoid Cancellations and Delays

Of course, things still go wrong, no matter how careful you are. Here are a few more tips to try to mitigate travel woes.

Book with a travel agent. Your trip might cost a bit more overall, but when you need to help, travel agents know all the secrets to take care of you.

Book direct flights wherever possible. If lucky enough to return to Italy, we would fly directly from Halifax to London’s Heathrow airport. It’s the closest destination with regular direct flights. Then, we would take the train (through the Channel Tunnel) to the continent. Obviously, this means we would need more time for the trip. However, train travel in Europe is touted by many as the most relaxing and enjoyable way to travel, and we agree wholeheartedly! The two train rides we took in Italy were amazing.

Book in the off-season if your schedule allows. Additionally, choose travel days when airports are less busy, thereby reducing the likelihood of delays.

Check-in online 24 hours in advance. I’m sure you already do this but please don’t wait until you arrive at the airport to check in. Although, one thing we learned is to request printed boarding passes when you get to the airport. They seem to work much better in the airport scanners than either the ones you print at home or the digital boarding pass on your phone.

Book with a major airline. Discount airlines are less expensive, but they have limited flight options. I know you want to save money, but it is not worth the stress. For example, our friends booked a trip to Portugal at the same time we were in Italy. They used two discount airlines. When their airline cancelled the flight out of Halifax at the last minute, it was extremely difficult for them to rebook flights. Finally, they had to take two extra flights to get to Porto. It’s something they won’t do again.

Our journey to Italy highlighted the inevitable challenges of air travel. Despite facing hurdles like delays and cancellations, we navigated through our vacation by being adaptable and keeping a positive attitude. As we reminisce about our Italian adventure, we encourage our fellow travellers to plan proactively and incorporate some of the practical strategies I have described above. I wish you the best of luck with your travels, wherever they may take you. Buon Viaggio!

Read more articles in the My Journey to Italy series.

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