My mom and I woke up at about 3:30am this morning, making it without a doubt our earliest morning of the trip. We took a taxi to the Budapest airport (BUD) where we had to go through immigration as we were leaving the Schengen Zone. It didn’t take too long and we were soon on our first (of three) flights of the day, this one being to London Stansted (my least favorite airport, of course). The flight took about two hours, the first of which I blogged and the second I slept. When we got to Stansted we had purchased fast track passed for both immigration and security as we had a really short time to transit. Immigration was pretty simple (we just went straight to the front of the line), but security took a while longer.
The fastpass line for security was almost empty, yet somehow it seemed like almost every person in line had to have a bag go through extra screening. So we were through security in like two minutes, but along with everyone else had to wait over twenty minutes. I get it, but also there is a limit – if your systems can’t handle the extra screenings effectively then something needs to be done, and if I’ve learned anything through my travels it’s that Stansted Airport can literally handle nothing effectively. We finally got our bag (which wasn’t even checked, just randomly selected when there was already a line of twenty bags), we then grabbed a quick snack at Pret and headed to our gate.
It took a little bit to board but even longer to actually leave. We sat on the tarmac for over an hour, eventually arriving an hour late to Dublin on what was only itself an hour-long flight. When we arrived we then had three hours until our next flight instead of the four we had originally planned on. I know that sounds incredibly early, but Dublin has a different system than any other airport I have ever flown to the US from. It is called US Preclearance, and you actually go through US Customs and Border Patrol in Ireland. So then when you land in the US, you are treated like a domestic incoming flight – you just walk right out of the airport. Anyways, I had no idea how long this process would take, so we were trying to be extra early.
Exit immigration was annoyingly slow as they only had two desks open for a very long non-EU passport line while they had at least twenty EU lines open. We got through after about twenty minutes, and then had to switch terminals. We checked in to our Norwegian where this time they thankfully didn’t weigh our bags, because they without a doubt would have been overweight. I am actually amazed that we fit everything in our bags to get it back home – it was definitely a struggle, though! I got witnesses to sign for Ireland as well at the check in counter, and then we made our way to round one of security.
You have to go through security twice when flying to the US through somewhere that has US Preclearance. The first is the airport’s basic security, and the second is a TSA level security screening. I was randomly selected for extra screening today which wasn’t too exciting, but the line was actually shorter than the regular lines so I ended up finishing at the same time as my mom. The next step was immigration, which was a breeze as always for me thanks to Global Entry – I’m so glad they had it at US Preclearance! It took my mom twenty minutes in the regular line while I was done in maybe two at the most. I waited for her on the other side before we bought a few snacks and made our way to our gate.
We boarded and were off without issue. Takeoff was actually pretty exciting as there was a bunny right by the runway! That's definitely not something you see every day. Once we were in the air there were enough seats for us to move and each have an entire row right across from each other – it was so nice, especially after such a long day! When we land in New York we are being picked up in Newburgh by my Aunt Dana, and are then headed to eat dinner with my cousin Robert who is a freshman at West Point. It will be so nice to spend time with them both, but especially to get to see Robert as he doesn’t get too many Alabama visitors so far from home!
I know that I didn’t get to spend a lot of time in Ireland, which was definitely sad for me as it is one of my favorite countries that I have visited before starting this trip, but my main reasoning was that I just spent so much time here last year. I spent a week traveling all throughout the country only eighteen months ago, so of every country that I have skipped through quickly, it was one of the less painful to do that for. I’ll definitely post some pictures from my actual visit though! I spent time in Belfast (it’s in Northern Ireland, so technically the UK), Dublin, Galway, Killarney, and Cork, and it was a great introduction to just an amazing place. Some of my favorite stops were the Titanic Museum in Belfast, spending a few days in Dublin, the natural beauty of Killarney National Park, being poured rain on in Galway, and kissing the Blarney Stone in Cork. If you want to learn more, check out my Ireland guide. I had the most incredible time on that trip (I travelled most of it by train), and cannot wait to visit again in the hopefully very near future!
This trip to Europe for the past two weeks with my mom has been so much fun and really just the best time. I travel by myself so much that it was so nice to have someone to share things with, even if only for a little while! Solo travel and travel with others are just so different but I love them both so much. One of the best aspects of this trip was that we visited many places that I had been before, so I was able to share my favorite things from those places, but then we also did so many new things and visited even those places that I had been before during an entirely different time of year. The Christmas Markets were an amazing part of our trip, and I highly recommend you take a trip to Europe to see and enjoy them. My favorites markets were Helsinki and Prague, my favorite street lights and decorations were Amsterdam, Helsinki, and St. Petersburg, and my favorite light show was hands down in Brussels.
It was truly just the best and it is a bummer to be going home, but at least we are headed home for an exciting few weeks around the holidays! I’m very glad to be home for Christmas with my family and both of my extended families before setting off again at the end of December. Also, fun side note, I am now officially 40% done visiting every country in the world!!
78 countries down, 118 to go.