France for Five: Part 2

A tale of 2 trips

If you read Part 1 of this trip report you know that my daughter and I flew out a few weeks before the rest of the family for some additional kayak races.  Both trips were on different airlines and different routes so here are the lounges and flights for each one.

Tren plus 1
SFO-YVR-MXP-FRA-SFO-BOI

Getting ready to take off!

We got a free upgrade to business class from my status (Gold) with United on our first Air Canada flight.

My trip started with a drive.  As we booked a mistake fare from SFO and were unable to find cheap enough flights to get to SFO so a one way car rental from Avis was the first leg of our trip.  Check in was easy as I chose a time that didn’t have any arriving flights and after chatting with Avis agent we decided on the most fuel efficient car they had in their lot.  I wanted to keep fuel costs as low as possible and they kindly gave us an upgrade to a hybrid car with 80MPG!  The drive to SFO was easy and under 10 hours, typically when we position to SFO we stay in an airport hotel, but a friend of mine lives nearby so we did some couch surfing as we had a very early departure in the morning.

We checked in early enough to get use of the Centurion Lounge from our American Express Platinum card.  The Centurion lounges are my favorite brand of lounge and this one didn’t disappoint.  They have a good breakfast buffet with sausage, potatoes, granola, yogurt, toast, bagels, ect.  The kids always hear the same thing “eat your fill cause you have no idea when you are going to eat again”.  After enough caffine to hop up a race horse we were off.  We flew AirCanada from San Fransico (SFO) to Vancouver (YVR) which was a pleasant short flight.  We had a 5 hour layover in Vancouver so we made our way to the Maple Leaf Lounge.  It is Air Canada’s branded lounge and we used the Priority Pass benefit from the Amex Platinum card.  This Maple Leaf Lounge is fantastic.  It is quite large with solid buffet option. Macaroni and cheese, nachos, and a few protein choices plus quite a few beers on tap (Tren+Guiness=Happy days).  And we were lucky because our YRV-MXP flight was delayed by 5 hours.  We both were well fed and watered and didn’t need any more food but I did check with the customer service desk and they were offering food vouchers for everyone on our flight.  If you delay is more than 3-4 hours its always a good idea to check with customer service to see if any food vouchers are available.  Finally 5 hours late were boarded from the YRV-MXP flight which was comfortable, well serviced, and not super crowded.

Lounges make delays MUCH more comfy.

After HOURS of delay, my daughter resorted to candy bars and Netflix in the Maple Leaf Lounge.

For the return trip the fare we purchased ended putting us on Luftansa the whole way home.  First flight was MXP-FRA and we did not have much time after a lengthy check-in to use a lounge and we went straight to the gate.  During check in I was surprised to be told that I was allowed only one carry on (I carry a small laptop backpack and a rollerboard) and would have to check and pay for my slim backpack.  I explained that we had booked the flight as a codeshare with United and per my confirmation email I was allowed a personal item plus a carry on bag.  After about 20 minutes of slow motion we finally got the bags checked, the carry on bags weighed and labeled as “approved”, and we were off for the gate.  The first opportunity for a lounge was the Lufthansa lounge in FRA.  They are currently renovating the terminal we were in and finding the lounge was a bit of a labyrinth but finally we found it.  Frankfurt is a big airport for Lufthansa and the lounge was packed.  We stood around for about 10 minutes until a table opened up and we slid in.  The food offerings were quite limited to bratwurst, soup, and crackers.  Olivia was thrilled because they did have gummy bears for the kids.  The food was not very good and we opted to get a few cups of coffee/hot chocolate then head out to the terminal to await our flight to SFO.  In SFO we paid a visit back to the Centurion Lounge for some hydration and got our last flight to BOI.

My wife and the boys

BOI-PHX-DFW-LHR-TLS BCN-JFK-PHX-BOI

My wife’s trip had less layover time with only layovers long enough for lounges in DFW, LHR and JFK.
DFW- Is one of the better Centurion Lounges in the US.  It is large, has a kids room with a bunch of Xbox 360 games, and has great food offerings.  she likes it in particular because you get free massages.
LHR-  London is a VERY big airport and if you are arriving by an international flight you have to choose your departure terminal.  It does not seem that you can easily move between terminals and Linzie’s connecting flight was via terminal 5 which brought her to an Aspire Lounge with access from the Priority Pass benefit from our Amex Platinum card.  This was any of ours first time in an Aspire Lounge and it did not disappoint.  The food offering was during the lunch time with mini sandwiches, pasta, sausage, dessert platter, fruits, and soups.  There was a premium menu which came with its own costs, but the free options were plenty to recharge while they waited for our last flight.  It was SUPER busy and there was a 20 minute wait list before being allowed in as well as a 3 hour maximum time you are allowed in the club. She and the boys had a 5 hour layover however they were graciously allowed to stay the entire time. With it being so crowded it was hard to stretch out and my youngest son fell asleep which made space quite difficult as they had no kid room.
JFK- On the way home it was a shorter layover in JFK and there was an Admirals Club near the gate.  They had access via the Citi AAdvantage Executive card which comes with a full Admirals Club membership.  The offerings of the Admirals Club are very consistent; soup, cheese, veggies, desserts, coffee, soda, water, and everyones favorite guacamole bar in the afternoon.  The best part of the Admirals Club is the kids room and the helpfulness of the front desk staff if you have any flight problems.  The front desk staff have always been very helpful and informative for flight changes, and have always gone the extra mile in helping us solve our travel problems.

If you missed it check out Part 1 showing you how to book a family of 5 with frequent flyer miles.
Stay tuned for part 3:
What to do with three kids in the South of France!

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