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Lyn writes about flying nearly free around the US on Southwest on her blog, GotoTravelGal.com. But she and her family recently took their first international trip together using miles, and I’ve asked her to share her strategy.
Lyn: This summer, my family of 4, including my husband and 2 school-age boys, took our first family trip to Europe.
We flew there on Aer Lingus using miles and points. While our flights were comfortable, they weren’t without hiccups!
I’ll share our Aer Lingus review!
Aer Lingus Review
Link: Aer Lingus
Aer Lingus was comfortable and hassle free, except for our journey home from Dublin to Chicago. Due to storms in the Chicago area after flying 7 hours from Dublin, we were diverted to Detroit to refuel and await clearance to land in Chicago.
Three hours later, the pilot announced that the crew had worked its maximum time and the flight was cancelled. This left us stranded in a city that was not our arrival city and in an airport that Aer Lingus did not even fly into, so they had no staff available.
This was NOT a great experience and is why I recommend getting travel insurance for longer trips like these (it also came in handy when my oldest son got sick on the trip and we had to find a doctor in Italy). Aer Lingus offered a 4.5-hour bus ride from Detroit to Chicago (after 10+ hours of sitting on a plane in what was now the middle-of-the-night Dublin time), which we felt would be inhumane at that point.
Instead, we found a hotel in Detroit and booked my favorite airline, Southwest, back to Chicago the next day. Our travel insurance would have covered the costs if Aer Lingus did not, but fortunately they compensated us for our hotel and Southwest flight. And we earned a few more Southwest points in the process!
Aside from this major hiccup, we had a pleasant experience on our other 3 Aer Lingus flights.
You should also know that Aer Lingus seems to work best if you book your flight directly on AerLingus.com, which is NOT AN OPTION when booking award flights. Because you can NOT book on AerLingus.com for award flights, you will likely NOT be able to select your seats, change traveler information, add bags, or check-in ahead of time online.
Instead, you will need to contact Aer Lingus by phone, which can at times be quite busy, and they offer no call-back option. I recommend calling them to pre-select your seats (at no additional cost), as well as pre-ordering kids’ meals at no additional fee, as soon as you possibly can.
It took me several days to get them on the phone, and I learned the best number to reach them is 800-474-7424. They were also able to help, in part, on Twitter at @AerLingus. Plan to check-in at the airport instead of online.
Aer Lingus allows one free checked bag per passenger (maximum 50 pounds) on transatlantic flights. That was more than enough for our family on a 3-week trip.
You can also pay ~$16 for in-flight Wi-Fi, though I used up the allowed data about halfway through the flight both times (you can choose a more expensive option for more data). There’s also a great selection of movies and TV shows you can watch for free on screens in front of each seat.
And if you need to charge your device, there are US-style power outlets at each seat.
We were very comfortable on our flights to and from Dublin. The cushions were soft, and my husband, who is 6’3″, had enough legroom by sitting on the aisle, so he could stretch his legs.
We flew the Airbus A330-300, which has 31 inches of legroom in coach. We also chose 4 seats in the center section about 3 rows back from the bathroom, which was very convenient. Though I would NOT have wanted to have been seated right next to the bathroom!
We thought the meals were pretty good, and they did a nice job of feeding you throughout the flight, as well as providing a pillow and blanket.
You can read more about our trip to Europe, which took us to Dublin, Paris, Bologna, and Tuscany below:
- European Vacation on Miles Part 1: Dublin
- European Vacation on Miles Part 2: Paris Days 1, 2, & 3
- European Vacation on Miles Part 3: Paris Days 4, 5, and 6
- European Vacation on Miles Part 4: Bologna
- European Vacation on Miles Part 5: Tuscany
- Thoughts on Notre Dame de Paris After Our Recent Visit
- Travel Through Europe: Moving to the Rhythm of an Ancient Heartbeat
I booked award flights to and around Europe on Aer Lingus for my family of 4. We enjoyed our experience!
You’ll pay fuel surcharges and deal with some hassle in calling Aer Lingus to pre-select your seats. But it’s well worth it to show your family an entirely different culture and amazing things like the Statue of David, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the rolling hills of Tuscany.
How soon can we go back? 😉