I thought I might try a little something different with you all today. I am going to begin at the ending of this colorful European tale. The focus for today will be the journey home part one.

Oh Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport…how do I even begin to describe my feelings for thee? Let me NOT count the ways and instead give you all a few hard learned tips from my experience.

1. Build in an overnight stay in Paris.

You may think you know why I’m saying this but I’m confident I can surprise most of you. I’m not suggesting this as a way to squeeze in a little Parisian life if your travel destination is not Paris. You need to plan an overnight stay so that you can protect your sanity. I built in two whole hours of a layover because I knew we had a connecting flight coming home and we STILL missed the flight. If I had it to do over again I would have planned to stay overnight so that we would not have had to run thru an unfamiliar airport with unfamiliar signage and full bladders strained from skipping every bathroom out of fear of missing the flight.

2. Up Can Also Mean Down

We are so used to having escalators paired together with stairways. We almost messed up big time looking for a down escalator when what we needed to do was just go down the stairs next to the UP escalator. If you can’t go up or down flights of stairs in CDG go straight for the elevator (lift). They look like this:

3. Build in 2 hours minimum for connecting flights

If you ignored my advice in #1 at least build in a minimum of two hours to make your connecting flight. Not only is CDG huge, it is difficult to see where you are going because of all of the shops set up there and where they are can obstruct your ability to see long range across the terminal.

4. Beware the rebooking monster

If you are on a flight and while in the air you are cut off from the rest of the world, know that it keeps spinning without you and your airline may have rebooked you for a later flight. Don’t panic, prepare. Know that the second you deplane you need to go up to check-in and find “the desk” that handles that for your airline.

2020’s Most Valuable Airport Employee (MVAE)

This young man saved our bacon because he not only got us new boarding passes, he also tipped us off that our flight was already boarding and that we needed to hustle. Y’all, don’t assume you only have to be at your gate 30 minutes before scheduled take off. When we finally did arrive at our gate they were doing extra security checks AND they had to shuttle us from the terminal to the plane for departure on these little buses. If we had stopped for food, bathroom, etc. we would have missed that backup flight.

5. Know a few key phrases in French

Bonjour – Hello

Voici mon ticket – Here is my ticket

Voici mon passeport – Here is my passport

Où sont les toilettes – Where is the restroom

Comment vas-tu? – How are you?

Mon nom est – My name is..

I’ll be back with more reflections soon!

Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Little Rock, Arkansas. For more information on her current projects visit https://about.me/MCyoungblood.

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