How to book a honeymoon #firstworldproblems

Go to a physical travel agent and pay for a normal all-in package holiday of sun, sea, sangria and anything else you like beginning with ‘s’.  Do not attempt to book a complex, unusual journey yourself. In particular, do not…

  • Decide that your ideal honeymoon is cycling the full length of the Rhine.
  • Spend hours trying to book yourselves and your bikes on planes to Zurich, only to find that SwissAir cannot email confirmation of bookings because they are only acting as agents for EdelweissAir, and that they need to know the dimensions and weights your bikes will be when packed.
  • Spend more hours getting the runaround from KLM.
  • Look again at Deutsche Bahn’s website, to find that a train journey with only 4 changes between Amsterdam and Andermatt is possible after all.
  • Decide on the following route, and look for trains that allow at least 30 minutes to change:
Day Depart Departure time Arrive Arrival time Travel mode
day 1 home 09:30 home town main station 10:00 cycle
day 1 home town main station 10:30 Newcastle 11:56 train
day 1 Newcastle 14:00 North Shields 16:00 cycle
day 1 North Shields 17:00 IJMuiden 09:45 ferry
day 2 IJMuiden 11:00 Amsterdam Centraal 15:00 cycle
day 2 Amsterdam Centraal 18:55 Arnhem Centraal 19:59 train
day 2 Arnhem Centraal 20:44 Duisburg Hbf 22:14 train
day 2 Duisburg Hbf 23:13 Basel SBB 06:22 train
day 3 Basel SBB 08:28 Brig 10:40 train
day 3 Brig 10:40 Brig Bahnhofplatz 10:40 walk
day 3 Brig Bahnhofplatz 11:23 Andermatt 13:20 train
enjoy mile upon mile of Euro-asphalt
day 28 IJMuiden 17:30 North Shields 09:45 ferry
day 29 North Shields 11:00 Newcastle 13:00 cycle
day 29 Newcastle 13:45 home town main station 15:07 train
day 29 home town main station 15:30 home 16:30 cycle
  • Phone Deutsche Bahn, because previous experience has suggested that their website has difficulties selling bike tickets for cross-border journeys.
    • Emphasise to the very polite DB operator that you don’t want more ‘direct’ routes with more changes, and that less than 30 minutes per change is not what you want either.
    • Be told that DB can sell you all you need to get to Duisburg, and can sell you passenger tickets, passenger reservations, cycle reservations but not cycle tickets from Duisburg on into Switzerland.
    • Gibber as DB suggests selling you all that they can, and then contacting SwissRailways to buy cycle reservations that match with your passenger reservations and tickets.
  • Phone SwissRailways on the number suggested by Deutsche Bahn
    • Apologise for not speaking German well enough and ask to speak in English.
    • Find you are speaking to SwissRailways’ main switchboard, and be told their customer reservations number (which isn’t on their website).
  • Phone SwissRailways’ customer reservations number and ask if they can sell you all the tickets, reservations, coupons and whatever else you need to get from Amsterdam to Andermatt in one transaction. Explain to the polite and bubbly SR operator that because this is a cycling holiday, you need our bikes with you all the way, and that you don’t need return tickets.
    • Be told that this is all achievable, but that it will take some time to assemble all the costs, and that the SR operator doesn’t want you to waste phone costs while you are on hold while she works, especially as her mandatory break is imminent, so she will phone back in within the hour.
  • Try to book yourselves and your bikes on the DFDS sailing from North Shields to IJMuiden, but get told by the website that it isn’t possible to book 2 people and 2 bikes online – please phone ***********.
    • Make this call, and get painlessly as far as payment, upon which your bank disallows payment firstly via your debit card and then via your credit card. Think this is ridiculous because there is more than enough money in the bank account linked to your debit card, and that the payment would be well within your credit card limit.
    • Because your bank doesn’t take phone calls except for lost or stolen cards, or suspected fraud, tangle with their online live-chat system to unblock the debit card card. Tell the bank that you are buying travel from DFDS, SwissRail, UK rail companies, and that you will be making normal holiday purchases while on holiday.
    • In the middle of this, get phoned by your bank’s automatic fraud control system.
    • Phone DFDS again, and this time the payment goes through. Receive confirmation by email – hooray!
  • Get called by by the SR operator, who confirms she has all the costs.
    • Be offered a choice between normal and super-saver tickets, which seem to be half the price of normal tickets, but with no catch except they will be for specific trains.
    • Be advised that tickets will arrive by courier within 4 working days, but that the SR operator cannot confirm the sale by email or similar.
    • Accept this, and pay over the phone by debit card.
    • Get phoned back by the SR operator, who needs your wife’s name to put on her ticket.
  • Get phoned again by your bank’s automated system about the declined credit card payment.
    • Wait to speak to a human to ensure that the bank knows that while nothing fraudulent has happened, you don’t want both the credit card payment to be honoured because you’ve now managed to pay by debit card.
  • Phone National Rail Enquiries to try to book the trains from your home town to Newcastle and back.
    • Get told that they can’t make bookings for 3 months hence until the end of this month.
    • Ask why timetables are available online if tickets can’t be bought, and receive no satisfactory answer.
  • Phone and buy your train tickets and cycle reservations.
    • Be put on hold for only 5 minutes while the operator consults with the back office about bike reservations.
    • Receive email confirmation of this purchase – tickets will be printed by the ticket machine of your choice.
  • In the middle of all of this, receive an email from your colleagues about your lost dongle – but that’s another story!

Upshot: (1) train-tickets from home to Newcastle are waiting to be picked up; (2) ferry tickets from UK to the Netherlands are in your email in-box; (3) train tickets from Amsterdam to Andermatt should be in the post. Now all you need to do is buy travel insurance and maybe book a hotel in Andermatt.

– b


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