Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dodging strikes while traveling in Europe

Last time my husband and I visited London, the tubes were on strike most of the time we were there. Luckily, we were already staying in the theater district, because we were there specifically to see plays. We did almost everything on foot. Getting into town from the airport, though -- that was a big problem. We took the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station, then waited two hours to get a cab.

Two weeks ago, we were to have visited Portugal, but we had to cancel because we were sick. Had we gone, we could have visited Lisbon, but noplace else, because the trains were on strike. Our next trip is in the fall to Paris -- assuming the air traffic controllers don't go on one of their frequent strikes.

Strikes in Europe and the UK are an eternal problem. There's no way to ensure that your trip won't be affected by them, so planning for dealing with them if and when they do occur is important. Here are some tips:

1. Avoid traveling on holidays or those UK random days called "bank holidays." Transportation folks often pick these for strikes. Cynics say it's so they'll get time off with their families. Whatever.  Holidays are prone to strikes.

2. Avoid traveling on weekends. After holidays, your best chance of getting a strike is on a weekend. That's not to say you can't have a strike on weekdays. TAP airline is facing a possible 10-day strike in May. No way to defend against that, so....

3. Get information fast on strikes. On Twitter, follow @strikeinformer, where you're likely to get the news of a strike or its cancellation the fastest. Also, follow your airline and whatever trains are in your destination on Twitter.

4. Have with you the phone numbers and emails of your accommodations overseas, so that you can contact them if you'll be arriving a day or several days late before the strike. You don't want them to cancel you altogether.

5. Don't schedule any trip across the sea tightly against something else important.  You could get stuck wherever you are. Give yourself at least a day or so on the far end of the trip with nothing important scheduled so that you can be chill if something happens to delay you (and strikes aren't the only thing that can do this).

6. Have the phone numbers of car services in addition to cabs with you so that, if need, you can call one. It'll be expensive, but you might deem the expense worth the hours you'll save waiting for a cab.

Finally, understand that strikes are something Europeans cope with constantly without getting ruffled. Try not to ruffle. Load up your Kindle or other device with good books, and be of good cheer. Happy travels, and good luck from the Texas lottery.