A Couple of HUGE (and Costly) Travel Learning Experiences For Me

During my week in the Algarve in Portugal, two things happened to me that had never happened to me EVER while traveling. I consider myself a pretty savvy traveler, at least for an American, having been to several islands in the Caribbean, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, parts of Europe, and South America. However, two things happened that ended up throwing me for a loop and I want to pass along what I learned as a result so that hopefully none of you make the same mistakes I did.

I have a Garmin GPS-enabled watch that I wear all the time. It usually resets itself to the current time when I travel but in the past it may have taken it a day or so to reset itself. While I was in Portugal, I noticed it suddenly reset itself after several days, on the Friday evening we were there. Since it had taken my watch a while to catch up before I didn’t think much of it. Around the same time I noticed my Samsung phone had also reset itself to the same time as my watch.

Sunset during dinner on our last night (nope even that didn’t trigger anything at the time even though we normally don’t eat that late)

Of course I assumed both my watch and phone had reset to the current time in Portugal, which was 5 hours ahead of EST, where I live. I assumed incorrectly, because as you will later see, both my watch and phone had actually reset 4 hours ahead, not 5 hours. So when I looked at my watch or phone and thought it was 6 am, it was actually 7 am. There was no reason for me to check that both devices had reset to the correct current time and there were no clocks in the Airbnb to check. I didn’t do a Google search to see current time in Portugal and check that it was the same as my watch and phone.

This wasn’t a problem until it was time to fly back to the United States on Saturday morning. I thought we were arriving at the Faro airport two hours before our flight, which should have been enough time since we weren’t checking bags and I had printed out our tickets at the Airbnb the night before. Plus, I knew Faro airport wasn’t huge like some other international airports.

At the airport, I checked the board to see what gate our flight to Lisbon was leaving out of and thought it was strange it said final boarding. I remember thinking to myself, “That’s strange they’re doing final boarding so early” but I still didn’t think much of it. We arrived at our gate and I saw a line of people getting ready to board a plane, thinking of course that was the line to board our plane, but I was wrong again. This line was full of people going to Berlin, as the chatty girl in line in front of my daughter mentioned and when I actually looked up and saw a Ryanair sign, my heart sank. Then I saw the final blow, a clock that read 7:00.

Frantically, I looked at my watch and phone and said, “But it can’t be 7:00! It’s only 6:00!” My daughter, who has nightmares about missing flights, despite the fact that it’s only happened a handful of times out of the dozens of flights we’ve had, usually due to weather delays and missed connections, started crying uncontrollably and she started to panic. Of course that didn’t help me. Nor did the fact that not a single soul was around to help me sort this out.

I went back to the ticketing area (thank goodness we never check bags and still had ours with us) and tried to find someone from TAP Portugal Airlines. There was no one. Finally someone in an information booth told me to wait until an hour before the next TAP Portugal flight, and someone from the airline would be at the airport then. Since it was a little after 7 am, that meant someone should be there to help me in a little less than two hours. I knew there was a flight from Faro to Lisbon with TAP Portugal at 10 am so I felt confident as long as there were seats left they could get us on that flight.

So we waited and I bought us some pastries from a kiosk and some bottled water since European airports don’t typically have water fill stations for water bottles. Finally someone from TAP Portugal showed up and I kindly explained that we had missed our 7 am flight to Lisbon and asked if we could please be put on the 10 am flight. She looked at me with disdain and repeated, “Missed your flight?” to which I replied, “Yes, we missed our flight. We had car troubles,” thinking she might be more sympathetic to that rather than saying my watch and phone hadn’t reset properly and had only reset 4 hours ahead rather than the entire 5 hours, which was actually the truth but I realized how crazy it sounded.

She then informed me rather brusquely that indeed there were seats available on the 10 am flight and I could purchase them for 2800 Euro. I was shocked and blurted out “Excuse me? I need to pay for these seats even though I already paid for the seats from the 7 am flight? And is that per seat or for two seats?” She said it was for two seats and yes, that was correct. I was dumbfounded. Previously we had missed a flight going to the Canary Islands with Iberia Airlines and we had been put on the next flight without having to buy new tickets so I didn’t think it was just a difference between US airlines and European airlines. I hadn’t bought the cheapest seats available with TAP Portugal, either. She suggested I do a search online and compare my options with different airlines to see if I could find another option. In other words, I was on my own.

My mind felt like it was spinning a million miles a minute. Not only did I have to search for flights from Faro to the United States that same day but our flight back to North Carolina was at 9:15 pm out of Newark so we needed to get to Newark before 9:15 that evening. Thank goodness I had good wifi at the airport.

I finally found an acceptable flight with British Airways from Faro to London, London to Newark that was leaving in about an hour and a half, which I thought should give us plenty of time to get through security again and to the gate. It also didn’t cost me nearly as much as the 2800 Euro I would have had to have paid with TAP Portugal (this would have been on top of what I had already paid for our tickets from Newark to Portugal). Because of COVID, I also had to download all kinds of extra information like our negative tests and certifications that we were healthy.

We did indeed make it to the gate on time and boarded the flight on time. The flight from London just barely missed getting us into Newark in time for the flight home; we missed it by less than 30 minutes. Fortunately, the nice person from United that I called from the BA airplane when we were waiting to deplane was happy to put us on the next flight from Newark, in about an hour later, at no charge.

Typical buildings and cobbled streets in the Algarve; this was in the city of Portimão.

The next day after we got home I called TAP Portugal, thinking surely they would give me a travel voucher if nothing else. I was curtly told that was not their policy and since I missed the flight, there was nothing they could do for me. I hung up the phone shocked. Believe me, I will try everything in my power to never fly TAP Portugal again but if I have to for some reason (because I would like to go back to Portugal) I will make sure I’m at the airport three hours in advance, not two, and more importantly, I will do a Google search asking what time it is in my current city every single time I travel across time zones.

Have you ever heard of a GPS-enabled watch or phone only partially adjusting when someone travels across time zones? Has this ever happened to you? A friend of mine suggested maybe since I didn’t have cell phone coverage in Portugal, my phone only partially reset but that doesn’t explain my watch. And why they both reset 4 hours ahead instead of 5 hours ahead is a mystery to me.

If you missed my other posts on Portugal, you can find them here: A Week in the Algarve- Southern Portugal- Outdoor Adventures, Faro, Sagres and Lagos, Portugal, First Impressions of Every Day Life in the Algarve (Southern Portugal) from an American Point of View

Happy travels!

Donna

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