Thursday, May 2, 2013

Update 1: The Flight to Germany!

So, we are safely in Germany and have been here for a little over a week now! We have amazing neighbors who are allowing us to use their internet until we get ours installed, but I unfortunately don't have any devices with a keyboard, which makes updating a blog close to impossible :( But, here I am in the library for a few minutes so here are some updates for you! I believe the best way to go about this is to write in sections; I want to put out information for other family members who may be PCSing to this area, and also personal information for my friends and family members who don't have a need for all the ARMY mumbo-jumbo :).

Lets start with some PCS info from DAY 1:

As you all know, I was the most nervous about flying with our fur babies. I had never flown with a pet before and had no idea what to expect. Plus, every airline is different, and no matter how much you research, you never know exactly how your animals will react to the situation. For those of you PCSing overseas out of Birmingham with AMC, this is how the process works:

We had an early evening flight and arrived at the airport in the early afternoon. We had to build our dog's kennel at the airport because it was too big to fit in the back of the car with all of our luggage; but the unloading area at AMC is large enough to take your time getting situated and the security guards will not rush you away like they will at normal airport unloading areas. In fact, they even let my mom sit in her car at the doors until we had succesfully checked-in! If you have a large dog like us and can't imagine how you will transport your animal inside of its crate throughout the airport, go up to the AMC desk and they will unlock a huge cart for your use (think Costco flat-cart style). We piled up our luggage and our animals onto the cart and went to check-in.

Check-in is a super simple process! Have your passports, military IDs, and animal records ready and all will go very smoothly for you. Animals cost $115 dollars each and we paid double for our dog because she weighs over 70 pounds (including her crate). They took our checked bags and we held onto the fur-babies and our carry-on luggage for the few hours. There is an outdoor area to walk dogs and let them go potty, and we were lucky that all of our animals stayed nice and quiet in the airport. A half hour before our boarding time, we took our pets to a designated area, gave them a couple treats and filled up their waters, and they were taken to put on the plane. Then we went through security ourselves (there is a small security area for AMC and it goes quickly, so you don't need to rush through it hours early). If you are traveling with a pet in-cabin, you will have to carry your pet through security with you, so make sure to have a harness and leash available to avoid any mishaps!

Once we got on the plane, it was smooth sailing for seven hours :) The flight went quicker than I imagined and we were very well taken care of by the flight attendents- including several passes with drink carts, snack carts, coffee breaks, and dinner service. Every seat has a pillow, blanket, earphones and a view of a screen to watch movies. I personally couldn't sleep for the first time ever on a long, overnight flight, but they do turn down the lights in the cabin so everybody can get some shut-eye.

Landing and de-boarding in Ramstein was fast and simple. Cody was seperated from me to fill out some PCSing paperwork and I followed everybody else down to the passport check/baggage claim/pet pick-up. Our dog was very worked up when I got to her crate and it was sad to make her wait in the crate until we could get all of our baggage and go through customs, but ultimately, the animals were alive and well so it wasn't the worst situation I had imagined! We were also given another large cart for transporting our animals and luggage through the airport (thankfully!). After customs and a potty-break for the pets, we dropped our luggage and animals off in a room and were directed to another area with the other soldiers/families PCSing. We ended up having to wait 5 hours at Ramstein for buses to take us to our new posts, but that isn't always the case, it all depends on the flight you are arrive on. During our wait, we did get an hour lunch break to go into the airport and grab Subway, and with access to our pets we were able to take the pup on several walks. Cats have a significantly harder time because they don't usually enjoy walks (if you have your cat leash-trained, they will be happy little critters!) and are stuck in their crates in the airport, but make sure you have treats/food to give them and even a small litter box if you find an area to let them out into.

 The bus ride to our post was fairly quick (we had the shortest drive from Ramstein to Illesheim, others had 5-6 hour bus rides ahead of them) and the bus itself was clean, comfortable, and as fancy and you will find for a bus! The animals did have to go underneath into the cargo area, but it was climate controlled and they were safe. Then we arrived at the Storck Barracks in Illesheim...... !!!

That was our experience with flying to Germany on PCS orders! If you are coming over soon, don't fret about anything, the transportation portion of your trip will be a breeze :) As soon as I can hop back on the computer, I will get into the more interesting stories of our first week in Germany! Tcheuss!

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