June 17, 2016: Bucharest to Istanbul to New York to Utica

It’s mad, crazy, wild travel day here in Romania for the Miller Family!  Finally the time has come to begin the real trip from Romania, through Turkey and on to the United States.  We had to be up very early and before we could go to the airport we had to figure out how to return the rental car that we have had for three months.

Returning the car turned into rather a fiasco.  We had the wrong address as to where to return it and it turned out that we had not communicated to them correctly that we were going to be returning it when we did so after much driving around and maybe an hour of trying to get to the right spot finally getting there – there was no one there to turn it over to.

That made for a stressful start to the day, but Bucharest airport is easy to deal with and we were to our plane in no time and our morning was underway.  First leg of our journey is the very short hop from Bucharest to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport where we got snowed in six months ago during the blizzard.

That flight was quick and easy and it was still morning when we got to Ataturk.  We know our way around there a bit already and it is a nice airport to deal with, even if it is huge and crazy.

We had some time to kill as part of our layover so we took some time to use the restroom and collect ourselves, during which the girls spent some time running around in one of the empty gates.  Liesl even managed to make some friends and play with them for a while.

Liesl in Istanbul
Liesl at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul

Once we found our gate was sat outside of security for probably an hour.  Everyone relaxed while I went hunting for food items.  I got a selection of things and brought them back for everyone.

The girls and I made friends with a girl who was of a Surinam background but grew up and lives in the Netherlands.  We got to chatting for a while.

Once it was time for our flight we faced the security for the US bound flight.  Several layers of additional security at what is already one of the most secure airports in the world.  The degree of security is just off of the charts compared to American airports.  Unlike the US which has one security checkpoint midway through the airport, Ataturk as security to enter the airport, then the mid-airport checkpoint, then the International terminal security then gate security.  It is extreme, but effective.

We boarded our flight and are bound for New York City.  This flight is so long.  But really, even though it is incredibly long, I feel like I am getting used to these long flights and I really do not mind them at all.  The girls did really well flying next to me, they napped or watched their own shows.  I watched a series of movies as Turkish Air provides unlimited in flight movies and great food.  It really was a comfortable, enjoyable flight.  I didn’t get any sleep but I caught up on my movie watching for the season.  I actually get so many first run movies while doing these flights that I wonder if you factored in the cost of popcorn and stuff at a normal movie theater how much the flight really costs!

Everything went quite well.  We landed in New York at JFK in the evening and did well getting our luggage and getting out of the airport.  We know our way around JFK well, the weather was good and the AirTrain is working again unlike our last time arriving at JFK which was a total mess.  And we know exactly where our car rental place is now.

We got to Enterprise and got underway getting our rental car.  We had some credit card issues as we often do when switching countries.  Had to spend nearly an hour on the phone getting things working.  But everything got sorted and in not too long we were in our car.  At first I got us a Fiat 500 SUV, but we found that we could not fit into it so they switched us out for a minivan.  Enterprise Rent-a-Car at JFK is always so good to us.  They make everything so easy which we really need when we are getting back from Europe.

It was not yet dark and we were underway in our minivan to start driving up to Frankfort, New York.  A long drive after a long day of flying.

We got north of the city and swung into the Dunkin Donuts on the circle just north of our house in Peekskill and grabbed coffees for the road (and some tuna melts as those are available again after two years being off the market!)

The drive north went fine but we were all very tired and realizing that the drive to Frankfort was going to be too far for us and that we were going to be seriously exhausted by the time that we would arrive and it would be the middle of the night.

So at the last minute we booked a room at the Hampton Inn just off of the Thruway just west of Albany and checked in there for a nice night of sleep.  We were all very excited to get into the Hampton with modern showers, great beds and good air conditioning.  So we were very happy with the decision to stop.  And we get our Hilton Honors points, too, which we need to earn quickly as we are only in the US for such a tiny amount this year.  So we are more willing to use the hotel given the need to do that.

It was probably two or three in the morning when we got into bed.  What a long day.  Up very early, dropping off the car, one short flight, one really long flight and many hours of driving plus many hours of airport logistics today.  But here we are, back in the US after our longest ever time away.  Six whole months in Europe, what an adventure it has been.  And we have no idea to where we will be off to next!