We arrived in Ramstein on May 20th. We were happy to see that they did have things for the kids to do…
We found out right away about cancelled flights. Every single flight we were going to try that night was cancelled. The next flight was not until about 9 or 10 am the next morning. The terminal was also not open 24 hours like we thought. After calling around a bit, we were able to get a 4-bedroom apartment at the hotel on base. The central registration told me all of the hotels at all the bases in the area were totally booked. However, when I called the hotel directly and asked if we could sit in the lobby during the night, she offered me a room. It was very stressful not having a hotel booked. If I were to do it again I would have had a hotel booked just in case. We live 5 hours from Ramstein so we could not just go home.
There is a Taxi service that took us from the train station to the terminal and then from our hotel to the terminal the next day. The hotel had a bus that took us to the hotel from the terminal but did not run in the early AM.
I needed to get to CA. Southern or Northern it did not matter since I have family in both locations. My friend needed to get to AR. So our goal was to get to the US and then make our way to where we needed to go.
We woke up May 21st and headed to the terminal ready to get on a flight. There were a few flights for Travis (CA) and one of those stopped in McGuire (NJ) which would be perfect for us. We checked in and waited around for roll call which was around 11.
Checking in means you are telling them you are there. You have to do this every 24 hours in the base you are leaving from. If you do not check in you won’t be on any list to fly out.
Roll call is when you find out if you made it on the flight. They start with CAT 1 and list who made it on from each category. Sometimes flights fill up at CAT 3 and others will take anyone who wants to go that is waiting. It just depends on how busy things are and how many seats they have open. You will stay in the system until you get a flight out.
We both got on the flight and were so excited. We checked in our luggage, got our tickets and went through security. Then we waited again.
About 4 hours later we were sitting on the airplane all ready to go. They even gave all the safety information and then it got cancelled. So this is why you have to be flexible with Space-A. We were upset even though we knew this could happen. I think it was because it took so long to even get on the plane that the thought of having to do it all over again was so overwhelming.
We got off the plane and went back to the terminal not sure what we were going to do. We were worried we would be stuck in Ramstein for the night and really did not want that to happen. The only flight out that day was to BWI (Baltimore.) So we went for that one.
I couldn’t truly relax until the plane was in the air. I was worried it would be cancelled. In reality, BWI flights don’t get cancelled that often. The BWI flight is the most like a normal commercial flight. It isn’t a cargo plane. It looks just like a normal plane.
We got into BWI at about 11pm Eastern time and were greeted by people thanking us. We had been stationed in Germany for 3.5 years and had never been thanked like that before. I started crying just in awe of total strangers being there welcoming us and the soldiers back to the US.
We were able to get a hotel right away and spent the night. We ended up only sleeping about 2 hours because of the time difference. It was nice to shower/regroup though.
The next day we headed to Andrews Air Force base where there was a flight to Travis and a flight to Jackson where my friend needed to go. We took a Super Shuttle from BWI and split the cost. One benefit of traveling with a friend is that you can split the costs of some things and that will make it cheaper.
Roll call for the Travis flight was at about 11:40 and we walked in the door at 11:40, which was a little nerve-wracking, but it all worked out. I got on my flight and my friend got on her flight (although her flight was a little delayed.) We took off from Andrews at about 1:30pm. I really enjoyed being on a Cargo plane vs the BWI plane. It was so much easier with my kids too. They both slept a lot and I was able to stretch out my feet. I get a little claustrophobic on a normal flight so all the space was very nice.
I arrived at Travis AFB at about 6pm and was able to call my Mother-in-law to come pick me up.
When she came and got us it finally hit me what I had just done. I flew all the way from Germany to my home state of California Space-A. Unfortunately, the way back to Germany was very very hard and I will blog about that later.
My advice to anyone wanting to do Space-A would be: Sign up early, bring lots of snacks and little toys for kids if you have them, be flexible, expect waiting & waiting and more waiting, bring extra money & do your research!!!
Traveling with a friend was great too because we could put our heads together to figure out the best way to do things and we could run and do something while the other watched the kids.