We did it. We are finally in Europe. For the last five months we have been watching the count down clock we have on some internal tools, for Roving Squid, until the clock said 0 days. Then we got on a plane and now we’re here in Lisbon, Portugal!
We didn’t have any issues getting here, but we were well prepared. We had a direct flight from Boston, MA to Lisbon on TAP Portugal. We flew with one way tickets and the airline could have asked us for proof of a return flight or onward travel. We could show we were flying to Greece on Jan 3rd, but that would still be in the Schengen Area of the EU (more about that in a bit). If that wasn’t good enough for them, we were prepared to purchase tickets out of Schengen on Jan 25th, when our 90 day automatic visa will be up. If we had to do this, we had a third destination in mind, but there were other options. We could have bought the cheapest tickets out of Schengen and not used them, or purchased a refundable ticket and gotten our money back after our flight. There are also online companies that will purchase a refundable ticket for you, at a cost of $10 or so. The reason an airline would care about all this is if a passenger gets refused at immigration for any reason, the airline is responsible for taking them back where they came from. We arrived at the airport hours before our flight in case we had to deal with this. We also dressed nicer than we usually do, hoping we would get fewer questions if we looked professional. The clerk at the TAP check in desk didn’t say anything about this though.
The one problem we almost had at check in was with our luggage. Our two checked bags were under the 23 kg (50.8 lbs) limit but the day before we noticed the airline also had a 8 kg (17 lbs) restriction for carry on baggage. I have never had my carry on weighed before, so I said we shouldn’t worry about it. Guess what they wanted to weigh at check in? Howard’s “Bag of Holding” laptop bag weighed 18 kg (40 lbs). Oops. The clerk laughed a bit and asked if it would fit under the seat in front of him, which it would, so there was no problem. But what about my big wheeled laptop bag. It was probably the heaviest bag we had with all the electronics and accessories in there. It was in front of me and the clerk couldn’t see it unless she stepped around the counter. I pushed it closer to the counter and threw our coats over it. As a distraction I took my purse off my shoulder and dropped it on the scale. The clerk said she didn’t need to weigh that. Then we got our boarding passes and sped off through the crowd with my non-weighed bag.
I wonder what would have happened if it did get weighed. Would I have to pay and/or check it? We already paid $45 each for our 2 checked bags. I joked to Howard that the plane won’t have enough fuel to make it over the Atlantic because of my heavy carry on.
At security we had our normal six bins and two bags on the conveyor. Howard went through the body scanner and started gathering our things and I got taken aside for an extra pat down. Just like every single time we fly. My laptop bag got taken aside for an extra search too. At first I panicked. Do they know it’s way over weight? Turns out they were checking any electronic larger than a cellphone. The TSA agent searched the bag and filled up 3 more bins with electronics and ran it all through the X-Ray again. She was nice though and said not to worry about it when I apologized for having so much stuff.
TAP turned out to be a great airline. They had in flight entertainment for each seat, an okay amount of leg room, and offered free movies, wine, and food on the flight. We would definitely fly them again. My big fat laptop bag had an entire overhead compartment to itself too.
At customs they asked us how long we were staying and where we were going next. The agent seemed satisfied we understood the 90 day Schengen Area visa rule for US citizens. No problems there and we didn’t have to show any proof of onward travel. He even happily said to come back again, after we are out of the Schengen Area for 90 days of course.
The Schengen Area is comprised of 26 countries that have agreed to allow free movement of their citizens within this area as a single country. The area is supposed to be all of the EU but Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania haven’t joined yet, Ireland opted out, and now because of Brexit, the UK is not part of the area. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland are not part of the EU, but belong to the Schengen Area. US citizens can visit the Schengen Area for 90 days out of every 180 days. We considered applying for a six month Schengen visa, but then we would have to leave the area for six months before we could come back again. Also, if for some reason we were denied the visa, we wouldn’t have the automatic 90 day visa either. Right now this is not a problem for us as there are so many areas we want to see, in an out of the Schengen Area.
Now we are in Lisbon. We also have a bunch of work lined up for the next couple months. That’s good, we need to pay for all this. Today our countdown clock says 62 days until Greece. I hope that’s enough time to do everything we want to do here. If not, we can always take the customs agent’s suggestion and come back!