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Friends traveling together to Europe from different origin cities

Trying to see if the hive mind may have recommendations or experiences to share. My friend and I are planning a trip to Italy late next spring. I do not think it matters to my question, but we’re flying to Venice and then home from Rome. We have set our travel dates (I’ve started booking rooms), and she and I will talk about flights this coming weekend so we can go ahead and book them.
My friend and I live in a few states apart, and I am hoping we can start separately and then find a common hub to fly together to Venice. On the return, again start together and then go our separate ways from our common hub. With the lower rung of service (basic economy, etc.) we cannot guarantee we will sit together. Depending on the airlines, this may or may not be possible even with a seat selection fee. I am not sure of my friend’s budget, so I do not know just yet if buying the next rung up (which allows seat selection) will be an option.
Would it likely to work for us to buy our own tickets with the common connection and then try to ask the airline to merge our reservations (to give us a better chance of sitting together)? I am not sure if this will work with different originating airports. I imagine it depends on the airline. It wouldn’t exactly be the end of the world if we cannot sit together, but let’s admit it would be a big disappointment for friends who do not see each other often!
I have also thought of some less desirable options, but first I’d like to hear if anyone has had experience with this and what worked for you. Also, would it work for us to purchase our tickets separately, or should one of us make the reservations (say directly with the airlines instead of with Expedia, etc.)?
Thanks!

Posted by
18862 posts

I'd urge you to book directly with the airline. No one knows what the air-travel situation will be like next spring. At the moment people are dealing with many changes to their flights, and rebooking (or refunds) can be a lot messier if you've purchased your tickets from a third-party seller.

I would not buy a Basic Economy ticket, and I would do some Googling to see what the current situation is on making seat reservations in regular economy at the time of purchase before choosing transatlantic flights on a partner airline. That is usually simple enough, but occasionally the two airlines' system don't talk to each other and you cannot get seat reservations until shortly before the flight, which would reduce your odds of sitting together. You should find discussions about that online if the problem still exists.

Even if everything goes perfectly at the time of purchase, you may find your flight canceled or shifted to a different type of plane, which can cause seat assignments to get shuffled. If that happens, you're much likelier to be seated together in the new configuration if the two itineraries are linked. I don't know that it will be any easier to do that if one of you buys both tickets rather than each of you buying her own ticket; it might well be. I'm sure some other folks on the forum have needed to do this and can comment.

You're going to start out with two separate ticket-locator numbers. Each traveler's itinerary needs to be purchased as a through-ticket from origin to destination. You should not purchase the short, intra-US hop separately from the (common) transatlantic flight. That doesn't give you any protection if there's a delay on the first leg of the itinerary and one of you misses the transatlantic flight. I don't see any way the initial purchases can be accomplished in a single transaction, because you will not be buying two tickets with the same origin and destination.

Posted by
3766 posts

Hi Susan, both of you should buy your tickets from the airline you’re flying. Don’t use a third party like Expedia. If something goes wrong during your trip, it’s one less layer to work through.

I’ve done this previously. We both were on-line at the same time and on the phone. For instance, we used Delta and both checked that we were looking at the same flight numbers and decided which seats were open. Then as we purchased our tickets, we selected seats sitting together. Since you are starting at different locations, it wouldn’t work to have both tickets on the same reservation.

Posted by
5965 posts

(with trepidation 😳) This is the kind of situation where a travel agent could help. They would likely charge you a fee, but they have ways of doing this.

We did this once with another couple, where we both were on-line and on the phone at the same time, looking at the same airline website, manipulating all the different options all the way to selecting the same overseas flight seat options simultaneously. It was difficult, and all the parties must be savvy enough to be able to work the site, and the timing must be right..

One problem with this is that the fare might be significantly higher for one of the couples, trying to match up flights.

The next time, they just flew to our city, and we left together on same itinerary.

Posted by
1037 posts

Hi, Susan, My sister and I have three times coordinated travel together from different states. We have managed to do what you and your friend are hoping to do: find each other in a connection city, and get on the same flight there, so that we arrive in Italy together. The way that has worked for us is to first each independently do some research on airlines and flight times (using various search engines, like kayak and expedia), comparing fares and schedules. However, like many other folks on this forum, I much prefer to make reservations directly with the airline and do NOT (almost always) use Expedia, etc., for the actual ticket booking.. Next, once we've independently done our own research (or one of us could do the research for both), we get on the phone together, compare notes, and then sit down at our own computers and make our own reservations, making sure that we book reservations that have us on the same connecting flight. It is so exciting to find each other at the boarding gate at JFK or Newark airports. Usually, we stay on the phone together as we book our flights, just checking and rechecking to make sure that we get on the same onward flight. That way, we can also choose our seats next to each other, at the same time. I haven't chosen to fly with Basic Economy fare because it's important to me to be able to choose my own seat and to not have baggage fees. If one of you makes all of the arrangements and makes all of the reservations, you'll need to make sure that you have the other person's birthdate, passport number, and (if applicable) their frequent flyer number for the airline that you are flying. (Tho the other person can go back into the reservation later and add their passport number, if you don't have it.)

Posted by
6585 posts

When we travel with friends to Europe we meet in Europe at the first hotel or apartment. Thus, each takes care of any travel glitches we may encounter and we meet up and happily begin our trip together in Europe. This has always worked well. We have met up in Rome, Paris and Milan.

Posted by
94 posts

When we travel with friends to Europe we meet in Europe at the first hotel or apartment. Thus, each takes care of any travel glitches we may encounter and we meet up and happily begin our trip together in Europe. This has always worked well. We have met up in Rome, Paris and Milan.

I agree with this, even though we have coordinated travel with friends and family before, and it worked out, but it is really stressful.

Also - usually one person in these group travel deals has organized the trip, reserved the rooms or AirBnB, etc. There are pitfalls in that, particularly with an AirBnB if the person who rented it is delayed. For hotels, each party should reserve their own rooms...there are lots of details to think about when coordinating travel and trying to sync flights and arrival times.

Posted by
2785 posts

Jojo Rabbit mentioned something important: reserving rooms separately so you won't be sitting in the lobby for hours if they are delayed. This happened to us in NY when my husband made the reservations but wasn't getting there until 12 hours later. My daughter and I came from London and fortunately she was able to talk someone at the hotel into breaking the rules and letting us in-not much of a risk since we had ids with same last name and address.

Posted by
655 posts

It wouldn’t exactly be the end of the world if we cannot sit together, but let’s admit it would be a big disappointment for friends who do not see each other often!

You'll have the whole trip in Italy together. If the few hours on the plane are that important then you can try to jump thru hoops to make it happen, but when we've traveled with others we just independently arrange to get to the starting point in Europe.

Posted by
18862 posts

I'd also worry that a change in one traveler's initial domestic flight would make it impossible to meet up for the transatlantic flight. I'd go into this with eyes open, realizing that, no matter how good it looks when you make the initial flight reservations, you may end up arriving in Europe on different flights. If you're sharing a hotel room, be sure you get both travelers' names on the reservation.

Posted by
202 posts

Retired airline reservation agent here - I strongly agree that you should make your flight reservations directly with the airline. And not just for an international trip, but for any trip. It makes it so much easier if there is a cancellation or significant delay.

Have you thought about one of you travelling to the other one's location (maybe combine an overnight stay at their home or a nearby hotel) and flying out together? Sure, it would be an extra expense but if you really want to fly together, that might be an option and you could be in the same airline record, too.

Posted by
618 posts

I have done this several times with friends. As others have suggested, book with the airlines directly. Get on the computer and phone at the same time and go through the buying process together so you can select seats. Buy at least main cabin tickets.

I would probably coordinate by arriving at a hub either the night before your European flight or by leaving a very large layover. (5-6 hours) so there is extra time built in if one of your incoming flights gets delayed. At my age, I like meeting up in say Chicago the night before and catching a morning flight to Europe. I do buy a separate ticket to get myself to Chicago (but usually I buy with AA points) and then I do a multi-city return. I would plug in all scenarios and see what prices come up. That may also make you decide.

You can actually link tickets after they are purchased separately. You have to call the airline and have them "link" them. This way they won't change one itinerary or seat without the other.

Margaret

Posted by
7469 posts

You flying from IAD?

Where is your friend originating?

If you are seeking some specific suggestions, it would help to know what the puzzle looks like.

Another vote to buy directly from the airline.

Posted by
1138 posts

Arrange your own flights, through an airline, and meet in Venice at your hotel (or at the airport, if the arrival times roughly coincide). I don't know your budgets but I should imagine separate rooms in Venice will be a considerable expense.

Posted by
41 posts

I will likely depart from Charleston, WV, although I would consider driving a bit for another airport (CVG, for instance) if there’s a much better fare (although there really doesn’t seem to be much difference). My friend will fly out of Memphis. There does seem to be 2-3 flights arriving in Venice within a few minutes of each other if we fly separately and meet at the airport. We are rooming together throughout the trip.
Good thoughts, everyone.

Posted by
1348 posts

Do play around and do your research using a site like Google Flights. You can then see across all the airlines what options are offered, and it's easy to punch in another origin city, and determine if there are common connections for you both. Obviously, you will have more options is you are both going thru an airline's hub city.

I agree with the above- do not book thru a third-party site like Expedia- go directly thru the airlines.

Remember that you can fly into Venice and out of Rome, for example, on an open jar ticket, which is often the same price as round trip tickets. It's easier to fly into Venice than out of Venice, due to the flight times.

I do think that the chances of your sitting together is pretty low, but if you're on the same plane, you can meet at the bathrooms!

Safe travels on your adventure!

Posted by
41 posts

Thanks. I’ve been doing quite a bit of research (I am our planner) but haven’t looked yet at Google flights.

Yes, we’re flying open jaw (to Venice, from Rome).

Posted by
6585 posts

I highly recommend Google Flights for your research, then book directly with the airline.

Posted by
101 posts

My best friend lives in NYC metro, and I live in Columbus, Ohio. We have traveled together before, arranging to meet at JFK or Newark on my layover, and then we fly together/back from Europe. I've also stayed overnight before/after the US-Europe flights to make it all work. Book directly with the airline. I'd want to travel with my friend - that's half the fun!

Posted by
4539 posts

If you are on an airline that allows you to preselect a seat, it isn’t difficult to get seats together. One person books their flight, picks their seat, and then tells the other which seat they selected.

Because flight delays and missed connections happen, I’d suggest you have a backup plan. When you reserve your hotel in Venice, put a note on the reservation with your friend’s name, tell the hotel that you are traveling separately, and ask the hotel to let your friend in the room if she arrives first. I’ve done this several times and never had a problem.

Posted by
5659 posts

Great suggestion to have both names on the hotel reservation.

When my friend and I flew to Israel, we booked separately (through the airline) on flights connecting through Newark and reserved adjoining seats on the flight segment from Newark. Nice to have a buddy while going through an unfamiliar foreign airport!

Posted by
41 posts

My friend and I have done this by getting on our respective computers to book the flights at the same time. We found the empty seats, chose adjacent ones, and hit the Book button at the same moment. I am sure it's not foolproof, but it has worked twice now for us.

Posted by
646 posts

when I was a kid, a bunch of friends planned a through-hike across Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains with half starting at either end. We figured to rendezvous in the middle and exchange car keys. At the last minute, one of said, "Look, not that I don't trust your map skills but anything could happen. We exchange spare sets of keys before we set out." Good thing. The other team did not navigate well and missed the rendezvous, ending up at the bottom of an unclimbable canyon. Took two days for them to backtrack and locate the trail. We hoped nothing terrible had happened but there was nothing we could do except keep to the plan and hope we did not stumble upon them in a bad way.

See, I'd never attempt to do the IOP's trip on my own. The online booking adventure described by other folks holds zero attraction. I'd let my good friend the travel agent put it all together for us. But I'm on vacation, relaxation and minimum stress, so we'd have her set it up for a layover at the international hub for at least one, possibly two nights to see some local sights before embarking. And we would arrive in Europe two days before the tour started.

To make the whole enterprise even easier, we'd book our own separate routes to the destination, with plenty of time to arrive two days early and, of course, stay two days post-tour. We'd probably get on the same trans-Atlantic flight home and then separate at the international entry.

But that's just me. I prefer simplicity and to use the skills and experience of professionals.

Posted by
3523 posts

Another vote here for using Google Flights to learn about options and for booking the final chosen options directly with the airlines.

Identifying the possible best US hubs to start from, then how to get to the one you might choose from where you each live can be an iterative process.

Do your best to keep your route down to 1 stop in the US, then direct nonstop to Venice and the same for your return from Rome, nonstop to the US hub, then home from there. Also, try to keep the total time down as low as possible. Adjusting your travel dates slightly if possible, can make a difference in price and availability.

Since I love the logistical planning, I did a quick Google Flights multi-city search from Memphis to Venice, leaving Memphis for Venice on Monday, May 23 and leaving Rome for Memphis on Monday, June 13. You'll need to put in your real dates.

Below are the 1 stop multi-city flights that were reasonable for time and price for the dates I chose. The results for your real dates could be different.

Memphis to Venice on:
United through Newark (EWR).
American through Philadelphia (PHL).
Delta through Atlanta (ATL).

Rome to Memphis on:
United through Chicago (ORD).

Looking this up was fun. I was totally ignorant about the nonstop flights from those hubs to Venice.

Posted by
41 posts

Yes, I also prefer only one (US) layover, and I have pretty much ignored the other options.

Delta is my preference, and their routes work best for me, mainly because other airlines’ return options have ridiculously short layovers. (The last time I passed through passport control/customs in Chicago on my way home from Europe, it took nearly 3 hours just to make it to my next terminal. Fortunately, I had enough of a layover for it to work.)

We’ll get it sorted out this weekend, but if for some reason the Delta flights do not work for her, I will suggest separate flights and meet up at the airport in Venice (along with a hotel meet-up contingency plan). The Delta, United, and American flights are scheduled to arrive within minutes of each other.

Posted by
1396 posts

How about one of you going a day early, to where the one who lives closest to the best airport to fly to Venice from; spending a night together, then flying out to Venice together from there?
If you do plan to meet up in Venice, make sure both of you have every single detail of where you're staying, including contact phone numbers for hotels, apartment hosts, etc. and both your names are on every single booking, especially apartments.
If one of you is delayed, at least the other can go to the hotel/apt and get settled in.
Also download the WhatsApp app, and then you only need wifi to communicate if you are delayed, separated, etc.
Or, if you both have I-Phones, you can easily communicate with wifi.
I'm not clear if you are an experienced traveler, or is this your first trip to Europe?
When I fly from Canada to meet my best friend from Scotland in Italy, I arrive a day early to get settled in, then I go back to the airport next day to meet her.
I do all the planning and booking from my end, except her flight; as she is not as keen to do it.