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Getting home from Ljubljana

I am interested in taking the RS Best of Eastern Europe tour in Spring 2016. I've already found this forum very helpful over the past year as I've been researching for my trip and finally decided to join and pose a question (maybe the first of several) to all of you. I'm curious to hear from anyone who has taken this tour in the past as to how you returned to the U.S. at the tour's end. Given that the airport in Ljubljana is so small it appears that options are limited. I'm not new to international travel, but I haven't been to continental Europe before and this will be my first time traveling solo. Plus I'm sure I'll be tired at the end of this trip so I'm trying to figure out how to keep my return trip as low stress as possible.

Based on my current research, it seems most logical to fly (rather than taking a train, etc.) from Ljubljana to a major airport and then connect home. I'm currently looking at either Amsterdam or Frankfurt as those two appear to have reasonably good connections to my home airport. (any opinions on either of those airports? or other suggestions?) My concern is making connections. Would I be crazy to fly out of Ljubljana on the last day of the tour and then spend one night near one of those airports before flying to the U.S. the next day? I feel that might eliminate some stress for me by splitting up the journey home a little and ensuring I would be on time for my major international flight the next day.

And finally, if I were to do that, would it be worth it to fly to one of those cities (Frankfurt or Amsterdam) early in the morning and try to see anything that day or would I be better off hanging out in Slovenia until later in the day and flying out in the evening? I realize you can't see much, if anything, of a city in half a day, but if I were spending the night somewhere and flying out the next morning would it be feasible to wander around for a bit in either place that afternoon/evening just to get a quick taste of another city? Or would that be a waste of time?

Thank you in advance to anyone who can help me out with this. It has been a dream of mine to visit this part of Europe for a while now and I'm so excited to finally start booking my trip instead of just researching.

Posted by
1244 posts

Hi. If desired, you certainly could split up the air flights over two days as you suggest. Amsterdam is a wonderful city. But a few additional thoughts:
- if you are going to split the trip and add a stop in Amsterdam, maybe you should do so for a couple of days, rather than just overnight. As long as you are there, why not see it in a relaxed way?
- Splitting the flights and adding a hotel night might add significant additional expense. Might want to price it both ways and compare total cost to help you decide.
- I don't see how splitting the flights and staying overnight would eliminate stress. Once you fly from Ljub to Amsterdam, you are already at the Amsterdam airport! Just wait for your next flight and board the plane! Seems like adding the logistics of getting from the airport to the hotel, and then back to the airport again the next day might add complication / stress, not reduce it.

OK, just some ideas for you to consider. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
32266 posts

There are several options you could consider. I travelled to Ljubljana last year for the Adriatic tour, and travelled by train from Munich (about 6 hours). The website also lists a bus on that route with a travel time of 4H:54M. It will be a larger air conditioned coach, so will be a comfortable trip.

Munich is one of the nicest airports I've used, and I'm sure you won't have any trouble finding flights from there.

One caveat however. I'm not sure whether the current refugee situation will affect the trains on that route, but the buses will likely be fine. The airport won't be affected as there's no possibility refugees will be travelling by air.

Posted by
6788 posts

The airport in Ljubljana may appear small, but it's perfectly fine, and is well-connected to larger European hubs by several airlines. You know, it is the country's major airport and Slovenia is not a backward country...

Plenty of options for connections. For example, there are lots of flights between Ljubljana and Frankfurt, which although not exactly my favorite airport (crowded, confusing, the only major airport in Europe I can think of that actually reminds me of airports in the US - which is not a compliment...), it's certainly well-connected to the world.

Honestly, I think you've got no issues here. It's a major airport, you buy a ticket, you fly, it's like any other airport. The fact that Ljubljana is a smaller airport (relatively speaking) is actually a good thing - fewer hassles and smaller crowds. Personally, I would cross this off my list of things to worry about. As mentioned upthread, Slovenia is currently the hot spot in the ongoing and unfolding refugee crisis, and I'd expect train travel to become more problematic and prone to disruptions for a while. Flying out of Ljubljana should be a piece of cake.

Posted by
132 posts

Thanks so much for the replies/suggestions. I wish I could add another day or two on the end and really see Amsterdam or another city, but I'm already adding this tour on to the end of a two week trip in Scotland and I might get fired from work if I'm gone for more than the 4.5 weeks they're already giving me. I'll be flying open jaw on this trip, into Glasgow and out of somewhere else in Europe at the end of the trip.

It's not necessarily the size of the Ljubljana airport that is making this hard for me, but rather the lack of major airlines flying out of there. I live in a smaller city in CA, so there are limited airlines that I can get home on and none of them will get me out of Ljubljana. So what I will have to do is book a round trip ticket home from either Frankfurt or Amsterdam or ???? And then I'll book a separate one way ticket from Ljubljana to whatever city I'm flying home from. Because I live in a small city I'll have at least two maybe even three more connections within the U.S. to get all the way home which is the other reason that breaking the travel time up sounds nice. I've done 3-4 connections in a day before to get home, but it makes for a long and sometimes confusing day trying to keep track of all those flights.

So far in my research it seems like most flights to the U.S. from Amsterdam or Frankfurt either leave early in the morning, probably too early to make a connection given that I'll be changing airlines and I'm assuming possibly terminals as well, or later in the evening. I'm not opposed to red eye flights, but it got me thinking that if I have to fly out of Ljubljana in the morning and then sit around all day waiting for a red eye flight that maybe I should just check into an hotel right near the airport and go wander the city for an afternoon/evening instead of having a long boring layover and then a long boring flight.

Again, thanks for the advice. You've definitely given me some new ideas to consider. I knew I came to the right place.

Posted by
6788 posts

Consider that many (most?) airlines have code-shares with others. For example, a couple years ago when my wife and I did our Slovenia-Croatia trip, we flew on one United ticket (we used frequent flyer miles, but United will sell you the same ticket):
Seattle-Frankfurt-Ljubljana (SEA-FRA was on Lufthansa, FRA-LJU was on Adria Airlines, the national airline of Slovenia). We flew open-jaws, the return ticket was Dubrovnik-Frankfurt-Seattle (DUB-FRA was on Croatia Airlines, FRA-SEA was back on Lufthansa). This was one roundtrip ticket (with an open-jaws). It was actually quite simple.

I'm not saying you must fly on (or buy a ticket from) United, I'm saying that just because the airlines that serve Ljubljana are not familiar to you, don't assume you can't get a reasonable ticket in/out of there.

Yeah, getting 4.5 weeks off from work is nothing to sneeze at, so I understand (my company is pretty good about letting me sneak away, too - bless them). What airline are you planning to use to get to Glasgow? I assume you're going to have to go through LHR (maybe EDI?). You might be able to do all this on one ticket. If not, as I'm sure you know, lots of options for cheap or at least reasonable short flights. I was in Scotland in July (great place!). We flew around a little on Flybe and if you get tickets in advance is not terribly expensive.

Good luck!

Posted by
544 posts

You can easily book a flight home from Ljubjana, but you need to book through a travel agency and not the airline directly. Look on sky scanner, Google flights, kayak, and it will show you good connections. Adria offers many early flights and you can easily connect to any west coast flight the same day, but for some reason when I booked last year I discovered this same issue. My flights included Delta, KLM, Adria and Air France, all booked on the same ticket through Expedia.

Posted by
132 posts

David, I would love to know how you managed to book that United flight or how you found out they code share with Adria. Did you have to use a travel agent or could you do it yourself online or by phone? I'm pretty much stuck flying American unless I want a really expensive connection into and out of my hometown. When I search on the AA website using Ljubljana to my hometown as my search criteria it tells me there are no results, but if I use Amsterdam etc. instead of Ljubljana I get a bunch of options, usually code shares with British airways or the like, but at least it's something.

For the flight to Glasgow I'm actually thinking about having an east coast connection and then a red eye flight directly into Glasgow to get me there early in the morning instead of having to do the Heathrow transfer and not arrive in Scotland until late morning/afternoon. I've been to Scotland twice already (I love it!) and I'm no stranger to Heathrow, but I'll be meeting up with some people in Glasgow who are all arriving around 0800 and I don't want to be left behind. I'll be leaving my friends at the end of the Scotland part of my trip and continuing on my own to Prague to join up with the RS tour.

I've actually looked into United, which flies out of San Francisco, and the round trip cost was about $1300, but when I consider that I'd have to fly to San Francisco from my hometown, that adds almost another $400. If I fly American directly out of my hometown the round trip cost is about $1400. I'll have to add in the Adria flight, but right now that appears to be running about $120, so it's still cheaper. Sometimes I wish I still lived in Dallas. Lots more options there.

Posted by
6788 posts

I booked the award flights myself, using United's website, booked with United miles. United and Adria and Croatia Airlines (along with about a dozen other airlines) are all members of "Star Alliance", the largest (I think) of the 'big three' airline alliances, so it was actually fairly straightforward (it helped to know the system, ie which airlines are part of the alliance and where they each fly - always good to know; I've done this many times as I tend to fly using FF miles for all my leisure trips). The other two groupings are OneWorld and SkyTeam, both of which are somewhat smaller. American is part of 'OneWorld'.

Doing a quick search, it looks like the following airlines have scheduled service to Ljubljana: Lufthansa, Turkish, Swiss, Austrian, Brussels, SAS, LOT (all members of Star alliance), plus Delta, Air France and Aeroflot (members of SkyTeam). The only OneWorld carrier I see in Ljub is Finnair. That doesn't give you a ton of options, but before you dismiss Finnair entirely, I know they do fly to some destinations in Scotland (I know because when I was researching flights within the UK, some options on Finnair came up - although they were crazy routings, like Edinburgh to London via Helsinki - hah!). The point there is to not dismiss things right away - these days there are so many options, there may be more ways to assemble any trip than you first think there will be.

For example...when driving around the area near Ljubljana, I recall noticing road signs for the airport in Graz, Austria. It's actually not THAT much further away from Ljubljana than the city's own airport. It seems many locals use Graz for flights - maybe the airport fees/taxes are lower there, maybe there are more airlines, I dunno. But a quick search for Graz shows that Airberlin (another OneWorld airline) flys there.

Mu point is simply that there are oodles of options these days. Your trip sounds somewhat complicated. I would probably focus on getting the best flight options available for the longhauls (home to the UK, and returning from somewhere in Europe to home). There are always options for making the connections at the ends. Personally, I'd be looking for seat comfort on the long flights as a high priority. Lots of tools for searching for flights on the internets...but don't wait too long, as I'm sure you know, options diminish and things get expensive with the passage of time. Hope that helps.

Posted by
9873 posts

It doesn't really matter where you're flying from. You put your desired cities in a "multi-trip" research like on Kayak, and it will find you what you need to get there. Sure it takes more connections if you're not in one of the big coastal cities or one of the hubs, but just as at home there is a partner airline to get me from Chicago or Atlanta or Dallas to Tulsa, so is there one on the other end to link up Ljubljana with Frankfurt or Amsterdam or Munich or Vienna.

It adds another leg onto your trip, but that's because you've decided to end your trip there, not because it's not service by an airline.

Posted by
132 posts

David, thank you for the extra information. I will look into Finnair and also check out other nearby airports. I forget that in Europe a lot of these places are closer together than I realize. I've only ever lived in Texas and California where you can drive for hours and you're still in the same state and haven't really gotten anywhere. And I think you're definitely right that I should focus on the long flights, both for comfort and for pricing, and then work on the connections from there.

Thanks to everyone else as well for the tips. This discussion has definitely helped me figure some things out and, if nothing else, has helped me to relax and realize that one way or another I'll figure out how to get home. :) I look forward to getting things booked and then just being able to be excited for my upcoming trip of a lifetime! And if I have more questions I know where to go for answers.

Posted by
16894 posts

If "focusing on the longer flights" means paying for separate tickets on the shorter legs, I don't think you need to do that. I don't know your city, but I guessed Sacramento. In my test, requesting Sacramento-Ljubljana on the American site did yield the poor results you already saw. But using Expedia to search for a multi-city trip Sacramento-Glasgow and Ljubljana-Sacramento yielded pretty normal-looking flight options, e.g., two connections in each direction and a total price of $1360 per person for fall travel which are on United and Adria.