Portugal Part 2 – Navigating Changing Flight Schedules and Travel Restrictions

Amarante

If you missed the prior post, we had our Portugal trip all planned for May 2022. The only remaining hole in the plan was where to spend those two nights between Lisbon and Porto. I must have booked and canceled about 10 different hotel combinations ranging between a small village in the mountains to a resort in Douro Valley.

In the end, I found a great looking small hotel in a cute town called Amarante, about 30 minutes north of the Douro Valley and 45 minutes away from Porto. The main reason I decided on this hotel, Casa da Calcada, was because we would be there on our anniversary and there is a Michelin-starred restaurant, Largo do Paco, on site. I booked the hotel using my $300 Capital One travel credit, so the total out of pocket was around $240 for two nights. I also made a reservation at the restaurant for our anniversary.

As we would be near the Douro Valley, I looked for tour guides to pick us up from the hotel for the day and take us around. I found one guide based in Amarante – Amarante Experiences – and booked a private full day tour for 115 Euros per person, including some stops at viewpoints, a port wine tasting, lunch and transportation.

The only remaining issues were the travel restrictions and the flight schedules. I monitored the Covid restrictions and it seemed that Portugal continued to require a Covid test for entry long after most European countries had dropped those requirements. In the end it was easy to take a free test at Walgreens a couple of days before we left.

As for the flight schedules, I received an ExpertFlyer notification in November that our TAP Air Portugal flight from Toronto to Lisbon had switched from 10:30pm to 5:40pm. Of note, the aircraft also changed from the A321LR to the A330-900neo. Either way, it was a brand new plane so that part was fine. The issue was we would now misconnect in Toronto as our Air Canada flight from Atlanta was now scheduled to arrive after our TAP flight departed. I called Air Canada and they switched us to a noon flight to Toronto, which would still give us about a three hour layover before the flight to Portugal. While I wasn’t thrilled about a 5:45am arrival in Lisbon and likely no ability to check in to our hotel that early, we would just make it work. Eventually, they moved our Atlanta to Toronto flight back another hour to 11am.

As for the return flights, I received another Expert Flyer notification that our British Airways flight from Lisbon to Toronto was moved back from 11am to 7:15am. This would now give us an unwanted six-hour layover at London Heathrow. To add insult to injury, the 787-10 deliveries to BA were halted and our transatlantic flight was changed to a 787-9 with the old 2-3-2 Club World business class product. If this was the schedule/aircraft at the time I booked, I would have looked for something else.

In the end, because the return flights booked through American Airlines miles were completely refundable, I used ExpertFlyer to monitor availability for Lufthansa First Class flights to the US. We managed to book two seats at the last minute and flew home in style. I’ll have a separate post about how we booked these seats and the positioning flights on each end of the Lufthansa First Class flight.

In terms of the return testing, I was hopeful that the US would remove that requirement before we traveled, but alas, it did not happen. We brought Binax Now monitored antigen tests with us, and the testing process was easy (and thankfully we both tested negative) the day before we flew home. Now on to the trip report!

If you enjoyed this post (or have questions), let me know in the comments or send me an email at emptynestermiles@gmail.com. If you are thinking about opening a new credit card, please use one of my links.

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