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How-To Overhaul: Scope Out the Temp. Digs and Pre-Flight Day

Community Highlights Preparation How-To Overhaul: Scope Out the Temp. Digs and Pre-Flight Day

"The only thing to be said for air travel is speed. It makes possible travel on a scale unimaginable before our present age. Between the ages of 20 and four-score I visited every country in Europe, all save two in Latin America, ditto in Africa, and most of Asia, not counting eight trips to Australia and 60 to the United States - all by air."
- Paul Johnson

I want this post to be about the absolute basics of what I pack (which may help you), how I pass time on the plane, what I do the day before the flight, and just what to expect for international flying. I hope you enjoy it, and if you have any questions, comments, or snide remarks, please post them in the comments!

What I Pack:

I've always been a light packer. I'm sure some of my friends can vouch for me when I say I have packed in a variety of peculiar 'suitcases' such as a DVD player travel case and a giant tennis ball. I'm not fond of being weighed down to a bunch of stuff. I felt like an absolute idiot by having a small suitcase with me in Norway; I was so scared it would weigh too much or look like I was a very materialistic person. But I noticed when I arrived that other people around me had nice sized suitcases. This is where I tell you; check your airline's luggage rules and make sure to leave room in your suitcase should you buy souvenirs - ESPECIALLY if you're going to a country that interests you in particular. For instance, I wish I had brought a larger suitcase with me to Norway so I could have bought more books.

For my Japan trip I will be bringing a suitcase that is the same size as the one I brought to Norway. This time I have a neon green luggage strap on it so I don't have to ask someone for my suitcase back at luggage pick up. I've packed it halfway full of the necessities, and halfway full of gifts. The main thing I leave room for is gifts I may get, room for non-english books, and maybe food*. I'm pretty happy with what I've been able to do this time around!

Quick Tip: Always bring your passport (a given), your driver's license (i actually needed it), currency of the country or countries you are going to, and if you have an ISIC card like I do - bring your actual college ID too. In Norway I used my ISIC card to get a student discount for the train, and the card worked just fine for the people checking tickets. But just in case, bring your college student ID just in case your ISIC card is declined!

Here's an example of what my packing list generally looks like:
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Here's how I packed my suitcase (I haven't put souvenirs in yet, but it's absolutely full when I do):
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A skivvy-free shot!

And here's what my suitcase looks like when ready:
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I actually had to change the suitcase from a much larger one to a smaller one since I'll be taking a bus and train in Japan from the airport and felt the original one took up far too much space.

Better Safe Than Sorry - Contacts:

And here is a little something I ALWAYS have with me:

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Having names is great, but having numbers and addresses is even better. Always be sure, no matter what country you're from, to have the phone number, address, and any special instructions of whatever your native land's embassy is.
In Norway there was no U.S. embassy in Stavanger, but there was one in Oslo, and I had the number and address for it. In Osaka, there is a U.S. embassy but I also have special instructions to call the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and ask for an "Osaka-Kobe officer" if it's past the Osaka-Kobe Embassy Open Hours.
I'm a cautious traveller (perhaps over-cautious)
, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

I also carry these:
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I keep my copies and passport in one pocket, and my flight information in the other.

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I keep copies of every single ID I have, plus copies of cards should anything get lost or stolen.

The Pre-Flight Day To-Do List:

1. SeatGuru (http://www.seatguru.com/)
I personally like to see what kind of plane I'll be flying in, as well as comments on any seats I may want to sit in. You put in your airline, your flight #, and the date you'll be flying out (optional). On SeatGuru you can view the size of your plane, all the seats in the plane, customer pictures, customer comments, in-flight amenities, even comments on certain seats. It's definitely saved me from making bad choices on seat arrangements!

2. Window or Aisle?
Pros of a Window:
No one has to step over you or ask you to get up so they can use the lavs.
You can lean up against the plane to sleep.
No getting mauled by rogue FA's (flight attendants),rampaging children, or runaway carts.

Cons of a Window:
You have to step over others or ask them to get up so you can use the lavs. If they're sleeping...well then good luck, schmuck.
You have to wait for everyone in your row to get up and out so you can get out of your seat upon arrival.
If your seat mates get to your destination when boarding before you do, you have to wait for them to put their stuff up or ask them to get up.

Pros of an Aisle:
You don't have to ask people to move when you "gotta go" (or stretch), and you don't have to worry about waking people up!
You can stretch your leg (or legs if you're pro) out in the aisle a bit. Watch out for FA's, other people, and carts!
You have control of your row, feel like a king.
First out in case of an emergency. Maybe. You never know.

Cons of an Aisle:
Being mauled and/or mutilated by rogue FA's, children passengers, carts...
Having to get up whenever nature calls for your 'kingdom'.

3. CHECK-IN EARLY.
I check in as early as possible to secure good seats. I had reserved seats for my Lufthansa flights to Norway, but what I didn't know was that no one's seats had been saved. I ended up being super lucky and getting some pretty good seats...though my reserved ones were choice. I literally stalk the hour that begins 24 hours before my flight. You'll get a good seat and can make any changes you need to with time to spare.

How to Kill Time:

August 3rd will mark my third international flight to date. My first two, as you may or may not know, were from DFW to FRA, then from FRA to DFW. Instead of having European layovers, I will have one layover in San Francisco on the way to KIX, another in San Francisco on my return trip, and a stop in Denver, Colorado before my final destination in DFW. As you may be thinking now; "I'm getting the feeling that you don't like flying, Kacey." Well, dearest friends...I cannot tell a lie.

International flights are like sitting in a bus filled to the brim with people you don't know for at least 7 hours at about 40,000 feet in the air over a body of water and there's a very high chance you will not be so lucky to end up on an island with a bloody volleyball as a companion, because let's get real, if this thing goes down...excuse me.
Let's re-do that, shall we?
International flights are like flying with a bunch of other homo sapiens (and the dreaded mini homo sapiens who cry) who want to be in this giant hunk of metal as much as you do for at least 7 hours at about 40,000 feet in the air over a body of water and there's a very high chance you WON'T be involved in a plane crash. Was that better? Good, let's continue.

In my case, this flight will take 15 hours there and 15 hours back. That's more than a full day of my life drinking bacteria infested water and wondering why I didn't get a window seat (and also having terrifying flashbacks of how much "Castaway" scarred me as a child). I've already begun planning what I'll be doing each hour with a tablet filled to the brim with movies and books, and a Walkman almost full of music to drown out crying mini people. Do I sound crazy? Good, because I am and I like it when people acknowledge my lack of sanity. Keeps me feelin' alive.

Disclaimer: I don't [i](read: can't) sleep in public. I have never been able to. Not in buses, not in planes, not in bathrooms, not in school. So with that out of the way, you know I will not be putting sleep in here!

  • So here's the outline of what I'll be doing:

Part 1:
This is the part of the flight where I just kind of get accustomed to being thousands of feet above the ground and take note of the emergency exits and procedures. I take a look at who is around me so I can remember where I sit when in a dazed state returning from the lavs. I also get my stuff/bag situated so I know the optimum setting for everything. I also take precarious note of where my passport and important documents are - I can't stress how important this is. Always be sure to have this stuff in a folder, and always be sure to check to make sure it's there every so often. I also check out what kind of in-flight entertainment (or lack thereof) my tiny TV in front of me has. I also get into the mindset that; "I paid for this, so I'm cashing in on it". I dread inconveniencing people; I want others to be happy even if it's at my own expense. But I also worked hard to pay for this plane ticket, and I want to be happy about it.

Part 2:
This part of the flight I can start relaxing. I normally get my MP3 player out and try to get some reading done. Make sure you have really good, really long books or an armada of short books loaded onto your Nook, Kindle, Tablet, iPoo, whatever strikes your commercial fancy. I blew up my Nook library on my trip to Norway and ended up finishing 3 books, all by John Green ( not long; 1 of which on the flight from Germany to Norway). It makes the time fly by and you haven't wasted any movies yet. I usually read for about 2 or 3 hours depending on the book.

Part 3:
Remember how I said I couldn't sleep on planes? It still rings true, but that doesn't mean I can't scout about and see if my neighbours are sleeping. This is normally when I take bathroom breaks since I'm always scared of opening a door on someone or having people stare at me thinking; "She's going to the lav, human needs are so lame {insert stupid laugh}". If my neighbours are getting hunkered down I normally do the same, I just kind of let the music play and think of things for awhile. Normally I'll just stay that way until others begin to wake up, or I'll pull out my 3ds**. If I do the latter I will play for about 2 hours or so.

Part 4:
By this point in time the meal is being served. I have a severe love/hate relationship with airline meal time: The airline food I've had has been just fine, but it took an hour and a half to have the FA's (flight attendants) come get the trash. Did I sound like a first world brat? Whoops. Everyone has their food trays down and that's a bit of a pain. If you're super nice - and you should be to FA's - you can ask them to take your food when you're done. I hate to inconvenience them, but they never act bothered by it. To get back on topic, I purposefully eat a little slower than normal. I don't want to look like a starving wallaby and I want to kill time, so I'll take about 40 minutes.

Part 5:
You might be halfway through your arduous journey by now. This is when I pull out my sketchbook or read more. Sometimes I'll check out the in-flight entertainment and watch some movies or TV shows for as long as I can stand it or watch movies on my Tablet. Either way I try to kill about 3 or 4 hours doing something to get closer to my landing time.

Part 6:
Okay, you're about 2 hours from your destination. That change of clothes and hygiene items you brought? Use 'em.
Pro Tip: I always wear comfortable jeans on the plane because jeans are warm on a cold plane and can be worn a lot before they smell begin to smell. Because of this, I never pack a change of pants (though it'd probably be a good idea). I only pack a shirt to change into.
I can stretch in the lav, brush my hair and use bottled water to brush my teeth. Then I go take my seat once more. But don't take too long makin' yerself look pretty you vain picasso. Make sure there is no line for the bathroom before you go to change form.

Part 7:
Okay, you're ONE HOUR from your destination. That's 60 minutes. You can do this.
By this time I try to watch more in-flight entertainment, movies on my tablet, read, draw, or play my 3ds for one more hour. It might not be easy, since at this point you'll want to kill everything around you that moves and aren't afraid to act on promises - unless you're a normal person. If so, congratulations, you're not different. I bet you don't even know what Coach is...and no, it's not a handbag, you First Classers. Y'all weren't even invited to this blog, so just leave (of course I'm only kidding!!).

Part 8:
YOU'VE LANDED! You know what that means all you window seaters?! You have to sit and wait for the one or two people in front of you to get up and leave, those one or two who are also waiting for the dozens of people in front of them to leave too! You know what that means all you aisle seaters?! You haul butt down that aisle and push past all the Economy Plus, Business, and First Classers. You don't even take names.
If you're lucky, this won't be a layover stop. Go have the time of your life kiddo, you got 15 more hours of community probation ahead of you.
If you aren't lucky, and only have about an hour and a half, then you seriously need to jog to where your next gate. I'm sure everyone in FRA got a kick out of a little white noodle sprinting her way to the gate that would take her to Norway, but I got there not a minute too soon.
If you are lucky, and have about 3 hours, take it easier. Get something to eat and drink and just relax.

Why Are You Going?

Today I had someone ask me why I was going to Japan. Granted it was a pleasant conversation, and the person brought up some points as to why they personally wouldn't go; the language is difficult and many a tourist goes there without knowing a bit of Japanese, the food is not to everyone's best taste, it's crowded in many areas, and it's just generally a different culture to what we're used to. I think you need to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. It makes you a better, stronger person when done right. In my personal opinion, I think international travel is a necessity for understanding the world and other cultures, just like I believe learning a new language will help you do the same thing. Making the physical connection really helps you see the world from a different perspective when looked at through open eyes and minds. That's not to say you have to go to someplace like Japan, maybe you've always wanted to see Canada? Germany? Iceland? China? Go for it. You never know what surprises await you beyond the airport.

This is where I end this post. I'm nowhere near a seasoned traveller (I think that is frightfully obvious) and I'm sure one could come through here telling me off in so many ways but...this post is mainly for my reference. I'd like to say one day I'll be a world traveller and can laugh maniacally at how ignorant past me once was but we shall see. And remember - we've come a LONG way since ships. Try to keep in mind that you could be stuck in a many months long journey across the ocean with a bunch of people you don't know.

  • *food - You have to fill out a sheet declaring the items you have brought back with you to the U.S. when you pick up your luggage. DO NOT BRING BACK KINDER EGGS, AMERICAN FRIENDS. They're banned food and if they check your suitcase you will get in trouble. European friends - DO NOT SEND KINDER EGGS IN PACKAGES. They'll just be taken out if found. Otherwise, please research to see what kinds of foods are legal to bring back to the U.S. Also observe the rules for banned foods in the country you are going into.
  • **3DS - You can make friends on the plane with Street/Spotpass!
  • ***Make sure you have all your electronics with you and that they are easily accessible. You must put them in a separate bin in Security. This includes phones, cameras, laptops, game systems, and the like. It's annoying, but save everyone else the exasperation of waiting by having them out and ready.

Until next time,
Kacey

This featured blog entry was written by Kacey's Travels from the blog Kacey's Travels.
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By Kacey's Travels

Posted Sun, Oct 19, 2014 | USA | Comments