Note to self: Travel Tips

Before I forget for the next time:

1. TALK TO A STRANGER/BROADEN YOUR HORIZENS/CHALLENGE YOUR CONVICTIONS: Get a feel for it, but if possible, talk to your seat mates if neither one of you are sleeping. You never know who you’ll meet if you overcome your own shyness.

 The flight to NYC, I met an Octogenarian lady named Anne and had the most fascinating conversations about life,  the world and her Nobel Peace Prize nominated scientist son who I had the pleasure of meeting briefly. 

On the flight home I met Swami, The Walking Monk and his lovely friend/travelling companion Bala, who were both such lovely souls who I had amazing conversations with. 

Years ago, I met Franscisco, a businessman from NorCal as we waited in the slow ass Customs line and we bonded over the fact we wondered if we were going to miss our flights. We were friends for a few years and talked about almost everything under the sun but lost contact when he quit his corporate life, sold everything and moved to Brazil suddenly. 

 Sometimes life pleasantly surprises you with meeting new people who teach you something or answer a question you had that you may or may not have known how to find the answer to. It always feels like a coincidence, but it’s not. 🙂

2. GET THE AISLE SEAT: I’m a window person. I love being able to take pictures and have taken some amazing ones that often serve as screen savers for my sanity as I rat race it, but I’ve decided to only do that on short haul flights from now on. In some respects the access to the window for the brief picture taking time, often only a few minutes is not worth the trade off for comfort. 

On the 8 hour flight to Dubai both people in my aisle were sleeping the entire flight. I felt so guilty that I would wait at the last moment my bladder would burst or when one of my neighbours needed to go.  I should note, both girls would NOT get out of their seat so I had to literally climb over them. It was the best of times, to manoeuvre around them with my full bladder. I wish I had been gassy and crop dusted them. 

It was brutal and the sheer joy of being able to get up whenever you want to stretch your legs I somehow stupidly discovered on the 13 hour flight from Dubai since I had the Aisle seat. I introduced myself to Bala (see #1) by telling him to please feel free to go at any point he or Swami needed to, because I was so guilty of that in my past and didn’t mind for that exact reason. I typically do 6 hour or less flights so it did not occur to my brain (and my unseasoned to long flights self) that for longer haul flights the Aisle seat is ideal.

3. TIME YOUR CONNECTIONS PROPERLY: Connections, sometimes they’re too short. Sometimes they’re way to long. Sometimes you can time them just right. Be smart, Goldie Locks. ALWAYS GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TIME.

I had a connection in NY and 8 hour layover. Seemed ideal at the time when I was so busy at work and distracted so the ticket was booked, but then closer to the date (like a few days prior) I realized I got in at almost 10 pm and my flight left at 6 am which meant my layover was more like 5 hours by the time I got my luggage and had to be back at the airport at 3-4am for an international flight. It wasn’t worth it to get a crappy but expensive (it is NYC) airport hotel, so I kicked it in the city then headed back to the airport to make my connection. In this case, there was enough time to leave the airport, but there wasn’t enough time for a good nights sleep or to make it worth it to book a hotel.

When I was going back to Hong Kong from Cebu, I had a 1 hour connecting in Manila. The plane from Cebu to Manila left 1 hour late and generally flights board 30 minutes before departure time. Technically that would mean the gate would have been closed and I wouldn’t have been allowed to board by the time I made it to that Terminal, but luckily the Manila flight was also late, so they hadn’t begun boarding even though I made it 15 minutes prior to the original departure time.

It’s generally advised you book something that is at least 2 hours to give yourself buffer. I flew 8 flights (including connections) on this trip, 5 of those flights were delayed by half an hour or more. Some flights might require you to also leave the terminal you are at and go to another one, so take that into account when booking…in addition to collecting your luggage if that airline sucks. 

4. LUGGAGE: Always pack a sufficient Carry-On. I lost my luggage years and years ago and it took over 24 hours to be redirected to me. It was such a pain in the ass that even if I do pack luggage that will be checked, I pack a decent carry on to include my toiletries and other essentials like socks, undergarments, feminine products (even if it’s not that close to that time, the stress of flying can mess with your body).

Some airlines will not release your checked luggage to you even if you have a stop over that is less a certain period. Other will release it to you even if the stop over is a few hours. So always ask when checking in. 

 If I had known Emirates does not release checked luggage for a less than 24 hour stopover, I would have packed my swimsuit so I could have taken a dip in the pool to deal with the dessert heat. So from now on, my bikini will be in my carry on, just in case….because you never know.

5. PACK A SLEEP MASK, EARPHONES/EAR PLUGS: Do it, that way you can sleep on the plane without being disturbed too much by the people sitting near you. Especially if you’re sitting near a crying baby/kid.

6. CHECK IN ATLEAST 2-3 HOURS EARLY: Do not make this part of your travel time window. You never know what could happen and it’s always best to give yourself a buffer. 

 In 2007 I missed a flight from London to Amsterdam because the train diverted it’s regular route and I made it to the airport late. 

 This trip, I left the office in an Uber to get to the Train station to take the airport express. I did not anticipate the 30+ minute traffic jam because of an accident. When I got to the airport, I did not expect the 40 minute line to check in because that airline understaffed the Check In counter and their kiosks were down. 

 I have not anticipated a line at customs to be 1 hour long because that airport did not staff enough people during a national Holiday. (ALWAYS GIVE YOURSELF MORE TIME DURING MAJOR HOLIDAY BECAUSE OF THE HIGH VOLUME OF TRAVELLERS MEANING LONGER LINES AND WAIT TIMES) 

 All this has happened. Though I don’t mind missing a flight due to connection ISSUES (the airline covers that)  missing flights for poorly timed Check in time pisses me off because that I have control over.

This is it for now, I’m sure I’ll add to this later so I won’t have to ask age old questions that I already know but somehow forgot.

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