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Long Flight? Longer Layover? How to Survive Serious Travel Time.

December 7, 2018

 

 

I recently took a month-ish long trip to Japan. HUGE travel goal for me.  I've always wanted to go ever since I was thrown into a weeby romance with anime at the tender age of 5.  

 

Since then, I have developed and changed in many ways, but Japan has always been the number 1 place I've wanted to go.  If you asked me 4 months ago if I was going to make it in 2018, I would've started with "first of all" and then proceed to list all my debts and obligations.  

But then something miraculous happened.  What I'm about to say is going to sound vague and cliche  but I promise you its the truth.

 

I really wanted to go....and then things just fell into place.

 

I started putting a lot of energy into the thought that I REALLY wanted this to happen.  I almost felt like I needed to prove something to myself by fulfilling this goal in such a short time.  Right now I'm not going to go into all the details (I'm saving that for a different blog), but the important part of the current story is THIS:

 

I got my plane ticket, round trip, for under just $700 using CheapOAir.com.  This is cheap af.  Make note of this because you you typically get what you pay for.

 

My Departing and Returning city was Chicago.  I live in Detroit.  Yes we have an international airport but for some reason it is considerably cheaper to leave from Chicago.  You can save up to $600 dollars from that alone.

 

So I just got a Delta flight from Detroit --> Chicago which was an hour long. 

My itinerary was basically the same departing and returning:

Chicago to Shanghai: 14/15 hours

Layover in Shanghai: 15/16 hours

Flight to Tokyo: 2/3 hours

 

Just reverse it for the return.  Except instead of a flight from Chicago, I decided to take the train back to Detroit. +4 more hours of waiting and +5 more hours of traveling.

 

This was my longest flight AND my longest layover.  My experience going was completely different from my experience returning.  I have lived and learned and I'm here to share that knowledge with you.

 

 

The Flight

So you're going to be in the air for quite a long time.  Don't be nervous about that!  You're not gonna die.  Seriously, you have better odds that you'll drown in your tub or get a flesh eating disease than dying in a plane crash.  Weird right?

Many people bring on a backpack and a carry on.  This is up to you, but I realized on my return trip I didn't NEED an extra carry-on bag, my backpack sufficed.  The lighter you pack, the better.  But make sure you have the items for a hoe-bath (aka washing up in the sink).  

To combat boredom, there's a decent selection of games, music, and movies available on the screen in front of you.  Although, packing a book or two definitely wouldn't hurt.  I must mention I barely opened my backpack on my flight.  I just slept, ate, watched a movie, and repeated; we landed in Shanghai before my vision could fully recover from the laziest 14 hours of my life. 

The seats are roomier than a standard plane of course.  And it isn't weird to get up and stretch in the spacier parts of the aircraft. However every inch makes a difference. 

If you want extra space, here's three things you can do:

  • Go Business Class

    • Yes, this is luxury.  Doesn't seem entirely necessary and it's an expense you can save on.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't think about it, especially if you're flying alone.  Business Class seats are much cushier, with room to fully lay down and bigger entertainment screens.  I never sat in Business Class, but I ended up on the end seat of a mother and young daughter...and the kid pretty much ruined the entire flight for me.  I had the chance to upgrade my seat for $100 and I deeply considered it, but I decided to tough it out.  She couldn't be that bad, right?

      • Yes....she was that bad...and I regretted not upgrading my seat.

  • Choose your seats

    • Choosing your seats the moment you buy your ticket is crucial.  Exit rows have more leg room, so those are good to aim for if you're tall.  If you choose a row with 2 seats and there's no one next to you, then that's probably how it'll stay.  If you know you'll need to get up a lot, then its good to get the end seat -- though this comes at a risk of being bothered by the other people in your row if they have to get up a lot.  

      • Fun Fact: Middle seats have the most cushion and support because people book them way less.  This is great for those with bad backs who need a bit more support.

      • There will be a blog coming on how I dealt with my shitty back on such a long flight.

  • Switch your seats at the last minute

    • You'll be able to see exactly what's available right before you get on the plane.  You can choose a row that has more space or less passengers and this may or may not cost depending on the airline.

The Layover

How long is your layover? Is it mostly in the day or at night? Is it in your home country or completely foreign? If it's over 6 hours, it's worth considering leaving the airport and taking advantage of a side stop!  Research the destination your layover is in and determine if you want to visit it.  Plenty of countries have 24 hour permits or allowances in the country without a visa, but its definitely something to confirm before going.  Different countries have different protocol. 

 

For instance, my layover was in Shanghai.  Upon entering and going through customs, you'll be given a 24 hour transit permit, allowing you to leave the airport and move around for the day. I considered leaving, but then realized that my layover was the evening going into the next morning.  Instead, I just booked a room at one of the airport hotels (ironically called Airport Hotel in the center of the airport).  The smart thing to do would be to book your hotel of choice before you take to the skies. On my way to Japan, I spontaneously got my room once I landed. I made the mistake of not booking in advance on my return trip and ended up spending my night on the airport floor.  Definitely not for the delicate, but many people do it and you will survive if you're forced to or you don't want to spend money on a room.  However it should be known that the rooms are pretty cheap within Chinese and Japanese airports, I paid $70 for mine and it was clean and comfy! 

 

IF you decide to tough it out at the airport, be prepared.  It will feel long, time will drag across your face.  Explore the airport or make sure you have some books or decent games on your phone.  Having good "time killers" and a neck pillow will save you.  If your layover location has terrible wi-fi, it helps to download a VPN app.  I was able to do so with a little Wi-Fi in China and getting ExpressVPN seriously boosted my internet.  This might be an app you'd want to download before boarding your plane. Most VPN apps come with a 7-day trial period and can be pretty pricey afterwards.  Take advantage of the free trial!

 

I hope this helps your travel in one way or another.  Taking a big trip can be intimidating, but knowledge is power!  Once you take a flight like this, you'll know you can do it many times over. <3 

 

 

 

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