Tips on surviving flights

Everyone loves flying to a new place for the holidays. A new country or city. New food. Meeting new people. What’s not to love? But before you go to that holiday to a land far, far away, you’ve got to get on a plane.

The thought of being stuck in a small, uncomfortable seat for any more than 2 hours is something I really hate about traveling. Unless you reserved a seat in the first class or business class, you probably are stuck in a tiny space with little leg room, squashed between other people.

These tips and tricks will make your next flight (long-haul or not) bearable and more comfortable.

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  • Book your seats reasonably
    • Window seat or Aisle seat? Both have advantages. Window seats are preferred for those who don’t want to be disturbed or what to see the nice view from the window. While aisle seats, have more leg space and easier to get out of your seat, the downside is having to get out of your seat every time someone from the window or middle seat wants to get out of their seat.
    • Emergency exit seats have more leg room but it requires you to be able bodied and ready to assist in cases of emergency. Also you can’t store your bag under the chair in front of you.
    • Bulkhead seats also have a lot of leg room but this is usually where families with babies in bassinets are seated. Also you don’t have any space in front of you to store you bag.
    • The front of the plane is usually quieter. Middle of the plane is louder, because you are seated nearer the engines but has a smoother ride. Back of the plane is   both noisy and bumpy and is usually where the toilets are located.

 

  • Dress comfortably
    • Looking good vs being comfortable? Comfort definitely wins in my book. It’s not worth the hassle walking around in heels, tight uncomfortable clothes and bringing a lot of unnecessary bling while you’re walking in the airport or running to your connecting flight.
    • In all my travels, I usually wear my comfiest jeans/ jegging/ leggings with a comfy shirt and jacket, flats or sneakers. I wear the heaviest items I have such a sneakers and jacket instead of putting it in my baggage, to save space.
    • I also avoid wearing belts or any metals on me while passing through the security checks just to make it less of a hassle of removing/re-wearing it.
    • Also, wear socks just in case they ask you to remove your footwear. This used to be done, but so far I haven’t experienced having to remove my shoes or metals while going through security. While except for Japan, they ask you to remove your belt, any metal accessories, and empty your pockets before they pat you down.

 

  • Bring your comfy gear
    • Packing your airplane essential items is a must for a comfortable ride. Earplugs are amazing for blocking any unwanted noise and giving you a restful sleep. Eye shades are also useful to have especially if you are one who can’t get a shut eye while the lights are on. Neck pillow can give you support while you sleep and is more comfortable than the airline pillow they provide. Scarf is also an item I always bring with me, not only does it double as a blanket it also keeps me warm while on the plane.

  • Stay hydrated
    • Airplanes are very dry and it definitely seen on your skin. The best way to hydrate is to drink up! Water and juices is available on most flights. Avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages since these drinks can cause you to get dehydrated faster.

  • Personal toiletries
    • Spending hours on a flight with smudged makeup, oily skin, grime and dirt added with dry, flaky skin due to dehydration can making you look tired, worn out and isn’t going to make your flight anymore enjoyable. That’s why you should pack a small toiletry bag with you.
    • A small travel sized toothbrush, toothpaste and your facial products can make you feel and look refreshed after a long flight.

 

  • Headphones
    • A good pair of noise cancelling earphones or headphones are essential, not just for travel, but for daily life. I find that I can enjoy watching a movie or listening to music more because I can focus more on the music or movie rather than the chatter or crying around me.

 

  • Personal entertainment
    • Not every flight entertainment system will cater to your needs. If you find the in-flight selection of movies or shows too boring. Or in my recent trip, the flight did not offer any entertainment unless you rent their limited ipad or pre-downloaded their in-flight app, you will be stuck doing nothing or just sleeping. So to avoid boring yourself to death, prepare your own entertainment by loading up on your favorite movies, TV shows, music or ebook.

 

  • Snacks
    • Most flights offer in-flight meals and drinks but what if you get hungry in between? Small snacks such as peanuts, chocolate, snack bars, chips or even jellies make for a light snack. Just make sure the snacks you bring are not the type that makes a mess or has a strong, offending odor. You wouldn’t want to stink up the whole cabin, now would you? Or you could simply ask for a light snack from the cabin crew.
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Useful apps to have for your Japan travel

While I’m on the topic of traveling to Japan, I want to share a list of useful apps I personally used during my travel. Since I always have my smartphone with me I found it convenient to install applications on my device rather than buying a guidebook or getting a map. So these are a few of the apps I found useful during my trip.

Rome2Rio

This is a trip planner that helps you navigate the country you are in. It instantly displays different routes via flight, train, bus, ferry or driving options in getting from point A to point B in the quickest way possible. It also displays estimated travel time and fares. Rome2Rio is available in both Apple and Android devices.

Hyperdia

This is a train timetable application similar to Rome2Rio that shows a complete timetable of all kinds of transportation. All you need is to click on the date, time and mode of transportation you want to take to get to point B, and the app displays different routes you can take with the corresponding departure and arrival time of each transport. Then you can choose which route you prefer based on the number of transfers you need to do, total cost and total travel time.

The Hyperdia  by Voice is similar to the regular Hyperdia app but is only available to iphones. It is a voice recognition software that sets the parameters of your search automatically and provides you with direct access to the train timetable.

You can download the app in your Android device, while for Apple devices you can download the Hyperdia by Voice which is only available in selected countries.

GoogleMaps

Google Maps is a widely used navigation app not just in Japan but all over the world. Similar to the previous apps this shows you different routes you can take to get to your destination. By clicking on your intended destination you can choose from different routes such as via car, train, bus or by foot with the corresponding estimated time. And by selecting the route you are given instructions as to train line, platform, or direction you need to follow to get to your destination.

I personally found this the easiest to use and is my go-to app in all my travels.

Maps.Me

Maps.Me is an offline version of google maps so you don’t need internet connection when using this app. It is available in both Google play, Apple app store and Blackberry. You do need to do an initial download of the area map, it is best to do this when you are in your own country and connected to the internet. Once you have completely downloaded the map, you can now use navigation, search and other functions while offline.

Google Translate

This app is a life saver in situations where there are no English signs. All you need to do is take a picture of what you want translated and it automatically translates it to English or to your chosen language.

GuruNavi

GuruNavi is an easy to use “food/ restaurant/ cafe finder”. All you do is select your location and select what kind of cuisine you are looking for. You can also filter your search to restaurants offering an English menu, free Wifi, smoking or non-smoking, etc.

Other apps you may want to check: TDRnow – Disney app that shows wait times for Tokyo Disney Resort, Navitime, Japan Travel Guide with Me.

*You definitely don’t need to get all these apps, you can just choose which one you think is the most useful for you. I find Maps.Me or Google Maps as a must especially if you are a first time traveller.

How to Apply for a Japan Visa

Traveling to Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hakone or anywhere in Japan has always been a dream of mine. Nowadays, flying to Japan is now more affordable with the rise of low-cost or budget airlines such as Cebu Pacific and Vanilla airlines. Aside from that, Japan has also relaxed their visa policies. So here are tips on how to apply for a Japan visa if you’re a Philippine passport holder, like myself.

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Decide what kind of Visa you plan on getting

I personally applied for a tourist visa so I’m going to focus more on that in this entry. There are also other kinds of visas you can apply for, such as:

  1. Visa for Tourism
  2. Visa to visit friends/ distant relatives
  3. Visa for visiting relatives
  4. Visa for commercial purpose
  5. Visa to attend conference by Private or Public Organization
  6. Visa to visit relatives invited by US Military Personnel
  7. Visa to visit spouse of a Japanese National
  8. Visa for Spouse of a Japanese National
  9. Visa for an Official or Diplomat
  10. Visa for house servant hired
  11. Visa for application with Certificate of Eligibility Issued in Japan
  12. Visa for Transit
  13. Visa for Medical Stay
  14. Visa for Nikkei-Jin
  15. Visa for Filipino parent of Japanese-Filipino Children
  16. Single-entry tourist visa for Philippine Nationals joining Package Tours
  17. Multiple Entry Visa

Prepare your requirements:

  1. All documents must be original.
  2. Philippine passport
  3. Visa application form. This can be printed form the Embassy website, click here, or from any accredited agency. Fill up the form completely and truthfully. The embassy may not accept application forms with blank items, no signature or no date; and may deny the application if it was incorrectly filled out.
  4. Recent photo. The photo must be 4.5cm x 4.5cm, with white background taken at least 6 months from application date. Be sure to write your name and birthdate on the back of the photo.
  5. Birth certificate. It must be issued within 1 year from the Philippine Statistics Office.
  6. Marriage certificate (if applicable).
  7. Daily itinerary. The itinerary should cover your entire stay in Japan. It should show your daily activity plan and complete address of your accommodation. Sample itinerary.
  8. Bank certificate.
  9. Income Tax Return.
  10. If a guarantor will shoulder part or all of the applicant’s travel expenses:

Guarantee letter.                                                                                                                     Proof of relationship between applicant and guarantor (e.g. Birth Certificates etc.) Bank Certificate (original) and Income Tax Return (ITR Form 2316) (clear Photocopy) of Guarantor.

* Please use A4 size paper in printing your documents.

Apply from an accredited travel agency

In applying for a visa, personal appearance is not needed. All you have to do is submit your complete requirements to your nearest agency. In Cebu, there are 3 agencies located in the city. For my last trip to Tokyo, I used Friendship Tours & Resorts Corp in Oakridge Business Park in Mandaue City. We submitted our requirements, paid the fee and got our visas in about a week. There are some people who received their visas in less than 2 – 5 days if you applied during the start of the week, on the other hand give at least a week if you applied during the weekend since they don’t send out the forms during the weekend.

Discovery Tour,Inc. Door No.203-A1 2nd Flr.Northgate Center, Don Manuel Gotianuy Complex, Gov.Cuenco Ave., Banilad City, Cebu. Fee: 800 php.

Attic Tours Phils., Inc. Lobby,Waterfront Airport Hotel 1 Airport Road,
Lapu-lapu City, Mactan Island, Cebu. Fee: 1,500 php.

Friendship Tours and Resorts Corp.  Unit 215A Business Center B, Oakridge Business Park,  880 A.S. Fortuna St., Banilad, Mandaue City. Fee: 1,200 php.

For a complete list of accredit agencies in your area, click here.

Make sure you have enough in your bank account.

You will need to provide a copy of your bank certificate and ITR. It’s best to have enough money, at least 100,000 php in your account should be enough. You should have had this amount at least 6 months to a year, a sudden and recent infusion of money in your account may raise a red flag.

Show proof that you will return to the Philippines after your stay in Japan.

This can be in a form of employment certificate, letter of leave of absence, an ITR, or travel history such as old passports.

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Remember, submission of requirements does not guarantee approval of visa but so far I haven’t heard of someone getting denied, but to be in the safe side make sure you provide all the necessary documents needed.

Once you get your approved visa, you only get a 15-day single entry visa for first time visitor. On your second application for a visa, if you get lucky you may get the multiple entry visa.

Given the ease of applying for a Visa and the advantage of having it in your passport there is no reason not to plan a visit to the Land of the Rising Sun.

I think Spring and Autumn is a beautiful time to visit Kyoto and Osaka, you can experience Golden Week during Spring or you can enjoy the autumn foliage of yellow and red during Autumn.

Year-round however, Japan is a must visit. It has a mix of modern and traditional sites, amazing food, and for the kids at heart, different theme parks. So what are you waiting for? Visit Japan with your family or with friends or, if you dare, solo, and start exploring the wonders of Japan!

A Guide to Renting Pocket Wifi in Japan

Exploring a new country is usually a scary and exciting thing, what with getting lost and what not, but it gets easier when you have the right tools to help you navigate this new place. The tried and tested guide maps are always useful, you can find maps in the airport or in hotels. But in this day and age, isn’t it more convenient to bring a smartphone while navigating the new area? Apps such as Google maps, Rome2Rio, Japan Rail, Navitime, and many more can be downloaded and accessed on your mobile phones while traveling but to do so you need to be connected to the internet.

If you’re visiting Japan, a portable Wifi is a great idea rather than buying a SIM in the airport or signing up for roaming on your mobile. Sure cafes, restaurants, train stations and other establishments also have free Wifi access but wouldn’t it be more convenient to have be constantly connected to the net while on the go?

Before going to Japan and getting a pocket wifi, you should consider:

When are you traveling to Japan? This is important since you have to reserve your pocket wifi before you arrive at your destination. You can reserve a unit as early as a month or at least 2 days from the day of your arrival in Japan, this is just incase the provider you chose has no available unit to rent you can always try another provider.

How many days are you in Japan? This is because you rent the unit in a per day basis.

Internet usage You can choose which rental plan you want to avail depending on how heavy your internet usage is. Global Advanced Communications offer different kinds of rental plans such as ECO Wifi (21 mbps unlimited data), Standard Wifi (75 mbps unlimited data but after 10GB speed will be slow down to 128kbps), Premium Wifi (75 mbps unlimited data) and the Super Premium Wifi (187.5 mpbs unlimited data). During my last Tokyo trip, I personally, used the Premium Wifi plan from Global Advanced Communications (GAC) and had no problem during the duration of my stay in Tokyo. If you are a heavy user, you might want to bring or rent a power bank in case the battery runs out.

So, you are now ready to place a reservation for your Wifi rental, what steps should you follow?

From personal experience, I can only comment on Global Advanced Communications (GAC). These are the steps I took from reservation, pick-up and return of the item.

After you place your order, they will email you and check if the item you reserved is available.

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You’ll receive an email afterwards confirming your order and payment.

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  • Pick up from airport or hotel/ hostel/ airbnb

For those who opt for hotel/ hostel/ airbnb delivery, just pick up your package in the front desk. Be sure to ask if there is a package delivered to you, because sometimes they aren’t aware. While for those who opt for airport pick up, take note of the office hours of your location. Post offices in Narita close by 2000H while those in Kansai close by 1700H. If your arrival flight happens to be beyond those hours, get the Premium Airport delivery package from GAC. For more information, click here.

  • Setting up your pocket Wifi

 These are what you will receive:

         1 prepaid return envelope, 1 pouch, 1 pocket wifi, 1 cord and adapter

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Setting up your wifi is easy.  Just check the SSID code and key indicated at the back of the device and connect to your smartphone. You now have internet connection! 🙂

  • Returning the item

              When returning the item be sure to insert the pocket Wifi, cord with adapter and manual into the pouch. You can then mail the items using the prepaid envelope provided by GAC. You can drop off the package in any post office within the city or you can drop it in the airport post office. For locations of the post office in Narita Airport, click here.

Renting a pocket Wifi in Japan is really easy and it saves a lot of trouble. So if you haven’t yet, go and rent one before your flight to Japan. Have a safe trip! 🙂

* This review is based on my personal experience. 🙂

Tips before going to Japan

Japan has a distinct culture just like any other, and it is one of the main reasons why it is such a fascinating place. It is a modern country that has not forgotten its traditions. Here are a few of the things you should know to make the most out of your travel.

Keep quiet in trains

Train rides in Japan can range from relaxing to rush hour madness, but you will quickly realize that even during rush hour everyone, most of the time, are really quiet. Majority are quietly on their mobile phones watching videos using their earphones or just surfing the net. But this doesn’t mean you are not allowed to talk, just keep your voice to a minimum, be polite and don’t shout or talk on your phone.

Trains and the station get really crowded

The best way to enjoy traveling from one landmark to another is by train or subway, but stations can get confusing especially if it is your first time. Be familiar with the route you are taking, which train lines you are getting on, which platform and where are your stops. People walk really fast in the station and this just adds to your confusion. If in doubt, or lost, ask any train attendant for directions they will be glad to help.

Brace yourself, during rush hour the trains can get really packed. It is best to stow your bulky luggage on the overhead racks or transfer your backpacks or bags in your front to avoid occupying more space. And when the time comes to disembark the train, just say, ‘excuse me’ and head towards the door, most of the time they will make way for you.

Tickets vs IC cards

Now you know which train lines you are going to take, what’s next is knowing how to buy the ticket. Ticket machines are found in the sides near the ticket gate. Above the machines is a train map showing you the different stations with the corresponding amount. Beside the regular ticket machines are machines selling IC cards, some selling PASMO, some selling SUICA, while most sell both. Getting an IC card is more convenient than buying a ticket every time you want to ride the subway or train, plus you can use your IC card in buses and paying vending machine or in convenience stores.

No smoking or littering

There are designated smoking areas public places and even in buildings, so please don’t just light up anywhere.

Trash bins are hard to find in Japan. In most food stalls and convenience stores they provide bins nearby, but while walking the streets I had a hard time finding a bin. So keep your trash in your bag until you find a bin or until you get to your hotel.

On a side note, segregate your trash properly, most trash bins have signs on them for segregation.

Restaurants have a smoking section and a non-smoking section

All the restaurants I have been to offer both a non-smoking section and a enclosed smoking section.

Clean up your mess

Most fast food restaurants I ate at didn’t have employees cleaning the tables so we had to clean up after ourselves after eating.

Tipping is not necessary

There is no tipping custom in Japan. If you leave money on your table you will just find an employee running after you to return you change. So remember, no tipping necessary, just a Thank You is enough.

Stand on the Left side

You will notice that people always walk on the left side of the street. They also stand on the left side of the escalator, because the right side of the escalator are for those walking or in a hurry.

Bring Cash

A few places do accept credit cards, but Japan is still mainly a cash based country. So it is better to change you money before traveling to Japan. Or if you are strapped for cash, you can change your money in the airport, in convenience stores with international ATMs or in the bank or post office.

Automatic toilets

Every public toilet I have been to, and the hotel rooms, are equipped with automated toilets that have heated seats, play music while doing your business, built-in bidet, flushers for water conservation, and etc. It may all seem new to you but don’t fret, there are english translations posted as a guide on how to use the toilet.