Monthly Archives: May 2013

An Adventure in Learning

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It is two weeks until departure!! Since my last post I have been busy arranging travel details, I have learned a lot, mostly the hard way, about preparing for an adventure.

The first obstacle I ran into was other travelers; many hostels I wanted to stay at didn’t have space available by the time I knew my exact travel dates. This happened a handful of times which led to some minor disappointment but I was able to find alternatives. I had put in so much time and effort researching places to stay only to find I had to do it all over again. From this I learned “If you want it, book it early”

The second obstacle was purchasing my connecting flight from Osaka, Japan to Cebu, The Philippines. Because we waited a few days too long to book the flight the price jumped up about $100 and to my surprise this website in particular did not include the cost of taxes in the fare they displayed. They also charged a fee for just about everything: your seat (which I thought I was already paying the big bucks for), any checked baggage at all (I can’t go away for two months without a suitcase), insurance for this and that, one of their donation programs, meals etc. With the increased airfare and all the extras it came to $200 more than anticipated. I was frustrated with this airline and proceeded to check my other options, unfortunately this airline was still cheaper than the others.

Now that we had flights to and from The Philippines we just needed our extended visitor’s visa…The Philippines allows travelers 21 days in the country without a visa, everyone else get ready…
First step: locate the nearest consulate which issues travelers visas, this happened to be in Toronto. Slightly annoying.
Step two: gather all necessary documentation, photos, flight itinerary, etc. Just time consuming.
Step three: find a lawyer to notarize your forms who doesn’t charge the fee of your-first-born-child to sign and stamp one piece of paper…
Step four: send all of it away by mail and wait in anticipation to see if Canada Post can safely return you’re much needed passport BEFORE your flight to Japan leaves without you. Hmm

Throughout the entire process I have been attempting to plan this trip at minimum cost. Visa has ensured me that this can happen!…at a 2.5% foreign currency exchange rate…As if owning a credit card was not hard enough, unknowingly I was being charged 2.5% of all my purchases/reservations/bookings extra to convert the currency. This was adding up with every purchase and eating away at my budget!

The last and most heart-breaking obstacle was human error; I booked a nice hotel in the Kansai airport for our return trip as we have almost a 12 hour difference in flights and an early flight to Tokyo. I did not want to have to worry about transportation to the airport and arriving on time so I figured the airport hotel was the closest we were getting….then IT happened…I was double checking my flight itinerary (which I should have done first) and realized my flight to Tokyo leaves from the Itami airport, on the other side of the city. My heart broke, despair set in, my travel planning skills lay crumpled on the floor, defeated. Now you have to realize just how many other things were going wrong leading up to this event, all of it weighing on my patience. I just couldn’t handle it all by myself any longer. Thankfully I have some of the most wonderful friends who picked me up, dusted me off and put me back on my feet with a coffee in my hand. We canceled the original hotel and started searching for a hotel near the Itami airport; lo and behold we found one right in the airport! Awesome right? well…the website was entirely in Japanese…my friend assured me we could book a room with a little help from Google Translator, sure enough we pulled it off and a wave of relief washed over me, it felt good to be done.

To summarize, I:
Spent hours searching for most inexpensive options
Ordered Japan Rail Pass for 4 people
Booked hostel for 4 people when we arrive in Osaka
Vowed never to use my credit card again
Booked hostel for one week in Tokyo for 3 people
Booked flight to Philippines for 3 people
Used my credit card
Booked hostel for before flight to Cebu, and hotel for after flight for 3 people
Nearly had an anxiety/stress attack
Made all necessary arrangements to acquire travel visa for 3 people
Collected all the money these lucky people owed me
And lastly, I created a master itinerary for my family to track my progress


To Early to Start Packing?

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On June 13th I will be departing for Kyoto, Japan, for a study abroad summer program with the University of Winnipeg. The trip will take an estimated 19 hours and I will be traveling with 3 other students.

Today I went shopping for some of the items I will need on my adventure and it started to sink in, this trip is rapidly approaching. With just over 5 weeks until the departure there are many things to prepare…
-order Japan Rail Pass
-book hostel stays before/after the apartments in Kyoto are available
-research places to visit
-pack
-buy toiletries
-apply for Philippines visa (the adventure following Japan)
-pack
-brush up Japanese language skills
-convert currency
-did i mention packing yet?

I have a tendency to start packing way too soon for every trip, usually its only 2 weeks in advance so this is a new record! I started gathering items in a basket that I don’t want to forget. With 40 days in Japan followed by 36 days in the Philippines and only one suitcase this will be my biggest packing challenge to date.