Wednesday, December 28, 2011

PI Vacay: The Flight(s) There

 As I completely ignored this blog during the vacation...(I tell you if you ever get cursed with dealing with Filipino cable internet as slow as a dial-up connection, you would, too)...the following posts will detail Fam Och's Christmas vacation.

Let's first start with the flight to our intended destination.

The goal this time around was to find airfare with dates compatible with the Mister's limited amount of leave days.  But, more importantly, the total $$$ would have to be pocket-friendly. After months of scouting internet prices, I stumbled across a short-lived sale and as the tickets were several hundred Benjamins less than what I've normally seen, I snapped them up. (International airfare during the holidays must be bought in advance, esp. with a traveling group of five. In this case, we found the best prices in October for travel in December.)

So our itinerary had us flying this route:


3.5 hours to Seattle, 12 hours to Seoul-Incheon, 4 hours to Manila
2 hour layover in Seattle and 2 hr layover in Seoul
24 hours total traveling time


We've never travelled on Asiana Airlines before.  It is a South Korea-based airline, with its hub in Seoul. It's been my experience when flying multiple carriers (we flew Alaskan Airlines to SEA and must switch to Asiana from there) to check-in again at the gate of the new airline. However, instead of the gate, there was an official check-in counter serving all the Asiana gates. And as the fam was seated at the rear of the ANC-SEA plane, we were last to disembark, and therefore, last in line.  The entirety of the two hour layover in Seattle was spent standing in line to check-in, with the Mister sneaking off to the snack bar to purchase munchies for the kids.

All in all, the thousand-hour flight across the Pacific was uneventful. They had complimentary slippers, toothbrush/toothpaste packs, hand lotion, and combs available for passengers.  Headphones were free as well, although purchasing an adapter would allow you to use your own, far superior headphones/earphones set. You can choose between a Western or Korean dish...same ole airplane food...bleh. 

I did appreciate the built in head more lolling heads!

Seoul-Incheon has been given rave reviews on its airport. I do admit it was pretty nice in there.  I didn't expect, however, that although we were just passing through to a connecting flight out of the country that we would still have to pass through another security checkpoint...which isn't a big deal for the fam since we have it down to a science (lol)...but the LINES!...the LINES!...and we only had a two-hour layover!...and we were again exiting from the back of the plane!...and our flight arrived 45 minutes late!

So here's the secret to this.  Passengers tend to herd over and try to speedwalk, following the green "Transfer" signs pointing to the security checkpoint.  They will ALL stop at the first one they come to, not knowing there are several of them in the airport.  Smartest thing to do? Bypass the first one, keep walking until you spot another "Tranfer" directional sign and head there.  You'd save yourself the time of waiting in yet another lengthy queue. Unfortunately, we didn't quite realize this until the flight back home. Needless to say, we were the last ones to board the final flight to Manila.

Now, the airport in Manila (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) is the exact opposite of in it has been rated as one of the worst airports in the world.  Ummmm, yeah, I can see why.  Usually, when deplaning, you can sense the temperature change only when walking through the jetway (that walkway that connects the plane to the terminal)...and when finally in the interior of the airport, you are once again oblivious to the heat/cold outside. Not so here.  This place needs an HVAC overhaul. If you're smart and packed a change of clothes in your carry-on, change into a T-shirt and shorts prior to landing. 

Immigration cards must be filled out for EACH member of the traveling party.  My cuz had the misfortune of being told otherwise and she had to fill out three more cards at the entry counter.  Visitors/tourists are limited to a three-week stay...any longer and you would need a visitor's visa which you should apply for in advance. If, however, you plan on staying longer (like we did) but have at least one member of your party who at point held a Filipino passport/birth certificate/proof of Filipino citizenship, simply present it to the immigration officer to receive your "Balikbayan" stamp. This exempts you from needing a visa, and applies to all members of your party. (I had discarded my Filipino passport long long ago, and since I was born in Japan and simply registered at the Philippine Embassy there, I did not have an official NSO Filipino birth certificate, I did not have official proof of prior citizenship. However, I just talked to the officer in fluent Tagalog, explained the situation, and received the stamp regardless.)

Remember that post wherein I listed some pretty nifty goodies that could help in keeping my rugrats from morphing into hellions on the flight? If not, click up on that subtitle. 

-The Trunki's were AWESOME. No strollers! The girls just hopped on theirs and went for a ride. Plus they fit perfectly under the seats in front of us. 

-iPod touches and their earphones were priceless when compared to the quiet time we had.

-Activity books and markers also kept them busy.

All the others were ok, but those three were the hit and I will never ever travel without them again. We received so many "Your kids are the most well-behaved kids I have ever sat next to."

Anyway, so that's how the first part of the trip went. Part II coming up.

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