It’s kind of like playing Tetris…

Packing for the Asia Trip, that is…  With finals just around the corner, it’s hard to find time to get everything in order for what will be a month of travel.  In talking to my fellow cohort members, it sounds like everyone has done a pretty good job of sorting out what to pack (thanks to the handy checklists given out by the program, which have been refined over 14 years of this trip), but some questions arise as to the actual logistics of packing everything.  So, today I’d like to try and address some of the nitty-gritty aspects of packing for the Asia Trip.

We’re flying Delta, or affiliated airlines for the entire trip, which means that we have a pretty strict 2 check-in bag limit.  Further, due to the cost of fuel, check-in bags are now restricted to 50 lbs. a piece, and a total linear dimension limit of 62″ (the height, length and width of the bag may not exceed 62″).  This all sounds well and good, and the program all but officially comes out to say that we should expect to pay fees for our baggage.  However, what they don’t tell us is that there are newly evaluated fees for exceeding the limitations.  Is your bag overweight?  That’ll be $90 per overweight bag.  Linear dimensions exceed 62″?  That’ll run you $175.  Ouch.  I don’t think many of us can afford to pay those charges, so we’ve got to be a kind of creative and expect that we’ll have to use both of our allowed bags, because 50 lbs. of clothes to last three weeks seems a little ambitious.  One solution that’s come up is to pack a kind of communal bag.  Let’s say that me and three friends each have our 50 lbs. bag, but also each have 10 or so extra lbs. worth of stuff to pack.  Well, with a little planning before hand (or at the check-in counter), we can all throw our extra stuff into a communal bag, and have one person check that as their second bag, and then sort it out later.  Also, we’ve heard from frequent travelers that it’s best to hang out at the back of the line when checking-in, as there is a total weight limit to luggage, and in rare instances, if the limit has not been reached, and your bag runs a little over, then they may let you slide.  However, I wouldn’t bank on that…

Also, it’s expected that we will buy things while abroad, and likely come back with more than we left with.  That’s where the old empty duffel bag trick comes into play – just pack an empty duffel bag in your larger suitcase or carry-on, and then you can fill it up with your new loot on your way home!  While we’re at it, REI is a great source for a simple, collapsable duffel bag – about $35 will get you a bag that holds about 5500 cubic inches, meets all size requirements and can easily fit in a carry-on bag.

Finally, along a slightly different line of packing – money.  We’re going to need yen in Tokyo, won in Seoul, and yuan in Beijing and Shanghai, plus any other currency for countries we travel after the organized trip ends (like ringgit in Malaysia).  Our cohort is a little split on how to go about this: convert money here and take the proper currencies with you, carrying a bunch of cash with you, or taking as little as possible, relying on ATMs and conversion friendly banks.  Those that have done a fair amount of traveling in our cohort assure us that there really is no need to take a bunch of cash, and that ATMs (with their foreign transaction charges) will be waiting and readily available.  However, I still have a feeling that most people will at least take a little yen with them, to make hitting Tokyo the night we fly into Narita that much easier.  Most larger branches of banks can do these conversions for you, and AAA is always a good bet (the trick is finding one cohort member that’s a member, and then having them do the conversion as one transaction).

Did I forget anything?  Do you have any tips for traveling that might make our Asian excursion more manageable?  Share, please!

-パトリック

photo credit: purdywurdy

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2 Comments

Filed under Asia Trip, Common Questions, Patrick's Entries, Student Life

2 responses to “It’s kind of like playing Tetris…

  1. Joshua Gregg

    One word of advice in Japan for you guys: many ATMs at 9pm. I believe there are ATM’s located in the arrivals hall of Narita, another great option in Japan is post office ATM’s they are linked with US banks. For some reason many local ATM’s are not linked internationally. Probably have less problems in Tokyo but beware. As someone who has traveled pretty extensively in Asia I would recommend ATM’s all the way, probably best exchange rates and are plentiful! Happy safe travels!

    Joshua in Japan
    MIM ’11

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