In the past 18 months, flights to Japan have made this country an affordable and pretty simple destination for Aussies to visit. Already this year, two of our Airport team has made the trek to Japan; and both decided to leave from home (Newcastle Airport) and hub through Melbourne to Tokyo. Here our Director of First Impressions (aka our fab receptionist) Ashlee shares with us her experience and her hot tips for travelling solo.
I’m a keen snowboarder and was super excited to have the chance to hit the Japan ski slopes with some friends earlier this year. Travelling from all over Australia, we decided that it was easiest for everyone to meet in Sapporo Airport. That meant that I would be travelling internationally by myself for the first time ever.
When I booked my flights I decided to try flying from Newcastle where my family could drop me off rather than deal with getting to Sydney with my four bags (12kg suitcase, 17kg snowboard, 7kg carry on bag, and a handbag). However, when you’re travelling with this many bags make sure you have ALL of them before waving goodbye to your family; I realised after my family had left that my big winter jacket was still in the car. Lucky for me my dad was only too happy to turn around and bring it back for me, it would have been a very cold trip otherwise.
My flight from Newcastle to Melbourne was non-eventful and on time. When I arrived my priority was to find the oversize baggage collection to collect my snowboard, and get the rest of my bags.
Well aware that I had broken the rule of travelling with only two bags, I pounced on the first bay of trolleys I saw and loaded my 36kg of luggage onto it. (Hot tip: prepare for getting a trolley by keeping loose coins in your pocket.)
At Melbourne it’s super easy to move between the domestic and international terminals. I was literally able to push the trolley full of my luggage from domestic into the international terminal. I had a few hours to wait before check-in for my international flight opened so I staked out a seat in a restaurant near the check-in counters. I killed time by eating, reading, listening to music, and my favourite, people watching.
When check-in opened, I found the process simple. I checked in my bags, took my snowboard to oversize baggage and made my way through customs.
With plenty of time to relax before my flight boarded, I found a seat near my gate. Travelling alone, I wanted to be prepared and ready to go. I also took the opportunity to charge my phone using a power point near the gate. (Hot tip: don’t pass up an opportunity to charge your devices.)
Before my flight boarded, I received a personal page over the PA to present myself to the staff at the gate. To say I was a bit-panicked as I approached the gate was an understatement; I had never been called up before. But it was a fuss over nothing, all the crew wanted to move me from my pre-selected seat.
I explained to the ground crew member that I was happy to move as long as I was moved to an aisle seat as I get a bit claustrophobic. He was understanding and asked if I was travelling alone. When I responded yes, a big smile crossed his face. It wasn’t until I boarded that I understood the reason for the smile. I had scored four seats to myself!! Claustrophobia was no concern and I had the chance to sleep, laying down, for the majority of the 10-hour flight.
I was particularly nervous about arriving in Tokyo as I don’t speak the local language. But, I discovered if I followed those who were on my flight they too were heading for the baggage reclaim belts.
It was a smooth transition through customs and immigration; I even had time to freshen up and change my clothes before my last flight which would take me to the ski fields.
Arriving at my final destination, Sapporo Airport, it was freezing. We were bussed from our aircraft to the terminal where I easily collected my bags for the final time. This airport was fantastic but there was a lot less English signage and not a lot of English-speaking employees. This made for very interesting ordering of food – lots of pointing and smiling and fumbling of YEN. (Hot tip: smiling is international, make sure you give big ones when you’re in a foreign country.)
I am so glad I chose to fly from Newcastle to Melbourne to Narita to Sapporo. I highly recommend this to anyone, especially when Newcastle and Melbourne Airports are so easy to navigate.
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