There’s No Place Like Home (We’re Coming Home in May!)

When Kevin and I left Seattle in April 2014, we had no idea how long we would be living and traveling abroad. We had so many questions about what would happen. Would we love it and never want to move back to Seattle? Would we hate it and have to move in with our parents after just a few months? Would one of us end up strangling the other because we spend 24 hours of every day together in a tiny apartment?

We’ve been abroad for 9 full months now, and while we wouldn’t trade this year abroad for anything, we are both ready to head back home to Seattle. We are booked on a flight to Seattle on May 6th – the end is near!

To see where we’ve been so far, check out the map in the top of this post. Just in case you want to squeeze in a quick visit while we’re still in Europe, here are our whereabouts until we get back to the U.S. of A.:

  • Until March 27: Split, Croatia
  • March 27 – 29: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
  • March 29 – 31: Zagreb, Croatia
  • March 31 – April 28: Budapest, Hungary
  • April 28 – May 1: Vienna, Austria
  • May 1 – May 5: Prague, Czech Republic
  • May 5 – May 6: Frankfurt, Germany
  • May 6: Seattle!
  • (We’re also planning a trip to Kansas June 2 – 9 for my Dad’s milestone birthday!)

So, why did we decide to end our travels after just one year?

Warning: This post is about our personal experience traveling abroad, and results for others may vary!

“Seeing the World” Is Best Done in Bite-Sized Pieces

Traveling for a very lengthy period of time sort of turns you into an asshole. Churches start to blend together, castles all start to look the same, and you start to get a little jaded. There was a time when walking into St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome would’ve brought tears to my eyes because of its sheer awesomeness. Now, I see St. Peter’s and think, “huh, reminds me a little of Sevilla’s Cathedral”. We have this new you’re-going-to-have-to-try-pretty-hard-to-impress-us attitude. In Kevin’s words, we’ve seen a lot of “old-ass Roman shit”.

Here Kevin is, looking at some of the oldest Roman shit around, the Colosseum in Rome.

Here Kevin is, looking at some of the oldest Roman shit around, the Colosseum in Rome. This look on his face happened when I said, “STOP SQUINTING!” and I can’t stop laughing out loud any time I look at it.

It takes continuous effort to keep appreciating your travels if you’re abroad for a year. Living out of a duffel bag starts to wear you down, little cultural differences that used to be cute/interesting start to get under your skin, and travel fatigue sets in and causes you to skip some sights you’d otherwise be super excited about. We essentially skipped the entire country of Myanmar because we knew we just wouldn’t appreciate it as much as we should. (We hope to visit someday, when we’re jonesing for some more time in SE Asia.)

You see beautiful gardens in Thailand, I see a risk of Dengue Fever.

You see beautiful gardens in Thailand, I see a risk of Dengue Fever.

Thailand beer disappointment is in full force in this photo - the lack of beer selection is no longer cute. We resorted to buying Budweiser for 4th of July... and it tasted GOOD to us. Our tastebuds are lying to us!!

Thailand beer disappointment is in full force in this photo – the lack of beer selection is no longer cute. We resorted to buying Budweiser for 4th of July… and it tasted GOOD to us. Our tastebuds are lying to us!!

Ok, I still find this one cute. Translation errors will never get old.

Ok, I still find this one cute. Translation errors will never get old. (This is actually crepe cake.)

Remember that time we were so frustrated with Italian transportation that we opened a bottle of wine and started drinking it out of plastic cups?!

Remember that time we were so frustrated with Italian transportation that we opened a bottle of wine and started drinking it out of plastic cups?!

The thing that makes travels to foreign places so special is the contrast you experience from the way things are back home. In my ideal world, I’d work 11 months out of the year and spend 1 month living in a city somewhere else in the world. In a month, you can sift through many of a city’s restaurants, really get a handle on a local culture, and maybe even make some new local friends. A month lets you really take things slowly and at a relaxed pace, you get tons of time to sleep and unwind, and finding a month-long place to stay is often the same price or less than just 2 weeks in a hotel! Plus if you choose wisely and stay at a rail hub, you can take a bunch of day trips.

Ok, I’ve figured out my ideal world. Now, I need to figure out how to change America’s culture so we all get a month of vacation. I’ll get right on that, folks.

Seattle Is the Best Place in the World (at Least to Us!)

There’s no denying it, Seattle is our Paradise. I know that a lot of Seattleites like to perpetuate the rumor that it’s always rainy and gray in our City (Heaven forbid too many people crowd into our wonderful town!), but I’m going to let you in on a little secret: that’s not really true. The truth is, our Summers are long gorgeous stretches of blue-sky days with perfect high-70’s temperatures. The Pacific Northwest is filled with gazillions of perfect campgrounds, tons of backpacking options, and an infinite number of stunning day hikes. Even our winters are awesome – you can leave our house and be on the ski slopes in less than an hour. Heck, it rarely gets below 40 in the Winter in our fine city, which means I get to run outside year-round without having to wear a Snow Parka. I am convinced Seattle’s climate was tailored specifically for me – there is rarely any swamp ass to be had here (most homes don’t even have aircon!), my hair hardly ever gets wind blown, and I rarely need more than a light jacket. I love it!

Reason Seattle is awesome #1: On this backpacking trip, we stumbled upon a whale skeleton on the beach!

Proof Seattle is awesome #1: On this backpacking trip, we stumbled upon a whale skeleton on the beach!

Reason Seattle is awesome #2: This day hike is a half hour from our house.

Proof Seattle is awesome #2: This day hike is a half hour from our house.

I don’t think I’ve made a single blog post without a food reference, so why stop now?! We’ve traveled through Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Croatia, so I feel confident declaring that many of our wonderfully diverse cities in the United States have food cultures that are unmatched anywhere else in the world. We’ve traveled around and tried the local cuisines of so many countries, but what’s really missing is the huge variety of international options we have in the US. Sure, there’s tons of Thai food in Thailand (obviously), but the Indian food options are not good, and you’d be hard pressed to find any legit Mexican food, much less any sushi I’d bet my life on. In Seattle, we have fabulous foods from all different cultures: Vietnamese, Chinese, South Pacific, Italian, French, Thai, Indian, Caribbean, Japanese, Mexican, even Ethiopian. And don’t even get me started on Seattle’s coffee scene. In Europe, it is damn near impossible to buy grocery store coffee beans that aren’t pre-ground, and I STILL haven’t had a decent cup of coffee at a cafe here.

There are other little things about Seattle we miss, too. In Seattle, green spaces and parks are everywhere; in Europe most public spaces are brick or cement plazas. I miss being able to use a public bathroom without having to shell out a Euro. I miss having the right-of-way as a pedestrian. I miss the bulk bin section of our neighborhood grocery store, and my Dutch Oven and Crock Pot. And I think I especially miss having an American-style laundry setup! (I’m SO excited to have a dryer again.) Kevin misses our grill, and his beer brewing equipment. He has been reading Homebrewing articles every day, and has his first dozen or so brews all planned out. We need to be home!

Living Abroad Can Be Lonely

I didn’t realize how isolating and lonely it can be to live abroad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s so nice to have a partner to travel with, but when you spend your whole day together, the usual “How was your day?” question is sort of a dead end. Luckily, we both read a lot so we can talk about our books, but that is WAY less interesting than the stories I used to come home and tell about my quirky/wonderful coworkers at Boeing.

We're so lonely we're making friends with barn animals.

We’re so lonely we’re making friends with barn animals.

How could we not miss our friends? There is never a dull moment back home.

How could we not miss our friends? There is never a dull moment back home.

Things weren’t quite as lonely in Chiang Mai, where the coffee shop culture was perfectly suited for digital nomads. (The coffee was good and cheap, the internet was fast, and it was definitely considered acceptable to sit for a couple hours and work! It is NOT like that in Europe.) Since we were there for 8 months, we were able to form some relationships with both expats and locals. It was fun to be regulars at our favorite coffee shops where we’d chat with the baristas and they’d put in our order without us having to even say anything.

The only thing warm about the service in this cafe in Granada, Spain was the fire. Sigh.

The only thing warm about the service in this cafe in Granada, Spain was the fire. Sigh.

Traveling more quickly is more isolating, though. Since arriving in Europe, we haven’t been in one place for more than 30 days. When you don’t speak the local language, it’s hard to build any sort of relationships, especially when you’re just passing through. To be honest, we haven’t felt a whole lot of warmth radiating from people we’ve met so far in Europe. That is, until our recent arrival here in Split, Croatia.

This is how we feel about Croatia so far. Here's Kevin with the Croatian flag. We love it here!

This is how we feel about Croatia so far. Here’s Kevin with the Croatian flag. We love it here!

I think our entry to Croatia came at just the right time. In spite of all the hardships they’ve gone through in the last 20 years, people here are just so darn NICE, and everyone seems to speak perfect English. It helps that we’re renting an Airbnb apartment in a big 6-unit building that is filled by several generations of the same family. They have a cousin in Seattle, so everyone knows who we are and they’re all excited to chat with us about home. We’ve met a lot of friendly locals, too. Just the other day, a farmer at the fresh market struck up a conversation with us, busted out a photo album of his farm and his family, and ended our chat with a very enthusiastic “I love America! America, Yes!”

I love America, too, sir.

A Saga to get Sleeping Pills in Chiang Mai


Hanging out with the pill statue at our neighborhood pharmacy.

Did you know that Zolpidem (off brand Ambien) is a highly regulated, government controlled substance in Thailand?  Neither did I.  Being from a country where many doctors hand this stuff out like candy let me a little bit ill-prepared for our foray into the Thai Medical system to try to obtain some sleeping pills.

I definitely am not a habitual sleeping pill user.  In fact, I regularly fall asleep while still holding my Kindle when all the lights are on. However, I am highly open to using one of these magical pills to sleep soundly on a 13-hour flight.  I also have been known to use it for one night at my travel destination to get over the jetlag hump.

So Riddle me this – how many hospital visits does it take to procure some sleeping pills in Chiang Mai?  The way we did it, it unfortunately (and infuriatingly), it took FOUR visits, which ended up costing us about eight hours out of our lives, and we only have ten pills to show for it!  Read on for the tale of our epic journey…

Hospital Visit #1

First we stopped by Chiang Mai Ram Hospital on a whim on the way from the Khao Kha Moo lady who serves delicious tender-cooked pork with rice. We usually follow up Khao Kha Moo lady with a trip to the cake woman, who makes the most divine coconut cake on this planet.  Sadly, she wasn’t there that night, which we should’ve realized was a sign of the struggle to come.  We popped into Chiang Mai Ram, where we learned that a doctor must be a Psychiatrist in order to subscribe sleeping pills.  The Psychiatrist was not currently in, which didn’t surprise us at 8pm on a Sunday night, so we headed home.

Hospital Visit #2

After doing some research, I learned that Sriphat Medical Center (part of Maharaj Hospital complex) is supposed to be cheaper than Chiang Mai Ram. You know we can’t resist a bargain, so we headed to Sriphat to scope things out on a Friday morning.  We walked in, realized there wasn’t a single sign in English, and realized we were probably the only non-Thai people in the entire building.  Luckily, a super nice man who spoke English took pity on us and pointed us up to the 13th floor.

We packed into a hot, steamy elevator with about 15 other people and slowly made our way up to the 13th floor. When we got there, we were met by a nice lady in a pink jacket who spoke English and escorted us around, and we were super excited that this floor had pretty good aircon.  The lady in the pink jacket helped us register, snapped my photo for my hospital record, and walked us in to the nurse’s desk.

This is when things started to head south.  They said we should come back at 2pm to see “Dr. Aneesa.”  I wasn’t mad yet, so we said okay and happily went about our day.

Hospital Visit #3

We came back to Sriphat at 2pm, headed to the nurse’s station, and no one knew who this mysterious “Dr. Aneesa” is.  So that was weird.  The nurse was so puzzled about why I thought we had an appointment, but set us up for a 9am appointment on Monday.  In spite of the appointment time, she advised us that it’s first come first serve.  Frustration began to set in…

Hospital Visit #4

We showed up to Sriphat right on time at 9am Monday morning, headed up to the 13th floor again, and were so sad at what the nurse’s station told us. Sure, my “appointment” is for 9am, but I’m number four in the queue, and the psychiatrist won’t be here until 10:30am.  Awesome!  SO FAR SO GOOD, right?!  Luckily, Kevin and I brought our Kindles and iPhones, so we were able to stay occupied.  Maybe this is part of the visit with the psychiatrist – they try to see if they can push you to snap.  Good one, guys!  On the plus side, we were on the 13th floor, so there was a pretty nice view:

The Nice View that kept me sane!  There's a golf course in the middle, and the airport in the back right.

The Nice View that kept me sane at Sriphat! There’s a golf course in the middle, and the airport in the back right.

Finally, at about 11am, after over two hours of waiting, we got to visit with the Psychiatrist. She was nice enough, but seemed extremely suspicious that I was asking for sleeping pills.  She grilled me about why I wanted them, asked if I’ve ever seen a psychiatrist in the U.S., and wanted to know if I had taken them before and in what dosage.  It was kind of an ordeal.

So, Did We Ever Get the Pills?

We spent 8 hours at 4 hospital visits and all we got were these 10 measly pills!

We spent 8 hours at 4 hospital visits and all we got were these 10 measly pills!

Yes, we did.  But in the end, we learned that Thai laws limit a prescription for Zolpidem to just TEN pills.  TEN!  Or at least that’s what the hospital told us.  I spent 8 hours in hospitals, spent 1,230 Baht ($38 US), and all I got was ten measly sleeping pills.  Would I do it again?  Never!  Am I glad we did it?  Not at all!

Luckily, one good thing came out of this ordeal – we sort of had an epiphany while we were waiting for the doctor in the hospital.  The whole reason we went to Sriphat was to try to save a little money – maybe five dollars, at the most ten dollars.

We realized that if you’re willing to spend maybe 25% extra, no matter where you are in the world, things are generally much more pleasant.  If we spent just a little bit more and went to Chiang Mai Ram (the more upscale private hospital) we’re sure things would’ve gone much more smoothly.

This holds for so many things we’ve encountered in Thailand.  Spend an extra dollar on dinner and it can save you from a rough day of stomach problems.  Fork out an extra $5 for the first class overnight bus and you’ll actually get a decent night’s sleep.  Better yet, spend an extra $35 to fly instead of bus, and you can save yourself ten hours of traveling.

We Want To Hear From You!

Have you had any crazy medical experiences in foreign countries?  Everyone loves the we-don’t-speak-the-same-language game of charades when body parts and medical problems are involved.  Please share your stories with us!

Finding an Apartment in Chiang Mai

Mistake: Expecting Too Much out of our Chiang Mai Apartment Search

Finding an apartment or condo for rent can be tricky in Thailand, but here are a few good lessons we learned in our saga to find a new 7-month home in Chiang Mai.  Our apartment search began a couple weeks before we left Seattle.  We contacted Chiang Mai based property management company Perfect Homes, and connected with Noon.  She emailed us a few listings before we left Seattle, but warned us that apartments tend to come onto the market and get rented fairly quickly, so it’s best to wait until we arrive to see what’s available.

Before leaving Seattle, we came up with a list of our apartment must-haves:

  • Pool
  • Air conditioned gym
  • Hot water
  • Kitchen with fridge and hot plate
  • At least two separate work spaces, since we’ll be working on lots of projects here
  • Good natural light
  • Good walkability to restaurants and a fresh market (we won’t have a motorbike during our time here, so this was important!)
  • Budget: $700/month
  • 7-month lease

The Search

We looked at a dozen apartments, all shown on the map below.  Click on a pin to see more detail about a particular apartment.  Our search began in May 2014, which is considered the low season in Chiang Mai when apartment rent tends to be lower than the November-December High Season.

We focused our search in the Nimmanhaemin and Chang Klan areas.  The Nimman neighborhood is one of the trendiest areas in Chiang Mai, and is home to many expatriates from various other countries.  It’s hard to pop into one of Nimman’s MANY coffee shops without meeting someone from the US, Australia or New Zealand.  Over the course of our entire search, we looked at 3 apartments in Green Hill Place, 1 unit in Punna Residence, 1 unit in Hillside 2, 1 unit at One Plus Suan Dok, 1 unit in DD Park, 3 units at Twin Peaks, 1 unit in Peaks Garden, and 1 unit at Riverside.  A dozen units!  It was exhausting!

On Day 1 of our apartment search saga, we worked with Noon from Perfect Homes and saw 6 different apartments.  Unfortunately, Perfect Homes doesn’t provide transportation to and from apartment complexes.  We hadn’t quite figured out how to use the many transportation options in Chiang Mai yet, so we ended up walking over 11 miles in 95-degree weather!  I know I promised in my Beijing Post not to talk about my chapped ass unless the situation got extremely dire.  Let me tell you, 11 miles of walking in 95-degree weather was DIRE.  To top it all off, we got caught up in a thunderstorm on our way home when we had our laptops with us, and had to spring back to the hotel!  Lesson learned – use a Songathew or Tuk-Tuk to get from point A to point B, and carry a damn poncho!

Day 2 was a dud.  But we did get Thai phone numbers and spent some time at the pool!  Little victories.

On Day 3 of apartment searching, I was at anxiety level orange thinking we might not find a new home.  We decided to expand our search and meet with agents from Satihoga Properties and Chiang Mai Properties.  Between Noon and the two other companies, we saw six more units which were all at the very top of our budget.  The best thing about Chiang Mai Properties is that they provide free transportation service to and from apartment viewings.

On Day 4 of our saga, we decided to return to the One Plus Suan Dok unit with Noon, which was the very first apartment we saw in Chiang Mai.  This was one of the smallest apartments we viewed, coming in at 41 sq. meters, but it also had the lowest rent price of any apartments we viewed at just 14,000 Baht, or about $430 USD.  The larger units we saw mostly came in over 65 sq. meters, but cost at least $200 USD more per month in rent, and all that extra square footage wasn’t always utilized efficiently.  In the end, we decided to go with the cheap apartment and use that extra $200 USD to get more Thai Massages and spend more time at coffee shops.

Our New Home, The Winner

  • A 1-bedroom, 41 sq. m top floor corner apartment in the One Plus Suan Dok condominium.
  • Location, location location!  We have a gorgeous temple right in our front yard (see photo below).  Wat Suan Dok is home to beautiful gardens, ornate buildings, and our favorite Vegetarian restaurant, Pun Pun.  There is also a fresh market right down the street.
  • Onsite gym (with aircon!), pool, and sauna (HA, like I’d ever use a sauna in a place as hot as Chiang Mai… good one, guys…)
  • YOU CAN FLUSH TOILET PAPER DOWN THE TOILETS HERE.  Words can’t express how excited I am about this.  In most bathrooms in Thailand, including some upscale hotels, you throw tissues into a waste receptacle instead of flushing.  I like to call the waste receptacle the “bin of doom”.  Luckily, this apartment will not be filled with doom.
  • Security: there are several 24-hour security guards onsite, and our building is accessed by fingerprint scan.
  • One note about the One Plus Suan Dok free internet – it is unbearably slow and requires you to login through a secondary sign-in screen several times throughout the day when you’re connected via wifi.  To quote Kevin, “If I imagined internet in Hell, this would be what it’s like.”

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What We Learned

  • Lower your expectations before arriving – no one finds the perfect apartment without shelling out some serious cash.  We compromised on space, but spent way less than we anticipated.
  • Use Perfect Homes for your property search in Chiang Mai!  Noon has gone way above and beyond the call of duty.  After we signed the contract and moved in, we expected her to disappear.  Instead, she helped us upgrade to faster internet and helped us set up weekly drinking water delivery!  These two things would’ve been impossible for us to do ourselves because the only Thai we speak is “Hello”, “Thank You”, and “How much”.
  • Utilities: Ask how much utility costs are – some condos inflate the government rate of 4 baht/unit for electricity!  Electric bills can be paid at your neighborhood 7-11, water bill is paid to the condo administrative office.  Maybe in the U.S. you should be able to pay bills somewhere you can also buy beer, I think that would take the sting out of winter heating bills.
  • Apartment Deposits are paid in cash!  For this apartment, we had to pay 2 months security deposit plus 1st month’s rent at contract signing, or 42,000 THB (about $1300 USD).  That’s a lot of cash, so bring some along or spread your ATM withdrawals out over several days!
  • Rent is also paid in cash!  Every month, we’ll take 14,000 THB to the bank and deposit it into our landlord’s account.
  • If you have time several months before arriving in Thailand, start your search on websites such as airbnb, flipkey, or tripadvisor vacation rentals.  Send messages to apartment owners to ask if they offer a monthly rate – more often than not they will knock several thousand baht off of the listing.  We started doing this after we arrived, but found that everything was already booked up.

We don’t think we’ve made a huge mistake in picking the small apartment; our mistake was expecting to find a huge, modern apartment in an awesome building with a great location and mountain view for just $500/month.  Because of this, we strung our search out over 4 days instead of going with our gut and renting the first apartment we saw.  Only time will tell whether picking the small apartment was a mistake – if we’re still married in 6 months, I’m calling it a success.

Have you had any crazy experiences searching for lodging on your travels?  If so, leave us a comment – we’d love to hear about your experience!  Safe travels, friends.


Mistake: Connecting in Beijing

Our Mistake

Kevin and I made a classic mistake when booking our flights to Thailand – we blindly picked the cheapest one-way tickets we could find.  We flew two legs on Hainan Air: First a 12-hour flight on a 787-8 to Beijing, then a 5-hour flight on to Bangkok.  Somehow, Hainan blew away our original stellar seat reservations, and it took some convincing to even get two seats together.  We ended up in the exit row, but that just meant close proximity to the lavatory, which is never awesome.  Flying on a 787-8 was certainly fun, but I somehow expected more; I think the everyday wear and tear on this airplane dulled the awesomeness of the 787.  The food on the flight was definitely better than our United Airlines food experience from our flights in 2013, but that’s a pretty low bar to begin with.

After arriving in Beijing, several things happened that really chapped my ass (not literally, of course. I wouldn’t typically write about that sort of thing on here unless the situation was especially dire…):
  1. The air conditioning was clearly broken in the entire airport. I’m talking 82+ degree Fahrenheit temperatures inside.
  2. The airport employees all seemed to disagree on where we should go to make our international connection.  Everyone we asked gave us different directions.  Eventually we found a few other Americans and realized we all needed to follow the “Domestic Transfers” sign rather than the “International Transfers” sign.  This meant we had to exit out through immigration and security, re-check in at the Hainan counter, then immediately re-enter through immigration and security.  Kevin and I both got full-on pat downs from security officers who weren’t wearing latex gloves, that can’t have been fun for them since we were sweating like crazy and hadn’t showered at that point for 24-hours!
  3. We were uncertain about what to do with our bags.  In Seattle, the check-in agent informed us that we would not need to pick our bags up at all in Beijing.  But when we reached Beijing, we saw our bags making the rounds on the baggage carousel!  We talked to a couple folks who said we could just leave them and they’d make it safely to Bangkok.  We waited in line to talk to an agent at the Hainan check-in counter, who took our baggage information from us in order to ensure the bags were transferred correctly.  Luckily, our bags safely made it to Bangkok!  Oh joy, we don’t have to walk around naked this week!  (Though that’s definitely tempting in these 100 degree temperatures.)
  4. I almost got quarantined!  Because the airport was so warm, and we had been awake for 24 hours, I was flushed and red, and an immigration agent pulled Kevin and I into a small room to take my temperature.  They had two broken electronic temperature readers, so I had to use an old school glass thermometer to make sure I wasn’t feverish and bringing in some sort of disease to China.  You’ll never guess where they stuck the therometer to take my temp!  My armpit!  (What were you thinking?  Please get your mind out of the gutter.)  I accidentally dropped one glass thermometer on the floor and it shattered, so that wasn’t helpful.  Luckily, I was running at about 98.9 degrees, and they let us go.
Our Recommendations
  1. Don’t fly through Beijing.  We haven’t flown through Seoul Incheon, but have a hunch that is the best option for travel to Bangkok from West Coast locations.  We flew through Tokyo Narita for our trip to SE Asia in 2013, and had a much better experience there than in Beijing.  There was no question about where we should go and what we should do in Tokyo, it was just easier.  However, all the food was SO EXPENSIVE there, and the airport was a little bit old.
  2. General international travel information – never ever unpack your liquids bag and don’t buy a large water you won’t be able to drink before reaching your second flight.  In both Beijing and Tokyo where we’ve connected en route to Thailand, we had to go through security again, which means complying with the liquids-in-a-ziplock-bag rule.
  3. Have you used Google Flights yet? is our new favorite way to search for flights.  You can enter only your departure city, and use the map to see where you can travel most cheaply for your dates.  It’s also possible to enter your departure and arrival city, and look at a bar graph showing which departure date gives you the cheapest flight.  We also always use when selecting seats on our flights – it helps avoid missteps like sitting too near the lavatory or booking a seat that doesn’t recline.
  4. If you do fly through Beijing, here’s what we now realize we should’ve done (note: it’s possible there was just construction occurring which blocked the “international transfers” route in the airport – it’s always best to confirm with airport personnel where you need to go.):
    • When booking your flight, ensure you have ample transfer time in Beijing.  We had 4 hours, and would recommend you absolutely have at least 2 hours transfer time.
    • After arrival in Beijing, follow the signs for domestic transfers.
    • Try to stay cool!  Powder your face, try not to sweat, keep the redness at bay.  Whatever you do, don’t come here with a fever.  We may never see you again.
    • Exit out through immigration, proceeding to the baggage claim area.  At this point, you can pick up your bags if that makes you feel safer.  We wished we had just snagged our bags at the baggage claim and kept them with us since it would’ve been disastrous to lose them.  However, if you do leave them at the baggage carousel, they should magically reach your final destination.
    • As you’re exiting the baggage claim area, you may get stopped by customs so they can scan your bag.  We were waved through.  After exiting customs, take the escalator up to the second floor, and re-enter back into the international departures area.  You’ll have to show your passport and send your bags through a scanner.
    • After the scanner, check the sign to figure out which check-in counter you should use for your flight, then proceed there to queue up.
    • If you picked up your bags, re-check them with the agent at the counter.  If not, it’s a good idea to stand in line anyway to give them your baggage information.  Even if you didn’t check bags at all, it can be a good idea to check in at the counter to get your updated departure gate information.
    • Proceed towards your gate.  You’ll queue up, show your passport (again), get a thorough patdown at the security checkpoint, then you’re nearly home free.
This is the first real blog post at wevemadeahugemistake!  Now that you’ve heard so much about my chapped ass, we’d like to know a little about you.  Please leave us a comment letting us know who you are so we know who’s reading our blog.  Safe Travels!