Planning A Trip
So you've decided that as graduation gift, you're going to Tokyo for a shopping trip! Or maybe you're planning to do your Masters degree in US, or going to Europe for a new job. People travel for many reasons, and for a budget conscious lolita (you'll want to save on the travel and spend on the shopping, yes?) planning the trip usually makes the bulk of your travel budget. You'll want to travel on a relatively safe airline, yet not pay very much and have a good amount of luggage space for all your needs.
First, know why you're travelling. Are you going on a holiday? Going for a convention? Planning to work as a JET teacher? Or transferring to a new university? This is the most important part, because it decides what kind of tickets and benefits you can recieve based on your visa purpose. Secondly, realise that airfares quoted in websites such as zuji.com and other budget sites are usually wrong, because they don't include airport tax. Airport tax can range from $120 to nearly $800, depending on the airline and how many transits you go through. So you might have a $300 ticket, but you have to transit in Bangkok and Taiwan, so your overall ticket could range from $1,100 to $1,300.
for vacation/short term stays
The CHEAPEST airtickets are group tickets. They come in sets of 2s, 3s etc etc therefore the MOST expensive airticket is a solo travelling ticket. Pair tickets are known as GV-2s (commonly known as 'honeymoon' tickets to agents) while GV-4s are known as 'family' tickets. The thing about these tickets is that you don't actually need to be related or know the other person to use them, just as long as you fulfil the numerical group. A GV ticket can give you anything from a 10% to 40% off the actual ticket price of flying alone.
But you're stuck in a situation where no one else is travelling, but you want a discount. Very simple. Search for plane-sharemates. These can be strangers from a forum, random people on facebook or distant relatives you haven't met in ages. You don't actually need to know or care about them, because once the plane touches down you're free to go on your own and stay in a different hostel etc etc whatever. The point is merely to fill up the GV people-criteria. What's the best kind of plane-share person? Someone quiet, single and doesn't snore on the plane. Even at the very worst when you get an obnoxiously belligerent person, you STILL get the discount as long as you get the right amount of people. I reckon I can tolerate an annoying human for the next 8hrs if it means saving a few hundred off my ticket.
Right. 20% off is a good start, but can you cut it down any further? Watch for offpeak/peak seasons. This sounds easy, but it's not because you have to balance between your OWN country's peak/offpeak and the OTHER country's offpeak/peak. For instance, travelling to Japan in December is usually considered 'offpeak' but in Singapore that's when the school holiday starts so the travel agencies still consider it 'peak'. In the same way, Australia considers early April 'offpeak', but travelling to Japan in early April is 'peak'. The best thing is to do some research by asking travel agencies in your country when is the offpeak season in YOUR country and then matching it up with the known public holidays in -wherever-. Secondly, most travel fairs happen a month or so before offpeak seasons to 'sign on' travellers. These fairs are usually great because an early 'sign on' can shave another 5%-15% off your ticket.
Third, booking times. Most non-budget airlines prefer early booking. When you book early, you tend to have the BEST prices the airline can offer because there's very little/no competition yet. I always book my tickets at least 6 months in advance, and 8 months earlier I start telling people where I'm planning to travel so they can help me scout around. Early booking usually gives you about $200 bucks off the actual ticket, depending on the distance you fly. If you're flying domestic and on a budget airline, you might want to take the risk and actually book late. Budget airline profits are based on how full each plane is, and the turn-around times for each therefore once they see a non-filled plane they start getting anxious and tickets get cheaper and cheaper before the actual flight date. I've seen a friend of mine get a domestic ticket from Melbourne to Sydney for as low as $65 AUD before, airport tax inclusive.
Finally, company accounts. If you have a friend doing admin for a MNC, know someone who works as a PA or does anything to do with air travel - ask them to book your ticket on a company account. A company account is usually the account which a cooperation uses to book flights for its staff and it's usually much much much cheaper than normal travel because it does 'bulk' purchasing. You basically book through the account, but pay for it yourself (usually via credit card). This not only ensures a piority booking (great for last minute travel/changes!) but also a cheaper ticket, roughly 5%-10% off.
So, if you were to use all those methods above, assuming an economy return ticket to Japan is 1000 USD including airport tax, direct flight without transit on a non-budget airline.
1200USD -10% (GV-2) -10%(offpeak) -100(early booking) -5% (company a/c)
total ticket price: 800 USD
While all of the above also apply to long-term stays, the most important concern for long-term stays is getting everything over. Most airlines only allow 20-25kg for economy class passengers, but when you're planning to restart your life somewhere you'll need much more than that. You also don't want to pay 1000xxxxxx amount of excess baggage fees, which are not only hideously expensive but also infinitely annoying considering all the custom forms you have to fill up.
What a lot of people don't realise is that MOST national carriers (as long as endorsed by your country) have special waviers for its own citizens travelling aboard. In America it'll be American Airlines, in UK it'll be the British Airways while for me, I'll be using SIA since I'm from Singapore. These waviers usually give people excess baggage allowance FOR FREE so long as you can prove that you are indeed working/staying long term. (the excess limit varies from country to country though, for SG it's 40kg, for Canada it's also 40kg too but I think Philippines is 60kg and IDK about US/UK)
1. Ask your travel agent if such a special wavier exists, double check with the Govt. Immigration Authority so you know exactly what it entails (and get a second opinion! the first travel agent I went to didn't even know about it)
2. Prepare forms of proof. For a working visa, you'll need a copy of the approved work visa, a letter showing that you got the job and your start date as well as the usual identity card, passport etc. For a student visa you'll need a letter of acceptance from the insituition, a confirmation of the student visa and the other usuals. All documents should be photocopied at least 3 times. One to travel with, one for you to keep in your home country and put in a bank/give to parent/someone you trust.
Okay. Assume that for some reason you exceed whatever limit the wavier gave you, and you really really need to bring your stuff with you but don't want to pay fees. Another way is known as excess baggage as cargo. A week before (at least 3 days), call up your airline and tell them you have excess baggage which you want to fly as cargo. This means that your items won't be flown as baggage but checked in as flight cargo. Usually the airline will give you a flat price ie.$50bucks in which you can transport up to 80kg as cargo weight. Your stuff will still be on the same plane as you, but just put under a different category. You'll have to fill in extra custom declaration forms but it's a small price to pay really. I don't recommend it for fragile items, but things such as books, magazines, ricecookers (yes, really. I brought my own ricecooker from Singapore to Aust because I don't want to live without mine! D:), clothes can be checked in as cargo. The best part is that you can usually collect the items within 3 working days or less and it's faster than airmailing yet around the same price as sea shipping.
Lastly, a bit on frequent flyer points. This applies to both really, because it's the extremely useful. The truth is that most frequent flyer cards are absolutely free and that you don't even need to travel very much to take advantage of it. What counts is mileage. For instance my brother travels only twice a year, back and forth from London. I travel way more than he does, but he still chalks up more mileage than I do simply because the miles that he covers is greater than mine. I rarely spend more than 8hrs on a plane, but each flight he covers 16hrs in terms of mileage.
Points are great because you can
1. redeem them for tickets (and thus, cut the price by nearly half or even absolutely free!)
2. use them to upgrade to business class or claim baggage fees
3. use them for piority bookings
4. get discounts from SEVERAL airlines if they are within the same alliance
The only downside to it is that nowadays I stick to the same airline because I want to build points. Some credit cards i.e. AMEX does it automatically for you though, so scout around to see what is most suitable for your needs.
Before You Travel
Packing a suitcase
You should pack as much as this equation:
number of hours to wear lolita x duration of trip
This assumes that you don't have access to a washing machine or launderette, so if you have access to either you can cut it by half. Logically, for a week's worth of lolita (7 days) wearing you need 2 skirts, a JSK/OP, 2-3 cutsews depending on how much you pespire. Petticoats should be packed by inverting it inside out, folding the flared sides inwards to form a rectangle, placed into a plastic bag then rolled from waistband to hem. Most clothes can be packed this way as well. Pictorially:
All suitcases should be tagged with an ID with your name, address and country of origin as well as whatever stickers i.e. FRAGILE that you need. Zips should be locked either with a keylock or numerical lock. I generally prefer number locks for suitcases because it's easy to lose keys and the type of number you chose should be something personal and random ie. When is my dog's birthday? or What's my mother-in-law's phone number? Don't chose something like your birthday since it's usually tagged in your baggage info when you check in. I also tend to buy travel insurance that covers luggage contents, because I'm paranoid and Heathrow's track record does not make me feel any better :/
Please use internet check-in. It is the best and most wonderful thing that has happened. Most airlines do this nowadays, and I suggest you take full use of it. Internet check-in usually takes only 30mins, gets you a better seat and cuts the queuing by more than half. You don't need to stand in the queue at the airport anymore, simply go straight to the internet counter and just do it for baggage (which means you only need to arrive an 1hr earlier as opposed to 2hrs) Certain carriers i.e. AA doesn't even need you to do that, you can collect your boarding pass from an e-machine they have at airports. Just type your reference number to the touchscreen and bingo! boarding pass.
The best advantage of internet check-in is choosing a seat. Consider that you're in lolita, so you need a bit more space therefore an aisle seat is a good choice. You get a bit more room, and easier to get out for the bathroom. Next is legroom. The seats with the MOST legroom are those in the front of each plane section, where the large screen and emergency exits are. Those are really the best seats. HOWEVER, they are usually reserved for people with infants/young children or disabled with wheelchairs. If you're flying a popular family route, don't risk it. You don't really want to sit next to a screaming kid who may or may not puke on your dress. Instead, go for the next best. Somewhere in the third section of the plane (or first section of economy), at the aisle, about 3-4 rows down from the front so you can sleep through the flight. It also ensures you get enough attention from the staff, since the gallery and washrooms are nearby. Other issues to consider is the size of plane (airbus, boeing or jumbo?) and how many seats in a row. It's a bit like gambling, but hey - you win some you lose some.
How to travel on board in lolita clothes
First, consider where you're travelling to. Are you travelling from a cold country to a warm one? What's the weather like on arrival? Once you know, you can decide on how to wear and what to wear. Ideally both places will have the same weather, but that's not always the case. The trick to this is knowing how to layer, and what kind of fabrics to buy from.
cold to warm
Let's say you're travelling from USA (winter, 10 deg and below) to Philippines (tropical, 28-35 deg). You'll want to wear something warm enough so you won't freeze, but light enough for arrival. A sample coordinate would be:
1. heavy coat (cashmere is the best choice, second is wool. cashmere is both warm and light, thus easily foldable and packed away)
2. light cardigan (for the sheltered areas/flight)
3. short-sleeve cutsew (in cotton, for arrival)
4. skirt (in cotton, for arrival)
6. socks/tights and shoes
You'll want to wear something cotton underneath because it'll be really hot once you arrive and more comfortable than knit fabrics. If you're layering socks/tights, before the plane touches down you can remove them (usually the pilot will announce the descent 1hr before actually landing). Sometimes it's too cold to even walk out in socks/tights, in which I opt to wear jeans OVER the socks, which I take off during the flight/once I reach the airport. Skinny black jeans kinda resemble tights anyway, and easily srunched and stuffed into a bag.
JSK/OP + cardigan OR cutsew* + coat
*you can wear the cutsew under or over the OP/JSK. This works particularly well for JSKs/OPs with plain bodices.
warm to cold
It's actually easier to travel warm to cold, although it means you carry more in your hand-carry bag. Let's assume you're travelling from Singapore (28-35 deg, equatorial) to Shanghai (-2 to 12 deg, winter). As usual, layering and fabric choice is important. Instead wearing 'cooler' fabrics inside ie. cotton, you'll want something warm directly against the skin (but not something that will deepfry you before you hit the airport). A good choice would be karumi, sometimes written as kurumi. It's actually a type of light cotton with wool blend, and can be worn as both a summer AND winter fabric. BTSSB has released a karumi JSK before, and JM/ETC makes cutsew dresses, tops and other casual wear in that fabric. Karumi is also blessedly quite crumple-resistent and slightly stretchy. The only problem I have with it is that it can be quite....static LOL
Another good choice would be a long JSK/OP/skirt. A cotton long skirt would be protect your knees and feet from cold, and yet remain light enough to wear to the plane. It also has the advantage of not needing any bloomers, since the length will keep any panty flashing away.
Much like the first version, a cardigan and coat is essential. For travelling to a warm, a light cotton cardigan would be fine, but travelling to a colder country - a warmer wool knit might be more sensible. Shoes and socks must be chosen with this in mind as well. Thicker socks made of wool or thermal tights, layered would be more useful than thinner cotton-spandex blends. You can check the thickness of the tights by stretching it lightly and holding it against a bright surface - the more 'holes' in the weave/transparent, the less warm it would be.
There are however, several rules for traveling in lolita clothes which you shouldn't break for your own comfort and consideration of other passengers.
1. DO NOT wear a petticoat. It not only gets flat, but you'll also annoy everyone else sitting next to you because you take up so much seating space. Unless you're travelling first class, your petticoat will probably spill into someone else's seat. For the same reason, I strongly suggest against wearing anything with a bustle-back skirt. Not only will the ruffles get crumples, it is also inconsiderate to other passengers. If you must, use a built-in one like those that AP and Meta has inside the skirt. Bloomers are great for this, and protect your modesty too.
2. DO NOT wear delicate fabrics like chiffon or georgette. It'll get caught on something, tear and you'll end up crying. I had the very unfortunately incident of wearing a chiffon dress to the plane (since I had a dinner event on the same night) and it got caught on the edges of the seat where chair meets the arm. Not fun, and once I landed there was a tear in my skirt :/ I repaired it later but you can still see it where the fabric tore since it's so delicate.
3. be sensible. If you really can't, don't. This applies mainly to countries with strict rules on dressing i.e. Islamic countries in which it's better to where whatever is customary than lolita. It also applies to things such as backpacking trips, areas which are highly volatile or any such situations.
Boarding and Flight
The thing to know is that all airplanes are dry and have lower oxygen levels. That's why some people get sleepy the moment they get on planes, because the sudden drop in oxygen makes them drowsy. So the things to combat is dryness and to compensate for it. Unfortunately, new aviation rules state that you can't bring lotions, gels or creams on board above 100ml but you still don't want to look like crap when you land. Dryness btw, causes your pores to enlarge, skin to sag, eyes to itch and turn red while the pale swallow colour is due to the drop in oxygen. If you're unlucky, it might cause your hair to become oilier because senbum will overproduce to combat the lack of moisture in the air.
Firstly, moisturiser. You can either get small samples from makeup counters and hoard it for every trip or decant it into eyedrop bottles. Eyedrop bottles are great because they're small, transparent, made of hard plastic and have a nozzle that is perfect for dispensing creams. To use them you need an empty used bottle, remove the nozzle with a small screwdriver and then rinse it once with medicated alcohol and again with running water. Fill it up with moisturizer of choice and pop the nozzle and cap back in. Put a tag on it with the brand and moisturizer expiry date. I also bring eyedrops as well because my eyes itch like mad on any flight longer than 3hrs.
Second, hydration. Flights are really cool nowadays, they offer you wine and beer on planes! But really, alcohol and anything sugary dehydrates the body so just stick to drinking water or fruit juice. You can't bring water up the plane anymore (unless it's sealed and godknowswhat) but you *CAN* bring an empty water bottle. So bring an empty one, and get the steward/stewardess to fill it up for you once you board so you have your own supply of water. Drink enough water regularly, because you're experiencing greater water loss than on ground.
Third, bring something non-digital like a book. You could be like me with a dead ipod (died the night before), broken inflight movies and a laptop with only 3hrs of battery left in an 8hr flight. Or the best thing is simply to sleep.
The rest of it is ensure that you know the travel guidelines and is prepared for it. Always be aware on what's the latest in hand-carry criteria because it changes all the time and varies from place to place. If you're carrying a laptop, make sure it's easily accessible because the bag and laptop have to be seperately x-rayed. Pack all toiletries in clear ziplock bags for easy inspections. Put your passport, boarding pass and e-ticket into a clear plastic pouch (I use a hello kitty one<3) with a zip for access. Have a pen ready for doing arrival/customs/departure forms, and save yourself some hassle by doing them 15mins before landing. Some emergencies can never be prepared for, but knowledge of where you are/what you have gives you an advantage to safer passage. Dressing in a victorian inspired fashion doesn't mean lolitas have to be helpless in the modern world, so keep an eye out, good luck and happy travelling!
*if there's anything I missed/needs to be corrected, please comment and I will edit it and credit it to you, thanks!
for your luggage lock, be sure to choose one which is Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved. This means that the airport security folks can open and re-lock your baggage if they need to do an inspection. Otherwise, they will cut your lock, which can leave your stuff vulnerable for the rest of the trip!
For flights within or passing through the US (so, Domestic and some international?):
at the airport where I work you can't bring in any gels, liquids, or anything like that above 3 oz, even if it's sealed. and all of the 3 oz bottles must fit into a 1 quart plastic ziplock bag. Most countries have the 100 ml rule but if you're doing a transfer flight you have to have a separate plastic bag for the liquids or they'll take it away from you.
and if the U.S. customs people are there, be real nice and answer their nosy questions. they have ungodly power and can search you VERY VERY VERY thoroughly. and if they think you swallowed something to hide it, they can go crazy on you.
There's a limit on the amount of money and currency-like things (such as traveler's checks) that you can take across borders. I think the limit in and out of the U.S. is $10,000, which is a lot but don't take more than that
For seat selection, I really recommend Seat Guru (http://www.seatguru.com/) - they have saved me from making bad seating choices in the past! All you need to know is your airline and the plane type that you'll be flying on, and it's really easy to use.
A recent thing I've started to use when packing my suitcase is those vacuum pack bags, they're great you're often able to fit double you normally would in a suitcase and it's especially good for lolita clothes as they can be quite poofy and space consuming. They also do a travel version where you roll the bags to get out the excess air instead of using a vacumm cleaner.
Also I would suggest shoes that are easy to take off, DON'T wear your BTSSB heart buckle shoes like I did once it took me about 10mins to take them off and I was under pressure from the watchful eyes of airport security and the rapidly growing queue of travellers behind me XD
recently US has started charging fees for check in bags (before it was free) -- $15 for the 1st, $25 for the 2nd, i believe. the weight limits for check-in bags are 50 lbs. when you're traveling short term (think -- a couple days to maybe 2 weeks), it is easier to just have a carry-on suitcase with not a lot of clothes packed on. this allows you to bypass check-in and lets you move around easier.
Be very careful about what one can bring in and out of a country, especially food. I once had an apple in my luggage that I forgot about, and the contraband-sniffing dog found it. The customs lady said she could have fined me $300 US!
Have duplicate copies of all your hotel info, passport, local embassy phone numbers, international numbers for your credit card company, etc. and also email a copy to yourself. If you lose it, you can go to an internet cafe to retrieve your info.
for Canada, once you have been searched once, they will blacklist you and search you anytime they feel like it if you ever enter canada again. even if it appears like you don't have any dangerous articles in your suitcase. ^^
be uber-careful with your drinks, especially if you're wearing Lolita. Most flights get bumpy at one point or another, and you do NOT want to spill coke all over your favourite skirt... so either wear an apron, put a napkin or such on your lap, or bring an empty bottle (though sometimes they don't even let you bring an empty bottle, for some reason...)to pour your drinks into, and drink from that instead.