Ladies and gentleman, I will be traveling to Shanghai for the opening of Shanghai Disneyland. Yes, it means we will have coverage over there for this brand new park. But, before I get to this adventure, I thought I’d start a traveling blog. Well, sort of about the travel and sort of a blog. It will only have a few posts, and all will be about the journey to the journey. But, through it I’ll give some tips and a bit of a guide to getting to overseas Disney parks.
- This Isn’t My First Rodeo
Firstly, let me say that this is not the first time I have gone on an overseas trip. I’ve been to Japan, Singapore, Thailand, and China once before. I know enough to go through steps to get there, like booking flights, passport obtaining, etc. I know how to be a foreigner in other places and not freak out. Yet, it still has me researching, and planning like crazy despite having so much experience. I also feel some nervousness about it being a foreign place and not knowing much. Perhaps the nervousness is that I’m going solo on this trip. Yeah, that’s probably it. But, for a chance to go to the opening of a Disney park (something I’ve never done before) and to visit two parks I’ve never been to I would forego the butterflies in my stomach to embark on the voyage.
- Conquering Your Fear Of Flying AKA Booking The Airline
I don’t actually have a fear of flying. I’m a very odd person that finds it exciting when there’s turbulence. It reminds me of Star Tours. So, I don’t mind the 100,000 hour flight from the US to Asia (it’s not that long, more like 12 hours). I usually take enough stuff to keep me occupied, plus there’s usually a lot of movies to watch on the flight’s tiny seat screen. So, what is my fear of flying? Well, still not a fear, but more annoyance. I don’t like the airport process.
But, this doesn’t have a lot to do with my booking of the flight, so let’s move on.
Let me start with how this trip came about. I have figured I would visit Shanghai Disneyland sometime in my life. I like China in general, and want to go to every Disney park as part of my bucket list. As construction has been unfolding it seemed like the opening date would be in Spring or late Summer or Winter of this year. None of those would fit with my work schedule. Oh well. Just visit when I could. But, lo and behold, the announcement came up: June 16. That was the perfect date for any traveling I could do!
Once I knew it was possible, it needed to move into probable. Just because the date was fitting nicely, there’s always the matter of travel time, and what else is there to do overseas. Where Shanghai was the aim, Hong Kong is a mere 2+ hour flight from there. Why not visit Hong Kong Disneyland and knock two of the Disney parks off my list? Now it became how do two cities fit into a travel schedule? Hmmmm….
How I planned out my dates was wanting to spend two days in each park and at least one day for other touristy things. That meant 6 total days just for sights. Overseas flights take a lot of time, and can have weird layovers. Factor in two days for flying in the world and two coming back (although the two coming back doesn’t quite make two because of time difference, where it looks like you only spend a day in the air). Then there’s travel between Hong Kong and Shanghai, one day each. This is getting to be a long trip! It ended up being about 10 days out of the country. Not too shabby of a trip spent in an international place.
Of course, I wanted the cheapest, but not scariest flight possible. Kayak and Priceline were my friends. Priceline ended up winning out in total. Oh, and here’s something I found out – it’s cheaper to fly in and out of Hong Kong than it is to Shanghai. I ended up parking the trip to Shanghai in the middle of the Hong Kong excursion. That means going to Hong Kong, then Shanghai, then back to Hong Kong then back to the US. The flights cost less than flying in and out of Shanghai, and even doing one way tickets to Hong Kong, Shanghai and back to the US!
International travel lesson #1 – Don’t just search for one particular way to get there. Check surrounding airports in your area, and if you’re doing the multiple stops like me, check which city is cheaper to fly into. Yes, it’s a lot of research, but worth it.
- No Vacancy?
Once flights were booked it was time to figure out where to stay. The hard thing for me was that I didn’t even know if I could get into Shanghai Disneyland on opening day yet. Yep. I’m that crazy at planning all of this. Tickets weren’t on sale yet and I was booking flights, hotels, and other plans. But, I’ll get to why I did this and it has to do with travel visas. Because I didn’t know if I could get into the new park, I searched for hotels that I could cancel without a penalty.
International travel lesson #2 – Find good places to stay, but that won’t penalize cancellations.
How did I choose and book? Traveladvisor.com was my biggest help. There are guest reviews, and they easily tell if you can cancel the reservation with no penalty. I booked the hotels for Hong Kong (the front end and back end stays), and also for Shanghai. My reason for flexibility for Hong Kong was not just about possible changes in dates, it was that I was still choosing if I wanted to stay at a Disney hotel in Hong Kong (more on that in later post). My other great research tools were Kayak (you can tell I go there a lot) and friends. Yes, I know people that have gone before. They help. Ask them stuff.
- Visa, Mastercard, Passports
Once all this stuff was booked, it was time to be sure I could go! I got my passport renewed when I went to Japan 4 years ago. They’re good for 10 years. Also, they take quite a bit of time to process. Anticipate applying for it in 6 months before your trip, but I suggest at least 8. I know that requires a lot of planning and preparation in advance, but, hey! It’s an international trip! Who really plans those on a whim?
Visas – a document in addition to your passport that says you can go into the country – doesn’t take as long to process as a passport. It can take 3 months, but mine took about a week. Hong Kong, as of this time, does not require a visa to enter in and visit. But, Shanghai/China does. I recommend using a company that specializes in getting passports and visas for people. I looked on Yelp for a local one, but also did a general Google search. I was able to find one close to me and went that route, mostly because the ones I found on Google require sending your passport to them and they send the passport to the local Chinese Embassy. I wanted to see the face of the person that was taking my passport to parts unknown.
International travel lesson #3 – Visas take less time to process than passports. Plan on 3 months for a visa (you never know what will happen) and 6 months for passport applying.
To Be Continued
The journey to the journey has just begun! I haven’t even told you how I got Shanghai Disneyland tickets, if I got any Disney hotels, how I’m packing, and what else I’m planning. I’ll have more posts coming. Stay tuned!