Travel, travel, OMG, travel

September 24, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

After my experience traveling to India for the first time in ten years I felt as though I was prepared for my next trip. That next trip was Beijing which was last week. I'd even booked a hotel room that was walking distance from Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City so that I could spend at least a couple of evenings wandering around and experimenting with doing photos with my mobile. I just didn't have room to pack the DSLR in my bags and I refused to check a bag on this trip. I even planned for the cab fare to come out of my own pocket since the hotel most of us book is within walking distance to our office. Unfortunately, old man Murphy had other plans in mind. By Monday night I was beyond fatigued (I arrived Sunday afternoon and had a really, really good night's sleep Sunday night) and was starting to feel the signs of something coming on. By Tuesday morning I knew I was coming down with something and by Tuesday night I was at a local pharmacy looking for anything to at least somewhat abate the misery. I'd managed to catch my first cold in over two years on my way over to Beijing. The cold, which has now turned into a sinus infection, took me out for the week. It was all I could do to make it into the office and I ended up taking a sick day anyway; wrapped in a t-shirt, shorts, robe and bundled under the covers on Thursday; I couldn't get warm to save my life Thursday afternoon. That is not something you can mitigate for unfortunately.

However, I can share some helpful tips if you plan to travel to China. Entering China with batteries won't be a problem but attempting to leave China (boarding your flight)  will be a problem. The security services at the Beijing airport will want to see proof of what capacity in watt hours of your batteries. I entered China with eight batteries for my vaporizer as well as charging banks. I left with one. I presume I was able to keep the one I did because they didn't catch that it was a charging bank because it certainly DID NOT have the capacity listed on it anywhere either. It has enough capacity to charge an iPhone X once, so not a huge amount. Of the six lithium ion batteries I had for my vaporizer, they all went in the trash. Along with a fairly expensive charging bank with two USB ports that plugs directly into a wall socket. All because I couldn't tell them how many watt hours these batteries contained. None of them exceeded the 160wH they enforce but because I couldn't prove that I had to give up in frustration and tell the services to throw them out. I couldn't figure out, on the spot, to explain that 3000 milliamps does not exceed 160wH. And, honestly, who the hell is going to know how many watt hours their battery holds? I would not be surprised, though, if my laptop's battery exceeded that 160wH cap but, of course, the laptop was fine. It ended up feeling like things were being confiscated, "just because".

So if you travel overseas, I'd recommend traveling with as few batteries as possible. Purchase batteries that clearly state the capacity. If you have an airline you use frequently, give them feedback about providing the ability to recharge devices. I fly with a particular airline pretty much exclusively and I have given feedback on the inability recharge on flights. They seem to have taken this seriously as this past year it's been more difficult to be on a flight that didn't have charging ports or outlets than it was to have them. That's important if there is going to be more scrutiny about batteries being brought on to flights. I'd rather be able to charge at the gate and on the plane than carry around extra weight and not be hassled in security as well.

Flying international through DTW (Detroit). On the outbound flight all was well. DTW is a fairly modern airport and terminal A (McNamara) is HUGE. I'm pretty sure it's the first airport I've been in that has an indoor tram. My experience on the outbound flight was good and I actually liked DTW as my connecting point on the way to Beijing even though I wasn't looking forward to the extended flight time (instead of Seattle). Coming in through DTW, however, was a different experience. Basically, it sucked. Having Global Entry was certainly an advantage but it only offered me the ability to get to the security checkpoint before the line became an hour long wait. There was no TSA precheck line to transfer to a domestic flight, for example. I also overheard TSA agents joking about how it was going to suck for everyone coming in on the Beijing flight to go through the one lane they had open... while they were just standing around apparently not doing anything (not kidding). There were three other lanes at the checkpoint that were closed. I'm not disparaging TSA here, because my experience going through security and speaking with TSA agents is overwhelmingly positive. If I had to go through a TSA checkpoint to get work here in Raleigh everyday it would be annoying but I'd have ZERO complaint about the agents in RDU. I definitely can't say that about the agents in DTW. It just confirmed I made the right choice moving away from the area, it was a reminder why I don't miss living there. I also found border protection agents less than friendly, comparatively speaking. I usually chat the agents up when I'm going through because I'm really happy to be home in the US. DTW was the only airport I've not been told "welcome home" by a border control agent. I actually look forward to hearing that because on some level it just feels really good; especially coming from a complete stranger. I have been told "welcome home" at every airport I've re-entered the US except DTW. Maybe they have stopped that practice? I hope not because after being overseas and on a long or really long flight that goes a long way to just make all the annoyances of traveling via air (which isn't that great) tolerable. Who wouldn't want to hear that?

From a business perspective, my trip to Beijing was very productive and useful. From a personal perspective my plant went to crap and it was a total bust and dealing with Chinese security put an exclamation point on that.

Take aways:

  • Minimize or eliminate rechargeable batteries
  • Purchase batteries that clearly state capacity
  • Avoid DTW on the return trip to the US
  • Paying for Global Entry if you travel overseas more than a couple times a year is worth the price
  • Stick with one airline for your travels. Don't go with just the most cut rate flight prices. The airline will make it worth your while for your loyalty and in the end you won't be saving that much money. The airlines are, usually, pretty competitive. I won't endorse any particular airline on this blog but I do have my preferred airline. They are competitive and they make it worth my while to be loyal.
  • Be prepared for unexpected hassles. It's just the nature of traveling. If you expect everything to go just swimmingly you will be disappointed. That applies whether it's domestic or overseas.
  • If you are flying with an unfamiliar airline (like in my case Air India), do some research on them. How often do they cancel flights? How often are they on time? What are flyers experiences with them? I'll never fly Air India again but if I'd done my homework up front I'd have never booked that ticket in the first place. The difference in ticket prices was less than $50 US. Definitely worth the avoided stress I experienced.

Planning on traveling overseas somewhere you've never been? I'd be happy to answer questions! While I haven't been to a ton of countries outside the US (15) I can probably answer your question(s) or help find the answer to your question.

'Til the next post. :-)


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