International Travel 101

Over the past 24 hours, getting on the plane has been a bit of a rough road with a few speed bumps, like spending six hours on the phone with insurance and having to get some medicine from the pharmacy at 2 a.m. before our 6 a.m. flight because of a system error. Oh, the joys of moving overseas. 

But, miraculously, we made it to the airport on time - actually, 30 minutes before the check-in desk opened. Yeah, that’s right, we got there about 4 a.m. Props to Jim & Christine (Andrew’s parents) for getting up at 3 a.m and riding with us in the church van to the airport. 

There were a few people hanging out by the check-in desk, early birds like us, and their expressions went from mild interest to disbelief to outright laughter as they watched us bring bag after bag into the terminal. It was a bit like those slapstick comedy movies you see of person after person coming out of a car, which seemingly has been packed with a hundred people. 

(Oh, wait, that actually happens in Cambodia!)
Lesson #1: Be nice to your check-in agent. 
We’ve checked in dozens of times for international flights, between Andrew and I, and your check-in agent is the gatekeeper, the giver of the golden ticket. Sometimes they’re chatty and friendly, and take advantage of that to strike a sympathetic chord in them by telling them about your work and little personal stories. I’ve gotten free overweight bags that way. 

If they’re the no-nonsense, don’t-mess-with-me type of agent, just sit and let them do their business. Don’t ask for anything, because you probably won’t get it. But if you don’t push your luck, they can let you get through with some stuff too, like not paying for that five pounds overage that you “accidentally” put in your three tubs.
So our check-in process took about 30 minutes all together, but went as smoothly as it can when you’re checking 10 bags - about 600 pounds of luggage.
Lesson #2: If you switch from American Airlines to Korean Air in Dallas, you need a new boarding pass. Even if they don’t tell you that in Kansas City.
We landed in Dallas about 7:45 a.m. and were picked up from the airport by Andrew’s Aunt Deedy, Uncle Alex and cousin lil’ Alex. Since our next flight didn’t leave until noon, we took advantage of the long layover to go eat some IHOP breakfast, oh delicious, the last breakfast in America for us. 
When we got back to the airport, I thought, Eh, I’ll just go ask the Korean Air people to put our frequent flier numbers on the tickets. So I went up to the desk, asked the agent to do it, and handed over the tickets. She and the other agent got this wide-eyed look and started saying our tickets were all wrong. “You checked ten bags?!?!” 

Uh, hello, red siren in my head moment. 

Apparently the agent was so flustered about checking our massive luggage in KC that she failed to tell us to get new boarding passes once we landed in Dallas. Once again, the luggage angels smiled upon us, as the agent told us we had to check one of our carry-ons - for free. 

Really? Two roller bags, two “personal” items, and a freakishly-large hiking backpack is too much for carry-on? We do try to get away with a bit too much. This leads to our next point...
Lesson #3: When you are tired, you get mad easily. And just might get into a yelling match with your husband. 
Ok, this isn’t really a “lesson” as much as an awareness point. When we had to recheck another bag, we were told it wouldn’t be insured by the airlines as arriving to our final destination. That was the trade-off for having another free checked bag. 

Which meant we had to decide what we could possibly “lose”, and Andrew and I had a major miscommunication about which bag we were checking. As in, 
“I just packed this whole bag and I thought this was what we were checking!!!” 
“No, I was talking about that bag this whole time!!!” 
“I hate my life!” 
So, lesson learned: When traveling with your spouse and you get in a tiff, go walk around the terminal. Buy something nice, like chocolate or mimosas  bottled water, and you’ll feel so.much.better. You are sitting next to him for the next 14 hours on a plane, so you’d better just get over it.
We made it to South Korea and have about 50 hours left of our trip. Ok, it’s not 50. But it feels like it.
Now, I have a question for all the other travelers out there: Why do they make you open the window shade when they are taking off and landing? Anyone? It’s a mystery to me and seriously disturbs the nap I started while waiting on the runway to take off for 30 minutes.