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5 Things I’ve Discovered Preparing For My Trip to Japan

Yes, I am headed to Japan! Yippie!! This is my first international trip since the initial halt on travel when the pandemic began. Oh, I’ve gotten out and traveled domestically – and in the U.S. that can mean thousands of miles of travel. But I haven’t been on a plane or left the country in over two years. As a lover of new places, adventure and learning this time has felt a little claustrophobic. I am thrilled to be traveling again!

As I prepare for any trip, I always look for opportunities to improve my travel planning skills and update my packing list. This trip has given me a few nuggets already. Let me give you some context for my trip. 

·        I am visiting my son. So, this is more about spending time with him than anything else. It also means that I don’t need to bring food prep items or other creature comforts to make my hotel or hostel stays more palatable. It also means that I don’t have to consider in-country transportation, such as getting to and from the airport.

·        My daughter is coming with me for part of the trip, YAY! And this means I don’t need as many things to occupy my time at the airport or during our flight. We’ll chat and keep each other company. It also means coordinating our departure and thinking about what she might need or want along the way.

·        I am planning to continue my work while I am there, which means packing more computer items than I might normally. 

Now that you understand what kind of trip I am taking, let’s jump right into the 5 things I’ve discovered while preparing for my trip to Japan.

1) Packing Improvements

I have a packing list that I use each time I travel. I pack the same whether I am going for 5 days or 5 months.

Here’s how I use the list. First I read through every item to see what does not apply to me or to this trip. I cross out the items that I don’t need, prescriptions, contact lenses, etc. And I cross out anything that I don’t need on this trip. Like extra batteries, a travel towel or eating utensils. I am staying with my son, so I won’t need to bring these items.

Then I have created 3 additional lists to aid in my preparations.1) A list of things that need to be charged before I go. 2) The list of things I need to do to get the house in order before I leave.  If I am going to be gone for more than 2 days, I like to do little things like; empty the trash, clean out the coffee pot, and prep the refrigerator. When I am gone longer, I plan for my plants, my mail, and other things.  It is so nice to come home to a clean house, so I do a little sprucing up before I leave. And finally, 3) my list of things I need to be productive with my work.

These are currently “works-in-progress” – I will share them soon.

2) The Visit Japan website

I’ve never been to Japan, and I am looking forward to visiting this country that Lonely Planet describes as; “where ancient traditions fuse with modern life”. The Japanese are all about modern convenience and streamlining, so it is no surprise that they have an online service for arriving in Japan. The Visit Japan website launched in November 2022 to allow visitors to prep their information and documents for immigration procedures and customs declarations. It also offers a “Fast Track” to handle the COVID-related procedures. Right now, Japan is requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test (within 72-hours). With Fast Track, you can upload your documents to have them pre-verified before your hit the ground in Japan. How cool is that? I am all registered and ready to go, I will let you all know how the how it turns out.

3) Know the Rules and Laws

One of the things that we need to remember as travelers is that the laws and regulations in other countries will be different. And you might say, of course. But it is easy to forget that things like over-the-counter medications, safety items such as pepper spray and the like are not allowed and might land you a fine or worse in the country you are visiting. Always, always check.

Thankfully I don’t have any prescription drugs that I must take along. For this trip, I needed to consider my sleeping (jet lag will be a thing), so I wanted to bring some melatonin to help me sleep. And my daughter is allergic to my son’s dog, so we wanted to bring along some Benadryl to help her during her stay.

After a quick Google search, I found that – you can bring up to one month’s supply of prescription drugs into Japan, and up to two month’s supply of non-prescription drugs without filing any paperwork. Melatonin is classified as a supplement, or non-prescription drug, so I can bring up to a two month’s supply. Great! But for Benadryl, I am not sure. as an Antihistamine and Japan’s offering of this type of product has a lower dosage when sold over the counter. Meaning Benadryl would not be available without a prescription. Is it an over-the-counter medication? Yes, in the U.S. And no, in Japan. So, can I bring it? Who knows. To be on the safe side and avoid any complications, we’ve opted to have my son pick up something local. There are several products available like Benadryl, just lower dosages. Because it is available locally, purchasing it in-country will simplify our arrival.

TIP: Always travel with your over-the-counter medications in their original packaging. This will help if you are asked “what are those pills?” Also, if you have prescription medications, always travel with them in the prescription bottle, for the same reason. AND, double-check the laws and regulations before bringing any medications, prescriptions or supplements to another country.

4) What about my mail?

I will be gone for four weeks on this trip, which means I have to think about what will happen to my mail while I am gone. There are several options, I can let it pile up. Likely a bad plan. I can have someone swing by and check it. Or I can have the US Postal Service hold it for me. I’m opting for the latter.

I have had my mail held for me before – and here’s what I’ve learned. My mail delivery person is not consistent, or wires get crossed, or someone is simply not paying attention. Either way, last time my mailbox was filled to the brim and then the Post Office called my property management company and complained about there not being any room in my mailbox for more mail. Weird. If they had simply held the mail like I asked ¯\_()_/¯.  To combat this issue, I am creating a little “love” note for my mail delivery person, to remind them that mail for my address is on hold. I have printed out the Mail Hold confirmation and then created a little reminder. I will put this inside my mailbox, so it is visible for them when delivering my mail. My hope is that this will prevent them from overstuffing the mailbox. The other thing I know is that when I come back from a trip like this, the one thing I want to do is simply stay at home.  So when selecting whether they hold my mail for me to come pick up, or have them drop off the whole stack of mail when I return – I am opting for them to deliver the backlog of mail. Last time it took me several days to find the energy and desire to drop by the Post Office to pick up my mail.

The challenge is that my apartment has a mailbox which will not hold a month’s worth of mail. So where will they leave my piles of mail?  In a box of course. I will leave a large box with my address on it on top of the apartment mailboxes.

I learn and adapt after each trip. This is my new approach, let’s hope this time my mail is successfully held at the Post Office and arrives safely in my designated box when I return.

5) I can have my cake and eat it too!

I can listen to my book and then switch to reading it on my Kindle without skipping a beat. I am a huge fan of audio books and I always have multiple books in the queue. This is because I will listen while walking, driving, cleaning, or cooking. But it is hard for me to stay engaged with an audio book when there are distractions around me. Like people watching at the airport. It is better for me to read the book during these times. And guess what? I can switch between listening and reading whenever I want – and Kindle will keep track of where I am and simply pick up where I left off – whether I am listening or reading.

Thrilled to be trying this on this trip. To do this, you need a Kindle book that has an audible narration, and it is fairly simple from there. Amazon has detailed instructions on their site for iPhone or Android users, easy-peasy!

This month my Wanderlust Book Club is reading Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga, and so this will be keeping busy during my layover in Tokyo.

Stay tuned for more details about my trip to Japan! 


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