How to survive your first 12 hour flight?
If you can, get a nonstop flight.
You’ll probably have to pay a bit more, but it’s going to be worth it.
Maybe you’re thinking about making a stopover somewhere on your way. That can be a good idea, but usually, you have to do it through a travel agency. Because one-way tickets are more expensive and you always have to pay the take-off country’s ticket prices, which are adapted to the living expenses. The travel agency can look for somewhat reasonable priced fares.
Booking tickets through a website by yourself is a bad and expensive idea in a case like this.
What to do, once boarded?
At this point I always try to wrap my head around the time difference. It’s rather interesting, when you think about it. Tokyo is seven hours early. At what time will dinner be served? A friend, who flew with the same airline with the same flight times, told me, dinner was served about two hours after take-off. So that’s like 10pm German time, right? A little late for dinner, but fine.
How to tell time while flying east across seven time zones? Sure, you can set your watch to your destination’s time. At what time is breakfast served then? By that time, you’re supposed to be completely out of sync. Will it be Japanese breakfast time, six hours into the flight? That doesn’t sound right, especially since it would only be four hours after dinner. So, super-early (like 5am) German breakfast time, when it’s already noon in Japan? Time really is relative.
What about jetlag?
It’s said that going east hits your system harder. I guess that’s true, if you’re an early bird.
Or if you arrive in the early morning. That must feel terrible. You start your journey at like 7am in Germany, travel via London and arrive in Tokyo at 6am. That’s like pulling an all-nighter. Well, I hope you didn’t sleep the night before, since you have to take a really good and long afternoon nap on the plane. Because, when you finally arrive, you have another whole day ahead of you.
No naps and no coffee, or your jetlag just gets worse. Nope, I wouldn’t be up to that challenge.
So, do the math. Take precautions if necessary to actually be able to adapt to the local time quickly.
For instance, buy yourself a bolster and maybe increase your chances of getting some rest. A good one, not one of those inflatable plastic ones. Don’t go cheap, you’re investing in your precious sleep. Buy one ahead of time to test it, if you’re comfortable with it or not. If you’re not happy with your purchase you’d still have time to refund it and get a different one.
I got myself a bolster by “Schlafmeister” on amazon. I’ll tell you how well that worked for me in June.
What else is there to do? Take a book with you or your favourite portable console. Check what movies and shows will be available on your plane and perhaps have your laptop with videos you like better. There are power outlets by your seat, so bring your charging cables in your carry-on luggage, too.
I got a window seat, so I wonder if I can get a view of the night time lights of Russia (“which continues to be stupidly big”). Perhaps a twelve hour flight is a wonderful occasion to listen to Cabin Pressure again.
Have a look at Narita Floor Map ahead of time, so you won't be too bedazzled and know where you have to go.
For instance, we will have to pick up our pocket-wifi at the Post Office Counter. It took a bit of time, till I had found it on 4F in the Airport Mall. It's better to save time beforehand. And then it's down to B1F, because we need to go to Skyliner & Keisei Information Center to exchange our vouchers.
Instead of taking the Narita Express, we will go to Ueno Station by Keisei Skyline. Since we won’t have a JR Pass, paying about 40€ for Narita Express tickets seemed a bit expensive, especially after stumbling across Keisei Skyline and it’s special offers. They’re selling Keisei Skyliner Round-Trip plus one 72h Tokyo Subway Ticket for 5.400 Yen.
Train ride should take about 45 minutes. Plus, our final destination will be Uguisudani Station, which comes right after Ueno Station. Very convenient for us.
Also, it’s even faster than the N’EX. It says on their website, that “the N’EX takes you from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station in only 53 minutes”.
But if we had a JR Pass, N’EX would have been the common option, because you can ride it for free, just like the Yamanote Line.
“Why don’t you get a JR Pass, then?” I hear you cry.
Because we will be staying in Tokyo for the whole journey. There’s already plenty to do, so taking day trips to Atami, Kyoto, Hiroshima and such seemed a lot more stressful and we would get to spend less time exploring Tokyo. But there will hopefully be a next time! Then I’ll take the chance and get myself a JR Pass and travel west along the coast line, exploring more cities!
By the way, there’s also a bus that takes you from Narita Airport to Tokyo. It takes longer, of course, but it’s much cheaper. However, if you’re travelling with a lot of luggage, it might be problematic, depending on how loaded the other passengers will be as well.
Which is exactly what we’re going to do. There are a lot of Buddhist temples around, so I want to have a look at them. And of course, get some necessities at Daiso and 7-Eleven like snacks and drinks and what not. Daiso and/or Babu bath bombs are definitely on my shopping list.
After that it should be time for dinner. I picked out a ramen joint by the station, called Ramen Nagayama. Nothing’s written in stone, of course. And down at Ueno Station there is a vast variety of restaurants to choose from. Or if we’re way too tired, we could just heat up a 7-eleven meal at our accommodation.
Although I would be eager to go out and see lots of stuff and be way too excited… I’d also be way to tired. We should still take it somewhat slow. And that’s how I planned our first real day in Tokyo.
Stay tuned for Day 2, exploring Ueno!