How to Travel to the Philippines

In only a couple of days, Walter and I will be traveling to the Philippines to visit my family and friends. This post is for two kinds of people: 1) Walter, who has never changed time zones, and 2) For anyone who’s interested in going to the Philippines one day.

I’ve lived in the Philippines all my life, then I went to the US to go to Penn State for college and stayed when I got a job. I’ve gone back and forth from the US and the Philippines too many times to know the routine. I’ve also made many mistakes along the way to have known what missing flights are like. I am not kidding you when I say I’ve seen my plane take off without me because I missed the final call (I may have cried out of frustration). I know what it’s like to get a cancelled flight and get stranded in a different country on Christmas Day. I know what it’s like to wait in incredibly long lines in airports (much to Walter’s despair). I’ve had so many plane horror stories that my sisters are a little bit iffy when it comes to traveling with me.

To avoid all this, here are a couple of things you could do to make traveling a little less stressful:

  1. Set the expectation that things will never go as smoothly as you would hope. When you’re traveling, it is not uncommon to get flights delayed. This is a major problem if you have a connecting flight that you need to get to at another city. My sister, Trina, and I have experienced running through airports at final boarding calls when we just landed from our connecting flights. I remember my sister saying that the crowd opened up in front of her like the Red Sea as she was lugging her bags with her at a run. With that being said…
  2. Take the least number of connecting flights to your final destination. I do know that this could be a more expensive ticket, which is why I recommend buying tickets at least 6 months in advance. If you’re able to travel when it’s not a major holiday, go for it! Tickets are way cheaper then. An easy way to look at how much tickets cost is by going to Google Flights. The cheapest tickets I could see now from Philadelphia to Manila are around October, November, January, and February where tickets are as low as $692 USD (which is obviously why we’re going in June 😉 ).
  3. If you want to get an even cheaper plane ticket, consider flying out of a major city. Philadelphia is not that far away from New York. If I make the same search on Google Flights for New York to Manila for the months of October, November, January, and February, tickets could be as low as $564 USD. Walter and I will be taking the 2 hour bus ride going to New York and it would only cost us $11 USD each. Not bad.
  4. Travel light as much as possible. Traveling will make you hate your stuff. Don’t fill up every compartment of your suitcase. It’s really not worth it. You will be carrying your bag and pulling it everywhere you go. If you can stick to just having one bag, do it. If you want to bring shampoo and soap, I say just buy it in the Philippines (they’re likely to be cheaper for the same brand). For carry-on bags, only bring the necessities like: toothbrush, toothpaste, extra set of clothes, phone, phone charger, and a book. If you have more electronics, please bring ones you know you’ll actually use. If I can avoid bringing my laptop, I will. I also recommend an extra set of clothes (underwear and a shirt) because there are chances that you’ll get stranded without your checked-in bag and you’ll thank your past self later.
  5. If you’re traveling to the Philippines, get rid of all your long sleeves, coats or jackets. The Philippines is hot and humid (get ready to sweat). Even when it’s raining outside, you’ll be fine even though you’re in shorts. It may be slightly colder, but still comfortable enough to not wear a jacket. One thing I like about the Philippines is that the weather is so predictable. I never used a weather app until I went to the US.
  6. When they say come 3 hours before your actual flight, go 3 hours before your flight. Lines get long pretty fast if you delay going to the airport. Once you have your plane ticket and checked in your bags, find your gate first before wandering off to stores nearby. I once missed my flight because I was too busy eating Chipotle at a different terminal. When it was about time to board, I started looking for my gate. It was only then that I realized that I was in a different terminal and had to take a shuttle to the correct one only to find out that the plane had already left without me. I learned my lesson.
  7. Bring something that could pass the time. You do a lot of waiting in airports. If you do end up going 3 hours before your flight and have zoomed your way to the gate, you may find yourself with an hour left to spare. Read a book, watch a movie, or listen to a podcast. This will also serve to entertain you during the plane ride. There’s around 18 hours of flying time in total if you take the least number of connecting flights possible. My trips are usually separated to a 13 hour flight then a 5 hour flight.**Sometimes, I avoid sleeping the night before for two reasons: 1) Adjusting my body clock to the 12 hour time change that’s about to take place; and 2) To tire myself out so that I can sleep like a baby in the 13 hour flight. I try to pass off the most time through sleep. Sitting down for 13 hours is enough to drive anyone crazy, so I’d rather not be awake through it.
  8. Don’t drink a lot of coffee. This is for you Walter. Once you drink coffee, you’ll be going to the bathroom every 5 minutes. If you’re in the window seat, this will be really inconvenient because you would have to excuse yourself in order to walk out of the aisle. If you have an aisle seat, by all means, go as much as you need to.
  9. Be aware of the socket voltages. In the Philippines, 220 volts are used. If you bring a hairdryer that’s only good for 110 volts (which is the standard voltage in the U.S.), and use it in the Philippines, your hairdryer is likely going to break (or explode).
  10. Have fun! In spite of all of these things, I still love to travel because of all the exciting things you could see, eat, smell, and touch. For me, however, going to the Philippines is going home, and that is exciting all in itself.

I hope these tips were helpful!

– P


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