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Booking the flight

Booking the flight is a stressful process and requires careful planning of every aspect. First, you must decide where to land. There’s Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong as destinations, each with the ability to get you into Shenzhen using public transportation. Flights to Shenzhen and Guangzhou are more expensive than HK.

When I booked my flight I decided to land in HK because it was a direct flight (less likelihood of lost luggage), and it was cheaper.

Things to pay attention to when considering flights:

  • Layover duration. International travel is not so much fun if you have to run between completely different terminals, and your bags have to make a quick trip across an airport. When I first booked my flight I didn’t notice that I had only 40 minutes between arriving in Chicago and leaving it. O’Hare is notorious for flight delays and difficulty of getting between gates, and for such a large flight it was likely the HK flight would be boarding as soon as my inbound flight arrived, making it very stressful and risky. Fortunately I called immediately and was able to increase the layover.
  • Sometimes a longer duration layover or extra stop instead of direct flight is better. I have a 16 hour flight from Chicago to Hong Kong, but my return trip is broken into two sections. Even though the sum is the sections is greater than the direct flight, it’s not as daunting. Having time to stretch and eat and walk in an airport is nice, and some of the fancier airports even have lounges with showers and reclining chairs (Incheon, South Korea has an amazing airport for this).
  • Depending on the airline, you can have the first 24 hours after booking to make changes without penalties. This means you can sleep on it and verify it later, checking for stupid mistakes. This came in handy for me when I realized I had a too-short layover in Chicago.
  • Seats are important. Some people can afford the upgrades. For the rest of us in economy, you have to do the best you can, but not all seats are equally bad. Go to SeatGuru and check out your flight. It will show accurate seating charts with locations of lavatories, galleys, and highlight seats with particular advantages or disadvantages.

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