Asia,  Japan,  Travel Diary

From Los Angeles to Tokyo via Singapore Airlines

I picked Japan as the starting point for the next part of my journey for three reasons:

  1. the JPY to USD exchange is in my favor
  2. Hotel/hostel/AirBNB prices were pretty good even without considering the exchange rate
  3. I’d meant to go to Japan as my first trip anyway, but had to pivot to Europe because of COVID-19 regulations. Now that Japan reopened to tourists, it seemed like the perfect time to go!

So I booked a one-way flight from Los Angeles to Narita for ~$450 USD, squeezed all my stuff into a 27l backpack, and left America for a multi-month trip.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and buy something, I get a small percentage of that at no extra cost to you. Read my full disclosure here.)

Getting to LAX

First I had to get to Los Angeles from Anaheim. I decided to spend a little more money and go a faster route than the one I had taken to get from LAX to Anaheim.

First, I caught a Metrolink train from Anaheim Transportation Center for $8.75 USD. Then I hauled ass over to the bus bays at the far end of LA Union train station and caught the LAX Flyaway bus for $9.75 USD. Train + bus combo took about 2 hours total– LAX is FAR from the center of town– and I arrived at the airport around 9:00 am.

LAX

Security wasn’t crowded at all, which was a huge surprise as I assumed it’d be busy nearly always.

That day they had working dogs before the main part of security, so by the time I got to the actual security part they’d shunted me into a line where we could keep our shoes on and everything in our bags. I guess the dogs pre-sniffed our bags, which then means we didn’t have to go though the rigamarole of the other stuff?

Unfortunately, the metal detector beeped when I went through and I had to get into the other machine. You know, the “hands above your head” machine that everybody hates. Still, it was nice not having to worry about shoving my stuff back into my (very tightly packed) backpack.

Art wall inside LAX

By this point I was starving, so I decided to get some food. While in line at KFC, I met an older gentleman on his way to Thailand– a very popular destination right about now!

After breakfast, I still had about 2 hours until boarding, so I needed to find a place to chill.

Lounge? Kinda

I don’t like sitting near the gates if I can help it, as it’s very chaotic and loud. I prefer starting my trip relatively chill, so that means finding some place quiet to sit until boarding.

Unfortunately, there are no longer any Priority Pass lounges at LAX (ugh). BUT there are several areas in the International terminal that are kind of lounge-like.

I found a nice sitting area with a great view of my gate. Even got to see my plane come in and get restocked before my flight!

On the Plane

My flight was with Singapore Airlines. I’d decided on this flight rather than a slightly cheaper one because the Singapore Airlines one included food and slightly more amenities. This was my first long-haul flight over 6 hours and I didn’t want to worry about stuff like that, so it was worth the $100 or so price difference.

I’d originally checked into the flight using the SA app, but by the time I wandered over to the boarding area they were calling my name because they wanted to…check me in again? They processed my vaccination record, my passport, etc. and then printed a boarding pass– all things that their app supposedly had done already.

The plane was HUGE and yet I felt very stuffed into my seat. We passed the first class pods on the way back to our seats and they looked pretty comfortable, but not necessarily $1000+ comfortable.

Back in my economy section, I’d picked a seat in the middle aisle so I could get up and go to bathroom without bothering my neighbors. The trade off is a slightly smaller under-seat space, and no way to prop my head up to go to sleep. I’m not sure I would’ve been able to sleep anyway, even if I had a window to lean on.

Back of chair stuff: USB charging point, video screen, pockets and more pockets.

Staff gave us a blanket and a pillow right at the start, plus earbuds.

Plane food!

Here’s everything we got on the flight:

  • Snack: peas and crackers, chocolate bun
  • First meal: pork belly with rice and vegetables, bun (plus a bun from my neighbor who didn’t want hers), cheese and crackers, ice cream
  • Second meal: chicken with noodles, cheese and crackers, bun (and another bonus neighbor bun), cake

(I took pictures of all this but they came out horrible, so just use your imagination.)

The food was actually pretty good! I really liked the chicken with noodles, and the little ice cream dessert in the first meal was very refreshing. Drink options included soda, coffee, tea, wine, beer, etc.

Crew regularly came through outside of meal times offering water or other drinks, but despite chugging down 6 or 7 (small) glasses plus my own water bottle stash, I was seriously dehydrated by the time we landed.

In-flight Entertainment

Watched: Practical Magic, Knives Out, The Menu (my favorite), Soul

The movie selection was actually really good: not only new releases (including the newest Black Panther movie which had JUST been released) but international options from Japan, Korea, Singapore, etc.

At some point between Knives Out and The Menu I tried to go to sleep, but because I didn’t bother bringing a proper neck pillow, ear plugs, or eye mask it wasn’t really working out too well for me. I also just can’t sleep sitting up, I guess!

Plus my neighbor decided to sing along with Beauty and the Beast for a bit, which didn’t help.

Eventually I just gave up and watched more movies.

Narita Airport

We actually arrived 30 minutes earlier than originally estimated!

Japan Customs and Immigration is all done through Visit Japan Web, a website where you fill everything out and upload photos of your passport, etc. I recommend doing it ahead of time so you’re not struggling with it when you get to the airport. I’m actually not even sure if there’s an option NOT to do it online…we didn’t get a paper version on the plane and the helpful airport staff were there to get you through the website version.

The Narita airport employees had signs with pictures of what to show on your phone, and they speak English if you have questions. Just follow the arrows and show the right screen, and it’ll go fairly fast.

Whole thing took maybe 20 minutes, and most of that was hoofing it down the hallways.

Eventually I made it down to baggage claim. Since I didn’t have any checked bags, I only had to get over the last hurdle: the customs declaration machine.

It’s a self-serve machine, basically. You scan your passport and the QR code on your phone, then get your photo taken and bam! Done.

My first Japanese vending machine!

Narita Airport has a lot of tourist information booths, an international ATM, places to pick up train passes or whatever and lots more, but I didn’t bother exploring too much as all I needed was some cash and maybe a pamphlet or two. (I got an eSim for local data and since I’m traveling slowly, I didn’t need a train pass.)

See also: Where to find the Narita Airport eki stamp

Shuttle to hotel

I specifically booked a hotel in Narita WITH a free airport shuttle so I didn’t have to think about going into the city (1+ hour away) while dealing with jet lag. The shuttle bay at the airport was very organized and easy to follow, and I found my hotel’s shuttle bay pretty easily.

The shuttle eventually came and about 30 minutes later I was at my hotel! After checking in, I grabbed a few snacks and a giant bottle of water from the nearby 7-11 and blearily stayed up until 9:00 pm or so, then crashed for the night.

The hotel provided a yukata and slippers for guests.

Final Thoughts

The flight with Singapore Airlines was overall comfortable, and I loved all the amenities they included with the economy seat ticket. The crew were very professional, and the plane was clean. I’d definitely fly with them again!


Asia 2023 Travel Diaries

Journal date: February 6-7, 2023

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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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