You know how nerve-wracking it is to fly for the first time in over 20+ years? Very.
So when I went to Korea a few summers ago, I went PREPARED. And I also got to use the experience to tell what was actually helpful, what was a waste, and what mistakes I made that I don’t want you to make.
I miss Korea immensely, and since this is the season travel starts picking back up, I wanted to share some tips and items I used on my own trip to make my travel smooth-sailing.Since it was my first time traveling on a plane, I had to grab essentials like luggage and a passport. But almost everything I purchased for my trip, and every trick I used came in handy!
Over on Quirktastic I told you how I spent around $1,700 for my Korea trip, and here I’ll pull it all together by telling you how to have the best travel to, and experiences in, Korea. It truly is the little details that can make a big difference!
Take note! This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a little bit of change if you purchase something from this post at no extra cost to you. But the items are ones I trust and love; things I really want to share with you!
Your Carryon Situation Made Easy
When I say I went on this trip prepared, I went on this trip prepared. Aside from making sure I purchased luggage that would last and had great reviews (the 360 wheels are a LIFESAVER when walking around the hilly streets of Korea/PERIOD), I also wanted to bring along my backpack as my carryon.
My mom made me bring this giant, oblong gym bag instead, and it was one of my biggest regrets on the trip.
Creating as much freedom for your arms and hands was SUPER important when traveling from flight to flight, and even when we walked 15 minutes to our Air BnB.
That gym bag didn’t allow it. I would have to hunch over to have it sit on my back, and even then it would shift its way to my front. All the unbalanced weight of my gym bag made navigating nearly impossible (it’d even fall off or throw off the balance of my checked bag).
So I’d highly recommend carrying a durable backpack with a place for your laptop if you’re bringing it. I can’t find the exact one I own, but this one is VERY similar to it. I remember all throughout college I’d have to get new backpacks at least twice a year until I got my Adidas one. Here’s what I look for, and what this similar bag has:
- Lots of space.
- Lots of compartments.
- A top pocket, right where the handle is (so you can put necessities like chapstick, gum, phone, keys, tickets, etc. in an easy-accessible place).
- Laptop compartment.
And my backpack was perfect for a carryon! But oh well, lesson learned. 🙂
My Right-Hand Man Bag
The one I had was almost perfect! So I found an alternative that also has RFID protection and a zipped compartment for loose change. Kill several birds with one stone and make this trip as affordable as possible!
When traveling overseas you have to fill out Enter and Exit forms, and keep track of paperwork, tickets, possibly money, an extra set of your luggage keys… You keep it ALL in here, and around your wrist so you never have to dig for it or misplace it.
It kept me super organized, and the stress was off me completely when I packed it with the essentials:
- A PEN (or two)
- Money/one card (have other money and/or card in your carryon)
- Plane ticket(s)
- Your ID
- 2 copies of your flight schedule
- The address of your hotel and/or Air BnB address (written in Korean is a huge plus)
The pen obviously comes in handy to fill out the paperwork you have to do between flights. And believe it or not, the copies of my flight schedule not only came in handy for me (you’ll also need it for your paperwork), but when we were stopped in China, we needed to show the workers our flight schedule for some reason.
So come prepared! And with everything you need in your travel wallet, you’ll be Gucci!
Quick Tip: Other Copies You Should Make
Before I continue, I wanted to take note of some other things you should photocopy and keep said copies in several different pieces of luggage:
- Your flight schedule (a reminder!)
- 2-3 copies of your hotel and/or Air BnB address
And one other note that kind of goes into the “be prepared” pile: pack an outfit, essential toiletries, and extra undergarments in your carry-on in case your luggage is misplaced! This way you can stay refreshed no matter what happens. 😉
One Last Carryon Quick Tip
If you do decide to bring a backpack along as a carry-on, I also packed a drawstring bag, and a pouch or two from an affordable 3-piece makeup bag set to hold small necessary items you’ll consistently use inside that drawstring bag. Things such as:
- Your Kindle Paperwhite reader (!!!)
- hand sanitizer
- Clorox wipes to wipe down your area
- face masks
- video games
The drawstring bag is super easy to tuck away in your carry-on and comes in handy when you’re wanting to put your actual carry-on in the overhead bin or under your seat. I brought a cheap one I got free at a conference and it served its purpose but if you wanna travel with one that’s still affordable and cool, I found these cool designs for ya.
It’s gonna be a 14+ hour flight so once you get seated pull out that drawstring bag, dig out your pre-packed makeup pouches from your actual carry-on, and you’ll be good to go a majority of the flight!
Bypass Long Customs Lines at the Airport with This App
I’m going to be honest, I didn’t have to use this app because my airport navigation went smoothly, but with a 4.7 out of 5-star rating with over 13 thousand reviews, I feel like it’s an app you’ll love to have on-hand.
The Mobile Passport app allows you to pass up the customs line in the airport once you’ve filled out everything in the app. It covers 24 airports at the time I’m writing this, so check to see if your airport is covered so you can skip lines!
All these tips in this article will help you enjoy your trip with minimal hiccups, but saving money on a trip like this can also help in the stress department! Don’t forget to check out that post as well.
How to Always Have WiFi
One of the best investments you can make for your entire trip in Seoul is a WiFi egg! You can either rent one at the airport directly (here’s one airport service, and another one you can research!) or through their website, or even your Air BnB host could offer to let you use theirs like ours did. 😉
I THINK that’s our WiFi egg charging over the empty sink in our Air BnB.
We stayed in Jamsil in the most Eastern part of Seoul at this particular Air BnB, but if you’re not traveling 3 people-deep you can always message renters about whether or not they offer use of a WiFi egg.
Regardless, even though Korea has WiFi everywhere, it’s not always easy to access it in the streets when you’re finding your way around (sometimes WiFi spots needed a password if you were under a certain Korean phone company, which you won’t have if you’re just visiting). So when you get lost or need to look up the name of that famous Korean BBQ place one more time, you have internet access anywhere. And for sure this time!
Having a mobile charger wouldn’t hurt either. I had an Insignia one I bought off eBay but BOY is that thing heavy and big! Not too convenient for a day of traveling. So I did some research and found an Anker charger you may like that it’s lighter, smaller, and has at least two charging USB ports.
Tourist Information Center
In Seoul there are not only people all around willing to help you as a foreign traveler, there are also Tourist Information Centers to help you navigate and learn about your surroundings. You can find them all throughout Seoul and they were so helpful.
When friendly natives weren’t offering their help, we got directions to this new restaurant thanks to them, and I found my way back to the underground subway entrance when I traveled to Hongdae by myself thanks to the Tourist Info Center (THANK YOU)!
Learn the Language Necessities!
It’s not only really appreciated when you try speaking Korean, but it’s so helpful when you’re trying to navigate Korea yourself.
Don’t worry, when you’re in Seoul it’s very accommodating to English-speakers. Even natives will try speaking English to you (or try their hardest with hand gestures and body language when language barriers are immense).
But I’m someone who LOVES food, so I built up my Korean food vocabulary. This really helped me when I wanted to try certain foods; I could read the menu and/or point to what I wanted and say, “this please!” in Korean. 🙂
Oh! And I also learned mannerisms which I GUESS is important, haha.
The Korean alphabet is easy to learn, and Americanized words are usually pronounced as such. You should be able to pick up the alphabet in a few days, seriously! It’s an excellent feeling when you’re able to read things in Korean correctly or begin picking up more vocabulary.
This is one of my favorite graphics on learning hangul (the Korean alphabet), and I made a random playlist when I was studying-up over the months. Talk to Me in Korean, Sweet and Tasty TV, and KoreanClass101 are three of my favorite resources for learning, though.
This Subway App Makes the Best Transportation Even Better
The subway system in Korea is one of the best modes of transportation in. the. WORLD. It’s impeccable! It’s super affordable (I’m talking a buck or two no matter how far you go, and if you scan it when transferring and exciting I hear you get a small discount)! I’m in love. It’s so easy to use and the Subway Korea app makes it even easier!
So these are all my must-haves when traveling to Korea! It made travel, transit, and experiences stress-free. And the fewer hassles you have, the more time you have to explore and have fun!
Don’t forget to share this article for other travelers to see, and check out my other post on how I spent around $1,700 for my WHOLE trip to Seoul!