With just a little over a month away to the five-day Chusok holiday in Korea if you haven’t made any travel arrangements to head off somewhere around Northeast or Southeast Asia, it’s probably too late.
Although many Koreans will be taking to the roads and traveling to their hometowns during the holiday many will also be taking to the skies and flying to places like Thailand, the Philippines and China. Many will most likely take a few days of vacation and add it to the five-day Chusok holiday to have a real vacation.
There was a time in Korea when you didn’t have to worry about making reservations too early. However, in the past ten years or so, with more and more Koreans having disposable income for traveling, you have to make those travel arrangements a little early to guarantee a seat on a plane. And sometimes when you think you’ve contacted your neighborhood travel agency early enough with your travel plans, you just might find yourself on a waiting list.
(You know, I have never been able to figure out how this works when it comes to making a reservation with a travel agency and finding yourself on a waiting list. How does this work? Do airlines have blocks of seats available for travel agencies?)
I always make my reservations early. When I know my vacation schedule or know if there are going to be any long holidays the first thing I do is plan my vacation for the year and make my reservations. Unlike the sweet vacation time I had when I was teaching at Yonsei, I don’t have much vacation time to work with here at Woosong (the first year you only get 5 weeks paid vacation; the second year and each year thereafter 6) which really sucks when you know how much I love and need to visit Thailand for some more ink from Jimmy Wong, not to mention now wanting to spend more time in Laos with On.
Anyway, so when I noticed on the calendar back in April that Chusok was going to be a five-day holiday in September from the 22nd to the 26th, I immediately contacted Ms. Park my travel agent at the USO in Seoul and made reservations for Thailand and Japan (I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go at the time). I have been working with Ms Park for years now and she always does a great job with putting together an itinerary for me. She got back to me immediately and I told her that I would decide which reservation later. Of course it turned out to be Thailand (for one very special reason now) and I let Ms. Park. Then, two weeks ago, I sent her an email to ask her when I needed to buy my ticket.
I couldn’t believe it when she told me that I had to buy my ticket by August 13. I guess with a lot Koreans getting into the Chusok groove and thinking about flying out of the ROK for the holiday, the airline companies wanted to have those tickets issued early. I never heard of anything like this before—having to buy your tickets more than a month in advance, and not for some special super-saver fare either.
In all fairness to the airline companies and travel agencies here, many Koreans in the past have been notorious for making all kinds of reservations and never bothering to cancel them, so it’s no surprise that when a major holiday period like Chusok rolls around the airlines and travel agencies play a little hardball with holding reservations and issuing tickets.
Although I have my ticket I still have to deal with getting up to Seoul and over to Incheon Airport on the 22nd. That’s one of the drawbacks of living in Daejeon when it comes to having to get to the airport. Fortunately, most Chusok revelers will be leaving Seoul on the 21st when I head up there so traffic shouldn’t be too much of a problem for me.