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My 24-Hour SFO-SPN Itinerary Experience

As of writing this post, it has been about one month since stepping foot in Saipan.

It’s taken me this long to write about my flight experience to Saipan because my mind is still processing the move. I feel that my mind is a little lost and jumbled up, and sometimes just blank. I think it’s mainly because I was almost always indoors for nearly two years just working on my blog. Coming home, I am still mostly home, but other than working, I’ve been interacting with more people than usual, taking on more responsibilities, and exerting more energy than I’ve ever done in those two years. My introversion just wants to hibernate again for the next month or so.

So, for now, I shall reminisce on the 24+ hour travel itinerary from California to the CNMI.

Before heading home, I did go to San Francisco for nine days to settle some unfinished business in the city. It was a one-way trip, and since I wasn’t sure how long I would be staying in SF, I booked another one-way flight from SFO to SPN.

My Flight Itinerary


Departure:  San Francisco (Tuesday)

Arrival: Tokyo (Wednesday + time-zone change)

Estimated Flight Time: 11 hours, 15 minutes

Layover in Tokyo: 2 hours


Departure:  Tokyo (Wednesday)

Arrival: Guam (Wednesday)

Estimated Flight Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes

Layover in Guam: 7 hours, 10 minutes


Departure:  Guam (Thursday)

Arrival: Saipan (Thursday)

Estimated Flight Time: 46 minutes

ESTIMATED HOURS TRAVELLED: 24 hours, 21 minutes

The “estimated” times are the ones printed on my boarding passes. I’m labeling them as such because all of my flights departed and arrived in times close to, but not exactly to what was shown, thus changing their total flight duration by a couple of minutes.

I’m very thankful that none of my flights were canceled or delayed, and that my checked luggage made it to the final destination on time and in good condition.

Flight #1

Departure:  San Francisco (Tuesday)

Arrival: Tokyo (Wednesday + time-zone change)

Estimated Flight Time: 11 hours, 15 minutes

Layover in Tokyo: 2 hours

My flight out was around 11:00 AM, so I planned on being at the airport by 9. I woke up around 6, in hopes of leaving the house by 7:30 as it was about an hour’s drive from where I was staying to the airport.

Now what I forgot to take into consideration was the early morning traffic. Hundreds of cars go into the city for work or other business. Suffice to say, we were stuck in traffic for about an hour and a half.

I reached the airport close to 10:00 AM. I was getting a bit worried because I know that the airport is huge and I’m always having to typically go from one end to the other to get to my gate.


Normally I check-in using the airline app, but this time, I was struggling with how to work through the ID section of checking in. The app required I take a photo of my photo ID, but it was not being accepted, and I was overall confused on how to get it done.

So, I checked in at one of the airport kiosks. Shoutout to the airline employee who saw me going through their maze of a line, and helped get me through much quicker, as there was literally no one else in line. I was checking in at the kiosk, which was a fairly easy procedure (and I quite enjoy doing it) when another employee came up to me and helped me get through it faster, and, without asking, helped put the tag on my one check-in luggage because I secretly still can’t understand how to do it. Shoutout to you too, good sir!

Afterward, I went to the next line to drop off my check-in luggage. The line was also fairly short. There were about two people ahead of me, and it wasn’t long before I was being assisted. They requested my ID and boarding passes and weighed my luggage.

I then clarified a worry of mine before heading off to TSA. When I had a layover in Japan for the first time, I had to get my luggage in baggage claim and get it checked in again (I was coming from Canada and going to Saipan). I was worried that I had to do this again, and I asked the employee checking in my luggage if I had to do the same procedure. He assured me that my luggage will (thankfully) go straight to my final destination.

*Spoiler alert* I genuinely enjoyed my flight to Japan – before, during, and after. As you’ve read above, checking in had already given me positive impressions, and everything beyond that to my second layover went very smoothly. I don’t mind having all my layovers in Japan in the future. And maybe a couple of actual vacationing in the beautiful country as well, so we shall see.


Surprisingly, the line for TSA consisted of a family of one. I, again, didn’t have to wait long before it was my turn. Upon giving the officer my passport, I was requested to remove my mask to verify that I am indeed the owner of the passport. Once that was done, I made my way to the screening area.

I took my usual three bins and began placing my items per bin. When I was packing, I learned to pack everything that needs to be placed on the bins in one bag (in my case, my backpack) so it will be easier to take them out and put them back in.

Bin #1 consisted of my laptop only. TSA security staff makes it clear that the laptop goes solo in the bin.

Bin #2 included my DSLR camera out of its case, along with my Ziploc bags containing less than the 3.4 oz bottles of liquids, as per TSA guidelines regarding liquids in carry-ons.

Bin #3 had my jacket, shoes, and passport holder.

Thankfully none of my items and bags had to undergo extra screening and I was off to my gate.


After about a 5-minute walk to my gate, there were still about 30 minutes left before boarding. And just before that, airline employees came up to each one of us asking for our final destination. If our final destination was in Guam, in my case Saipan but laying over in Guam, we were given the “OK” on our boarding passes. However, if our final destination was to, what I heard, Singapore, these passengers had to wait in another line as they had to show extra documents.

I didn’t really know what was going on. It was hard to hear them through the speakers, but as long as I was okay to board, then I was already satisfied.

Boarding was interesting, to say the least. Instead of giving our boarding pass, we stood in front of this camera that took our photo and signaled a green light allowing us access to board.


When booking my flight, I was thankfully able to select my own seats per plane. Going to Tokyo, I chose a window seat that was a row away from the restrooms because I didn’t want to walk a long way, passing by others, to use one. The seat was an extra $25, but it was worth it.

Upon entering the plane, we were given sanitization wipes by the flight attendants. When I reached my seat, I placed my duffel bag in the overhead bin and my backpack in one of the empty seats. I used the sanitization wipe to wipe down my seat, armrests, and seatbelt. I then used my extra wipes to wipe the table. I then took out my earphones and placed my backpack beneath the seat.

As soon as everyone made it on the plane, I looked around and noticed that there were no passengers within six feet of me and I was secretly jumping for joy.

Throughout the flight, I managed to get at least 5 hours of sleep in. It was difficult not having my companion blanket, but my jacket was an okay substitute. I also used my time to watch some anime and read some stories. Other than that, I felt like my eyes were simply closed as I listened to music.

What really surprised me about the flight were the meals provided. I felt like a kid excited to receive gifts on Christmas. I mean, for our first meal, we were served ice cream…ICE CREAM. I’ve never had ice cream on a flight before. The food was also pretty good. I chose the chicken pasta option. Aside from the ice cream, there was also a salad, bread with jam, and pretzels. I really enjoyed them. About an hour away from landing, we were given a second meal, which they considered a light snack. We had a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Spiral Croissant, and it was delicious!

Flight #2

Departure:  Tokyo (Wednesday)

Arrival: Guam (Wednesday)

Estimated Flight Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes

Layover in Guam: 7 hours, 10 minutes

I’d just like to point out how much I love the way the airport in Japan handles the whole travel process. It was efficient, organized, and we were being assisted all the way through.


As we were landing in Tokyo, flight attendants mentioned that passengers were boarding off the plane in groups. Those that were laying over in Japan, my group, got off first.

Upon exiting the plane, we were greeted by airline employees who checked our boarding passes to confirm where our next gate is. Surprisingly, but thankfully, my gate was literally across the gate that I have just gotten off from. Those who had gates beyond this area were escorted by airline agents as soon as everyone going to each gate was present.


I wasn’t surprised to see that there were more passengers going to Guam. I was keeping track of the airline seat chart and saw that it was almost full. Although there were no passengers sitting in the row in front of me, there were some sitting behind and a sit away from me in my row.

Waiting didn’t feel too long here as well. I used this time to charge my phone, connect to the airport Wi-Fi, and messaged my loved ones that I safely landed and was waiting for boarding.


The plane was considerably smaller, and as we were entering a more tropical climate, I was beginning to feel the heat. I think I closed my eyes for at least one hour total because the seats in this plane were much more uncomfortable and I was feeling anxious with more passengers within my vicinity.

For the meal on this flight, I chose the pasta option. I forgot what kind of pasta it was, but it was delicious.

Other than this, the flight was smooth, and we were landing in Guam in no time. Before landing, however, we were given Custom Declaration Forms. I thought that since I was just laying over in Guam, I didn’t need to fill it out.

Boy, I was wrong. And now, the disaster of my entire trip is coming up. Just thinking about it is giving me trauma.

Flight #3

Departure:  Guam (Thursday)

Arrival: Saipan (Thursday)

Estimated Flight Time: 46 minutes


At this point, I had been traveling for about 16 hours. And I had an extra 7-hour layover in Guam.

I was tired beyond belief. I wanted to get to Saipan as quickly as possible and have some decent sleep. But being me, nothing ever really goes smoothly with big tasks, especially not in my sleepy state.

I was panicking that I didn’t fill out the Declaration Form on the plane. I tried filling it out before entering the Customs Checkpoint, not realizing there was an area for me to do that within their confined space, and I was called out by one of the airport employees. I was the last one to enter the first customs check, and I felt people’s eyes on me as I rushed to complete the form.

With the number of Custom gates I went through, my memory is fuzzy on the order of going through them. But, at one point, I ended up losing my passport holder, which had my credit cards, vaccine card, and boarding passes. I was blessed beyond belief that I was somehow holding on to my actual passport and that I had my boarding passes available to view through the airline app, which was how I was able to make it through the security checkpoint, but it was also the moment I began worrying that my passport holder really wasn’t with me.

I was trying to calm down and went through the security checkpoint with ease. As I was putting my things back into my bag, I realized that I lost my passport holder, but I sucked it up and felt that I needed to sit down somewhere and think for a bit. At some point, I figured since I had my boarding pass online and I could just cancel my credit cards and get new ones, I didn’t mind not finding my passport holder.


I trudged to find my gate, which was at the very far end of the airport.

At this time, my bags felt much heavier. I was sweating and was practically on the verge of tears from extreme exhaustion.

Even better news was that the way to my gate was closed off due to another incoming flight, and after thinking I could just sit down in a nearby waiting area, I and a bunch of other waiting passengers were told to move away from the area because of said incoming flight. So, I had to trudge my way back down the aisle and decided to just wait at the food court.

I connected to the airport Wi-Fi and messaged my parents and close friends that I landed safely. I also mentioned my losing my passport holder with the items inside. And this was when I began panicking. A friend mentioned my vaccination card, which I completely forgot was also inside my passport holder.

I quickly tried to find the number for the airport’s lost and found department, but I had no working number. So, I went to the TSA area of the airport, and a TSA officer, whom I absolutely have a great deal of gratitude, assisted me until the very end and was the sole person who helped me get my passport holder and documents back.

It wasn’t easy though.

As I was waiting for them to help me look for my things, I went online to see if there was another way to replace my vaccination card. Fortunately, I found an article that led me to read that there are digital vaccination records that may be downloaded and saved from the state website where we got vaccinated. I got mine from the State of California – Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record. I downloaded and had a copy of my vaccine information placed on the first screen of my phone’s home screen.

About an hour before the flight was supposed to take off, the blocked-off path was finally clear and some passengers and I were able to make it to our actual gate.

As we were waiting, I was called to the front to be told that they still hadn’t found my passport holder, and I just said “Okay.”

About 20 minutes before the flight took off, all of us were in our seats, and another airport employee quickly and loudly reached me to inform me that they found my items. She was radioing fellow employees about what to do and asked if I was fine leaving on the next day’s flight, which I quickly declined.

So, they hurriedly brought me out of the plane to retrieve my belongings.

I was running alongside another employee. We got my things and speed-walked back to the plane.

There were still about 10 minutes left before the take-off time, but the employee said they wanted to leave earlier. I profusely apologized, but many of them seemed annoyed by not getting to leave early.

Honestly, at first, I was tremendously thankful that they found my things. It was my fault for being tired and not keeping track of my belongings because a 16+ hour flight itinerary doesn’t usually do this to solo travelers. But after seeing more of their annoyance by not making them leave early, and I’m sorry to say this, I lost respect for these employees.

Just a little bitterness to take out of my chest

I’ve flown multiple trips with a 10+ hour flight itinerary and have not had issues about losing my belongings. Especially with flying solo, my alert level is higher than usual. I refuse to even take a nap during layovers because I worry my things might get taken while I sleep. I was surprised I made it this far in my itinerary before things went haywire. I’m not perfect. I didn’t even make the flight late as there was still extra time before the designated departure time. I was on other flights that had departed late due to passengers’ late arrival.

My huge praise and infinite gratitude go out to the Guam TSA female security, who I wish I still remembered at least the last name, but unfortunately forgot. She’s the real hero in my eyes.


The plane was even smaller than the previous ones, and there were more people within my vicinity. Thankfully, my row consisted of only me.

The flight lasted about 30 minutes. A flight attendant was generous to provide me with two bottles of water after hearing that I ran to get my belongings.

During the flight, I was thinking about how to further express my gratitude to the employees for their patience, but with the attitude they gave me as I was deplaning, I threw out everything in my head.

We also had to fill out customs forms for the CNMI, and this time I knew I had to fill mine out.


When we landed, we followed arrows that led us to the initial screening of our Health Declaration Form, which every passenger entering the CNMI has to fill out before arriving. I filled mine out at least two days before my arrival date in Saipan.

I was given an entry paper with my information and was then led to another window for forms that didn’t meet the criteria. In my case, I submitted an invalid photo of acceptable proof of vaccination. When I was filling out the form days prior, it was stated that the vaccine cards were not valid proofs, but at that time, I didn’t know what other proof there could be, so I ended up submitting a photo of my vaccine card. The employee asked me if I had other proofs with me, and I just mentioned that I only have the digital copy of my vaccine record. I showed it to her, and surprisingly, she said that’s the one they accepted.

In a way, it was sort of a blessing that I had lost my passport holder because I wouldn’t have researched about other copies of my vaccine record and wouldn’t have downloaded the digital version.

When they approved my paper, I got my luggage and went to Customs. They validated my customs form and directed me towards the testing area for COVID, which was only a couple of feet to my left. I got tested and was led closer to the exit of the airport.

Before exiting, my paper got checked once more, and I was finally out.

Outside, there were minibusses waiting for incoming passengers to take to quarantine sites. My paper got checked again, my luggage and duffle bag were taken to the last van with all of the other luggage, and I was instructed to head to the very first minibus.

After a good 20+ minutes, we were on our way to our quarantine site.

Let's Chat!

What’s the longest flight itinerary you’ve ever had, and what were the best and most challenging moments of your experience?

Keep being inspired and take care always,


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