Although Davao City is a huge international metropolis of 1 and a half million people, there are no direct flights from the U.S. to Davao. We came by way of Manilla. If doing it all over again, I would look and see if there is some other way to get to Davao- going through Singapore? Thailand? Cebu Island? I have no idea. I just did not love the Manilla airport.
Traveling by Japan Airlines was the bomb. The seats are incredibly roomy. The back of each seat has a screen and there are movies, tv shows, cartoons, games, and informational little ‘public service’ announcements you can choose, and also music to listen to (headphones!).
One of the public service announcements was about exercises to do in the plane to help with circulation and swelling, but if you are travelling with preschoolers, I could see kids having fun with this one. I did them two or three times, and I do think it helped a lot.
There is a place to plug in your phone (not a regular cord, with an aux cord) or other devices. They also provided neck pillows and blankets. The food was good, the bathrooms roomy enough to take the Cherub. The Tokyo airport bathrooms- be aware that some of them have the porcelain insert in the ground squatty potty, usually the first one, and if the bathroom is full, the only one that is available. It’s fine, just not what you want in an emergency with the Cherub. However, I have to tell you, in my twenties when we lived in Japan I vastly preferred these. So much more sanitary. Just more difficult with toddlers, or when your knees start to go, or you have to take the Cherub.
In Manilla, you have to switch airlines and also terminals. The terminals are far apart. You leave the airport to go from one to the other, so during the day you are in Manilla traffic. This can take FOREVER. We were there in the middle of the night and I think it was half an hour, maybe 20 minutes. It felt like forever. It did not help that it was the middle of the night.
You get off the plane, pick up your luggage (and a luggage lackey, you want him, his English will be useful and he will get you to the currency exchange, through customs and on the bus for your terminal). You will go through customs there at the first terminal, and also somebody from the health department will want you to assure them none of you are sick.
When you get to the next terminal, you will have to re-weigh your luggage because they have a smaller weigh allowance. As I recall there was a place to do this automatically, by machine all by yourself, but honestly, I was so tired and had to drag Cherub all over creation trying to find a working bathroom and a working escalator to get her back downstairs (the bathrooms were upstairs, the ticket places were down. Well, there was allegedly a bathroom on this floor as well, but it was out of order when I was there), I was sore and weary and just wanted to lie down. So maybe my memory is both hazy and seen through rather grim lenses.
There is another place you have to go get documents looked at, but just one of you can go (you cannot take your luggage in there). My husband did this. I remember nothing about it except there was nowhere to sit and I wanted to cry I was so tired.
Some of your stuff may be overweight and you will have to pay extra. We did not. Then comes the hard part. Parts of the terminal will be broken (escalators, bathrooms). The part you need to get your tickets for the next flight will not open until a couple hours before the flight. You will see people sleeping on the floor all over the airport. My suggestion, depending on the time you have between flights: if you need sleep, find the chapel and see if you can be quiet and doze there (it’s kind of in an odd corner, out of the way), or use the sleeping in airports site and find a lounge and rent a sleeping room or space and doze as much as you can, giving yourself time to wake up and go get in line to check your luggage and get tickets for the next route (it is usually cheaper for somebody on this end to buy your tickets from Manilla to Davao, but I don’t know any more about that, either). Honestly, for any kind of international travel, read sleeping in airports, and read it a lot. Take notes.
The plane to Davao will be tinier, more cramped, and all around in general have no leg room or any other room. Go to the bathroom before you get on it. They moved my son to the bulkhead because it was impossible for him. He was twisted like a pretzel. He could not put his legs in front of him by any kind of maneuvering at all. My favorite part of this flight- most of the journey my husband and son made itclear they thought it was silly I had brought TWO neck pillows/travel pillows. On this journey my son begged to borrow one of them. (and I still use them in our house at night, so there). Incidentally, This flight is only about an hour, plus the wait time on both ends.
Davao airport is small and easy to get around in.
I’m just going to share a shorter list of things I am glad I brought or one of us wishes we had brought:
Compression socks (I could have gone one level tighter, but these were good)
Two pairs of shoes so I could change in Manila. My husband and son wish they had brought an extra pair of socks, I was fine with one pair of socks, but very, very glad I had a different pair of shoes to switch into.
Neck pillow- JAL had them, Cebu airlines did not. I needed mine.
IPod, headphones, and Kindle and a small light
A couple ziplock bags and a couple plastic grocery bags for laundry if needed)
Diaper wipes (both parents need them in something you carry all the time, Filipino bathrooms seldom provide toilet paper).
Hand sanitizer, see above.
Sleep mask– we still use this, too, because the lights of the neighborhood shine in our windows.
Mouthwash, toothbrush, toothpaste (Japan Airlines provided them as well)
Small hand fan, because it’s hot.
cough drops or throat lozenges because airport and airplane air makes my throat dry.
Chapstick (see above)
I ended up crocheting myself a small bag to carry around my neck to carry my passport and tickets, and the Cherub’s.
None of my carry-on had wheels. I really, badly, seriously, majorly regretted that. So did my son, since that meant he ended up carrying some of my stuff, and he had packed light on purpose.
Oh, money changing- do it beforehand or do it at Manilla. They do not, will not change money with any tears, no matter how tiny. Get crisp new twenties and hundreds (they also don’t change smaller bills). Hardly anybody accepts credit cards here.
Tip the luggage carrier with pesos. Be generous.
Like I think I said before- if you can go to Cebu and then Davao, that might be worth it. If you have to go to Manilla, just give yourselves a nice window of time before your next plane leaves. A bay window, with wide expanses. AS in six hours or more.
Be aware that if you have not traveled before or have never been to any part of Asia, It will be crowded and overwhelming and incredibly foreign feeling. Also hot. For my husband and I, it did not feel foreign. It felt familiar, only we were tired and wanted to lie down somewhere and couldn’t (we couldn’t do the floor, too American). But it sure was hot.
Are we experts? No way. If somebody else gives you different travel advice, you should probably take it.