The Japan Trip Planning Process

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
106
16
18
JapanTravelForum.com
OK. So, I've been absent from the site and it shows, but hey. I'm going back to Japan in late November 2019!! So I'm going to let you guys in on the entire process from how I figure out when/where/etc.

Starting with: Plane Tickets:

Look, this is (probably) the single biggest expense of a trip to Japan. Whether you're flying ordinary cattle class (like me, more on that later) or full-on first class. It's not exactly cheap. So you need to keep your eyes peeled and get the magic of the web to work for you.

Subscribe to flight alerts!

Sign up with sites like Kayak, Orbitz, or even your favorite airline with your frequent flier info.... Anything where you can put a route (i.e. DFW-TYO) and a date range and have it alert you via e-mail when fares drop below a certain amount. That's how I got clued into the latest sale on Delta flights out of major/hub airports. So me and my daughter are going on a trip to Tokyo over the Thanksgiving (USA) week! Fares dropped to ~$830 out of Dallas (about 4 hours away by car) so I jumped all over it. Not only that but we're flying in and out of HANEDA this time instead of Narita. So we're saving a bit of money not having to figure out how to get into the city and back to the airport. Heck yeah.

JOIN Facebook groups! (And forums like this one!)


Yes I know traffic isn't exactly humming around here, but soon enough it will be! Hopefully we can get an audience and get people on here talking about deals and experiences! There are several facebook groups established, and as soon as I heard about the sale, I heard about it on one of those as well....

USE those frequent flier miles!

Things are a bit tight around here at the moment, but it will have been 3.5 years since we've been. Yikes. So it had to happen. I had over 150K miles racked up from my credit card accruing miles while I use it for routine expenses. Bingo! Our flights actually only cost ~$160 FOR BOTH OF US. OK, well I sprung for the "Comfort +" seats on the international legs because I appreciate the extra room and an extra beer or two (or three)... Plus the priority boarding is great, too. It was $99 each leg, each passenger. Well worth the $$ considering you're spending 12 hours (give or take) in that seat.

CONSIDER things like driving, etc.

Like I said we'll have to drive to Dallas and leave from there. Flights from my closest airport were running OVER $2000 instead of $830. We will have to rent a hotel at DFW for the night before the flight, and the night after, and also park the car there for the duration. Adds up to probably $300, but overall it is still cheaper.

Before you pull that trigger, though, you have other things to consider: (next post!)
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
106
16
18
JapanTravelForum.com
SEARCH HOTELS BEFORE you pull the trigger on the flights!

Part of this is checking what's going on in the area you want to visit. I had to check the dates of the 2019 Rugby World Cup to make sure it wasn't interfering. It wasn't. The next stop was to search hotels. For this trip I decided to try out booking.com and see how it went. I knew I wanted something on the cheap, that was NOT a hostel or guest house or whatever. That meant a basic business hotel. You're not going to get a lot of space or amenities. You're just not, its how it is. Unless you're willing to fork over the big yen that is.

So I finally landed on "smile hotel sugamo." It's literally a stone's throw from the JR station on the Yamanote line, so basically everything is within reach. Not only that, but the more I dig into the "eki-mae" area and further out, the more this particular "borough" of Tokyo looks like it could be really interesting to just poke around. I went with adjacent single room for myself and my kiddo, for around US$60/night. Not only that but if a better deal comes along I can cancel without penalty.

Consider other chains like APA also... Don't expect swimming pools, free breakfasts, hot tubs etc. like you get here in the states. Just not happening. Its a bed and a bathroom, and that's all you really need.

Next up: 10 months to prepare.... what to do now?
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
106
16
18
JapanTravelForum.com
10 Months to Plan, what's the plan?

Well, this will be trip #6 for me, and #3 for my daughter. No doubt we will return to certain "staples" like Sensoji, and Shibuya. For myself, I am NOT going to be taking a crap ton of video stuff and trying to be something I know won't happen. It'll be more about actually enjoying the moment and finding those things just under the surface.

That said, it will be late fall. We will no doubt hit up the holiday illuminations, and hopefully the 紅葉 will still be good during this time. Considering a trip to Takao just for that. We'll be within walking distance of Rikugien gardens which is supposedly nice. Hopefully the Tokyo National Museum will be opening the garden/buildings outside the main museum while we're there. Last year's dates line up, so ....

My daughter has already said we are going to Studio Ghibli. Eh, OK. I'll have to research the trip and see what else is along the route. ;)

BIG NOTE: Turns out that JTB USA will NO LONGER be offering their service to buy Ghibli museum tickets outside of Japan! Lawson stores have a service that looks like will be the only way to make it happen. When it gets closer to October 10 (the first day I can buy tix for November. I think?) I will let you know!


If anyone wants to jump in with their thoughts or recommendations I'm all ears :)
 

JTF_Chris

Administrator
Aug 6, 2018
106
16
18
JapanTravelForum.com
Yeah but where do we stay tho?

OK so I glossed over the "where should we stay?" part of this whole thing. There are two ways to do this:

1. Come up with a list of the things you want to do or see, and try to find someplace "central" or at least that makes it easy to get there and back again.

2. Just pick a place based on price/amenities/photos etc. and roll with it.

The BEST option is somewhere in the middle of course.

This trip, I know that:

1. I'm only going for a week
2. I'm trying to do this one fairly inexpensively.
3. I'm only going with one other person, an adult at that
4. I know my way around fairly well and can navigate easily
5. I'm NOT picky about where I stay.

With all this in mind, I know I'm not worried about getting a JR pass, or booking different hotels or even AirBnB's all over the place. I can just pick one location, and go with it. Like I said above, my choice was based on proximity to train lines (the Yamanote especially!) + cost + compromise. I could stay at Shinjuku or Shibuya (and I have) but its no big deal.

Hotels vs. AirBnb.... which do I pick?


Prior to last year, the choice was clear: Go AirBnB. Now, not so much. The new law has made the landscape much different. Yes they are still out there, but fewer and further between, and likely more expensive. The last trip I dealt exclusively with AirBnB, and we had real gems (a multi-room apt. in of all places Uguisudani) to questionable ones (a room near Sky Tree that I wasn't sure was 100% legal!) . IF you're traveling with a family, especially with children, I would START with AirBnB or VRBO. Multi-occupant hotel rooms are expensive and hard to find.

One thing you do want to keep in mind though, is the distance and the walk between the nearest train station and your lodging. Google Earth/Maps + Street view is an indispensible tool for this. You can literally "walk" the route using street view and trace lines to tell you exactly how far it is. This is important because 1) You don't want to have to walk a mile back to your bed after a long day of sightseeing. and 2) if you have kids you maybe don't want to go marching them past love hotels and other questionable signage or storefronts. I've stayed in a few AirBnBs that were definitely in red light districts.....

These same tools can be used to figure out what's near by your choice of lodging, or vice versa: to find lodging near to stations or points of interests. Just zoom in and out, click around, drop the little street view dude and click around. Explore before you get there. Warning: You will look at the clock and realize its 4 hours later lol.
 

Similar threads


Positive SSL