Tokyo 2019! Still, love the sound of that. If you have been playing along at home then you will know that at the start of October I booked a brand spanking new trip to Tokyo for May of this year. At the time of booking the flights, I felt like my actual travel was forever away! All of a sudden we are at the 22nd January and over three months have elapsed! So out of nowhere, a seven-month wait has become a four-month wait. In this new series of blogs over the coming months, I wanted to take a little time to detail how I go about booking my travels in Japan. And importantly I want to talk about how I made this a relatively simple and budget focused experience.
I know that for some this may seem a little obvious. But aside from a family trip to New Zealand in 2010, I had never traveled before. So I had LOTS of questions for friends who had done lots of travel and especially to Japan. Who do I fly with? Where should I stay? How do I get around? On my first two trips to Japan, I relied on a travel agent to do all the heavy lifting. I feel like I could have saved a couple of hundred dollars each time but having that knowledge and support behind you gives you greater confidence. Now however I know the ropes and can confidently make my own plans.
Lets start with flights. Flights are obviously a common part of our modern life. Booking the right flights is all about logistics and knowing your calendar. When flying anywhere, be it domestic or international, there are good times to fly and there are bad times to fly. Good is cheap. Bad is expensive. Flights taken during school holidays tend to be a lot more expensive – especially around the Christmas peak. Flights during non-school holiday periods are far cheaper as fewer people fly with their families while their kids are in school. Important to keep in mind that the same is the case for countries you may be flying into. Japan has many tourist destinations that are popular at different times of the year. They also take their holidays at different times to us here in Australia. The goal is to find the right times for you and your budget.
For example, late March is the Cherry Blossom season. Expensive time to fly to Japan. But if you do a little research and subscribe to airline flight deals, you will eventually come across a range of cheap flights. Cheap flights are usually advertised at the lowest possible cost of a single seat to a destination. So be thoughtful about booking as you will need to add baggage, meals, insurance and potential taxes or airport charges. These are things you cannot avoid. My $470AUD flight return to Tokyo ended up being $741AUD. So just be aware of sales. Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled with the price. It’s the extras that tarnish that sale experience. Be aware of it.
Jetstar is just one example of a carrier. There are others that offer direct flights from Melbourne to Tokyo but you generally pay a lot more for that quicker flight time. For me personally, I have flown with Jetstar on three of my trips to Tokyo. They have proven to be reliable especially as there is a heavy Jetstar presence in Japan. My flights from Melbourne to Tokyo will usually include a stop in either Cairns or Gold Coast (within Australia). And the trip isn’t too long, especially with the break. The hop from Melbourne to Cairns is around 3.5 hours. There is a three-hour wait in Cairns. Then from Cairns to Narita (Tokyo) is around 7 hours. Once you deal with the whole airport security and customs thing you have your next move to make. How to get from Narita Airport to Tokyo.
For a lot of you reading out there you are going to be thinking that I am telling people what they already know. But given this blog and my reputation to be a bit addicted to Japan (Really? Do I give off that vibe?) I often get asked about travel to Japan. And one of the most common questions I get asked is who I fly with? Followed by does it take long? Where do you stay? And so on from there. These were questions I asked my mate Nick when I booked my first trip to Japan back in 2015 as he had been before. I had no idea! Thank you for staying mostly conscious during this blog. In future blogs, I want to cover transport, accommodation, meals and tourist traps all on a budget. Happy travels.