Step 1: Book Your Flight
I already did a blog post about the flight. You can check it out here. I discuss the cost, the length, and the food to expect. But I'll mention a few things again. Normally you'd book your flight as soon as your prospective date is available. I knew I wanted to go in November, around the Thanksgiving holiday. I checked the United Airlines website every month to see when November was available. I just booked my flight a few days ago, so you should be able to book your flight 8-9 month before hand. The flight can range in price. I find it ranges from $1,200-$1,500 for a two-way flight. This may be expensive to so people, and it is. The airfare can be the most expensive part of your Japan trip. There are ways to get cheaper tickets though. The first is to get a miles credit card. You know how some credit cards gives you point towards every purchase? Well, some airlines have credit cards that gives you miles. This is how I got my plane tickets to Japan. In two years my husband and I accumulated enough miles for free flights. Another way to get cheaper tickets is by following websites who have special offers. Websites I've heard of for this is Orbitz and Groupon. Now you would have to look for yourself every so often in order to catch these deals. The best way to be notified about these deals is by following bloggers who specialize in Japan airfare deals. They're out there and ready to use. If you use these tickets they will most likely come with a set date to be used. This may make your trip a little rushed so all these other steps I'm mentioning would need to be done as soon as possible.
Step 2: Planning Your Itinerary
What does this involve? Well, when you go to Japan where do you want to go? Do you just want to stay in Tokyo the whole time? (I'll be doing that in 2020). Do you want to see the main three cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka? Or do you want to see as many places as possible during your stay? Planning an itinerary will help with two other steps: buying a train pass and booking hotels. So plan out where you want to go. For example, my husband and I already have a game plan on what cities we want to visit: Nagoya, Nagano, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Matsue, and Tokyo. Since we plan to go to more than three cities and they aren't too close to each other it is beneficial to buy train passes. If we were only going to the three main cities we wouldn't need a train pass. Next is to plan how long you'd like to stay in each city. I haven't planned the exact days yet but I know what cities I'll be needing a hotel for. Finally, add detail to your itinerary by making a list of things you want to see and do in each city. If you're not sure where to visit or what to do visit a Japan guide website. I actually work as a freelance writer for a guide site called Japanistas. I liked their past work and decided they were a good fit for me than all the other websites. If you visit their website they have a ton of guides and articles on things to do in many of the cities in Japan.
(Optional) Step 3: Purchase a Train Pass
This is optional because, like I mentioned in the Itinerary section, if you're not planning to do much traveling in Japan it's not worth getting. But for those who will be doing a lot of traveling, like myself, it is in your best interest to purchase a train pass. By the time you use the pass three times you would probably already have used its worth. This train pass is called the Japan Rail Pass and it is good for all Japan Railway systems. This pass needs to be purchased before you leave for Japan. A voucher will be mailed to you and you'll have to present it to a major Japan Railway station once you've arrived in Japan. Once you obtain your pass, you'll have to use the manned gates for officials to look at your pass (some may ask for your passport as identification). Visit http://www.japanrailpass.net/en/ to see what pass will work for your trip.
Step 4: Book Your Hotel
Unless you're planning to travel to Japan in the next month or two, booking a hotel should be done about 4 months in advance or when the reservation is available. Now, there are two ways to book a hotel for Japan. You can either use a travel site such as Travelocity and Hotels or you can book a reservation with the hotel of choice directly. I won't go into detail on using the travel sites because those are pretty easy since many of you have probably already used those sites before. To book a room directly is a bit harder, especially for those who may not know the hotels in Japan. I will tell you all how I do it. First, I go to the city's website I'll be visiting. I'll use Kyoto as an example since it's my favorite city in Japan. So I would google search Kyoto, and their website should appear in the first four selections (http://kyoto.travel/en/). I'd go to their website and select the "plan your visit" section and choose accommodations since I'm trying to book a hotel. Japan has many kinds of hotels, but the ones that book reservations in advance are ryokans and and western style hotels. A ryokan which are traditional Japanese hotels will most likely be cheaper than western style hotels. If you're going for a cheaper route booking a ryokan would be in your best interest but research about ryokans before booking one because they are very unique hotels. For my trip, I'll be looking for a hotel. Once I click the hotel option it gives me names of all the hotels. Pick any hotel and it'll give you a link to that hotel's website. Tada! You can now book a room directly with the hotel of your choosing.
Step 5: Plan Your Arrangements
Do you have children or pets? You'll need a babysitter. Start asking friends or family members about house sitting or babysitting. House hitting usually requires someone who can stop by your house to make sure everything is okay, like no one has broken in, and to get your mail. Have a car? If you're leaving for two weeks or longer you might want to give your car keys to someone you trust. Let them have the responsibility of starting up your car every few days just so your car will work when you get back home from Japan. Have a job? Start giving your vacation notice to your manager. Pretty much get done whatever needs to be done before you leave for Japan.
Step 6: Make a Packing Check List
Start packing the week before the trip to decrease your stress levels. Trust me, if you wait until the day or night before you will be a very angry and stressed out person which will put a damper on your trip. If you need assistance in thinking of things to bring you can refer to my post on items to bring.
Step 7: Double Check
I don't care if you made a list and already check stuff off, double check! Make sure you have everything, especially your passport and boarding pass for your flight.
And lastly, enjoy your trip! You'll have so much fun no matter if you are taking a solo trip or going with a friend or significant other. Take a ton of pictures to have as keepsakes and value your time in Japan.
Thank you for reading. I hope this helps many of you who are starting to plan a trip to Japan and for those who will plan a trip in the future. If you liked this post, please check out my other posts about Japan. Also follow me on social media for more things Japan related.
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