The Japan Plan

2018 is just around the corner…

As you probably can imagine, I start looking into things right away. This will be our first trip to Aisa and I am over the moon. Figuring that my first trip to the continent of Asia would be to China, I already have an inkling of what things I want to see/do. Japan is a whole new ball game. This small island is full of things to do and has a wide range of climates, which is something I did not expect.

Below is a 5-Step guide to planning my trip to Japan (or anywhere)
{Since postponing our trip to Patagonia, I’ve wracked my brain about “where to next?” I’ve gone from one extreme to the next– conjuring up ideas of places that I’ve wanted to go and also places that have recently struck my interests. (Patagonia is still on my list, but is a trip for another time. We postponed it based mainly on the cost and accessibility).  Of the places that have crossed my mind, Japan was one of them. I was delighted by Brad’s response to visit Japan when he said, “Yes.”}

Planning each adventure takes time and often many hours of research, re-planning and of course, budgeting. Lets get started!


Step 1:

What is the reason for your visit?

visit Japan

First and most important decision {for me} was to go during  Cherry Blossom Season. If there was only one thing that I feel is a must for visiting Japan, this would be it! It’s been a fantasy of mine to see the Cherry Blossoms for quite some time, however they only last a few weeks. Yes, I could go see blossoms in DC but when I think of Cherry Blossoms, I think of Japan!

Cherry Blossom Season can fluctuate every year, but the general time frame is between the last two weeks of March  and the first two weeks of April.

{We usually plan our typical “vacation” time anywhere between March-May, so this fits our schedules pretty well}


What will it cost?

budget your travel

To my surprise, flights are relatively decent. I’d found flights direct from Los Angeles to Tokyo for as little as $500 RT. {ridiculous!} We did not by these tickets, {I know, we are stupid} but let me finish… Brad thought it might be a good idea to stop off in Hawaii on the way there or back (to break up the long flight) and who is going to say “NO” to Hawaii??? No one–that’s who!

Pricing for a “multi-city” flight like this ranges from $900-$1800 per person, depending on the flight arrangements.

We also briefly looked at hotels to get an idea of pricing per night. [can vary depending on your accommodation type in Japan] (See more information under “Step 4-Accomodations”)

It’s important consider that you may spend round about the same amount on dining, souvenirs, transportation (uber, train, taxi, etc.)and accommodations as you did on your flight costs. A good rule of thumb is to assume you’ll spend double.

Ex. For 1 week of travel (single person):  Flight-$600. Hotel-$800. Add your meals ($10/meal x 3 daily), transportation ($15/day), souvenirs ($50/day), museums/passes,etc. ($20/day)=$1605

Step 3:

What to see & do?

hawaii volcano NP

Now that there is a “general idea” and timeline of the trip, this is the point to start really narrowing down things. At this point, I typically go buy a book or two or three…

{After about 45 minutes of going through the Japan section of books at my local Barnes and Nobles, I picked what I believe will be the most helpful in finding things-to-do in my selected areas (of Japan) or even narrow them down further. I also look into other options such as YouTube and Pinterest to find “things-to-do” and “see,” both are much more visual and give a better idea of the sights in local places. Talking to people is also helpful-as you will learn more about what they have done in “x” city}

Destinations may change or be altered during this step. For example, we omitted a trip  South to Hiroshima and decided to stay in Osaka instead of Kyoto.

At this point we began to pin point the time line…

2 nights stay in Osaka with side trips to KyotoNara.

4 nights stay in Tokyo.

Keeping in mind that the Cherry Blossoms bloom from South to North, we will hopefully follow the blooms as we head North to Tokyo.

Here is a list of things we plan to see/do (in no particular order):

Fushimi Inari Taisha, Gion, Higashiyama (walking tour), Nara Koen Park, Kasuga Taisha (largest bronze Buddha in Japan), Todai-Ji, Shin Sekai districts, Dotombori, Harajuku, Shinjuku, Ueno Park (Cherry Blossom Festival), Meiji-jingu Shrine, Robot Restaurant, Disneyland Tokyo, Sumo wrestling match, Ramen, Ramen and more Ramen {can you tell I like ramen?}

In Hawaiithe main focus is to visit Volcano National Park where Mt. Kilauea is. {I’ve been wanting to visit the volcano since our last trip to Hawaii} Narrowing down length of time here is challenging as the park is rather large. There is also a seahorse farm (near Kona Airport) that I too have had my eye on {you get to hold seahorses!!!}. 

We’ve decided to stay on Hawaii’s -Big Island 2 nights and 3 nights on Oahu, where we plan to visit Pearl Harbor and hike Diamondhead Crater.

Step 4:

Where to Stay (Accommodations)?

where to stay

Planning your length of stay can be stressful, but once the time line is agreed upon things come into focus pretty quickly. Accommodations are often pretty simple, depending on how you like to travel.

For this trip, we would like to stay in hotels in Japan and a rental or AirBnB in Hawaii. 

Hotels in Japan are often more expensive than any other accommodation. There are crazy options like capsule hotels, ryokans, and themed hotels. For us, we’re going for a more “westernized” hotel such as the Hilton Tokyo and the Sheraton in Osaka. Rooms average around $200-250/night and often charge a service fee + Tax (pricing may vary depending on time of year). During Cherry Blossom Season rooms book quickly and rates can sky rocket if you don’t book early {we reserved our rooms before anything else}.

Next process is to nail down accommodations in Hawaii. Since we are planning to stay on multiple islands, this part becomes a little tricky as some options have a minimum on lengths of stay…

On Hawaii’s Big Island our main focus is the park. Nestled inside the park and along the edge of the volcano crater is the Hawaii Volcano House,  where we will be staying for our 2 nights. Pricing for the Volcano House is similar to any other hotel accommodations ($250+). Perks of staying here include: easy accessibility to volcano crater, crater hikes, lava tubes, bike rentals and nightly shows of the volcano plumes and glow from Halemaumau crater{If you are looking for beach accommodations on the Big Island, I highly recommend considering a resort. This island seems to have a pretty rocky coastline, so finding sandy beaches could be an adventure}

We had little to no luck finding sandy beach property to rent here (Big Island), which is why we considered Oahu as a second destination. Our flights will route through Honolulu anyway, so why not stay here!?

Oahu offers a better variety of rental properties with access to sandy beaches. After browsing several sites we landed on a very unique AirBnB experience. {I almost don’t even want to spill the beans about it yet!} All of Hawaii’s accommodations have been booked, which brings us to the final step…

Step 5:

How to get there (Flights, etc.)?

book a flight

I covered a great deal about flights and cost in Step 2. It’s important to pre-plan flight arrangements before looking into steps 3-5, often times plans begin to take alternate routes!

Our travel plan looks something like this:

LAX > ITO, KOA > HNL, HNL > KIX, (train to Tokyo), HND > LAX

I based our flight itinerary on cost and efficiency; Stopping in Hawaii first dropped pricing almost $300 and allows us to find a non stop flight without loosing time, therefore we get to spend extra time in Hawaii. This line up also allows us the opportunity to visit 2 (Hawaiian) islands and fly to Japan on a shorter non-stop flight. Our arrangement back to Los Angeles is the longest {with hopes to avoid jet-lag} and gives us the opportunity to spend a day in L.A. if we arrive early.

Japan offers as discounted pricing for the JR Railpass. This discount is available to tourist before entering arriving. After calculating our pricing via rail through Japan*, we opted out of buying a pass and will save $150/pp by purchasing individual rail tickets.

*Tokyo has its very own metro line- JR pass will not work for the Tokyo metro.

During our stay in Hawaii we will rent a car on both islands, costs will range from $325-$500 depending on the car type and daily rates.

*Booking flights last may or may not be your ideal way to plan,  and often will be the very first step in your planning process. There is no right or wrong way to plan it. I have left flights for the last step based on this specific trip.





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