While the question of travel costs is not an easy one to answer, I’ve shared expenses from our trips with and without kids during peak and off-peak seasons.
What’s your travel style?
We travel on a reasonable budget. This includes eating out a lot as a couple but sticking to grocery stores and eating picnic style or in our hotel room when with kids.
What accommodation do you use?
Super Hotel! This is a basic business hotel chain that has catered more and more to tourists over the years. Free breakfasts aren’t the norm anymore but depending on where you want to go, you can still find some with breakfast included.
We’ve also used ryokan and apartment-style accommodation.
How do you get around in Japan?
We prefer to walk and take a lot of public transportation when it’s super hot. Deals like Rail Passes or other discounts help us save money but we rent a car when it makes sense, especially in rural areas.
What about attractions?
For attractions, it’s easy to budget admission with the Internet but we always throw in a cushion for spontaneity while keeping an eye out for free or low priced places.
But you have family in Japan!
True. The cost of getting to and from the airport is gone if we choose it. We have a place to stay and a vehicle to use. For each of the scenarios below, an estimate is included as if you were on your own.
What airline do you use?
We use Air Canada because we collect points with Aeroplan and there aren’t many other options unless you enjoy transferring through the US.
We have bought our tickets in February for July travel. Even when we aren’t travelling, we have found that February has consistently been the month where posted fares are the lowest. Of course this can change, but I think this is a good place to start.
Before Air Canada (along with other airlines) decided that shrinking seat sizes and removing padding was a great way to fly, economy was perfectly fine to fly between Japan and Canada. Now, economy is no longer enjoyable for me or probably anyone who is even slightly taller than average.
The last trip, we upgraded to Premium Economy and had one of the best and most relaxing flights to Japan. All of us slept. It was no struggle to get the kids’ car seats strapped in and it was actually fun to fly. This made flying back to Canada in economy even more depressing but there’s not much that can be done other than being a squeaky wheel.
How do you budget?
For the first trip back to Japan, we used the Internet to find prices for attractions, booked accommodations in advance so that wasn’t a surprise, figured out that rail passes weren’t worth it using Hyperdia, and used our knowledge from living in Japan. This short and spontaneous two week jaunt in the early Spring was prompted by airline tickets so cheap that we couldn’t believe the cost wasn’t a mistake. The ticket cost turned out to be true and will never be seen again so the numbers aren’t worth reporting and I pretend that they never existed. (Flights for both of us were under $800.)
The second trip back was for a month leaving late July. We used the numbers from the trip prior, whimpered softly as the exchange rate exploded not in our favour, and bought rail passes because the numbers made sense. We booked accommodation before we left, bought one International Driver’s Permit, and factored in a car rental and a ship journey. Our daily food budget was Y4,000 when travelling and Y3,000 when with family for a total of Y100,000.
The third trip was with one child. It was three-weeks in February/March. Two weeks were spent in apartment-style accommodation booked before along with one-week Rail Passes. This trip had some extra expenses including airport parking and hold mail charges. The food budget was again Y100,000 with Y8,000 per day when travelling and Y5,000 per day when with family.
The final trip in this series was with two kids for one month over July/August. One week was in hotel accommodation. The food budget this time was Y70,000 as we were spending most time with family.
While I was pretty particular the first trip on trying to figure out our budget, I relaxed with each trip, lumping costs along with a cushion for good measure and giving us freedom to spend rather than tracking every yen spent.
Numbers – the best part
First… the exchange rate. Sometimes it delivers an unexpected gift. Other times, it cackles in your face. Say, “Hi!” Shake hands with it. Add in an extra buffer to your budget. It’s included below.
Second, totals are messy. There’s no way around this. Canadian Dollars, Japanese Yen, credit card exchange rates, Yen bought beforehand, leftover Yen from prior trips… It’s a headache and nothing ever adds up nicely. But the point is to get a general idea of costs.
One month in July/August, 2 adults, 2 weeks on the road in hotels, 2 Rail Passes
Total Spend: $9330 (Estimate $15,000+ if travelling whole time and no family/friends in Japan)
Exchange Rate: $1 was about Y74.
Destinations: Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kumamoto and surrounding areas, Yawatahama and surrounding areas, Niihama, Kyoto, Nara plus family time
- Flights – $3760 (Does not include the Y60,000 Air Canada staff handed us at the airport for changing our flight, which was fine with us.)
- Transportation – $1590 (2-week rail passes, $25 for one International Driver’s Permit, Y30,000 or ~$405 in Japan for car rental, gas, ship, trains outside of rail pass)
- Accommodation – Y86,000 (~$1180)
- Everything Else (gifts for self and others, food, attractions) – Y230,000 (~$2800)
3 weeks in February/March, 2 adults and 1 kid, 2 weeks in apartment style accommodation
Total Spend: $8000 (Estimate $10,000+ if travelling the whole time and no friends/family in Japan)
Exchange Rate: $1 was about Y92.
Destinations: Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe, Chiba plus family time
- Flights – $3200 (2 adult seats and 1 child seat)
- Transportation – $1040 (1-week rail passes $600, Canada Airport Parking $170, Y25,000 or ~$270 in Japan for non-rail pass travel)
- Accommodation – Y125,000 (~$1360)
- Everything Else (gifts for self and others, food, attractions) – Y225,000 (~$2400)
One month in July/August, 2 adults and 2 kids, 1 week in hotels
Total Spend: $10,800 (Estimate $17,000+ if travelling whole time and no friends/family in Japan)
Exchange Rate: $1 was about Y82.
Destinations: Tokyo, Yokohama and Fujisawa plus family time
- Flights – $6600 (2 adult seats and 2 child seats. Includes $1500 upgrade on way to Japan.)
- Transportation – $580 (2 International Driver’s Permits, Y40,000 or ~$480 for train tickets, gas for family car)
- Accommodation – Y86,300 (~$1050)
- Everything Else (gifts for self and others, food, attractions) – Y210,000 (~$2570)
Are you ready to go?
Hopefully you’re now just as excited as I always am to plan a good trip! And I do hope that these cost breakdowns take the mystery out of how much you might need to save up.
If you’d like more money info from Japan, check out this post on the cost of a Shinto Wedding.
And head over to Japan Travel Tips for a roundup of even more info!