Travel Tips from our Winter in Japan Adventure

3.1488023484.yoyogi-park-early-blossoms

Here are a few suggestions we put together from our Japan travel experiences that you might consider in planning your own trip to this unique and amazing country:

1. We recommend to use Airbnb for booking accommodations over hotels/hostels for a few reasons:

  • Affordability – we paid $105 per night for a whole apartment in a prime location vs. over $200 per night for tiny hotel room options in the same area
  • A real taste of Japanese living – Japanese appliances and bathroom amenities have incredible functionality (like a bathtub that reheats the water while you’re in it!); the tech is insane, our Airbnb had a bound book of instructions on how to use every remote and device to it’s fullest capability
  • Access to an English speaking host – we didn’t utilize the host as much on this trip for recommendations as we have in the past, but he checked in on a us via email frequently throughout our stay to make sure everything was going okay and would’ve been happy to make suggestions if we’d asked
  • Many of the Airbnbs in Tokyo and Kyoto offer a WiFi hot-spot with the room at no additional cost, this is something to look into if you don’t want to purchase international data for maps and Yelp/TripAdvisor on the go

2. Exchange for local currency before you depart the states, your bank can order Japanese Yen and exchange it for you so that you have local cash as soon as you enter the country – we got in a dilemma with no cash and bank cards being declined which caused us to miss a train and delay our arrival

yen-dollar

3. Which brings the next point – SET TRAVEL NOTICES ON BANK CARDS so that they don’t get declined necessitating long distance calls, excessive hold times with the bank, and wasted precious vacation time

4. Pack carry-on sized luggage. We each used a 20″ spinner suitcase plus a backpack, this made it easier not having to check luggage, plus the size was right for wheeling around the city, carrying up and down stairs on subway platforms; you have to really go through your items to determine what is a necessity and we both determined that we would’ve swapped some items we brought in favor of others we’d left at home, but overall were happy with our choice to pack lightly and would recommend going this route for most destinations

5. Make an effort with the local language. We really didn’t NEED Japanese language skills at any point on our trip as the level of English language skill throughout the country is sufficient to get things done, BUT we did get an app with common phrases that we tried to fit into our daily interactions and would like to learn more Japanese before returning

japanese foods

6. Medicate through the jet-lag. We used Benadryl (actually generic diphenhydramine) + Melatonin sublingual tablets on the flight over and for the first few nights in Japan, there was only 1 night/morning where we were affected by jet-lag, this combo really helps ease the time adjustment. Diphenhydramine, which is an antihistamine, can be used on a short-term basis as a sleep aid due to it’s sedative properties, and Melatonin is a hormone that the body naturally produces at night to prepare the body for sleep, supplementing during the “new nighttime” in cross-timezone travel can help the body adjust more easily to the altered sleep time


7. We loved staying in Shibuya! We previously stayed near Tokyo Station which is more centrally located and quick to everything in the city, but the Tokyo Station area itself doesn’t have much going on besides business, whereas in Shibuya, you step out your door into a fun, social mix with tons of establishments to visit steps away rather than a train ride away

8. Check the weather. We visited in February so that we could take advantage of the ski slopes; if you’re not interested in snow activities, spring would be a beautiful time to visit Tokyo and Kyoto, or even fall with the changing colors (they get all 4 seasons in Japan), we mentioned numerous times that the scenery was great but you can imagine how much greater it would be with spring blossoms or fall foliage. Whatever season you visit be sure to bring appropriate clothing as it gets seriously cold in winter and steamy hot in summertime
weather

9. Keep an eye out for deals. Check Escape Houston or other discount websites if you’re flexible on travel dates, I recently saw an April round-trip flight Houston to Tokyo featured on Escape Houston for $600, which is a steal during cherry blossom season

10. Be friendly! Some of our most memorable experiences on both of our Japan trips came from being befriended by locals of similar age to ourselves; no matter how many blogs or trip adviser reviews you read, the locals can always give you a better, more authentic experience

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you’re able to find some of these suggestions helpful in preparing for your Japan travel adventure. Let me know what additional travel tips you have so that we can maximize our next trip!

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