Greetings! It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. Luckily I am not the only one begging Angelina to let me post – my friend Dan Hammer is always requesting Dad Posts, so here it is. Hopefully I’ll have another up in a week or so.
My son and I headed to Tokyo in a semi-spontaneous manner a few months ago. This Tokyo trip was a last minute idea over Labor Day since my son was in between jobs and I had time off myself.
Our original plans were to fly into Vietnam, overland through Cambodia to see Ankor Wat and other temples and then continue on to Bangkok. Angelina reviewed our trip and her response was that September is generally rainy season in SE Asia.
She wanted no part in helping us find award space because I’m notorious for constantly changing my itinerary. In fact, she once wrote a blog post about how she hates helping family book awards because of me.
Luckily I learned enough through my own research, studying airline alliances and routings, that I booked 3 complex awards. I think even Angelina was impressed. Most importantly, I wanted this trip to be special for my son because he has never had a premium flight experience.
I initially found 2 business class tickets on Cathay Pacific with the following routing: EWR-HKG-HND, and two first class awards on Japan Airlines (NRT – JFK). When I called to book awards, American Airlines lnformed me that EWR-HKG-HND was pricing as two awards. I informed the agent that I was not stopping over in Hong Kong, just simply transiting to Tokyo. I even spoke to a supervisor, and he informed me that system would not allow the routing.
The problem was that I did not have enough miles to book the award if it was pricing as two awards. The other issue was that my first class ticket hold expired in one hour. I had to act fast or cancel the whole trip. I was able to find economy on JAL for the same date. I booked the awards and prayed that two business class tickets would magically appear.
Two days before our trip, two business class tickets magically appeared!
As far as the flight experience, Japan Airlines was great. The service, food and amenities were top-notch. In my opinion, right on par with Cathay Pacific, Asiana, and Singapore. The Asian carriers understand service and how to provide a memorable experience.
To continue on with my money-saving mindset, here are some tips for first timers:
- There’s a Tokyo subway app that is excellent and easy to use. You simply click on the starting station, choose an end station, and it will show you the route and cost. The best thing of all is that you do not need wifi to use.
- I used the trains a lot, so I bought the daily ticket. It’s cheaper and you can avoid scrambling for change and waiting in line at the ticket machines.
- When you land at the airport, they sell special train packages just for tourists that are great value, and much cheaper than buying away from the airport.
- Value hotels over luxury hotels. For example, we used Choice Hotels points to stay at the Comfort Hotel Tokyo Kiyosumi-Shirakawa (8,000 a night for 3 nights total), which is easy to get to and close to popular tourist spots Asakusa and Akihabara. I had 22K points, and Choice allows you to buy up to, I believe, 10,000 points at $10 for 1,000 points. So my extra 2,000 points cost me $20.
- We decided to “splurge” for our fourth night by spending 12,000 points at the Hyatt Regency. The Hyatt is located near the metropolitan office building, which offers free city views from the 45th-floor observation deck. To get there, take the Oedo line, exit at Tochomae station, and you can see directions to hotel from train station. Use exit A7 to go directly to hotel.
- If you’re looking for an easy day trip outside of the city, consider Hakone, and buy tickets for the panorama car. It was a fun trip idea that I got from another blogger.
- Another unique experience is seeing a robot cabaret show in Tokyo’s Kabukicho red-light district, but you’ll definitely need to make reservations since it is a very popular attraction.
- And lastly, the best travel tip I can give anyone is to travel lightly! Less stuff=more mobility and opportunity!
Are the any other tips you can think of to add to the list?