So you’ve decided to live your anime, manga, and samurai dreams, and want to head to the Land of the Rising Sun—Japan!
But what about the flight?
Flights are usually the most expensive part of your trip, and frankly one of the toughest things to find cheaply. However, if you follow these tips, you can really save a lot of money.
How much? Last year I was able to find round-trip tickets to Japan as low as $630—that’s round-trip! Here is how I did it.
Simple as that. Kayak uses an algorithm that analyzes over a billion requests that they receive throughout the year, as well as compiles searches from various other well-known travel sites. The end result is that it generally finds the cheapest flights out there. But that’s not all. All of the cool number-crunching that Kayak does also allows it to provide price predictors.
What is a price predictor? This is a system that helps you decide whether you should buy a flight or wait a bit longer. For example, if there is a flight to Japan for $1,200 today, the price predictor may tell you to wait a few more days, since it predicts that the price will go down. A few days later you check back, and most of the time, the price is cheaper. Maybe $5, maybe $10, or maybe even a couple of hundred dollars—I’ve seen it happen.
Trust me, I’m not a Kayak spokesperson, and I’m sad to say that I’m not getting any sort of payment or discount for talking about Kayak. I’ve simply found that they really are the best at what they do right now, and I’ve tried almost every other flight search website.
But does this mean you just get on Kayak and you will magically find a cheap flight? NO. There is more to the secrets of finding the cheapest flights.
Generally, times of the year that are not “peak” seasons tend to provide better values.
“Peak” Seasons in Japan are:
- New Year’s
- last week in December and first week in January
- Sakura season
- end of March/beginning of April in Tokyo
- Golden Week
- first week in May
- “Bon” festival season
- period around August 15
- Autumn when the leaves change
Traveling during “off-peak” seasons tend to mean that tickets are cheaper, because airlines need people to fly during these low-demand time periods. But be aware, that “off-peak” seasons also mean that you may not be getting the best weather. June is an “off-peak” period, but is typically known as the “rainy” season in Japan.
But that shouldn’t stop you. People in Japan are accustomed to the rainy weather, and you can get one of the those cool clear umbrellas for 200 yen almost everywhere. Also, it doesn’t rain all month. When I went to Japan last June, it didn’t rain at all–but hey, I’m just lucky.
Another “off peak” season is the end of August and beginning of September. But this period is also Tsunami season in Japan. I’ve traveled to Japan during this time too, and didn’t experience any tsunamis—what’s the point? If you want to travel to Japan, then do it!
WHEN SHOULD YOU BUY?
This is a somewhat complicated question, and many websites and people have different suggestions. Of course, if you plan a trip about nine months in advance, you will probably find some great ticket prices. But personally, I don’t think you need to do this.
I’ve found that buying a plane ticket 3-5 months in advance of your trip is sort of a sweet-spot before prices start creeping back-up. My main suggestion here is that you should take advantage of the price predictors on Kayak–they really do help.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU STAY?
The length of time you spend in Japan affects flight prices–sort of. The main reason for this is that the length of stay affects the day of the week that you either travel to, or return from, Japan.
What do I mean? Well, if you are in Japan for one week, then you can leave on a day when prices are typically lower, and the return on a day when prices are lower. If you stay 1.5 weeks, then one of your flight days will likely land on a day when prices are typically higher.
Try to set your travel dates to leave on either Wednesday or Thursday, and returning on Wednesday or Thursday. These days of the week are the days on which people travel to Japan less, so airlines provide better deals. Most people typically leave on “vacation” on Fridays or Saturdays because this is the end of their work week, and then try and arrive back from trips on Sunday or Monday, so they can return to work. So avoid these days, if possible.
I find that the best length of time to travel to Japan for your first time is one week, including travel time. This means you travel for about 2 days and are in Japan for 5 days. Of course, if you are traveling to Japan for work or school, your stay will be much longer.
Which airport should you fly into?
For those that don’t know, there are two airports in the Tokyo area—Narita Airport and Haneda Airport.
Most people fly into Narita Airport, which is actually about 1 hour 20 minutes from Tokyo by train. (Be sure to try the Narita Express when traveling from Narita, as a round-trip ticket to and from Tokyo is 4000 yen or about $38.)
All of my trips to Japan have been to Narita, since this is the biggest international flight hub. This usually means there are more flights going to Narita, making most flights cheaper. Remember, it’s all about supply and demand.
However, keep an open mind about flying into Haneda Airport, since some airlines provide deals for flying into this less-traveled airport.
One of the main differences between Narita and Haneda is that Narita is farther away from Tokyo, as Haneda is only about 30-40 minutes away by train.
I really hope that some of these tips helps you reach your goal of traveling to Japan, because I think everyone should have the opportunity to experience the people, food, and culture.
Please feel free to share this information with anyone that is thinking about traveling to Japan!
Ja Mata! See you next time!