Hotel, plane, transportation

In no particular order, these are the first three items you should budget for to get a rough idea of how much you’ll need to save. Below are my hotel, plane, and transportation notes as well as tips on how I plan to save for my upcoming trip to Tokyo & Kitakyushu, Japan in March 2019.


My trip will consists of traveling between the cities of Tokyo and Kitakyushu. There is a significant price difference between the two cities, which allowed me to adjust my budget as needed for the same quality hotel. Always check reviews on hotels across multiple websites/apps!


APA Hotel Akihabara-Ekimae

  • Duration: 5 nights
  • Budget: $50-99/night
    • My total cost = $531


  • Duration: 6 nights
  • Budget:$50-75/night
    • My total cost = $440


  • Always browse travel websites in private/incognito mood!
    • If you don’t they have ways to track your IP and can tell if you come back a lot and will start to raise the price each time to pressure you into buying.
  • Always compare rates – try a new computer/device, company or browser to ensure you’re getting the best rate.


Flying out of SEA-TAC airport usually isn’t a problem but I always check to see if it’s cheaper to fly out of Vancouver, Canada (YVR). Here are some places to check for good airplane prices.

  • Expedia (web and app)
  • Hopper (app)
  • CheapOair (web)
  • Air Canada (Airlines – web and app)
  • Google “cheap flights” and use Google’s search
    • sometimes get exclusive offers on mobile

Average ticket cost

For my solo trip to Japan, I flew on Air Canada and got a great deal of about $750 round trip. The current price trend for buying March 2019 tickets on airlines I trust is anywhere from $900-1,200, which is out of our budget (buying a little too late). We plan to use credit card points to bring this cost down – more below in “tips”.


  • The season will affect the cost of a ticket, especially in Japan, and I plan to go during the busiest time of the year – cherry blossom season (typically late March to mid April).
  • I recommend using credit card points, Costco discounts or any travel coupons you have since the plane ticket is arguably the most expensive part of the trip.
  • I plan to use my credit card points to get me to Hawaii for free and then pay somewhere between $600-700 round-trip, per person. I am also asking Santa and my family for money for this trip, which should help my budget!
  • Hopper will watch flights for you and send you notifications when they go up or down and give you tips on when to buy.


The inevitable question when traveling to Japan – is the JR Pass worth it? In my case, for this trip it will not be worth it. Here are some useful links to help yourself since it’s really hard to find the real JR Rail Pass website (many online vendors):

38,880 YEN
19,440 YEN
29,110 YEN
14,550 YEN
62,950 YEN
31,470 YEN
46,390 YEN
23,190 YEN
81,870 YEN
40,930 YEN
59,350 YEN
29,670 YEN

Green is fancy but honestly the Ordinary cars are really great too – still reserved seating, clean, new looking, etc. Here is my breakdown of how I budgeted with helpful links:

Japan Rail Pass

Total cost 14-day JR pass = $404 (cost last time I went in 2017)

  • Covers everything from the airport trip to any of the JR stations in Tokyo, around Japan
  • Wasn’t useful when I was in Kyoto except when I went to visit Fushimi Inari Taisha
    • mainly used the bus or taxi  – not many JR stations around the area
  • I’m worried it will be a Kyoto repeat and the JR pass won’t be helpful in Kitakyushu area specifically – I’ll know after this trip

Questions to ask yourself when debating a JR Pass purchase

  1. Are you eligible to use it?
  2. Are you only going to Tokyo?
  3. Are you traveling to more than three cities in Japan?
    • If so, yes! Purchase!
    • Two or less? Read the next section “Avoiding the JR pass”
  4. How many days are you staying in each area?
    • Consider a mix of passes – many cities have one day, two or three day unlimited ride passes, which may be better for your budget
  5. What attractions will you be visiting and how do you reach them?
    • Highly recommend jotting down your must-see attractions with the train/subway station closest to it – is it a JR station?
  6. Where are you staying?
    • Lesson learned – stay within walking distance of a JR station for ease
    • I stayed in Asukasa near Ueno but not close enough to walk to Ueno or Akihabara station. The closest station was the TX – Tsukuba Express which cost about 250 yen each time I wanted to leave the area and return (500 yen a day if I was efficient – about $55 I didn’t plan on spending)

Avoiding the JR pass

Our transportation total without the pass = $306-356/each
Cost estimates to help me determine if it’s cheaper to get the pass or not

  • N’EX roundtrip train Narita airport to Tokyo Station: under $40
  • Flight to Tokyo > Kitakyushu = $216/person round-trip
  • JR Suica card = $10 – 50, or $100 – you pick!
    • Good for both Tokyo & Kitakyushu
      • Our budget goal is $50-100 for the whole trip
    • PROs
      • Widely accepted across all of Japan
        • SUICA (JR East) can be used on other smart card transportation systems too!
          • Useful in Kitakyushu, which uses the SUGOCA pass (JR Kyushu)
      • Works like a debit card for tickets and food vendors inside the station (and some outside as well!)
      • Don’t use it all? Get a full refund if you return the card or get a full refund except $5 to cover the card.
    • CON
      • Assess if there is a risk of spending more than the cost of the JR pass
      • Keeping track of how much you spend – remember to recharge your card

Budget tips

General budget

First question is do you have a budget for your life in general? Great tip my mom gave me – 50% Needs, 30% Wants, 20% Savings. So if my monthly pay check is $1,000 then $500 towards needs (rent, bills, groceries), $300 towards wants (going out, shopping, etc.), and $200 towards my savings account. Decide if you want your monthly travel budget to come from your savings or wants portion. Even better? Have your sister create a google sheet that will calculate how much you have left in each area and track your monthly budget in each tab.

Travel box

Our first Christmas together, Joe bought me a cute “travel box” that now holds our money that we save for trips together. Every month we each put money into it to ease the financial burden for our next trip. If all goes well, we should have at least $1,600 ($200 each x 8 months of saving) saved up to use for our Japan costs. This won’t cover everything but helps immensely!

Tax return, holidays, birthday….

Do you get money back during tax season? Christmas coming up? Here’s a few ideas on how to utilize this chunk of change depending on your budget:

  • Apply the 50%, 30%, 20% logic I mentioned in my General budget section
  • Put the whole sum or only half towards your trip
  • I’m using minimum 50% of my tax return for my trip but will set aside an additional 20% just in case I can afford to add this in as well (total 70% of tax return towards my total trip costs)
  • Christmas is coming up and Joe’s and my family plan to donate towards our trip so 100% will go towards my total


Do you research before traveling to Japan – many options available so that you can customize your trip to be within the budget you want.

Know your final cost and set budgeting goals – check in every month to ensure you’re still on track to meet your final budget goal.

Have good tips you want to share? Mention them in the comments below!




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