27 May What we booked for our first Japan family holiday
When planning a trip to a new country it can be difficult to know all the things that need to booked in advance in order to make your trip easier. Here is what we booked for our first Japan family holiday, I hope you find it helpful!
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Our requirements when looking for accommodation were:
- Cost: we wanted to be comfortable but weren’t willing to splash a ton of cash.
- Space: most people know that Japan’s hotels can have tiny rooms. We wanted some space for our toddler to be able to play.
- Convenience: preferably within walking distance to a main train station. Our toddler was, at that stage not sleeping through the night on his own. As it was only a short trip we decided to just have him share a bed with us, so wanted at least a queen size.
In Kyoto we wouldn’t be using the main station on a daily basis as the city still relies on a bus system as well as subway and railway lines. We took this into account when finding a Kyoto hotel. We settled on Citadines Kyoto Karasuma-Gojo, booking a studio queen through booking.com. Citadines offer serviced apartments, which we thought would be great even just for preparing breakfast. Click here to check prices.
I thought that staying in a traditional Japanese inn would give us a great experience during our time in Japan. When looking at ryokans for our accommodation in Takayama, I was careful to check for non-smoking rooms and a private bathroom. We chose Hidatakayama Futarishizuka Hakuun, which sat on top of a hill with a great view of Takayama. The room was a Japanese style twin, which was futon bedding set out on the floor. We booked a kaiseki course dinner for our first night and our reservation included a traditional Japanese breakfast for both mornings.
Read our stay in a Takayama Ryokan post.
We didn’t search Tokyo hotels for very long as we came across a promotion from Hotel Century Southern Tower. The hotel is in an excellent location, just opposite Shinjuku station. We were able to book a newly renovated king room due to the promotion.
Due to having a morning flight and Narita airport being over an hour train ride from Shinjuku, we decided to spend our last night in a hotel near the airport. We went with an executive room at Hotel Nikko Narita. The price was very reasonable and they had a free shuttle bus running regularly to and from the airport. Check latest prices here.
Japan has a fantastic transport system, however having a car for a part of our trip gave us a little break from traveling with luggage and a toddler. Fletcher was able to sleep in the car seat in the back, allowing us some time to ourselves. We didn’t have to worry about train schedules and could spend as much or as little time as we wanted at each place.
We wouldn’t need a large car, as long as it could fit our luggage and a car seat. Many of the streets around Japan are very narrow so it made sense to choose something smaller. The rental company was Nissan Rent-a-car and the car we chose was a March. We added on an English GPS and a child seat at an extra fee each.
You can check out this website and see what rental cars are available for your trip.
Read my post about getting our rental car and our top tips here.
Tim also handled the booking of the rented mobile WiFi router. He checked through the Trip Advisor Japan forum to see what others had used and recommended. He settled on Japan-Wireless and had them send the device to our hotel in Kyoto for us to collect on arrival.
ICOCA & Haruka package
ICOCA & Haruka is a discounted package provided by West Japan Railway Company. The package combines a discounted ticket for the Haruka (express train from Kansai Airport) with an ICOCA. The ICOCA is a rechargeable IC card that can be used to pay for public transport. It is also accepted by most convenience stores and some other shops. The card comes pre-loaded with 1,500 yen. You can reserve the package ahead of time on the West JR website. They send a confirmation that you print out and present at the ticket office in Kansai airport.
We didn’t get a JR Pass for this trip as it wouldn’t have paid off. You can read my post about working out whether the JR pass will be worth it for your trip.
Tokyo Disneyland tickets can be purchased on the day at the park. Tickets are also sold at a number of venues, however these are in the form of a voucher that needs to be exchanged at the park. We purchased a Disney e-ticket in advance from the official website. The e-ticket you print out allows you to go directly to the entry gates for admission. Read my post on Our day at Tokyo Disneyland.
Debit cards and cash
We knew that Japan was still a cash society but we also had our accommodation to pay for and didn’t think it was necessary to carry all that cash around. Our regular bank cards had large fees for using at international ATM’s as well as charges for currency conversion. We did some research on debit cards other travelers recommended and applied for a Citibank plus account which came with visa debit cards. The account has no fees and there are no charges for international ATM use. The exchange rate was great at the time of booking our trip so we had some Australian dollars exchanged for yen to take with us as well as our visa debit cards.
Want to know our expenses and total cost for this trip? Read it here!
See what we booked for our second trip to Japan here.