Planning your Japan trip in a time of uncertainty

If you’ve been looking forward to booking a trip to Japan, the current circumstances are discouraging. Flights are being cancelled all over the world and borders closed, with great uncertainty around when things will be functioning again. This may make trip planning seem impossible, but there are practical steps you can take.

If you have to delay your trip, that gives you more time to:

  • think about what would make the trip a success for you
  • research places to go and activities to do beyond the standard itineraries

This will give you more ideas and options ready for when you are able to plan your travel.

Be flexible

If you are booking flights, you may want to spend a little more on the airfare to get one that can be rescheduled or cancelled with no cost. This will allow you to adjust to whatever may happen in the future.

You may also want to wait a while and be ready to book when good promotional deals start appearing again. These can be limited term offers or for specific periods, so it helps to know what you’re wanting out of a trip. That way you can judge whether a fare offer is a good option for you.

There is no need to lock in your accommodation and travel within Japan far in advance, except for a few popular times, such as Golden Week, New Year, and the height of cherry blossom and foliage seasons.

Japanese hotels often only open up their bookings either three or six months in advance. And when you do book, they generally don’t ask for advance payment. Take note of the cancellation conditions, as these can vary, but usually you can cancel up until a few days before without any penalty. Within one or two days of the booked date, there is likely to be a cancellation fee.

You don’t need to book trains before you arrive in Japan. There are shinkansen running every 10 minutes on the main route between Tokyo and Osaka, and it’s usually possible to get reserved seats right up until departure time. If you want to sit together as a group or want seats on the Mt Fuji side of the train, reserving a few days beforehand will enable you to do this.

Some routes are less frequent and also popular with visitors, such as the Hida Wideview express between Nagoya and Takayama. These are definitely worth booking a few days beforehand, but can be done when you arrive in Japan.

What this means

You can start thinking about visiting Japan, looking ahead to a time when the world has settled down a bit. When thinking about dates for your visit, avoid popular holiday times in Japan, and you will be fine leaving hotel and transport arrangements until closer to the time you are going, or even after you’ve arrived in Japan.

If your trip is in a different season from what you’d originally planned, make the most of it. There are events and festivals happening all year round, and scenic spots best enjoyed in a particular season. Find out what’s on when you’re visiting, and enjoy seasonal highlights. These will help make your trip unique and memorable.

Do you have any questions about travelling around Japan? Please feel free to contact me.

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For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, and other stores.