Taking a Family of Four to Japan

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With all our crazy travels and still having the ability to nonrev, one of our friends asked us if we planned on going to Japan anytime soon.

I told him probably not. There were other places we wanted to go to first, plus with the length of the flights I thought our youngest may not be up for flying that far yet, and, to be honest, it’s always intimidated me a bit, especially taking the first trip there with the kids.

Then we started discussing the cruise “deal” to the Caribbean that was going to cost us $2500 for a week and asking how much a vacation is worth to us.

We realized the $2500 a week price tag wasn’t the problem. We’ve traveled to Europe before for $3,000 a week.

It was the $2500 for something we’ve already done that was the problem.

When we work through a problem we usually have to start working backwards. We have to rule out what we don’t want to do before we figure out what we do want to do (this works for deciding where we want to eat dinner as well). After several days and more searching my husband finally asks, “Why don’t we go to Japan?”

After some lengthy discussion about what commitments we can adjust or move and which ones we can’t I think we’re really going to do it. We’re going to go to Japan next month.

In my usual form I went to our library and checked out every travel guide I could find on Japan

japan travel guides

But I also want to ask other people, what should we see while we’re there?

We’ll have a little less than two weeks when I account for travel time, I already know there’s no way we can see half of what we’d want to. Accounting for the weather (November) and that we’ll have our kids with us, what are the things we absolutely should not miss while we’re there?


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Tiff's first big vacation was a Caribbean cruise when she was six. She first started getting interested in deals when her husband showed her the tricks to getting bought off your flights back in the late 90s. She started flying nonrev when they got married; the first unusual nonrev she did was in '05 when her family flew through San Juan to get to Dallas from Philly. They have two boys, ages 11 and 7, who she usually drags along on their travels and hopes they will grow up to love traveling as much as she does.


  1. anita

    October 7, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    do hot springs in Japan(look for springs not in Tokyo, venture out to the country side like Kyoto)No access granted to those with visible tattoos
    We did it all on points and miles for our honeymoon. Learn basics in japanese, a LOT DO NOT SPEAK ENGLISH NOT EVEN A LICK.
    food is amazeballs
    I definitely want to go back to Japan.

  2. sharon

    October 7, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    Our family of 4 did it last summer – best trip ever. My kids absolutely loved Japan. I have to say though, my husband does speak some Japanese so that was a help. The subways I found very confusing, but there was always some helpful person that seemed to pop out of the woodwork to help.

    Use the online japanguide site, and buy rail tickets in advance to save $. The fish market was amazing and a short walk from the Conrad. Akihabra is mesmorizing to kids – more games and toys than you can imagine. Watch out for comic book stores if you have young children, they don’t shield comic porn it’s right next to the regular comics. The skytree was tall and very crowded (i could have skipped that). There are temples and shrines all over (even in shopping malls).

    Kyoto is a must, and geisha watching (hunting) in Gion is a once in a lifetime experience.
    We did a bus tour in Kyoto to the gold temple (I can’t remember how to spell the name), emperior’s palace etc and although I hate tours, it was good to get a rest and not have to worry about how to get to some sites. Also the temple with 1000 lifesize golden statues was pretty amazing and less than a block from the hyatt.

    All in all, the people are very nice and you get to see some incredible sites.

  3. Iolaire McFadden

    October 7, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    We enjoyed a two nights of a five night Japan trip in Hakone near Mt. Fuji – poke around here http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5200.html . You can get a pass that includes the train out there and one big loop through the Hakone park that includes a ton of different transportation options, cable car, pirate boat, ropeways etc… I think the multiple transportation methods would be very exciting for children – it was fun for adults. We got a hotel via that website above for a fair price that was semi-traditional with breakfast and maybe dinner included.

  4. ryan

    October 7, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    FREE customized Tokyo tour. It’s almost too good to be true – have a look.


  5. Iolaire McFadden

    October 7, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    And to second Anita’s comment – my wife found the language issue a bit of a problem. I thought it was not that bad and that there was English letter signs available, but we did eat a lots of cheap good noodle shops because it was “safe” and we didn’t have to deal with language issues – i.e. we could point.

    Do the Tokyo Free guide, http://www.tokyofreeguide.com/, our (free) guide was a PHD student who was going to go to school or a conference in the EU and needed to practice his English.

  6. Joseph

    October 7, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Do not miss Kyoto, temples can be boring for kids but you really need to visit. Keisoku-ji Temple is great for kouyou matsuri (leaves falling festival)and it should be very nice mid to end of November. kiyomizu deratemple is very nice as well.
    A short train ride away (about an hour) is Osaka. The aquarium kaiyukan is amazing there, also going to a place called round 1 can be great family fun (think of it as an arcade, bowling alley, karaoke place and more wrapped up into one). Toei Kyoto Studio Park is really cool for kids and adults if you like samurai movies. Osaka has many other cool sites like dontonburi as well.

    If you want your kids to see some history a trip to Hiroshima is a very worthwhile trip and for some fun you can head to Miyajima a very scenic shrine island with some very friendly deer. Invest in a rail pass it will save you alot of money.

    I could write a small essay for you but this is a good start I hope!

  7. antignos

    October 7, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    I was just there with my wife and 7 year old. Feel free to email me if you’d like any advice or info. Was an amazing trip and awesome for kids.

  8. Guilherme

    October 7, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    I traveled 2 years ago with 4 friends and we did the following:

    4 Nights in Tokyo
    1 Night in Hiroshima
    1 Night in Osaka
    1 Night in Hiroshima
    3 Nights in Kyoto
    Final Night at Hilton Narita

    All travel in Japan done by JR Trains.

  9. Tiff

    October 21, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Thanks everyone! I’m looking into your suggestions and trying to build our itinerary (including some time to visit friends who live there). 🙂

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