Welcome to a new series we’re running on Why Wait, called How Much Does it Cost to Travel?
We know that financial considerations are probably the biggest factor you grapple with when planning a trip. Hard numbers can be difficult to come by, especially when everyone has their own unique travel style and considerations.
The goal of this series is to provide you with real budgets people have used for trips they have actually taken. This could be anything from a long weekend in Miami to 6 months backpacking around South East Asia. It’s our hope that by shining a spotlight on what people are actually spending- and the value they get for it, you will have a better idea of what it really costs to travel.
All of the travel budgets will live on this dedicated page.
Kicking off the series we have… me! I’m sharing some numbers and insights about my 2016 trip to Japan.
If you’re interested in contributing to this series please send me an email using the contact form on the site.
Where did you go?
Japan, for a family wedding and a 3-week babymoon. I was 17 weeks pregnant at the time.
Briefly, what was your itinerary?
We got JapanRail Passes and visited Kanazawa, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kyoto and Tokyo. We also did day trips to Nara and Miyajima.
How much money did you spend overall?
For two people, coming from Seattle we spent roughly: $4600
Broken down that is:
$0– Flights (we used miles)
$940– JR Rail Passes for 2 people
$2000– On the ground expenses (food, activities, souvenirs etc).
How much did you spend on transportation?
We paid for our flights using frequent flyer miles so they were free. We even upgraded to business class on the way home!
We bought 3-week JR Rail passes ahead of time. They are kind of pricy (~$500 each), but a good value when you add up the costs of train travel in Japan. They also cover the Miyajima ferry and some train lines within Tokyo and Kyoto.
What kind of accommodation did you stay in, and what were the prices like?
We stayed primarily in AirBNBs, which I felt were reasonably priced. They were all quite snug, but comfortable. Our studio in the heart of Shibuya in Tokyo cost $100 a night, while in Kanazawa we paid $75 for a 1 bedroom by the river. I probably could have found cheaper ones but I wanted to be central and comfortable.
A couple of cities had poor AirBNB selection so we stayed in private rooms in hostels in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These were around $70 a night and not really a good value.
What sort of activities did you do?
We visited many temples and shrines, most of which were free or had nominal entry fees. Also lots of markets, parks and castles. Mostly we walked around, soaked up the atmosphere and enjoyed the country. We were racking up 15-20,000 steps a day easily.
And we ate a LOT.
What did you splurge on? Was it worth it?
We mostly splurged on food. My husband and I are both huge foodies and we really wanted to experience Japanese food to the fullest. It’s really easy to do that on a budget but we also splurged on a couple really nice meals. It was absolutely worth it.
What did you scrimp on? Are you happy with that decision?
Well I was pregnant so I saved money on alcohol! Actually, nightlife in general. Most of the bars and clubs in Japan are really smoky, so they were a no-go for me. I was usually totally wiped out by 8 pm anyway.
My husband might have regretted this but I did not! I love a good excuse to turn in early.
Did you buy any special souvenirs?
We bought a few things for the baby’s room, some sake cups, paper crane earrings and a few other small knickknacks. Nothing every expensive.
Did you do anything special to save up for this trip?
Not really. We save a lot of money for travel by not owning a car and other various sacrifices. This was the only international trip we took in 2016, which is rare for us, so we were comfortable spending a bit more than usual.
Do you have any regrets regarding how you budgeted this trip? Would you do things differently next time?
No regrets, we had a fabulous time. It was pricier than our usual trips but it was well worth it as a “last hurrah” before the baby was born.
Of course now we have to go back with Marcella! Next time I might spend more time in smaller cities. Tokyo was significantly more expensive than anywhere else we visited.
Anything else to add?
One advantage we benefitted from was a strong US dollar against the yen. When I visited Japan in 2010 everything was much more expensive than it is right now. It was an advantageous time to go. That said, I don’t think Japan is the crazy expensive destination people make it out to be. You CAN spend a lot of money if you want but there are a lot of ways to keep costs down.