There are a ton of deals to come from your home country to Japan for a holiday trip, especially in this era of government mandated “low-cost inbound flights”. But for those living here long-term, sometimes we have to jump through a few hoops to get a decent deal on a flight back to our home countries. Here are a few techniques I’ve used over the years to keep my airfare prices and stress levels low, while still getting home for a visit or skipping to another country for a holiday.
Japan has its holiday travel dates almost etched in stone, and due to the hardworking, by-the-book nature of its citizens, they don’t tend to travel outside of these seasonal break periods. Airlines and hotels know this, so you can expect prices to jump accordingly and plan around Golden Week in May, Obon in August, and of course New Year holidays in December/January to get the best prices and selection. You should also be aware of our neighboring country’s holidays as well; for example, going anywhere during Chinese New Year will cost more in Japan even though we don’t officially celebrate the lunar calendar as many surrounding countries do. Be aware that prime periods to visit Japan may also mean a higher fare trying to leave, even during our seasonal outdoor times like cherry blossom season, fall leaf season and winter ski season, as they play a role in jacking fares up at those times.
If time is not of the essence, try routing your flight through another nearby hub such as Seoul/Incheon in Korea, or Taipei in Taiwan and use their flagged carriers to boot. I’ve done this with using Korea Air and EVA air to travel back to the US and saved big; in one case over a thousand USD dollars. Happy bonus, Korean food!
Also, check out the option to fly from cities in Japan other than the usual Narita/Haneda combo here in Tokyo or Kansai/Itami airport in Osaka. International flights to other Asian hubs from places like Nagoya, Fukuoka, Komatsu/Kanazawa, and Sendai may be cheaper even with the added expense of a bus or train ticket to get there first. Combine that with a long stopover in one of these places and you have a mini-vacation too!
The real game changer is doing all the planning, routing and ticketing from your fingertips. Aggregator sites like Hipmunk, CheapOair, and Google Flights aggregate flights and prices in real time. Although I’ve never used it myself, Scott’s Cheap Flights has many fans as well. Here in Japan though, you might want to walk into a good old-fashioned travel agency like IACE TRAVEL or H.I.S. Travel because they are very good at doing package deals for both flight and hotel bookings, and also group deals if you’re traveling with the family.
Got any tricks of your sleeve? We’re collecting them and adding them to the list! Comment below if you want to tell the world your money or time-saving method for traveling outside Japan!
— By Jason L. Gatewood