Welcome to the Budget Series! I aim to give more practical advice and expound on the financial details of our travels through this series. Although travel is way more accessible now than ever before, most of us still need to set aside a piggy bank/save up for a vacation. By taking advantage of credit card reward and bonus points, N and I have been able to travel more frequently and save on cash spend while traveling. The goal for this series is to discuss budgeting/finance tips, breakdown costs of each trip, and show you how to best use your points and cash to optimize your trip financially.
Read other Budget Series posts:
This was the third time we visited Japan, and we were as excited and giddy as the first time. We stayed 12 days and 11 nights in Tokyo on this trip.
Japan is not a cheap country, but you can find affordable ways to eat, stay, and enjoy your time.
Once we determine when and where we would like to go, N prefers to book the flights as soon as possible. For this trip, we took advantage of an opportune bonus deal to book a round trip first class flight on ANA.
The deal allowed us to transfer Amex Membership Reward points to Virgin Atlantic miles with a 30% bonus added on top of what you transfer. Usually, it’s a 1:1 transfer ratio, but through this deal, we only needed to transfer 85,000 Amex points to get 110,500 VA miles. Then, we booked the ANA flights through Virgin, since they are partner airlines, for 110,000 points. We ended up saving ourselves 25,500 Amex points!
Taxes and fees for the flights were $83.26 per person, or $166.52 total.
Our friends, Aki and Yuka, live in a residential apartment building called City Towers Toyosu The Twin in the Toyosu area of Tokyo. The cool thing about this building is that there are six rooms allotted for guests of the building residents, and these rooms are priced cheaper than comparable rooms in a standard hotel. However, only residents of the building can book the rooms for their guests. I wonder how the economics of this works out, but it is an interesting concept.
Luckily, Aki was able to reserve five nights for us through the lottery system they implement for bookings. Since the rooms weren’t available for the first two nights there, Aki and Yuka invited us to stay in their apartment, which means two nights where we didn’t pay for accommodation.
Five nights at the City Towers cost us a rough total of $305. It was such a steal because the rooms were a decent size (much bigger than your average Tokyo hotel room) with fantastic views. There are levels of rooms (City Standard, Bay Standard, City Suite, and Bay Suite) suited for your size and view preferences. We stayed in the Bay Standard ($65/night) for four nights and the City Standard ($45/night) for our last night, where the only caveat was that we slept in separate twin beds. The City Suite and Bay Suite have two separate full size beds.
After our stay at City Towers, we met up with another couple, Dana and Jonathan, who were joining us in Tokyo. We decided to stay at Hotel Mystays Hamamatsucho for the next four nights. My experience with the Mystays chain has been great. It’s simply clean and affordable with no extra fluff. This hotel chain is a decent choice if you’re not spending a whole ton of time in your room and only need a place to rest at the end of the day. They have several locations all over Tokyo.
Of course, we used the Citi Prestige card for its 4th night free benefit (book 3 nights, get 4th night free) to book this stay. See this post where I talked about booking the W Hong Kong with the card.
The total for four nights at Hotel Mystays Hamamatsucho was $324.16 after the 4th night free benefit, about $81/night.
Total accommodation for 11 nights came out to be ~$629.16, averaging to about ~$57/night. Typically, I’d expect a night in Tokyo to be about $75-$100/night, so we definitely came in under our budget for accommodations.
I love the public transportation system in Tokyo. It’s clean, efficient, and orderly! Generally, you can take the Tokyo Metro lines and Toei Subway lines to most neighborhoods in Tokyo. There is the JR Yamanote line that runs a loop around the city and the JR line that’s mostly used to travel outside of Tokyo. Here’s a map of Tokyo’s subway routes.
Depending on how long you’re staying and what you plan on doing, you can buy single tickets from station to station, passes only for the Tokyo Metro lines, passes covering both the Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines, or JR passes. For us, we found value in buying day passes that covered both the Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines. You can buy a 1-, 2-, or 3-day pass for 800 yen (~$7.50 USD), 1200 yen (~$11 USD), and 1500 yen (~$13.50 USD), respectively.
I would highly suggest buying this pass if you plan on spending all your time in Tokyo and hopping around all the neighborhoods. On days where you’ll only be in one area of Tokyo or taking a couple of metro rides, single tickets may be the way to go. If you want to venture to other cities from Tokyo, you would look into the JR line. Thinking and planning ahead on your activities can save you on transportation cost.
Here’s a breakdown of transportation costs for two people:
(4) 1-day pass for both Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines: $30
(4) 3-day pass for both Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines: $54 (We didn’t need the second set of 3-day passes and didn’t have time to return them…so there’s the $27 mistake.)
Skyliner Express = $45 (express train from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station)
Other transportation costs = $70 (single JR train tickets for a day excursion to Kamakura and bus tickets to the airport from Tokyo)
Total transportation cost = ~$200
I would say the average meal cost per person in Tokyo is in the range of $12-$15. You can find sub-$10 meals, but they’re usually fast food options or street snacks. Food made up the biggest area of spend for us in Tokyo, since we didn’t mind splurging a bit here and there on a delicious meal. By “splurging”, I mean spending from $30-$40 a meal per person. We don’t usually opt for fancy sushi joints or anything like that where you can drop $50+ per person.
The cost of food also included water bottles, lots of snacks, and vending machine drinks (N’s obsession, which let’s be real, probably made up a fourth of the cost 😛 ).
Total spend on food was $950 for two people over 12 days. That’s about $40/day per person.
Other miscellaneous spend totaled $100. This included buying clothes, toiletries, etc.
Our total trip spend came out to be $2,050. That’s $1,025/per person for a 12 day trip including flights, accommodation, food, and transportation.
Drop me a comment if you have any questions or want to discuss details of my post!