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These are step-by-step directions for starting your plan. We suggest you do this BEFORE you buy your itinerary.

We are Japan travel experts who provide curated Japan travel experiences. We have over 60 years of combined experience sending travelers on their own, to Japan so we know how to get you going in the right direction.  We’ve prepared both a series of short videos and some simple examples to get you started.  By making sure you prepare BEFORE you choose your itinerary, you’ll save yourself time and frustration later.

STEP 1 – Initial Decisions

There are three basic initial decisions that you will need to make in order to get to the fun part, deciding what to see and do.


  • Budget: The budget will determine how much you can do for how long at what time of year. So having a good handle on what you are willing to spend will be your most critical decision.  Many times we’ve found people dive into the planning process and the, weeks later, find that they’ve made expensive and time-consuming decisions that they have to undo and start over.  We know Japan is expensive, and you will likely spend more on your trip to Japan than you have more many of the other places you’ve traveled.  So you’ll want to get this part right.  There are several ways to look at your budget and everyone has their personal preference.
    • Total Spending: This number would include everything, including flights, hotels, trains, ground transportation, meals, activities and some extra for the unexpected for your entire travel party (whether is is 2, 4 or 8).  You may even want to include in things like travel insurance and seasonal wardrobe requirements.
    • Daily Spending: This is a number that takes out the airfare, but then figures how much you would like to spend each day for the entire party. If you divide this by the number of people traveling, you will get a “per person per day” figure.  This is a good number to use for a reality check, since people forget a lot of things when planning.  For instance, while at home, you probably don’t spend much on taxis or admissions or snacks for the entire family. These are all things you will be buying while you are on the road.
  • Time of Year: The next most important decision to make it when you will travel. There are several high seasons, which are when hotels and services are at their most expensive and two low seasons when rates are at their lowest.  Most costs (trains, taxis, subways, food) will remain the same all year. The primary variable for seasonality is hotel rates and availability. The key seasons are:
    • High Seasons
      • Sakura: Cherry blossom time, from late March to mid-April
      • Fall Foliage: The second half of November
      • New Years: From about December 27th to January 2nd
      • Golden Week: The first week of May, sometimes starting about 29 April
      • Chinese New Year: Varies from year to year; late January or early February
    • Low Seasons
      • January/February:  When it can be cold and snowy. February is considered a low season, but not over the Chinese New Year (high season), which will fall on different dates every year, so you will need to check a calendar for that.
      • June: Which is considered the rainy season.
  • Length (or Duration):  A short trip in high season can cost as much as, or even more than, a long trip in low season.We consider the basic trip lengths to be:
    • Introductory journeys:  about 7 to 9 days, which can cover only a few highlights
    • Sampler Tours: about 10-13 days, where you can delve a little deeper for a classic two-week vacation.
    • Once-in-a-lifetime trips: 14 days or more, when you try to get everything into one trip.
Example 1
$20,000Total*you know your total budget and will back-into how long and when
  • 2 travelers
  • Subtract airfare of $1000 per person
  • Remaining budget is $18000
  • You decide to go for 10 days/9 nights at $1800/day
  • Incidentals are $100/day per person
  • Remaining budget is $1600 per person per day
  • Covers hotels/trains/transfers/guides/ nice meals
  • Hotels at 40% means no more than about $700/night
  • You can stay at 5* hotels in low and middle season and 4* hotels in high season
Example 2
$1000per day*you know what you want to spend per day
  • 4 travelers
  • Airfare is extra
  • Incidentals are $100/day per person
  • Remaining budget is $600 per day
  • Covers hotels/trains/transfers/guides/nice meals
  • At 40% per night hotels can cost no more than about $250 per day
  • You can stay at 3* hotels in low and middle season
  • You will find it almost impossible to find adequate hotels in major cities during high season although Airbnb might work if you are adventurous
Example 3
$1500per day*you know what you want to spend per day
  • 3 travelers
  • Airfare is extra
  • Incidentals are $100/day per person
  • Remaining budget is $1200 per day
  • Covers hotels/trains/transfers/guides/nice meals
  • At 40% per night hotels can cost no more than about $530 per day
  • You can stay at 4* hotels in low and middle season and at 3* hotels in high season however note that 3* and 4* hotels often do not take a 3rd person in the room and you may need to get two rooms

Step 2 – Destination Choosing

The next step, after you have figured out how long your trip will be and what season, will be to determine where you would like to go.  Unless you are taking a very long trip, the cost of transportation will not vary significantly. So your decision can be based on what interests you most.

Most everyone will want to include Tokyo and Kyoto in their touring plans.  So the key question is where else. We suggest the following:

  • 7-9 day trips: One additional destination (you can stay 1 night for a shorter trip and two nights for a longer trip)
  • 10-13 day trips: Two additional destinations
  • 14 days or longer: Three or four additional destinations, depending on the pace you would like to travel

Our tour itineraries are designed to accommodate trips of 7, 10 or 14 nights with logistics and travel suggestions timed to the day count. You can easily modify any of the itineraries by adding in more time in one of the destinations. If side-trip options are possible, we have listed those as well.

We’ve included links to our destination pages below, followed by a table that describes which destinations are featured on which tours.

Step 3 – Choose your Itinerary

The final step is to choose the itinerary that is right for you. Our simple, do-it-yourself (DIY) Daily plans for 7, 10 or 14-night trips provide complete instructions and plans for a reasonable price.  We don’t pre-select hotels, transportation or activities – we give you a wide range of choices (and information on how to get them) so you can tailor the pre-set plan exactly to your needs.  This is our value option,  which includes:

  • Helpful travel tips
  • Popular destinations
  • Sequencing – so you don’t have to figure out everything yourself. These are tested routes that we’ve used for hundreds of independent travelers.
  • Links to bookings sites for all recommended transfers hotels and activities – you get to choose your own hotels and can find any deals that work for you.
  • Information on train travel – what to know before you go, what to do on-the-ground, how to find schedules
  • Daily touring plan outlines – we’re not a guide book, so we only give you enough information to make informed decisions, but we lay out daily sightseeing plan suggestions that we know work (so you don’t have to waste time traveling all over large cities)
  • Useful Information about cultural differences, etiquette, tipping, taxis, baggage and more
  • Curated Japan Signature Information (hotel ratings, ryokans, kaiseki meals, concierge use, and more)
  • Each Daily Itinerary has all the details and logistics you need for a successful trip

Choose from these pre-set routes:

For trips longer or shorter than 7, 10, or 14-nights, you can use the framework itinerary and add more days to the place or place you want to see the most.  We also give you ideas of stopovers and day trips, which can enhance your trip or take you to places of special interest to you.

While we think that The Daily itineraries will meet most traveler’s needs, we do know that some people may not have time to plan every aspect of their trip and would like a little more professional assistance.  For a trip that is customized to your specific travel dates and needs, check out our Deluxe offering.

Itinerary Options

Step 4 – Buy Your Itinerary

The Daily itinerary description pages have a “Buy Now” button which you can use to get your itinerary and start planning your dream trip to Japan.

We suggest that you follow our step-by-step planning process first since itineraries are not returnable or exchangeable. If you decide later that you would like a different plan, you will need to purchase that plan.

We also would like to make clear that these Itinerary plans are not appropriate for all travelers.  If the following situations apply to you, we suggest you choose alternative travel planning services for Japan.

  • Renting a Car: If you are planning to rent a car to drive around Japan, our itineraries will not work as they are timed and based solely on travel by train and public transportation.  Car rental is not something we really recommend without serious research, since you would be driving on the left side of the road ,in a country with limited English signage outside of the major cities and where addresses are notoriously difficult to convey, let alone use in a navigation system.  For a good insight into how addresses in Japan are structured, please see this video:  Japanese Addresses.
  • Multi-generational and Large parties: The difficulties of traveling with large parties in Japan are numerous and more than we can go into with our product.  While the Family Travel Supplement will work for a small nuclear family, if you are traveling with party of more than say, 7, with many ages and varied requirements, you will find it difficult to make a good plan using only these resources.  We suggest contacting a specialist custom travel planner.  You can find a list of these here: Japan Custom Travel Planners.
  • Handicapped or Accessible travel:  Travel to Japan with special needs requires specialized knowledge and contacts. For instance, while travel by train is still recommended, there is only one accessible seat/car per train and it must be reserved in advance so that the proper attendants can be available for boarding and disembarking. This takes significant advance preparation and is beyond the scope of this product.  We suggest contacting a specialist custom travel planner.  You can find a list of these here: Japan Custom Travel Planners.
  • Off the Beaten Path and/or Hiking: These itineraries are designed to go to the places where about 80-90% of tourists will travel on an initial trip to Japan.  If you want to go to any of the islands outside of Honshu (e.g. Hokkaido, Kyushu, Okinawa, Shikoku, etc.) then you will need to check with a specialist company.  We recommend Walk Japan or Oku Japan (hiking) or Inside Japan (regular travel).