If you are considering surprising your family with a fabulous trip to Japan but are feeling lost on how to plan it all or where to start, this is exactly what you need!🙋♀️ Let’s take a look at exactly how to plan your family trip in Japan!
With kid-friendly amenities, infrastructures, and infinite activities, not to mention an efficient and clean public transport system ensuring no cries for long walks, Japan is the perfect place for a family holiday. This country serves an ideal balance of modern comfort, entertainment, scrumptious local food, rich history, impressive traditions, and unique cultural experiences.
Surely you have heard your parents declare safety comes first, kids! Fortunately, Japan is consistently ranked one of the safest countries in the world. Better yet, Japan is home to various natural wonders, city adventures, cultural experiences, and charming date spots with picture-perfect sights in case the parents need a little break (😉).
Indeed, Japan’s unique culture, and centuries-old traditions, alongside its majestic shrines and temples, and breathtaking wilderness, are just a fraction of what the country has to offer.
Here your family can enjoy the best of both worlds; you can take a tranquil journey to the countryside accompanied by a local farm stay for the younger kids or choose to explore one of Japan’s main cities like Tokyo, which has several sights and attractions, or you can do both! There is something to satisfy anybody’s interests and preferences here.
Share precious moments with your family by partaking in exclusive events and cultural festivals, enjoying vibrant nightlife scenes, visiting historic shrines, temples, and nature escapades filled with emerald-green woods and majestic mountains overlooking sapphire lakes, or heading to the beach for picturesque coastlines with rose-gold sunsets. To put it simply, there are a variety of marvellous activities and events for you to experience as a family, creating everlasting memories. Whether in Japan’s far north city of Hokkaido, a winter wonderland with all-inclusive ski resorts and a famous festival boasting impressive ice sculptures, or at the island’s southernmost town of Okinawa with soft sand beaches, crystal clear water, and numerous aquatic adventures, you will definitely find something that appeals to you and your family.
Two to three months before your trip is a good starting point for planning and minimising the stress if there are any last-minute alterations or cancellations. For Japan, we advise you to learn a little bit of the local language, just essential phrases, and read up on social etiquette for the ultimate trip.
Japan 101 👩🏻🏫 📚
Before diving into today’s topic, there are a few things to know about Japan.
If you are uneasy about the language barrier, rest assured that even though Japanese is the most widely used language, popular tourist attractions and landmarks will have English guides and instructions. Not only that, but you can definitely get around places using the Google translate app with live translation and assistance.
If you have no idea what is written on a menu at a typical Japanese restaurant, point your phone camera at the page, and it will automatically translate it for you; the same goes for road signs, maps, or general directions. An amazing fact about Japan is that despite the language and cultural barriers, many Japanese people will make genuine efforts to help you and make you feel welcome in their home country. You can also find information online through well-known websites such as Japan Guide or simply contact us at Flip.
Our professional team has lived in Japan for several years, obtaining extensive local knowledge and the necessary skills and expertise to advise you. Should you have any queries or need assistance establishing an itinerary, connect with us via any of our social media outlets, and we would be happy to help!
Another key aspect to remember is that Japan is still primarily a cash-based society, with few places accepting credit cards. However, this is slowly changing, especially after the Tokyo Olympics, which brought many reforms. You can find money exchange services in popular areas such as Shinjuku or withdraw cash from convenience stores, especially 7-Elevens, which have ATMs that accept international credit cards. Just be sure to notify your bank and activate overseas usage!
📝 Noted everything down? Let’s get to planning!
Step 1: What is your purpose? 🎯
One of the first things to focus on is the purpose of your family or leisure holiday. That includes thinking about your and your travel companions’ preferences and things you most want to experience and prioritise during your trip. You may want to come to the Land of the Rising Sun for the mouth-watering local cuisine, awe-inspiring castles and historical monuments, traditional ceremonies, seasonal festivals, spirited nightlife, or therapeutic “onsens” (hot springs), among other incentives.
The dining and beverage selections in Japan are a major reason for you to visit the country. Did you know that Japan’s capital, Tokyo, is home to the most Michelin-star restaurants in the world? That already gives you an idea of how glorious the local cuisine and drinks are here. Not only can you find diners serving authentic homemade Japanese food but also international dishes, from French bistros, Middle -Eastern specialties to Brazilian “Churrasco” with extensive buffets, which are all easily accessible in the middle of the restless city of Tokyo. There are also many affordable and equally delicious options, including all-you-can-eat/drink menus.
Pro tip: If you wish to cut down on food and beverage costs, consider dining at or ordering takeout via applications such as “ubereats” or “wolt” focusing on local restaurants serving Japanese delicacies. Alternatively, if you want to grab a quick bite, browse your nearest convenience store for inexpensive meals and quirky snacks.
Another incentive to travel to Japan is its vibrant nightlife and pop culture. You might have already known that Japan is the infamous land of video games, manga, and anime, but it is also a top destination for music, concerts, festivals, film, and so on. Better yet, and make sure you mention this to your kids, did you know that the country holds a one-of-a-kind Disney Sea park and Universal Studios in Tokyo and Osaka with exclusive rides and attractions? Studio Ghibli fans will also be happy to learn that a brand-new themed park is opening its doors in November 2022! Alternatively, try out Fuji Q theme park in Tokyo if you have thrill-seeking teenagers scavenging the ends of the earth for that adrenaline rush. Offering wild roller coaster rides and games, it’s one of those places where you surely will laugh out loud and make unforgettable memories as a family or friends.
Apart from being one of the most secure countries in the world, with Tokyo being both a food paradise and fashion capital, Japanese culture and traditions span thousands of years and are truly one-of-a-kind. Besides majestic temples, shrines, and futuristic museums, you can also partake in other traditional cultural activities such as seasonal festivals, attending a tea ceremony wearing a kimono, learning to make sushi, watching a sumo match or baseball game, and more. You’ll learn more about Japan’s rich history and ancient philosophies through all these activities!
Determining your purpose will allow you to know your trip’s direction and what you need to focus on without feeling overwhelmed.
Step 2: Budget 💰
This is a significant step that will shape your entire trip. Microsoft Excel, Google sheets, or a simple notepad with a pen will be your new best friend. It would be best to break down all your expenses, including flight tickets, accommodation, food and drinks, tours, shopping, events you want to attend, and transportation costs. If you are travelling in a group, brainstorm and communicate all the projected expenses with your friends, ensuring everyone is comfortable and on the same page about everything. At Flip, we can alleviate the stress of organising your trip through our travel planning service. We also provide a customizable Japan starter pack covering all the essentials, such as a SIM card, tour guide booklets, and transportation card. In other words, you can sit back and relax knowing that everything is being prepared for you 🙌
Step 3: How long can you stay in Japan? 🤔
The next step is to decide the duration of your trip to Japan, referring back to your budget and purpose. You need to check your schedule and the availability of the people you will be travelling with, as some may only be able to during long weekends or public holidays. The amount of time you will stay in Japan will depend on what you want to do, how many cities you want to visit, and of course, your budget and availability.
Suppose you can only stay for a weekend. In that case, we recommend you explore one of Japan’s major cities, such as Tokyo, and enjoy some sightseeing, traditional activities, delicious food, and vibrant nightlife. However, if you have the chance to visit Japan for a week, then you can check out our itinerary here. Travelling for the first time in Japan can be overwhelming and stressful to organise as everything will be new and unfamiliar. That is why we advise you to explore one city, including all its wonders and hidden gems, and the next time you visit the country, you can expand your horizons and travel to other nearby destinations. For example, you can see Tokyo on your first-time trip, and the next time, or when you have more time, you can go to Osaka and Kyoto, which have famous landmarks, culinary delights, and untapped treasures to discover.
Step 4: Figure out the best city/cities for you 🏙️ 🗼
Another factor to consider is which prefecture and cities/city best fit your preferences and bucket-list activities. More prominent cities like Tokyo and Osaka will be the best fit if you want a place with many entertainment options and nightlife. On the other hand, if you wish to have a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of big cities with lots of cultural activities, you might want to explore cities in Japan’s countryside or places like Kyoto.
However, as you might have already guessed, the options don’t stop there. If you travel to the north of Japan in Hokkaido, you will be in a winter wonderland, perfect for winter sports and ski resorts, not to mention a grand snow festival held every year in wintertime.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you want to get some Vitamin D and catch a tan, head to one of Japan’s southern islands, such as Okinawa. Imagine soaking in warm, clear blue waters on coastal beaches, sipping on a pina colada; what more could you ask for? There are also plenty of marine adventures to experiment with, such as scuba diving or white water rafting.
Likewise, Yokohama is a train ride away from Tokyo if you want to enjoy port cities. It offers scenic views with its lush green park, a giant cup-noodle museum offering you the chance to create your own noodle product, a world-famous Chinatown with mouth-watering street food, and restaurants, not to mention cute shopping districts with artsy photo spots. As the sun goes down, the city is illuminated by fairy lights. Its giant Ferris wheel is surrounded by a lively and colourful theme park, promising you a cheerful moonlit adventure.
If you want a combination of big cities and countryside retreats, getting a JR pass might be worthwhile, allowing you to save on your travels from city to city. If you need further information and are interested in purchasing this pass, Flip can have it all organised for you, ensuring you a stress-free journey.
Step 5: Activities and places to be visited 🗺️
One of the most critical aspects of planning a trip is establishing what you will do and where you will visit. Keep in mind that your plans may change once you reach Japan, depending on weather conditions and jet lag, among other factors. For example, you might want to postpone your family adventures in Tokyo Disneyland if it forecasts heavy rain all day ☔🤧
Besides going to the city’s most “touristy” spots, you might wish to indulge in fun local activities such as karaoke or explore hidden gems in the city’s back alleyways. When people think of Japan, things such as temples and shrines usually come to mind, but in reality, Japan has so much more to offer. For instance, Japan’s nature is a wonder in itself. Several cultural traditions are linked to celebrating the different seasons, such as “hanami,” where people gather around cherry blossom trees for a picnic. If you enjoy trekking and the great outdoors, Japan will not disappoint you with its vast mountains, nature trails, and escapades into the wilderness. Staying at traditional Japanese hotels, or “ryokans,” is a perfect way to experience the local culture. Some properties have on-site hot spring baths and usually serve authentic Japanese meals with rich and flavourful ingredients.
The fun does not end there. Introducing the world’s first personalised chatbot tour guide, Flip offers an innovative and entertaining way for you to explore Tokyo city in a game-like format. Within 2 minutes, you can get your ticket directly inside Facebook Messenger. After acquiring your ticket, chat with your virtual tour guide; choose your path and let your chatbot know what you want throughout the tour, and enjoy your adventure! You can find all you need to know about the following themes and available tours here.
Step 6: Logistics ⚙️
As the last step, it is time to conclude everything and focus on ✨logistics✨
There are numerous activities you can do in Japan, as previously discussed; it will all depend on the purpose of your trip and your preferences.
As for accommodation, Japan has several types of stays for you to choose from. For a traditional and authentic experience, you can stay at a “ryokan.” Every city will have a unique Japanese hotel waiting for you, and we can help you make reservations as most will only speak the local language. If you want to save on accommodation, check out the hostel or capsule hotel options in your chosen destination. Reserving an Airbnb is also an excellent option for all budgets and tastes. You can find some intriguing BnBs with an original atmosphere or architecture. Lastly, if you want to treat yourself, big cities like Tokyo have fabulous luxury hotels offering world-class service and incredible dining options.
Okay, so now that accommodation is out of the way, you might be wondering, what do I need to pack? Where to even start? The short answer is: that it depends on what season you plan to come to and what region you will visit. Suppose you plan to go during summertime, don’t. Just kidding, despite the scorching heat, monsoon rains, and constant humidity, summer in Japan has its perks and seasonal treasures, including its annual traditional festivals and celebrations with fun games and street food, entertaining events, as well as gorgeous nature and scenic views throughout the country. The key is to dress light and wear flowy, airy, and comfortable clothes.
In autumn, the weather is stunning; with a cool breeze and sunlight, you will be mesmerised by the changing leaves, cascading in red, orange, and yellow tones to the ground. For this season, pack both short and long sleeve shirts and blouses, sneakers, pants, and light jackets. As winter approaches, you will need much warmer clothes and layers, including heavy coats and scarves, especially if you plan to visit northern Japan or stay at a ski resort. Lastly, springtime in Japan has fantastic weather, which is not too cold or warm. You will get by with long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, or T-shirts with a jacket or cardigan over them. For a more detailed clothes itinerary, feel free to reach out to us at Flip; we consider all of these details in our travel services.
One of the must-have items, when you arrive in Japan, is a transportation card. That will allow you to easily travel from place to place just like a local. Visitors tend to have either a Pasmo card or a Suica card, which you can buy at any big station in Tokyo or upon arrival at the airport. For certain countries, topped-up transportation cards can be delivered to your home before travelling for an extra fee.
Just like transportation cards, you can order your SIM card from companies such as Mobil before arriving in Japan and pick it up at the airport upon arrival. Alternatively, you can have it delivered to your place before your trip. The rates and expenses differ from company to company, so do a little investigation before picking your commuter pass.
Keep in mind that even though big cities such as Tokyo have efficient transportation services, there will be, in general, some walking involved to explore different areas properly. With that in mind, plan your day according to your family’s routine, abilities, and walking time preferences. Some restaurants, hotels, and other facilities may also not accept toddlers, so make sure to do your research before making reservations.
Lastly, there is always a lot of confusion about the JR Pass. Is it worth it to get one? The answer is that it depends; if you plan to explore different cities in a couple of weeks, the JR pass might be worthwhile. However, if you stay in a town for the entire trip, it would not be a fitting choice.
Travelling around Japan on a bullet train is a thrilling and unique experience for both adults and children. Imagine taking a ride in a futuristic vessel reaching rapid speeds unheard of anywhere else on earth. Even lunch boxes are available for kids to enjoy during their journey; some stations even have themed meals, such as a Hello Kitty set. However, if you stay in a town for the entire trip, it would not be a fitting choice.
Having covered all the essentials, if you have any other questions or wish to book one of our services or tours, try out our games, or get a Japan starter pack, feel free to reach out to us on any of our social media platforms, and we will be happy to help!
See you soon in Japan! 🇯🇵 👨👩👧👦 👩👩👧👦 👨👨👧👧