Booking flights to Japan: Promo fares, apps and timing | steppanyaki

Tokyo cityscape from Roppongi Hills
Tokyo cityscape from Roppongi Hills (Photo by Loïc Lagarde via flickr creative commons)

Booking cheap tickets to Japan can be quite the challenge.

If you’re lucky, you can get one of those incredibly low promo fares from Cebu Pacific Air. In fact, a friend of mine has gone to Japan several times with this very tactic. They can go as low as P5,000 (back and forth).

What worked to her advantage was that her trip dates were not limited to a certain period, so any day she sees the promo, she can immediately book tickets within the indicated travel period.

In my case, though, I had to make sure my travel dates overlapped with my boyfriend and friends’ business trip dates, which wouldn’t be confirmed until a month or two before the actual event they were covering.

What we had were more or less the timing of the event. Keeping this in mind, I applied a little less than two months in advance, just to ensure I had a Japan VISA in time.

Travel websites / apps are your best friend

The event was happening on the week of October 26th, and I started actively researching in August for flights. At that time, flights were around P16,000 (back and forth), and I felt it was too steep for me.

Several online articles I read highly recommended the use of travel websites Skyscanner and Liligo. They do the job of looking for the cheapest possible flights, accommodation and even car rentals for you. The great thing about these websites is that they also have app versions, so you can conveniently do your searches wherever you are.

To relieve me of the burden of constantly checking the fares each day, I also learned online that you can set these apps up to alert you on the trend in fares for the day–if they’re lower, the same or higher. You conveniently receive the these alerts via e-mail notifications.

I noticed that there really are consistently affordable options, but not from an airline I trust or saw good reviews of online.

The early bird catches the worm

Rumor has it that there’s a greater chance airlines will announce promos on a holiday, and I held on to that possibility.

While a certain airline did have a promo as predicted, it was not the dramatic price slash that I had hoped.

My mistake was that I waited until another holiday to see if there would be another promo with even lower rates, but to no avail.

I should have just gone ahead with the booking early on. Since I opted to wait for that holiday, the overall prices had gone up. I’d rather pay for the slightly more expensive fare but get the full in-flight benefits and flying comfort.

Via Narita or Haneda?

When I finally sat down and decided to book from then current available options, I made it a point to compare if it would be cheaper to fly into Japan via Narita or Haneda airport.

If you’ve already booked a place to stay in before purchasing air tickets, you might want to compare which airport would be nearer. You can use transit apps like Hyperdia (available on the web and on Android phones) to check the travel time, commute suggestions and fares.

What I learned

It was probably not the best idea to tag along my boyfriend and friends’ business trip because it limited the flexibility of my travel dates and required two separate AirBnb bookings to minimize complexity. But it was a blast having an entire group to hang out with in Tokyo when we all had the time to get together.

On the perfect timing to book tickets, I suggest agreeing with your would-be travel companion in advance that when a promo fare comes out, you book it immediately. Might be better as well for whoever’s paying with her credit card to have her travel companion’s details ahead of time, too, so she can just plug in the details and get those dream tickets, pronto.

Hope this helps you with your general and Japan-related travel preparations. Please let me know what you thought of this article!

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