Japan Family Holiday Guide: 5 Considerations for Your Big Trip

Traveling as a family is a great way to deepen relationships with your friends, bond with family, and even save money while enjoying the wonders of Japan. You can learn from each other’s perspectives while creating shared memories for the future. But what do you need to know when planning a Japan family holiday? Read on to find out!

What We Cover:

  1. Package Tours
  2. Transportation
  3. Family Restaurants
  4. Accommodations
  5. Getting WiFi

Preparing for Your Japan Family Holiday

When preparing for your family trip to Japan, ask each member what their travel priorities are. Try to incorporate these priorities into a loose itinerary. Make sure the itinerary also allows for free time and alone time to keep everyone sane. Also, make sure people are on the same page regarding modes of transportation, budget, and timing. If traveling with extended family, decide on a per-person budget for big costs like accommodations, and factor in tax and any service charges.

Package Tours or Traveling on Your Own

japan family holiday
Photo of Himeji Castle by Andrea Schaffer on Flickr

Package tours often get a bad rap for being one-size-fits-all or too rushed, but the right package tour can be a great family experience. A variety of options may be included in a package tour, such as travel, meals, hotels, and activities, often at a lower price than booking these things separately. Traveling with a package tour means much less stress from planning the logistics of traveling from point A to point B. There is also less pressure to satisfy everyone since the activities are largely pre-decided. Furthermore, traveling with an English-speaking professional tour guide ensures a smooth and educational experience.

On the other hand, doing your own family planning means greater flexibility in accommodations, scheduling, and activities. It also means the flexibility to decide how long to stay at each site or when you just need to head back to the hotel for a nap! It may also be cheaper than a package tour if you decide to use budget accommodations and travel options.

Family Transportation Options

bullet train
Photo by Takeshi Kuboki on Flickr

Bullet Trains

Bullet trains are a fun and convenient way to travel, but they can be more expensive than what you are used to in your home country. Discuss with your family members ahead of time and decide if everyone is open to getting a Japan Rail Pass, which allows for unlimited train travel including regular bullet trains on JR lines. They are available for consecutive periods of 7, 14, or 21 days in length.

Buses

Highway buses are an inexpensive if slightly less comfortable option for traveling long distances.

Flights

Group discounts are often available for plane tickets, but usually only for groups of at least 8-10 people.

Rental Cars

Renting a car can be economical when traveling as a family, and reduces the hassle of dealing with baggage. You first need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) in your home country. When considering the costs, make sure to include highway tolls, parking fees, and gas. Websites like Japan Experience provide an online reservation form in English for cars with GPS programmed in English and even English roadside phone support. Major rental companies like Toyota Rentacar, Nippon Rentacar, Times Car Rental, and Nissan Rental Car also offer websites in English.

Taxis

For shorter distances, using a taxi can be the same cost of a train or less when traveling in a group.

Family Restaurants in Japan

family restaurant japan
Photo by Kenny Louie from Flickr

If members of your family have different tastes in food, consider taking turns picking restaurants. You can use the English version of the popular Gurunavi app to find restaurants suitable for families. All-you-can-eat, known as tabehoudai or viking buffets are an excellent option for families as each person can choose their own food without any hassle. Popular all-you-can-eat restaurants include yakiniku (barbequed meat), shabu-shabu, and kushikatsu. There are even dessert buffets for those with a sweet tooth, and themed cafes like the all-you-can-eat Ninja Kyoto. Family chain restaurants like Saizeriya, Gusto, and Denny’s, while perhaps not the most authentic of Japanese food, offer plenty of options for everyone at an affordable price. Keep in mind that small restaurants may not be able to accommodate large groups, especially without prior notice. Small restaurants also often only accept cash so come prepared. If anyone has special dietary needs (from vegetarian to gluten-free) you will need to do careful research ahead of time. Consider bringing a business-sized information card explaining your dietary needs in English and Japanese.

Family Accommodations in Japan

japan family accommodations
Photo of ryokan by Andrea Schaffer on Flickr

Ryokan

While in Japan, you may also want to try staying at a traditional Japanese inn or ryokan. Staying at a ryokan with your family (especially one with an onsen) can be a fun and very Japanese experience. When booking, remember that ryokans are almost always priced per-person and not per-room. Meals are often included but generally all members in the group will need to decide if they want to have the ryokan’s meals or not.

Budget Hotels

Sharing a budget to mid-range hotel room can also be economical for a family of 2-4. However, keep in mind that hotel rooms in Japan are often very small! Also keep in mind that if you share a room, you will want to be on the same page about getting up at a certain time and using the shower.

AirBnB

Finally, AirBnB is an excellent option for family travel as you can potentially rent an entire apartment at a reasonable price. Be sure to check the details of the AirBnB listing for any limits on the number of people allowed and any extra costs for additional people.

Japan Travel WiFi Plans for Families

SIM and Wifi Depending on the number of family members on your trip using smartphones, tablets and laptops, you have several Japan travel WiFi plans you can choose from that will keep your family connected without breaking the bank. Before deciding which plan to go with, you first need to answer a couple questions.

1. How many WiFi devices will your family bring to Japan?

There are two popular ways for tourists to access Japan’s WiFi: SIM cards and pocket routers. However, depending on whether you’re bringing a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, you may be limited to which WiFi option you can connect with. If as a family you will all be sharing one device (e.g., bringing one smartphone on your trip), then your options are pretty simple (see chart below). However, if you will be traveling with family members who all regularly use WiFi on their personal devices, then you may need to consider renting 1) multiple SIM cards or 2) a pocket WiFi router with a large data plan.

2. What kind of WiFi-capable devices will your family bring: smartphones, laptops, tablets, eReaders?

If your family will be taking only smartphones on your trip, then it may be best to rent multiple SIM cards, which can be inserted into each phone. Beware though that not all smartphones will work with SIM cards due to Japanese industry regulations. (Find out if your iPhone is compatible with a Japan SIM card.) On the other hand, if your family is bringing a combination of smartphones, tablets and laptops, your best option may be renting a pocket WiFi router that allows you to easily connect up to 12 devices right out of the box. Use our chart below to find out which Sakura Mobile WiFi solution fits your family’s needs.

WiFi Solutions for your Japan Family Holiday

What will your family bring?

WiFi Solutions

smartphone

Smartphone

1 SIM

SIM Card(x1)

Computer

Laptop

1 Pocket WiFi

Unlimited “Lite” Pocket WiFi

2 smartphone

2 Smartphones

2 SIM

SIM Card (x2)

Computer Smartphone

Laptop + Smartphone

1 Pocket WiFi

Unlimited “Regular” Pocket WiFi

3 smartphones

3 Smartphones

3 SIM SIM Card (x3)
Computer Tablet Smartphone

Laptop + Tablet + Smartphone

1 Pocket WiFi

Unlimited “Regular” Pocket WiFi

Computer Tablet 2 Smartphones

Multiple Devices

1 Pocket WiFi

Unlimited “Deluxe” Pocket WiFi

Make Your Japan Family Holiday an Unforgettable Experience

japan family holiday
Photo by Andrea Schaffer on Flickr

A Japan family holiday is an exciting adventure for new and seasoned travelers alike. Traveling as a family can help ease the stress of dealing with culture shock and language barriers, while also saving you money! Most importantly, traveling together is a chance to grow your relationships with your friends and family and create memories that will last forever. Enjoy your trip and don’t forget to rent your Japan WiFi from Sakura Mobile!

Sakuramobile SIM Card
Sakuramobile WiFi router

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