everyone will find their own best way to go about things, for me, it’s planning. 🙂
like when I cook a 8-course dinner for 10 friends, or a buffet for 23 friends, it’s all about planning – the dishes, marketing, preparation & timing to start each dish etc.
so same for me when it comes to trip planning, it will not work for me to mistake unpreparedness & lack of research & planning as spontaneity.
- the dates – for this what ended up as “missing sakura” Tokyo trip on 9-15apr2013, my plans were derailed (or became spontaneous to be the eternal optimist) as the weather changes brought the sakura flowering 2 weeks forward from the normal period, and Japan Guide’s Cherry Blossom Report 2013 was reporting full bloom in Tokyo on 25mar2013 instead of first week of april! but the point about planning is – once I know this, then I have to adjust the destination to places I can still find sakura (takaosan 高尾山) or where there are later flowering sakuras (eg shinjukugoen). 🙂
- flights – the advent of low cost carriers have really trigger mass travels. for 30 years I have been travelling exclusively SIA, but for the last 2 years, I have done quite a few trips to Shantou & HK on Jetstar. for this trip, I was travelling alone and SIA cost like $1100 for lone traveller. Scoot (a new LCC subsidiary of SIA) was offering around $500 economy return c/w closer to $700 by Jetstar, and since Scootbiz was just $150 more (& very much less if you were to include the 2 free meals + 20kg check-in luggage + free flight entertainment) & it was an outgoing night flight, I decided to take Scootbiz outbound & return by economy. The only downside is a stopover at Taipei! My $680 fare was in fact about same as what my daughter paid for China Eastern economy return (which stopped over at Shanghai!) I also researched on the seats! according to seatguru.com, Scoot has the largest seat width at 19″ to 20″ for economy and 22″ leather seats for Scootbiz for the 777-200 aircraft for this flight; that c/w JAL’s 17.3″ for economy and 18.5″ for business, Cathay Pacific’s 18″ for economy & 20″ for business & SIA’s own 17.5″ economy & 20″ business seats for the same aircraft & Jetstar’s 18″ for economy & 20″ for starclass for A330-200 aircraft.
- hotel – I looked at a few hotels including the Sakura chain which seems quite good & finally settled for Shinjuku Sunroute Plaza, which is just 3minutes walk from JR Shinjuku South Exit and 1 minute walk (right next door really!) from Shinjuku Teio line A1 exit. The cost for a 6 night stay was 63000yen all in including breakfast which was like <S$140/night. This was even cheaper than my recent stay at Hong Kong’s Kowloon Hotel, thanks to the lower yen forex rates. 🙂
- destination planning – this has got to do with what you want for the trip. for my case, it was (1)chasing sakura (2)some trekking (3) lots of food 🙂 thus I checked out the top hanami (花见which means sakura viewing) spots, and where to go for later flowering sakura like at Shinjukugoen & also at higher altitude like takaosan (600m); and of course I researched also the takaosan trails, and the Shinjuku restaurants!
- transport – this is very key because of cost & time. In Japan it is very confusing as you have JR Pass, JR East Pass, JR Kanto Pass and all the places you want to go (like in my case Takaosan, Nikko & Kamakura, and Izu which I dropped) are served by private railways which you have to pay a hefty supplement. For example the All Nikko Pass works for Tobu Nikko Spacia trains which connect from Asakusa which means you have to plan to get from Shinjuku to Asakusa to connect. If you use the JR Passes, in order not to have to pay hefty supplements, you have to get to Tokyo Station and take the Tohoku Shinkansen line instead! See this important guide here!
and there is one more variable – the weather! you do NOT want to take a 3 hr journey to Nikko when it is raining or go to Hakone when it is downcast & you cannot see Mt Fuji! so your daily destination plan has to follow closely the weather reports which maybe wrong of course! as my good friend told me=that’s life!
anyway I was fortunate that during my 7 days in Tokyo I was blessed with glorious sunshine and pleasant weather(or perhaps it was I who blessed the Tokyo-ites haha..). 🙂 it was no compensation for missing the sakura full bloom though, but hey that’s life!