Tips/tricks for getting good ticket prices to Japan?

Hi folks, I’m planning a trip to Japan for next summer, and I thought I’d pick your guys’ brains on how to get the best ticket prices. I’ve heard tell of legendary $600-$650 round-trip tickets, but most everything I’m finding on cursory looks now are closer to $900. Is there a good timeframe to snag tickets to get lower prices, or are those “cheap” tickets really just legends?

Thanks!

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Try flight price comparison sites like skyscanner, kayak, momondo, etc. Also, it’s currently summer so prices are high all over.

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There is also Google Flights.

As Plantron says, flights during summer are always high, especially if you’re planning to go during July. Those price tags doesn’t surprise me one bit; cost me $500 to fly to the US (from Sweden) this June, and when I booked the flights I saw the price go above $1000 in July.

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There are always random sales, too, but I really would not expect them during peak times.

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Oh, interesting. I would’ve expected tickets to Japan to run a bit cheaper in early summer because of how unpleasant the Japanese summer purportedly is. Is that a bit misguided?

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Summer is always a bad time for vacation anywhere. Kids usually get summer vacation so that’s when families do their trips.
And there’s a lot of matsuri and fireworks in summer in Japan I guess.

Best thing to do is book your ticket far in advance. You get better prices if you book your flight half a year in advance. And then there’s fuel dumping. It’s kinda hard to explain, just google “flight fuel dumping”. Because of how taxes and tarifs work you can save some money by booking extra flights.

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A lot of flight booking sites will allow you to set price alerts so you can see if the price goes down. That might be worth a try. And it’s worth comparing prices on different sites. For example when booking flights to Japan recently, Google Flights completely missed certain good flights from my city that Momondo and others showed.

I don’t know where you’re flying from. You said you could find flights for $900 so I’m assuming you’re somewhere in the US. One potentially good option if you’re willing to be persistent with checking and flexible with your dates is to look at a site like this that finds flight bargains from specific cities to other specific cities. This one is from the US, but you can set it for other departure areas:

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Yeah, I took a trip to the US recently and I remember hearing people talk about affordable tickets, but like… I can’t just wildly move my departure and return dates around or fly to a city 500 miles from my actual destination. You’re going to “pay” in some form for any cheap flight, or else they’d just make you pay in dollars, because then that’d be a desirable flight.

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Update: I found that the “Secret Flying” site lets you customize your search for departure and destination locations as well as dates. Of course the more you specify, the fewer deals you’ll find, but here’s a general search for flights from any city to Japan at any time, and there were indeed some deals, including NYC to Tokyo with dates from this fall to next spring for $482 return trip.

https://www.secretflying.com/search2/?cityTo=Japan

Mind you, as Leebo pointed out, you may have to make some sacrifices… In the case of one of the above flights I looked at, you’d have a fourteen hour stopover in Beijing. But for some, that might be an opportunity rather than an obstacle.

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Best time to book is late January early February for trips during the summer. It’s the airlines slow period and it is when there are more sales.

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One other thing, if you’re going to Japan in the summer, Although it’s hot pretty much everywhere, it’s best to avoid the rainy season which lasts in most places from mid-June to late-July. Unless of course you enjoy almost constant rain, and the occasional typhoon.

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If you don’t mind the rain though, tickets are cheaper and it’s a great way to avoid crowds! Don’t go during golden week.

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I went in May, and when I was looking at tickets 4-6 months in advance, I would often see round-trip flights from NYC to Tokyo in the $400-$450 range. Just be aware that there are serious drawbacks to going this route. Only a couple Chinese airlines would go this low, and they always had long layovers in Beijing. You’re effectively losing 1-2 days of your trip to save that money, and Beijing airport is difficult at the best of times.

Ultimately, I ended up getting $850 tickets from Turkish Airlines, and don’t regret the decision.

Side Note: While I don’t know how common such sales are, I did see that either JAL or ANA had a pretty huge sale early this year for all round trip flights from april to the first week of may for about $900. They weren’t quite in my timeframe, but if you ever see a deal like that, jump on it. Those tickets are usually close to double that price.

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Here in Australia, Qantas and Jetstar frequently have sales for flights to Japan. Pretty much never at a time I’m able to go, though.

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Thanks for the replies everyone! As I thought, snagging the ‘$650’ tickets is going to be a chore and very difficult to coordinate between my group which will be flying out of 3 different airports from across the US. I’ll keep an eye on it though and maybe I’ll get lucky, but at the end of the day and extra $200 is chump change relative to the cost of the rest of the trip so I won’t fret too much over it or let it be a downer on the trip of a lifetime :slight_smile:

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  1. Book from hub city to hub city, with a hopper flight to get to the hub. For example I live in Memphis, TN. If I were to look for a flight from Memphis to Tokyo, practically any airline is going to take me to Chicago, New York, or LAX first and THEN across the pacific. Well that’s a place they can really gouge you. Instead I book my flight from say LAX to Narita, then I book a flight from my city to LAX on like Southwest or Jetblue or whatever. A smaller regional/domestic airline. You have to be careful about luggage restrictions, and definitely give yourself plenty of time (I usually book them a night apart stay in a cheap motel), but I routinely save a couple hundred this way.

  2. Fly a smaller, less well known Asian airline. JAL, ANA, Korean Air, they are super nice to fly in but man, they are expensive. Asiana or Singapore Air run the same routes but are cheaper.

  3. NEVER CHINA EASTERN OR CHINA SOUTHERN. NEVER.

  4. Fly on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

  5. Set a price alert and you’ll get emails when sales/prices are lower.

Sorry if some of these are pretty basic or general knowledge, but I wanted to be helpful.

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I appreciate the reply, I hadn’t thought of doing that. I’ll definitely play around with that and see if I can’t fudge a better flight price, and I’ll definitely avoid China Eastern/Southern like the plague!

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Oh, I should probably note: I had a pretty good experience with Turkish Airlines.

I mean, flying long-distance in coach is always gonna suck, and it did, but the service was great. Two decent meals served on each leg of the trip (So with my layover, 4 each way), as well as unlimited drinks, alcoholic or otherwise. Generous luggage limits (IIRC, two checked bags with up to around 50 lbs each, a small suitcase-sized carry-on, and a backpack-sized personal item. The latter two have weight limits, but were never weighed.) In-flight entertainment was decent, though the wifi was both not free and pretty much unusable.

Their website and phone support are pretty terrible, but it’s smooth sailing once you’re within the airport.

Round trip tickets cost me $850 in May.

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I’ve had a pretty good experience with Turkish Airlines too. My parents and I were booked to fly with them from Doha to Venice via Istanbul, but due to an air traffic control strike in Italy, the Istanbul to Venice leg was cancelled. Somehow they managed to get us all seats on the Qatar Airways direct flight from Doha to Venice. No idea how that happened, mind - my parents were involved in the negotiations while I looked after the luggage - but in the end we arrived in Venice just at the time we’d intended.

Magic.

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Anyone have any experience with Eva air? It’s a Taiwanese airline and I’m flying with them for the first time on my fall trip. Toronto to Naha and returning Kansai to Toronto with stops each way in Taipei. They seem pretty legit and had decent prices. If I had more time, I’d like to spend a couple days in Taipei, but not this trip.

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