Travel: Planning an impromptu 2-week vacation in Japan – one week before

So we decided that there was a 2-week window to grab a quick break. But that’s like one-week away. Is it possible to plan the usual DIY self-drive holiday at such short notice?

Aerial view of Fukuoka, our gateway to Kyushu.

Aerial view of Fukuoka, our gateway to Kyushu.

The answer is yes, with the advent of the Internet. Here’s a recap of what I did for my own holiday.

First the obvious, decide how long you’ve got and where you want to go. In my case, we’ve long wanted to visit Kyushu in Japan, and the window of opportunity available was roughly two weeks.

If you’re thinking of visiting Japan, I recommend this site called japan-guide.com. It has comprehensive descriptions of popular tourist spots all over Japan, as well as travel tips for Japan.

Even more useful is its forum where vacation planners get their queries answered in detail with advice from a community of fellow travelers, as well as useful links to resources – such as timetables, rates etc – outside of the website.

Next book the air tickets. The availability and price of last-minute tickets usually determine whether your vacation destination will become a reality.

I use Zuji.com to get a feel of the airlines plying Singapore and the possible stops and the price range, then if there’s time, check competing sites or the airline’s website for better rates.

For Kyushu, it was pretty straightforward, only Singapore Airlines fly directly there from Singapore – to Fukuoka. It’s straightforward until you hit the SIA website. For a premier airline, it sure has a terrible website for bookings and reservations – plenty of long waits.

Next is the car rental. I use ToCoo car rental. It helps you check the rates for multiple car rental companies with cars available in the cities where you intend to pick up and drop off the car. But you’ve got to compare rates manually yourself.

Computing on the go

For computing, I’m bringing along the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook, a BlackBerry PlayBook, and the Seagate 1TB Backup Plus.

The X1 Carbon is sleek in design, wonderfully thin and light, yet powerful enough for surfing Web and running Photoshop and Dreamweaver CS6 for photo-editing and blogging back in the hotel room.

The 7-inch PlayBook keeps the children entertained with game apps, and serves as an e-book reader. Its biggest bugbear is that it’s the Wi-Fi version and does not have 3G, but I don’t use 3G data in Japan anyway.

To store and back up the 40MB RAW photo files generated by the D800, I brought along the 1TB Seagate Backup Plus Portable Drive. The 2.5-inch plug-and-play drive constantly backs up the hard disk and makes posting photos online a breeze.

Usually, I pick up the car at the airport, drive off to the first destination and return the car at the airport I’m flying off from. If the pick-up and drop-off locations are different, check if a surcharge is levied and how much it is.

Finally, book the hotels. I know some Japanese so I used to browse Japanese booking websites and hotel websites directly, calling them on the phone for enquiries and reservations.

This time round, I discovered that my favourite accomodation-booking website for Europe holidays – booking.com – now has quite extensive list of hotels in Japan. Enough to find hotels that fit your budget in most places in Japan.

I like booking.com because of its clear information and easy booking. So even if you don’t know ANY japanese, you can still find and book accommodation easily.

Another website that I tried last year – hotels.com – seems to be only beginning to move into Japan, with poor selection and high prices. I’m hoping there coverage and pricing will improve over time.

Once you’ve gotten the flight, car and hotel bookings out of the way, what remains is the physical packing for the big day.

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One Response to “Travel: Planning an impromptu 2-week vacation in Japan – one week before”

  1. Jimmy Fong says:

    Wow, I was planning like one month ahead and I thought that was last minute for a self-drive! Hats off to you.

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