questions & answers: using the japan rail pass

grampah ed

Grampah ed

--We (8 adult family members) are planning to travel from Honolulu to Sapporo, Japan in December 2013 and return from Tokyo to Honolulu on January 3, 2014. The schedule is based on my granddaughter's winter school break.

--Hawaiian Air Lines has direct flights from Honolulu to Sapporo (CTS-Chitose) three times a week. Our wishful planning is to fly direct into CTS and either take the JRRail (Pass) in and around lower Hokkaido for 4 days and then on the fifth day either fly or take the JRRail down to Tokyo.

--I understand that I can buy a 5 day Hokkaido Rail Pass (I would buy Green) for Y25,000 (about $280) while I am in Hokkaido and combine it with the another JR Rail Pass (JR EAST??) to go to Tokyo via the tunnel to Aomori and then to Tokyo. I would like to know what and how this is and how much it will cost. When we get to Tokyo, we won't need a Rail Pass as we will stay in the Tokyo circle only (not to Hakone, Atami, just around Tokyo).

--On partial inquiry into flying direct into CTS, I am finding that the one-way flight into CTS will be about $1000 (One Thousand Dollars) and travel in general will be high or restricted during December (high season-everyone traveling to get home for the New Years).

--So again, our first choice is fly direct into CTS, Rail Pass in lower Hokkaido for up to 4 days then on 5th day Rail from Hokkaido (Sapporo or Noboribetsu (an Onsen there)), to Aomori by underwater, then to Tokyo by Rail and no need Rail Pass in and around Tokyo. I'm thinking if I can buy a Rail Pass for 7 days to use in Hokkaido and Honshu for our first 7 days in Japan,...will that do it?

--If Air Fare is too expensive in December to fly direct to CTS, then fly to Tokyo then take Rail up to Sappporo and back within 7 days. Is there such a Rail Pass that will allow us to do this? And at the 7 day rate of Y37,800 (Green) for each person?

--We are anxious to know the answers because we want to try if mileage miles will get us almost free air to Tokyo or Sapporo.

--Thank you,...I hope some one has the answers to our questions....

JapanRailPass
JapanRailPass

Hi there,

You can find most information about the JR East Pass here. If you can fit your travel in Hokkaido and to Tokyo in a week a 7 Day JRPass is probably the best option, this because it is cheaper than buying the Hokkaido Pass(25,000Green) and JR East pass (28,000 yen Green) separately compared to a 7 Day JRPass (37,800 Green) and it will cover all of your travel!
In case you want to fly from Hokkaido to Tokyo, then just a 5 day Hokkaido pass is the best option.

About Airlines ticket prices:
I am not familiar with ticket prices on the route from Honolulu to Chitose but in general if you book ticket prices a year in advance they can be rather high. Generally prices are best 3 to 6 months before departure and if seats are available you may see a drop in prices around 6 weeks before departure too, also booking a return is most of the time much better than single one-way flights). I would recommend using sites as Skyscanner.com to compare ticket prices, sometimes agencies offer different prices for the same flight. Still, since you travel in a group of 8 I would not wait too long with bookings.

Hope this answers your questions!
-Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Thank you Daniel,...actually I did not know there was a JR RAIL PASS for all of Japan. I have not seen it when I looked for it,...I normally see it as, JR EAST, JR WEST, JR KYUSHU, JR HOKKAIDO and JR SANYO.

Yes,...I understand the timing of fare rates, so when flights don't sell, the Airlines even have sales,...but, I don't want to disappoint my granddaughter and my two college age grandsons, all who love Japan. It is a balancing act I have to watch. It is like Spring Break in the US,...December is a very busy time in Japan for family going home everywhere. Full fare for a Hawaiian Air flight to Chitose is normally about $475 one way,...but, in December it is almost $1,000.

I have never used a similar program as the Rail Pass, it is the Air Pass for Gaigin citizens at Y10,000 per flight (I believe) within Japan, but it is blacked out in most of December.

Thanking you again!...grampah ed

JapanRailPass
JapanRailPass

Hi again,

Yes there are so many passes out there (Japanese love discounts) that it can be rather confusing. In general the normal (nation wide) JR Pass is the best option as it is only costs marginally more that most region passes and does not have the restrictions that the other passes do.

Usually I do not do this but was interested in the route that you are flying and saw that a return is already possible as of 1,100 USD around your travel days. Here is what I found.

Maybe it is of use,
-Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

--Daniel, thank you so much,...I never expected this from even a nice stranger! Everyone's so busy. I'm a grampah who at least can use the pc (barely, but better than most of my friends my age, pushing 78).

--But onlly one thing needs adjustment,...I want to start in Sapporo, but stay there only until day after Christmas, coming from Sapporo to Tokyo on December 26th and then leaving Tokyo on Jan. 3rd. (this is multi-city if we are able to fly back to Tokyo on the 26th and stay, or I think what airlines call an "open" route, if we take the Rail from Sapporo to Tokyo.

--I also never heard of being able to book further than 331 days from time of returning!?

--I hate to ask you anything more because you have done so much already,...but I would be interested if you can show me if we can do the multi-city or open with a price quote?!

Thank you,....grampa ed

JapanRailPass
JapanRailPass

Hi again,
I hope I will be able to travel to Japan when I reach your age too and so far you are doing great on the Internet, as you have found this place!

Sorry I forgot you would return from Tokyo. In order to find a decent ticket it is smart to look for an airline that flies to both destinations. I found Korea Air but their website did not yet allow me to book into 2014 (331 days rule perhaps?). Still it may be worth checking it out in a couple of weeks or maybe you could call them for a quote. You can search for a multi trip, when you click more search options on their home page.

Hope it points you in the right direction and sorry that I can't yet help you directly with a multi trip!
-Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Mahalo Nui Loa! (Arigato Gosaimasu),...grampah ed

JapanRailPass
JapanRailPass

For anyone reading this,...I just found this today...To buy now or not to buy now. When it comes to airfares, that is the question for millions of travelers.

On Tuesday, Kayak.com launched a new price-forecasting feature that the company believes will help those travelers make the right decision. The tool predicts whether a particular price will rise or fall, along with a confidence level in the prediction, over the next seven days.

“The whole idea is that when we have enough data for a certain search, we make a forecast to guide the user as to the likelihood that (the fare) will go up or down,” said Giorgos Zacharia, the company’s chief scientist.

According to Zacharia, the tool is based on the popularity of previous searches for the origin and destination in question along with insights gleaned from airline sites, OTAs and two faring engines. The more popular the search, the stronger the data and, by extension, the higher the confidence level.

Consider a recent search for flights from New York to Los Angeles, which returned 1,340 flight options, along with a price trend graph, a note reading “Prices may rise within 7 days” and a suggestion to “Book now.”

Clicking on the graph reveals more detailed information showing price trend history over the last 90 days and a note stating that the company is 82 percent confident that the quoted fares “will rise or stay within $20 of the current price over the next 7 days.”

Conversely, if prices are predicted to drop, the site will advise you to wait as the price may fall within the next 7 days and provide a comparable confidence level in the prediction.

The tool is currently available for U.S. and U.K. searches, covers roughly 50 percent of the flight searches on the site and returns confidence levels ranging from 55 to 95 percent. According to Chief Marketing Officer Robert Birge, the company has also calculated the feature’s overall accuracy level but he declined to share it.

With more than 1 billion searches conducted on Kayak annually, the company clearly has no shortage of data to analyze. (At the same time, having been purchased by Priceline for $1.8 billion, the company also has the financial horsepower to develop and expand new technologies.)

On the other hand, access to lots of data is no guarantee of success. As students of travel technology will likely remember, Kayak is not the first company to offer an airfare-prediction tool. In 2003, Farecast.com debuted a similar concept, touting an overall accuracy of almost 75 percent.

Today, the feature is part of Microsoft’s Bing Travel service but has been reduced to a one-line tip in search results. In 9 out of 10 recent searches, it said simply “Tip: Buy · Fares dropping $50+ · 80%+ Confidence.”

The de-emphasis of price predictions in Bing’s results leads some industry observers to question how valuable such features are.

“Where’s the balance between the investment, the accuracy of the results and delivering something that’s useful to consumers?” asks Norm Rose, president of Travel Tech Consulting. “I would never underestimate the technical prowess of Kayak, especially considering how well they’re funded now, but I would question whether (a fare-predicting tool) will change people’s buying behavior.”

Birge and Zacharia, on the other hand, maintain that more than three months of user-testing showed that usage of the feature was high enough to warrant rolling it out to the main site. For them, it’s part of the company’s efforts to provide as many flight search options as possible, although they stop short of suggesting it will save users from having to make the big decision themselves.

“We’re providing you with information for your decision-making process; we’re not telling you you should book now or not book now,” said Birge. “Overall, you need to use your judgment starting with, if you see a good price, book it.”

Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.

.grampah ed

JapanRailPass
JapanRailPass

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