Want to know the specific products and services we use to travel smarter in Japan?
Booking.com: They have the largest database of accommodations here in Japan. Booking.com is always our first option then Expedia if we have enough points to book at their platform almost for free.
Airbnb: This is our second option if Booking or Expedia proves to be too expensive on our chosen travel dates. Many hosts offer an affordable stay at their places. If you are new to Airbnb, you can sign-up using my link to get $45 of Airbnb credit which you can instantly use for your first stay.
Viator, A Tripadvisor Company: For the far more exhaustive lists of best tours and things to do in Japan, Veltra is our choice.
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Japan: Travel guidebooks from DK Eyewitness are always top-notch and way more in-depth than the popular Lonely Planet travel series, which is geared towards short-stay travelers. DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are very comprehensive and really give you a sense of how knowledgeable the authors are.
Check out our article about the Best Travel Guidebooks for Japan too, or consider reading the ultimate Tokyo travel guide we made, for an in-depth look at traveling around Tokyo.
Products & Gear
Packing cubes (Life-saver!): Buying packing cubes or packing organizers, was a necessary stress reducer for our travels, and they’ve made packing and unpacking easier than ever. It also helps to organize our clothes and other valuables whenever we unpack at hotels. There are many packing organizers to choose from, Amazon sells hundreds of them, but if you are looking for quality, I definitely suggest, eBags packing cubes.
Framed child carrier backpack: We have one from Thule and it’s been very useful on our hiking trips and exploring crowded places in Japan where strollers are not really easily accessible (so, almost everywhere). Learn how we use this framed child carrier backpack.
Soft baby carrier: This is my go-to and is basically a must-have baby item. It’s been especially useful whenever one of us needs to go somewhere alone, or where the backpack carrier isn’t really feasible. Strollers can be very difficult, especially when riding the bus or train in Japan, and are nearly useless during rush hour. Check out the exact baby carrier we use which is from Ergo Baby, and see if it works for you.
Safety Harness Child Backpack: Some call it a ‘child leash,’ these kid backpacks are very useful during security checks at the airports. Our toddler doesn’t really stay still and will immediately run as soon as we put her down. You may get strange looks when using this device (mostly by people without kids), but every child is different, and sometimes even a socially awkward item is needed for their safety.
American Express Cards: Amex has been really great with military members and their dependents or spouses. For example, if you apply for any of their credit cards, all annual fees are waived for active-duty members. The best credit card we’ve found for military members to take advantage of is the Platinum Amex, which gives you 5x points when you use it to book flights directly with an airline website.
For example, if you’re a family of three traveling to the US from Japan, it could cost $3,500+ for all of you. If you book using this card, you’ll get 17,500 MR (membership reward) points which can be used for a free Airbnb stay, shopping on Amazon, or even an overnight 3 or 4-star hotel. We have this card and it also gives us Priority access to airport lounges of SkyTeam Alliance. Just be aware that this is a charge card and not a credit card, so you MUST pay off the balance at the end of each month.
Bonus offer: If you sign-up using our link, you can earn 60,000 MR points after you spend $5,000 when you use your new card within 3 months. 60,000 MR points is worth a free roundtrip ticket from Japan to the U.S.!
A few resources we’ve written to help you plan your trip to Japan: