Family travel need not be a pain on your nerves, as well as on your pockets. I know, traveling with teens/kids with differing likes and interests can be difficult for some. But with a little bit of planning, you can breeze through it and even enjoy it. As it should be enjoyed.
First off, decide on an itinerary that works for some on some days, and for all on some days. Disneysea and Dining worked for all of us on this recent trip. Shopping in youth-oriented Harajuku caters to the teens who begged a second round. Temples, parks and other Zen areas worked for the adults and history-buffs. A “free day” is good for those “second rounds” as well as separate trips, even “me times”.
I’m a walker but for some reason, shopping tires me out. Perhaps because I have no interest in it. The solution is to find a coffee shop or dessert place where I can claim a corner, read a book or surf the Net while the elves go crazy shopping. And I just have to give it to these teens — they are shopping wizards! With the ¥ equivalent of only $200, one ended up with 6 pairs of walking shoes, a hat, a dress, some socks, a rucksack, and some shirts. The other bought 5 shirts, a pair of pants, some cellphone case, and some curios. Happy? You bet. I can only watch!
Not to be dismissed is the underlying theme for all trips. We do family trips because we enjoy the bonding time. Plus of course the educational element learning from another culture, cuisine and practices. Despite our differences and preferences, we somehow manage to gain harmony and find common grounds to cherish and relish. The teens didn’t complain about the long walks. They likewise enjoyed the shrines and temples though I was careful not to overdo it. Dining was always looked forward to — for the good food, and the conversations as well. Like who bought which, and what tastes good.
Surprisingly, we didn’t spend much for this Tokyo trip. Lucky to snag a P9,000 Jetstar deal (+P1,620 travel tax) and a 5-night AirBnb apartment near Roppongi Station for only P21,000. That sums up to only P63,480 for the 4 of us. Less than P16,000 per person! I didn’t keep tab of all food and transpo expenses but it seems that the P30,000 I exchanged for ¥70,000 was good for the 6 day trip. We took the airport bus (¥1,000 p.p. each way to and from Ginza Station) and taxi fare of ¥1,500 from our Roppongi crib. Dining out was between ¥5,000 to ¥7,500 for the 4 of us and the nearby Family Mart provided many ready meals for those nights we felt so bushed to even step out of the apartment. We sourced our breakfast supplies also from Family Mart. Budget $500 per person? Maybe $600 per pax including that trip to the happy place called Disneyland or Disneysea? Why not? In Korea, we spent $1,400 per pax for the same trip length but we had a van to ourselves and it was a guided tour where all hotels, tours and meals were arranged and pre-paid. This D.I.Y. package was worth the research sans the luxury for the big savings we enjoyed. Not bad at all. It’s also a good lesson for the elves in planning future trips. 😀
From the airport, take the ¥1,000 airport shuttle to Tokyo or Ginza Station from where you can easily take a subway going to your hotel.
Plan your itinerary and cluster the sites on a map to see which can be walked to from a subway or bus station. Unlimited rides cost ¥800 (1 day) to ¥1,500 (3 consecutive days).
If you’re doing Disneysea for a day, get off at Maihama Station. You can walk from the Station to park entrance. Only 20 minutes. Of course you can still choose to bus it for an additional ¥250.
Save that entrance ticket at the Tokyo Skytree or Tokyo Towers if you’re only interested in an aerial view/skyline of Tokyo. The same view can be had for free at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building’s Observatiry Deck on the 45th floor. Incidentally, there are coffee and lunch places on the 45th where you can enjoy reasonably-priced meals with a view.
If you’re checking out early from your hotel and your flight is in the late afternoon or early evening yet, you don’t need to rent lockers at the station so you can go around Ginza prior to riding the airport shuttle. The shuttle stop is right in front of Nihin Ginza where you can get in with your luggage and do some last-minute shopping. (Maybe nearby malls likewise allows same) Should you need a lunch place (still with your luggage), we found 2 decent ones on the 2nd floor of Nihin Ginza. And with wifi too!
Source your breakfast, snack, even dinner supplies from Family Mart, Lawson, 7 Eleven. We shamelessly did. And hey, no shame really!