Budget-friendly family travel in Japan

Want to take the family to Japan but worried about the cost? Don't be! Check out these yen-stretching travel tips and start planning!

A family holding a map, while a Japanese men guiding them.
  • Jetstar
  • June 2018

Stretch those yen: budget-friendly family holidays to japan

If you want to introduce your kids to the concept of international travel, Japan can be a great choice for a family holiday. The people are friendly, the public transport is efficient, it’s colourful and effervescent and different enough to actually feel like you’re experiencing something new.

Japan has had a reputation for being madly expensive. It’s not. Like anywhere, it can be, but with a few tricks in your backpack, you can really make those yen last. 

The best things in life are free

You don’t have to fork out admission for many of Japan’s major attractions, which is a big plus when you’re travelling on a family holiday. Although the famous Tsukiji Fish Market is now closed, its successor, Toyosu Fish Market (a bit further east near Shijomae Station) is still free and you can observe the wild auctions of enormous fish. You can visit the deer in Nara Park, check out the cherry blossoms and the temples (Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari shrine is a very photogenic stop), watch some sumo practice, take in sky-high views at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building or just browse the mind-blowing stationary ranges at department stores like Tokyu Hands.

Tokyo’s top 5 free things to do with kids

A brown reindeer standing on the front on camera, while in the park.
Deer in Nara Park

Cheap places to eat in Japan

Sure, you can go fine dining in exquisite fashion in Japan, but there’s really no reason to scorch your wallet around meal time here. An easy way to keep the budget for japan in control is a convenience store (known as a conbini - like a 7-11 or Lawson) which can set you up with an impressive grab-bag of quick bites, while train station and department store food halls (depachikas) lay out a dizzying array of carefully prepared food to go. (FYI don’t eat as you walk around – it’s considered bad manners.) Department stores often have outdoor seating on the roof, where you can eat your spoils. Street food is also a yen-saving move – Osaka is famed for it. Snack on takoyaki (fried octopus balls), taiyaki (fish-shaped sweet pastries), okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes) or green tea ice cream. Many restaurants offer handy lunch specials, which are great value. Also, Japan doesn’t have a tipping culture, so you don’t have to factor that cost in.

RELATED: Japan’s kitchen: 6 dishes you must try in Osaka

Japaneses chefs cooking on their food stall street in japan.
Japanese street food stall

Time it right

One way to keep it cheap right off the bat is to avoid high season – those most popular months when the crowds are flocking to see the cherry blossoms, the autumn leaves or another major event. Demand is high, with prices to match. If you can let your schedule slide a little, look at May or December to January – good for skiing and snow monkey spotting!

Snow monkey

Snow fun

Speaking of snow, Japan is also known for its skiing. You’ll find many of Japan’s ski fields dotted across the main island of Honshu and the northern island of Hokkaido. Rusutsu, in Hokkaido, is great for kids. Just a couple of hours by bus from Sapporo, Rusutsu is a purpose-built resort with everything you need – accommodation, entertainment – all in one seamless spot. If you’re not staying there, there are ski-in-ski-out options, and there are English-speaking ski instructors. instructors. Although once the kids spot the snow monkeys languishing in nearby hot springs, their fluffy heads getting peppered with snow, it might be hard to get them on the slopes!

If you are planning a skiing holiday, it can be worth booking a package, with all your lift tickets and ski rentals sorted out for you. Check out Ski Japan for a comprehensive guide to Japan’s ski resorts and packages.

Interested in a budget family holiday to japan? Check out our cheap flights to Tokyo and Osaka