A few weeks ago I was at a curry house in Tokyo talking to some of my lolita friends about what had inspired them to travel so far from home. For some an opportunity was presented that they simply couldn’t refuse, others had spent months budgeting out every penny they had to make things work. In many cases their friends or family felt angry or betrayed that they’d gone without them – despite the fact that previous plans to travel together had fallen through. As each person spoke, one common thread tied everyone together: in that moment and in the years preceding it, travel was something that they had prioritized in their life.
Now, this isn’t to say that travelling won’t to come easier to some than for others. Many people are raised into families who can travel often, some have jobs that require it, and others have to spend years saving just a single special trip. While it is true that many people won’t be able to dedicate time to travelling due to financial, personal, or professional obligations; it is also true that many people never sit down to work out a plan to achieve their dreams – often times because the effort put into planning can be overwhelming, stressful, and time consuming.
If you are a lolita who dreams of eating cute themed food while spending a day shopping at your favorite brand stores, this will be a step by step guide made specifically to help you achieve that goal. The only thing that you’ll need to participate is a notebook and pen, to keep track of your current progress. I will be posting weekly assignments to help you stay on task, and I’ll answer any questions that you ask in the comments. I fully believe that you can do it, and the best advice that I can give is this: if you want to do something, you should begin working towards it immediately, and planning a trip to Japan is no exception.
So, that being said, let’s start!
As I mentioned earlier, planning a trip to Tokyo can be time consuming and stressful. To prevent you from becoming overwhelmed, it is best to break the whole process into smaller parts. Let’s begin with the following questions. Please make answer each question with a 1-2 sentence statement, or a short list. These are meant to be jumping off points for future assignments, so don’t spend too much time on any one question just yet.
When do you want to go to Japan?
The first thing that you need to do when planning a trip is decide on a rough travel date. You should take some time to research what the weather will be like, the cost for each season, and what season specific activities you’d like to see. This will inform your budgeting process, as well as your general timeline. It may not be practical to expect that you’ll be able to go within a month, a season, or even a year – but you won’t be able to do much else until you’ve picked a date.
Who do you trust to go with you?
This question isn’t about who you want to travel with – it is about who you trust to tag along. The friend you love, but flakes out on every tea meetup or shopping trip? Maybe not the best choice of travelling companion. I have been in situations where half of our group dropped out months before or, once I found out I’d be going alone with one week to spare. If you are absolutely terrified of being on your own, you need to make sure that your whole group is purchasing a plane ticket & accommodations all at the same time – and it needs to be clear that no one is getting a refund under any circumstances.
The other thing to consider here is who do you trust to be a good travelling companion? You need to be looking for people who have similar interests, and a complimentary personality. If you are a shy person who wants to make the most of their vacation, you need to be very upfront about what you expect to do while you are there, and you may need to be willing to go out on your own. If you know that you or a friend has severe anxiety, you need to do your best to minimize any issues before they come up. Anxiety and mental health issues shouldn’t prevent you from travelling, but you don’t want it to ruin your trip either.
How will you get there?
For most people the obvious answer here is by plane, but how are you going to get that ticket? Do you have any travel perks offered by your job? Are you looking to teach English in Japan, or attend a study abroad program? Are you going to do a student exchange, or go with a tour group? Are there any travel deals being run by major airlines, or that you can get through a creditcard or other loyalty membership? Most people who are visiting for vacation are probably paying for their trip outright, but it doesn’t hurt to check. Still, regardless of what you qualify for, you’ll need to come up for a way to fund that ticket. Once that part is done, the rest will come much easier.
What kind of budget will you need to achieve the best experience possible?
The last thing you’ll need to think about is what activities you’ll do, when you’ll do them, and budget accordingly. I’ll talk more about this later, but I recommend picking one special event for each day, and one fun food place to try. Then, you can add in the less time consuming activities that are in the same part of town, since it will be easy to do most of them together without wasting time jumping from train to train. Any additional activities that don’t fit in your schedule should be kept to the side for when you have some free time and aren’t sure what to do with yourself. Try not to double or triple book any single day- once you’re there you’ll want to really enjoy yourself and relax while shopping, eating or sightseeing. There shouldn’t be any real time crunches if you schedule yourself appropriately.
Also, keep in mind that some things like TokyoDisneySea, the Q-pot SeQret Room, or the Ghibli museum will require advanced reservations. While this will free up some of your budget while you’re in Japan, you’ll need to be careful and make these reservations as soon as possible, since often times they fill up weeks (or even months!) before the trip.
Finally, you’ll really need to sit down and talk with your travelling companions about what activities everyone wants to do, and decide how to divide up the days where everyone has a different agenda. A pocket wifi can make your life so much easier, but if you don’t budget for one or reserve one in advance, you may find it difficult to locate & collect one when you arrive. It must be stressed that every single person should have an active part in planning what they want out of their trip, so that no one feels like they wasted time or money on an activity that didn’t hold their interest. If you didn’t speak up, or you weren’t willing to go out on your own for a day, you don’t have a right to complain later about all the things you didn’t get to do.
I hope that this gives you something fun to think about, and that you’re already starting to feel excited about your upcoming trip! Please check back next week as we dedicate some time specifically to picking out a travel date based on special events, weather, and most importantly – budget.
Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below, I’ll answer them as soon as I can.
See you next time Space Cadets, and happy planning!
– Rosie Darling