Ten Things You Don’t Have to Pack for Japan Travel

Travel light to Japan

Travel light to Japan

I ignored the guidebook advice, but you don’t have to!

We are just back from a three-week trip to Japan, where we stayed in a variety of hotels ranging from 2.5 star to 5 star properties.

Each of the hotels generously provided a number of travel essentials free of charge.

I can confirm that more likely than not, you don’t need to pack these ten items for a trip to Japan.

How to Lighten Your Load on a Trip to Japan

We stayed in nine different hotels over the course of our three-week trip to Japan.  They all provided a standard set of amenities.

Do yourself a favor and leave these items at home:

Pajamas and Bathrobe:  Hotels routinely provide fresh pajamas and/or yukatas (cotton kimono-like robes).  In hotels with spas, it is de rigueur to walk to the public bath in the yukata and slippers.

Slippers:  The Japanese custom is to remove your shoes upon entering a home.  The same is true when entering a hotel room.  Every hotel on our itinerary provided disposable slippers.

Toothbrush and toothpaste:  American hotels don’t generally supply toothbrushes and toothpaste, but we found these items were available in Japanese hotels.

Disposable razor:  Not having to pack a razor will shave a few ounces off your load.

Hairbrush and comb:  You don’t need to bring a hairbrush or comb, as these are routinely supplied in Japan.

Standard toiletries:  As you would expect, hotels provide soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and often body wash.

Sundries:  Q-tips, cotton pads, nail files were offered everywhere.

Sewing kit:  I came home with at least half a dozen sewing kits.  I love these kits because the needles are pre-threaded.

Umbrella:  Several hotels offered umbrellas to borrow.  Don’t bother packing an umbrella because if it rains, you can buy one at a subway station for about $5.00 and they may be even cheaper at a convenience store.  With amazing Japanese efficiency, the coin operated umbrella dispensers in the subway stations are replenished frequently on rainy days.

Flashlight:  All hotels provide a flashlight in case of emergencies such as an earthquake.

Other hotel room amenities that we enjoyed included water bottles, a refrigerator, coffee maker, and hot water heater for making tea.

Do you tend to overpack?  Even if you forget a few critical items like sunscreen — or run short — most everything you might need is is readily available in Japan.

“Visions of the Future” Travel Posters From NASA

NASA's  Vision of the Future Travel Poster

You’ve got to love the retro/futuristic travel posters published by NASA.

NASA’S Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) has published ten new posters in their “Exoplanet” series.

These awesome graphic posters are “out of this world.”

The new posters can be downloaded for free on the JPL website.

NASA explains their poster series this way:

“As you look through these images of imaginative travel destinations, remember that you can be an architect of the future.”

NASA's  Vision of the Future Travel PosterFor instance, the Mars poster:

“imagines a future day when we have achieved our vision of human exploration of Mars and takes a nostalgic look back at the great imagined milestones of Mars exploration that will someday be celebrated as “historic” sites.”

Check out all the posters on the JPL website.

 

Which Credit Card Gets You A Free Limo Ride to the Airport in Tokyo?

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 3.45.44 PM

Get a free ride to Narita airport!

One of the biggest ancillary expenses of air travel is ground transportation to and from the airport.

In Tokyo, if you are a foreign JCB credit cardholder, you can get a free ride on the airport limousine bus from downtown hotels to Tokyo’s Narita (NRT) airport.

To qualify for the free ride, you must demonstrate that you spent 50,000 yen on a JCB credit card during your visit to Japan.  (At the current exchange rate, 50,000 yen is equivalent to about $412.)  It would be pretty easy to meet that threshold after spending a few days in Japan.

The regular one-way fare on the airport limo bus is about 3000 yen (about $26).

How to Get a Free Ride To Narita Airport

The airport limo service picks up at major hotels in Tokyo.

You can get two free airport limo tickets per JCB card!  To get your free tickets to Narita International Airport (NRT), bring your JCB credit card receipts totaling at least 50,000 yen of purchases in Japan (including tax) to JCB PLAZA in Tokyo.

The fine print:

  • Offer applies for all JCB brand card issuing companies.
  • JCB cards issued in Japan are not eligible.
  • Cash advances are excluded.
  • The offer runs through June 30, 2016.

Get 20 Percent Discount on Airport Limo From Narita (NRT) or Kansai (KIX)

JCB cardholders can also get a discount on the airport limousine bus from Tokyo’s Narita airport (NRT) to downtown hotels.

Passengers arriving at Osaka’s Kansai (KIX) airport can get a 20 percent discount on select bus lines from the airport.

JCB Discounts on Airport Limo in Japan

JCB Discounts on Airport Limo in Japan

Just show your JCB credit card when you purchase your bus tickets at the airport.

You can get four tickets at the discount price!

JCB issues several different credit cards in the United States, but they are only available to residents of certain states:

  1. JCB Standard or Mitsuwa JCB Card
    California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon or Washington
  2. Marukai Premium and Marukai JCB Card (California)
    California, Nevada, Oregon or Washington
  3. Marukai Premium and Marukai JCB Card (Hawaii)
    Hawaii

Earn up to 3% Cash Back Points with the JCB Card!

The JCB Marukai credit card is an all around great deal because it pays cash back on all purchases, with no limit on how much you can earn.  It pays:

  • 1% cash back points on first $1,000 spent yearly
  • 2% cash back points on next $2,000 spent yearly
  • 3% cash back points on over $3,000 spent yearly

That is an outstanding payout for a rewards credit card but it is only available to residents of Hawaii, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

But, what if you don’t have a JCB credit card?

Discover Card Offers 20% Discount on the Airport Limo in Japan!

Discover card airport limo discount in Japan

Look for these signs at the airport ticket counters.

Discover card members save 20 percent off one-way airport limousine bus tickets when using their Discover card at the Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) and Kansai International Airport (KIX) limousine ticket counters.

You can get up to three discount tickets at a time!

The Discover card offer runs through March 31, 2016.

7 Things I Loved About the Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan in Paris, and 2 Things I Didn’t

View of the Eiffel Tower from our room at the Radisson Blu Metropolitan

View of the Eiffel Tower from our room at the Radisson Blu Metropolitan

If you are sitting on a free night worldwide, courtesy of the Club Carlson credit card devaluation, I can recommend the Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan hotel in Paris.  

The hotel is not fancy, nor is it in a neighborhood popular with tourists.  But for me, it had a certain charm to make our stay in Paris comfortable and enjoyable.

We spent five nights of our summer vacation at the Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan Hotel, Paris Eiffel.  Four nights were courtesy of Club Carlson points and the fifth night was partially paid by a Radisson gift card I won in a contest.

I loved the hotel.  Would I have loved it as much if if it were a paid stay, as opposed to practically free?  Probably not.  As a certified cheapskate, I get some bizarre pleasure about getting something for nothing.  I would not have paid 340 Euro a night to stay there.

But after agonizing about the various Radisson Blu hotels in Paris, I am very glad we selected Le Metropolitan.

Here are a few reasons why:

The Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan Has a Direct View of the Eiffel Tower

Bastille Day Fireworks viewed from Place de Mexico

Bastille Day Fireworks viewed from Place de Mexico

There is nothing more romantic than a room with a view.  Our trip to Paris was timed to coincide with Bastille Day.  It was a real thrill to witness the fireworks display over the Eiffel Tower from the Place de Mexico, directly in front of our hotel.

The police had barricaded the adjoining streets, so we were in a safe, traffic-free zone.  We were away from the crowds, but still had a direct, spot on view of the Eiffel Tower.

We could even catch a view of the Eiffel Tower from our room on the third floor.

The Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan Doesn’t Feel Like a Chain Hotel

viewed from Place de Mexico

Our small but functional room at the Radisson Blu le Metropolitan

I prefer to stay somewhere that feels local.  The Radisson Blu Metropolitan has its own modern Parisian sense of style.  It is not a cookie cutter chain hotel.  Rather, it is a small property with 38 rooms and 10 suites, designed by French interior designer François Champsaur.  The look is elegant, clean and minimalist, with features such as all white bedding, caramel-stained wood and black stone rainfall showers.

The Small Touches at the Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan in Paris

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference.  There was a Nespresso machine in the room, and the restaurant sent up a pitcher of freshly steamed milk.  There was a tiny refrigerator to keep some yogurt or a few drinks cold.  Also there was a free bottle of Evian water, and two free macarons were delivered to our room each afternoon.  If you are lucky, you will get a couple of bonbons with the turn down service — sweet, marzipan like confections.  Oh, and there is free wifi in all the rooms, and a safe in the closet.

The Entire Hotel is Nonsmoking

There is another Club Carlson hotel about two blocks away, the Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s Hotel Paris Trocadero.  It receives high marks on TripAdvisor, and looks charming.  We considered that hotel, but the only rooms that were available on points for our dates were smoking rooms.  That was unacceptable.  At the Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan hotel, all the rooms are nonsmoking.

There’s a Swimming Pool and a Hamman!

There are more than 2,000 hotels in Paris and probably fewer than a few dozen have swimming pools.  Le Metropolitan has a small swimming pool in the basement, along with a steam room.  The swimming pool is petite, for sure, but there is nothing more refreshing than a dip in the pool after spending the day walking all over Paris.  The pool and spa area is quite relaxing, with vintage jazz music piped in.  The steam room, or hamman, is lined with bright green glass tiles.  I didn’t try it; maybe next time.

The Neighborhood — the Sixteenth Arrondissement

It's an easy walk from Le Trocadero Metro station

It’s an easy walk from the Trocadero Metro station

Paris is a city of small neighborhoods, and I am sure most people will say they liked their hotel because the location was great.  The Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan is in a quiet neighborhood of upscale apartments, professional offices, and embassies.

The nearest Metro station, Trocadero, is exactly one block away.

There are a handful of cafes and casual restaurants, but no nightlife to speak of.  The nice thing about being in a residential neighborhood is that there are convenient services nearby.

Laundromat right next door

Laundromat right next door

For instance, there is a laundromat next door.  Nothing makes me happier when traveling than a suitcase full of clean clothes.

A few doors down from the laundromat, you can find Androuet (17, rue des Belles Feuilles), which is reputed to be among the finest cheese shops in Paris.  If you are overwhelmed by the choices the shopkeeper can guide you.

Le Androuet, one of the best cheese stores in Paris

Le Androuet, one of the best cheese stores in Paris

In Paris, there are contests each year for various baked goods, such as the best lemon tart, or the best baguette.  In 2013, Boulangerie des Belles Feuilles (22 rue des Belles Feuilles) was among the top ten bakeries for butter croissants.  Yup, we were staying down the street from the best croissants in Paris.  The Paris Brest, a ring of choux pastry filled with hazelnut praline was to die for!

There is also a chain bakery, Paul (12 Rue De Belle Feuilles), where you can grab a quick breakfast. Chain bakery or not, they bake all their breads right there.  It is located in a modern shopping mall just steps from Le Metropolitan.  The mall houses a large Casino supermarket.

The Champs Elysee, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, and Trocadero Gardens are all within easy walking distance.

What I Didn’t Like About Le Metropolitan

I am sorry if this is sounding like a puff piece.  Perhaps the romance of Paris has contributed to my enthusiasm.

There are some things I didn’t like about the Radisson Blu le Metropolitan.   First of all the rooms were small.  You expect that in Paris.  On both our stays, we were kindly upgraded from “Classic” to “Deluxe” rooms.  Nevertheless, the rooms were still very small, with hardly enough room to sit and enjoy a drink or a bite to eat.  In the second room where we stayed, the toilet was in a separate room from the sink and the shower — an inconvenient layout.  Secondly, the service was adequate but not exceptional.  Small requests, such as for a second chair, had to be repeated several times.

This hotel is not for everybody.  If you want to be in the center of town, or in an area with more nightlife, this hotel is not for you.

There is a full service bar and restaurant at the Radisson Blu le Metropolitan which we did not try.  The restaurant was on the pricy side, but discounts are available.

Finally, the cost of a room here in Club Carlson points has effectively doubled (for holders of the Club Carlson credit card), from 70,000 points for two nights, to 70,000 points for one night.

By the way, this hotel has its own app, with tourist information.  You can find it on iTunes.

P.S.  Per the request in the comments, here is a picture from the cheese shop.

A few of the cheeses for sale at Androuet

A few of the cheeses for sale at Androuet

I Just Blew All My Points for a Trip to Japan

Springtime in Japan, how perfect!

Springtime in Japan, how perfect!

I have been dreaming about a trip to Japan for a long time.

Our family kind of lives moment to moment.  It is hard for us to make long-range plans because we never know what might come up.

Spontanaity has its advantages, though.  Sometimes, when you see an opportunity you can to jump on it.

Other times, it can be frustrating because tickets sell out, you can’t get reservations, and you miss out.

We have been saving miles and points for a trip to Japan for several years.  Between my husband and myself, and a few strategic credit card applications, we had 300,000 frequent flier miles, enough for two roundtrip business class tickets to Japan.

OMG, My Husband Retired!

My husband retired last fall.  I wasn’t really expecting it.

What does “retired” means these days, anyway?  I mean, he stopped going to work every day.  But, what’s next?

What’s more, our daughter graduated from high school in June.  We suddenly have more flexibility than during all those years when we were tied to the school calendar.

So I did exactly what you might expect.  I planned a trip.  To Japan.

All Dressed Up With 300,000 Points and Nowhere To Go

I am totally conflicted about miles and points.

Sometimes I think they’re a total scam.  It seems there is never availability for where you want to go, when you want to go.  Or, the only flights available on frequent flier miles follow ridiculous routings.

Both United Airlines and All Nippon Airlines (ANA) fly nonstop from Washington Dulles (IAD) to Tokyo (NRT).  You can use United Mileage Plus miles for either airline.  It’s a code share thing.  Both airlines offer lie-flat seats in business class on this route.  But I couldn’t seem to find saver seat availability.

Then, miraculously, I found seats in both directions for travel during peak cherry blossom season!  The routing would require an extra 15,000 frequent flier miles apiece.

Suddenly miles and points seem like magic!  We’ll be traveling to Japan on United in business class, and returning via ANA in first class!  The tickets are costing us 165,000 miles and $37 apiece.

That’s unbelievable!  $37 to fly roundtrip to Tokyo in lie flat business class and first class.  It kind of renews my faith in this hobby.

This will be our first trip to Asia.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a few things I learned from booking this trip, as well as some deals I’ve run across along the way.  I am beyond excited!

If you have any tips on travel in Japan, I’d love if you could share in the comments!

Fifteen Lonely Planet E-Books for $15

Pay what you want for the first five books.

Pay what you want for the first five books.

Need some travel inspiration for the New Year?  

Lonely Planet’s survey books are always a good place to start for some trip planning ideas.  Now you can get fifteen Lonely Planet electronic travel books for $15, via Humble Bumble.

Pay What You Want for $300+ of Lonely Planet E-Books

These books are available in PDF, ePUB, and MOBI formats.  Here’s how it works:

Pay any amount you choose to get five Lonely Planet travel books in electronic format.  The books are:

  1. The Lonely Planet Book of Everything
  2. Best in Travel 2016
  3. The World’s Great Wonders
  4. Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Photography Tips
  5. Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Travel Tips
Bid above the average and get six additional books.

Bid above the average and get six additional books.

Pay at least the average pledge ($8.61 as of now) to get an additional  six books and probably more.  Included here are:

  1. You Only Live Once
  2. The World
  3. Volunteer:  A Traveller’s Guide to Making a Difference Around the World
  4. How to Survive Anything
  5. From the Source Italy
  6. From the Source Thailand
  7. ? More books coming soon
$

Pay$15 and get four additional books.

Pay at least $15 to get four more books in addition to all the previous books:

  1. The Travel Book
  2. Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World
  3. Lonely Planet’s Wild World
  4. Wine Trails

That’s a total of $15 for fifteen or more books.  The money goes to one of several charities — including Doctors Without Borders, a personal favorite.

FWIW, my husband says he’s gotten lots of technical books via Humble Bumble.

Ten Percent Off Target Gift Cards — One Day Only

10% off Target Gift Cards 12/21/15

10% off Target Gift Cards 12/21/15

Target is offering ten percent off its gift cards for one day only, on Sunday, December 20, 2015.

The discount is good for up t0 $300 worth of Target Gift Card purchases, whether made in store or online.

For online purchases of e-gift cards, there is a limit of one transaction per household.

The deal is available in Target stores Dec. 20 from opening to closing time, but quantities are limited and there are no raincheck offered.

Online, the sale runs from midnight PST December 20, 2015 to 11:59 PST December 20, 2015.

The first day for redeeming the gift cards is Monday, December 21, 2015.

HT Reddit.

200 Posts in the Queue

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

First off, you may have noticed that my pace of blogging has fallen way off lately.

I’ve learned it’s hard to blog when traveling, particularly when internet access is spotty.

Then, there’s always a lot to catch up on when I get home.

Stick Around, There’s More to Come

I have some 200 unpublished posts in my queue.  Some are first drafts, some are ideas that I want to write about, and others are merely titles.

The unfinished posts are on topics such as these:

  • Ten Reasons Why I Loved the Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan in Paris
  • Spontaneous Travel, the Oregon Coast, and Rest Stop Hotel Coupons
  • A Weeklong All-Inclusive Vacation for $600
  • Fun Things to Do with Teens and Tweens in Helena, Montana
  • Why Paris is a Priceline Bidders Paradise
  • Evolution of a Points and Miles Blogger
  • Three Easy Day Trips from Paris
  • Some of My Favorite Place-Based Blogs
  • DIY Foodie Tour of the Latin Quarter
  • Where to Stay on Sanibel Island
  • What is the Open Skies Biz Bed Experience Really Like?
  • The Best Frequent Flyer Program for Budget Domestic Travelers
  • Zion to Bryce Revisited

What I want to write about may not be what you want to read about.  Sometimes I feel like this blog is all over the map.

As I consider the future direction of the blog, I am open to reader suggestions.

Feel free to drop me a line, or share in the comments!

How to Unmask Priceline Express Deal Hotels

Priceline Express Deals Revealed with Mobile App

Priceline Express Deals Revealed with Mobile App

Travel companies are so keen to have you try their mobile apps that they provide a variety of incentives to do so.

Most often, these incentives are in the form of loyalty program points.

If you find that you get more value from discount travel brokers like Priceline, you may be interested in their latest holiday offer.

For a limited time, Priceline is revealing the name of five Express Deal Hotels to iPhone and Android app users.

Priceline Express Deals Unmasked

Priceline Express Deals Revealed with Mobile App

You can get five “Unwrap Credits” to unmask the name of the hotel.

To participate in the offer, you must download the latest version of the Priceline app and sign in to your Priceline.com account.

Your account should now show five “Unwrap Credits.”

You can use the credits to reveal the name of an Express Deal hotel before booking.  Express Deals do not require bidding.

Not all hotels are participating in this promotion.  Eligible hotels are marked with a red bow!

The offer runs through January 3, 2016.

This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks if you choose to use them!  

United Club Lounge Passes for Fun and Profit

United Club Lounge in Chicago

United Club Lounge in Chicago

If you need some cheap lounge passes for an upcoming trip, check out my listings on Ebay!

I am auctioning off two sets of two United Club lounge passes.

United Lounge Passes:  Bidding Starts at 99 Cents!

 

The bidding in both auctions starts at $.99 and both will run for seven days.

If you are looking to snag a bargain on United Club lounge passes, head over to Ebay and checkout these listings.