Budgeting for a Self-Guided Hokkaido Trip

Hokkaido Trip Budgeting - Bumble Bee Mum

One of the questions I get quite frequently from readers is how much to budget for a Hokkaido trip.

A budget can vary quite widely depending on your choice of airline, accommodation and food.  I can wait for a flight promo for SGD600 per pax, I can also fly without promo for SGD1000 per pax.  I can stay in a hotel that cost SGD100 a night, I can also stay in a ryokan for SGD500 a night.  I can eat a bowl of 500JPY Yoshinoya beef bowl for dinner, I can also splurge on a 10000JPY sushi meal.  So sometimes I find it is not so much of how much to budget, but more of how to keep to a budget.

This post can be seen as a follow-up from the post on ‘Money-saving tips for a self-drive Hokkaido trip‘ that I wrote many years back, where I will elaborate on how I tried to keep to a budget for our recent trip.

Budgeting for Flights

Hokkaido Budgeting 01

Firstly, I never book a flight with the mindset that I must go somewhere at a certain time.  For almost all our travels, our mindset has been ‘if there is a good flight deal, then we will go’.  So we set a budget of SGD700 per pax for our SIN – CTS airfare and waited until the price for airfare dipped below that before we booked a flight.

To keep track of airfares, I use KAYAK app’s Price Alert function which helps me track flight prices periodically.  You can download KAYAK app on Google Play or Apple Store for free.

For this particular trip, our total expenses on flights for 4 adults + 2 children (above 2 years old) was SGD4011.60 via Thai Airways which was within our budget of SGD700 per pax.

Almost immediately after I booked the flight, Scoot announced their SIN – CTS flights and I was like banging my head.  We could have saved a few hundred dollars! But oh well.. The point is, I do not always get the BEST deal.  But I had a budget (SGD700 per pax) and I kept to it.  i.e. if I can’t get an airfare within my budget, we simply don’t go.

Budgeting for Accommodation


In my money-saving post, I wrote that I always try to book city hotels for less than SGD100 per night.  That was at a time when 100JPY was about SGD1.1.  Since then, JPY has strengthened and for this particular trip, 100JPY rose to about SGD1.3.  This meant that a reasonably priced city hotel that cost 8000JPY only cost me SGD88 back then, but would cost me SGD104 this time.  Hence the budget of SGD100 per night has become more difficult to keep to.

Also, we were in Sapporo during the Yosakoi Soran Festival.  Whenever there is a festival, accommodation prices sky rocket in Sapporo.  As an example, I used to book Mercure Hotel Sapporo during lull periods for about SGD80 per night.  But this time, we booked it for SGD150+ per night – which is expected because of the festival.

Since we had 4 adults and 2 children (who do not need bedding of their own), I had to book two rooms.  We were there for 14 nights.  In Otaru, we stayed in my friend’s hostel which I paid with a token fee plus gifts in kind.  So I’m excluding it in the budget.  Taking into account exchange rate and festival period, I gave myself a budget of SGD3000 to work with for booking 2 rooms for 13 nights.  This was how it worked out:budget

* Note on Sapporo accommodation: We were in Sapporo for 3 nights, but Mercure Hotel Sapporo was fully booked for 2 of the nights.  So for those 2 nights, I booked a quad room at APA Hotel Sapporo Susukino-EkiNishi which 6 of us shared in order to save money.

Eventually, I exceeded the budget a bit because we paid for some of the hotels by credit card while we were there and JPY to SGD exchange rate kept going up up up while we were there.  Zzz…

But you may notice that for this particular trip, we did not stay at ryokans. I would have loved to fit in a ryokan stay at Shiretoko or Lake Akan.  But I had a budget and because of crappy exchange rate and festival period, I had to forego ryokan stays in order to keep to my budget by spending 3 nights in a budget hotel, Super Hotel Kitami, instead.

Budgeting for Car Rental

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Itinerary June 48

Since we had 4 adults + 2 children, we rented a 7-seater (Toyota Wish).  For rental of a 7 seater, I set myself a budget of SGD100 per day.

In Japan, 7-seaters and 8-seaters are in different price categories.  We had 6 people and 2 large suitcases, so we managed to squeeze into a 7-seater.  My friends who had 6 people and 4 large suitcases had to rent an 8-seater which was more expensive. So by cutting down on our luggage, we managed to save money by booking a 7-seater.

Rakuten has great deals on car rentals – but the website is in Japanese.  Right about the time when I was looking for car rental, a reader told me that Rakuten was having a sale on car rental.  I went to take a look and found a 7000yen discount coupon! So I booked the cheapest 7-seater I could find on Rakuten from World Net Rental Car and with the 7000yen Rakuten discount, our car rental for 14 days was only 62620 yen – which was a steal!  Even without the 7000yen discount coupon, the price of 69620yen for a two weeks rental of a 7-seater was very cheap.  However, World Net Rental Car’s staff didn’t speak English.

Hokkaido Budgeting 03

World Net Rental Car didn’t have any 8-seaters.  So our friends ended up renting an 8-seater from Car Rental Hokkaido via Rakuten for about 90000yen iirc.  Car Rental Hokkaido’s staff spoke good English and Chinese.  Their biggest drawback was they charged a BOMB for child seats (540yen per seat per day)! So if you rent from them, you may want to bring your own child seats to save money. And they do not have a desk at New Chitose Airport – you need to call them when you arrive.

So If you know a bit of Japanese, or maybe even Chinese is good enough, you can try navigating Rakuten website for car rental.  It was WAY cheaper than Tocoo.  However, they do not offer English support and many of the cheaper car rental companies do not converse in English.  It is a risk you have to take if you want to save money.  If you prefer to play safe, go with the bigger companies like Toyota, Nippon Rent a Car, Nissan etc.  They are more expensive but they should have staff who can speak English.

Budgeting for Food

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Itinerary June 66

I have to confess, I suck at keeping to a budget for food.  My whole trip revolves around food.  I scrimp and save on flight, accommodation and car rental so that I can spend on food. I planned my trip around where I want to have my meals – so no, I wasn’t planning on saving on food.

BUT, I can share with you the THEORY of budgeting for food.   Like I mentioned at the start of the post, there are places like Matsuya and Yoshinoya where you can get a pretty filling bowl of beef rice for like 500JPY.  Ramen will cost your around 1000yen a bowl. You can also buy pretty tasty buns from Lawson (convenience store) for like 100JPY for breakfast.  So let’s say you set a budget of SGD200 per day for food.  You just try to keep to it by having say one good meal a day, and eating Lawson bread for breakfast and beef rice or ramen for your other meal.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Itinerary June 29

The other tip I have is on dining at upmarket restaurants.  For the upmarket restaurants, they typically charge more for dinner than for lunch.  For e.g.  At Sushi Zen in Sapporo,  their lunch set starts from 3564JPY per pax but their dinner set starts from 8640yen per pax.  Another e.g. At Sora at Lake Kussharo, their lunch set starts from 2000yen per pax, but their dinner set starts from 10000yen per pax.   So plan to visit these restaurants for lunch.  And for those restaurants like ramen restaurants that charge the same regardless of the time you visit, keep those for dinner.

Hokkaido Self Drive Trip Itinerary June 32

Another thing you need to note on visiting cafes in Japan is that there is often a minimum order of 1 drink / food item per person for dining in.  So you may walk past a cafe with gorgeous looking cakes and decide to go in with your entire entourage to grab a few slices to try.  If you decide to sit in and dine, everyone (kids included) may be required to order something. So if you just want to try one or two slices of cake, choose to take away.

Budgeting for Train Tickets

We did not use the rail for our trip, but since I am talking about budgeting, I will just share my two yen worth on budgeting for train tickets.

Budgeting for train tickets is pretty straightforward because you can check the exact price of train tickets on hyperdia.  After planning out your itinerary and the train routes you need to take, just hop over to hyperdia to check the fares and add them up.

After adding up your train fares, you can then compare it to the price of the Hokkaido Rail Pass to see if it is worth getting the rail pass.

If you are using the shinkansen between Tokyo and Hakodate to get to Hokkaido and also using rail to get around Hokkaido, you can also compared your total rail fare to see if it is worth getting the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass or the Japan Rail Pass.

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Hokkaido Trip Budgeting - Bumble Bee Mum

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67 Comments on Budgeting for a Self-Guided Hokkaido Trip

    • bumblebeemum
      July 2, 2016 at 1:47 pm (4 months ago)

      Can’t wait to read about what you guys get up to in Hokkaido!

  1. yanni
    July 1, 2016 at 12:08 pm (4 months ago)

    Hi, thanks for the post! :) can i check on the hotel rates – are you referring per pax per night? or just per night? thanks in advance

    • bumblebeemum
      July 1, 2016 at 4:32 pm (4 months ago)

      It’s per room per night.

      • Chun Han
        July 3, 2016 at 1:27 am (4 months ago)

        Hi Bumblebeemum thanks for the reply! Yanni is my girlfriend and we are both planning a self-drive trip in Hokkaido for our family (total 6 travellers) some time during the first 2 weeks in Hokkaido. Your blog has been of immense help so far!

        We are both just generally surprised at the prices for your accom and car rental – because we have booked accom and car rental for our period of travel, at rates that are quite significantly higher than yours! And we feel quite bummed about it hahaha

        e.g. our car rental for 8/9 days, from Tocoo, an 8-seater, cost ¥90900 before tax and all the other insurance add-ons; our Furano Prince is $131 per pax per night; our sapporo hotel is $70 per pax per night!

        Haha is it really because we are going during the peak season that is early August? Admittedly, we also booked all these things just very recently over the past week or so (roughly 1 month in advance). Is that why our prices are so high too?

        Just curious too – how far in advance are your hotel and car rental bookings usually?

        Thanks for in advance, as always! Your blog is a joy to read and a dream to work towards :) we probably love Japan as much as you do and we never get bored of it :)

        • bumblebeemum
          July 5, 2016 at 12:05 am (4 months ago)

          Ummm… Unfortunately because you are travelling during the peak season and booking pretty last minute, it is going to be very expensive. I booked my hotels about 6 months before my travel and car rental about 3 months before. But don’t think too much about it. If I had the opportunity to visit Hokkaido in early August, I would gladly pay for it. It’s going to be beautiful!

          And we’re not alone.. Most people who have gone to Japan love it! :)

          • ChunHan
            July 5, 2016 at 7:53 am (4 months ago)

            Haha we will try not to think about it and just enjoy ourselves haha!! Thanks for your help :) you r our inspiration hahahahah

            • bumblebeemum
              July 12, 2016 at 11:06 am (4 months ago)

              You’re welcome. Thank you for your kinds words. :)

  2. Lynn
    July 1, 2016 at 12:19 pm (4 months ago)

    Thanks for yr Budgeting advice !!!
    & info on checking cheaper flights & aps..Simply love yr blogs !!

    • bumblebeemum
      July 1, 2016 at 4:39 pm (4 months ago)

      Thank you for loving my blog! :p

  3. Madeline
    July 1, 2016 at 12:59 pm (4 months ago)

    Wah did u go to Hokkaido again? For two weeks? Envy!!! We’re thinking of going to Hokkaido again too, if my company trip to the US does not materialise hehe

    • bumblebeemum
      July 1, 2016 at 4:33 pm (4 months ago)

      Haha.. Yeah, again! US sounds exciting!

  4. zhu
    July 1, 2016 at 10:08 pm (4 months ago)

    Hello Miss Hokkaido, very informative blog!!!! I am planning a trip to Hokkaido this month end. But nothing is firm yet. Otherwise it will be next summer. I would like to ask if it is possible to drive on either 28th or 29th July, due to Bellybutton Festival?

    1) For renting of car in Furano, can we book from Toyota a day in advance when we get there? Do we need the HEP / ETC card to drive around Furano and Biei?

    2) For these places, can it be fit into 1 day driving trip? Say starts at 9am.
    Rokugo Observatory / Furano Jam Farm / Anpanman Shop
    Furano Delice/ Furano Winery / Campana Rokkatei
    Patchwork course / Panorama Course / Blue Pond / Shirahige Waterfall

    These are just a rough plan, would like to have your advise. Thank you!

    • bumblebeemum
      July 2, 2016 at 1:54 pm (4 months ago)

      Haha.. Miss Hokkaido! Sound like beauty pageant.. LOL!!

      This month end?? It is peak period for Hokkaido travel and if you haven’t planned anything, you may find it pretty hard to get accommodation at the last minute!

      1) I recommend you confirm your car rental once you confirm your air tickets. Like I said, it is peak travel period so make sure you book everything in advance. They may not have available car in your choice category at the last minute. There is no need for HEP / ETC card around Furano and Biei – the whole region is pretty rural and toll free.

      2) I think you need 2 days to cover the places listed comfortably.

      • zhu
        July 3, 2016 at 12:03 am (4 months ago)

        Hihi BBM, appreciate your reply. Yes, I know it’s difficult to get hotel at this moment, all fully booked!! Nothing much left!!! Like I said, am still planning, nothing firm yet. Perhaps, I’ll just wait for next summer. I am collecting informations and getting some tips and advise from you….stand by, you know what I mean? Maybe 1 day, I can just pack and go, hahaha…. Thank you for your time. If there is any doubt with the planning, I’ll write to you again. Have an enjoyable Sunday! Cheers!

        • bumblebeemum
          July 5, 2016 at 12:00 am (4 months ago)

          I like your idea.. Just pack and go! But still, next summer does sound like a better idea. :p

  5. Sam
    July 3, 2016 at 12:49 am (4 months ago)

    Hi, thanks for sharing. I am planning to fly from Osaka to Sapporo in mid Dec however I can’t seems to get the rate of budget airlines such as jet star, skymark or vanilla air in their respective website as the rate is until Oct. You have any idea how much to budget for this sector. Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum
      July 5, 2016 at 12:01 am (4 months ago)

      You probably need to check about 3 months before your trip for domestic budget flights. To get a rough idea of how much the flights costs, just do a search for the same route for a nearer date (e.g. in September).

  6. Sean
    July 3, 2016 at 6:39 pm (4 months ago)

    Hi… my wife and I have been following your blogs closely. It’s very informative & useful for us!

    Would like to check with you 2 things:
    1) Are the shops in Rera outlet accepting credit cards (Visa or Master)? Have heard a lot about Japan merchants always like to accept cash only.
    2) Are our Singapore ATM cards able to withdraw cash from Japan ATM?

    Do you have any experience for the above?
    Thanks a lot in advance!

    • bumblebeemum
      July 5, 2016 at 12:42 am (4 months ago)

      1) Hmmmm.. I am not big on shopping so I can’t tell you for sure, but I would think shops at outlet malls should accept credit cards. But it is true that many Japan merchants do not accept credit card. I would just bring more cash if I want to do shopping.

      2) Not all cards work with Japan ATMs. The one time we had to withdraw cash in Japan, my husband and I had like 5 cards between us and only 1 of them worked (thank goodness, at least that 1 worked). And it was a credit card, not ATM card. You need to call your bank to activate your cards for overseas cash withdrawal. Your card should have a Visa Plus logo (if you are using Visa card) or Cirrus logo (if you are using Mastercard). Then you need to find an ATM with the corresponding logo, which is easier said than done. For us, we eventually found a Citibank ATM with the Cirrus and Visa Plus logos. But that was in Tokyo. Not sure how easy it is to find one in Hokkaido.

      According to this website, your best bet at finding an ATM that can accept Singapore credit card is at 7-11:
      But I got to tell you, 7-11 isn’t that common in Hokkaido. They are around, but not as ubiquitous as Lawson or Seico Mart. You may want to note exactly where their locations are:

      In short, I would just being plenty of cash. :p

      • Sean
        July 6, 2016 at 6:12 pm (4 months ago)

        Hi, thanks again for your replies in details. You are indeed very informative. :)

  7. Charlene
    July 5, 2016 at 10:53 pm (4 months ago)

    Hi Bumblemum,

    Chanced upon your blog while i was planning for our family’s december hokkaido trip..thank you for all the info and recommendations, really helpful for a first timer like us..

    Our plan so far is:
    Day 1: Sapporo
    Day 2: Sapporo (Teine)
    Day 3: Sapporo > Obihiro > Kushiro
    Day 4: Kushiro
    Day 5: Kushiro > Tomamu
    Day 6: Tomamu
    Day 7: Tomamu > Sapporo
    Day 8: Sapporo (Otaru)
    Day 9: Sapporo (Asahikawa)
    Day10: Sapporo
    Day 11: home

    Thinking of using JR pass, except for self-driving within Kushiro.

    Do you think 3d2n at Kushiro is too much? Is self driving in Kushiro easy? We dont have experience driving in snow, but we drive in sgp everyday and have driven in australia before..

    Thank you for your advice!

    • bumblebeemum
      July 12, 2016 at 12:13 pm (4 months ago)

      Neh, 3D2N in Kushiro is not too much, especially if you are planning to drive to Akan National Park. Which you should, if you have already gone all the way to Kushiro. It doesn’t make sense to me to go to Kushiro and not go to Akan National Park.

      If you plan to go to Akan National Park, I would advise you to spend the night of Day 4 at Lake Akan. Because doing a return trip to Akan National Park from Kushiro within a day in winter is too rushed.

      How easy the drive is going to be really depends on how heavy the snow is. You can read more on winter driving on this post:

  8. Laurence
    July 6, 2016 at 10:36 pm (4 months ago)

    Hi,Thank you for the most informative blog about hokkaido. We plan to go during the week of Christmas with self drive,tentaviely: tomamu,kiroro,asahikawa,otaru,taisetsu,lake akan or shikaribetsu.

    1. Which one do you recommend between lake akan and shikaribetsu? Does the lake frozen during this period? So we can see iglo,ice activities,etc?

    2. Do we need 4wd car? Or just 2wd with winter tyre will do?

    • bumblebeemum
      July 12, 2016 at 2:39 pm (4 months ago)

      1. I THINK Lake Shikaribetsu has a higher chance of being frozen because it is located at higher elevation. But the frozen lake festivals at both lakes will not be ready yet in December. Your best chance of finding igloos and ice activities is at Tomamu.

      2. So far I have been using normal 2wd with snow tyres for my Hokkaido winter trips.

  9. Buibou
    July 7, 2016 at 11:34 pm (4 months ago)

    Thank you once again for such insightful sharing!!

    We are going to book a car for early Oct which can fit a stroller, one big suitcase and a small baggage. Searched through http://carrentalhokkaido.com/ website and saw a compact car which can fit 2 big and 1 small baggages total cost 65,560 with the breakdown:

    Basic rate: 41,940JPY for 9 days
    Loss Damage Waiver:9,720JPY (Is this necessary)
    Travel Safe Insurance: 9,000JPY
    Sub-total: 4,500JPY
    WIFI: 400JPY (is this a portable wifi or a GPS with wifi?)
    ETC Card: 100JPY (where can we top up and how much to top up for 9 days?)

    As you mentioned you booked a 7 seater for 14 days at only 62620 as compared to my 9 days compact car that cost higher at 65,560 (and early Oct is sort of Off-peak?)…Just in case I might have missed out anything in the process, I would greatly appreciate your advice on any websites which I can obtain great bargain and promo codes.

    Till then, looking forward to your guidance.

    • bumblebeemum
      July 12, 2016 at 3:00 pm (4 months ago)

      I used Rakuten, but it is a Japanese website. If you can navigate Rakuten’s Japanese website, it is usually cheaper than renting direct from the car company:
      You have to be discerning in choosing which car company to go with because not all companies listed on Rakuten deals well with foreigners. For e.g. Ones Rental Car (ワンズレンタカー) is very cheap, but they are not foreigner friendly. World Net Rental Car is cheap, their staff do not speak English, but they still try their best to handle foreigners. Same for Sky Car Rental. Honda Auto Rent-A Car sometimes has great deals, they can converse in English, but their car GPS does not accept Map Codes.

      Strangely, I tried searching for car rental for your dates on Rakuten but Car Rental Hokkaido is not showing up. Hmmm.. But for your dates, OTS compact car is 40000+ yen on Rakuten. OTS is quite foreigner-friendly.. You can check them out.

      Also, a round-trip rental from CTS may be much cheaper than if you choose to pick up from CTS and drop-off in Sapporo because you have more options.

  10. Tristyn
    July 14, 2016 at 8:55 am (4 months ago)

    Hello! Your blog has really helped me a lot in my planning for my Oct Hokkaido trip. Do you mind sharing what are the websites you book your hotel from? Not too sure if Oct is considered a peak travel season but I realized the hotels are not cheap I.e. Mecure Sapporo is charging $180-190 per room per night on most of the websites like booking.com, agoda and hotels.com

    Thanks for your advice :)

    • bumblebeemum
      July 14, 2016 at 11:52 am (4 months ago)

      I usually use Agoda, Booking.com and Hotels.com. Sometimes Rakuten.

      Looks like there is no good promo for Mercure right now. Try other hotels? Richmond Hotel Odori seems to be going for under 10,000yen for a double room on Rakuten. I like Richmond Hotel Odori’s location – it is right smack along Tanukikoji.

      • Tristyn
        July 14, 2016 at 6:22 pm (4 months ago)

        Thanks for the info! I shall source for alternatives.

  11. Betty Ong
    July 17, 2016 at 7:08 pm (3 months ago)

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum,

    I enjoyed reading your blog on Autumn Sapporo. It was very informative and helpful in planning my trip to Hokkaido this October. We are booked a 8D6N trip staying at Hotel Fino (near Sapporo Station). Please advise if there is any airport bus to the station. My itinerary is as follows:
    Mon Oct 11 SIN/CTS by Thai Airways via BKK
    Tue Oct 12 Sapporo (Nijo market)
    Wed Oct 13 Sapporo (Sapporo Central market)
    Thu Oct 14 Otaru
    Fri Oct 15 Free
    Sat Oct 16 Free
    Mon Oct 17 CTS/SIN
    Can you please advise where we can go for Onsen as this is my hubby’s first trip to Hokkaido on one of the free days. Both of us are in mid sixties. We do not intend to rent a car as our aim of the trip is to eat, sight see and onsen if possible.
    Appreciate your thoughts and advice. Regards


    • bumblebeemum
      July 22, 2016 at 4:57 pm (3 months ago)

      If your hotel is near Sapporo station, using the train would be much faster than airport bus.

      Jozankei onsen would be beautiful during your dates. You can make use of the public bus, but make sure you take note of the timetable as the buses are not very frequent:

  12. Mummyof2
    July 20, 2016 at 4:14 pm (3 months ago)

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Thank you for sharing the information for Japan trip. I’m planning to go hokkaido in dec with my son who is 8 year-old by then. My tentative itinerary as follow:
    Day 1 – Singapore to CTS (reach CTS in the morning ard 8am)
    Day 2 – CTS- sapporo
    Day 3 – Sapporo
    Day 4 – Sapporo
    Day 5 – Sapporo – Otaru (stay Otaru)
    Day 6 – Day trip to kirroro ski area (Stay Otaru)
    Day 7 – Otaru to Niseko
    Day 8 – Niseko
    Day 9 – Niseko to Toya
    Day 10 – Toya to tomamu
    Day 11 – Tamamu to ariport hotel
    Day 12 – Back to sg (morning flight)

    Could you please advice if this is workable with public transport?
    When booking the room, should i book 1 room with 2 pax or 3 pax will be better?


    • bumblebeemum
      July 22, 2016 at 7:56 pm (3 months ago)

      Your visit to Tomamu is extremely rushed. If you just want to go to Tomamu for a day, you can do it as a day trip from Sapporo.

      Day 1 – Singapore to CTS (reach CTS in the morning ard 8am)
      Day 2 – CTS- sapporo
      Day 3 – Sapporo
      Day 4 – Sapporo (day trip to Tomamu)
      Day 5 – Sapporo
      Day 6 – Sapporo – Otaru (stay Otaru)
      Day 7 – Day trip to kirroro ski area (Stay Otaru)
      Day 8 – Otaru to Niseko
      Day 9 – Niseko
      Day 10 – Niseko to Toya
      Day 11 – Toya to airport hotel
      Day 12 – Back to sg (morning flight)

      Regarding transport, I think you need to take a taxi to Kiroro from Otaru. The rest of the destinations should be reachable with a combination of train and bus.

      • Mummyof2
        August 2, 2016 at 4:28 pm (3 months ago)

        Hi Mummy,

        I have changed my plan for my hokkaido trip. It will be driving trip for the early few days and train when we are in sapporo.
        Day 1 – Singapore to CTS (reach CTS in the morning ard 8am)
        Day 2 – CTS – Toya (rent car from airport)
        Day 3 – Toya
        Day 4 – Toya – Rusutsu – Niseko
        Day 5 – Niseko
        Day 6 – Niseko to sapporo (Return car at Sapporo)
        Day 7 – Sapporo
        Day 8 – Sapporo – Otaru
        Day 9 – Sapporo – Asahiyama zoo
        Day 10 – Sapporo – Tomamu
        Day 11 – Sapporo – Takino Suzuran park
        Day 12 – Back to sg (morning flight)

        Could you please advice if this plan is workable? Do you have any car rental to advice? We are travelling with my son who is 8 years old. Which car type is suitable for us?

        Tried to search rakuten, its about 33000 yen

        Do you think it’s worth to buy hokkaido pass?

        • bumblebeemum
          August 4, 2016 at 8:55 pm (3 months ago)

          For 2 adults and 1 child, a normal 5-seater sedan should suffice. 33000yen for 5 days rental sounds reasonable for a 5-seater.

          The plans looks workable. But I’m not sure what’s there to do at Takino Suzuran in December. Furthermore it is quite a hassle to visit without a car. I would skip Takino Suzuran Hillside Park.

          You need to use hyperdia to add up your total train fares for Day 8 to 10 to see if it is worth getting the 3-days Hokkaido Rail pass.

          • Mummyof2
            August 5, 2016 at 9:40 am (3 months ago)

            Hi BBM,

            Thank you for your reply.
            I notice that they always use the term of compact for car rental. Is compact good to drive in winter? the car is in 660cc i think.

            for my itinerary, it seems that only CTS to Toya that required tollway? Toya to Niseko and Niseko to sapporo no highway? Do I need to rent ETC for my case?

            I saw a blog saying that Takino Suzuran has many activities in snow like sled and tube slide which is free. But last year they open in 23rd Dec, so I will need to check their website before i went there.

            Thanks alot for the many advice and information :)

            • bumblebeemum
              August 5, 2016 at 11:52 am (3 months ago)

              Neh, 660cc is too small! Get at least a 1300cc thereabout.

              From CTS to Lake Toya, if you drive via Lake Shikotsu, it is toll free.

              Toya to Niseko is toll free.

              Niseko to Sapporo is also toll free if you select the toll free route.
              From Niseko to Sapporo, our GPS recommended we go up to Otaru then use the toll road to Sapporo, but we set it to use the above non-toll route instead. You can read more on GPS settings here:

              So technically, it is possible for you to avoid toll roads, so you don’t need to get an ETC card.

              Usually snow parks only open end December earliest, so yes, do check the website to see if the snow parks are open before heading down.

              • Mummyof2
                August 8, 2016 at 10:10 am (3 months ago)

                Hi BBM,

                Really appreciate your help for giving me a detail map route :)
                I found this car rental website: http://carrentalhokkaido.com/en/
                Have you rent from them before? Any comments?

                • bumblebeemum
                  August 10, 2016 at 12:21 am (3 months ago)

                  Yup, my friend rented from them in our recent trip. The staff spoke English & Chinese so communication wasn’t a problem. Only thing is that you need to call them to pick you up from the airport when you arrive as they don’t have a counter at the airport.

                  • Mummyof2
                    August 10, 2016 at 10:07 am (3 months ago)

                    Thanks BBM for the quick reply. I was abit worried that they do not have counter at airport as we do not carry local phone.
                    Comparing this to times car, which one do u think is better? Times car has counter at airport?
                    Thanks you so much for always helping me :)

                    • bumblebeemum
                      August 13, 2016 at 11:17 am (3 months ago)

                      My friend called them using his Singapore phone on roaming. It was just a short call, so I don’t think the call would cost a lot. But yeah, it’s still an inconvenience, I get that.

                      Times does have a rental counter at the domestic terminal:

  13. Mummyof2
    July 20, 2016 at 4:27 pm (3 months ago)

    oh ya.. if we do not drive, is it good to stay near sapporo or odori park? thanks

    • bumblebeemum
      July 22, 2016 at 7:57 pm (3 months ago)

      If you are not driving, it is a better idea to stay near Sapporo station.

      • mummyof2
        July 25, 2016 at 10:54 am (3 months ago)

        Thank mummy for the information and advice :)

  14. Sean
    August 22, 2016 at 10:28 pm (2 months ago)

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Have you ever visited Hokkaido in Autumn?
    Would like to ask for your opinion about the best timing to visit Hokkaido in Autumn. My main itineraries are Sapporo, Jozankei, Daisetsuzan National Park/Sounkyo, Lake Akan, Abashiri, Shiretoko, Monbetsu, etc. In order to get the best scenery view, do you think whether I should go in first 2 weeks or last 2 weeks of October?

    And, we may have 5 adults + 2 kids (6 & 4 years old) with probably 4 suitcases. Would a 7-seater or 8-seater car enough? I’m concerned that the car may not have enough storage area anymore after sitting 7 people.

    Thanks for your time in replying :)

  15. Grace Chin
    September 8, 2016 at 3:28 pm (2 months ago)

    Thank you for this post. It is so helpful and informative! We’re going to Hokkaido in December. Still a lot of planning to do and re-reading your posts certainly helping a lot. Hehehehe!

    • bumblebeemum
      September 12, 2016 at 9:27 pm (2 months ago)

      You’re welcome. Glad to be of help! :)

    September 8, 2016 at 11:20 pm (2 months ago)

    Hi bumblebee mum, thanks for your long detailed post about hokkaido, it really helps to save a lot of money using your budget! I am going to hokkaido in Oct and will rent car for 5 days outside Sapporo. Using your link to worldnet car rental, the rental is only SGD 14500. we intend to rent HEP for the tolls as it seems cheaper and hasslefree, but looks like worldnet car rental is not one of the participating office. Do you know if we can rent car from worldnet car rental and rent the HEP in any of the participating offices? Thanks a lot and look forward to your response!

    • bumblebeemum
      September 13, 2016 at 11:12 am (2 months ago)

      No you can’t. If you want HEP, you have to book through their handling office unfortunately.

  17. Shawn
    September 13, 2016 at 1:35 am (2 months ago)

    Hi Bumbleemum,

    Firstly I would like to say all the posts about the Hokkaido travel has been very very helpful and informative. Thank you for making so much effort for writing all of these information!

    It is my first time traveling to Hokkaido (Been to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka a few times already) but I’m still unsure where to start. I will be traveling with only my dad and most likely the whole trip will be just looking at sceneries, so it will be a slow paced trip. If you don’t mind, I will be asking you a few questions before planning the itinerary.

    For starters I would be renting a car through timescar rental (via rakuten) or Orix when I touchdown at CTS airport. And I would be in Hokkaido from 12 to 18 December. Tricky thing is my flight back to Tokyo is 7:50 AM, which means I would need to be at the airport by 5:50 AM. So in that case am I right to say that I would need to return the car the day before on the 17 December as the car rental place won’t be open so early right?

    And to the next question, I have read your post regarding the Hokkaido winter trip essential travel tips and saw that you had a route that you recommend:

    1) New Chitose Airport
    2) Tomamu
    3) Obihiro (Tokachigawa Onsen)
    4) Kushiro
    5) Lake Akan
    6) Abashiri
    7) Sounkyo
    8) Asahikawa
    9) Sapporo (with day trip to Otaru from here)
    10) New Chitose Airport

    Is there any ryokans that you would recommend in these places that you had mentioned? I would probably prefer 2 places that I would like to stay in ryokans, not too expensive but just the experience would do.

    I am also interested in the OKHOTSK-NO-KAZE and RYUHYO NOROKKO train rides, is there any way to fit into the route?

    As for now that would be the only questions to ask you before planning out my itinerary, so sorry for asking you so many questions and thank you!

    • bumblebeemum
      September 13, 2016 at 12:29 pm (2 months ago)

      Yup, if you have a morning flight out of CTS, you will need to return your car the previous day. I suggest you return your car on 17 Dec and spend the night at Air Terminal Hotel.

      For the above route, you should stay in ryokans at Lake Akan and Sounkyo.

      I don’t think the Okhotsk and Ryuhyo trains are running in December? December is too early for drift ice.

      • Shawn Lee
        September 13, 2016 at 2:38 pm (2 months ago)

        Ah okay, thanks for the heads up regarding the trains. I shall research more, thank you for the reply! :)

  18. Crazy
    September 20, 2016 at 1:20 am (1 month ago)

    Can I ask .. Do you declare the number of kids when u try to book hotels? Coz I find the price multiplies by the number of people we have. Even though they are so little and sharing our beds!

    • bumblebeemum
      September 21, 2016 at 10:48 am (1 month ago)

      For city hotels, I always book for 2 adults. But do check the hotel policy whether or not they allow children to stay for free first. If they do, then no problem, just book for 2 adults.

      For ryokans, it really depends on whether the booking website allows me to book when I add in my children. When I use Agoda / Booking.com etc, I usually don’t book for my children. So when I check in, I find out how much they charge for my kids and I pay for the kids directly to the hotel. But when I use Rakuten (which is my preferred website for booking Japanese ryokan), I will include my children as Rakuten will calculate the price accurately for me based on the age of my children and whether or not they need meals / bedding.

  19. Crazymom
    September 20, 2016 at 1:22 am (1 month ago)

    Hi does everyone actually declare the number of children they have when booking the hotels? The prices soar not in proportion to their sizes when I factually enter them in there :(

  20. Confused Son
    September 29, 2016 at 12:52 am (4 weeks ago)

    Hello BBM!

    Am looking to go to Hokkaido in November, and after reading numerous posts and comments from you, I understand it seems you strongly discourage visiting in November!

    However, as I am planning this trip to Hokkaido for my parents, (50-55~) who do not wish to drive and are not able to endure the harsher weather later on. I would really appreciate if you are able to help me narrow away options from your places to visit in Sapporo – Hakodate area (central – southern?) for November. The main purpose would be to enjoy gourmet food, local food (seafood and pastries/cake especially)

    A few questions apart from that, if you are able to help,

    1. Is Hakodate worth going, assuming we fly into and out from Chitose Airport?
    2. The primary aim of the trip is to enjoy food, and good food (In fact, they are celebrating an occasion immediately on the second day we reach Sapporo, and I’m scouting for a good dining place).
    3. Penguin March is a must for my mother, however it seems like they do not come out in november! are there any place that has this?

    • bumblebeemum
      September 29, 2016 at 8:17 am (4 weeks ago)

      1. Depends on how many days you have and whether your parents can endure the long train ride. The train ride from Sapporo to Hakodate is 4 hours. Hakodate morning market and Mount Hakodate are definitely worth visiting if you have the time.

      3. The famous penguin parade at Asahiyama Zoo only starts in late Dec. However there is penguin parade at Noboribetsu Marine Park NIXE throughout the year:

      • Confused Son
        September 29, 2016 at 11:05 pm (4 weeks ago)

        Thank you BBM!

        I’ll be going on a 9 days trip. I hope that is enough considering we aren’t going to ski =)

        • bumblebeemum
          October 5, 2016 at 10:10 am (3 weeks ago)

          Yeah, if you have 9 days, it would be enough to go to Hakodate. :)

  21. 1stTimer
    October 7, 2016 at 4:42 pm (3 weeks ago)

    Hi BBM,
    We are a family of 4 with 02 young children below 10yrs. 1st trip to Japan & we plan to go for free & easy (not driving). Will be travelling 3rd week of NOV to Hokkaido first & be there for 5 days & then to Tokyo for another 5 days too. Can you please help to recommend how I should proceed with my trip. Any accom which you can recommend & anything I need to take note of. Thanks .

    • bumblebeemum
      October 8, 2016 at 12:53 pm (3 weeks ago)

      With 5 days in Hokkaido, I suggest you stay close to Sapporo. You can do 2 days in Sapporo, a day-trip to Otaru from Sapporo and then spend a night at an onsen town near Sapporo (Noboribetsu or Lake Toya or Jozankei).

      In Tokyo, you can visit this post to see what you are interested in, then allocate like a day for each region:

      For accommodation, if you are using public transport, I suggest you find a hotel near Sapporo station when in Hokkaido. Then for onsen ryokans, I like Toya Sunpalace at Lake Toya and Hotel Mahoroba at Noboribetsu.

      In Tokyo, if you are on a tight budget, usually the hotels around Ueno or Asakusa would be cheaper than say, Shibuya or Shinjuku or Tokyo station area. If you need more space, you can try staying in an apartment instead. You can check out the apartment we stayed in during our last visit:

      • 1stTimer
        October 8, 2016 at 3:55 pm (3 weeks ago)

        Hi BBM,
        Tvm for your suggestions, can I check with you if I want to add on to Hakodate how should I plan the itinerary.

        • bumblebeemum
          October 11, 2016 at 3:03 pm (2 weeks ago)

          With 5 days, I really do not advice that you go to Hakodate. But if you really want to go to Hakodate, you should consider flying in to Sapporo and out from Hakodate. So for e.g.

          Day 1: Tokyo – CTS – Sapporo
          Day 2: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
          Day 3: Sapporo – Noboribetsu OR Lake Toya
          Day 4: Noboribetsu OR Lake Toya – Hakodate
          Day 5: Hakodate – Tokyo


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