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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

Hokkaido-Budgeting-02

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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the author

Supposed to be a stay-home mom, but hates staying home. Definition of parenting is bringing the boys out for 'experiential learning' in Singapore, Japan and wherever else in the world her husband can afford to pay for.

88Comments

  1. Angie.S says:

    Very informative post, thanks for sharing!
    Angie.S recently posted…Navy @ Vivo 2016 – More than just an ordinary Open HouseMy Profile

  2. yanni says:

    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 says:

      It’s per room per night.

      • Chun Han says:

        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 says:

          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! 🙂

  3. Lynn says:

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

  4. Madeline says:

    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

  5. Mummy Ed says:

    Such great tips! Two thumbs up! (I think if I did that in real life, I might look quite silly…)
    Mummy Ed recently posted…U Escape – fun for the whole family, including kids!My Profile

  6. zhu says:

    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 says:

      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 says:

        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 says:

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

          • Zhu says:

            Hello, Miss Hokkaido, remember me? Guess you’re getting bz since your elder is in P1. I’m planning a trip in June for the lavender. A group of 6. Can you please see if it’s OK. Just a plan, booking and all not done yet. Need to discuss with friends and confirm.

            My tentative plan is :

            Jun 23 – Fri
            (Red-eye flight)

            Jun 24 – Sat
            Sapporo (Former Hokkaido Gov. Office / Clock tower / Odori / Sapporo museum /Susukino)

            Jun 25 – Sun
            Sapporo – Otaru ( Day Trip)

            Jun 26 – Mon
            Sapporo (Nijo market / Nakajima Koen / Mt Moiwa / Hokkaido Shrine / Hitsujigaoka Observatory Hill )
            (In Sapporo, mode of transport, walking, subway, bus or tram)

            Jun 27 – Tue
            Sapporo – Furano
            (Tomita Farm / Nakafurano Choei Lavender Park / Flower Land Kamifurano / Roller Coaster Road / Furano Wine Factory / Campana Rokkatei / Furano Delice / Ningle Terrace)

            Jun 28 – Wed
            Furano – Biei – Furano
            Biei – Panorama Road
            (Shikisai No Oka– Sanai No Oka + Sanai No Chaya Cafe Curve
            Shinnei No Oka– Farm Restaurant Chiyoda + Chiyoda Farm)

            Biei – Patchwork Road
            Hokusei No Oka 
            Hill of Zerebu

            Biei – Shirogane Onsen
            (Blue Pond / Shirohige Waterfall / Shirogane Fudo Falls / Mount Tokachi Observatory
            (Train to and fro Sapporo, car rental from Furano for 2days)
            (Train and car rental cheaper or direct rent in Sapporo? Any toll fees?)

            Jun 29 – Thurs
            Furano – Sapporo

            Jun 30 – Fri
            Sapporo – Lake Toya

            Jul 1 – Sat
            Lake Toya – Singapore

            I’m trying not to rush the trip and go slowly at leisure, cos I’m going with friends who do not like to rush. 
            We are a bunch of wine, beer and whiskey drinkers. More of eat, drink and be merry that kind, haha…

            Now, I have a lot of questions for you, hope you don’t mind answering cos it’s quite long.

            1) Is it good time to travel during those dates?
            Weather wise good?  Temperature and is it raining all time?

            2) Is driving easy for 1st timer in Furano and Biei?  Any Parking fee in those mentioned areas?

            3) What’s your recommendation, for people like us to eat and drink and crawl back to Hotel, haha….

            4) Which location is best to stay in? Sapporo, Ordori or Susukino?

            5) In Sapporo is it necessary to get a driver to drive us around? (You’ve mentioned that parking is expensive.)  We are the type rest and relax kind…everything go slow…no rushing. I don’t know man, walking is better? Own time own target….

            6) What about in Furano? Recommended hotel?  What’s your opinion like for a group of 6.  Best to stay in apartment?

            7) During those mentioned dates any Festival?

            (Lake Toya might shift up to 24th. Still checking on the dates. Not sure if my friends wanna include.)

            Maybe you can rearrange the best for me?

            Thank you so much!

            • bumblebeemum says:

              1) It’s an okay time to travel. Flowers would be starting to bloom, though not at the peak. But it should be nicer than our visits which are in early-mid June. It should be getting warmer by end June, though it may still be cold at night or when it rains. I would expect it to rain half the time – but when it comes to weather, it’s always highly unpredictable.

              2) Furano and Biei will have quite a lot of curvy rural roads. But since you’re driving in Summer, it should be okay. Parking is mostly free at the attractions in Furano and Biei.

              3) In Sapporo, stay in Susukino. Plenty of drinking places around there, from which you can just walk back to the hotel. And you mentioned whiskey? Then you should definitely visit Nikka Whiskey Distillery at Yoichi (near Otaru). You’ll love the tasting hall. Just don’t get too drunk until you can’t take the train back. :p

              4) If your priority is food and drinks, I would recommend staying at Susukino.

              5) Public transport should be good enough for Sapporo. But if you get too tired or drunk, just hail a cab. If you’re there with your friends and you all share the cost of the cab, as long as you’re not too far off from the city centre, the cab fare should be quite manageable. When I was in Sapporo many years ago, my friends and I shared a cab from Sapporo Bier Garten (after a drinking-cum-jingisukan dinner) back to Susukino. It was something like 2000yen? After sharing it out, it wasn’t really expensive.

              6) For a group of 6, apartments should work out to be more economical than hotels.

              7) I’m not sure of any festival during your dates. It seems too late for Yosakoi and Hokkaido Shrine Festival and too early for Summer festivals.

              The order of your route looks okay. Except that if I’m going to Lake Toya from Furano, I won’t go back to Sapporo. I would choose to stop over at Lake Shikotsu or Noboribetsu.

              • Jeanne says:

                Hi Ms Hokkaido
                Thanks for your reply. Ok, Lake Toya will look into it, may put it on the first day. Am still working on it. Hope my friends can agree to my plan, hahaha….I’ve left out this question for you.
                If I’m gonna bring my own wine and whiskey to any restaurant, will there be any corkage charge? If yes, how much will that be? Thank you!

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  I’m not sure coz I’ve never tried bringing my own alcohol to the restaurants before. Usually I just order a glass of high ball from the restaurants. Or if I wanted to drink more, many of the izakaya have all-you-can-drink plans (look out for signs that say 飲み放題) so you pay like a thousand yen for free flow alcohol? So if I wanted to drink, I would head to these establishments rather than BYO and pay corkage fees.

  7. Sam says:

    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 says:

      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).

  8. Sean says:

    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 says:

      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:
      http://xpatnation.com/only-in-japan-atms-wont-take-your-foreign-bank-card/
      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:
      http://www.sej.co.jp/mngdbps/_template_/_user_/_SITE_/localhost/_res/in/shops_en.pdf

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

  9. Charlene says:

    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 says:

      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:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/08/29/free-easy-hokkaido-winter-trip-essential-travel-tips/

  10. Laurence says:

    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 says:

      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.

  11. Buibou says:

    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 says:

      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:
      http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/cars/
      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.

  12. Tristyn says:

    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 says:

      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.

  13. Betty Ong says:

    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

    Betty

  14. Mummyof2 says:

    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?

    Thanks

    • bumblebeemum says:

      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 says:

        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 says:

          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.
          http://www.hyperdia.com/en/

          • Mummyof2 says:

            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 🙂

  15. Mummyof2 says:

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

  16. Sean says:

    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 🙂

  17. Grace Chin says:

    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!

  18. WOEI YUH YAN says:

    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!

  19. Shawn says:

    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 says:

      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.

  20. Crazy says:

    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 says:

      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.

  21. Crazymom says:

    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 🙁

  22. Confused Son says:

    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?

  23. 1stTimer says:

    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 says:

      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:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/11/03/tokyo-kids-friendly-attractions-by-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:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2016/01/24/tokyo-family-apartment-holiday-rental-in-shinjuku/

      • 1stTimer says:

        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 says:

          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

  24. mummy of two says:

    Hi BBM,
    Thank you for your detailed blog, We managed to drive at Hokkaido during last Dec. We are planning to go again in Late May to early June. We will be going from 26 May to 2nd June. We plan to fo Furano, north part for this summer trip.

    Day 1: New chitose – Furano, Biei and Asahikawa Stay asahikawa for 2 nights
    Day 2: Asahikawa to Takinoue and Tulip park
    Day 3: Asahikawa to Otaru – Stay Otaru
    Day 4: Otaru to Sapporo – return car
    Day 5 – till back stay in Sapporo

    Could you please advice if this trip is advisable?
    We have 4 adults and 2 kids (8 years and 3 years), I’m wondering if a Toyota wish can fit us with 2 big luggage and a stroller. Does kids need car seat in Japan?

    Will we able to go by non toll road for this route?

    Thanks in advance.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The first day looks very tiring, considering it’s done right after getting off the plane. But otherwise it looks alright.

      We used a Toyota Wish for family of 4 adults and 2 kids. It is tight but we managed to fit. The stroller really depends on what type of stroller – some strollers are huge. If it’s a umbrella stroller, shouldn’t be a problem as you can just slot it under the passengers’ feet.

      Yes, children need car seats in Japan.

      Considering your itinerary looks a bit tight, I suggest you use the toll roads.

      • mummy of two says:

        Hi BBM.. Thanks for your quick response. The car seat is only for my baby who is 3? or the 9 years old also need that?
        I’m wondering how to fit in 2 car seats and 4 adults in the wish as the last row should be for luggage?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Do your 9 year old still need booster seat usually? It’s more for their safety than anything. If the 9 year old is tall enough to do without a booster, then there’s no need for it.

          Usually we have 2 adults first row, the 2 kids and 1 adult in the middle row, and 1 adult last row with the luggage. So in the last row, we will push down the seat on the right side for the luggage while the adult will sit on the left. Then in the middle row, we will secure the car seat to the right most seat, so that the left side can still be lowered to allow the adult at the back to get in / out of the car. It will be quite cramped. If you want to be more comfortable, you should rent an 8-seater where there is luggage space in the boot, so you have 3 full rows of seats for people to spread out.

          • mummy of two says:

            Thanks BBM for the detailed explanation. We will look into it and see if wish is sufficient as to save cost 🙂 The difference for wish and 8 seater can be alot.. We rather save it for food.. lol

            From your blog, Furano and Beie seems too early for flower boom for our date, that’s y we thinking of just passby some eat area for lunch and visit maybe 1 location and head back to asahikawa. Or we might drive directly to asahikawa to rest and back to furano to visit which might be silly as to travel back..

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Yeah, I know.. 8 seaters do cost significantly more than 7 seaters.. Which is why we have been squeezing into a Wish for our past trips. :p

              Neh, it doesn’t make sense to go Asahikawa first then back to Furano. We ended our first day in Furano instead of going all the way till Asahikawa. Because after being stuck in the plane overnight, and immediately after that squeezing into a car for another 2 hours from CTS to Furano, everyone was starting to get rather cranky and claustrophobic. Which is why I felt your first day looked very tiring, because you are still going to drive from Furano to Asahikawa after that.

              • mummy of two says:

                Ya.. it seems too tiring, but we planned to visit the Takinoue Park which is nearer to asahikawa the next day. Hopefully the drive is good..

                Btw, we will be stopping over furano area for lunch, however we might need to take 1 hour break before reaching furano, is there any place that we can have toilet break or coffee break between new chitose to furano? TIA

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  I don’t recall any exciting place to stop for break between CTS and Furano. Usually we just stop by the expressway rest stops when someone needs to use the toilet and I will just grab coffee from vending machines at the rest stops.

                  • mummy of two says:

                    Thanks BBM for always helping us in planning our trip 🙂 Maybe we will drive straight to Furano for lunch.

  25. Eve says:

    Hi Hi
    Need your expert advice on the routes if there are in the right order or need swapping those destinations in Furano:

    Day 1 May 15 Drive from Sapporo to Takikawa, then to Asahikawa Zoo. Overnight Asahikawa.

    Day 2 May 16 From Aaahikawa to Biei Blue Pond, then to Shikisai No Oka, then Shinnei No Oka, then to Sanai No Oka [rest for coffee break], then to Farm Tomita, Furano Melon House, Cheese Factory. Dinner and overnight at Furano

    Day 3 May 17 – Breakfast and continue to Furano Delice, Wine Factory, Furano Marche, Furano Jam Factory. Then followed on Patchwork Road: Hokusie No oka, Furano [Ningle Terrace]before heading back to Sapporo.

    Thanks

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Oops, I just replied your previous comment before seeing this. Anyway as I was saying… Day 1 feels a bit rushed. It doesn’t leave much time for for Asahiyama Zoo.

      Going to Patchwork Road on Day 3 is off. I would go to Patchwork Road on Day 2 before Blue Pond and Panoroma Road (Shikisai No Oka, then Shinnei No Oka, Sanai No Oka). And leave all the Furano sights for Day 3.

  26. Jing says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum

    Thank you for sharing so much information!

    This is my first time going to hokkaido and I would like to check that in the event that we are to opt for self-driving, will refuelling of car petrol be a problem in areas like Lake Toya and Noboribetsu? Is there a need for us to top up our petrol whenever we see a petrol station or is there a abundance of petrol station along popular driving routes?

    Thank you very much!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      There is at least one petrol kiosk at Lake Toya:
      https://goo.gl/maps/guFhwqJC1HP2

      And at Noboribetsu there is a petrol kiosk right along the road going into the onsen town:
      https://goo.gl/maps/45hmUGoKtJv

      You can usually find petrol kiosk at the larger service areas (SA) along the expressways. In general, petrol kiosk are not THAT hard to find, but I wouldn’t say abundance because Hokkaido is huge and it may be quite a long distance between two SAs. So if my tank drops below half tank, I would just refuel at the next SA I come across. But there is no need to keep refueling each time you see a petrol kiosk. Know what I mean?

  27. Olivia says:

    Hi bumblebeemum,
    The best part of your blog is on Japan travel, especially one with kids! I love it..

    I have a few question, if you don’t mind answering.

    1) where do you usually stay in Furano? In mid June, prices seem pretty exorbitant, and we’ve had to book some onsen hotel in Biei instead.. Do you usually book New Furano Prince directly from their website?

    2) we’re 2 adults & 2kids (ages 9 & 3), but it always seems that Hokkaido twin room “exceed max occupancy” on the various booking sites, e.g. Hotels.com, Expedia & booking.com. How do you usually book for your family, and are the Japanese sticky about it? I usually bedshare with my little girl anyway..

    Thanks and regards!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) I don’t have a place where I usually stay, rather I will just try to look for the most value-for-money accommodation I can find based on pricing and review on hotel booking sites. We did enjoy staying at New Furano Prince Hotel on our last trip, but I booked it when they had a great promo for less than SGD200 per room? I wouldn’t stay there for their usual rate of more than SGD400 per night. Know what I mean? Just got to keep surfing hotel booking sites to see if there are any great deals popping out.

      2) For city hotels, what I do is that I would search for 2 adults only. Then I would scroll down to read the hotel policies on children to see if my kids are eligible to stay for free. If yes, I would just make the booking for 2 adults. If no, I try to find another hotel where they can stay for free. It gets increasingly difficult as the children get older, so your 9 year old is tricky. Just got to search for hotels with rooms that can accommodate more than 2 pax. You can also try Super Hotel chain, they have rooms with bunk bed for very reasonable rate. Just that it’s a budget hotel, so the rooms are very small. It’s pretty much you get what you pay for.
      http://www.superhoteljapan.com/en/

      But for onsen ryokans, they are very particular and will charge for children, including infants. The rate depends on whether the child needs bedding and / or meals. So I usually use Rakuten to make onsen ryokan bookings instead, because I can include my kids in my booking and specify if they require bedding.
      http://travel.rakuten.com/

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