Self-Drive holiday to Hokkaido – Flight, Mercure Hotel Sapporo, Toyota Rent-A-Car Sapporo

Just returned from a short autumn holiday to Hokkaido! Thought I should blog about my experience of driving around Hokkaido with the kids and share some useful information for anyone who plans to visit the island on a self-drive holiday with the kids. 🙂

Before I begin, you may be interested in the following travel tips that I have written:

If you want to know my money-saving tips for Hokkaido Self-Drive holidays, check out my post

Money-Saving Tips for Free and Easy Self-Drive in Hokkaido“!

If you want to know how to search for Map Codes for Hokkaido (or anywhere in Japan), check out my post:

How to search for Japan Map Codes“.

Alright, let’s begin reviewing the trip I just returned from!

Flying from Singapore to Hokkaido

First, let’s talk about the flight. The biggest airport in Hokkaido is the Shin-Chitose Airport (CTS) which is an hour’s drive from Sapporo. There are no direct flights from Singapore to CTS, so we needed to change to a domestic flight in Tokyo. If you want to save the hassle, I would recommend flying all the way with ANA or JAL for smooth, hassle-free connections between the domestic and international sectors.  The advantage of flying with them, besides the smooth connection, is that you can choose not the fly in / out of Hokkaido via CTS.  If you are on a self-drive holiday and wish to cover more of the island in less time, it is recommended that you fly in to Asahikawa airport, drive all the way south and fly out from Hakodate airport.  Or if you are planning to visit Club Med Sahoro (Club Med is always a great place to visit with kids), you can fly into Obihiro airport, then out from Hakodate airport. ANA’s website is excellent and allows you to build your trip by choosing the airport you want to go and you can choose flights individually to minimize time in transit.

However, to save money, I booked my Singapore-Narita flight with Delta Airlines, and for the domestic flights between Narita and CTS, we flew by budget airlines: Air Asia and Jetstar.  Delta Airlines uses Terminal 1 at Narita, whereas Air Asia and Jetstar uses Terminal 2, so we had to take the terminal shuttle bus to get between the terminals at Narita, which was kind of a hassle.  And we had to bum a few hours at Narita airport each time. But we saved more than S$1000 flying this way, compared to flying with ANA or JAL.

When flying with an infant with Delta Airlines, note that they DO NOT provide bassinets.  I had to carry 9-month old MY in my arms for the whole 7 hour flight. However, they only charged me about S$20 for MY’s tickets.. So no complaints there.  The seat was spacious and comfortable enough, and they provided baby jar food for him.

jar food

For MF, since he is more than 2 years old, I had to buy a seat for him at almost full fare.  They provided kids meal for him and there were enough Disney cartoons on the in-flight entertainment system to keep him well-entertained.

As for Air Asia and Jetstar, we were required to check-in our stroller with our luggage and we couldn’t push it all the way to the plane. This also meant that the stroller’s weight was part of our baggage allowance.. So do take that into account when purchasing your baggage allowance when you book your tickets.

If you are flying to CTS and would like to rent a car, there are no car rental companies at the airport itself.  Many car rental companies have a service desk at the airport, where they will put you on their shuttle bus to their nearest outlet where you’ll pick up your rental car.  So what we did was to take the airport limousine bus to Sapporo, and rent a car from Sapporo instead. We arrived at CTS in the evening.  Doing so, we saved the trouble of driving in the dark and trying to locate our hotel in the busy streets of Sapporo (note that Sapporo is an hour drive from Chitose and roads in Hokkaido, other than within the main city area, are very dark), and we saved a day of parking.  It also saved us the need to rent a larger car that could fit 3 adults + 2 kids (who need car seats) and all our luggage and stroller.

My Favourite Hotel in Sapporo: Mercure Hotel Sapporo

We stayed at Mercure Hotel Sapporo throughout our trip.  I highly recommend this hotel.  The location was fantastic (close to airport limousine bus-stop as well as Susukino station), rooms were reasonably priced and comfortable, and there was so much to see and eat within walking distance!  For my detailed review of Mercure Hotel Sapporo, please read this post.


Renting a Car in Sapporo

I have rented cars in Japan numerous times, and usually I pick the cheapest quote I can find on ToCoo website.  However, not all rental companies listed on ToCoo are good at dealing with foreigners and the staff may not speak Japanese.  If you are visiting Hokkaido for the first time and do not speak Japanese, I very much recommend renting from Toyota.  There are two websites for Toyota rental cars in Hokkaido: Toyota Rent-A-Car Sapporo and Toyota Rent-A-Car Shinsapporo.  The nearest outlet from Hotel Mercure Sapporo is Toyota Shinsapporo’s ‘Subway Station Susukino’ outlet, which is really just opposite the hotel.  However, because I wanted to purchase the Hokkaido Expressway Pass (HEP), I needed to rent from one of the handling offices and the nearest handling office is at Toyota Sapporo’s Susukino Minami 4-jo office, which is about 10 min walk from the hotel.

HEP is a great deal if you are going to be using the expressways a lot. Tolls in Japan are exhorbitant! For eg, Sapporo to Noboribetsu via toll way already costs about 3000yen. Of course, if you are not in a hurry and want to take the scenic non-toll roads, there is no need for the HEP. (Eg from you can reach Noboribetsu from Sapporo via Lake Shikotsu and avoid the toll way.)

Toyota provides good English speaking support.  There is an English-speaking emergency helpline you can call (which unfortunately we did end up having to use – which made me appreciate that I rented the car from them) which is extremely important when driving in Hokkaido where weather condition is unpredictable and you never know when you would end up stuck in a snow storm (like we did). And when there is snow on the road, the car ain’t gonna stop just because you step on the brake – that’s something we Singaporean drivers need to learn.

The car we rented for 3 adults and 2 kids is a Toyota Fielder.

It was a bit of a squeeze since it was a 5-seater and we had a baby seat and a booster seat, but we managed to fit in anyway.  The boot was super spacious – no problem loading my bulky Peg Perego P3 stroller, and it is in the same price category as a normal Sedan, which is much cheaper than a wagon class 7-seater. We could rent a Sedan class because we did not rent the car from the airport and stayed in one hotel throughout the trip, and hence did not need to put all our luggage in the car.  If you are planning to change hotels along the way and you have a stroller with you, definitely a bigger car is required.

The biggest problem I had this trip was with the GPS. The GPS is totally crappy when moving within Sapporo city. It was pointing South when we were heading North, and sometimes it showed us on a wrong road (because Sapporo’s roads are very close to each other). Also, this GPS did not allow us to choose which route we wanted to take (whether we wanted the toll way? Or non-toll way?) and just gave the shortest route it could find.  For e.g. when we were trying to return to Sapporo from Lake Toya, the GPS gave us the shorter route using the non-toll way.  However, it was getting dark and we wanted to use the toll way.  So we had to find our way to the expressway without the GPS’s help before we could use the GPS to guide us back to Sapporo. The GPS I got in the past provided us various options how we would like to get to our destination, but this particular GPS did not provide the options, which was kind of annoying. So my advice to is: Plan your route with google map at home prior to the trip.  Within Sapporo, have a hardcopy map with you, or an offline map with GPS on your smartphone. Don’t just let the GPS guide you blindly.

For self-drive holidays in Japan, note that their GPS uses telephone numbers or map codes of the destinations. So prior to your trip, you will need to research for the telephone numbers or map codes of the places you wish to visit. I personally find telephone numbers work much better than map codes. However some places, such as waterfalls and lakes and mountains, do not have telephone numbers.  And not all businesses and hotels are registered on your rental car’s GPS.  Hence, I find it useful to jot down both telephone numbers and map codes of my destinations.

To be continued: Self-drive holiday to Hokkaido with kids (Part 2) – Itinerary for Autumn foliage, telephone numbers and map codes for GPS

More posts of my trips to Hokkaido with the kids:

Hokkaido in Autumn (October 2013)
Part 1: Flight, Hotel Mercure Sapporo, Toyota Rent-A-Car Sapporo
Part 2: Itinerary (with telephone numbers and GPS Map Codes)

Hokkaido in Summer (June 2014)
> Outline of Itinerary
Part 1: Chitose, Lake Toya, Hakodate, Niseko, Otaru
Part 2: Sapporo
Part 3: Furano, Biei, Tomamu, Obihiro, New Chitose Airport

Hokkaido in Winter (December 2014)
> Outline of Itinerary
Part 1:  Sapporo
Part 2: Asahikawa, Lake Akan, Lake Mashu, Iozan, Lake Kussharo
Part 3: Kushiro, Obihiro, Tomamu
Part 4: Chitose, Lake Shikotsu, Niseko, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya, Rusutsu
Part 5: Sapporo, Otaru, New Chitose Airport


This post is archived under my Japan Travel Blog:


  • Cindy says:

    oh the bassinet have to be pre-arranged via call centre only when u booked e tixs. they din ask me my child’s weight & height tho…

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yeah.. I called the call centre (coz I was trying to book tickets to Japan again, hah) and this time I requested for bassinet. But the lady said bassinet is only for babies below 66cm and 9kg (and she probably suspected my 10 month old was more than that).. Bummer.

      • Cindy says:

        oooh… my 15th mth old baby is not even 9kg yet 🙁
        kudos to u to be able to bring ur kids travelling to so many places!
        we went Tokyo but so hard… place cramp, not stroller friendly, plus it rained 70% of e time.

  • Nylnoof says:

    I hv bn reading yr blog as part of my research on touring Hokkaido. You have been very forthcoming and generous with yr info. Blessings on all yr travels!

  • Kit says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,
    Thanks for sharing all your travel tips and experiences. We are planning a self drive trip with our 2.5 yo toddler to Hokkaido in mid June. Would you recommend going to the Asahikawa Zoo in June given that one of the highlights there is the penguin parade, which will not be available in June? Thanks

    • Hi, yes I would still recommend visiting Asahiyama zoo even though there won’t be the penguin parade. It is generally a very nice zoo with cheap admission fee. Your toddler will enjoy it!

      If you want to see penguin parade, you can visit Noboribetsu NIXE Marine Park. Admission fee is much more expensive there though, but they have penguin parade all year round.

  • Susanna says:

    You have done a great job with the details of travel in Japan. We (2adults, one 5 year olds spn$ have only 2 days in Hokkaido and then go to Tokyo. We are very sad to only have 2 days. We love hiking, the morning markets sound great. Where would u recommend we visit? We can rent a car, take train, etc.
    Did you take your children’s car seats with you when you went to Japan or did you rent one there?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      When are you travelling and how you getting between Hokkaido and Tokyo – shinkansen or air? If by air, which airport? With 2 days, I suggest you go to somewhere close to the city you are flying via, or stay around Hakodate if you are using the shinkansen.

      I rent my car seats from the car rental companies when I’m in Japan.

  • Quakys says:

    Hello Bumblebeemum!

    I have read alot of your post on Hokkaido and i have literally used your post as a guide for us, thank you for the great work contributing and sharing!

    May i ask for your advise for my trip. It will happen on start March 2017 for 8 days. We should be at the period when snow is going to melt?

    There will be 6 adults and 1 child, We will rent a car to fit all of us (not sure how we will do it.. LOL)

    Can you advise me if my itinerary works?

    Day 1 Evening Reach New Chitose Airport
    We will rent a car and head to Sapporo City,

    Day 2 Otaru Canal

    Day 3 Curb Market, Hokkaido Shrine, Shiroi Koibito Park

    Day 4 Nijo Market, Sapporo Beer Museum, ARIO Sapporo

    Day 5 Noboribetsu (this is where we are unsure, we want to go Niseko, Lake Toya and Noburibetsu, we have not decided if we should stay overnight at these location or should head back to Sapporo City, Assuming we do the following, is it ok?)

    Day 6 Lake Toya

    Day 7 Niseko – Return to Sapporo City

    Day 8 Spend the last day time at Sapporo City then fly back SG during the night

    My concern is

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmm.. The only way you all are going to fit is if you all travel VERY light. Which is difficult to do in winter because winter clothing take up a lot of luggage space – but not impossible. This is my suggestion: Limit your entire group to 2 large suitcases (or 4 medium size suitcases). Carry your winter jackets in your hands and wear your boots, vacuum pack all your clothes, don’t bring unnecessary stuff like hair curlers and extra shoes, bring like only 2 sets of clothing per person and do laundry along the way. Make sure you rent an 8-seater and not a 7-seater. 8-seater has much more boot space, but even then maximum you can squeeze is 4 suitcases when all the seats are up.

      If you want to cover Niseko, Lake Toya and Noboribetsu in the last few days, you need to change hotels along the way. Do a Sapporo – Niseko – Lake Toya – Noboribetsu – CTS loop without going back to Sapporo again:

      This is what I suggest:

      Day 1 CTS – Sapporo
      Day 2 Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      Day 3 Sapporo (Curb Market, Hokkaido Shrine, Shiroi Koibito Park)
      Day 4 Sapporo (Nijo Market, Sapporo Beer Museum, ARIO Sapporo)
      Day 5 Sapporo – Niseko
      Day 6 Niseko – Lake Toya
      Day 7 Lake Toya – Noboribetsu
      Day 8 Noboribetsu – CTS

      • Quakys says:

        Ok! Just want to say thank you for the time and effort to read my comment and reply! Really appreciate it as i can imagine you have so many people asking you, it might get tiring sometimes.

        Ill have some discussion with my group and if there are any questions will ask you again via here 🙂

      • jacqueline chua says:

        oh my…our group of 8 will be renting a vellfire and we limit each person to a luggage not larger than 20″. the Toyota guy gave me details of the available space for luggage n he said the space is enough for 4 big suitcases. I just have to pray hard we can all fit into it. we plan to drive from Lake toya to Otaru only stopping half way for lunch. do you have any recommendations for good lunch place?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yeah, when my friends rented an 8-seater, they squeezed in 4 large suitcases and that’s it. So if you have 8 pax, you will have to limit to 2 pax 1 luggage. There is no way you can fit 8 pieces of luggage in.

          I suggest you have lunch at Lake Toya – there is a restaurant called Sendoan which I always dine at:

          Otherwise if it’s too early to have lunch at Lake Toya, you can have lunch after you reach Otaru. With a car, I recommend dining at Minshuku Aotsuka Shokudou:

        • kw says:

          Hi Bumblebeemum, Hi Jacqueline,

          Thanks for all the useful tips!
          I’ll be travelling with 6 adults and 2 children (1yr+, 2car seats), and we’re looking at squeezing all into an Alphard.

          Can I find out if you made it with 4 big suitcases and 8 passengers? And what is the definition of big suitcase? 20 incher?

          Thanks much!

          • jacqueline chua says:

            hi, we managed to squeezed in 6x 20″ and 1x 24″ hardcase suitcases. plus 2 duffel bags (abt 20″ in width n 15″height). we sat comfortably, with 3 teenagers at the last row (between 150 to 160cm, about 45 to 50kg each), my parents n my 12yrs old in the middle row, n myself plus my sister in front. hope it helps.

  • Janice says:

    Hi, i have been reading your blog posts for sometime, gained a lot of insights when i was on my 1st solo trip to Hokkaido last year. Appreciate if you can give some advise. Me and 6 friends will be doing a roadrip 30 Oct to 6th Nov, not one of the greatest times but the only slot we have. Is it difficult to drive around that time? i understand weather may have some light snowy days. The route – Chitose, Lake Toya (Noboribetsu as backup for night stay), Otaru, Furano, Sapporo and Chitose. Im trying to get drive route infor as in which highway etc to take but unable to find it. If you are able to share it will be a big help. Have a nice day.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Is there any reason you’re headed to Furano? You may encounter some snow during those dates, but generally the weather in central – southern Hokkaido should still be alright as it is still autumn there, especially in southern Hokkaido. If you head to Hakodate / Onuma Koen, you may still see autumn foliage. But eastern / northern Hokkaido would be winter already, so driving in that direction would increase your risks. So personally, I would go to Hakodate for your dates instead of Furano.

      So for example, let’s say I fly into Hakodate and out from CTS, I can do the following:

      30 Oct: Arrive in Hakodate
      31 Oct: Hakodate
      1 Nov: (rent car) Hakodate – Onuma Koen – Lake Toya
      2 Nov: Lake Toya
      3 Nov: Lake Toya – Sapporo (return car)
      4 Nov: Sapporo
      5 Nov: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      6 Nov: Sapporo – CTS

      If you are doing return flight CTS, you can try the following:

      30 Oct: CTS – Noboribetsu
      31 Oct: Noboribestu – Hakodate
      1 Nov: Hakodate
      2 Nov: Hakodate – Onuma Koen – Lake Toya
      3 Nov: Lake Toya
      4 Nov: Lake Toya – Otaru – Sapporo
      5 Nov: Sapporo
      6 Nov: Sapporo – CTS

      • Janice says:

        Hi, reason to go Furano was for the food plus i thought the between autumn/winter day/night scenery may be something interesting. Ok, in this case, will skip Furano. We have to do return CTS flights, how abt this itineary: 30/10 CTS Lake Toba, 31/10 Lake Toba Hakodate 1/11 Hakodate Yoichi Otaru 2/11 Otaru Sapporo 3/11-5/11 Sapporo 6/11 CTS

        Reason im routing Lake Toba first is becos i want to catch the fireworks which i read ends Oct. I have booked Noboribetsu as a choice to Lake Toya but im not sure whether we wld like the fumes smells too much.

        Is it too far to drive from Hakodate to Otaru? Your proposed route goes via Lake Toba to Otaru.

        I have booked a night stay at Otaru though i know it can be done on a day trip. There are 7 of us so i think its cheaper to go by car than by train. Also to break the return journey from Hakodate.

        Thank you in advance for your next reply. Have a great day.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          If you want to catch the fireworks at Lake Toya, you should stay at Lake Toya on 30 Oct then?

          Yeah, the drive from Hakodate to Otaru is a bit long, which is why I usually use Lake Toya and Noboribetsu to break up the drive in each direction – but that is usually for drives between Hakodate and Sapporo / CTS. If you want to go from Hakodate to Otaru, it doesn’t make sense to use Noboribetsu to break up the drive as it’s a bit of a detour. I would usually use Niseko to take a break from the drive from Hakodate to Otaru. But looking at your dates, I may not recommend driving to Niseko unless you want to see snow. But the drive to Niseko is probably not going to be easy because of the snow.

          Yeah, with 7 pax it’s probably cheaper to go by car.

  • Grace says:

    Hi Bumblebee mum, your blog is so helpful to plan a Hokkaido trip! i’m going to Hokkaido on 23/6 – 2/7, 10 days 9 nights. Could you give a little advice on my itinerary?

    Day 1 Arrived airport at 2pm, explore Sapporo (Stay Sapporo)
    Day 2 Sapporo (Stay Sapporo)
    Day 3 Day trip to Otaru by JR (Stay Sapporo)
    Day 4 Train to Hakodate (stay Hakodate)
    Day 5 Lake Toya & Noboritbesu (Stay ?)
    Day 6-8 Rent a car from Sapporo and drive to Furano & Biei(StayFurano)
    Day 9 Tomamu (Stay tomamu)
    Day 10 See unkai early in the morning and drive back to Chitose and fly home in the evening

    i have a few questions if you can help,

    1) Due to the long distance from Sapporo to Hakodate and my husband don’t drive, i was thinking if i can take a train to Hakodate, and do a day trip explore Lake Toya and Noboritbesu? will it be convenient to explore around with public transport?

    2) where should i stay in Day 5? Lake Toya, Noboribetso or Hakodate?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you are using public transport, I don’t think it’s feasible to visit both Lake Toya and Noboribetsu in a day. Between the two, I personally prefer Lake Toya.

      But if you are going to continue to Furano from there, it doesn’t really make sense to go back to Sapporo to rent a car from there. I would rent a car from Hakodate actually. Because it is definitely more convenient to have a car to explore Lake Toya area. If you rent a car from Hakodate, then I would suggest you stay at Noboribetsu so that the drive all the way to Furano is nicely broken up. i.e.

      Day 5: Rent car from Hakodate, drive to Lake Toya. Explore Lake Toya region. Then drive to Noboribetsu to spend the night.
      Day 6: Drive from Noboribetsu to Furano.

      • Grace says:

        Thanks bumblebee mum for your advice. I’ve finalize our itinerary, took your advice to rent a car from Hakodate and extend one night in Hakodate instead of 3 nights in Furano.
        Can you introduce any private onsen resort/hotel in Hokkaido please?

        Day 1 Arrived airport at 2pm, explore Sapporo (Stay Sapporo)
        Day 2 Sapporo (Stay Sapporo)
        Day 3 Day trip to Otaru by JR (Stay Sapporo)
        Day 4 Train to Hakodate, rent a car and explore Hakoate(stay Hakodate)
        Day 5 Hakodate (Stay Hakodate)
        Day 6 drive Lake Toya & Noboritbesu
        Day 7-8 Drive to Furano & Biei(StayFurano)
        Day 9 Tomamu (Stay tomamu)
        Day 10 See unkai early in the morning and drive back to Chitose and fly home in the evening

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hmmm…. Along your route, you can try Lake View Nonokaze at Lake Toya. They have private onsen there.

          At Noboribetsu, Hotel Mahoroba has room with private onsen inside. Look for the ‘Room with Tatami Area with View Bath’. It’s a smoking room though.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Oh yes, btw, where are you intending to explore in Hakodate? You don’t really need a car if you’re exploring central Hakodate / Onuma Koen. Public transport should suffice for sightseeing within Hakodate.

          • Grace says:

            Lake View Nonokaze seems like a popular choice. Thanks for telling me we dont need a car to explore Hakodate, was actually planning to rent a car when we arrive in Hakodate 🙂 i havent found a car rental company which allow us to pick up near to Hakodate station and return to chitose airport (with HEP). working on the hotels now, next car rental and then detailed itinerary- places to visit. Thanks for your tips!
            By the way, can i add you in facebook? i actually just moved to Singapore 🙂

  • Lian says:

    Hi, i have read your post and is very impressed with the advice and information. My friends and i will be going Hokkaido in June 4-12 and would like to seek for your advice. It is our first time there and in a rush, we have booked AirBnB for the whole trip which i was told not recommended as it will be very tiring for us to travel back and forth everyday. So what would you suggest we do for 8 full days in Hokkaido?
    We are thinking to rent a car for few days for places like Biei / Furano and Lake Toya.

    Brief itineary we have come out with:
    Day 1 – Landed in Chitose Airport – Sapporo (Train)
    Day 2 – Sapporo (Train)
    Day 3 – Otaru (Day Trip by Train)
    Day 4 – Hakodate ( should we start renting a car for the next few days?)
    Day 5 – Furano / Biei
    Day 6 – Lake Toya
    Day 7 – Noboribetsu
    Day 8 – Return flight from Chitose Airport

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hokkaido is a lot larger than it seems, many people don’t realise that until they are there. So doing day trips from one accommodation can be quite tiring. But if your accommodation is already booked, then I guess you can still do day trips to Otaru, Lake Toya, Noboribetsu and Furano / Biei. But I really don’t suggest doing Hakodate as a day trip, you may have to drop Hakodate in this case.

      Otaru, Lake Toya and Noboribetsu can be done rather comfortably as day trips. But for Furano and Biei, I suggest you set out early. So you should do Furano / Biei on the full day where you don’t have to pick up / return the car. You can rent the car from 3 days:

      Day 1: Pick up car, visit Lake Toya.
      Day 2: Set off early for Furano / Biei.
      Day 3: Visit Noboribetsu, return car.

      With the extra day you have after dropping Hakodate, you can just spend more time in Sapporo. Alternatively if you love seafood, particular uni (sea urchin), take the car and head out to Shakotan for brunch at Shokudou Misaki. You can read more about it on this visit:

    • YC Yap says:

      Hi Lian,
      My suggestions as below;

      Day1 – Rent a car at Chitose airport, go straight to Hakodate if arrive early.

      Day2 – to Noboribetsu, to Hakodate, stay one night at Hakodate(if day one cannot make it). Dinner at Lucky Pierrot.

      Day3 – Go Hakodate morning market, then depart to Lake Toya, Lunch at Lake Hill Farm. To Sapporo, stay one night at Sapporo.
      Hakodate is a place that you should not miss if you visit Hokkaido.

      Day4 – To Ashahikawa, Visit Ashahikawa Zoo, to Biei to Furano, Stay one night at Furano.

      Day5 – Visit Furano & Biei then stay one night at Sapporo.

      Day6 – Visit Otaru, day trip and back to Sapporo

      Day7 – Visit Sapporo

      Day8 – Return car to airport and back home.

      With above planning you should able to cover most of the place.
      As Bumblebeemum mentioned day trip is very tiring and waste of time. Driving in Hokkaido is a very good experience. If you travel with more people better recommendation is to drive. Taking train may be more expensive and time consuming. And also very tiring.
      Driving is the best options.

      For car rental expenses detail you can refer to Bumblebeemum recommendation. Bumblebeemum blogs is very helpful. It help me to save a lot of time and money for my trip to Hokkaido. The information is very accurate.

      Staying at Airbnb is a good idea.
      You can get cheap and good Airbnb in Sapporo;
      1. https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/7862578
      This Airbnb cost less than $100SGD for four person and owner is very good & helpful. Please review his Airbnb.

      • bumblebeemum says:

        Thank you YC for the recommendations!

        A quick shameless self-promotion. If you don’t have an AirBnB account yet, you can sign up for one from my referral link:

        You will get SGD50 instant credit which you can use for your booking! (And I get a referral credit which I can use for my next trip.. Yay!)

  • Becks says:

    Hi there,

    can you tell me if it’s necessary to rent an etc card from rental company if im renting car only when im leaving sapporo? im going to the following places:

    Chitose-New chitose airport

    On the way may visit some sightseeing places in between Sapporo and Noboribetsu too.. or would you recommend just paying cash?

    At sapporo,im planning to take a train or bus to otaru.. that’s convenient too right? i’ll be staying in sapporo only for 3days, do you think i need any JR pass or any train pass? Im planning to pay by per trip for train

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You’ll be pretty much using the toll road everyday, so I would get an ETC card if the car rental company can offer one cheaply.

      There is a direct train from Sapporo to Otaru – pretty convenient.

      Within Sapporo, there is no need for a rail pass. But if you’re using the subway a lot, you can consider getting one-day subway ticket:

      To check if it’ll be worth it to get the one-day ticket, you need to plan out the places you are visiting and the subway rides you’ll be taking. Then go to Hyperdia to add up the cost to see if it’s worth getting a one-day ticket.

  • Laura says:

    hi BBM,

    Really like your blog which provides all the needful information. We are planning a self drive trip to Hokkaido at the end of September, 2 adult, 1 elderly and 2 kids (2y10m & 7m). Our Priority is food (and food :)), kids friendly, a little bit of autumn foliage, 1 night of onzen. Can you comment on the below itinerary: –

    Day 1: Reach Chitose airport @ 8.30am, take a train to Sapporo city (or bus? if we are not staying near Sapporo station. but we are not sure which bus stop to alight). hang around Sapporo city, Autumn Festival @ Odori Park
    #stay Sapporo

    Day 2: day trip to Otaru (I read that Jozankei Onsen town is otw to Otaru, is it possible for us to visit this town by public transport?)
    #stay Sapporo

    Day 3: rent a car and depart to Lake Toya (stay in Onsen Hotel and see firework)
    May I know which onsen town is better? Lake Toya, Jozankei & Sounkyo. Now Lake Toya is our first choice coz of the firework but I note that not much hotel choices left for late september date. do you have any recommendation?
    #stay Lake Toya

    Day 4: Furano and Biei
    # stay??

    Day 5: Daisetsu National Park, Sounkyo Onzen Town? What to see @ Daisetsu besides autumn foliage?

    Day 6: Asahikawa – zoo? ramen??
    Can you recommend where to stay if we want to visit these places? Can we base in Asahikawa and day trip to Furano and Daisetsu? I am interested to bring my elder kid to Asahikawa zoo, is it recommended?

    Day 7: Back to Sapporo and return car
    #stay Sapporo

    Day 8: Home Sweet Home

    I believe we do not need a HEP card for the 4 days car rent.

    Appreciate your reply.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day 1: Where are you staying in Sapporo? That would determine if you should use the train or bus.

      Day 2: Visting Jozankei and Otaru on the same day using public transport is tricky. If you want to do both, I suggest you rent a car for the day. Otherwise with public transport, I would just go to Otaru.

      Day 3: For your dates, Sounkyo would be nice because of the autumn foliage.

      Day 4 – 6: If you don’t like to keep changing hotel, it is possible to base yourself in Asahikawa to visit Furano, Biei and Daisetsuzan. You can check out Asahidake Ropeway and Sounkyo Ropeway at Daisetsuzan. Asahiyama Zoo is a very nice zoo with pretty cheap admission fee if you have an extra day.

      Whether or not to get the HEP depends on your final route, particularly whether or not you are going to Lake Toya. If you are going to drive from Lake Toya to Asahikawa, then Asahikawa back to Sapporo in 4 calendar days, I think you should get the HEP. But if you’re just going, say, Sapporo to Furano and then Asahikawa back to Sapporo, then you don’t need the HEP.

      • Laura says:

        Dear BBM,

        We will be staying at Richmond Hotel Odori, which way is more convenient? train or bus? do you have any idea of which bus stop to alight? or if we take train, we have to transfer train at Sapporo to Odori station, will there be any lift available for both station?

        We have booked all our hotel and this is the new itinerary.

        Day 1: Reach Chitose airport @ 8.30am, take a train/bus to hotel. hang around Sapporo city, Autumn Festival @ Odori Park
        #stay Richmond Hotel Odori
        Day 2: day trip to Otaru (Public transport)
        #stay Richmond Hotel Odori
        Day 3: rent a car and depart to Jozankei & Noboribetsu (day trip)- will it be too rush to visit these 2 places in a day trip?
        #stay Richmond Hotel Odori
        Day 4: 1st half of the day visit Sapporo attractions that is easier to go with a rental car, after lunch depart to Asahikawa
        # stay Court Hotel Asahikawa (any comments on this hotel?)
        Day 5: Daisetsu National Park, Sounkyo Onzen Town, Mt. Kurodake ropeway, waterwalls & Obako
        #stay Court Hotel Asahikawa
        Day 6: Furano & Biei (day trip, enough time?)
        #stay Court Hotel Asahikawa
        Day 7: Check out hotel and depart to Chitose, any interesting place to stop by and visit in this route? Return rental car at Chitose. shopping at Chitose airport
        #stay Air Terminal Hotel
        Day 8: flight @ 9.30am

        Do you think a Toyota Wish can fix in the automated parking? Court Hotel website mention that maximum car height is 157cm, i have checked online that Wish height is 159cm, wonder can it fix in or not with the slight difference.

        • bumblebeemum says:

          For Richmond Hotel Odori, you can take the airport bus to Susukino. The bus stops at Toyoko Inn Sapporo Susukino Kosaten. From there, it is about 400m walk to Richmond Hotel Odori. I’ve marked it out on Google maps here:

          If you choose to take train, you are right that you have to transfer train at Sapporo station – which I find a bit of a hassle. I’ve never done the transfer with luggage before, so I’m not too sure about the lift situation. In general, I don’t like to change trains when I have a lot of luggage, so I would opt for the bus.

          Day 3: I do think it is a bit rushed to go both Jozankei and Noboribetsu in the same day. I would go to Lake Toya instead of Noboribetsu. It is a much easier drive from Jozankei compared to Noboribetsu.

          Day 4: Never stayed at Court Hotel Asahikawa before. Looks like a typical city hotel.

          Day 6 & 7: What I would suggest is, maybe you can visit Biei and Shirogane Onsen (blue pond) on Day 6, then on Day 7, you can visit Furano and then from Furano drive back to CTS.

          Depending on the carpark, the WISH may or may not be able to fit into some automated carparks. I’m guessing the WISH will not be able to fit into Court Hotel’s carpark. Check with the hotel where else you can park if your WISH cannot fit into their carpark. There are plenty of open-air coin parking in Hokkaido, so they will probably direct you to one nearby.

          • Laura says:

            Hi BBM,

            Thank you for the map for where to alight from Chitose Airport. Does the bus have any screen to show us which stop is it? Or else how do we know it is the correct stop to alight?

            Compare Noboribetsu and Lake Toya, I understand that it is easier to drive to Lake Toya from Jozankei. What about in terms of attractions? (not so much of walking as my MIL has knee replacement)There is Hell Valley at Noboribetsu, what about Lake Toya? We are not staying overnight for the firework.

            May I know hows the weather at the end of September? I read from your blog, your kids were wearing quite a thick fleece. I understand that the weather at Kurodake Ropeway will be around 10’C, definitely a long john and thick fleece for my 2y10m and 7m. What about at Sapporo, Otaru, Furano and Asahikawa? Is a normal hooded jacket sufficient?

            Thank you.

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Yes, there is usually a screen in front with a table that shows fare and at the top, it will show the upcoming stop’s name. It’s in Japanese though. The stop should be called Susukino (すすきの).

              At Lake Toya, there is Usuzan Ropeway or the Lake Toya sightseeing cruise. Both not that much walking involved. Unless you want to walk to see the crater from the top station of the Usuzan Ropeway, but your MIL can just sit at the top and enjoy the scenery while the youngsters go for a quick walk to the crater. That’s what usually happens when we travel with seniors. :p

              Hokkaido’s weather can fluctuate like crazy. Just bring layers and layer according to the weather report that day. If it calls for sunny day, and you’re just going around the city, drop some layers. If you’re going up the mountains or it’s a rainy day, throw on more layers. It’s good to have more thin layers (that you can take off if necessary) than like two thick layers. Because let’s say you wear long john, the moment you step into anywhere with heating, it is going to be very uncomfortable. Hokkaido does have the tendency to over-compensate with their heating (which means a lot of indoor places like shopping centres, trains and restaurants are super hot and stuffy because they will blast the heaters).

              • Laura says:

                Dear BBM,

                Good to know that there is a screen which display the next station. May I know whether the bus driver is patient enough to wait for us to take out our luggage from the bottom storage compartment of the bus? Most likely we will have 3 middle size hard case luggage and 1 stroller and my husband (alone) has to take out all of the luggage and stroller from the compartment as I will be baby wearing my younger and my mil will be taking care of my elder daughter. I am quite worried that we will be rushed to collect our luggage (for the reason the bus cannot stop for long at the bus stop or there is a time limitation for the bus to stop at the bus stop).
                Thanks for the advise on Lake Toya and outfit for autumn, really appreciate it a lot, I can plan better now with all the information that you provided.

                • Queen Bee says:

                  The bus driver will come down and help you take the luggage out from the bus’s luggage compartment. He will leave it on the pavement for you, just make sure he’s got everything out and he’ll drive off once all the luggage has been unloaded. You can take your time to settle yourself at the bus stop.

              • Laura says:

                Hi BBM,

                My last comment/inquiry was not shown in your blog. May I know whether the bus will stop at every stop or it will only stop when someone press the bell? Will the bus stop for sufficient time for us to unload the luggage from the lower deck/luggage compartment? I am quite worry coz it will be only my husband alone will unload the 3 middle luggage and 1 stroller as me and my mil will be taking care for 2 kids.

                Thank s again for your advise on what to wear during autumn in Hokkaido, this is our first trip to Japan and I really appreciate your reply and now I can plan my trip better.

                • Queen Bee says:

                  It usually stops when people press the bell. But you can tell the driver that you are going to Susukino, he will stop for you. The drivers ferry tourists day in day out and Susukino is one of the most popular stops, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Just say “Susukino” when you board the bus, the driver will understand.

                  All your luggage should be in the bus’s lower luggage compartment. The driver will load and unload it for you, your husband doesn’t have to do it. At most your husband will stand there to watch and make sure the driver loads everything in and didn’t leave anything at the bus berth, and when you all get down, just see that the driver has taken all your luggage out.

  • Natalie says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum!!

    You won’t imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon your blog one day, as I’m also staying at the Mercure Hotel and taking a roadtrip with a baby. Anyway, I’d like to ask for your suggestion on my itinerary. It’ll be my first visit to Hokkaido this October and I’m pretty anxious about everything. It’ll be great to hear some feedback (and/or affirmation) from you : )

    Day 1: Arrive at Chitose Airport, take shuttle bus to hotel and spend the night exploring Sapporo Station via public transport. (Mercure)

    Day 2: Go sightseeing within Sapporo via public transport. (Mercure)

    Day 3: Pick up car (a WISH) at Sapporo station, head to Otaru, go sightseeing there and stay the night. (Otaru Nord Hotel)

    Day 4: Drive off to Otaru aquarium, spend all day there, pick up supplies from AEON mall Otaru, head to Niseko. (Spend night there to get an early start to Lake Toya next day.) (Niseko One Hotel)

    Day 5: Drive off to Lake Toya, then leave for Hoheikyo dam and Jozankei. Afterwards, head to Asahikawa (Just to spend the night there to get an early start to Asahiyama zoo next day.) (Washington Hotel)

    Day 6: Full day at the zoo, then return to Asahikawa station to do some shopping. (Washington Hotel)

    Day 7: Drive back to Sapporo, return car and go sightseeing around the city.
    (APA Hotel Sapporo)

    Day 8: Take the shuttle bus to Chitose airport, and wait for the flight back home.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day 5 looks very rushed to me. Daylight hours are not long in October. And weather in Hokkaido is unpredictable – so I really would try to avoid driving after dark. I wouldn’t recommend going so many places on Day 5 and ending it all the way at Asahikawa. If you can’t change your accommodation, I would suggest you skip Lake Toya. Niseko – Jozankei – Asahikawa looks pretty much all I would do for one day. If you squeeze in Lake Toya, you will pretty much be spending more time on the road than sightseeing, and driving to Asahikawa in the dark.

      If you are able to change your accommodation, then I would suggest you spend the night at Jozankei on Day 5. Then drive to the zoo on Day 6 morning. You spend a bit less time at the zoo, but it’s safer that way.

      For the last night, which APA Hotel are you staying in and is it in Susukino? (There are a lot of APA hotels in Sapporo and I get kind of confused over them.) Were you not able to get a rental car at Susukino? It’s a bit odd to me if you are staying at Susukino both before and after the car rental, but you are renting a car from Sapporo station. That’s such a hassle. I would try to find a car rental office that is within walking distance of both Mercure and APA Hotel.

      • Natalie says:

        Thanks for your feedback, I have made adjustments to Day 5 and 6 according to your suggestions, I hope this looks better now:

        Day 5 Drive off to Lake Toya from Niseko, then leave for Hoheikyo dam and Jozankei. Afterwards, head to Sapporo for the night.(Nest Hotel Odori)

        Day 6 Drive off to Asahikawa, and spend the full day at the zoo, then return to Asahikawa station to do some shopping. (JR Inn Asahikawa)

        As for the car rental pickup, I’ll see what I can do to change the pickup and return locations.

        By the way, I’m wondering if you’ve ever been to Shiroikoibito Park? I’m wondering if it’ll be too boring for a 1.5yr old, and should just skip it?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yeah, this should work better.

          I think young kids may find the whole facade of Shiroi Koibito pretty fascinating. It’s like stepping into a fairytale land, I imagine my kids would actually like running around it when they were at that age. I wasn’t a big fan of the factory visit itself, but the buildings are nice.

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