BumblebeeMum
Hokkaido ski trip with kids
Hokkaido ski trip with kids

Hello fellow Hokkaido fan! Thank you for sharing yr travel blog. This Dec will be our 3rd self drive in this beautiful winter wonderland. First yr we were at Rusutsu and Niseko. 2nd yr at Furano, Asahikawa, Otaru and met with other friends at Niseko. This year we’re planning 5 nights at Niseko (last stop-ski trip), where would you suggest for 1st 4 nights? We’re taking the morning Chitose-Sin direct so where would you suggest we spend the night before our flight? We’ve to return the car the night before…… Come think of it the direct flight is not so great after all! Oh well bought the tickets already. Traveling with 2 kids 9, 12 and hubby doing the driving while I plan all the stops 😉 Hope to hear from you soon!

By gwen on June 12, 2015

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  • gwen says:

    Hello fellow Hokkaido fan! Thank you for sharing yr travel blog. This Dec will be our 3rd self drive in this beautiful winter wonderland. First yr we were at Rusutsu and Niseko. 2nd yr at Furano, Asahikawa, Otaru and met with other friends at Niseko. This year we’re planning 5 nights at Niseko (last stop-ski trip), where would you suggest for 1st 4 nights? We’re taking the morning Chitose-Sin direct so where would you suggest we spend the night before our flight? We’ve to return the car the night before…… Come think of it the direct flight is not so great after all! Oh well bought the tickets already. Traveling with 2 kids 9, 12 and hubby doing the driving while I plan all the stops 😉 Hope to hear from you soon!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Nice to see someone who goes to Hokkaido as frequently as I do! Proves I’m not crazy.. haha!

      How did you get a direct CTS-SIN flight??? (sorry for the digression, just curious.)

      Back to your questions. Have you visited Eastern Hokkaido (Obihiro / Kushiro)? If not, maybe you can go there. Winter is a good time for that region because the cranes and swans will gather. And I LOVE Tokachigawa onsen near Obihiro.. and of course the buta don there. Kushiro has a great seafood market, and the cranes are not to be missed.

      As for the night before you fly, I recommend staying at Air Terminal Hotel which is located within New Chitose Airport. I always stay there for my last night in Hokkaido. The best part about staying there in winter is that you can pack your winter jackets into the check-in luggage and wear comfy ready-for-Singapore clothes onto the plane.. hah!

      • Gwen says:

        Hello bumblebeemum, SQ has direct flight to Chitose during the winter months. Past year I saw it was offered by JTB only from Sep and not cheap. First year we took ANA via Tokyo, that was such an uncomfortable flight! Second year we took SQ with ANA domestic. Both trips we paid between $1100-1300 each. This year the fares have gone down considerably due to the lower surcharges. SQ has also started offering the Sin-Chitose direct, available since beginning of the year. I monitored the fare for a while and found the lowest fare at $1250 each and I grabbed it right way! its a bit more than ANA but without the transit I save a few hours and hassle. But only thing is getting there the night bf for the morning flight 🙁 I think we’ll stay at the airport terminal as you have suggested.

        I read you didn’t quite enjoy Hilton Niseko as its pretty expensive. We managed to book Hilton at good rates. 1st year was ¥18000 but last year it was just ¥12000 with breakfast and that’s for stay up to 20 Dec. Unfortunately good things don’t come often, its going to be about ¥20000 (with bf) this yr end but we like the ski in and out convenience so we’ll stick to that. We’ll usually head out for lunch and dinners so I welcome any restaurants recommendations you may have.

        Thank you for yr suggestion of Eastern Hokkaido, will check it out. Have a lovely June holiday with the kids!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Icic.. Thanks for sharing about SQ direct flights! I’ve never monitored SQ because it’s always out of my budget. Compared to $700 by Thai Airways with transit in Bangkok, $1200 is still expensive. But of course direct flights are so convenient!

          I agree Hilton is great for skiers. It’s super convenient with ski in ski out and ski valet right at the lobby. But I don’t ski… hahaha… I’m more into food and onsen, and neither are great at Hilton. But for skiers, Hilton is a great choice especially if rates are going as low as ¥12000!

          Restaurant wise my favourite is Prativo at Niseko Milk Kobo. As for Hirafu, I love the cheesecake and hot chocolate at Cafe IF.

  • dinookong says:

    Hi, am going this to Hokkaido during 3rd week of Dec. Am wondering why you are doing 2 SKI resort i.e. both Tomamu & Niseko. Any specific reason ?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I just like to try out different resorts. 🙂

      Okay.. My main aim of going Tomamu was for the Ice Village. That’s why I only stayed a night there. As for Niseko, well, it was supposed to be super world famous and I have never been there in winter before, so I decided to just go try it out. Anyway I’m not entirely into skiing. I’m more into exploring new places and sightseeing, that’s why I tend to hop around. But if you really want to ski, then you should just go to Niseko and spend a few nights there.

  • Jasmine says:

    Hello! You have a very interesting and detailed blog on your travel in Hokkaido. Helps a great deal as I plan for my trip this Dec. Can I ask for the Tamanu ski resort, you mentioned the kids ski area was not ready when you were there. Does that mean totally no skiing for both adults and children during your stay? I am planning to stay there in mid Dec just the day before price increases. My kids will be very disappointed if they wont get to ski.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Nono.. The main ski area (can be used by both kids and adults) is ready by December. But they have another ski area that is specially for kids, that one was not ready when we were there.

      If you refer to the map on their website, you can see they have a few ski areas:
      http://www.snowtomamu.jp/winter/en/ski/guide/slope.php

      Only some of them are ready in early December. But the area called ‘Nipo Town’ that is specifically for kids was not ready yet.
      http://www.snowtomamu.jp/winter/en/ski/family/index.php

      Their academy starts running lessons for anyone above the age of 3 from end November (as a guideline). So you should be able to ski there.
      http://www.snowtomamu.jp/winter/en/ski/academy/ski.php

      There are days when weather is very bad, they will have to close the ski lifts. But that’s just unfortunate and cannot be pre-planned. If it does happen, Tomamu Resort will email you and they will allow you to cancel your booking with no penalty.

      • Jasmine says:

        Thank you very much for your reply. 🙂 The kids Nipo town sure looks fun! I’m bringing my two older children and it will be a great disappointment if it’s not ready. My intended date of stay is 17-19 Dec. I was searching high and low on their website for the expected opening date but could not locate it. I suppose it is way too early to check now right? We will be in Hokkaido for 2 weeks and not intending to explore East Hokkaido for this trip since it’s our first time in Hokkaido. We wanted to more relax time so we intend to only cover Sapporo, Otaru, Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Asahikawa zoo and Tomamu within 11 full days. In your opinion, if there is a choice of 1 night stay between Noboribetsu and Otaru, which will you choose? Any opinion and recommendation will be greatly appreciated! We have been to Japan twice travelling around using JR pass. It will be the same this round. 🙂

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yes, it is too early to confirm the exact starting date now. Because it really depends a lot on the snow condition. Some years they don’t get enough snowfall, and have to open later. Some years they get tons of snow, and can open earlier. So you will never know when exactly they will start until they are ready to start. (For this trip, I went to Rusutsu on 15 Dec because they published on their website that their snow park will be open 13 Dec. But it was still not ready on 15th. Similar thing happened in Niseke. Hence I conclude that even opening dates published on websites are not reliable. Because it really depends a lot on Mother Nature.)

          Between Noboribetsu and Otaru, I guess I would choose Noboribetsu. Because it seems you are not visiting any other onsen town for this trip. Soaking in onsen during winter is the best! You can visit Otaru easily any other time of the year, even without a rental car. Though I got to say, Otaru canal is most beautiful in winter. Hahaha… decisions decisions.

          Oh wait! Are you driving or using the train? If you are using train, then maybe Otaru is better than Noboribetsu. But then again, you can take the shuttle bus to Noboribetsu from Sapporo. Wahaha… Am I confusing you more??

  • Peng says:

    Hi bumblemum,

    Your blog is fantastic & you are so experience in Hokkaido!
    My family of 3 (kid 10 yr old) will be going to Hokkaido for the 1st time on 1st to 2nd week Dec. Trip of 1 days: 10 full days (10 nights).
    Considering 1st visit, appreciate some of your valuable advise:

    1) is Hakodate worth going?
    2) Should we stay in Asahikawa for a night? Anything worth seeing there in the night or next morning?
    3) Which lake is worth going in winter? Lake Toya, Mashu, Akan, Onuma?
    4) Which onsen is good in Noboribetsu?
    5) Which ski resort should we visit? Rusutsu, Niseko, Tomamu? Prefer 2 nights stay.
    6) which ski resort has reindeer sledding 1st week of Dec? any other ski resort with kid activities?
    7) Can you advise which area should we rent a car and which should we take public transport?
    8) Is it to rush to cover: Sapporo 3 nights, Otaru 1 night, Ski resorts 2 nights, Onsen 1 night, the rest flexi…
    9) Anywhere else not to be missed for a winter trip?

    Thank you so much for your generous sharing. 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) is Hakodate worth going?

      Depends on how much time you have and what is your interest. I love their morning market and the night view from Mount Hakodate. But if you are looking to spend more time skiing, then give it a miss.

      2) Should we stay in Asahikawa for a night? Anything worth seeing there in the night or next morning?

      Asahiyama Zoo is worth visiting. There is also a famous ramen village there, though I do not recommend driving there for dinner during winter because you will be driving in the dark in extremely heavy snow, which means zero visibility. You can stay at Asahikawa for a night if you plan to visit the zoo.

      3) Which lake is worth going in winter? Lake Toya, Mashu, Akan, Onuma?

      Depends on the direction you are heading. If you are heading East, you should visiting Lake Mashu, Lake Kussharo, Lake Akan. If you are heading South, you should visit Lake Toya and Onuma Koen.

      4) Which onsen is good in Noboribetsu?

      I like Hotel Mahoroba.

      5) Which ski resort should we visit? Rusutsu, Niseko, Tomamu? Prefer 2 nights stay.

      Again, depends on the direction you are heading. If you want to go East (towards Lake Akan), then go to Tomamu. If you want to stay around Central / Southern region, then to to Niseko. Rusutsu is not particularly interesting in early December. Their snow park only opens in late Dec.

      6) which ski resort has reindeer sledding 1st week of Dec? any other ski resort with kid activities?

      Our reindeer sledding was done at Tomamu. Most resorts do not have much kids activities in early December because there is still not enough snow to construct the snow parks. Only Tomamu’s Ice Village would have a giant ice slide and snow tubing lane at that time.

      7) Can you advise which area should we rent a car and which should we take public transport?

      You should take public transport as far as possible. Drive only when you need to (e.g. if you want to visit Akan National Park, you can take train until Kushiro and rent a car from there to explore the Akan National Park area.)

      8) Is it to rush to cover: Sapporo 3 nights, Otaru 1 night, Ski resorts 2 nights, Onsen 1 night, the rest flexi…

      It looks okay to me. In fact, you do not need to spend 1 night at Otaru. You can take a day trip to Otaru from Sapporo. In winter, try not to move around so much with luggage.

      9) Anywhere else not to be missed for a winter trip?

      Personally I think the cranes in Kushiro are worth visting. They only gather at the feeding grounds during winter, so I would recommend heading there for a winter trip.

  • Peng says:

    Hi Bumblemum,

    You blog is fantastic and you are so experience in Hokkaido!

    I’m planning a trip on the 1st to 2nd week of Dec to Hokkaido (12 days: 10 full days and nights, actually) …Gonna be our very 1st trip there and would like your valuable advise on the following:

    Couple with a primary level kid

    1) Is it worth to visit Hakodate?
    2) Which onsen is good in Noboribetsu?
    3) Which Lake is best to visit in Winter? Lake Toya, Mashu, Akan, Onuma?
    4) Which ski resort is a better choice? Rusutsu, Niseko or Tomamu?
    5) which has the reindeer sledding on the 1st week of Dec?
    6) Is biei worth going in winter?
    7) Are we able to see Unkai in Tomamu in Dec? Gondola still open?
    8) Which places is best to rent car and which best to take bus/train?
    9) Should we stay a night in Asahikawa (going to zoo)? Anything to see in the night there or next morning? Is there penguin parade on 1st week Dec?
    10) Possible to get your advise and suugestion of hotels to cover Otaru 1night, Sapporo 3 nights, Onsen 1 night, the rest flexi…
    11) Any other places that is a must-see in winter?

    Thank you in advance for your valuable sharing.:)

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Oops, just realised you have one more comment here. I shall just answer those that I have not already answered.

      6) Is biei worth going in winter?

      Nope.

      8) Which places is best to rent car and which best to take bus/train?

      You should take bus / train for all major cities (Sapporo / Otaru / Hakodate / Asahikawa / Tomamu / Kushiro) and bus for Niseko. Areas that need to drive would be Lake Toya and Akan National Park.

      7) Are we able to see Unkai in Tomamu in Dec? Gondola still open?

      Nope.

      • Peng says:

        Thank you so much for your advises!
        Do you have the GPS co-ordinates to see the cranes?

        Do you mean rent a car from Kushiro to go Lake Akan & stay a night there? Any hotel or onsen to recommend there?

        And also rent a car once I reach Hakodate? Which website to book a car and can I return it in another town?

        Should I buy a 5 day pass in Sapporo station? Is it better to buy a package day trip to the Zoo or just use the train pass?

        Any place to visit at night in Otaru? Any idea what is the latest train back from otaru?

        Cheers! Many Thanks! 🙂

        • bumblebeemum says:

          I searched Mapion for the map codes of the crane places. I haven’t tried these out so I cannot guarantee if they will work.
          Map Code for Tsurumidai: 556 353 203
          Map Code for Tsurui Ito Tancho Sanctuary: 556 535 152

          Here are google map locations:
          > Tsurumidai
          > Tsurui Ito Tancho Sanctuary

          Both occasions when I drove to see the cranes, I did not use the map and relied on road signs along route 53. Tsurumidai is along route 53, so if you are coming from Kushiro, you should see it along route 53 on your RIGHT. Tsurui Ito Tancho Sanctuary requires you to make a right turn along route 53, keep an eye out for the road sign asking you to turn right.

          Yup, you can rent a car from Kushiro to explore the Lake Akan area, spending a night at Lake Akan. After that, return the car back to Kushiro. If you are willing to splurge, Akan Yuku no Sato Tsuruga is a great resort:
          http://www.tsuruga.com/en/

          If you are looking for something for budget-friendly, hanayuuka is also ran by the same resort. Hence, they offer shuttle services over to Yuku no Sato for you to use the facilities there.
          http://www.hanayuuka.com/en/

          You don’t need a car for Hakodate. You can get around the main sights of Hakodate by foot, or by the streetcar.

          I recommend you get the 7-Days JR Hokkaido Rail Pass. Use it for:
          1) Sapporo – Asahikawa – Sapporo
          1) Sapporo – Hakodate
          2) Hakodate – Sapporo
          4) Sapporo – Tomamu
          5) (Won’t be using if you plan to be in Tomamu on this day)
          6) Tomamu – Kushiro
          7) Kushiro – Sapporo

          Otaru canal is quite beautiful at night. There is Otaru Beer in one of the warehouses lining the canal, looks like a place I would chill out at after dark. For train schedules, you can check using Hyperdia:
          http://www.hyperdia.com/en/

          • Peng says:

            Thank you for your advises! Much appreciated!

            So you suggest to stay a night in Kushiro and a night at Lake Akan?
            Any hotel recommendation in Kushiro?
            How far is Kushiro to Lake Akan to drive in winter ? Considering stopping for photo taking and cranes watching?

            Any hotel to recommend in Lake Toya other than Toya sunpalace?

            Cheers!

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Kushiro is pretty compact, you can walk between the train station all the way to nusamai bridge, so staying anywhere in between these 2 points would be ideal. There are 2 Super Hotels in Kushiro if you are looking for a budget option.
              http://www.superhoteljapan.com/en/s-hotels/kushiro/
              http://www.superhoteljapan.com/en/s-hotels/kushiroeki/

              If you want to be near Fisherman’s Wharf MOO (where I recommend having dinner), you can try Crowne Plaza ANA Kushiro:
              http://www.ihg.com/crowneplaza/hotels/us/en/hokkaido/kuhja/hoteldetail

              Kushiro to Lake Akan is about 2 hours drive direct. The cranes are in between Kushiro and Lake Akan, at an area called Tsurui.
              > Direct Route from Kushiro to Lake Akan
              > Route via Tsurui

              But if I remember correctly, when I tried to drive from Tsurui to Lake Akan in winter back in March 2010, there was road closure and I had to back track to Kushiro to take the direct route up via route 240 to Lake Akan again.

              So I would say allocate 4 hours to be safe for Kushiro to Lake Akan with crane-viewing in between.

              For Lake Toya, the popular hotel is Lake View Nonokaze. I have never stayed there before though because it is quite pricey.
              http://en.nonokaze-resort.com/

              • Peng says:

                Thank you, thank you.
                Wow! With the long train ride plus driving to Lake Akan 4 hours, I guess It’s better I stay put in Kushiro for a night. *sweat*
                Maybe I should on rent the car after a night in Kushiro since most places don’t need a car in Kushiro?

                Yes, nonokaze is sooooo pricey!! And a lot of hotels there are smoking rooms! Non-smoking rooms are even pricier.

                Do you book via Japanican? Is it reliable?

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  Yes, you should spend the night at Kushiro. Washo market is a must-visit. And I enjoyed walking around Kushiro because they incorporate crane designs into little nooks and crannies, like on their manholes and on their bus stop. There was a crane sculpture outside Kushiro station, and you can collect crane chops from the station itself. So while Kushiro city did not have big famous tourist attractions, it was these little things that kept us amused and gave us photo opportunities.

                  Yup, you can rent the car the next morning.

                  I haven’t tried Japanican before. Usually I use Rakuten.

      • Peng says:

        oh yes, forgot to ask about Furano. OK to go in winter and is the cheese factory good? must I drive there? Thank you v much!! 🙂

  • Viv says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum, I enjoy reading your blog. I am planning my Hokkaido trip in mid December now. This is our first time to Hokkaido and we plan to just cover the central and southern region (Hokodate) for 10d 9n.
    I have reserved a self-contained apt in Niseko (Grand hirafu) for my 1st 5 nights. I plan to base here and take day trips to otaru and Sapporo via train. On our 6th day, we will take JR to Hakodate for 2 Nights. I will put up my last 2 nights in Sapporo.
    My only concern is driving to Niseko from Cihitose airport. We will arrive at Cihitose at 8 am via Thai. I find this to our advantage because we will have a longer daylight for sightseeing .so I can visit Noboribetsu and Lake Toya before arriving at Grand Hirafu. Is this doable? I only plan to visit Hell Valley and do a scenic drive along lake Toya. But there are many ppl advice us against driving during winter. This route, Chitose->Nobo->Lake Toya->Niseko is not readily accessible by train. Furthermore, our luggage will be a hassle if taking train and changing buses in between. Therefore our most efficient and cost saving option is to self drive.
    What is your view to my itinerary above? I appreciate your contribution.

    Viv

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I would not drive to Niseko if I were you, and just take a direct bus from CTS to Niseko. It is very difficult to drive to Niseko in winter. And most of the time, you would be skiing at Niseko and your car would just be sitting there collecting snow.

      What you can do is to just spend the 5 days in Niseko, maybe with day trip to Otaru if you don’t want to ski so much (but why would you spend 5 nights at Niseko if not to ski?). After those 5 nights, catch a bus back to CTS and rent a car from there to go to Noboribetsu / Lake Toya / Hakodate. These regions do not have as heavy snow fall as Noboribetsu.

      You can go:
      6th night: Noboribetsu
      7th night: Hakodate
      8th night: Lake Toya
      9th night: Air terminal Hotel

      iirc Thai Airways departs CTS in the morning, hence I recommend spending the last night at the airport.

      • Viv says:

        Wow, thanks for your quick reply.
        Yes, you are right! I am mad to stay 5 nights at Niseko esp when I don’t ski.(except for my 3 teenagers). But that is the min occupancy if I rent an apartment! And at a very reasonable price for 5 people. Most hotel rooms are either too expensive for my dates or they cannot accommodate 3 ppl in a room. If no driving, then perhaps I would do day trips to lake Toya and Noboribetsu as well depending on availability of time.

        It’s also a practical suggestion to stay overnight in Airport Hotel. I will check on this.

        Thanks for your suggestion. Since I haven’t paid any deposit yet, I will probably relook at my itinerary (no driving).

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yeah, that’s the thing about apartments.. They are cheaper but have minimum stay periods.. not sure where your apartment is, but public transport is not great around Niseko.. plus driving is quite dangerous in that region. Hence I don’t think Niseko is a good base for exploring neighbouring towns. Daylight hours are short, not sure how much you can cover after minusing time required to get in between Niseko and neighbouring towns by public transport. If skiing is not your priority, you should really reconsider spending those 5 days in Niseko. It may not be as cheap as you wish if meals are not provided, because I find food in Niseko extremely overpriced. If you consider a room at Niseko without meals vs a room at a lower end onsen resort which provides breakfast and dinner, on the surface, apartment at Niseko may look cheaper. But after factoring food cost it may not be so. Many onsen resorts have rooms that can accommodate up to 5 people.

          • Viv says:

            Yea,in hindsight the 5 nights in Niseko really hinders my planning. No wonder I don’t have a concrete plan till now! Skiing is definitely not my priority. It is just for my girls. They want to pick up skiing. We chose Niseko largely for its popularity and powder snow.
            My family usually have self-drive free and easy holidays. It is such a let down if we cant drive, but of course safety come first.
            From your blog I discover the beauty of eastern part of Hokkaido. What a revelation! But then, it will be easier if we drive.
            Thanks for your sharing.

            So for now, it will be strictly by public transport. I have a draft plan. Do you think this is feasible?

            15/12 CTS-Sapporo
            Arrive at 8 am. We try to book in one of the Sapporo Hotel that provides a shuttle to Nobo. Then tour the city of Sapporo. An evening trip to otaru.

            16/12 Sapporo- asahikawa
            Take a day trip there to visit zoo. Anyway other places beside the zoo? Overnight in Sapporo

            17/12 Sapporo – Nobo
            Visit the osen town and if possible Lake Toya

            18/12 Nobo – Hakodate
            19/12 Hakodate

            20/12 Niseko
            21/12 Niseko
            22/12 Niseko
            23/12 Niseko – CTS
            BY Bus or transfer. Will check into airport terminal Hotel

            24/12 CTS – bkk

  • Joseph Teoh says:

    Hi Bumble Bee Mum,

    Really enjoy and appreciate your blog, so detailed with all necessary information and sharing your cost saving tips. You are definitely the true master we are seeking for advise.
    We would very much wonder if you could recommend an itinerary for our trip to Hokaiddo in Dec 2015 with 2 KIDS (age 6 & 9) (Arriving Chitose 28 Nov -10am) (Depart Chitose 10 Dec -2pm)
    Was hoping to bring the kids for a simple basic Skii experience and to enjoy scenery and food. We are exploring to go by both public transport and self drive minimal. Thank you so much!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I would probably do something like this:

      28 Nov: Sapporo
      29 Nov: Sapporo
      30 Nov: Day trip to Asahiyama Zoo (stay Sapporo)
      1 Dec: Day trip to Otaru (stay Sapporo)
      2 Dec: Sapporo – Niseko by bus.
      3 Dec: Skiing at Niseko
      4 Dec: Skiing at Niseko
      5 Dec: Niseko – Sapporo by bus. Then train to Tomamu.
      6 Dec: Skiing / Snow activities at Tomamu.
      7 Dec: Tomamu – Kushiro by train. Visit Washo market / Nusamai bridge area / Fisherman’s Wharf MOO.
      8 Dec: Rent a car to visit the cranes. From there, drive to Lake Akan.
      9 Dec: Drive around Akan National Park area (Lake Mashu, Lake Kussharo, Iozan). Drive back to Kushiro, return car. Train back to Chitose Airport.
      10 Dec: Flight home.

      I recommend you get the 4-day flexi Hokkaido Rail Pass. You can use it for:
      1) Day trip to Asahikawa
      2) Train to Tomamu
      3) Train from Tomamu to Kushiro
      4) Train from Kushiro to CTS
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2014/08/02/rail-passes-in-japan-hokkaido-rail-pass/

      • Joseph Teoh says:

        Thank you so much Bumblebee mum for even replying on a late sunday night.
        We will follow as per your suggestion, this plan looks really great!

      • cakies00 says:

        Hi, thanks so much for sharing this. May I know:

        1) how long are the bus and train journeys indicated? Can u indicate the estimated bus/train ride for each stretch?
        2) Any idea where to collect the car to drive to visit the cranes? Is collection and returning point the same? How many hours drive for each stretch for this part of the itinerary? Want to have a gauge so my hubby doesnt over tire himself from driving.
        3) for an itinerary above, possible to stick to a all-in 5k budget?

        Thanks so much

        • bumblebeemum says:

          1) I didn’t use bus or train as we rented a car and drove all the way. For driving time, you can use Google map to do an estimate. Google map’s estimated driving time is pretty accurate in good weather, but you need to double it for winter driving. As for train routes, hyperdia will give you an exact timing.

          2) To visit the cranes, you can rent a car from Kushiro. Driving from Kushiro station to the crane area should take about an hour in winter. You can return the car to the same place after that.

          3) 5K inclusive of air tickets? May not be possible. We spent 8K in total for this 17-days trip, inclusive of 3 air tickets which we bought during a promotion.

  • LY says:

    Hi bumblebee mum

    I have been to Rusutsu last dec with my 10yo and 8 yo. This year we are thinking to go back to Hokkaido again. They have enjoyed the Crayon Shin chan ski school very much. However I’m thinking to try a different ski resort and seems Tomamu is fun as described. Do u know if they too offer kids ski school? Which resort offer more kids activities? Rusutsu or Tomamu?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yes, Tomamu has kids ski school and snow parks which start end December. But I don’t think it’s anything like the Crayon Shin-Chan ski school (which as indoor teaching area?). Just a normal ski academy like any other ski resort I think. When I was at Tomamu, the kids ski area was not ready yet so I’m really not sure how their kids ski lessons go.

      I have never seen the full range of kids activities at Rusutsu nor Tomamu because their snow parks were not ready yet when I was there. So not sure how it would compare. You can check out Tomamu’s website for kids activities and see how it compares to what you experienced at Rusutsu:
      http://www.snowtomamu.jp/winter/en/play/polar/index.php

      Tomamu also has the ice village, which would only be fully opened in end Dec as well (though the ice slide and snow tubing was ready by early Dec):
      http://www.snowtomamu.jp/special/icevillage/index_en.html

      I would just give Tomamu a try if a I were you. No harm trying something different since you have already been to Rusutsu. 🙂

  • Angela says:

    Hi Bumblebee mum, your blog is really fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing all this information with the public. AND selflessly answering everyone’s queries diligently.

    I’m also planning a Dec hokkaido trip 🙂
    Wanted to ask abt Tomamu
    1. do you know when’s the earliest the ice village might be open for tubing.. can’t find the info on the website

    2. also can’t find the child policy for its rooms.. we are 2 adults with 4 kids.. ( 12 to 2 years old) Am willing to pay for all the kids but hoping to be able to squeeze into quad room. You think that’s possible ? thanks

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. Based on last year’s date, they start end November (last year it opened on 29 Nov 2014). Again, all snow parks are weather dependent as they need to have enough snow to build the parks. But generally Tomamu Ice Village starts end Nov.

      2. I booked a twin room for 2 adults and 2 kids, so I think it is possible if your kids don’t need the beds. However, the kids will still be charged even if they don’t require extra beds. Tomamu starts charging for children aged 3 or 4 (can’t remember the exact age – around there), pretty sure the 2 year old can bunk in for free.

      • Angela says:

        thanks Bumblebeemum for your help !

        • Doreen says:

          Hi Bumblebeemum, need your recommendation for itinerary from 1-8 December 2015 in hokkaido….Reaching CTS om 1st Dec at around 8+am and leaving on 8th Dec at around 9.30am..travelling with family with 2 children age 8 and 13. I’m still thinking of self driving….but this is our 1st time Winter trip. Btw, how is the average temperature during this period? Snowing? Thks

          • bumblebeemum says:

            In Dec, the temperature should be around 0 to -10 degrees in Hokkaido. It will definitely be snowing. You can try driving around the Eastern Hokkaido area (Kushiro – Akan National Park). I usually recommend visiting Eastern Hokkaido in early December. A possible itinerary would be as follows:

            1st: CTS – Sapporo
            2nd: Sapporo
            3rd: Sapporo – Tomamu
            4rd: Tomamu – Kushiro
            5th: (Rent car) Kushiro – Tsurui (for cranes) – Lake Akan
            6th: Drive around Akan National Park
            7th: Drive back to Kushiro (return car), train back to CTS
            8th: Morning flight home

  • Izian says:

    Hi. Your blog is so informative. I’m planning a trip from 10 dec to 21 dec. initially planned to go to rusutsu but tomamu appears much more interesting after I read your post. It seems hoshino tomamu resort are only available for 2 nights. Do you think 2 nights is sufficient and if not are there any other places there u can recommend. Thank u in advance

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Are you planning to ski / snowboard a lot? If not, 2 nights at any ski resort is sufficient. You can spend the first day soaking in the onsen after checking in and visiting the Ice Village at night. Then for the full day, go for a short ski / snowboard lesson just to try out, and participating in any ski activities that are available. But if you are looking to learn skiing / snowboarding to a certain level of proficiency or you are an avid skier, then 2 nights will not be enough.

  • Helen says:

    Hi Bumble bee mum

    I am planning to travel to Hokkaido with my 2 children age 9 and 12 from Dec 1 for a week.

    May I ask for your advice in terms of places to visit ? We do not plan to drive in Hokkaido .

    We will like to try sledding but not sure where to go .

    Thank you in advance !

    Helen

    • bumblebeemum says:

      In early December, your best chances of sledding will be at Tomamu Resort. You can visit Sapporo, Otaru and Tomamu Resort – these places are all accessible by train.

      • Helen says:

        Thanks ! Not sure if I should stay a few nights at Tomamu resort ? I have booked a hotel at sapporo next to the station

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Oops, ignore my previous comment. You see if you want to ski / snowboard. If you do, then you should spend a few nights. If not then you can just visit the ice village as a day trip like what some readers suggest.

  • AJ says:

    Hi bumbleemum
    An urgent question as we leave for Hokkaido tomorrow. We are staying 5 nights rusutsu, 5 nights sapporo and 5 nights tomamu. Taking big run buses from one place to another (not opting for trains). Excluding the ski areas, will there be opportunities/ pathways for stroller usage? I’m in a dilemma as to whether to bring their strollers. I have twins both almost 20kg who’s still at the carrying age and I can’t possibly survive carrying them around with their winter wear. Considered hip seats but they are too heavy for baby carriers.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      You may still have a chance to use your stroller in Sapporo city. When we went there beginning of December, the snow hasn’t accumulated on the pavements yet and we could push our stroller around easily. But later on in the month, once the pavements became covered with snow, it is a chore pushing the stroller around and some pavements became so narrow because of the snow ‘walls’ that accumulate by the sidewalks that we couldn’t push our stroller through at all. I would say bring it along and if the pavements are clear (most likely it is since it’s still early in the season), you can use it.

  • xh says:

    Hi Bunblebeemum
    Thanks for the informative travel guides you have shared. We (family of 4 adults and 2 kids)are planning to go Hokkaido at the end of the year. i have few questions and would like to get your advises.
    My itinerary will be
    Day 1 Fly to CTS and stay at Sapporo city for 2 nights (sightseeing and shopping)
    Day 3 Rent car and drive to Kiroro and stay for 3 nights (our main purpose to Hokkaido).
    Day 5 Drive to Onsen town (Jozankei or Lake Toya) for 1 nights.
    Day 6 Drive to CTS and return the car. Fly back to SG

    1. When can I book my hotels and ski resort? I noticed most of the ski resorts and onsen hotels can only be booked 3 months ahead.
    2. What is your experience of driving in early December? I know it is not safe to drive in winter if we never in snowy places before. My hubby has rented car and driven hundreds of miles few times in US and considering early December, a lot of buses to/from ski resorts are not available in weekdays, it will be easy if we drive.
    3. Jozankei and Lake Toya which one would you recommend?

    Many thanks and hope to hear from you soon
    xh

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1. You need to check the ski resort website from time to time to see when they open their booking for the winter season. 3 months before sounds about right. But for hotels in general, you can try searching 6 months before your trip. What you can do is to secure available rooms with free cancellation first about 6 months in advance. Then check back again every month to see if you can find better deals.

      2. Are you going early or end December? Most ski resorts’ snow activities only open towards the end of December. Kiroro may not be open yet in early December, depending on how early you are there. But regarding driving, snow is usually heavier at snow resort areas. Just drive slow, you should be fine. You can read my winter driving tips on this post:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/08/29/free-easy-hokkaido-winter-trip-essential-travel-tips/

      3. I prefer Lake Toya.

  • Nic says:

    Hi Bumblebee Mum
    Loves reading your blog on all the kids stuff! And envy all your Japan trips. Finally, decided to bring my kids (3yrs and 7yrs) to Hokkaido from 15-24 Dec. This is our first trip to Japan/Hokkaido and hubby is not confidence to drive during winter, hence not intending to drive.
    Would like the kids to have their first experience with snow slides, tubing etc. Skiing might be too difficult hence might give it a miss if not enough time. Understand from your blog that Tomamu is a good choice for snow activities so planning to bring them there.
    Will only reach Chitose airport ard 5pm on 15 Dec so planning to stay a night at Airport Terminal Hotel, but I can’t seem to find any booking available on 15 Dec, are they fully booked or not open for booking yet? If fully booked, do u any other suggestion?
    Planning to Visit Sapporo, Tomamu, Lake Toya, Otaru and hope to visit some onsens too. Any recommendation on onsens? But because I have Psoriasis, not sure if I can enter the Public bath (even though it is not contagious but I’m worried that people might be afraid), if not, can you recommend some accommodations with private onsen?
    Trying to place Tomamu as last destination of our trip, can you help me see if this is possible? Hope you can advise me should I go Lake Toya first or visit onsen first after visiting Sapporo. Two nights at Tomamu, isit sufficient?
    15 Dec – Stay at Airport Hotel
    16 Dec – Stay at Sapporo (Shirei Icoibito, mount moiwa, beer factory and saporro factory)
    17 Dec – Stay at Sapporo (any recommendation on accommodation?)
    18 Dec
    19 Dec
    20 Dec
    21 Dec – Stay at Tomamu Resort (Ice village, Reindeer sled, snow play)
    22 Dec – Stay at Tomamu Resort (From Tomamu to Otaru, can we travel by train?)
    23 Dec – Stay 1night at Hotel Vibrant Otaru (Otaru canal, Sakaimachi, Kitakaro main store)
    24 Dec – Our flight depart Chitose at 730pm, planning to spend the day at the airport. From Otaru to Chitose, how long is the journey? Is there any direct train or bus?
    Thanks in advance!! Sorry for the long post.
    Ps: I am worried about the luggage, stroller and moving around with two active kids… Btw, the train station, are they stroller friendly? Lifts available?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For 15 Dec, Air Terminal Hotel may not be open for booking yet. You can check again later. But looking at your itinerary, you can consider staying in Sapporo from the first night.

      The resort in the area I know of with private onsen is Lake View Nonokaze at Lake Toya:
      http://nonokaze-resort.com/

      Another popular onsen in the region is Noboribetsu. You can book a room with onsen at Hotel Mahoroba:
      http://www.h-mahoroba.jp/

      I usually drive in Hokkaido, not sure how stroller friendly the train stations are in general. I know that Tomamu station doesn’t have lifts. I would use direct buses where possible.

      Lake View Nonokaze and Hotel Mahoroba I mentioned above provide free shuttle service to and fro Sapporo:
      http://en.nonokaze-resort.com/access
      http://tohoresort.com/access/mahoroba_Change_bus_en.html

      Tomamu has a direct bus to and fro Sapporo / CTS, but you need to pay for it. The bus info for winter is not out yet, you can check their website for it later. I would put Tomamu Resort at the end of the trip and just take the bus from Tomamu Resort back to CTS without returning to Sapporo.

      If you are not driving, I suggest you minimise the change of hotels. So for Otaru, do it as a day trip from Sapporo instead.

      15 Dec – Sapporo
      16 Dec – Sapporo
      17 Dec – Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      18 Dec – Sapporo – Lake Toya (shuttle bus)
      19 Dec – Lake Toya – Noboribetsu
      20 Dec – Noboribetsu – Sapporo (shuttle bus)
      21 Dec – Sapporo
      22 Dec – Sapporo – Tomamu (direct bus)
      23 Dec – Tomamu
      24 Dec – Tomamu – CTS (direct bus)

      Lake Toya and Noboribetsu are very easy to get between each other by rental car, but it is quite a hassle by public transport. Let’s say you want to get from Lake Toya to Noboribetsu. You need to bus/cab to Toya station, take train from Toya to Noboribetsu, then bus/cab to Noboribetsu onsen.

      • Nic says:

        Thanks for the suggestions!! If I were to skip noboribetsu, any other suggestion? Kushiro is it along the way? Is there any train or bus from Kushiro to tomamu straight or I have to go back to Sapporo to go to tomamu? The shuttle bus from Sapporo to lake toya, may I have the website? And the direct bus to tomamu, is it from tomamu website? Thanks!!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Kushiro is further East. And you’ll need to drive if you want to go and see the cranes. There is a straight train from Tomamu to Kushiro, but I would only recommend going to Kushiro if you are willing to drive around Akan National Park.

          The shuttle bus from Sapporo to Lake Toya is operated by the resort for their guest. If you stay at Lake View Nonokaze, their bus info is here:
          http://en.nonokaze-resort.com/access

          The other resort I like to stay at, Toya Sunpalace, also mentions that they have courtesy shuttle from Sapporo on their website:
          http://karakami-kankou.jp/en/sp/

          The direct bus to Tomamu, you can find it on their website when their winter season information is out. Currently they are running summer season info. But yes, you can book the bus on their website when their winter booking is open.

          • Nic says:

            Hi Bumblebee mum

            Thanks for the advice! Will keep a lookout for the information. Thank you for your time 🙂

  • ML says:

    We are a family of four and keen to go Hokkaido for Winter activities.

    Our open periods are only from 6 Dec to 17 December (that include Tokyo stay), but the kids wanted to have fun in snow activities such as snow slides, snow tubing, snow mobile and snow other activities except SKIING.

    We have booked Hilton from 6 Dec to 8 Dec and afraid that time do not have sufficient snow for the kids to enjoy the snow activities.

    From your opinion and suggestion, which ski resort and the window period for snow activities that fit us?

  • Grace Chin says:

    Hi, it’s me again, Grace,

    Your blog is really the best for Hokkaido holiday planning. We need your advise. We are 2 adults, 10 yo and 6 yo going to Hokkaido in Dec. Arrive Dec 11 before noon. Depart Dec 26 in evening. Do u think below itinerary is too rushed? Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing and for your advise.

    Dec 11 Sapporo
    Dec 12 Asahiyama Zoo day trip (with the zoo train)
    Dec 13 Otaru day trip
    Dec 14 Train to Kiroro
    Dec 15 Kiroro to Niseko day trip
    Dec 16 Kiroro to Noboribetsu
    Dec 17 Noboribetsu to Lake Toya
    Dec 18 Lake Toya to Obihiro
    Dec 19 Obihiro to Kushiro
    Dec 20 Kushiro to Lake Akan
    Dec 21 Kushiro to Tomamu
    Dec 22 Tomamu
    Dec 23 Sapporo
    Dec 24 Sapporo
    Dec 25 Check in Air Terminal Hotel
    Dec 26 Explore New Chitose Airport, evening flight back to Changi

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hmm. it does look too rushed, especially since it’s winter. I wouldn’t do Niseko and Noboribetsu as day trip from Kiroro. If I go to Kiroro, I would just stay at Kiroro to ski. Otherwise there is no reason to stay at Kiroro. And between Niseko and Kiroro, I would only choose one. I wouldn’t go to both.

      Public transport in Hokkaido is not great. For e.g. for Lake Toya and Noboribetsu, the onsen towns are not near the train station. Though you can cab from the nearest train station. The Akan region is hard to get around without a rental car. If you want to minimize driving, this is what you can do:

      Dec 11 Sapporo
      Day 12 Sapporo
      Day 13 Sapporo
      Dec 14 Asahiyama Zoo day trip (with the zoo train)
      Dec 15 Otaru day trip from Sapporo (train)
      Dec 16 Sapporo – Niseko (direct bus)
      Dec 17 Niseko
      Dec 18 Niseko – Noboribetsu OR Lake Toya (choose one)
      Dec 19 Noboribetsu / Lake Toya
      Dec 20 Noboribetsu / Lake Toya – Obihiro (train)
      Dec 21 Obihiro – Kushiro (train)
      Dec 22 Kushiro – Lake Akan (rental car)
      Dec 23 Akan National Park
      Dec 24 Lake Akan – Kushiro (return car) – Tomamu (train)
      Dec 25 Tomamu
      Dec 26 Tomamu – CTS (direct bus), Explore New Chitose Airport, evening flight back to Changi

  • Doreen mummy says:

    Hi, I am planning a trip in Dec (probably from 15-22Dec) with my family (2 adult & 2 school going teenagers) to Hokkaido. This is our first visit to Hokkaido, hope you can advise on the itinerary below:
    Day 1 CTS-Sapporo (via airport bus)- most likely stay in Mecure hotel as
    suggested by you
    Day 2 Day trip to Otaru
    Day 3 Day trip to Asahikawa (not sure if able to see penguin parade) in mid
    Dec, else no point go there
    Day 4 Sapporo-Tomamu or Rusutsu (what is your recommendation?)
    Stay 1 or 2 nite in Ski resort
    Day 5 Tomamu (if stay 2 nite) or Tomamu-Sapporo (if only 1 nite)
    Day 6 Sapporo
    Day 7 Sapporo-CTS (via airport bus)

    For penguin parade, you recommend Asahiyama zoo over Noboribetsu Marine Park nixe, but I am afraid there is no penguin parade in mid Dec. Do you have any advice for me?
    For Tomamu ski resort, I was thinking of doing ski, reindeer sledding, other snow play, ice village, Olsen, unkai terrace (if possible).
    We don’t intend to self drive, are the above itinerary easily accessible via Hokkaido JR as I intend to get 4 day flexi pass or 3 days pass if there is free shuttle bus provided by ski resort.
    I may have get the name wrong or ask silly question as I am totally aliens to Hokkaido, only gets better after reading your very informative post, so please pardon me 🙂
    Thanks in advance.

    • Doreen mummy says:

      Sorry, is me again, Doreen mummy.
      Just wandering if is workable if we do ski resort as a day trip for 2 days? In this way, we don’t have to carry our heavy luggage around.
      Can JR pass be used for trip from CTS airport to Sapporo JR station? Thinking if I should buy 5 days pass instead…..
      Sorry to bother you again.
      Thanks in advance.

      • bumblebeemum says:

        If you have a rail pass, yup it is possible to visit Tomamu as a day trip and save the trouble of dragging luggage around through the snow. Especially since I heard Tomamu station doesn’t have escalators or lifts.

        Yes, the JR Pass can be used for the train ride from CTS to Sapporo. You need to use hyperdia to add up the cost of the train tickets and compare it to the price of the rail pass to see which rail pass is more worth it.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For the penguin parade, I suggest you play by ear. If it has started by Day 3, then go on Day 3. If not, wait until Day 6 to see if it has started. If by Day 6 it has still not started, then go to Noboribetsu NIXE instead.

      There is no unkai terrace at Tomamu in winter. Tomamu is easily accessible by JR whereas Rusutsu is not. Rusutsu has free shuttle service to and fro Sapporo in Summer, but I am not sure about winter.

      • Doreen mummy says:

        Hi, firstly, I would like to thank you for your advice.
        I have re-plan the itinerary as below as i have the intention of extending one more day hoping to have at least 1 nite stay in Onsen hotel. Would be very much appreciated if you can spare some time to take a look & give your comment. All comment are welcome, be it +ve or -ve 🙂
        Day 1 CTS-Otaru (arrive at 12.45pm)
        (Plan to stay 1 nite in Onsen hotel-vibrant hotel is fully booked, any recommendation?)
        Day 2 Otaru-Sapporo
        Day 3 Sapporo-Tomamu (stay 1 nite in Tomamu-The Tower?)
        (Do you think is good idea?)
        Day 4 Tomamu-Sapporo
        Day 5 Sapporo-Asahikawa or Noboribetsu (Day trip)-penguin parade & ramen village in Asahikawa, for Noboribetsu, I am not sure where else to visit. Or do you think lake toya is better? Is it easily accessible via JR?
        Day 6 Sapporo
        Day 7 Sapporo
        Day 8 Sapporo-CTS (2.05pm flight)

        Based on the above itinerary, I may not need to purchase Hokkaido JR pass. But how do I purchase the train ticket & is it a must to reserve seat, if so, how do I do it?
        I am quite confused with the transportation, as I try to check via hyperdia to check the price & Travelling time, I get the below message at the TOP of the page:
        “The search results below may contain some routes not suitable for Japan Rail Pass. Please make inquiries to railroad companies or travel agencies regarding actual fares, actual seat-fees and whether you are able to use Japan Rail Pass or not”.

        Just wandering if is more convenient to get Hokkaido JR pass or it not difficult to get individual ticket as & when I travel.

        As for Sapporo hotel, Mecure hotel is fully booked during my Travelling period, so I am now looking at Gracery hotel or Richmond hotel, but both hotel cost around $170+/-
        Any idea if the airport limousine stop near Richmond hotel? As I think can take JR to Gracery hotel as it is very near Sapporo JR.

        Oh ya, i also intend to go to Jyogai Ichiba & Shiroi Koibito Park (Ishiya chocolate factory), can I take the shuttle bus provided by Kita No Gourmet & after visiting the wholesale market, take subway to Miyanosawa station? Is curb market same as Jyogai Ichiba?

        Once again, thank you very much for your great help.

  • Tammy says:

    HI bumblebee mum, i have always enjoyed reading your travel blogs, I usually try to search your travel blog for tips when I plan to visit new places. This round we will be visiting Hokkaido in December (12th to 28th) with my 3 teenager kids and this will be our 2nd visit after 6 years. I am inspired by your blog and plan to travel east for the first half of the holiday before moving west to Niseko for a few days of skiiing. I read in other travel blogs and it seems dangerous to drive to the east during winter, I am not sure what I should do as I really like to see east Hokkaido but is also conscious of travel cost. This is my current travel plan and I would greatly appreciate if you can give some advice, our fight tickets are locked. Thank you

    12th Dec – reach chitose airport late morning, pick up car and spend the night in Sapporo
    13th Dec – Drive to Kushiro and spend the night
    14th Dec – Drive to Lake akan and spend the night
    15th Dec – LAKE AKAN -> LAKE MASHU -> IOZAN -> LAKE KUSSHARO -> KUSHIRO
    16th Dec – KUSHIRO -> Tomamu
    17th Dec – Tomamu ->Noboribetsu (return car)
    18th Dec – Noboribetsu ->Niseko

    • bumblebeemum says:

      If you want to keep driving to a minimum, you can use the train till Kushiro then rent a car from there. However, with the number of people you have, it is probably more cost effective to drive all the way. Drive slow and in bright daylight and don’t rush your itinerary, that’s the best way to stay safe driving in winter.

      That being said, the drive to Kushiro is very long, so on 12th Dec, I wouldn’t recommend going to Sapporo. I suggest you start heading East once you arrive – giving yourself 2 days to do the drive to Kushiro. You can use Obihiro or Tokachigawa Onsen to break up the drive.

      • Tammy says:

        Thank you bumblebeemum, I will take your advice and drive straight to obihiro. Can you please advise the approximate driving time during winter? Also do you have any comments on the rest of the proposed itinerary?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          The drive from New Chitose Airport to Obihiro would take 3 to 4 hours, depending on weather condition. Closer to 4 if there is heavy snow, 3 if you can good weather and no snow on the road. The rest of your itinerary looks okay, not too rushed. 🙂

  • Lynne Ho says:

    Dear Bumblebee-Mum,
    First of all, thank you very much for sharing your winter tips in your Hokkaido blog. It provides valuable information to help travelers in planning for a free and easy trip. My family will be going to Hokkaido from 8 to 17 Dec this year. We would like to include Tomamu Ski Resort as one of the destinations. Please advise:
    1) I read in your blog that Ice Village in Tomamu was opened on 1 Dec 2015. What are the activities were available in the village then? Were the ice slides, ice bar, skating ring already opened in early Dec? We are yet to plan the itinerary, most likely will push the Tomamu Ski resort towards the end of our trip.
    2) Will the slopes for beginners/intermediate skiers open around 13-16 Dec? Besides skiing, what other snow activities, for instance snow mobile, banana boat, sledding etc would be available by then? I am thinking if these activities are not opened yet, i probably make a day trip to Furano for such activities. Do you have any idea any snow activities company in Furano provides shuttle service to pick us from Tomamu?

    Truly appreciate your kind attention ad advice.

    Regards,
    Lynne

    • bumblebeemum says:

      1) There were ice slides and snow tubing when we were there in early Dec. The ice skating rink and ice bar were not opened yet though. So yeah, you should go Tomamu as late as possible.

      2) Yup, they should have courses for different ski competence levels.

      Most of the snow activities only start in late Dec, so your dates may be too early. Does Furano have snow activities that early in Dec? My impression is that most resorts only go into full swing starting from Christmas week. I don’t think the companies in Furano will pick you up from Tomamu.

  • Liz says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    We (2 adults & 2 kids – 6yrs old & 10 yrs old) are going to Hokkaido this December. Hope you can help to comment out itinerary below:

    Day 1 (5/12) – Reach Sapporo in the afternoon. Stay at Sapporo.
    Day 2 (6/12) – Visit around Sapporo.
    Day 3 (7/12) – One day trip to Otaru.
    Day 4 (8/12) – One day trip to Asahiyama Zoo.
    Day 5 (9/12) – Day trip to Skiing place.
    Day 6 (10/12) – Rent a car drive to Lake Toya. Stay at Lake Toya.
    Day 7 (11/12) – Drive to Hakodate.
    Day 8 (12/12) – Visit around Hakodate.
    Day 9 (13/12) – Drive back to New Chitose & stay at Air Terminal Hotel.
    Day 10 (14/12) – Early flight back to KL.

    Can recommend any skiiing place around Sapporo?

    Thank you very much!

  • Kuromitan says:

    Hi Bubble bee Mum,
    I really enjoy reading your blog but but but….i m still confuse in planning my own itinerary..I really need your help.
    I have 4 kids to start with..18 yo gal,15 yo guy,11 yo guy and 18 months baby gal…This will be our first family trip with the add on member so its very significant to our family!
    My kids wanted to try skiing so we decided on Hokkaido.
    We want to spent 7 days in Hokkaido and 5 days in Tokyo..Do u have any good advise for me?Oh ya,we can only travel late Nov to mid Dec..

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Wow.. With a family of your size, I would keep movement to a minimum. I would stay in one apartment in Tokyo for all 5 days. Then in Hokkaido, maybe split 3 days at Niseko and 4 days in Sapporo. From Sapporo, you can do day trips to Otaru and Asahiyama zoo.

      • Kuromitan says:

        Hi Bumblebeemum,
        Thanks for your reply..With your suggestion,which airport should i opt for?I plan to stay in Hokkaido then go to Tokyo last..My hubby plan to self drive too..

  • Angie.S says:

    Hi BumbleBeeMum

    Thanks for your super informative Hokkaido travelling tips! We are travelling to Hokkaido for our family’s 1st ski vacation this December. Can you take a look at our itinerary and suggest any improvements to it?

    Day 1. Arrive at Sapporo New Chitose Airport at 8.30pm. Take the Rapid Airport Train from New Chitose Airport Station to Sapporo Station (56 mins). Check into hotel and rest for the night.

    Day 2. Day Trip to Otaru via JR Train.

    Day 3. Day Trip to Asahiyama Zoo.

    Day 4. Check out of Sapporo Hotel, pick up rental car and self-drive to Lake Toya via via scenic route Orofure Pass (3.5 hours?). Check into hotel and explore Lake Toya. What are some attractions we can see in Toya?

    Day 5. Should we continue exploring Lake Toya region (or is 1 day enough)? Should we drive to explore nearby Noboribetsu since we have the rental car? I am also thinking if there would be sufficient time for us to drive to Hakodate and stay 1 night? That means Lake Toya 1 night and Hakodate 1 Night.

    Day 6. Check out of Lake Toya hotel and self-drive to Niseko (1 hour drive). Check into Niseko Resort. Rest and relax.

    Day 7 to 11. Niseko. My daughter will be joining the Kids Ski Camp. Dunno what we are going to do there while she skis.

    Day 12. Check out of Niseko Resort. Make our way to Chitose Airport via the Niseko Airport Shuttle Scheduled Coach. Flight is at 9pm.

    We managed to book a car with the help of our Sapporo Hotel with Toyota at this pricing:

    6 to 8 Dec 2016 (2 days’ hire)
    The P3 car (http://www.rent-a-lease.com/english/car/normal/fielder.html) Total JPY 21940 inclusive of discounted 5% with Credit card payment. This rate includes English GPS, child seat and insurance.

    Is the car rental pricing reasonable? Do we need any of those HEC cards?

    Our Lake Toya hotel actually provides free one way shuttle from Sapporo. But if we don’t self-drive, we may have problems going to Niseko from Lake Toya later. Any suggestions?

    Thanks in advance!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day 4: The drive from Sapporo to Lake Toya uses the Nakayama Pass. Not super scenic, but it’s the shortest route (though not necessarily fastest) between Sapporo and Lake Toya. The scenic Orofure Pass links Lake Toya and Noboribetsu.

      Around Lake Toya you can ride the Usuzan Ropeway / walk around the crater, drive to the free vantage point at Silo Observatory, have gelato at Lake Hill Farm, take the Lake Toya cruise or check out the earthquake wreckage.

      Day 5: I wouldn’t drive to Hakodate as a day trip in winter because of slow driving speed and short daylight hours. You can definitely fit in Noboribetsu if you want to.

      Day 7 – 11: You can visit Fukidashi Park and Milk Kobo. Niseko is really not that interesting in December if you don’t ski / snowboard coz the snow activities (snow rafting, tubing, snow mobile etc.) are not running yet till late December. I guess you can just go around to eat. All the restaurants would be up and running during ski season, so no lack of restaurants for you to try out. The good thing is that if you are not skiing, you can do lunch which is usually cheaper at the restaurants than dinner. So you should hit the restaurants like Prativo and Lupicia during lunch time.

      You are doing one-way rental with pick-up at Sapporo and drop off at Niseko yah? If that’s the case, I think your car rental price is okay because you don’t really have much choice when it comes to one-way rentals and there is usually a drop-off fee.

      You won’t need a HEP / ETC because it is possible to do the route from Sapporo to Lake Toya to Niseko via toll-free roads. But you need to set the GPS to take the toll-free roads, otherwise by default they will usually ask you to use the toll road between Sapporo / Lake Toya and between Lake Toya / Noboribetsu.

      Yes, it is a real hassle to get between Lake Toya and Niseko by public transport. Even around Lake Toya, it is easier to get around with a car. I would drive for those two days.

  • Walter Drake says:

    Greetings from a Thailand family:
    Thank you so very much for this wonderful write-up. It will be the foundation for our upcoming January 2017 trip.
    If there is any time, between Rusutsu and Tomamu, which would feature the most sleigh rides, horse rides, dog sled rides, and snowmobiling (or any combination) for family with young children age 11?
    Walter
    Loei, Thailand

  • Celeste says:

    Hi

    We are planning a trip to Hokkaido in early Dec, main aim is to bring the children for snow and ski and are thinking of bringing them to Niseko for 5 days, But we have a 10 day window, so wondering what other locations to head to next before going back to Sapporo for the flight home. Any suggestions?

    • Queen Bee says:

      If you prefer not to drive, then you can visit Otaru and Hakodate using the train. If you don’t mind driving, you can visit Lake Toya and Noboribetsu which are around the same region as Niseko.

      • Celeste says:

        Hi bumblebeemum or Queen Bee..

        This page that you have moved my comment to is fantastic, I didn’t realise that you are acting as an itinerary / travel “counselor”! Your suggestions to the others above are simply awesome, so if you don’t mind me adding on some questions…

        I am travelling in a group of 3 adults and 4 children (ages range from 4 to 12), so was thinking of Niseko for 5 nights so that they get their chance to ski. As of now, NONE of us can ski and certainly not my 65yr old mother. But I am also not sure if the kids may all give up after the first day of lesson, do you think I should reduce the number of nights stay in Niseko? From your posts and replies, Tomamu seems like a better choice (seems to have more stuff for kids if they give up on skiing), but it is further from Sapporo compared to NIseko and with 7 pax, I am trying to minimise hopping around too much (my hubby and I will end up with ALL the luggage while my mother keeps an eye on the children). If we don’t reduce my no. of nights at Niseko, I doubt we can fit in Tomamu.

        Tentative itinerary – suggestions welcome! I haven’t booked anything except the air tickets.

        Day 1 CTS – Niseko (via coach bus)

        Day 2 Niseko
        Day 3 Niseko
        Day 4 Niseko
        Day 5 Niseko

        Day 6 Rent a car from Niseko and drive down to Noboribetsu (keen to try Hotel Mahoroba after all your good reviews!). Stop by Lake Toya for lunch. 1 night at Noboribetsu is enough?

        Day 7 Drive back to Sapporo from Noboribetsu along the coast? Or should we ditch the car and take the train? Thinking if we drive, we can stop along any of the coastal towns for lunch. Any one worth stopping at, e.g. Shiraoi, Tomakomai? Otherwise we will just drive straight to Sapporo and spend the rest of the day in the city.

        Day 8 Sapporo. I was thinking of taking a day trip to Asahiyama Zoo, but it seems to be quite far away from Sapporo, is it really worth it? I am not sure by mid Dec, the penguin walk would have started…

        Day 9 Sapporo (day trip to Otaru). Actually my husband and I have been to Otaru and I think he was pretty bored in Otaru the last time round and I am not sure if he wants to go back. But I thought the children would love the pastries!!

        Day 10 Flight back to SG late afternoon

        Once again, thanks a lot for any suggestions!

        • Queen Bee says:

          5 nights does seem a bit long for Niseko if you are unsure whether you can last 5 days of skiing. If you just want to try out skiing, I would say 3 nights is enough. I would use the extra time to visit Hakodate.

          Day 6: Regarding Noboribetsu, I think one night is enough.

          Day 7: The drive from Noboribetsu back to Sapporo is pretty boring. But I’m not sure where you can ditch the car in Noboribetsu. Train fares are going to add up for a group of your size, so while not very interesting, I would still drive back to Sapporo.

          Day 8: You can KIV this to see if the penguin parade has started. If it has started then make the day trip there. If not then skip it.

          Day 9: Haha, Otaru is not particularly interesting sightseeing wise. I go there for the food. But if you are after pastries and your hubby has already been to Otaru before, you can just stay in Sapporo where there are plenty of good pastries too. Lol…

  • Audrey Chan says:

    Dear Bumble Bee Mum 😊

    I need advice on route to take & car rentals or train or bus ❤️ 3 adults + 3 kids with 6 Big Luggage (At least Minivan if driving I think) 💙 Is it safe to drive as I notice you said after 4pm is dark & you mentioned snow storms too? 💚 I can drive in snow like Canada, Iceland, Finland etc……

    Arriving 8.05am at CTS on 6 Dec 😊 Hakodate 1st or Sapporo 1st as I’m thinking of driving or bus or train 😊 If I drive should I take train or bus for especially longer distance like Asahikawa 😊

    My Hoshino Resort in Tomamu booking is stuck in the middle of my stay 9-16 Dec 😜

    I fly back from CTS on the 9.20am flight so I thought to stay in Air Terminal as usual but already FULL so I’m booking ANA Crowne Plaza Chitose 😊 Is this hotel ok? 💙

    So Summary of intended destinations :

    1) CTS
    2) SAPPORO
    3) HAKODATE
    4) TOMAMU
    5) ASAHIKAWA
    6) CTS

    Sapporo can be in the beginning or ending part 💚 So Confused pls Help ❤️

    Thank You 💙 Thank You ❤️ Thank You 💛

    • Audrey Chan says:

      Sorry I’m flying back on the 20 Dec at 9.20am so that’s why I need to have 19 Dec in a hotel near or in CTS 💜

    • Queen Bee says:

      hahaha.. how did you put all those colourful hearts? I didn’t even know my blog could do that.. Lol.

      If you had experience in driving in snow, then driving in Hokkaido would be similar. Just try to avoid driving after dark and to reach your accommodation by 4pm each day.

      If you are arriving into CTS after a red eye flight, I would suggest you go to Sapporo first. It’s kind of tiring to have to hop onto a long train ride to Hakodate right after a flight.

      Yes, I do recommend using the train to cover the long distances (to Asahikawa / Hakodate) rather than driving for winter trips. Even for Tomamu, I would recommend using the train or bus.

      Yeah, if Air Terminal Hotel is full for your date, then Chitose would be your next best bet. Check with ANA Crowne Plaza Chitose if they provide shuttle service to the airport in time for your flight. I would pick a hotel that can provide shuttle service to the airport.

      What are your exact dates for Tomamu?

  • Karen says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    Enjoyed reading your blog. It is so detailed and give me a great help in planning my Hokkaido trip in this coming December.

    This will be my first time travel with my daughter from with man around 🙂 Here is my planning for Hokkaido trip. Is it feasible?

    1) New Chitose Airport
    2) Sapporo (with day trip to Otaru from here)
    3) Lake Toya
    4) Tomamu
    5) Furano
    6) Asahikawan
    7) Sapporo
    8) New Chitose Airport

    From Lake Toya to Tomamu – do I take train or bus? Any particular hotel is good to explore?
    Do I need to pre-book any train or bus tickets during December Holiday?

    Thanks

    • Queen Bee says:

      Your itinerary looks a bit rushed. Personally I would drop Furano, and do Asahikawa as a day trip from Sapporo.

      For Lake Toya to Tomamu, I would use the train from Toya station to Tomamu station, with a transfer at Minami-Chitose. For hotel recommendation, you can refer to the following post:
      http://bumblebeemum.net/2016/10/11/hokkaido-family-accommodation-recommendation/

      There is usually no need to pre-book your train and bus tickets.

      • Karen says:

        Hi QueenBee
        Thanks for your advice. I am revising the Itinerary as below. Would it be possible?

        Day-1 24/12/2017 1) New Chitose Airport, Sapporo
        Day-2 25/12/2017 2) Sapporo – City tour
        Day-3 26/12/2017 3) Sapporo – day trip to Otaru
        Day-4 27/12/2017 6) Sapporo – Lake Toya
        Day-5 28/12/2017 6) Lake Toya – Noboribetsu
        Day-6 29/12/2017 7) Noboribetsu – Tomamu
        Day-7 30/12/2017 7) Tomamu – Sapporo
        Day-8 31/12/2017 8) Sapporo – New Chitose Airport

        If I depart from Noboribetsu to Tomamu, which mode of transportation would you recommend?

        Thanks so much

      • Karen says:

        Hi Queen Bee

        Thanks for your advice. I revised my Itinerary as below. Kindly advice Is it feasible?

        Day-1 24/12/2017 1) New Chitose Airport, Sapporo
        Day-2 25/12/2017 2) Sapporo – City tour
        Day-3 26/12/2017 3) Sapporo – day trip to Otaru
        Day-4 27/12/2017 6) Sapporo – Lake Toya
        Day-5 28/12/2017 6) Lake Toya – Noboribetsu
        Day-6 29/12/2017 7) Noboribetsu – Tomamu
        Day-7 30/12/2017 7) Tomamu – Sapporo
        Day-8 31/12/2017 8) Sapporo – New Chitose Airport

        From Noboribetsu to Tomamu, what is the mode of transportation that you would recommend to take?

        Thanks so much

  • May says:

    Hi bumblebeemum,

    We have a group of 9 (7A & 2C). We are planning a trip to Hokkaido, first time to Hokkaido. We will arrive on 8/12(1450) at chitose airport and depart on 17/12 (1850).
    We have pre book koala cottage niseko (Airbnb) from 13/22-17/12 due to min night and our group size or do you have a better suggestions for staying
    Some of the places we would like to go after reading your blog:-
    – Kushiro (national park n see cranes n swan)
    – Niseko skiing
    – Sapporo, otaru, nobo
    – see some lakes
    We are open to drive, train or bus
    Could you sugges an itinerary?

    • Queen Bee says:

      You can try something like this:

      8/12: CTS – Sapporo
      9/12: Sapporo – day trip to Otaru (by train)
      10/12: Sapporo – Obihiro (by train)
      11/12: Obihrio (rent car) – Tsurui – Lake Akan
      12/12: Lake Akan – Akan National Park (Lake Mashu / Lake Kussharo) – Obihiro (return car), train to Tomamu. Stay in Tomamu and visit Tomamu Ice Village.
      13/12: Tomamu – Niseko (by train)
      14/12: Niseko skiing
      15/12: Niseko skiing
      16/12: Niseko skiing
      17/12: Niseko – CTS (bus)

      If you want to visit Noboribetsu, maybe you can rent a car for a day at Niseko and drive from there to Noboribetsu as a day trip. But personally I don’t think it’s worth the effort. 😛

  • May says:

    Hi bumblebeemum,

    After reading more into your blog, Tomamu is a better place compared to niseko.
    We changed the plan. Managed to book the Hoshino resort tower from 8/12-11/12. However, we only arrived at chitose airport at 1450, it is too rush to get to hoshino resort tower? Spending 3 days there, it is too long?

    Looking at your suggested plan on 10/12, 11/12, 12/12, does it mean that we have to change hotel every day? Is there a better way to minimise the changing of hotel as it is very tiring to pack and unpack.

    Ideally, a stay at Sapporo, Kushiro, Tomamu will be wonderful 😀

    What would you suggest on the itinerary with this change?

  • Hi BumbleBee Mom ❤️

    Just got back from Australia went SKY DIVING from 14,000 feet hence late reply & participation 💙 Thank You SO MUCH for your advice! 💚 You really HELP TONS of Moms out there to plan their JAPAN TRIPS with children including me 💛 Your blogs are CLEAR & VERY HELPFUL 💜

    You asked for my exact dates in Tomamu & they are 9 Dec In & Out 16 Dec for 7 nights ❤

    Thank You 💖
    Thank You 💗
    Thank You 💝

    Love 💕
    Audrey Chan
    Malaysia 💓

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