Electric Tokyo: A $15,000 Week in Japan for $58 (With Business Class Flights and Free Hotels!)

This site is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as CardRatings.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. What is written in the article is the editor's opinion.

Oh my purness, I cannot wait to get back to Japan right meow. 😻

I’ll be back in early April – just in time to catch the end of cherry blossom season (!) according to the forecast.

I went during the same time 2 years ago and fell completely in love with Tokyo (and Osaka). But this trip will be a whole week in Tokyo.

I’ll fly there and back in American Airlines Business Class, Dallas nonstop to Tokyo. (I reviewed the First Class cabin last time).

I’ll be at the Hilton Tokyo again for 3 nights (here’s my review). And at the ANA InterContinental Tokyo for 4. Was hoping to stay at the Conrad Tokyo for at least 2 nights. But demand was too crazy, obvi.

tokyo with points 2018

I also used 54,000 American miles, 50,000 Alaska miles, 180,000 Hilton points, and 200,000 IHG points

Still, I paid ~$58 out-of-pocket for a trip that retails for nearly $15,000. My only expenses when I get there will be train fares, food food food, and admission to art museums.

Here’s how I booked it!

To Tokyo with points, 2018 edition

My first time in Japan felt like the first of many. I fell in love with the people, culture, orderliness, and endless things to do in the capital city of Tokyo.

When I left, I shed a tear as the plane ascended (for real). I always want to go back to Japan. I want to see more cities, hot springs, and outer islands – but this trip is to get more acquainted with Tokyo.

And why not? You could spend a lifetime and never see it all – it’s like New York in that way.

Can’t wait to see Harajuku again

I’m excited to be back in a couple of weeks. And as I reviewed the trip details, I realized I only paid $58 to spend a week in Tokyo, in addition to points & miles.

1. Flights for $58

Shock of shocks, American had fully wide-open award space to AND from Tokyo from Dallas. This route is definitely under lock and key – I’d even call it unicorn space. So when I saw the perfect flights in the middle of cherry blossom season, I went for it.

I used 54,000 American Airlines miles for the flight there. The taxes were only ~$6.

Got 10% of my miles credited back right away

It’s actually 60,000 American miles each way. But because I have a Citi American Airlines card, I get 10% of my redeemed miles back per calendar year – up to 10,000 miles a year.

This rebate put a nice dent in the price. And made the card worth its while for yet another year.

I didn’t have enough American miles for the return flight. But, I had a storehouse of Alaska miles from flights, spending, promotions, and of course opening the Bank of America Alaska Visa a couple of times. 😉

But, you can book American flights between the US and Japan with 50,000 Alaska miles and ~$52 in taxes. So that’s what I used to get back home.

These flights would cost nearly $12,000

When I checked the retail cost of the flights, they were selling for $11,820. Ho-lee crap!

In this case, my 104,000 combined miles covered $11,762 ($11,820 – $58 in taxes). And were worth a staggering 11 cents each – that’s a fantastic deal!

Now, Japan Air Lines (JAL) operates the same route from Dallas to Tokyo. I’m going to check if I can do a lil switcharoo closer to time. Although I thought American First Class was actually fantastic.

So while I’d love to try a new airline, I’m mostly happy to go back to Japan. But that would def be icing on the cake. Fingers crossed!

2. Hotels for FREE

The other piece was hotels. I was awash with Hilton points from stays and card offers. And same for IHG points because of the Accelerate promotions. I’d been dinging up my Chase account with lots of Hyatt stays (like the Hyatt Regency Tamaya and Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta).

So while the Hyatt Regency Tokyo was available, I didn’t want to use more Chase or Hyatt points. So, in a blinding flash of fury (not really), I booked the Hilton Tokyo and ANA InterContinental Tokyo (3 and 4 nights, respectively).

Hilton Tokyo

I’ve always wanted to stay at the Conrad Tokyo but alas, nothing was open. And nights at the Hilton Tokyo were only 60,000 Hilton points each – a steal considering it’s peak season (and could’ve been much higher).

No way

With taxes included, my 3 nights would’ve cost ~$1,590. But I paid 180,000 Hilton points instead.

Actually not a bad rate

In this case, each point was worth just under a cent each (.8). That’s not terrible for Hilton points – but I didn’t want to pay the cash rate. So, I went ahead and did it.

There are no taxes on award nights, so 180,000 Hilton points covered it all.

ANA InterContinental Tokyo

I’m excited to stay in a new part of the city. And booked 4 nights in Akasaka at the ANA InterContinental Tokyo.

Each night cost 50,000 IHG points (you can also use your free night from the Chase IHG Visa – compare it here).

That’s ~$1,550

The 4 nights would cost ~$1,550. But I used 200,000 IHG points. I didn’t mind using them because I earned most of them from business stays. Plus, I just got another free award night. So I was pretty happy about this award.

Again, there’s no co-pay because taxes are covered with points.

By the numbers

In total, this would cost:

  • $11,820 for round-trip Business Class flights on American Airlines
  • $1,590 for 3 nights at the Hilton Tokyo
  • $1,550 for 4 nights at the ANA InterContinental Tokyo

Or $14,960.

I can buy a lot of avocado toast with all I saved #eyeroll #millennial

I paid:

  • 54,000 American miles and ~$6
  • 50,000 Alaska miles and ~$52
  • 180,000 Hilton points
  • 200,000 IHG points

In addition to points & miles, I only paid $58 out of pocket to spend a whole week in Tokyo during cherry blossom season.

Could I have done this cheaper? Sure. I could’ve flown coach instead of business. Or found a cheap paid flight – and saved all my miles.

I could’ve paid for a cheap Airbnb. Or used fewer Chase or Hyatt points.

But I get to visit Tokyo in style and stay at nice, centrally-located hotels in the middle of a gorgeous time for flowers and weather. In short, I paid to have an amazing experience.

Copy my playbook

1. American miles

If you want more American miles, there are some solid sign-up bonuses on Citi American Airlines cards.


Citi will NOT let you earn the bonus if you’ve opened or closed another American card in the last 24 months.

Dreaming of the calm energy in Yoyogi Park

You can also get 50,000 American miles when you open the Barclaycard American Airlines Aviator card and make a single purchase within 90 days of account opening + pay the $95 annual fee.

All of these cards get you the 10% mileage rebate when you redeem for award flights – up to 10,000 miles back per year. I value that many miles for $200, which more than covers the annual fees. Plus, you get a free checked bag domestically, which can add up if you check bags when you fly.

2. Alaska miles

I love these cards.

Bank of America now has a rolling 2/3/4 rule for personal cards (2 cards per rolling 2 months, 3 card per rolling 12 months, 4 cards per rolling 24 months).

But you can still get the small business version of the card every 90 days.

They keep me in great supply of Alaska miles. With both, you can earn 30,000 Alaska miles after you make purchases of $1,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.

The only difference is with the companion fares. The personal offer is for $0 plus taxes from $22. With the small business card, it’s $99 plus taxes ($121+).

3. Hilton points

So. Many. Ways.

Stay at the Hilton Tokyo for free with Hilton points like I did

That’s why I didn’t mind using them.

 No Annual FeeAscendAspireSmall Biz
Welcome offer65,000 Hilton pointsUp to 100,000 Hilton points: 75,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Plus, an additional 25,000 bonus points after spending an additional $1,000 in purchases in the first 6 months
100,00 Hilton pointsUp to 100,000 Hilton points: 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.

And 25,000 bonus points after spending another $1,000 in purchases in the first 6 months
Minimum spending$1,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership$3,000 total (see above)$4,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership$4,000 total (see above)
Annual fee$0$95$450$95
Earning- 7X at Hilton

- 5X at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets

- 3X on other purchases
- 12X at Hilton

- 6X at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets

- 3X on other purchases
- 14X at Hilton

- 7X on on flights, select car rentals, and US restaurants

- 3X on other purchases
- 12X at Hilton

- 6X at US gas stations, wireless phone service from US providers, US shipping purchases, US restaurants, flights, and select car rentals

- 3X on other purchases
Notes- Hilton Silver elite status- Hilton Gold elite status

- Free weekend night when you spend $15,000 in a calendar year
- Hilton Diamond elite status

- Free weekend night every cardmember year

- $250 in resort credits and $250 toward airline incidentals each cardmember year

- Free Priority Pass Select membership
- Hilton Gold elite status

- Does NOT count toward Chase 5/24
LinkLearn more here.Learn more here.Learn more here.Learn more here.

4. IHG points

You can get 60,000 IHG points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account. Plus, you get a free night at ANY IHG hotel in the world every year when you renew your card.

There’s a $49 annual fee, but I always get way more than that back with the free night. Last year, I spend 2 nights in New York that would’ve otherwise cost $500.

This card is NOT under 5/24 and is a no-brainer to keep every year with the free night.

Bottom line

I can’t wait to get back to Tokyo! I used a lot of points. But saved a ton of cash. I can’t believe this trip would’ve cost nearly $15,000, when I paid a measly $58.

This time around, I plan to focus squarely on Tokyo. Perhaps next time, I can visit Sapporo, Hiroshima, or Mount Fuji. But I think Tokyo deserves to be its own destination at least once, don’t you?

I found an excellent free online guide packed with information, things to do, and how to plan.

I’m proud about this award trip and looking forward to be back in Japan – in a little over 2 weeks! Aside from the usual touristy stuff (cat and robot cafes, Tokyo Tower, Yoyogi Park), are there are fun local places I should add to my list? (Yup, still using Todoist to plan out my travels.)

BEST Current Credit Card Deals

See more my favorite credit cards here. Here's $5 free to start investing with Acorns!

* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 per day!) or in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update! And thanks for using my links to apply for new card offers!

About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

More articles by Harlan »

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post. The opinions of the commenters are not necessarily the opinions of this site.

Pingbacks

Comments

  1. Errr… do you realize no one actually pays those business class fares like the $11,820 you mention?

    You can go to aa.com right now and buy the needed 120,000 miles for $2,360… just takes a couple of minutes.

    • I sure do! I talked about that at length here: http://outandout.boardingarea.com/points-worth/

      It’s mostly a nice marker, considering I usually fly for pleasure. I just think it’s fun to check the retail price, always gives me a chuckle.

      In this case in particular, I included it because award seats on American flights (particularly nonstop international flights in premium classes from hub cities) have been so hard to find recently. But yes, I do realize that. 😉

  2. My only question is this: if you are staying 3 nights using Honors points, why not stay one more and get 5th night free?

    • Excellent question! Only reason being: it wasn’t available for 5 consecutive nights in any configuration.

      I might check again next week and see if I can switch it up, but not expecting miracles because of the heavy demand (same for the JAL flight). I’m cool with how it worked out though, and ALWAYS try to get that 5th night free. It just wasn’t gonna work with the award flight and hotel availability this time around.

  3. Nice review and success story. It’s nice to see someone get SOME decent award space on an AA longhaul. It doesn’t seem like they even made you route through CLT or RDU on the way either 🙂

    • Nonstop, baby! I almost couldn’t believe it, either. AA locks DOWN those nonstops from DFW (like MAD, BCN, even LHR), so getting to NRT is amazing.

      Thanks as always for reading, Dan. I appreciate having you here! 🙂

  4. So awesome, Japan has been on our bucket lists forever now. Make sure you go to the Tsukiji fish market to eat your body weight in amazing street food.

  5. I just did the the same thing last november! If I were you I would change the Dallas – NRT in AA J to JL First for the extra 20k miles 🙂

    • Amazing! Did you have so much fun? Ah, I can’t wait!

      And you better believe I’d switch to JAL in a heartbeat – will be checking until the wheels go up! Lol 🙂

  6. My family used to go to Japan a lot. This was back in the dark days before the internet and JTB (Japan Travel Bureau I think) used to do everything for us. I recall them having some decent guides and other info. Easy place to buy JR rail passes and such.

      • Just now realizing it’s been like 11? 12? years… That’s stupid. It’s on my short list. I’ve gone from traveling enough to get to Delta Platinum to barely making Silver the last two years. Looking forward to getting back into a better routine!

  7. We went to Tokyo in AA First class with the 100k sign up from the CITI AA Executive Business Card (those were the days.)
    You MUST go to Kyoto.
    We actually went straight to Kyoto from Narita.
    But, you might be marginally late for the cherry blossoms
    Most recently, stayed at the Hilton Tokyo with our grandson… Loved it… Did JAL biz class from DFW with AA miles.
    Have fun!

    • I popped by Kyoto last time on the way to Osaka. Amazing place. I was also a little late for the cherry blossoms in 2016 – they started falling, but I thought it made the most gorgeous blanket of pink petals I’d ever seen. Simply gorgeous.

      Dang, I’mma try to get onto JAL instead of AA – so much to do! Thank you so much for reading. Come to our meetups if you’re ever near Dallas!

      • You know I want to meet you and the rest of the group.You always bring a smile to our face with your posts.
        Actually, will be in Vietnam (Halong Bay) and Cambodia (Angkor Wat) next meetup.
        JAL DFW-NRT-HAN biz class with AA miles, Air VIetnam HAN-REP (cash), REP-BKK Bangkok Air (cash), BKK-FRA First Class on Thai (UA miles), was going to do FRA-DFW on Lufthansa First, but it is no more, so, will do AA biz unless space opens up on Lufthansa First somewhere in North America (Love, love, love the Lufthansa First Class Terminal experience in FRA.)

        • That’s amazing – and the best reason to miss a frequent flyer meetup! 🙂 Well, I can’t wait to meet you and hear about your travels. That sounds like an amazing trip. Have so much fun and thank you so much for reading and taking part. Hope to meet you soon.

  8. I would definitely switch at least one leg to JAL if you can – the hard product (although narrow) is so much better than AA’s in my opinion. My only complaint was the airweave pillows JL uses – I think the pillows aren’t very comfortable for a long-haul flight.

    The hard product and service seemed so much better on JL than any of the AA flights I’ve ever been on – especially the ones to Japan.

    • I am checking every single day! I’d even route with Chicago or LA if I have to – would love to try JAL at least once. Not surprising that you like them more than AA. 😉 I got lucky and had a great crew during my last flight to NRT, and that really made a huge difference, too.

      Thank you for adding your thoughts on this! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *