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How I Booked 12 Nights in Japan for No More Than $35 Per Night

How I Booked 12 Nights in Japan for No More Than $35 Per Night
Anya Kartashova

Japan has always been on my list of countries to visit, but its price tag has scared me off for years. I was under the impression that without redeeming hotel points lodging alone would set me back hundreds of dollars. Hence the Land of the Rising Sun was on the back burner for me – until I booked a fare on sale for $536 out of Los Angeles for my mother and me.


I’m all out of hotel points to redeem, and I had to come up with another way to cover our stay. Expensive hotels were out of the questions, and I wasn’t ready to put my mom in a party hostel with a bunch of 20-somethings. Our journey will start in Tokyo, and I decided to book a capsule hotel for our first four nights in the country.

Capsule hotels are all the rage in Japan. Instead of separate rooms, bed-sized pods are built on top of each other, usually dozens per sleeping area, similar to bunk beds. In most capsule hotels, rooms are separated for men and women, and located on separate floors.

As someone who’s accustomed to staying at hostels, I’m looking forward to trying out a Japanese capsule hotel. I found beds for $34 per person per night in Shinjuku ward, and I think my mom would like it. The space seems clean, and having a private room won’t be a necessity. We’ll be too busy exploring the city anyway.


After four nights in the busy capital, we will continue to Hakone, a mountainous town known for its hot springs. There, I opted for an Airbnb for two nights. I had a $20 referral credit to redeem and a gift card I bought on Amazon with a discount.

From time to time, Amazon runs promos for American Express cardholders and offers discounts in exchange for redeeming Membership Rewards points toward merchandise. The deal works on gift cards, and I’ve gotten $20 to $30 off per $100 gift card by redeeming as few as 1 Amex point toward my purchases on Amazon in the past. After using both the referral credit and applying the gift card discount, each of us paid $35 per night in Hakone.

If you’ve never used Airbnb, feel free to use my referral link for a $40 discount on a rental booking of at least $75 or a $15 discount on an activity of at least $50. If you do, I will receive a small credit toward a future stay as well.


Kyoto is another city where I opted for a capsule hotel. It’s a bit farther from the city center than I’d like, but it’s close to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. The capsule hotel in Kyoto cost us just $21.50 per person per night, and I’m quite happy with this price. Any time I can book accommodation for less than $30 per night anywhere in the world is a win in my book.


Osaka is where we’ll end our trip, and I wanted our stay there to be both comfortable and convenient. This is when I learned of a recent promotion from Choice Privileges. The program is selling Choice points with a bonus, and it just so happens to work perfectly with my travel plans.

Choice Privileges is an underrated loyalty program. I hadn’t used Choice Privileges before booking this stay—heck, I hadn’t even enrolled in the program. I found out that Comfort Hotel Osaka Shinsaibashi, a Choice property, was located right in the city center and looked up redemption rates. Eight thousand points per night? Done!

I created an account, purchased 13,000 Choice points for $143, received another 3,900 points for free and booked two nights in the heart of Osaka. The points took a day to post, and each point cost me 0.85 cent after the bonus. I essentially paid $33.85 per person per night at this property, and I’m left with 900 points in my account.

If you’re looking to pad your Choice points balance, the promo is running through April 22. Alternatively, you can transfer Membership Rewards points at a 1-1 ratio, but they’re worth much more than Choice points. I felt better off buying the points necessary for the booking instead of dipping into my American Express Membership Rewards account.

In Conclusion

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when looking for a place to stay. Just because you don’t have enough hotel points for an expensive destination doesn’t mean you should stay home. A little creativity means that my mom and I will be able to enjoy Japan on a budget and have more money for activities and food. I seriously can’t wait to eat everything!

[Image Source: Shutterstock]

View Comments (6)


  1. tvhead

    March 27, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    Very interesting. I hope you’ll follow up with a post trip report.

  2. sdsearch

    March 27, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    Actually, the best way to earn Choice points is during their frequent “stay 2 times, earn at least 8000 total points” (which translates as “stay 2 times in the cheap US suburbs, get a free night in Japan” in this case), and many of their properties in US suburbs are cheap compared to the majors. So if you don’t mind staying at budget hotels for one-night stays during such promotions, you can rack up tons of Choice points in a hurry. And if all you’re doing is shifting some stays to Choice, it’s not costing you ANYTHING necessarily to earn tens of thousands of Choice points quickly. You do have to remember to register for each such promotion, and try to make sure you end up with an even number (2, 4, 6, whatever) of Choice stays during each such promotion. And don’t bother with multi-night paid stays at Choice, you max out these promotions with one-night stays at cheap properties.

  3. IBobi


    March 27, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    Go to the Fishbowl bar in Kyoto!

  4. glob99

    March 27, 2019 at 5:36 pm

    I hope your Mom is spry! Bring ear plugs, because you can count on some folks snoring all night long. A shared bathroom with a dozen other folks should be quite the adventure.

  5. Dublin_rfk

    March 28, 2019 at 10:26 am

    The ‘Tube’ style hotels I used in and around the Tokyo area where male only and part of a Sauna / bathhouse. They are mostly quiet except during Sumo matches.

  6. kvom

    March 28, 2019 at 3:55 pm

    I booked all airbnbs for my 3 weeks in Japan and paid an average of $50/night.

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