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.
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!
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