What should you pay attention to when traveling to Japan with friends? What to do if a problem occurs? When planning a trip with friends, especially if it's your first time traveling together, it's not always easy to see eye to eye on things like attractions, restaurants, breaks, and accommodation.
Enjoying a 100% perfect journey together is the most important thing. Here are 6 tips on how to achieve this, based on our experience!
- Table of Contents
- Issue 1: Changing the itinerary without notice
- Issue 2: Deciding on a place to eat without asking for opinions
- Issue 3: Travel companions expressing dissatisfaction after the fact
- Issue 4: Time management and when to have a break
- Issue 5: Vacation dates don't quite line up
- Issue 6: Deciding on who'll be sleeping where
- Summing up
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As more and more travelers continue to make Japan their destination of choice, the number of people - especially around university age - traveling together with friends has also risen.
The number of foreign visitors to Japan every year continues to rise. But after planning a trip together, when friends actually make the journey together, unexpected conflicts can arise. So, how to prevent this from happening in the first place?
This time, our Taiwanese editor interviewed several people who traveled to Japan, and from their experience, teased out some of the common travel issues they had when traveling with friends.
Issue 1: Changing the itinerary without notice
"Before I went to Tokyo, we decided on specific sights to visit, but my friends changed things up without telling me. I didn't want to make a fuss about things at the time and just kind of went along with the decision, but as a result I couldn't see what I wanted to. I still think that it's a pity." (24 / Taiwanese woman)
While friends will usually discuss their Japan itinerary with each other before the trip itself, many mentioned feeling frustrated that these decisions were suddenly and sometimes arbitrarily changed - without any real discussion.
It's likely that when you arrive in Japan, you'll discover heaps of things that aren't in the guidebook, that you'd like to check out. Especially if you're traveling with just one other person, it's important to be open to chatting about the plan and what's next. That way, if a side trip happens it's not unexpected - and much less likely to cause friction.
Issue 2: Deciding on a place to eat without asking for opinions
"My friends always decide where and what to eat by themselves, which makes me feel like my opinion doesn't matter. I tend to want to try out local cuisine, but it's tough for me to get in what I'd like to eat. Instead, we tended to get the kinds of foods you can find anywhere.” (30s / Taiwanese woman)
What and where to eat can often be a source of tension when traveling with friends in Japan. The country has a lot of local cuisines, and especially when traveling with someone who's visited Japan before, it can actually be a bit more challenging to decide on what to try out. And if you're traveling with a friend who's particularly picky on what they will and won't eat, it can lead to bad feelings as well.
Before traveling to Japan with friends, be sure that you are open about the kinds of foods you'd like to try out - and what you'd rather avoid. If one friend wants to check out sushi and another is against eating raw foods, it can be an issue when you're actually in the country. Instead, making a list of things together in advance can really help make your journey around Japan easier! It can also be a huge help to search out non-Japanese restaurants (e.g. burger shops, Italian, pizza joints) ahead of time, so that you have a go-to if your palate gets tired of local fare.
Issue 3: Travel companions expressing dissatisfaction after the fact
Another issue we often heard was about having a travel companion who complained about aspects of the trip itself. In particular, when people planned the trip together but did not express their opinions at that time, often vented their dissatisfaction after the journey started.
"My friends were very indecisive. I shared what I wanted to do and they didn't have any strong opinions one way or another before we left. When we arrived, we followed that itinerary and it seemed to go smoothly. We didn't really talk about it at the time, but on the flight home we kind of got into a fight with each other. My friends said they wanted to check out other attractions - places we didn't visit - and asked why didn't we do more. These complaints really destroyed the good memories of our trip." (30s / Taiwanese woman)
When traveling somewhere new, it's probably harder to have a strong opinion about what to see and do - and easier just to go with the flow. I have also done this myself, and as a result I tagged along to places I considered to be a waste of time. At the end of the day, I felt a bit disappointed that I hadn't been more vocal.
During the process of planning your trip to Japan, be sure you share what you would like to see and do - but also be sure to ask friends for their opinions as well. And if someone doesn't seem to be particularly engaged, be sure to give them a nudge based on what you think they might like, or propose a few different options to help them decide. (For example, if visiting Tokyo, asking them whether they would like to hit the trendier areas, or the older parts of the city, or a combination of the two.)
Giving a variety of ideas and discussing travel plans early can help easily avoid quarrels when traveling.
Issue 4: Time management and when to have a break
Time management is also a reason for frequent conflicts with travel companions. Even if you plan all the parts of the trip together before departure, things may not go smoothly.
"I wanted to hit up the main sightseeing spots early on, but my friend kept saying, 'I can't do it, let me take a break,' so that's what we ended up doing. In the end, our whole itinerary really didn't go as planned - and we couldn't get in all of the places we wanted to see. If we'd taken thing slike break times and the pace of our trip into consideration when we were planning, things probably would have gone a lot more smoothly." (30 / Taiwanese woman)
When traveling solo, it's easy to go at your own speed. But when traveling to Japan with friends, you move at the speed of the group. Some friends will want to rest more than others. Being aware of this in advance can help maintain the pace of the trip.
Especially in Japan, there are many attractions that can be only reached by bus or walking. Especially when the bus is concerned, missing the one you were intending to take can mean having to wait 30-60 minutes for the next - and the frustration of waiting can impact the rest of your trip.
Meanwhile, each traveling companion's pace is different. Some people will want to get around at a more leisurely speed, while others are fine to quickly get from A to B. On top of this, not everyone will show that they are getting tired and are in need of a break.
In order to avoid such issues, it's very important to build rest times into the trip, and when traveling, be straightforward about when your feet are a bit tired and in need of a rest - or some caffeine.
Issue 5: Vacation dates don't quite line up
Choosing a travel date is also a tricky issue when traveling. If you are a college student, you can book travel on a long vacation, like spring break. If you are an office worker, you can only choose to travel during your paid holidays or New Year. It can be a challenge to sync travel dates when traveling with friends.
"Since we each had different schedules, it was tough for me and my friends to choose a travel date. And as each of us had a different number of days we could take off, things just got a bit more complicated. In my experience, it's been easiest to travel with no more than four other friends, in order to keep things simple." (30s / Taiwanese woman)
One of the first things in planning your trip to Japan is to know for how long you'll be going - and whether some of the people in your group will be staying longer than the others. This can help make it much easier to coordinate and prioritize what sights you'd like to see, and when. In turn, this lets people in the group voice their opinions up front, lending to a more fun and positive trip together.
Issue 6: Deciding on who'll be sleeping where
Another issue that many people forget is on deciding on sleeping arrangements. Even when traveling with one other person, you'll want to discuss whether you prefer to share a room - or get separate ones.
Also, bear in mind whether you are traveling with an odd or even number of people. If traveling in a group of four or six, dividing up rooms might be rather straightforward - but not as much so if traveling in a group of three or five.
"When traveling with friends the first time, we hadn't decided on who would be sleeping where - and it got a bit awkward actually. You should definitely check on this ahead of time." (24 / Taiwanese woman)
If you're used to traveling solo, you might not consider sleeping arrangements. Japanese hotels in particular may not have extra bed services, so it's best to discuss with friends first - and then check with the hotel whether an extra bed or triple room is available. Your choice of hotels will be one of the big memories of your trip, so it's best to carefully check things out in advance to avoid a negative situation later on.
Traveling with friends to Japan is a lot of fun! But no matter how good your friends are and how well you all plan your trip together, some unexpected issue will likely arise during your travel. Talking things out ahead of time, and being open and flexible with each other during the trip, can help reduce the chance for conflict during your Japan journey.
As a final word, remember to make sure that you plan in some free time in your itinerary as well. After all, everyone needs some solo time - and while it's fun to make memories together, it's also good to have a little space too!
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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