Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Houston To Tokyo Airfare Sale

Today I noticed that Delta Airlines is offering a great sale on travel between Houston and Tokyo. The timeframe is for my favorite season to visit Japan, late October and early November. The cost of the flight is $611.16. It is one of the shorter flights at around 16 hours, with only an hour layover in Minneapolis. It is a great price and I wish that I could take advantage of it myself.

The only negative that I can find is that Delta does not offer an upgrade to economy, like economy plus or economy comfort. That extra 5 or 6 inches of legroom is worth every penny. The upcharge seems to average about $5 to $10 per flight hour. Anyway, the price is so good that I think that I would have no problem toughing it out for the thrill to go back to Japan!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

US To Japan Super Airfare Sale

This morning I found out that there is a great airfare sale on flights between the US and Japan. The sale is for flights in April and  May. The Chicago to Tokyo flight is $435! The cost between my hometown, Houston, to Tokyo is $649 on American Airlines. If I was planning on going to Japan this year, I would book this flight. I found out about this sale on Flipboard. I then went to Travelocity and put in the suggested dates and found out that the sale was for real. If I was booking the flight, I would go to the American Airlines website and book it directly. I would also recommend that you upgrade to their version of economy plus for the overseas leg of the flight. last year, it cost $64.90 for an extra 5 inches of legroom per flight. That works out to about $5 per flying hour. That is the best money that you will spend on your trip to Japan!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Random Photos Near Shibuya Crossing

These photos were taken in the area near Shibuya Crossing.

Hachiko Statue

Club Gas Panic (Restaurant?)

Cute Pet Store Advertising

Restaurant Menu

Shopping And Restaurant Street

Strange Stair And Elevator Combination

Street Art

2016 Houston Rodeo Parade

Every year we have a big rodeo and livestock show here in Houston. It is the single biggest event for attendance that we have. Last year over 2 million people visited the rodeo, livestock show, music concerts, barbecue cook off, and carnival. Additionally, there is a rodeo 10K, 5K, fun run, and a rodeo parade. I went to the rodeo parade for the first time ever this year. It was actually more entertaining than I would have thought.

Here are a few of the photos that I took from the hour and a half parade. There were probably over 2000 trail riders and wagons riding down the streets of downtown Houston.

There Are Finally Some Low Airfares From the US to Japan And South Korea Showing Up

I check the airfares from my hometown to both South Korea and Japan every day. I am always looking for a price too good to pass up. Recently I have been seeing some discount airfares to both South Korea (ICN) and Japan (NRT). I usually start out by checking Travelocity and trying out a few dates. I always put in a time around the end of October which is my favorite time of year to travel. If I find something interesting on Travelocity, I will usually check out an individual airline's website if I see a good discount. Sometimes the airline's website will be cheaper.

A sample airfare for today is a flight from Houston to Japan in late October and early November. The price is $890 on Korean Air. That is not a bad price. You probably could get a slightly better price later but I wouldn't count on it. The flight travels from Houston to Seoul. Then, after a short layover it travels to Tokyo. You would think that the airfare would be even cheaper if you only travelled from Houston to Seoul. That would seem logical but for some reason the airfare costs another $500!!! And this is the exact same plane on both trips. The only difference is the flight that costs the least involves an additional short flight from Seoul to Tokyo.

I am a big fan of Flipboard and one of the magazines that I subscribe to is about bargain travel. I have been seeing flights from the US to Japan or South Korea as low as $450 lately. They are usually short lived and only from select cities but those prices do pop up occasionally and if you check often you might get lucky!

I am going back to either South Korea or Japan next year. My mother in law in South Korea will have her 80th birthday next year. Most likely she will fly to the US and she can then spend time with my wife and her son who lives in California. If that happens then I will go to Japan in late October. If she is not able to travel here then we will fly to Seoul to celebrate. I will be happy no matter where I end up next year. I love travelling in both Japan and South Korea. They are very different from each other but both are fun.

It is not that expensive to travel from the US to either Japan or South Korea. I save $100 a month and put it in my travel fund. I save several times this every month just by taking my lunch from home most days. Plus, I tend to eat much healthier. A sample $2400 budget for Japan would look like this.

$900 Airfare (current as of today)
$600 Hotels ($75 per night for 8 days in a business hotel)
$900 Food and Local Transportation for 8 days
You should have plenty of money left for shopping

For Seoul, your airfare would be a little higher, more like $1000 to $1100. Your hotels would be cheaper though. It is also a little cheaper for food and local transportation. Seoul is a little less expensive but not by much.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Airfares Are High And The US Dollar Is Weak: What Does This Mean For Overseas Travel?

The answer to the title is "not much". Every single day I check the currency exchange rates for the Korean won and the Japanese yen. I also check airfares for travel to Seoul and Tokyo. About the only thing that I can see as a pattern is that prices go up and they go down. There is no pattern that will help you predict the best time to go. I have fortunately been very lucky and timed my trips when the exchange rate was at the peak.

As far as exchange rates, all countries want their currencies a little on the weak side in order to encourage exports and welcome in travelers. When one country does a monetary change then most other currencies get stronger and that forces them to make changes to make their currency weaker. It is a never ending race to the bottom.

After I booked my trip to Japan the exchange went as high as $1 to 125.7 yen. During my trip in October and November the rate was as high as 123.2 yen. Those were the best exchange rates in the past 10 years according to Yahoo Finance. Recently, the yen has traded as low as 111.2 yen. Should you panic if you have a trip planned to Japan? No!

Japan is currently having meetings to figure out how to devalue the yen. It will be difficult but the yen should start weakening later this year and that would make travel to Japan more affordable. I personally am planning on returning to Japan in October of 2017. I hope the exchange rate will be favorable the. But, even if the rate gets as low as $1 to 100, I am still going and it will still be affordable.

As far as airfares, I only check for the rates to Tokyo and Seoul for the October time frame. There could very well be some great sales now for other times of the year. But for that time frame, I have not found any discount airfares except on airlines that I do not want to fly on. I know that with patience, the cost will come down.

One of the things that I look at when I check for airfares is the amount of available seats on the overseas flight. Currently there are very few seats that are booked. That is a good sign that airfares will come down. I booked my trip to Japan at the end of May last year. Until that point there had not been any sales. However, for 3 days American Airlines was selling economy seats for $640. That was the best price that I saw all year! You might want to check around that time and see if there is a sale. Also, check places like Travelocity and the airline websites. Sometimes there can be quite a difference between the two. If they are the same, I would book directly with the airline.

Currently, American Airlines and United are offering seats in the  $1750 range. The other airlines like Korean Air and ANA are even higher. You should easily be able to get something around $1000. So be patient, that extra $750 will pay for a 7 night stay at a business hotel like the Shinagawa Prince that I stayed at last year.

All of my airfare prices are for economy seats. I always book economy and then upgrade to the economy plus or whatever the airline likes to call it. I flew from Houston to Dallas and then from Dallas to Tokyo. The extra cost for 5 or 6 inches of extra legroom was $64.90 for the Dallas to Tokyo and the Tokyo to Dallas legs. That works out to about $5 extra per hour. You MUST upgrade if you can. I am a little over 6 foot tall and my knees never touched the seat in front of me, even when they were completely straightened out. I slept great!

So, to sum it up, don't panic. The exchange rate will improve and the airfares will come down. Even if they don't get back to last year's rates, just go any way. I have never had a regret about any vacation that I went on. However, I do have regrets for lots of "things" that I have purchased, used a couple times, and then let dust collect on them. I promise there is no dust collecting on my memories of Seoul or Tokyo.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Houston: Street Art, Part 8

I used to have negative feelings about street art and the people who made it. I considered ALL street art bad. However, my attitudes have changed. There are some very talented artist living and working in Houston. They are turning some of our city's decaying buildings into works of art. I hope my sharing of these examples of street art will open some other people's minds.

Most of these examples of street art came from the Downtown area, Montrose, and Midtown. There are great areas to see paintings like these all over town. It is true that some of these areas can be a little less than safe, but with awareness you can get out and see what some of Houston's creative souls have created.