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People are already buzzing about the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. My husband and I seriously planned to go to the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but we changed our plans. We are still considering making the trip to Tokyo in 2020.
I already see folks discussing options and prices in social media groups. The prices they are quoting to go to the Olympics are sky high. I’m seeing people post estimates of $50-$100k for a family of four. Yikes!
However, if you are considering a trip to Tokyo for this event, don’t be discouraged at this price tag. I firmly believe there are ways to drastically reduce the price to make it more affordable for average families to attend the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Tokyo 2020 Timeline and Dates
The opening ceremony is Friday, July 24, 2020. The closing ceremony is Sunday, August 9, 2020. All of the events are detailed in this calendar.
About a month ago, CoSport (the official U.S. ticket agency for the Olympics) started selling Priority Access Packages. These are the expensive lodging packages that lock in your hotel and provide a few extras like daily breakfast, access to a hospitality lounge and an excursion. Prices start at just over $5k per person for a 4-night package. This cost does not include flights, ground transportation or event tickets.
The main draw to these Priority Access Packages is that you get first dibs on event tickets when they go on sale. With these packages, you can choose up to six disciplines for priority ticket access.
Individual event tickets go on sale in Spring 2019. Most airlines will start selling flights for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in August 2019.
Flights for Less
Of course, the best way to get flights to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics for less is to use airline miles. Since flights don’t go on sale for a year, there is plenty of time to earn miles for award tickets to Japan.This blog highlights many credit cards with large sign-up bonuses that can help you get a stash of miles to use for a big trip like this. There are a lot of ways to get to Japan on miles with the 3 major US airlines (AA, United, Delta) and their partners.
If you can find MileSAAver awards on American Airlines, flights to Tokyo cost 35k miles each way. If you book early and are somewhat flexible with your arrival and departure dates, you might be able to snag some of these MileSAAver awards. You can also get AAnytime award seats for 62.5k-80k miles each way if MileSAAver seats are not available. Both Citi and Barclaycard have credit cards with large bonuses of AA miles.
You can get United miles for award seats with the Chase United Explorer card or by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points from a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred to United. You can also transfer American Express Membership Reward points from a number of cards for flights on ANA.
Since award availability to Tokyo on your desired dates may be scarce, consider flying into another city and then taking a train or domestic flight to Tokyo.
If you have a large family and can’t round up enough miles, even using miles for a few family members can reduce your cost significantly.
Don’t rule out paying for your tickets with cash. Round-trip flights to Tokyo may cost less than you think. For next summer, I’m seeing flights in the $1000 range from LAX to Tokyo round-trip.
I have found that the price increases dramatically from other cities in the U.S. You may consider using Southwest Rapid Rewards points to get to LAX for a cheaper round-trip ticket to Tokyo.
Lodging for Less
Tokyo is a huge, sprawling city. Hotels closest to the Olympics events will be booked early through travel packages, and they will also be the most expensive. You can get hotels for much cheaper than the rates of the Priority Access Packages that are already on sale if you are flexible with location. Japan has a great system of buses and trains, so don’t rule out hotels in areas like Narita, Chiba, and Yokohama that involve an easy commute to events in Tokyo.
I believe it will be hard to book a hotel in Tokyo during the Olympics using traditional hotel points due to lack of award availability during the games. However, you can still use other credit card rewards to book a hotel and defer the cost. For example, you can book a hotel using the Capital One Venture Rewards card or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus and wipe off the expense with those points, since a hotel is coded as travel. You can also use points from Citi ThankYou Premier to book a hotel through Citi’s travel portal.
But before even looking for a hotel in Tokyo, ask yourself if you know anyone in Tokyo that could host you for a few days. If I had a friend living there, that’s the first place I would start.
Japan recently introduced some new laws that make it harder for people to rent houses on platforms like Airbnb. However, the number of listings is expected to rebound in plenty of time to find a rental before the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
If you are serious about saving money on lodging during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, consider some non-traditional options like capsule hotels and hostels.
Event Tickets for Less
Organizers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics recently announced ticket prices for the Olympic events. Ticket prices range from about $22 up to $2760, depending on the event and seat. Keep in mind that when CoSport sells these tickets in the U.S., there will be a markup. At the last Olympics in PyeongChang, spectators could also purchase tickets directly through the organizers at a cheaper cost (see this article for more information on the pros and cons of each method).
To save money on tickets, limit your events to one per day. Even without the events, Tokyo has a ton to see and do. Going to multiple events each day costs more and limits your ability to see other things in the city.
Consider attending qualifying events instead of medal events. Also, split up to attend different events according to your interests. For example, if my family travels to the Olympics, I envision attending a few gymnastics events with my daughter while my husband and boys go to swimming, karate or surfing events.
With a little flexibility and the help of miles and points, you can attend the Tokyo 2020 Olympics for less than you may think. It’s not too early to form a strategy.
Are you considering a trip to Tokyo for the next Olympics? What is your budget, and how do you plan to stick to it? I’d love to hear your ideas about how to save money to attend these games.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.