Scanning the Skies for New Japan Exit Plans

When last I posted, I was lamenting the recent change in the policy for applying for a China tourist visa while in Canada. The plan has always been to travel to China via ferry, and I am not exaggerating when I say that this new prospect of not having the necessary visa to get into...

When last I posted, I was lamenting the recent change in the policy for applying for a China tourist visa while in Canada. The plan has always been to travel to China via ferry, and I am not exaggerating when I say that this new prospect of not having the necessary visa to get into the country scuppered years of planning.

But, I am a problem-solver at heart, so this kind of stuff is my bread and butter. Maybe this is why I’m always making trouble… Regardless, we got lots of helpful feedback on our last post, as well as many sympathetic comments, so I kicked it into research overdrive and, having gotten all of the complaining out of my system (or at least 95% of it), tried to figure out a solution to our China conundrum.

Our original reason for electing to take the slow boat to China (apart from the novelty factor and bragging rights) was because of cost. Flights to China from Japan are oddly expensive (despite their relative proximity), but I started wondering if perhaps I could find a flight from Japan to a different country and not break the bank. Sure, it’s always been our plan to hit up China after Japan, but part of why we didn’t simply buy RTW tickets is so that we could be flexible and roll with the punches.

A lot of the time, when you’re planning a trip, you know exactly where you want to go. There are a lot of flight search engines that can help you out if you know you want to fly from A to B, but what happens when you have an open-ended search? I’ll tell you what you do: you get on Skyscanner. I realize this is going to sound like a paid promo, but I promise, I’m not getting any kind of kick-back for writing this post. This is just me letting you in on one of my travel-planning secrets, because I’m that kind of gal. I honestly start all of my flight searches with Skyscanner, because not only does it aggregate across a ton of different sites so that you can quickly get a sense of prices on offer (including special promotions) across the entire internet, but it also searches through budget airlines, AND it lets you do open-ended searches. So, I can give Skyscanner a starting point (e.g., Japan) and then tell it to give me all the possible flight options it can find leaving from there, and it will provide me with a rank-ordered list, starting with my cheapest options and with each subsequent option increasing in price.

So, to give you a visual, here’s what I did:

Note that with Skyscanner, you don’t even have to specify the city that you want to depart from! I want to find the cheapest possible options for getting out of Japan, so I’m going to let it look for flights originating out of the ENTIRE country. This might not be something you’d want to do if you’re starting off in the U.S., where a cheap flight out of California does you little good if you’re in New York, but for smaller countries, it’s certainly a nice option to have.

Another thing that’s great about Skyscanner is that it offers temporal as well as geographic flexibility. Flight costs vary a lot based on the time of the year and even the day of the week; because I don’t know exactly what day we will leave Japan, it’s great that Skyscanner offers flexible time-range parameters. You can search for a specific date, but you can also search based on an entire month, or even an entire year. Because I think we’ll probably spend about 3 weeks in Japan, I decided to select August and do a search for the entire month.

Here’s what Skyscanner found us:

On the results page, Skyscanner, lists all the flight options (in ascending price order) for the month of August leaving from Japan. As you can see, our cheapest option would be to fly internally, but for just $138 per person, we can fly to Hong Kong! Some of you mentioned this as a possible place to pick up our China visas; a little sleuthing produced this informative post at You’re Not From Around Here that outlines the process for securing a China visa while in Hong Kong in plenty of detail. Unlike many other countries, there doesn’t appear to be a residency requirement (or at least not one that is enforced) in order to procure a visa. We don’t need a visa to enter Hong Kong, so we could fly there, get our visas and then head to China. A little extra snooping, also turned up this article, which suggests that Macau (another visa-free place we can visit) is just a short ferry ride from Hong Kong, and may be an even better place to secure a visa (and it’s nice to know we’d have a back-up should Hong Kong not pan out for some reason).

So, Hong Kong looks like a good place to fly to once we’ve exhausted our (TBD) travel budget for Japan. Selecting it from the list, brings you to this screen:

There’s only one airport in Hong Kong, but this screen is essentially presenting me with all of my destination options in Hong Kong. Hong Kong International is my cheapest option (still $138 pp), but if there were other airports, I might find that some of them would be more expensive. Selecting this option, I am then presented with this screen:

Here I am selecting my departure airport out of Japan. We can see that the cheapest flight option of $138, requires me to fly out of Osaka, but Skyscanner provides me with alternative options so that I can weigh convenience with cost. Osaka works for us, so I’ll go with that.

Doing so produces the screen below, where Skyscanner allows me to view the lowest costs for my selected route (Osaka > Hong Kong) for the entire month of August. We can see that flying on August 11 is the most expensive day to fly this route ($264), and August 7 is the cheapest ($138) day. If we fly out on August 29, we can do so for $141.

If I select August 29, and then click “Show Flights”, Skyscanner now shows me all the flights available on August 29, including my cheap $141 flight on Peach airlines. If I click the “Book” button, it will take me to the Peach website where I can purchase my tickets directly! It really couldn’t be easier, and best of all? At $141 per person, this is actually 50% cheaper than what we were looking pay to take the ferry to Shanghai! Double score!

Of course, part of the fun with Skyscanner is seeing all these travel choices open up to you that you had never considered. So while, it would be easy peasy for us to fly directly to Hong Kong, we think it could be a little more fun to fly to Taiwan for a week or two ($160 pp), and then maybe fly to the Philippines ($72 pp) before making our way to Hong Kong (just $27 pp!). We hadn’t really considered visiting either of these places before, but we’re starting to think that the disruption to our original plans may have been a sign to take a step back and re-evaluate our plans. It’s early days yet, so we haven’t decided which path we’ll take, but I’ll admit the possibility of visiting two new places has infused both of us with a new excitement for this trip. The more we look into Taiwan and the Philippines, the more we wonder why we overlooked them in the first place! At this point, we don’t know what we’ll do, whether we’ll commit to a fixed itinerary in Japan and have a departure date and destination set before we land (budget-wise, this might be for the best, because as much as we’d like to, we can’t really afford to spend much more than 3 weeks in Japan… moreover, we’ve heard that Japan is one of those countries that can be very fastidious about having proof of onward travel upon flight check-in), or if we’ll just play it by ear and make our decision when we’re actually planning to leave Japan. We still have time to make that choice, but it’s great to know that in the end, we’re still going to get to visit China, and may wind up having a lot more fun getting there (without breaking the bank)!

And of course: if you’ve been to Taiwan or the Philippines, we’d love to know what you would recommend seeing/doing/eating!

Disclaimer: I received no incentive or reimbursement—financial or otherwise—from Skyscanner to write this post. My endorsement is completely my own, and is simply a reflection of my own personal enthusiasm for the Skyscanner site!

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27 comments Leave a comment

  1. I’d never even heard of Skyscanner before…what a cool resource!

    And hurray for finding all sorts of possible solutions for that pesky visa problem!

    May. 29 2012 @ 3:20 pm
    1. softdrink author

      I’m definitely learning that for this trip, I’m going to have to be willing to be flexible and sometimes think creatively! But it also helps to know that generally speaking, anything we want to do, someone else has done before, so it’s just finding the information!

      May. 30 2012 @ 9:31 am
  2. So glad you found a way out of the China visa situation! I completely share your skyscanner excitement as I just recently discovered their awesome “everywhere” search function! So exciting that now you’ve found a way to pencil in Taiwan and the Philippines – I haven’t been to either but have heard great things about both countries and it seems like they’re not on the standard Asia backpacker trail which is always a plus!

    May. 29 2012 @ 3:21 pm
    1. Vicky author

      It’s crazy! After all the great things we’ve now read on Taiwan and the Philippines, we’re really wondering why the heck we were thinking of skipping them in the first place! In many ways, I’m really glad that our original plans are not going to pan out!

      May. 30 2012 @ 9:32 am
      1. Steph

        I’m sure you won’t regret going there! Will be interesting to see your travel plans for those countries as we are heading there too after we travel through South East Asia!

        Jun. 4 2012 @ 1:24 pm
  3. Wow, what a neat site! I’d never heard of it before, but it sounds fantastic!

    May. 29 2012 @ 4:12 pm
    1. Amanda author

      I know most people generally have a destination in mind when they travel plan, but there have definitely been times where I knew I wanted to get out of Nashville, and didn’t care where, so long as it wasn’t here! For times like that, Skyscanner is invaluable! And of course, it’s been really useful for trying to figure out routes on our RTW trip, too!

      May. 30 2012 @ 9:33 am
  4. I used Skyscanner to find my first trip to Roatan! I didn’t care where I was going, I just wanted something far away and cheap. Totally recommend this website. Glad you guys seem to have solved the China issue!

    May. 29 2012 @ 9:58 pm
    1. EM @ Cubicle Throwdown author

      Yes, I love Skyscanner because it really opens up the whole world to you! I’ve found myself considering destinations I never would have thought twice about (or once about… because some of them I didn’t even know existed…) because of it.

      May. 30 2012 @ 9:36 am
  5. I love using skyscanner too. My favorite search for the past 3 years has been, “Abu Dhabi –> Everywhere” … so many fun options pop up! Glad you’ve found a way around your China visa issue. And it seems like it will actually be a more interesting route.

    May. 30 2012 @ 1:01 am
    1. Jill author

      As I daydream about where we might be 6 months from now, I’ve found a lot of routes that connect through Abu Dhabi… I think you’re getting ready to leave, but perhaps Tony and I will wind up passing through your old stomping grounds.

      And yes, I’m learning that by opening myself up to the unexpected, sometimes you wind up with better plans than before. We’ll still make it to China, but now with some cooler stops en route!

      May. 30 2012 @ 9:42 am
  6. Laura

    When I lived in Japan I went to Taipei twice! (it is one of my favourite cities!) Add that to our list of places to discuss when you guys come over!

    May. 30 2012 @ 5:54 am
    1. Laura author

      I remember your super cute shoes post from Taipei way back when, and that helped push me into “we should definitely go here” territory! And I’m working on a new Japan itinerary, so we definitely want your feedback!

      May. 30 2012 @ 9:43 am
  7. Skyscanner is depressingly evil on my wallet. As a keen impulsive traveller looking to constantly get out of the UK for cheap European trips, it drains me. This is all great of course – it’s a fantastic site and I’m glad it’s helped you solve your problems.

    May. 30 2012 @ 10:17 am
    1. Marco Fiori author

      Ha ha! I hadn’t thought about the downside of Skyscanner, in terms of depleting your wallet because of all the good deals you can find! We’ve not been too impulsive lately because we’ve been saving for this trip, but I could see how with no long-term travel plans, the occasional weekend away could become quite frequent (especially based in the UK/Europe where there are so many cheap flights to begin with!).

      Jun. 2 2012 @ 10:41 am
  8. This is an incredible resource, and I had never even heard of it! It makes sense to use this if you are traveling, and especially if you are planning some open ended trips. Great post today! I will probably come back to this when I am ready to go to England.

    May. 31 2012 @ 2:41 pm
    1. zibilee author

      Yeah, for us it’s been really invaluable, because we are so open about where we’ll go. Nice to see what all our options are. I also, really like that it makes it so easy to check flights for an entire month, or even for a year! I’m one of those people who is always looking for a deal, so Skyscanner always makes me geek out…

      Jun. 2 2012 @ 10:42 am
  9. The issue with skyscanner and other aggregators are that they generally search only IATA affiliated carriers. This leaves out many of the budget carriers which are your best bet. For this I always check to find any budget carriers departing from the city I want. I then have to visit the carriers websites directly. It’s tedious but has saved us tons.

    Jun. 2 2012 @ 1:58 am
    1. thinkCHUA author

      Thanks for the website tip; I’ll definitely have to check it out!

      Skyscanner may not get every possible budget airline, but it seems to me that they do include many air carriers I would consider “budget” (such as Ryanair and EasyJet in Europe). It’s true that it’s always good to poke around other websites to compare and contrast, but I’ve personally found Skyscanner to be very thorough. For example, if I use Skyscanner it provides me with a direct flight from Osaka, Japan to Hong Kong for just $126 pp… when I look at the site you offered, the only flight from Osaka they suggest to Hong Kong, requires us to travel on Cebu, and transfer in the Philippines for $175. Of course, it’s just as likely Budget Flight Finder might find a budget flight between two other destinations that Skyscanner misses, so I think it’s good to cover your bases and check a variety of sites, and yes, it’s always good to check with the airline’s site directly to see if you can get the best deal, because sometimes you can!

      In the end, I think with flights, a good rule of thumb to go by is not whether you got the absolute lowest price possible, but whether you got a price you are happy with. If so, I say buy your ticket and let the next phase of travel begin!

      Jun. 2 2012 @ 10:46 am
  10. This is so exciting! I’m glad you posted this because from what I had seen before, going to the Philippines was going to be cost prohibitive, but I was able to find something for $53 RT from Malaysia. I feel like I have SO much to learn in the next year…visas and flights and and…ugh. At least it’s exciting to imagine, even if a little intimidating!

    Jun. 5 2012 @ 9:44 am
    1. Carmel author

      Yeah, we had ruled some places out as well because they seemed like they would break the budget just to get there, but it’s amazing how many budget airlines there are operating in South East Asia…. It can get overwhelming, especially when visa rules change at the drop of a hat, but I guess this is what keeps us on our toes and makes travel exciting!

      Jun. 13 2012 @ 11:51 am
  11. Great post, I never thought of using the “Everywhere” option to get the cheapest flights out of a place, though I have used skyscanner for years. Glad you found your Nihon no ekusite (that it not really Japanese for exit), and there are certainly worse places to go than Hong Kong 🙂

    Jun. 5 2012 @ 1:16 pm
    1. Sarah Somewhere author

      I actually stumbled upon the “Everywhere” option by accident, but once I found it, I was hooked! I have long said I wished there was a search engine that let you just look for cheap flights out of your destination, because then I have new things to research and explore!

      And yes, I’m definitely not upset about visiting HK… oh, the food! 😀

      Jun. 13 2012 @ 11:53 am
  12. I tried, I tried, but while I totally understand why this is so helpful for your particular trip, I still prefer ITA when planning my travel. There’s no multi-city option here, for one,. I also wish they had categories between countries and “everywhere,” like “Europe” or “Asia,” especially since they don’t allow you to type in multiple airport codes (why not??). I do agree, however, that Skyscanner is prettier!

    Jun. 20 2012 @ 3:35 pm
    1. Trisha author

      I am sorry I was not able to convert you! I used to love ITA, but lately I’ve been finding that Skyscanner has just been hitting it out of the park for us in terms of the type of flight needs we have. I agree it would be super awesome, however, if you could pick larger regions such as “Europe”, especially when trying to figure where to fly out of, rather than simple places to fly into. Perhaps someone from Skyscanner will read our comments and they’ll update in the future!

      Jul. 20 2012 @ 10:52 pm
  13. Thanks! Didn’t know about this website. Looks good. Thanks for sharing!

    Jul. 20 2012 @ 8:54 pm
    1. Memographer author

      I hope you find it useful! I’ve been finding it invaluable for planning several upcoming legs of our RTW trip.

      Jul. 20 2012 @ 10:53 pm

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