Friday, June 15, 2012

Tokyo Via Toronto

Flights between Toronto Canada and Tokyo Japan
Ready for takeoff?
At various points in my life I've seriously thought about becoming a travel agent, and have even applied to a few agencies here in Toronto. I enjoy planning trips for friends and am an old hand at booking flights, ferries, buses, cars and hotels - both in English and Japanese, thanks to the extensive travelling I did in Japan. This means that not only do I receive all those newsletters from Air Canada, WestJet, Expedia, Porter, Flight Centre et al - I actually read them, and follow many of them on Twitter, to boot!

Well, I'm thinking of finally setting a date for my next trip to Japan - the longer I sit around wishing I could afford a visit and drowning my sorrows in cake pops and lattes, the lower my chances will be of getting back there in a timely fashion. I'm going to start saving to take a trip in July 2013.

Now, a lot people tend to believe that it's better to book flights early, "before the flights fill up." Most of the time, this simply isn't true. In fact, you're usually looking for that golden moment about 2-4 months ahead of time when the airlines know they need to get some of those tickets moving, and begin to advertise them. Typically, Air Canada's newsletters will come out 2-3 times a month and offer a discount on their current "special" destination (Canada-wide, North America-wide, sun destinations, Asia, Europe, etc) for a period of about three months, give or take. The soonest fares - pretty much considered walk-ups if they're within the next few weeks - have probably already been sold discounted for the last few months, so they're always higher-priced. For example, right now, for travel between Toronto and Tokyo on Air Canada in July 2012 between Tuesday and Thursday, I'd be looking at $1919 round-trip, taxes in. Had I booked in March, it would have come to $1380. 

On the other hand, if I choose two Tuesdays in September, the price is $1536. You would think that, since this is the off-season, it'd be cheaper than July! However, in the summer the airlines are competing for your business, and they price accordingly. The current summer sales don't extend quite as far as September, but it's close enough to the high season that there is demand for tickets. A good price for early autumn would probably show up in next month's newsletter, if you were willing to wait it out!

For those not scared of a little research, there's the possibility of booking with other airlines - it would be impossible to list all the hubs accessible from Toronto, since we have such close proximity to Chicago, New York and other major U.S. cities, not to mention plenty of domestic choices to take us to Vancouver. Previously, when coming home from Japan, I booked a flight on China Airlines through Taipei and Vancouver, then flew  home from there on WestJet (seat sale!). It cut about $400 off the cost of my ticket! While I handled the domestic part myself, I booked the China Airlines portion through the fine folks at No. 1 Travel in Osaka, after seeing a flyer with some fantastic prices they were offering. If you're lucky enough to get their "Super Saver" deals (these things go fast!) you will save a ton. Right now, they're offering June round-trip flights between Tokyo Haneda and Toronto (via Delta) for ¥32,000. Seriously - ¥32,000. If I could go tomorrow, I would. 

You always want to be careful who you're booking through, though - are they reputable? Will they go under and take your hard-earned money with them? (this has happened to me!) - but if you do your homework, good prices can be had. And for the super-thrifty like myself, for every extra  ¥10,000 in your pocket, that's another hundred or so rice balls to keep you fuelled on your journey!

Anyway, not to put too fine a point on it, but over the next year I'll be doing some research on which airlines to travel and how long to wait before I buy my ticket, and for my Toronto readers, I'll share those findings with you here. If you've been thinking about an economy trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, watch this blog, especially the Tokyo Via Toronto tag!