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Monday, December 22, 2014

G-TOUR III Details Announced

Above, Miyajima in 2004. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

G-FAN has announced the itinerary and cost of G-TOUR III. It will be held from July 28 to August 8, 2015.

At first glance, it is pretty reminiscent of the first G-TOUR in 2004 in which 60 G-fans toured Japan during Godzilla's 50th anniversary year. This tour doesn't seem to be spending as much time in Tokyo as the first one (which also included a free day for people to do as they wished in Tokyo), but is spending additional time in the Mount Fuji, Hiroshima and Miyajima areas. Miyajima was a fun place to visit, so the tour's return there is a plus. Leisure time in Hiroshima should be considered another plus if one desires to explore the city on their own.

As in 2004, some time will be spent seeing the historical places in Kyoto with an optional chartered bus trip to nearby Osaka. While in Kyoto in 2004, most went to the big shopping districts during free time. I elected to explore Kyoto's backstreets instead on foot.

A bus trip is also planned to take the tour group to Kurihama Flower World to see the Godzilla slide.(Just hope the trams are operating that day, otherwise a big uphill hike would be required to get to the slide. At least there will be plenty of shade on the trail.)

A visit by bus to the Ogouchi Dam is on the itinerary.

Another interesting activity is a planned evening dinner cruise in Tokyo Bay.

If one is reluctant to take a trip on their own (solo or not), then this organized tour is probably what the doctor ordered.

Unlike G-TOUR in 2004, the price of the tour does not include round-trip flights to Japan. As the website states:
Price is for land only, flight is responsibility of individual participants, but MYK Travel will assist if desired.
More about flights in a moment.

The price of the tour is stated as follows:
Tour price is 330,000 yen (roughly $2725.00 U.S. at current exchange rates) and is based on double occupancy. Singles will be paired up if desired, otherwise there will be a single supplement price.
MYK Travel is a Canadian tour operator, which is interesting that they would price the tour based on the Japanese yen. One question I would ask is: Are there any taxes or fees that will be tacked on to the basic tour price? One should nail down the grand total before committing to the tour and so people will know how much to save. The "single supplement" could be around $300-500 +. If you are willing to be paired with another single traveler, you will save money.

Today's exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and Japanese yen is 330,000.00 JPY =  2,754.54 USD. You can expect some fluctuation in the price. The current rate is roughly 119.802 yen per dollar according to XE Currency Converter. Expect to pay more if the dollar tumbles against the yen. But the exchange rate between the dollar and yen should remain relatively stable in the foreseeable future.

Regarding flights, although it is indicated that MYK Travel is willing to assist, I would also recommend getting a "second opinion" on flights. If you are strongly interested in joining the tour, I would recommend checking with GatewayLAX as a source for flights. I have used them since 2005 after finding that they provided better prices than Travelocity or Priceline.com. I have not been disappointed in their service. (I have no financial interest in GatewayLAX, by the way.)

Back in August, I posted a blog on whether to join a tour or go on your own in response to a query. Rather than re-hash the whole thing, here's the link to the post. However, I did say in the post that if one desires to go with a tour group (and if one's personality can handle it), try to find one for 10-days in the the $3,000 to $4,000 price range that includes flights. As this tour is in the $2,700 price range without flights, airfares at the time of G-TOUR will be anywhere between $800 to $1,500 (give or take). If you manage to get flight tickets at $1,300 or less, you will be within those parameters and I would consider the whole cost to be reasonable.

See my blog posts of June 30 (note the airfare GatewayLAX came up with), July 7 and July 28 to get an idea on what to expect in airfares next summer. These are Los Angeles to Tokyo airfares that the Los Angeles Times Travel section found.

One more word regarding flights. Try to get direct non-stop flights. I've been noticing that the airlines are setting up one and two-stop flights more often than back in 2004, and a lot of them make no sense. I saw one going from L.A. to Chicago and then on to Tokyo from Chicago. This is going backwards before going forwards! (I almost had to take a flight from Japan to L.A. that had layovers in Guam, Honolulu and San Francisco in February.) And, beware of those baggage fees!

G-TOUR in 2004 was fun and everything went like clockwork. Based on that experience (and considering that this tour resembles that one to a great extent), I would have no qualms in signing on. This would be a good tour for a first-timer to Japan to go on.

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