Review: EF Go Ahead Tours’ Cherry Blossoms in Japan tour

We’re no strangers to group travel, having done a tour of Barcelona, Southern France, and the Italian Riviera and England, Scotland, and Ireland with Go Ahead Tours.

We’ve had great experiences on all of our group tours and just got home from our most recent group tour experience – this time to Japan!

Funnily enough, we were booked on a different Go Ahead Tour trip to Croatia last summer but it was canceled due to low enrollment. We were going to go to Croatia with friends so they let Go Ahead keep their funds and got put on the waitlist for trip to Japan. When we saw there were two spots on the tour they got on, we snagged those last spots for the Cherry Blossoms in Japan: Tokyo to Kyoto trip.

We were excited to finally check off some things from our travel bucket list in Asia and were kind of relieved we wouldn’t be on our own. This would be our first time in Japan and we didn’t know what to expect with hotels, transportation, or even the culture shock; so a group tour was the way to go for us.

Why travel with a group tour?

We’ve shared why we like traveling in a group tour before, but here are our reasons we like booking group travel.

  • Expertly planned and organized: Again, we had never been to Japan and I feel we would have been overwhelmed trying to figure out where to stay, what to do, and how to get to our activities. With Go Ahead, they take care of booking our hotels, booking activities, taking care of transportation, and coordinating flights. We just got to show up and enjoy the ride.
  • Off the beaten path: We definitely saw some of the major sights and attractions in Tokyo and Kyoto, but we also went off the beaten path a bit and visited some smaller cities or places we might not have been able to visit if planning was up to us.
  • Highlights: We enjoy these tours because they often make sure you do the must-do activities, so if we were to go back we could spend our time doing other things. We got to experience the highlight reel of Japan.
  • Mix of free time: These tours also offer free time to explore a neighborhood or attraction on your own. I will say this trip did not have as much free time as some of our other trips with Go Ahead, but it worked out for us as we hadn’t made any plans of our own outside the Go Ahead itinerary.
  • Tour director: Lastly, having a tour director with you on these trips is immensely helpful. Our guide, Masa, made sure we stuck to our itinerary or made changes that benefitted us. Like in Kyoto, he switched out an activity so we would definitely see some cherry blossoms. Masa also went above in beyond in helping us make dinner reservations at fancier restaurants, something we would have really struggled with if left to our own devices.

Review of our Japan tour with Go Ahead

We were booked for our tour in late March to early April so we would have the best chance of spotting those beautiful cherry blossoms. I also liked the itinerary as it was slower-paced than our last Go Ahead trip where we were only staying at a place one or two nights, this trip mostly focused on Tokyo and Kyoto.

The Cherry Blossoms in Japan: Tokyo to Kyoto itinerary

  • Day 1: Travel day
  • Day 2: Tokyo
  • Day 3: Tokyo
  • Day 4: Free day in Tokyo or day trip to Kamakura
  • Day 5: Tokyo & Mt. Fuji region
  • Day 6: Mt. Fuji region & Kyoto
  • Day 7: Kyoto
  • Day 8: Nara
  • Day 9: Free day in Kyoto
  • Day 10: Osaka

This tour did offer an extension in Osaka and Hiroshima, but seeing as we had taken quite a bit of time off for our last Go Ahead trip, we opted not to do the extension and flew home from Osaka. I was happy with the amount of time we had in Japan.

What we did on our tour

Day 1: Travel day 

Our travel day started with a 7:55 a.m. flight to San Francisco and then from there a flight to Tokyo. We were a bit annoyed that we weren’t on a Denver-Tokyo flight as we know United offers them, but when we inquired we were told it was going to be an additional $1,157 per person to get us on a non-stop flight. Seeing as we had already paid 1800 bucks for our flights, we said hell no and would just eat some clam chowder in a bread bowl at the San Francisco airport.

Our flights were fine. We flew United from DEN to SFO and then ANA to Tokyo. I kind of liked our ANA flight as we were served Japanese food so that was a nice start to our trip!

Day 2: Tokyo

We had left Sunday morning and arrived in Tokyo at about 3 p.m. on Monday. We made our way through customs and immigration (side note: Had no idea they take your fingerprints when arriving in Japan!), which was easy but the lines were long, and then met our group to get on our bus to go to our hotel.

Our tour director was at Haneda Airport picking up some people from our group, so we had a different guy coordinating us at Narita. We had his contact information and after figuring out which sign people were under we were able to find our group pretty easily.

Once we had everyone that was arriving in Narita, we got on the bus and headed into Tokyo. We got checked into our hotel and had some time to freshen up or rest before meeting for our group dinner that night.

On our previous Go Ahead tours we would meet for cocktails before dinner to meet everyone in our group, get to know our tour director, get a rundown of how our tour was going to go as well as share some helpful tips, and our tour director would answer any questions we had. On this one, we just went straight to dinner. To be fair it was already in the 7 o’clock hour and I’m sure people were beat from the jet lag.

Our group dinner was at the hotel that night at the buffet restaurant, which had an amazing view of the city lighting up. It was good and had a nice mix of Japanese dishes as well as some plates from Europe and the US. Our meal also included a complimentary drink, such as a beer, cocktail, or glass of wine.

After dinner we went straight to bed to start adjusting to Tokyo time!

Day 3: Tokyo

The next morning we got up bright and early (well, not so much bright as it was pouring rain, but early) for our sightseeing tour of Tokyo! We were in the Asakusa neighborhood so we visited the nearby temple of Sensō-ji and explored the neighborhood. We had time for some shopping and found our first (oh many) vending machines and I got a ridiculous little banana keychain for ¥300 (less than $2 USD).

We then got on the bus and drove around Tokyo before stopping at Yoyogi Park and seeing the Meiji Shrine. We had enough time to see the shrine and walk the grounds and let the rain clear up a bit before we were back on the bus.

Our next stop was the Harajuku neighborhood! Unfortunately the rain had picked up again so we didn’t feel like shopping and instead went and found a spot for lunch.

We warmed up with some hot ramen, which was just what we needed. After lunch, our friends went off to do some shopping and Rick and I just wandered and happened across a cute little park with a koi pond and a cherry blossom tree! Our first sighting in Tokyo!

We then got back on the bus and visited the Shibuya Scramble. It was like Times Square in NYC but also hyper-active. I loved it, but I also don’t mind crowded cities and bright lights.

That night we were booked for one of the optional excursions and headed off for our Japanese Cooking Class. We were greeted with a glass of sake or sparkling wine and then gathered round the main cooktop station to learn how to prepare our meal. We made an egg dish, a salad, and gyudon, a beef and onion dish.

It was neat making those dishes and it was a good dinner, but the excursion was described differently on the itinerary and it ended up being a bit expensive for what we actually got out of it. Not sure I’d sign up for it again if we return to Japan with Go Ahead.

Day 4: Free day in Tokyo or day trip to Kamakura

We opted for a visit to Kamakura as we know if we return to Japan we could do Tokyo on our own and probably would struggle getting to Kamakura. The day trip was an add-on and was $135 per person. I felt this was worth the cost as that covered our train tickets, a local guide, a visit to the temples and sightseeing, and a lunch.

It was an hour train ride from Tokyo to Kamakura and then we hopped on another little tram to go visit the Kamakura Hasedera temple where we saw the statues to honor the lives of lost children, the statue in honor of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, and a Buddha statue.

The grounds also included a garden and a neat cave.

Then it was time for our included sit-down lunch featuring a variety of traditional Japanese dishes, like pickled vegetables, prawns, tofu, soup, and noodles.

Next up was a visit to the main attraction: the Great Buddha. We had plenty of time to get souvenirs, snap pictures, and even go inside the statue!

We walked along a trail that should have been full of blooms, but sadly it was not. But, we did get to visit the beautiful Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine!

The shrine was originally built in 1063, but located on a different site and was dedicated to the deity of samurai and war, Hachiman. The shrine moved to its current location in 1191. 

We were supposed to have free time in Kamakura for some shopping or snacking, but unfortunately there was an emergency on the train tracks so we had to head back int Tokyo ASAP before schedule changes impacted our ability to get back to the city.

We ended up not going back to the hotel with the group and switched trains in Tokyo to head to the Akihabara neighborhood. I was on the hunt for two things: A cute animal-themed cafe and a Sailor Moon plushie.

Unfortunately neither panned out. We found out some cafes require reservations or it was going to be over an hour wait for a cat cafe. So we scrapped that idea and decided to check out the anime-themed stores and shops. Akihabara was super cool and busy, but also very bright and loud!

We were going to find a conveyor belt sushi restaurant for dinner but the wait was ridiculous. So we opted for convenience store sushi which was fine!

Day 5: Tokyo & Mt. Fuji region

The next morning we trolled Tokyo for some cherry blossoms at Ueno Park. We had some time in the park to snap our pics of the blossoms before it was time to visit the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. We had plenty of time to walk the trails and take in the stunning gardens and neat buildings on the grounds.

Afterward, we were getting ready to leave Tokyo but we had one more stop at the Observatory at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It was really neat to see the city from this viewpoint. Just due to the wait to get up to the top we didn’t have much time to stay at the top of the observatory, but it was enough to get some good pics.

It was back onto the bus so we could make out way toward Mt. Fuji. Our drive did include a stop at a bus/car park where we could get lunch and snacks. We then continued on toward the Fujisan World Heritage Center.

Unfortunately for us it was super cloudy so we have no view of the volcano, but we did visit the museum and learned more about it and enjoyed the exhibits and shopped for gifts.

We then drove to our hotel in Odawara, got checked in, and joined our group for a buffet dinner, complete with sashimi, sushi, noodles, and potato croquettes. We enjoyed chatting with friends and eating a leisurely dinner before turning in for a good night’s sleep.

Day 6: Mt. Fuji region & Kyoto

We didn’t get to see Mt. Fuji the day before and we definitely weren’t seeing it on this morning. We can laugh about it now but this day was kind of a bust because the weather was just atrocious. We had literal gale force winds.

We were supposed to take a boat cruise across Lake Ashi and enjoy an incredible view of Mt. Fuji. But it was canceled. Then we went up in Hakone where we should have gone on a cable car ride but that for sure was not happening! I mean people were falling over because the wind was so fierce.

We still went to Hakone and learned about the hot springs and the region and tried a black egg (which is supposed to add seven years to our lives!).

We then went to lunch at a soba noodle restaurant and then did a sake tasting – and got a cute souvenir sake cup!

Afterward, the weather started clearing up a bit so we were able to stop at the Hakone Open Air Museum, which was very neat. There were gardens, sculptures, and a Picasso exhibit.

The weather was finally getting really nice but it was time to get on our bullet train that would take us to Kyoto and then the best thing happened and we got to see Mt. Fuji from the train! The ride was two hours and then we were in Kyoto and the weather was finally on our side!

We got checked into our hotel and reunited with our big suitcases and then we made the trek over to the Pokemon store – like mature adults do! Not gonna lie, I got a super cute stuffed Pikachu, some candy, and souvenirs for my other nerdy friends.

We then strolled back toward the hotel looking for a place to eat and funnily enough stopped at the last place before our hotel and then later heard our tour director tell us how great and popular this place was – so we picked well!

We enjoyed a delicious ramen dinner and some cold beers. Seriously, this was probably the best umami ramen I’ve ever had!

We then walked half a block back to our hotel and went to bed as we had a full day of exploring Kyoto ahead of us the next day.

Day 7: Kyoto

Our first morning in Kyoto started off with a mindful Zen meditation session. We were led through two sessions and then given a sweet treat and some green tea. Rick said this was his favorite thing he did on the trip and it was a very unique experience.

We were then supposed to take the Philosopher’s Walk to see the blossoms, but our tour director changed our plans as the cherry blossoms weren’t in bloom there yet so we went to the Imperial Palace and were greeted by the sight of stunning cherry blossom trees.

After walking the grounds and taking approximately 600 photos it was time to move onto our next activity: A visit to the Golden Pavilion!

We did make a quick stop at a convenience store to pick up a to-go lunch to eat on the bus as we didn’t really have time in our itinerary for a sit-down lunch.

We then stopped at Kinkakuji AKA the Golden Pavilion. We walked the grounds, got pictures of the gorgeous temple, and had time to get some souvenirs. Since the weather was finally in our favor it was warm enough to warrant trying some green tea ice cream, which was quite tasty!

Next up was a visit to Nijo Castle! This castle is famous for its nightingale floors due to the sound the floors make as people walk on them. It was pretty neat and unlike anything I’ve ever seen or heard before. The castle was and different rooms were stunning. The building is a national treasure as it was built in 1603.

We had some free time to explore the buildings on our own or go get some snacks or souvenirs. Rick and I walked the grounds and found a beautiful garden and then happened across a dance festival that was taking place on the grounds. We watched a few performances and then made our way back to the meeting point.

Masa detoured a bit from the itinerary a bit and added on a stop at Fushimi Inari Shrine, which was perfect as I really wanted to see the torii gates here. We had about 45 minutes there to walk the trail and battle the crowds. It did thin out the further we walked and it was a neat experience.

That night was one of our friend’s birthdays and Masa had helped us book a dinner at a nice sushi restaurant, Sushi Momonoki. We had our own private room and were served a multi-course dinner.

It was an exceptional meal where we had:

  • Sashimi
  • Nigiri
  • Roe
  • Tofu
  • Sushi rolls
  • Egg custard
  • Matcha gelee dessert

After dinner it was time to roll ourselves back to the hotel and into bed for a full-day adventure outside of Kyoto the next day.

Day 8: Nara

The next morning we had a little day trip to Nara for some sightseeing and of course to feed the deer at Nara Park!

Our day did start with a visit to the Buddhist Todaiji Temple where we saw the giant Buddhas and spotted some gorgeous cherry blossom trees.

Next up was the main attraction: Feeding the deer in Nara Park!

I think it was like ¥200 for a stack of rice crackers to feed the deer and they know when you have them! One tried taking a bite out of Rick’s shorts, my blazer was nibbled on and you basically have to show your palms to let them know you’re out. But they are so cute when they come up and bow to you to get fed.

We then had an included lunch that day complete with rice, tempura shrimp, salad, tofu, and a dessert. It was a nice light lunch and then we were dropped off at a shopping mall area, though Rick and I went and explored and came across a cool temple before buying some snacks we’d seen on Somebody Feed Phil.

The bus took us back to our hotel in Kyoto for a free night or there was an optional excursion.

We opted not to do the excursion that night, a tea ceremony, which turned out to be a good idea as we heard mixed reviews. Rick and I ended up walking to the Gion neighborhood on our own to visit the temple and see the famous home of the Geishas.

It was about a 45-minute walk from our hotel and it was a beautiful night. We strolled along the river and enjoyed our free time. We then met up with our friends at the Nintendo store for some souvenir shopping before heading out for our steak dinner that night!

Masa had recommended we do this while in Kyoto and I’m so glad we did! And I’m so glad he was able to call the restaurant and book a table for us! I got a delicious plate of wagyu beef on a sizzling plate and the steak just melted in my mouth.

Day 9: Kyoto

Our last day in Kyoto was a designated free day but having missed some of the activities in the Mt. Fuji region, Masa added on some activities for us this morning so we hopped on the bus and headed outside the city for a mochi making class!

Let’s just say I should keep my day job, but Rick and one of our friends could easily get jobs at the factories and create beautiful, edible works of art.

We then had an included lunch not too far from our mochi making session and it was a fabulous meal, and was set in a super cute restaurant with huge windows that overlooked a garden. This restaurant was a no-shoes place and you put your shoes in a locker. We had rice with little prawns, sashimi, soup, tofu, and a delightful pound cake for dessert.

That afternoon we were booked on the Arashiyama District & Okochi Sanso Garden excursion. We both really enjoyed this! The bamboo forest was busy but beautiful, but once we made it to the Zen garden it was pretty much just our group exploring the grounds. It was very tranquil and a very nice escape from the crowds.

That night was our farewell dinner in Kyoto and we went to a hot pot restaurant. It was a unique experience – and we got some complimentary sake! – but also bittersweet as it meant our Japan tour was coming to an end.

That night, Masa took anyone interested over to the Gion district, but since Rick and I had gone on our own the night before we went back to the hotel so we could start packing and figuring out just where in the hell we could fit all our souvenirs!

Day 10: Osaka

The next morning we were leaving Kyoto and heading to Osaka. We had a few hours in Osaka before having to head to the airport for our flights home. We made a beautiful photo and snack stop and it was a great way to say goodbye to Japan.

We then headed off to the airport around noon so we’d have plenty of time to check bags and get through security as our flight was at 4:50 p.m.


We had booked three of the four optional excursions as the tea ceremony didn’t really appeal to us and we’d rather have that time to explore Kyoto on our own.

Cooking class – Tokyo

Go Ahead description: Tonight, join an experienced chef at a local restaurant for a cooking lesson and dinner. Grab your apron and watch as the chef demonstrates how to make traditional Japanese cuisine such as gyudon, miso soup, cucumber pickles, or a chicken teriyaki bento box. Then, try your hand at crafting your own authentic meal before sitting down to enjoy the cuisine for dinner. Please note: It may not be possible to accommodate requests related to food allergies.

Reality: We did make traditional dishes and the chef did a fantastic presentation, but I guess we expected more out of it or to have a bit more food or variety of food. We made an egg dish, a salad, and gyudon. We did also get sake or sparkling wine to sip on while cooking. It was a fine experience, but for the cost I just expected a bit more out of it. We did a copy of the recipe of our main dish so we can make it at home, which will be nice to recreate.

Cost: $125 per person

Kamakura – Tokyo

Go Ahead description: Step aboard a local train in Tokyo and make your way to the seaside city of Kamakura, where you’ll explore the countryside, temples, and shrines on a guided walking tour. Pay a visit to the city’s famous Great Buddha and Hase Kannon Temples. Then, sit down for an included lunch and enjoy free time to peruse the arts and crafts for sale along Komachi Shopping Street before transferring back to Tokyo on the train. Please note: Travelers should expect to walk around 10,000 steps along even terrain.

Reality: This day trip definitely met my expectations and matched the description provided by Go Ahead. This was a full-day trip, we left in the 8 a.m. hour and returned back to Tokyo after 5 p.m. I’m glad we did this excursion as it was something we probably wouldn’t pursue on our own and it was definitely a neat experience.

Cost: $135 per person

Arashiyama District & Okochi Sanso Garden – Kyoto

Go Ahead description: Depart from Kyoto and enjoy a short transfer as you travel west to Arashiyama. This historic district boasts stunning natural beauty, and you’ll take it all in on a guided sightseeing tour. Step inside the UNESCO-listed Tenryū-ji Temple, which was originally constructed in the 12th century and is considered one of Kyoto’s most important sites. Meander through the striking Bamboo Grove, where soaring stalks flank a singular pathway. Finally, see the rolling, tree-covered hills that surround the Hozu River and the Togetsukyo Bridge. Spanning almost 170 feet, the beautiful wooden bridge sits against the backdrop of Arashiyama mountain. Afterwards, head to the beautiful Okochi Sanso Garden located in the foothills of Mt. Ogura and was the former home to Japanese period film star Okochi Denjiro until 1962. Upon arrival, you’ll enter the Okochi villa’s tea house to enjoy a matcha drink tasting followed by a leisurely stroll through the gardens. Wander along winding paths surrounded by lush greenery and amazing views of Kyoto, the Kozugaway river, and the Arashiyama mountains. Please note: The walk through the garden is roughly one mile. Travelers who wish to not participate in the garden walk may remain at the tea house or explore the gardens on their own.

Reality: The reality of this trip also met our expectations and was worth booking. The only mismatch is that we did not get a matcha drink when we arrived, but that’s fine. The Bamboo Grove alone was worth the visit as it was super cool to see and the Zen Garden was absolutely beautiful. 10/10 would recommend.

Cost: $119

Tour Director

Masa, our tour director, was great and went above in beyond in helping us with dinner reservations and making sure to swap out things on our itinerary to match our expectations. For example, we were supposed to do the Philosopher’s Walk in Kyoto, but switched it out for a visit the Imperial Palace as there were supposedly no blooms along the walking trail but we did get to see them at the palace.

It was one of our friend’s birthdays while we were in Kyoto and I asked Masa where we should go for a nice sushi dinner, and he was amazing and said he’d take care of it. He booked us a private room at a sushi restaurant and we had a fantastic meal, which we would not have without his assistance.

Masa was also good at communicating times to meet and sharing tips for what we needed to have with us for our day, like our “whispers” or sound boxes so we could hear the local guides. He was also good at giving instructions, like when we went off to Akihabara on our own, he told us how to get train tickets and how to get back to our hotel safely.

He took great care of all of us and was always making sure we were where we needed to be and accounted for.

Our hotel room in Tokyo


I swear Japan has some major hotel emporium where all the hotels have to buy their furnishings and amenities from. Every single hotel we stayed at had the exact same hair dryer!

But, the hotels we stayed at on our trip were clean, comfortable, and well-located. It was easy to walk to things from each hotel or easy to take public transportation. Our hotel rooms had two beds (double occupancy), a sitting area, and a bathroom. The bathroom in our Tokyo hotel threw us for a loop at first as the shower was in a wet room! Our next two hotels had more Western-style showers. And of course our hotel rooms had incredibly fancy toilets with bidets, massagers, and the whole kit and kaboodle.

Each hotel also offered breakfast each morning. Our breakfast in Tokyo was our favorite as it had a buffet and you could special order dishes, like eggs, French toast, or try a traditional Japanese breakfast.

I’ll be honest, we did not check out the breakfast at our hotel in Odawara as Rick and I don’t always eat breakfast, but I made sure to check it out in Kyoto and it was a nice buffet spread.

Our hotel in Odawara did have an onsen as well as private ones, but they were all booked when we inquired at reception.

The hotels we stayed at:

Tokyo (3 nights)
Asakusa View Hotel Annex
2-9-10 Asakusa, Taito-ku 
Tokyo, 111-0032

Kanagawa (Mt. Fuji region – 1 night)
Tenseien Station Hotel Odawara
Bldg. 4F 1-1-15 Sakae-cho, Odawara-shi
Kanagawa, 250-0011

Kyoto (4 nights)
Urban Hotel Gojo Premium
87 Koizumi-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
Kyoto, 600-8480


Go Ahead trips always include transportation once you’re on the tour, so the price of the bus transportation and trains is covered. We book our flights through Go Ahead as well so that way if there are any issues with our flights or connections, they’re there to help us out instead of us having to deal with that added stress.


We had booked our flights through Go Ahead and were routed through San Francisco. We left Denver at around 8 a.m., had a layover in San Francisco, and then left San Francisco around noon on Sunday. We then arrived in Tokyo at 3:30 p.m. on Monday. Our flight from DEN to SFO was on a United plane and then our flight from SFO to NRT was on an ANA plane.

The ANA flight was very nice. The service was great, the food was good, and we got a bit of sleep on the way there.

Coming home, we flew from Osaka (KIX) and left just before 5 p.m., had another layover in San Francisco, but then arrived back in Denver right around 6 p.m. It was such a strange feeling to have arrived an hour after we had left! We really were time travelers that day. Both of our flights were on United aircraft.

Airport transfers

When you book flights with Go Ahead that also includes transfers to and from the airport. You can add on transfers if you want to book your own flights and it’s about $25 per person.

The nice thing about the transfers is you don’t have to figure out how to get to the hotel on your own and you don’t have to worry about getting to the airport on time for the flight home, it’s all handled for you.


Like every single Go Ahead trip we’ve done, we spent a bit of time on the bus as it’s the easiest way to transport a big group of travelers. We used our bus for our guided tour of Tokyo, transport between the cities, and for certain excursions.


This trip included a few different train rides. We took the subway and a train to Kamakura as well as a bullet train to Tokyo. The bullet train experience was really cool!

Pace of tour

What a whirlwind! 

Go Ahead tours are go, go, go, but this one even more so! Both Rick and I commented how quick this tour was compared to our last tour in England, Scotland, and Ireland. I think something that contributed to that was that this trip was shorter than our last. The funny thing is that we had more time in each city on this Japan trip, but our itinerary was packed.

We had also booked excursions during what could have been our free time or free day in the city so that is on us too in making this trip feel so fast-paced.

If you book this tour, be prepared to walk quite a bit and expect long days out and about. I’m extremely happy we packed portable chargers for our phones, especially for our day in Kyoto when we first saw the blooms and our day in Nara.

Price of the tour

This tour was just under $7,000 per person for a 10-day trip (or eight days if you don’t count the travel days).

  • Total tour cost (per person): $6,821
  • Tour: $4,579
  • Flights (from Denver): $1,855
  • Trip insurance: $449
  • Excursions: $379

We did have $441 worth of discounts and vouchers applied to the trip to bring some of the costs down. We still had some leftover money from our voucher for a trip that was canceled in 2020 (for obvious reasons), and then we had some discounts available by being a member of Go Ahead’s loyalty program, as well as a sale they were running.

I do want to add that tips are not required or forced but they are recommended for the full-time tour director, bus drivers, and local guides. We always tip because our tour director is basically on-call all the time during the trip, our bus drivers are fantastic, and the local guides deserve a tip for a job well done.

For tipping, you’ll be looking at about:

  • Tour Director: $8-10 USD per day
  • Bus driver: $2-4 USD per day
  • Local guide: $1-3 USD per day

You’ll pay in the local currency, so either factor that in when exchanging cash in the US or plan to take it out of an ATM when you arrive. We make sure to have our tips ready before we leave.

Overall thoughts of our Japan tour with Go Ahead

All in, this was a fantastic tour and I’m so glad we were able to go with our friends and experience Japan. We both enjoyed having Masa there to help us with the cultural differences and language barrier. We had learned a few key phrases, but not enough to be able to book some of the experiences he booked for us.

We also got lucky with our timing and got to see the blooms opening up in Kyoto. While it was hit-or-miss in Tokyo, we got to see some beautiful cherry blossoms in Kyoto and Osaka before flying home. Even though it was rainy in Tokyo and Hakone, we had pretty good weather the rest of the trip.

We enjoyed our accommodations, our flights were smooth, and we loved just how much we got to see on this trip. I’ve already got my eye on a return trip to Japan or a combo trip of Japan and South Korea with Go Ahead.

If you have any questions about our tour, please feel free to ask in the comments!

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Hey, I'm Stephanie! I'm a copywriter living in beautiful Denver with my husband Rick, and our dog Rocco. I love traveling, writing, reading, and being outside as much as possible - unless I'm on the couch binge watching Stranger Things with a glass of wine! Thanks for reading and being a part of the adventure with Back to the Passport! ❤️

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