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TOKYO THRIFT

When to book your flights and hotel for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games mascot Miraitowa holds the torch of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games during a Torch Relay event to mark the 300-day milestone to the starting date of the torch relay, in Tokyo, Japan June 1, 2019.
Reuters/Issei Kato
Let the waiting games begin.
Daniel Wolfe
By Daniel Wolfe

Things reporter

Japan is hosting 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. If you would like to go, it won’t be cheap. Assuming you can even get a ticket in the first place, attending the opening ceremony and one event would cost you $10,000. However, if you time your airfare and hotel booking just right, you could save a few hundred dollars.

Taking-off costs

According to historic pricing data from Hopper, an online travel agent, global prices for flights rise by an average of 35% to the Olympic’s hosting country when compared with to average costs. When compared to air travel costs to the Pyeongchang and Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the best time to buy is eight weeks out from the games’ opening ceremony for most countries.

Flights departing from countries in East and Southeast Asia are expected to be the cheapest, with estimated prices as low as $326 to Tokyo. For folks traveling across the Pacific ocean, you can expect to pay 20 to 25% more than usual to fly to the olympics. Hopper expects the most expensive flights to be from the Caribbean islands with prices possible reaching $2,200 round trip. Hopper says the best times to book and estimated times are as follows:

Departing regionWhen to bookEstimated priceSavings off average price
Africa and Middle EastMay 22-29$69023%
CaribbeanDec. 27 – Jan. 3$2,2329%
AsiaMay 8-15$32618%
CanadaMay 15-22$74728%
EuropeMay 8-15$56125%
Mexico and Central AmericaApril 24 – May 1$64845%
OceaniaMay 15-22$63716%
RussiaMay 8-15$80119%
South AmericaMay 22-29$1,12621%
United StatesMay 29 – June 5$89218%

The torch is not lit

For a better deal, skip the opening ceremonies. Tickets offered through resellers are going for $7,000 in the US and airfares drop significantly during the Games’ first week. Airfares are expected to be 24% lower a week after the opening ceremonies. That would leave you with nine days to enjoy the events.

Hotel, motel, Hokkaidō inn

This will be the first Airbnb sponsored Olympics. The online rental-listing service signed a deal which the Financial Times reported to be worth $500 million dollars. The nine year contract—covering five Olympic and Paralympic games—is not meant to replace the Olympic-village housing the Games provides for athletes. Instead it’s intended to guarantee housing for visitors, families of athletes, and Olympic officials, according to Thomas Bach, the chair of the International Olympic Committee.

Building hotels to accommodate the Olympic visitors has shown to be unsustainable. Purpose-built hotels in previous host country’s have remained under-occupied or vacant following the games. Nonetheless, the influx of athletes, media, and spectators, can be expected to drive up demand, restrict supply, and make accommodations very expensive.

Looking at previous Summer Olympic list prices compiled by online booking company, Kayak, the lowest rates are booked three months before the start of the Tokyo games.

Flexibility will help you save money. Making connections in alternative cities—such as flying to Osaka and taking a bullet train to the games—could be much cheaper than direct travel to Tokyo.

You might consider even a stay in Sapporo, Hokkaidō, where demand for hotels will be lower. Although Japan’s northern most island is an 8-hour ride from Tokyo, the marathon and some qualifying-round soccer matches will be held there. That offers a doubly cheap Olympic experience. Watching the marathon runners along the route is free.

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