Tokyo Disney Resort – May 2004


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Planning Our Trip

We had never visited Japan before. Although we’ve traveled out of the US (to Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean and Canada — and Mike had even lived in Australia as a child), somehow Asia seemed much more “foreign” and intimidating to me. At the same time, I was really excited about visiting Tokyo, and of course Tokyo Disney Resort, on what I expected would be a very expensive “once in a lifetime” trip. I felt I would finally be able to think of myself as a true “world traveler” after this adventure.

As it turned out, visiting Japan was an adventure, but a totally pleasant and surprisingly low-stress one. It really wasn’t intimidating at all, and while many things were a bit “foreign” to me, I enjoyed it so much that I have no doubt I’ll go back. Other than our hotel, which was very expensive because we decided to splurge, our costs were far from unaffordable. Despite what you hear, visiting Japan does not have to be outrageously expensive. For instance, I believe we spent less per day on food than we have typically spent at Walt Disney World or in New York City.

Because of the long travel time, and because we thought this might be a one-time visit, we decided to stay in Japan for nine nights. Originally the plan was to spend the first seven nights in Tokyo, making day trips by train to one or two interesting tourist destinations outside of the city, and then we were going to move to one of the official Tokyo Disney Resort hotels for the final two nights.

I called more than four months in advance to make a reservation at the Hotel MiraCosta at Tokyo DisneySea and found that all the least expensive rooms were already booked. The lowest rate I could get was ¥50800 (over $450) per night. Oh well. I booked it.

Then we watched Lost in Translation, the film with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson, and we were quite impressed by what we saw of the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Mike said, half-jokingly, “can’t we stay there? That looks nice!” I did some reading about the Park Hyatt, and the consensus seemed to be that it is the best hotel in Tokyo — and possibly the best in the world. Wow.

I did some research and found the Park Hyatt would be ¥48300 (about $429) per night for the least expensive room that was still available (a Park Room, which is larger than a standard room) — and that was for a fully prepaid rate with a lot of restrictions. The slightly-less-expensive standard rooms were already sold out. I told Mike the price and we both blanched. It just sounded like too much money.

But over the next few days, the hotel kept coming up in conversation and the rationalizations started! I mentioned that the two nights at Disney’s MiraCosta hotel would actually be more expensive than staying at the Park Hyatt. I also mentioned that I had paid more than $500 per night for concierge-level rooms at Walt Disney World (although only for a night or two at a time).

We discussed it again, and we talked about how this would probably be a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Japan, but I left the reservations alone.

One day I got a mailing from American Express, which reminded me that my Platinum Card from American Express gives me access to the Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR) program. This is a program that provides special amenities at the top hotels in the world. I called FHR and asked about booking the Park Hyatt. The rate was ¥48000 (about $425, a few bucks cheaper than the lowest rate on the Hyatt website), with no prepayment required. That rate would also include free daily Continental breakfast and one free afternoon tea for two during our stay.

Well, that was slightly more tempting, but still… we were talking about a lot of money!

And then a big check came in unexpectedly — big enough to pay for our stay at the Park Hyatt! It was like a sign from above. I showed Mike the check and we looked at each other for a few moments.

Mike said, “Let’s do it. And let’s stay there the whole time, so we don’t have to hassle with changing hotels.”

So we did. And we had a much better time than the characters in Lost in Translation.

Read more about some things I love about Japan.

Go to Part 2 of the Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report.