The seed for this trip was sown seemingly out of the blue (aren't they always?). My mum called one day to tell me that my oldest friend, R, was getting married. R and I have known each other since we were 3 and our families remained close even after he moved to Kuala Lumpur and then on to Melbourne.
I knew that there was no way I was missing the wedding, my parents were definitely in and one of my girlfriend, K's, greatest wishes in life was to visit Australia.
Since getting involved in the whole 'travel hacking' thing, I've wanted to share this with my friends and family. Sure, it's fun to rush around by yourself and let's face it; most of our loved ones aren't always going to be up for doubling the length of their journey for the sake of going to a specific lounge or entering a country for the sake of flying out of the national carrier's home base, in order to get better catering on board. However, most of the fun in life comes in sharing your experiences with others.
The point being: if we were going to do this trip, we would need a well considered stopover. LHR-MEL is a brutal distance. Nobody (sane) wants to fly for 20+ hours without sleeping in a real bed, especially if they're flying over somewhere exotic and otherwise inaccessible en-route. Somewhere that could make for an extra holiday in its own right.
Since Japan is one of my favourite travel destinations, I'm always telling everybody how much I enjoy spending time there. It's pretty much my life's mission to make sure that everybody goes there at least once, to see for themselves how amazing it is.
One thing I've always wanted to experience in Japan is the cherry blossom. I find it quietly compelling that the Japanese fill so much of their land with trees that 95% of the time punctuate the cities with nothing other than a grey, slender, sombre presence. All for the sake of 2-3 weeks, during which they explode in colour.
This eruption of life is widely celebrated, with families and groups of friends lining up and laying down picnic blankets under the most coveted hanami (cherry blossom watching) spots. I have some great friends in Japan, whom you may remember from this TR : Champlagnes and if I can make an excuse to see them I always will!
Given that my Dad was turning 60 just at the time when the blossoms were due, 10 days before the wedding, I thought it would be a great idea to get my parents and K on their first long haul J, first time visiting Japan and for all of us: our first ever Park Hyatt experience (if you don't count the time me and my buddies used the restrooms at the PH Sydney back in 2006)!
My parents flew a day before us on the same VS J flight and took JL J for NRT-SYD, it is always harder travelling with groups of more than 2 but if you're flexible you can make it work.
After seeing so many positive reviews on here and the blogs we decided to stay as much as possible in Hyatt hotels. I signed up for a Diamond challenge and bought gift cheques and stay certificates at 10% off - also referred via top cashback, this made the rates a real winner, particularly given that we all got free breakfast, room upgrades etc.
K wrote about the trip extensively on her blog, www.euriental.com, the blog is mostly fashion and style focused but there are loads of very high quality pics of all the hotels there, in trip specific posts. Feel free to check it out if you like, it'll give you a good taste of what's to come in the TR, I know I hate the anticipation of waiting for massive, multi part trips to get posted!