When visitors enter a 旅行会社 (Travel Agent) in Japan, they can be in for a surprise. Despite the fact that travel agents arrange travel to foreign countries, they are still relatively Japanese-focused. It can be surprising that a lot of them only have a single member of staff who speaks anything except basic English.
This can cause a lot of problems if that particular member of staff is busy, as you will have to wait for a long time. Luckily it’s easy to get what you want if you speak a little bit of Japanese. Plus, communicating in Japanese has other hidden benefits like being able to get the cheaper flights.
Luckily a lot of the questions that you will frequently use at the 旅行会社 are words that are similar to English. If you have a preferred airline, it is not difficult to remember the phrase 好きなエアライン, for example. Similarly you will often be asked if you are a マイレージプログラムメンバ (a member of a loyalty/ mileage program) or simply if you have a マイレージカード or not.
Another word that is commonly asked is if you want to join aツアー (tour) or not. The problem is deciding what type of tour to take. There are: 団体旅行 (group tours), 個人旅行 (an individual tour) and パック旅行/ パックツアー (a package tour). Some of these are not offered unless you specifically ask for them which is a huge benefit of learning Japanese words.
Strangely in Japan, the ツアー may actually be the cheapest option. While some tours can consist of hours trapped on buses visiting rocks that you are assured have some kind of historical significance, other tours can give you a lot of free time, include meals and all transportation. Recently, I managed to find a trip to Indonesia that combined a 5-star hotel, meals and even travel with almost no busing around that was far cheaper than I could have arranged separately.
Those wanting to save even more money may want to ask about ローコストキャリア (often abbreviated to LCC). This is a general word used for the budget airlines that have started appearing in Japan such as the cheaper, no-frills airlines like Jetstar and Peach. As these are budget airlines some travel agents will not touch them, so don’t expect them to always be an option.
Other ways to save money are to decide whether you want a 直行便 (direct flight) or a flight with a ストップオーバー (stopover). Flights that have one or two stops are often called 乗継便 and are usually a great way to save money if time is no object.
The final thing you will need to decide is how many days you plan to spend in the country that you want to visit. Usually in Japan these are counted by how many nights you will spend overseas using the suffix ~泊. You can, of course, use days ~日, however be careful to change the days into their date counters: ふつか (2 days), みっか (3 days) and よっか (4 days).
The last thing that you will have to decide is whether you need 保険 (insurance) and 両替 (currency exchange) or not.
The best thing about learning some of these words is that they not only save you time, but save you money too. All of that for learning only a small amount of new words!