Tokyo Olympics Hotel Award Space is Sold Out – Make a Backup Plan

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Tokyo Olympics hotel award space sold out

Tokyo Olympics Hotel Award Space is Gone. It’s Time for a New Plan.

I snoozed and missed out on hotel award space for the Tokyo Olympics. As I’ve mentioned, my wife and I are planning to go to the Tokyo Olympics next year in July 2020. I got so caught up in worrying about flight arrangements and the ticket lottery for the games that the hotel booking hadn’t crossed my mind. Last night, I thought I’d take a look. There’s nothing. Award space at the time of the Olympics next year is basically 0. Here’s my Plan B…I mean D.

Hotel award space searches

Without beating around the bush, I found nothing that works for us. Hyatt has absolutely 0. Marriott has nothing. Hilton showed only one possibility, needing 430,000 points for just 2 nights’ stay at the Hilton Tokyo Bay.

Hilton award space Tokyo Olympics

The room is a premium room option, the Happy Magic Room with an ocean view. Not only do I not have 430,000 Hilton points right now, that’s also a lot for 2 nights when we still need to plan other nights in Japan outside of Tokyo.

Hilton premium award Tokyo Olympics

Hotel Awards Plan B – Expand the Search

Seeing the lack of Tokyo hotel award space, my wife suggested we try to stay an hour away and just take the train every day. Since we’re planning on using the Japan rail pass with unlimited rides anyway, this is a good idea for Plan B. I expanded the search radius.

Marriott award space Tokyo Olympics

Marriott still told me there was absolutely nothing. Hyatt showed me an available hotel 2 hours from Tokyo but kept giving me errors during booking. I picked up the phone to call to finish the booking.

Hyatt award space Tokyo Olympics

The Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort and Spa was the closest Hyatt property to Tokyo showing availability. It’s a 2-hour train ride from Tokyo each way, but this seemed like our best bet. Turns out the reason I couldn’t book it is because no “standard rooms” are still available. There are only premium rooms that can’t be booked with points. The cheapest was $680 per night. I hung up.

Hyatt Regency Hakone availability olympics

Plan C – Pay With Cash

My next idea was to look for something off-brand and inexpensive around Tokyo that we could stay at. I’m easy to please on this. I went to and put in some very basic options: free wifi, guest rating of 5/10 minimum, $300 per night maximum. The only things that showed up were hostels. In fact, among those, all of them were for “female only” and “male only” rooms. Not a good option to book something requiring us to sleep in separate rooms. When I clicked all of the property types I was willing to take, the hostels disappeared. My search results became 0. space Tokyo Olympics

Plan D – AirBnb

Plan D became AirBnb. Mark recently shared his Airbnb likes & dislikes here. Since we couldn’t get any free stays around the time of the Tokyo Olympics with a hotel award, combining all of the previous ideas was the end result. For $100/night, we’re staying an hour from Tokyo. Anything closer is booked up or horribly expensive. We booked through to at least get some extra Delta miles out of the deal. I used to get some cash back on the deal. It’s not free, it’s not perfect, but it was the best I could do with the options in front of me. (note: make sure your host has a license to operate Airbnb in Japan, due to new laws)

Final Thoughts for Anyone Still Looking for Tokyo Olympics Hotel Awards

If you snoozed on this like I did, the options are minimal. That’s putting it lightly. I booked an AirBnb host with a friendly cancelation policy. I’ll still be looking for other options along the way, since I have until June 15 next year to cancel this booking. I focused too much on the other things and overlooked the hotel room. Knowing that most hotels don’t black out award booking space, I underestimated the necessity of booking early. Lesson learned.

Ryan Smith
Ryan Smith
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

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  1. Ok you guys are killing me. I travel to japan regularly. I am currently in japan.

    Your hotel is part of your issue. But you really need to study the rail system and the rail pass that you will be buying and how to make reservations. I’m hoping JR will change the railpass to an electronic card. But if they continue the current process. You will be in-line a lot to get the pass and then to make reservations-where required. You can make all of your reservations at one tine if you know what you want. Unless he changes the rules to keep people moving. They could put a limit. Also beginning in May 2020 there will be restrictions on luggage that has not been there before. I just saw the posters. They will tell you that you have to have the bags shipped. This is for certain size bags. I could go on. But the idea in this message. If you stay out of town-make sure you have studied the logistics. Otherwise you will have a nice stay in Nagoya and miss the olympics

    Hotel reservations-try japanican
    Best website and app for train timetable info –

    • I don’t know why we are killing you. I also travel to Japan quite often, about once a year. Maybe not as much as you or anyone else in particular, but at least I am familiar enough.

      If staying some place as far out as Nagoya, of course making advance rail reservations will be crucial for this once in a lifetime event; I’ll plan on doing so as soon as the reservation system opens a month out (assuming I haven’t found closer accommodations by then). I’m not sure how luggage restrictions are a concern when taking Nagoya to Tokyo day-trips though.

      My Japanese friends always recommend Japanican when making any type of travel arrangements within Japan. The trouble is that their reservation system only goes about 200 days out (at least for their international English site), so it isn’t any use for the Olympics yet.

  2. Yeah, you didn’t snooze. Even if you had been on top of everything when all the major chains release inventory, you would not have been able to book any Tokyo area properties with points, much less cash. Of the options you listed above, you only could have booked the Hyatt Regency Hakone within a couple of days of inventory release, but points options were snapped up pretty quick.

    Piggybacking on Marc’s suggestion, I have the Nagoya Marriott booked during the Games. It is right above Nagoya station, and has many of the same advantages with the Shinkansen as the ANA Crowne Plaza Nagoya. Although less than an ideal back-up, travel to Tokyo will likely be quicker and more efficient than staying at the Hyatt Regency Hakone.

    Although I think it’s extremely likely that some of our favorite Tokyo chain hotels will release inventory within a month or so of the Games, I am skeptical that any rooms will be available with points. As long as a hotel doesn’t release a standard room, they can sell a room with a view or higher floor at a huge mark-up, and they are following the terms of their programs. Hopefully I’m wrong.

  3. Normally the IOC folks and media companies (NBC/BBC/etc.) book up all the international chain hotels. There will be cancellations and they’ll open them up but that’ll be sometime 1-2 months before the olympics. Good luck! I’ll be going as well (3rd summer olympics for me) and staying with a friend who is working there as an expat.
    In both 2012 and 2016, I only used my hotel room for sleeping. That’s it. Remember Japan has a culture of cleanliness so even a 2 (or even 1) star hotel will be squeaky clean. Good luck on your search!

  4. An option for the Bullet Train ….. as it is right at the train station and Japan Railways Shinkansen operates a train from Tokyo to Kanayama Station every 15 minutes and the journey takes 1h 41m

    ANA Crowne Plaza : Hotel Grand Court Nagoya

    Entered 7/27-08/04 and rooms available for 25k points a night. The room seems to be small but 25k IHG points are $125 a night (or less if you have one or both Chase cards and/or am Ambassador)

    • Awesome. I had tickets to the London 2012 games, stationed in Germany in the army at the time. Then the DoD banned us from going for elevated terrorism risk. Then the same when I had tickets to Sochi 2014. This is my 3rd try on the Olympics, but first time with trying to use hotel points as part of the trip.

  5. I believe Airbnb was outlawed recently in japan. Issues with complying with the laws. You better make sure u really have a reservation. Also keep in mind that because of the volume of people you may not be able to get train reservations. With the rail pass you have to wait until you arrive in japan and have access if using the bullet. Locals are even concerned about communiting

    • Yeah, tracking on the Japan / Airbnb situation and made sure the host has a license. The rail pass situation still seems like the best situation for us after considering the massive cost savings and the fact that it allows you to use the vast majority of train lines. We’ll make bookings as soon as we can after arrival. Have you used the rail pass before? Any tips on how to get your first agent to make a week’s worth of bookings, rather than just today’s and sending you out the door?

  6. You should talk about the administrative requirements that you need to take for staying at an Airbnb in Japan in light of new laws passed in 2018 and what to look out for in listings (ie make sure there’s a license number listed). I’ve had friends get their bookings cancelled last minute in Japan for the property owner failing to report the administrative requirements/ensuring they were compliant with the statute so you wanna make sure all those things are checked off before you go.

    • Really? Several hotel chains (when I first tweeted at them months ago) told me they were going to allow points bookings as normal. Granted, things can change. Any info on this?

      • I asked my Marriott Ambassador about the complete lack of availability and was told it’s because of arrangements with the IOC. They couldn’t say if or when anything would be made available to the public at any of their hotels.

    • That’s what I’m hoping for! Made sure to get the most liberal cancelation policy I could find from someone on Airbnb, so I can keep looking for rooms to be released.


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