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Your guide to attending the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo

Jan. 09, 2020
13 min read
Shibuya Scramble Crossing, Tokyo
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Welcome to TPG's hub for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Bookmark this page as it will be updated with information related to Tokyo 2020 as the games approach.

The Summer Olympic Games only come around once every four years, and that time is coming up soon. This year, on July 24, 2020, the Olympic flame will light up the night in Tokyo, Japan, ushering in two weeks of traditional Olympic favorites, such as gymnastics, swimming, diving, volleyball, and track and field, as well as newer competitions like surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing.

The Summer Olympics draws hundreds of thousands of spectators, competitors and support staff to one city, which means that everything from flights to hotels to tickets can be hard to find (and afford). While Rio was a challenging Olympics host city for the last Summer Games in some ways, Tokyo should make for a much better spot to cheer on your country. Japan is even building a temporary terminal at Narita Airport to deal with the influx of visitors.

Booking a trip to the Olympics isn't easy. Rooms are often blocked off well in advance, the demand for flights can be high and the process to buy tickets is ... a process. But seeing the Olympics in person is a memorable and achievable goal. TPG is here to help get you there -- hopefully by using (or earning) a few points along the way.

If you haven't already done so, the time to book hotels and flights to Tokyo is now. As of Jan. 8, United shows limited premium cabin award availability but decent economy saver award availability from Los Angeles, while Delta shows similar award fares from 68,500 SkyMiles in economy departing out of San Francisco. And in fact, we found some first-class awards to Tokyo on ANA. More in the flights section below:

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(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

Purchasing 2020 Olympic tickets

The initial rounds for official ticket requests for U.S. residents has passed (it was May 31, 2019). Each country manages ticket requests differently, but for the United States, the authorized ticket dealer is CoSport. There have been package offers still available that include event tickets, but prepare for sticker shock on those.

However, there are some single event and ticket packages available at lower price points. I currently see event tickets for archery, volleyball, artistic swimming, boxing, track and field and badminton. Available tickets at this point are often $100 - $200 each, though some are higher.

Larger packages including lodging run thousands of dollars per person.

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Related: The best credit cards for entertainment spending

(Photo courtesy of the IOC)

Booking hotel rooms in Tokyo

Tokyo has many points-friendly hotels to choose from, but that doesn't mean you will be able to book all of them for the Olympics. Not only is demand high, but many hotels will be completely blocked out by the Olympic Committee for sale as part of ticket packages or for use by those directly involved with the games.

Tokyo-area Hyatt properties include Hyatt Centric Ginza Tokyo, Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills, Grand Hyatt Tokyo, Roppongi, Park Hyatt Tokyo (of Lost in Translation fame), the Hyatt Regency Shinjuku and more.

Our checks show that the majority of those hotels are currently unavailable for the duration of the Olympics, though we do see availability at the Hyatt Place Tokyo Bay for 15,000 points per night. That's not in the center of the city, but it is pretty close to Tokyo Disney, and not far from the heart of Tokyo.

During the Olympics dates we searched, we see cash rates at the Courtyard Tokyo Station and award rates available at the Radisson Narita, located near the Narita Airport (NRT). This is not the most convenient location by any stretch, but it is bookable on many dates for 15,000 Radisson points per night.

Other points-friendly options in the area to keep an eye on include: the Conrad Tokyo (Hilton), Westin Tokyo (Marriott), The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo (Marriott), and IHG properties including The Strings by InterContinental in Shinagawa, InterContinental ANA Tokyo and InterContinental Tokyo Bay.

If you don't see what you want, keep checking as the Games draw closer. I planned a successful miles and points-fueled trip to the 2012 Olympics in London just a couple of weeks before the event by jumping on last-minute availability. On the flip side, I secured points accommodations over a year in advance to the 2014 Sochi Games and then had those reservations canceled when the hotel had to turn over its rooms to the Olympic Committee.

Related: Best hotel credit cards

You don't want to set your heart on a particular hotel since it may not be available during the Olympics, but here are some good points-friendly hotel options in Tokyo and their per-night award rates. Additionally, here's a guide on the best points hotels to book for attending the Olympics in 2020. So keep your eyes peeled in case something does pop up closer in to the actual date.

Park Hyatt Tokyo (Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)

Booking flights to Tokyo

Tokyo has two main airports: Tokyo-Narita (NRT) and Tokyo-Haneda (HND). While we don't recommend being too picky about exactly where you land in Tokyo for the Olympics, Narita (NRT) is the larger airport, located farther from the city center. Haneda now has more long-haul flights than in the past, though also accepts many shorter flights and is located closer to the city (making it a good choice to land in the middle of the action).

(Photo by Getty Images)

While flight availability may be tighter than normal on many dates around the Games, here are the best ways to use miles to travel to Japan as well as the ways to fly to Asia in business class.

Use American AAdvantage miles for nonstop flights to NRT and HND

If you've got American AAdvantage miles, now may be a good time to use them for award flights to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, as we found good availability in Main Cabin Premium Economy and Business on a variety of nonstop flights to NRT and HND.

Back in October, One Mile at a Time reported seeing wide-open business class award availability on Japan Airlines from Los Angeles (LAX) to Haneda (HND), although we're seeing far less of it now in early January.

If you can find the awards, you can book one of two ways: American Airlines AAdvantage, where awards will cost you 60,000 miles one-way in business class; or Alaska Mileage Plan, where awards will also cost you 60,000 miles one-way.

The route will be operated by a four-cabin 777-300ER. JL16 departs Haneda at 5 p.m. and arrives at 10:50 a.m., and JL15 departs Los Angeles at 1:45 p.m. and arrives at 5:20 p.m. the next day.

Generally speaking, from U.S. gateways like Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and Los Angeles (LAX), flights in Main Cabin can be found on Economy SAAver fares from 67,500 AA miles round trip. Back in October, Premium Economy was pricing at 137,500 miles and some Business SAAver fares are just 120,000 AA miles round trip. Fees for each are $56.33.

Use Delta SkyMiles

Meanwhile, Delta has a few sweet-spot award fares in economy departing San Francisco on July, 22, 25 and 28 from 68,500 SkyMiles and $200.05 round trip, with return dates between Aug. 11–13.

Delta will be shifting all of its U.S.-Tokyo flights from Narita Airport to Haneda, beginning in March 2020. So, by the time the Olympics come around, Delta will serve HND from Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DTW), Honolulu (HNL), Los Angeles (LAX), Minneapolis (MSP), Portland (PDX) and Seattle (SEA).

And, luckily, there are still some very reasonable redemptions to be had. For example, you can fly from SEA to HND nonstop and with a stop in Seoul (ICN) on the way back for just 62,000 SkyMiles and $140.

And, there are flights available from LAX to NRT via Shanghai (PVG) on China Eastern for just 65,000 SkyMiles and $286.

You can get from Honolulu to HND and back nonstop on Delta metal for 70,000 SkyMiles and $56.

Portland-based flyers can fly round-trip to HND on Delta for 79,000 SkyMiles and just $56.

Flights are also available ATL, DTW and MSP, but at higher rates.

Nonstop flights from U.S. gateways to NRT and HND on United

There is good availability on United flights in economy class flying nonstop to Narita from Newark (EWR), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). Round-trip on economy saver is available from just 70,000 MileagePlus miles and $61.75 for taxes and fees.

But best of all, as of Jan. 8, United shows a few award seats in ANA first class between Los Angeles and Tokyo for 110,000 MileagePlus miles each way, as well as economy saver award availability from the same origin city for 70,000 MileagePlus miles. ANA flights can also be booked at a much better rate using Virgin Atlantic miles, which can be transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points or American Express Membership Rewards.

United also flies nonstop to Haneda (HND) with good availability in economy, saver award routes now available from 70,000 miles round trip and $80 in fees. Nonstop award flights are available from Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO) and Washington, D.C. (IAD). We're still not seeing Business Saver Awards but you can get Business Everyday Awards for 175k miles each way.

Flights from JFK to NRT on British Airways partners

Award flights from New York's JFK to NRT in economy, premium economy and business class can be found on Japan Airlines, Iberia and Finnair for flights coinciding with the Summer Olympics. Availability changes quickly so be sure to search often and snag the seats you want as soon as you see them. Back in October, we saw nonstop awards on Japan Airlines from New York. Business class costs 108,250 British Airways Avios plus $160.90 per person. That same flight in premium economy earlier in the week is 72,250 Avios plus $160.90 per person.

If you want to go for gold, first class, when available, is bookable from 144,250 Avios and $160.90 one-way.

Flights from ORD to HND and NRT on British Airways and partners

Heading out of Chicago's ORD on a British Airways flight to London and connecting to HND via Japan Airlines in business class is available for 152,750 Avios plus $789.63 per ticket. (Not a terrific deal with such a high cash portion.)

There's also availability on Iberia to Narita.

Book Japan Airlines flights with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

We also found Japan Airlines' business class availability (75,000 miles per person one-way, excluding taxes, fees and surcharges) on flights from JFK to NRT and back using Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. (You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Asia Miles at a 1:1 ratio.)

This is not an exhaustive list of flight options, but the takeaway here is that you should monitor your favorite airline redemption programs now for availability to and from Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Related: Best airline credit cards

Turning to a service such as ExpertFlyer to track award availability for you if you can't find what you want on the first pass is also a good move.

Japan Airlines Business Class (Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

Explore beyond Tokyo

If you are going all the way to Japan for the 2020 Olympics, you might as well explore some of the country beyond Tokyo and the games. Here are some ideas (and we'll add more as the games get closer):

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.