Numbers on tour, cash, packing and laundry

Hello everyone,
We are taking the Essence of Japan tour on May 11, 2020 and I was hoping to get a few questions answered. First, just out of curiosity, approximately how many people take the "classic" tour? I'm asking to get an idea of how many of us will be at meal reservations, bus/train trips, etc. Second, what's a realistic amount of cash (yens) to bring. I've read that most merchants prefer cash and I'm not sure how much of an "allowance" (if any) Tauck will provide as they have done on river cruises when we've travelled before. Third, in the "need to know" section, it refers to only having access to an overnight bag for two nights of the journey. Is that per person as I'm assuming? Finally, the trip is roughly two weeks and we are advised to pack light. Any suggestions on how to follow this directive and still have clean socks and underwear? :) I apologize for the extent of my ignorance but this is the quintessential 'trip of a lifetime' and I'd like to be as well-prepared as possible.
Thanks very much, Kim Gridley


  • Is the Need to Know section you refer to the one I can see here on the website? If it is, it’s the same for most all tours. I do know that in Japan when you travel by train, there is no accommodations for suitcases, they travel separately. We are going to Japan with another company next year and will encounter this six times. it’s a longer tour than the Tauck one. All we take is a set of clothes for one day until we catch up with our bags.
    You can have laundry done at all the hotels, it just needs planning as most times you only stay two nights in the same hotel. I’ve taken tours longer than two weeks and have mostly not used the laundry, washing a few smalls. This also can be interest as in some hotels it takes for ever for clothing to dry. That’s when a hairdryer comes into its own.
    It’s a long time since I was in Japan, I’ve been twice and just love it there. I think you are less likely to encounter places that do not take credit cards these days. I love all things Japanese, my home is full of Japanese art. There is so much to choose from at all price points.
    I would call Tauck to ask about numbers on your tour. It can always change even last minute. I can’t recall being on a full tour With Tauck for a while now, even when it says on the website that the tour is full. It’s just easier to remember names with less people but harder to avoid people who don’t gel with you.
    Regarding money, what is the Tauck allowance you refer to? I’ve been on a Tauck River tour and not sure what you mean, has Tauck given you a money allowance?
    I know you will enjoy Japan.

  • edited January 2020

    The only type of "allowances" I have ever received or seen Tauck supply are: (a) money for some sort of lagniappe or food treat, (b) money for a "provided" meal (which couldn't be provided), (c) coins for pay toilets, and (d) on rare occasions, taxi money for someone who has mobility issues. All TD's have a certain amount of discretionary money they can spend on guests.

    A regular tour typically maxes out at 44 people (small group tours at 24 and sometimes 20), but as British says, it can often be quite a bit fewer. Even the number Tauck may provide you could be wrong if there are late cancellations or additions.

    Most people do not "bring" local currency, they get it from an ATM upon arrival at the airport or hotel, but credit cards are generally accepted, even in Third World countries, by all but the smallest vendors.

    I use packing cubes and find they work well. My method of packing- start with the essentials- enough underwear and socks for the entire trip, then as much outerwear as will fit in the remaining space in my suitcase. My wife hand carries a book or two, magazines, iPad, etc. and one set of emergency clothes for each of us (usually, just socks, underwear, and a shirt) in a small, soft-sided carry bag (not a carry-on suitcase), in case our baggage doesn't arrive when we do. I carry my camera(s), iPad, headphones, magazines, and trip research in a "man purse" (like a courier pouch).

  • Hello AlanS and thank you for your response. When we travelled on the Milan to Amsterdam Rhine River cruise we were given a decent amount of local currency for lunch on our own in Switzerland. And you're correct about the coins for the toilets - very handy. I generally like to have a fair amount of local currency ahead of time as I never know what the exchange rate might be when I get into the country. It sounds like we pack similarly. Packing cubes are a godsend and my husband usually carries a sling style backpack with the iPads, meds, etc. We've never been to Japan (well, my husband had a weekend leave 50+ years ago, not quite the same) and I'm very excited. Some of the restaurants mentioned on the itinerary, Nobu, for example, are pretty fancy so I thought some fairly dressy outfits would be in order as well - similar dress code to the dinner we had in a palace on the river cruise. Again, thank you very much for getting back to me so quickly. Kim Gridley

  • Don’t overpack on the dressy outfits, the majority of Tauck travelers these days dress very casual especially the men.

  • Thanks again, British. I was a bit concerned looking at YouTube videos of the restaurants and thought they were fairly dressy, but I'll make sure to only pack a single "dress-up" outfit.

  • Nobody cares whether you dress in the same outfit multiple times.

  • Alan-
    I was surprised to see you quote 44 as the maximum tour size. I've never seen more than 38 on a tour and those were considered full. Have you actually had more than 40 on a tour? If so, do you remember which one?

    Also regarding small group tours, Tauck is now quoting 24 as the average small group, not the maximum. We had 26 on our small group Spain and Portugal this year.

  • You know, years ago, we may have had a a US tour of 44. It could have been a Colorado tour that Tauck no longer do. It was excellent. But someone had a heart attack. And also the tour where we had a very obnoxious single who kept telling the wonderful tour director how to do his job. She also kept trying to persuade a recently widowed lady that she ought to marry again. That lady cried on my shoulder when it became too much. So many great memories of both people and place!

  • Ken from Vegas, 4:04PM, Alan- I was surprised to see you quote 44 as the maximum tour size. I've never seen more than 38 on a tour and those were considered full. Have you actually had more than 40 on a tour? If so, do you remember which one?

    I can't find the source of the 44 but believe it was from a Tauck rep or in print. We mostly take small group tours, if offered. Hidden Gems of New England (2014) was our only full size tour. It had 43 guests (I save all tour stuff, including guest lists and photos :) ) We have been on special and small group tours where we had less guests than advertised, most recently the Botswana trip where we had only 15 rather than the max of 20. We have also had more like 26 on a Small Group tour- I believe the wording says (has said for many years) Small Group tours have an "average of 24 guests" whatever that means?!? ;) Being the literal guy that I am is the average over the course of a year??

    Also regarding small group tours, Tauck is now quoting 24 as the average small group, not the maximum. We had 26 on our small group Spain and Portugal this year.

  • edited February 2020

    We are on Essence of Japan May 7, 2020. It is a small group. Of course with the Coronavirus, who knows what will happen. The Travel Advisory for Japan raised today from Level 1 to Level 2. We received email that Tauck is closely monitoring and with the excellent reputation Tauck has, I am sure they will make the right decision so they do not place the lives of their guests or staff in danger. We did a Tauck Tour China in 2017 and had about 40. It was not a problem. All guests were very nice and considerate of each other. We were given seat assignments on bus everyday and that was great so we were all rotated. On all tours we have gone with Tauck, we were broken up in smaller groups with local guides.

  • HI Exlandlubber~ We were on this splendid trip last spring with a group of 28. You will have so much fun and learn so much about the culture, history and life there! I wish I could come along and do all over again. There is one part of the trip wherein you only take along a small overnight bag as the remainder of your luggage travels ahead. No problems - you'll get detailed instructions and I won't ruin the surprises for you, but you will find it all very easy. One hint - walking shoes you can slip on and off can be handy. Our Nobu experience was actually a very cool lunch. No need to dress in finery. Black top, pants and a scarf or beads will do it for evenings. My husband had a sport coat, which he wore maybe 3 times and likely could have gotten by with a shirt/tie/nice sweater as about half of our group did. (You will notice that Japanese people are very careful about appearances and dress very nicely and if you dine out on an evening alone you may consider your apparel choice. There were many beautiful and elegant women at the Four Seasons in Kyoto for example and men commonly wear suits in these urban areas. We arrived April 4 prior to tour start, and It's likely to be a bit warmer for you than it was for us. Course, we did have snow in the Japanese alps and I was glad to have my puffer. If you are going early or touring on your own, I can recommend local day trip guides in Tokyo or to Nara, if you choose to go there instead of Hiroshima. We paid our guides in cash. There's an ATM at the Park Hyatt Tokyo downstairs, and do have your debit card company or bank do your conversion.This is a tip I gleaned from the Tauck forum: I bought a small 5X7 notebook of blank pages at the first shrine and subsequently took to every one to get a stamp (about $3 each time). This is a common practice. Now, I have the most amazing souvenir filled with Japanese script and stamps from each shrine. The food is terrific everywhere on this tour, lots of variety - no worries there's always an option for a western breakfast, but I did like the Japanese style miso soup. We were so lucky: Cherry blossoms were gorgeous everywhere, but even without you will be amazed at the gardens. We had a wonderful TD Bill Mercadante and I hope he'll be yours, too.

  • Mazalea,
    Thank you so much for all of your helpful information. We are SO excited about this trip and praying that this awful Corona virus doesn’t interfere. Thank you for the suggestion about the notebook too. It will be a wonderful way to keep the memories fresh.

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