Tag Archives: miles

2014: A Year in Review

It has been another year of amazing trips, new places I didn’t expect to see, and new places I didn’t expect to love.

There was an overall decrease in my travels. This is partly due to the ebb and flow of my work schedule. I took two big vacations in 2014 (Peru and Northern Asia), but far fewer smaller trips, especially to New York City.

My year in numbers:

  • 1: New states visited: Alabama.  I have now visited 38 states in the U.S.
  • 1: New continent visited (South America)
  • 4: Credit card applications (pretty dismal for me)
  • 5: New countries visited (Peru, China, Japan, Panama)
  • 6: Number of free Amtrak trips I received
  • 7: Countries visited (counting the U.S.)
  • 16: Number of states visited (counting DC)
  • 20,000: Number of Amtrak points redeemed
  • 11,418: Number of Amtrak points earned (4,051 fewer than 2014)
  • 15,000: Number of Amtrak points purchased
  • 27: Number of Amtrak trips I have taken (14 fewer than 2014)
  • 40: Number of flights (five fewer than 2014)
  • 39,676: Number of miles flown (17,890 miles fewer than 2014)
  • 657,560: The number of miles/points I’ve redeemed this year. This includes: One business class seat to Peru; one economy seat locally in Peru; one economy ticket from Peru to DC; six hotel nights in Peru; one business class seat from DC to Beijing; one economy seat from Shanghai to Osaka: one first class seat from Osaka to DC; four hotel nights in Beijing; four hotel nights in Shanghai; five hotel nights in Osaka; two hotel nights in Philadelphia; and four hotel nights in Mississippi.
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How Much Does It Cost to See China and Japan in Style?

I have finally booked all the pieces of my trip to Asia this fall. I will start off in China with my sister where we will see Beijing and Shanghai. After my sister flies home, I will spend a couple of days in Kyoto, Japan by myself. Here is the route.

Flight Map

Weirdly, the most expensive part of this trip has been my visa application to enter China. I could have applied for the visa myself, but I have limited time and even more limited patience, so I mailed everything to Allied Visa & Passport which was recommended by The Points Guy.

Here is the breakdown of all the costs:

  • Flight: Washington D.C. – Beijing (business class): 75,000 Aeroplan miles + $65.70 in fees.
  • Hotel: Four nights at the Hilton Beijing Wangfujing: 184,560 Hilton points + $99.91. I booked three nights with points and one night with cash plus points.
  • Hotel: Five nights at the Raddison Blu Shanghai New World: 88,000 Club Carlson points + $163.87. (I booked four nights using points and paid in full for one night, which I will split with my sister.)
  • Flight: Shanghai – Osaka, Japan (economy): 7,500 British Airways miles + $91.82 in fees
  • Hotel: One night at Indigo on the Bund: Free. I used my annual IHG free hotel certificate.
  • Hotel: Five nights at the Westin Kyoto: 40,000 SPG points
  • Flight: Osaka – Washington D.C. (business/first class): 80,000 United miles + $61.40 in fees. I will be flying business class to Beijing and then first class to Washington D.C. First class was only an additional 5,000 miles, so I said, why the hell not?
  • Chinese visa application: $140
  • Visa Service: $40 (normally it costs $45 but I should get a $5 discount for referencing The Points Guy) + $41 in FedEx fees.

Total out of pocket costs: $571.82 after my sister and I split the two hotel rooms I had to pay for. Not too bad. Not too bad at all.

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How Much Does It Cost to Travel the World In Style?

Excellent question.

According to Kayak, a comparable trip from New York City to Siem Reap would cost $2951 and a comparable trip from Hong Kong back to New York City would cost somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000 a person. On the conservative side, our flights to Asia and back would cost $12,000 for two people in business class not even counting our intra-Asia flights. This is what we paid:

New York – Siem Reap, Cambodia (via San Francisco and Seoul)

120,000 miles and $57.60 in fees
The miles were earned by signing up for the Chase Ink Bold credit card (60,000 miles) and a combination of stray United miles and Chase points in both my account and The Boyfriend’s. We had to pay a $200 change fee to alter our plans to include Cambodia but I’m pretty sure The Boyfriend’s Amex Platinum will pick up the tab on that so it is not listed.

Cambodia – Bangkok

$368
We paid out of pocket for economy seats on this hour-long flight. There are, to my knolwedge, only three airlines that fly from Siem Reap to Bangkok nonstop: Bangkok Airways (the most expensive), AirAsia, and Cambodia Angkor Air (a turboprop plane). The turboprop scared us so we are flying AirAsia.

Bangkok – Hong Kong

15,000 avios + $103.56
Using the 20 percent bonus transfer from American Express, I saved a few Amex points on the transfer to British Airways. These are economy seats since it didn’t seem worthwhile to spend an extra 15,000 miles for a two and a half hour flight.

Hong Kong – New York (via Vancouver)

140,000 avios and $320.52 in fees
I had earned 50,000 from the British Airways credit card (plus the $95 annual fee) and The Boyfriend had earned a heaping pile of Amex points though his work credit cards. I used a 35 percent Amex bonus to transfer the necessary points to my British Airways account to meet the 70,000 per person price.

Total for two business class tickets from New York to Cambodia, two business class tickets from Hong Kong to New York and two tickets for two intra-Asia flights in economy:

120,000 miles + $57.60
$368
15,000 miles + $103.56
140,000 miles + $320.52
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275,000 miles + 849.68

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HOW I BOOKED TWO BUSINESS CLASS SEATS TO PARIS

I still can’t believe I managed to pull this off. I knew I wanted to book two business class tickets for myself and The Boyfriend over the Christmas – New Years week. I had been looking at Spain, Eastern Europe and France, but by the time I had accumulated close to enough miles, availability was scant. So Spain was out.

I also had to juggle two different frequent flyer accounts. I wanted to book one ticket from my U.S. Airways account and one ticket from my United account. I needed 100,000 miles in each account, and I had to make sure The Boyfriend and I ended up on the same Star Alliance flight. Plus, there was the slight problem that I was waiting on 50,000 miles to post to my United account from my latest MileagePlus Explorer card.

Here’s is the detailed step-by-step process.

Step #1: I had 86,000 miles in my U.S. Airways account and The Boyfriend had 2,000. Luckily, U.S. Airways was running a 100% sharing promotion bonus. I transferred 5,000 miles to The Boyfriend, giving him 12,000 miles which I transferred back to myself for a grand total of 24,000 miles. That was more than enough points. I had to pay a fee for all the sharing, but it was worth it as you will soon see.

Step #2: I kept track of all our flight options with a detailed chart that should impress even the most organized travel planner.

Flight options

Step #3: Last Friday, I call U.S. Airways (you can’t book partner award flights on their website) and asked about flights to Paris. The agent told me she had nothing, even though I was staring at a ton of award availability on United’s website. So I hung up.

Step #4: I called back an hour later and got another agent who found a couple of flight options to Paris. We couldn’t find anything for the return flight so I booked a return flight from Frankfurt (a 3.5 hour train trip from Paris) and put the business class ticket on hold. U.S. Airways allows you to put award tickets on hold for three days.

Step #5: At the same time, I put the same flights on hold through United’s website. Since I did not yet have enough miles to book the flight, United allowed me to hold the award. I then called United and asked them to extend my hold from one day to three days. They agreed. Score!

Step #6: On Sunday, I called Chase and asked them when my 50,000 bonus miles would post. They said soon. Hmmm. Not so helpful.

Step #7: Feeling reasonably confident that my United points would indeed post “soon,” I called U.S. Airways back Sunday night. Correction: I called U.S. Airways about six times trying to find a better flight to Paris with a shorter stopover (which I found) and a return flight from Brussels. Brussels is only an hour from Paris by train and a city we both want to see. Finally, finally I found an agent who found the flights I wanted and I booked them.

Step #8: At the same time, I put a hold on these new flights on United’s website.

Step #9: I then transferred 20,000 points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred account to my United account and booked the flight to Paris for myself on United’s site. Unlike U.S. Airways, United allows you to book one-way award tickets. At that point I had 786 miles left in my United account.

Step #10: I called United and asked them to extend the hold on my new return flight from Brussels, which they did. Score again!

Step #11: Over the next three days, I checked Award Wallet every half an hour to see if my 50,000 United miles had posted. They had not.

Step #12: Panic time.

Step #13: I put a hold on another return flight from Brussels in case the miles didn’t post by the time the first hold expired.

Step #14: I checked Award Wallet again.

Step #15: I jumped up and down and rejoiced. My miles posted Wednesday night. Huzzah!

Step #16: I booked the return flight from Brussels and canceled all the other held reservations.

And that is how I booked two business class seats to Paris for less than $400 – which included taxes and fees on the award flights and the cost of acquiring the extra U.S. Airway miles. Totally worth it.

Eiffel Tower, here we come!

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My United Miles Posted!

Yeah, I’m more than a little excited. I’ve literally refreshed Award Wallet at least ten times a day over the past week, and tonight I finally saw that magic number: 52,017 miles. More soon on how I managed to book two business class seats to Paris, but for now, let’s do the Seinfeld happy dance.

 

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Waiting for Gedot… And Points

How many times can I refresh AwardWallet.com a day without going clinically insane? I’m on the verge of finding out.

Waiting for points to post is the hardest part of the miles/points game. I want to book two business class tickets to Europe in December for myself and The Boyfriend. I used the recent U.S. Airways 100% bonus on sharing miles to transfer some miles to The Boyfriend’s account and then his miles back to mine. While this wasn’t the most economical use of the promotion, I managed to top off my Dividend Miles account and reach the 100,000 miles I need to purchase one business class ticket. Now, I’m waiting for the 50,000 bonus miles to post on my latest churn – my United MileagePlus Explorer credit card. This will bring me up to 80,000 miles and I’ll use some Chase Ultimate Rewards points to cross the finish line. My last batch of United miles posted on October 12 so I’m assuming the next batch will post on November 12 and I’ll be good to go. Since I’ve had some luck expediting Amex points, I called and emailed Chase to see if they would generously do the same, but no luck. They are sticklers for the rules, it seems.

So now, I sit and wait, and watch award availability appear and disappear while I pull my hair out. Good times.

Waiting

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