Where to?

This weekend, long-held vacation plans were thrown out the window.  Not one, but two itineraries now compete to replace the original. 

File:Eiffel trocadero i.jpgMonths ago, I booked a European vacation for my family.  Our itinerary had us flying into Paris and returning from Amsterdam.  I was proud that I had found business class seats in the summer at the cheapest rate Delta allows: 100K miles per person round trip.  I used SPG and Club Carlson points to book fabulous looking hotels.  I downloaded “learn to speak French” iPhone apps with the best of intentions (I will open those apps one day!).

Recently, Mrs. Miler and I noticed that our return from Amsterdam butted up closely to our son’s departure to away-camp.  Would it be too much for him, we wondered, to return from Amsterdam and then set off for camp almost immediately afterwards?  Luckily, as a Delta Platinum elite member, I can make award booking changes for free.  So, I started looking for alternative return dates.  Unfortunately, but predictably, all available options would have cost us a huge number of extra miles.

Starting Over

When I ran out of Delta options, I realized I didn’t need to stick with Delta at all.  I have tons of Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred for free to United Miles so there was no reason I couldn’t cancel the Delta flights and book United / Star Alliance flights instead.  As I thought about it more, I realized that not only could I cancel the Delta flights for free, but I could cancel the hotel reservations for free as well.  In other words, we could go anywhere in the world our miles could take us.  There will be plenty of opportunities to visit Europe in the future. If better options were available now, I realized, we were free to take them!  But where should we go?

Vancouver and Beyond

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A month or two ago I read from a blog (sorry I forget which one!) that a great use of British Airways miles was to fly business class between JFK and Vancouver on Cathay Pacific.  I ran a quick search and found that award seats on those flights were wide open!  One thing led to another and soon Mrs. Miler and I found ourselves shopping for an Alaskan cruise (in part, thanks to Rick’s recent post).  With help from MileValue and Scottrick (more on that in a future post), we soon had flights booked from Detroit to Anchorage for the start of the cruise, then post-cruise Vancouver to NYC, stop-over, and finally NYC to Detroit.  Except for the final leg, all is booked in first or business class and all of it is fully (or mostly) refundable. 

Or Asia Pacific?

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Early on Sunday, Gary from View from the Wing posted that United was pricing award flights to and from Hong Kong at only 4 miles per award!  I jumped online and booked our first class flights to Hong Kong.  The total fare came to 12 miles and $346.50.  I booked a similar trip in February to coincide with our son’s winter break.  I also booked a trip for my mom and her husband.  Of course, I don’t think United will really honor these tickets, but I had to try!  You can’t beat an international round trip first class award for 4 miles per person!  If the tickets are really honored, then I’ll look into adding on additional flights to get to wherever we want to go in the region.  Singapore? Myanmar? Philippines?  We’re open to suggestions!

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Where to?

We’ll wait a few days before booking the Alaskan cruise to see if the Hong Kong tickets will be honored.  If United does honor the tickets, we’ll cancel our newly booked award flights to Anchorage and NYC.  We can always try again next year…

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. Can’t go wrong with either one. If you go to Asia we loved Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai), and Cambodia (Siem Reap)!

  2. I am a huge fan of South East Asia. How many days do you have? I would go where ever there is a direct flight from Hong Kong to save time. I would absolutely spend time in Hong Kong as well.

  3. The flexibility you have with changing your destinations is a very appealing part of getting all these points. It certainly puts a new spin on summer vacation! With climate change in full swing–you may want to see Alaska before it becomes a tropical paradise.

    • Ollie: I am leaning towards keeping the Alaska trip especially since I have the Feb trip book too. I think I need to cancel the August Hong Kong trip before noon or so to get all my money back just in case United actually honors it!

  4. if they honor the HKG tickets which I missed, I was planning on using avios from HKG to MNL. Then staying 5 nights at Amanpulo. Check that out, I bet you guys would love it. The waether there in Feb should be GREAT. I was trying to book the same time when they shutdown HKG searches.

  5. Why did you wait so long between the end of school and the beginning of camp?

    We’re doing the trip 2 days after they get home from camp for the summer.

  6. @FM Its an easy choice to make. If United honors the tickets, you take it as it is an awsome price to visit HKG for even if you spend time only in HKG. In general I consider the alaskan cruise, vancouver and pacific NW as one of the hidden paradise vacation for folks in US. There is just so much natural beauty in those areas I think you dont need to spend mega bucks to travel accros the world to see places until you see these areas.

  7. I flew to Yangon on the mistake fare with a friend of mine. Myanmar was a great place. The Shwedagon pagoda was beautiful, as was the commuter train which laps around town and out by the old political prison (Insein jail) 😀 Bagan and Mandalay are must-sees (although my trip didn’t give me enough time to do so). I’d love to go back. Apparently Bagan really stunning.

    Oh and when they say that USD must be pristine to be used in that country (they don’t have ATMs or credit cards!) they mean it. A single crease and it will not be exchanged by anyone anywhere.

    Do that, and then head over to Cambodia and visit Angkor Wat and the killing fields!

    No need to do a traditional vacation!

  8. European vacation. He he he.

    “They haven’t rang those bells in years, it means they are going to hang someone.”

    “Dad!!”

  9. Mrs Anonymous and I were one of the lucky couples. With the help of my wife’s parents, were were able to shuffle kids off r04 the week and I had finally had a chance to “use my sick days wisely — cough,,cough. Actually my team and manager were very supportive. We tossed clothes ns personal items into 3 carry-ons and off we went. 747-400 from ORD to NRT. F was full but we were very happy with J. In fact it was one big party. courteous staff and decent food and drink options. I don,t know why domestic clubs have to be garbage pits with tables and chairs. Since the flight was free we decided to empty out of SPG account for a night at the Sheraton and a complimentary pass to the Oyster & Wine Bar. The next night we checked into a harbor view room at the Peninsula and had lunch on the Veranda This pretty much cleaned out my CARLTON ACCOUNT but was well worth it The rest of the time we ate street food when hungry. Our flight back was a newly configured 777-200 and we snagged 2 pods in GF Unfortunately the staff felt they were doing us a favor every time they had to had to attend to us. We learned very quickly to take care of our selves. I;m sure all the staff knew we were flying for 4 miles and they were not happy about it. I would like to know if other felt the same way. BOttom Line: Since neither of us have flown GF before or to HongKong it it was well worth it Total out of pocket expenses for both of us was less than 1K and that included 2 messages that wifey just had to have. The oyster bar was comped but I dont know why and wasnt about to ask.

    Personally, I believe this programming glitch would have gone undetected a lot longer until FTers started buy block of 50-75 seats then bragged ab0ut it on the forums. But that is just my opinion

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