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I’m the first to admit, I’m not an expert at finding award travel. I understand the process and where to look, but when it comes to the amount of stopovers, open jaws, and whatever else that is allowed on different airlines, consider me clueless. I’ve learned a lot reading Travel is Free, because Drew is great at that kind of stuff and he writes about it all the time, but it definitely takes time to get really good at it.
Because of that, I outsourced my travel search to the experts at an award booking company. I’ll get to that at a later time, though.
Before I outsourced my search, I attempted it myself, in early May. It’s a good idea to start searching for award travel far earlier than 4 months in advance, but occasionally I tend to procrastinate. Anyway, I was extremely flexible on this vacation. I only had the following requirements:
As you can see, I wasn’t very picky and there are a number of different travel combinations that could have accomplished my requirements. So, I started searching for travel to/from Israel, Australia, Hawaii (This was an exception to rule #2, because I wanted to visit there at one point or another), Japan, Croatia, Brazil, and Germany. I didn’t have a preference as to which place I wanted to visit more than the others, I just wanted to find award travel that worked to visit a few different places at once.
I found award seats to Hawaii and Japan, but my trip would have been only 1 week or 4 weeks, so that wasn’t going to work. I also found seats to Israel, but there were 3 connections and one of them (the longest one) was in economy. Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen either. I kept looking for about two weeks, but my search continually turned up empty. That’s about the time I turned to the experts. My time was worth more to me than the cost of the award booking service.
As I’m sure you can tell, they found me a few great options to Australia, which I ultimately decided to book. The trip was a long one with about two days of travel at the beginning and two days at the end, but it fit my requirements. We ended up staying in Adelaide for five days, Sydney for five days, and Shanghai for one.
Our flights were as follows:
Grand Rapids, MI (GRR) > Denver, CO (DEN) > Tokyo, JP (NRT)
Tokyo, JP (NRT) > Sydney, AU (SYD)
Sydney, AU (SYD) > Adelaide, AU (ADL)
Adelaide, AU (ADL) > Sydney, AU (SYD)
Sydney, AU (SYD) > Shanghai, CN (PVG)
Shanghai, CN (PVG) > Chicago, IL (ORD) > Grand Rapids, MI (GRR)
We spent a total of 390,000 miles for flights on this trip. I looked for comparable flights on Google Flights and I found them anywhere from $27,000 – $37,000 (that doesn’t include the layover night in Shanghai). That means our miles were worth about $0.07 – $0.10 each. That is a great redemption for those!
After flying 12,000 miles around the world in business class, I did not want to sleep at a Holiday Inn. So, we obviously used our points/cash to sleep in 5 star hotels the whole time we were vacationing. Here are the hotels we stayed at:
The Watson (5 nights) – Paid.
Park Hyatt Sydney (3 nights) – 2 free nights and 30,000 UR points converted.
Radisson Blu Sydney (2 nights) – 50,000 Gold points.
Radisson Blu Shanghai New World (1 night) – Paid.
For two weeks of 5 star hotels, we only spent 2 free night tickets, 30,000 Hyatt points, 50,000 Gold points, and about $620 (I will talk about the money spent for this trip in a later post).
Total cost in points for everything:
Not to shabby…