Every March, Dad likes to take a “big trip” for his birthday week. Back in July, Singapore first class and business class awards were made bookable on United.com, so we used that as an opportunity to experience Singapore Airlines’ premium first and business cabins for the first time – a perfect way to head to Australia in style!
Rather than choose to fly straight through to Sydney, I structured the trip into “segments”, allowing for full day layovers in San Francisco and Singapore to break up the flying time a bit.
New York – Sydney
Using 80,000 United miles per person, and paying $38.60 each in taxes, here’s what our outbound flights look like:
- United First: Newark to San Francisco, including a nice 14 hour layover to explore San Francisco for lunch and dinner before heading over to the Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Lounge at SFO prior to boarding SQ1.
- Singapore First: We are then flying on SQ1 from SFO-HKG (ground layover)-SIN in one of the A380 first class suites. I’m extremely excited about this segment because I’ve always dreamed of flying in Singapore Airlines’ A380 first class suite, but never thought it would be possible because it’s generally not available to book as an award. When we originally booked this ticket in July, we were assigned a first class seat on Singapore Airlines’ Boeing 777 (with any older, but still exceptional, first class product); however, we totally lucked out when SQ announced that they swapped the 777 for the A380 on our route. Once we land in Singapore, just like our San Francisco layover, we’ll have a full day to explore Singapore.
- Singapore Business: For our last segment, we will be flying A380 business class on over to Sydney. Once we land in Sydney, we will spend a total of 4 nights there – two at the Radisson Blu Hotel Sydney and two at the Radisson Hotel and Suites Sydney. Both of those properties can be booked for 50,000 Club Carlson points per night, but since Dad is a Club Carlson Visa holder, we were able to get all four nights for just 100,000 Club Carlson points.
Sydney to Melbourne
After enjoying 4 nights in Sydney, we’re off to Melbourne, and we decided to put our British Airways Avios to work. For just 9,000 Avios and $31 in taxes each, we’re flying round trip to Melbourne on Qantas, where we will spend two nights. Using the same Club Carlson method as discussed above, we’re staying two nights at Radisson on FlagStaff Gardens Melbourne (normally 50K Club Carlson points per night) for just 50,000 points for both nights.
Now here’s where the “sudden changes” happen:
We were originally set to return home on March 26 by redeeming 62,500 American Airlines AAdvantage miles each to fly in Qantas business Sydney – LAX – JFK. We also each squeezed a free first-class one way trip from NYC – Maui on a later date into that itinerary for no extra cost. However, since we booked our return flights back in July, naturally there were several schedule changes made to the tickets by the airline. Knowing that we most-likely had the upper hand if we needed to cancel our tickets, we starting pondering possibilities to extend our trip.
Since many frequent flyers will be in Tokyo at the end of March for TokyoDO, my dad suggested that maybe we include a few nights Tokyo before heading home back to New York. I thought that would be a fun idea since I fell in love with Japan after visiting for the first time back in September and he has never been there.
We immediately started looking at redemption options, but knew it would most likely be difficult to find two seats together since the trip is only a few weeks away. Since we couldn’t find anything available for the two of us, we’ll both be flying on totally separate itineraries and meeting in Japan, which is fine. I’m sure we’ll both appreciate some alone time by that point anyway.
Using 40,000 United miles a piece, we’re flying in business class from Sydney – Tokyo.
Here’s what my trip looks like:
As you can see, I have an evening departure in Sydney, and I go straight to Tokyo with a short layover in Singapore and Beijing.
Here’s what Dad’s trip looks like:
Now that we had our flights from Sydney to Tokyo covered, it was time to figure out how to get home to New York. Since Tokyo – New York is considered an “off peak award” with American Airlines at this time, we knew our return flight would be only 25,000 AAdvantage miles, and we’d even get a free one way out of it for a later date because American Airlines allows one free domestic stopover on International award redemptions. The only caveat – we’d be flying home in coach, but for such a great redemption, it’s worth it.
So our “new” return flight to New York looks like this:
So now that we had our new flights booked, we had to cancel our original Qantas business tickets. My itinerary was an easy cancel because my schedule changes were greater than 90 minutes, so there were no questions asked by the AAdvantage phone agent. Dads ticket, on the other hand, was the hard part, because he only experienced a 40-minute schedule change.
After being on the phone the first two times, he was denied a redeposit of his miles without paying the $150 re-instatement fee. He was a little discouraged and was about to give up and stick to his original plan/toss the Tokyo idea out the window all together, but I reminded him of the golden rule – hang up and call again.
Well the 3rd call was a charm for him, and his miles and taxes were refunded without a fee! See, never give up!
I’m super excited for this trip, and I can’t believe it is less than a week away. For those who have been to Sydney or Melbourne recently, what are some “must see” and “must do” attractions/activities? I want to squeeze as much as I can into my 4 days in Sydney and 2 days in Melbourne!
Oh, and if any readers will be in Tokyo the last week of March, we’d love to meet up!