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:

Dad has a much earlier departure than I do, but he will be spending a night in Seoul. We both arrive at Narita around the same time the following day.

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:

I’ll be flying to Maui later in the spring for a girls getaway.

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!

Cheers,

Angelina

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  • David said,

    You would be better off at the UA Global First lounge at SFO…the walk is a little farther, but it is totally worth it.

  • Mike said,

    Sydney: see the Bridge and the Opera House (and climb the Bridge if you’re up for it), Taronga Zoo, ferry ride to one of the beaches (Manly maybe), visit Bondi beach and then take the coastal walk to Coogee beach (~2ish hours), walk through the Royal Gardens near the habor to Mrs. Macquarie’s chair, walk around Darling Harbour. Eat and drink at Hart’s Pub, the Australian Heritage Hotel, the Heritage Bar & Restaurant, and on the rooftop of the Glenmore. If you drink scotch and/or whiskey, stop by the Baxter Inn.

  • Mark said,

    I understand how a Club Carlson Visa can get you the third night free,
    Book two nights 50K each (100K total) third night free.

    Please explain how exactly he managed 4 nights.

    Thanks Mark

  • Jes said,

    Sydney is an incredible city. I second all of Mike’s suggestions: visit Bondi and then do the costal walk. Take a ferry out to Manly. Visit the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Make a point to see them both at night – it’s just so stunning. There’s an oddly fun bar that’s sort of below the Opera House, along the water, called the Opera Bar. A bizarre mix of tourists and locals and a lot of fun. There’s a hole in the ozone over Australia so wear sunblock or, if you burn, zinc. I learned this one the hard way.

  • Jane S. said,

    I was just there last month and stayed at the Radisson Hotel and Suites on Liverpool Street. Loved the location as we were really close to Chinatown and reasonalby priced food. As you walk out of the hotel, turn left toward George Street and then cross the street diagonally. There is a mall there (I think it was called Wall) and go downstairs, there is a great bread store there called Bread Top – we got great food there and the bread was so delicious. We got breakfast rolls there, dessert rolls, etc. Also a grocery store there as well. Dinner one night at Nando’s which is a South African chicken restaurant. The 555 bus, that runs during the day, will take you free down to the wharf. We also walked to Hyde Park and caught the bus for Bondi. Did Tauranga Zoo and it was okay. Drinks at the Shangri La hotel was amazing though a little costly – very fantastic. I would recommend going on the Tall Ship Harbour Cruise at Campbell Cove, just up from Museum of Contemporary Art at Darling Harbour. Open Bar, food and live music. We did it by buying a Groupon. There is a train that goes all around the botanical gardens for about $5. Book your reservation for the Opera House Tour from home. Go to PAddy’s Market near Chinatown for your souveniers. In Melbourne, go to Queen Victoria Market for souveners as well as food! Do not take KST shuttle from airport to Sydney. Need any info, email me. We also flew from Brisbane to Singapore on SQ and then Singapore to Beijing on SQ.

  • Sarah said,

    Can’t wait to read about this trip! I’m flying United First IAD-LHR, Singapore First (on 777 :(, all other flights that day are A380) LHR-SIN, Singapore Business SIN-DPS on Thursday. Can’t wait to hear you thoughts on all of the flights!

  • Winston said,

    I agree with all their suggestions for Sydney. The paddington market is a good stop on the way to Bondi beach. Also, if you have time, take the ferry to Manley beach. The restaurant there has the most fantastic views and food, albeit pricey.

  • MSPTraveler said,

    @Mark. There are two separate stays involved. The first stay is two nights, one for 50k, one for free. The second is the same. This summer, my wife and I are doing 7 nights at the Radisson Blu Paris Opera for just 200K points. We are both Club Carlson Visa holders so we did three stays. The first, in my name, is 2 nights for 50K. Then we do two nights in her name for 50K. Then 3 nights in my name for 100K.

  • Brent said,

    Sydney to Melbourne

    I’m seeing ~$57 each way on Kayak. Is there a benefit to using miles for this leg? The only thing I am not sure of is if the low rates do not allow a free bag and your award flight does?

  • FrugalTravelLawyer said,

    Wishing you and your dad a wonderful trip! Looking forward to your trip reports about Australia.

    @Mark. You are not the only one confused about the Club Carlson credit card free night benefit, but it is use points for one night and get the next night free. If you use points for 2 nights you will get the 3rd night free.

    FINE PRINT – When you redeem Gold Points for Award Nights of two or more consecutive nights at the same participating Carlson Rezidor hotel property, you will receive the last of the Award Nights of that stay free without deduction of any Gold Points from your Club Carlson account (“Bonus Award Night”). Only one Bonus Award Night will be available for a stay of two or more consecutive nights.

    Happy birthday dad!

  • IPG said,

    I read you only have two days in Melbourne, but I think you should most definitely do a day tour along the Great Ocean Road. Absolutely stunning. Given your time constraint, I think you will find it a much more memorable experience. Don’t get me wrong, Melbourne has all the major attractions such as an excellent zoo, theatre, sports, gambling (I think the casino is better than Sydney’s), beaches, nearby wineries, outdoorsy things just outside the city, etc. All these things with more time to spare are completely worthwhile.

    I remember many, many years ago my family came to visit me while I was studying abroad in Geelong. We did a two day driving tour down the Great Ocean Road. I recall my mom getting up early to watch the sunrise from the beach across the street from our hotel. She kept turning her back to me and I finally realized she was crying. She said it was one of the most beautiful sights she had ever taken in, and that moment alone was worth the entire flight over from Ohio.

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