Planning an Award Trip to Australia

Australia has always been on my list of places to go, but it just hasn’t been at the top. But a couple of months ago, Qantas very briefly released some first class space on their A380s during Australia’s winter, so I decided to book a flight and figure out the rest since I can cancel awards for free thanks to my AA Executive Platinum status.

I’ve already taken a number of longer trips this year, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to spend much time in Australia, but I figured that I’d rather go for a couple of days than not go at all. The space I booked on Qantas was on QF 94 from LAX to MEL, but from talking to a couple of people, they said that I should go to Sydney first if I’m only going to choose one, so my ticket on the way to Australia is SFO-LAX-MEL-SYD for 72,500 AA miles.

I’ll have four nights in Sydney, so I booked four nights at the Radisson Blu Plaza Sydney for 100k Club Carlson points (booked as two award stays of two nights each from two Club Carlson accounts, which means I paid for 2 nights and got 2 nights for free). Crazy good deal.

To get back to the US, there unfortunately wasn’t any Qantas space I could find in first class, so I thought about potential routings through Asia. Using AA miles, you can’t route through Asia on a single Australia-USA award, so I figured that I might as well stop somewhere if I’m going to pay for two awards for the flights back anyway. I considered a number of places in Asia like Bangkok, Singapore, and Hong Kong, but I ended up deciding on Kuala Lumpur since I’ve never been. I booked a one-way award on Malaysia Airlines from SYD to KUL in business class for 35,000 AA miles, and I booked two nights at the Doubletree in KL for 20k Hilton points. It’s hard to find affordable Hilton properties on points, but the Doubletree Kuala Lumpur is one of them.

Finally, to get back from Kuala Lumpur, I booked myself on Cathay Pacific through Hong Kong. Luckily, there was first class award space when I was originally looking on a flight from Hong Kong to SFO, so I booked that for 62,500 AA miles. This last part might change as Cathay opens up more space closer to departure and I contemplate whether or not I want to spend more time in KL.

My routing (map courtesy of gcmap)

My routing (map courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper)

I’m super excited for this trip, as I’ll get to explore two new cities/countries (although the weather is supposed to be terrible in Sydney this year), I’ll fly two new airlines (never flown Qantas or Malaysia before), and I’ll get to fly another A380 in first class (is it bad that I’ve never flown an A380 not in first class?). Total points cost: 170k AA miles, 100k Club Carlson points, and 20k Hilton points. I know I could have saved a lot of airline miles by using US Airways miles instead (would have been only 140k US miles for a roundtrip first class ticket to Australia which would have included a free stopover), but the Qantas space was disappearing so quickly that I decided to just go ahead and book with AA miles online instead.

I’m also super behind on trip reports, and this next trip won’t help the matter, but hopefully I can bust out some writing when I’m inevitably up at 4am due to jetlag. Or maybe I’ll try to do the live TR thing that seems to have become more popular recently. Or do Lucky’s thing of doing a fake TR and then doing a real TR to get twice the posts out of one trip. Thoughts? And of course, I’m always open to recommendations or suggestions on things to see/eat/do in either Sydney or Kuala Lumpur.

9 thoughts on “Planning an Award Trip to Australia

  1. Joey

    LMAO on the last paragraph. Technically the way Lucky (or should I say Plucky) writes his trip reports is an “Initial Thoughts” or “Impressions” post within 1-2 days of his trip and then will write a full trip report a few weeks later once he has organized all his photos and what not. I actually think that’s a clever way of doing it so we can see firsthand what were his initial thoughts of the product and experience and then rereading in more detail what he experienced once he has had time to think about the trip overall.

    Congrats on snagging the space! I still have to fly QF at some point, hopefully next year. I doubt QF added those award seats but, rather, no one claimed them using QF or BA points thus leaving us AAdvantage miles folks to snatch them! 😉 Let us know what you think of the experience! Also, kudos to you for choosing to fly MH! 🙂

    1. Edward Post author

      There was a very brief couple of hours in May when it seemed like Qantas “accidentally” released some award space in F, which I was alerted to thanks to Plucky ( Super excited for the flight!

      A couple of my friends questioned my decision to fly MH, but I’m pretty excited to try them out (even though it’ll be slopey-flat seats in their business class from Australia).

  2. Joe

    Don’t do the Bridge Climb, but do it on your own, and walk up the pylon, instead. Take the early bird tour of the opera house to save some money. Do the Bondi to Bronte hike.

    1. Edward Post author

      Good point! Unfortunately, you can’t combine partners on Alaska awards, and I couldn’t find availability on CX from SYD to HKG.

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