Tag Archives: planning

Sydney 2014: Introduction + Trip Planning

Earlier in 2014, there was a brief period when Qantas released a bit of first class award space to Australia. Qantas first class is a pretty challenging redemption, so I jumped on the opportunity, even though it meant that I would be heading to Australia during its winter. I redeemed 72,500  American miles for a first class award to the South Pacific.

I thus had a ticket there, but no specific thoughts on how to get back. There wasn’t any award space in first class on Qantas, which meant that if I wanted to use my AA miles, I’d have to route through Asia. AA’s award routing rules don’t let you route through Asia to get to/from the South Pacific without paying for two awards, so I decided to stop in Kuala Lumpur on the way back for a couple of days. This means that I paid for a business class award from Australia to KL and paid for a separate award from KL back to the US, which I would have had to do anyway even if I hadn’t stopped at KL. I booked a business class award on Malaysia Airlines for 35k AA miles for the nonstop from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur, and then I spent 67.5k AA miles for a first class award on Cathay Pacific through Hong Kong to get back to San Francisco.

Then, I considered lodging for my trip. I would be spending 4 nights in Sydney, so I booked two reservations for the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel in Sydney, one from my personal Club Carlson account and the other from my business Club Carlson account. Since I have both the personal and the business versions of the Club Carlson credit card, each reservation received one free night, so I essentially paid for two award nights and got four in return. This was 100k Club Carlson points for 4 nights at a great hotel in a great location in Sydney.

In Kuala Lumpur, I booked 2 nights at the Hilton Doubletree for 10k points per night or 20k points total.

So in total, I spent 175k American miles, 100k Club Carlson points, and 20k Hilton points for a pretty darn luxurious week-long trip to Sydney and KL.

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.