Point Me to the Miles

Navigating the Path to Great Travel

Off to See the Wonderful Ayers of Oz: Introduction

Introduction
Pasco (PSC) to Portland (PDX)
Delta SkyClub Portland
Delta One Business Class Portland (PDX) to Tokyo (NRT)
Ritz-Carlton Tokyo Hotel Review – The BEST Hotel Stay of My Life
24 Hours in Tokyo is Not Much Time in a Big, Big City
Japan Airlines Sakura First Class Lounge Tokyo Narita
Japan Airlines First Class SkySuite Tokyo (NRT) to Sydney (SYD)
Park Hyatt Sydney and My Ridiculously Insane View
Seeing Sydney Is Cheap and Easy
Virgin Australia Business Lounge Sydney
Virgin Australia Business Class Sydney (SYD) to Ayers Rock (AYQ)
Desert Gardens Hotel Review – A Lot of Money for a Mediocre Hotel
Ayers Rock (Uluru) and the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) in 24 Hours – It Can Be Done
DoubleTree by Hilton Alice Springs Prison Cell Review
Qantas Lounge Alice Springs
Qantas Economy Class Alice Springs (ASP) to Melbourne (MEL)
Qantas Business Class Lounge Melbourne (MEL)
Qantas Business Class Melbourne (MEL) to Sydney (SYD)
Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel Review
Qantas Business Class Lounge Sydney (SYD)
Qantas Business Class Sydney (SYD) to Melbourne (MEL)
Melbourne Marriott Hotel Review
Marching around Magnificent Melbourne
Qantas First Class Lounge Melbourne
Qantas First Class Melbourne (MEL) to Los Angeles (LAX)
Qantas First Class Lounge Los Angeles – Not as Nice as Their Australia Lounges
Alaska First Class Los Angeles (LAX) to Seattle (SEA)
Horizon Air Economy Class Seattle to Pasco (PSC)… If You Really Care

DSCN5121.JPG

The Big, Dreaded 3-0

Believe it or not, I’m about to hit the big 3-0 come December.  Your 20s are supposed to be the most intense and fun decade of your life, and I am sad I will soon be leaving them behind.

Fortunately, I will have (or am on pace to) accomplish at at least one goal by the time I am 30–Having traveled across 6 continents.  While it is certainly the most substantial goal I am on pace to meet, the thought of making it a reality only occurred within the last year or two.

It certainly helps that including North America, I have already been to 4 continents (South America, Asia, and Europe).  Which leaves Australia (well, until recently!) and South Africa (later in the year)!!

I Wasn’t Going to be in Kansas Anymore…

My travels seem to be a sequence of haphazard planning that manifest themselves at very opportune moments.  Last fall, as serendipity would have it, Qantas First Class award seats became quite readily available using partner miles, which is incredibly rare. They say that which is hardest to achieve is most desirable.  Well, I suppose because Qantas First Class seemed so impossible and beyond me, I had long hoped to fly Qantas First Class since first getting into the miles and points game, whilst admiring One Mile at a Time’s Qantas First Class trip Report way back in 2011.

My Routing and Flights

As seems to be my norm with increasing regularity, I booked this trip backwards, starting with the return flight.

Connecting in Tokyo:  The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

I ended up with a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy in routing through Tokyo.  I badly wanted to fly Singapore Suites on the Airbus A380 from Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo (NRT), but even with a little flexibility for my departure dates, my only option was to waitlist flights on this route.

I didn’t want to be left out in the cold and without a way to get to Australia, so I booked a back-up award ticket using up 110,000 Delta miles I had stockpiled for Delta One Business Class from Portland to Tokyo.  More than I wanted to pay, but originally it was just a back-up option.  A couple of weeks from departure, I noticed the Saver Level of 70,000 miles was available on the same date and flight, so after calling up Delta and kindly reminding them of my Gold Medallion status, I was able to get 40,000 miles re-deposited as a “one-time” courtesy, as well as tack on the Pasco (PSC) to Portland (PDX) flight on the same award ticket for no extra charge.

While my Singapore Suites waitlist would eventually clear couple of days before departure, I ran into issues confirming my flight (BUMMER!) as my account was audited.  Delta has a pesky policy that does not allow redeposited mileage on award tickets cancelled within 72 hours of departure, so I decided to stick it out with Delta.

Enter the Japan Airlines First Class SkySuite

Either way, I had intended to connect through Tokyo anyway, so a couple of months before departure I checked Japan Airlines’s (JAL’s) website for options.  Within just a few minutes I found a First Class award ticket in JAL’s Boeing 777 Sky Suite, then called up American Airlines and successfully booked the ticket for 60,000 American Airlines miles.  Honestly, it surprises me how effortless booking some award flights can be, as a quick and easy search showed me that I actually had my pick of multiple departure days–in First Class.  Then again, there probably isn’t a backlogged list of folks calling up American to redeem airlines for JAL First Class between Tokyo and Sydney.

Anyway, my Tokyo to Sydney flight was scheduled such that I could connect from my Delta flight overnight as a buffer (besides, I’ve never heard anyone complain about “having” to visit Tokyo), and then then fly out to Sydney the following evening.  Added to that, I flew All Nippon Airways a few years back, so the chance to fly the “other Japanese carrier” was intriguing personally.

Inter-Australian Flights

For the inter-Australia flights, for the most part I was able to use a combination of British Airways and American miles to get me where I wanted to go.

To do my first trip to Australia justice, I badly wanted to visit the Outback and Ayers Rock.  However, as anyone who has been there will likely attest to, it does not come cheap!  (As in $350 a night for a basic hotel expensive!  Yeah.)

Added to that, I have a bad habit of booking at the last minute, so all of the outbound award options were gone.  The easiest and quickest option was to book a direct Virgin Australia flight from Sydney to Ayers Rock.  In the end, based on opportunity, timing, and the fact that this was my only revenue (non-frequent flier miles) flight on the entire trip,  I justified ~$700 for Virgin Australia Business Class to Ayers Rock.

For various reasons I decided to fly out of Alice Springs, back to Sydney.  This actually which worked out in my favor twofold:
1) I arrived in Australia, and accustomed to my first taste of Australia in the comfort of Sydney.
2) I will admit that while flying is quick and easy, there is a certain beauty to driving (or in my case riding) cross-country, as it allows you to see and experience all the scenery you so easily take for granted up in the air.  I ended up booking a bus transfer to get me from Ayers Rock to Alice Springs, which allowed me to see some sights and enjoy the scenery along the way.  Thus, I considered such a ride as much a “sight” as any of the tours or attractions I saw on my entire trip!

My Routing to Oz and Back

My full itinerary was as follows, PSC-PDX-NRT-SYD-AYQ, ASP-MEL-SYD-MEL-LAX-SEA-PSC:

Total_Itin

Full Itinerary to Oz

 

The Damage

 

__________________________________
Total Transportation Lodging Costs – 343,440 Miles/Points** $2,121

**All miles and points are not considered equal.  Addition of them is done only for high-level summary purposes only.

SCREAMING DEAL ALERT: Emirates First Class as Low As ~$2,200 One-Way

Emirates A380 First Class

Emirates First Class is highly regarded the world over, especially on the A380.  It is after all, Jennifer Aniston‘s favorite airline.  Like it or not, it’s hard to top an on-board experience that includes a private suite with doors, fully stocked on-board bar, and the ability to take a shower 6 miles up in the air.

Maputo Mozambique Fare Deal

Emirates A380 First Class Private Suite

Never mind dreaming about it any more.  And I’m not just talking about Google’s street view of an entire Emirates A380.  No, there’s a great way that you can experience Emirates First Class for as little as ~$2,200 one-way.

Via One Mile at a Time, Emirates has published some CHEAP long-haul First Class fares from Maputo, Mozambique, connecting via Johannesburg.

Possible Routes

For folks on the West Coast, fares from Maputo to San Francisco are currently ~$2,400 with some flexibility in the month of September:

Maputo Mozambique Fare Deal

Maputo to San Francisco Calendar for September

 

Donald WahlbMaputo Mozambique Fare Dealerg

Emirates First Class to San Francisco Fare Breakdown

After playing around with the dates a little bit I found out this deal gets even better for travel to the East Coast!

Fares from Maputo to Washington Dulles are even cheaper, for only about ~$2,200.  In fact, I was even able to get this to price on Emirates website:

Donald WahlbMaputo Mozambique Fare Dealerg

Emirates First Class to Washington for ~$2,200!!!

It just goes to show, you can settle for what others tell you, or do your own research and find even better results!

Is This a Good Deal?

To put this in perspective, keep in mind what an Emirates First Class ticket between Los Angeles and Cape Town would cost–over $5,000 each way, or $10,000 roundtrip:

Emirates First Class

$10,000 Ticket From Los Angeles to Cape Town

Personally, I would rather pay $2,200 than $5,000+ to experience all that is Emirates First Class, including complimentary limo transfers.

This is especially a good deal if you area considering travel to Southern Africa and open to booking a one-way outbound segment as well.  It should be noted that a visa is required for US Citizens visiting Mozambique, even if you are only transiting via the airport.

 

A Good Start for Pasco’s Delta Service to Seattle

I am currently in transit to Las Vegas for the Freddie Awards  as well as fulfilling my everlasting thirst for all things travel, miles and points by attending the Frequent Traveler University (FTU) Signature Event.  If you see me feel free to say hi, and how I haven’t been blogging enough lately.
Anyway, upon boarding my flight from Pasco to Seattle this morning, I noticed this lovely token of appreciation for my loyalty and for flying out of Pasco:

Delta's Pasco (PSC) to Seattle (SEA) Service

“Team Pasco – Thank you for flying Delta. This seat has been sanitized just for you.

My first impression was “Since when did Captain Denny start working for Delta?

Look, I know it’s small (but genuine) token of appreciation, but it’s the small things that can make the biggest of differences when there is more than enough hassle in travel.  Especially when one is headed to the awards ceremony that highlights the best of the customer experience in the travel and loyalty industry!

You Can Go Your Own Way with Airplane Food

Just mention the term “airplane food” many and you’re likely to be met with repulsed response.

Brining Your Own Food On An Airplane

Airplane Food Can Be Repulsive

(Photo Provided by Shutterstock)

Fortunately, my knowledge of travel hacking has enabled me to have some great meals, including Delta One (transcontinental) Business Class:

DSCN3617

GREAT Steak On Delta One

But depending on rout, airline, and last but not least class of service, your mileage may vary.

Which is why I found a New York Times article on frequent fliers opting for their own fresh meals very interesting.

On occasion I have followed suit, including bringing my own dry cereal and a banana through security with me, then purchasing milk before boarding my flight.  I have also frequented the Outback Cincinnati Airport by calling in my steak ahead of time when connecting there.

But there is certainly something to be said for bringing your own food with you, especially if it is healthier for you.  I suppose I better back off of the ice cream sundaes…

 

What foods do you bring with you when you travel?

 

Get $100 from American Express for Hotel Bookings of $600 or More

Now through September 15, 2015 you can earn a one-time $100 statement credit from American Express for hotel bookings made through the American Express (AMEX) Travel Portal.

AMEX $100 Hotel Statement Credit

Earn a $600 Statement Credit for Hotel Stays Book through American Express Travel

Analysis

This is a pretty good offer, but unfortunately Fine Hotels & Resorts are excluded.  Also, due to the fact that booking must be made through AMEX Travel, you will may not be eligible to earn points and/or elite stay credit on your stay, but your mileage may vary.

And I wouldn’t necessarily go out of your way to take advantage of this offer.  Some rates I have seen are more expensive than what hotel websites are offering, so take that into consideration.

Terms & Conditions

Registration is required beforehand and must be completed no later than August 31, 2015.  You must be an American Express cardmember to book travel through American Express.  Offer does not include Fine Hotels & Resorts hotels.  The full terms and conditions can be found here.

A Delta Flight Attendant Who Sets the Bar High

I was traveling recently to New York for Flyertalk’s infamous Brooklyn Reality Tour  and had a flight attendant who was truly exceptional.

Thomas was the flight attendant in charge of First Class, but frankly I don’t think it would have made a difference in service, as he was truly attentive, friendly while maintaining a professional level of courtesy, and had a great sense of humor. Personality-wise he reminds me of a combination of the ever-affable Randy Peterson and Captain Denny, for those who have the fortune to meet both of those individuals.

The first thing I noticed of Thomas was that he went person to person through First Class asking very politely if we would like something to drink prior to takeoff. Sure, any First Class flight attendant should do this, but he took drink orders one at a time and came across very personally.

As boarding continued, from the front of the plane I heard “This is your first flight, come this way!” I watched, in awe, as two young kids were shown around the cockpit and met another flight attendant. “How many other times” I thought, “in this post-9/11 security-crazed world, would other pilots and flight attendants be willing to do such a thing for kids?

During the course of the flight snacks were distributed (the flight time was just over an hour) whenever I had trash he was quick to nice and offer to take it me.

After talking to him for a while about travel (I knew just enough Italian from travels there to answer his “grazi” with “prego”) we exchanged contact information. Thomas, who is showing signs of the silver strands of wisdom, explained that he shares a last name with Iron Man and exclaimed “I’m Iron Man’s older brother!”

At the end of the short flight, there are not many flight attendants I have shaken hands with and been told “I will be contacting, you Bryce.”

Thomas’s service was quite exemplary, and he deserve to be recognized for his service.

Being Nice is Never Devalued

I rang up United today, and was reminded the importance of patience and being nice.

Background Story

Last year, my family and I had travel nearly interrupted when United abruptly cancelled the outbound flight of our trip. Due to some quick thinking on my part (I find it’s always helpful to call on your cell phone line rather than wait with the masses) I got us re-routed on Delta, and we actually arrived sooner than originally expected.

My Call to United

Flash forward today. It’s nearly been a year, and I realize I still need to request original flow mileage credit for a family member if they are to earn miles from the ticket. Yikes!

I called up United, and provided the information, but only after an extensive wait on the phone. I should note that I could have easily grown impatient with the agent. Rather, I kept my calm.

Keep Calm

I was informed that while mileage the return could be credited, because the outbound was on another carrier, they could not provide mileage credit for that portion of the trip. Which is of course, WRONG information. But, no need to be defensive.

I maintained my cool, and simply asked “O, really, why is that?” It would have been easy to get defensive and upset, but by responding patiently and playing dumb a little, I was able to disarm the agent. She said she would check something, then came back a minute later and retracted what she had said—the miles could in fact be credit!

The Lesson

I know folks who would become quickly irate, but in doing so you make no friends for yourself—you make enemies.

So do yourself and everyone a favor today if they tell you something you don’t want to hear: Be Nice. They just might go the extra mile for you!

And United Dissapoints….

I am currently off to Philadelphia, the the City of Brotherly Love, for the July 4th holiday weekend.

 

Anyway, I am flying United, and hell must have frozen over because my flight out of San Francisco features in-flight wi-fi:

United In-Flight

United In-Flight Wi-Fi Available

However, there is a serious downside to this flight:

No Seat Power Available! on Some United Flights with Wi-Fi

No Seat Power Available!!

 

Honestly, the aircraft that I am on (an Airbus A319) is probably about 20 years old.  And just because an aircraft is retrofitted with in-flight wi-fi does not mean that it has in-flight power.  But, if you plan on using one or electronic devices on a 5-1/2 flight, you would certainly expect being able to power said devices using wi-fi.  UnitedFail.

 

Marriott Delivers A “Suite” Experience for Me

It is no secret that I absolutely love the Marriott Rewards program. Despite what many other bloggers say, I think it has a lot to offer and is a great loyalty program.  And during a recent stay I had with Marriott only validated that notion.

The Arrival

Recently, I spent a few days gallivanting through the history, culture of Boston, where I spent a few nights at the Marriott Boston Quincy.

I arrived from a rather late flight, and didn’t make it to the hotel until about 1 AM. While no one was currently available at the desk (I wouldn’t blame them), I rang the bell and Yvonne was quickly available to help me.

I handed her my ID and credit card, with my Marriott Gold Elite status card conspicuously between the two, as I always do at check-in.

It Never Hurts to Ask…

While she was pulling up my reservation I asked her if she by chance any suites were available.  A funny moment ensued, as she said that they had a number of snacks available by the desk. I clarified that I was talking about the type of room, and she apologized as she was in the midst of her mid-term exams.

Given the late hour I didn’t expect one, but it never hurts to ask—and she said that the Executive Suite was available!

Despite the confusion over “suites” I could tell she really cared and did a commendable job, especially given the late hour and the stresses of her academic studies.  I certainly was impressed with her customer service skills and willingness to help.

Because It can Lead to Rewards

One of the great things that make Marriott such a rewarding program in my opinion is they are consistently willing to go above and beyond, and she had certainly done that for me. And suite upgrades for elites are certainly a perk of the Marriott Rewards program, but she was extremely courteous and customer-focused, which left an impression on my despite the late hour.

I wanted to show appreciation for exceptional service, so I offered her a tip. She declined my offer by saying “I’m just doing my job!” I am not sure what Marriott’s policy is for receiving tips within the US, but this may have been why.

She also made sure to hand me a set of breakfast vouchers as the Club Lounge would not be open that weekend, and I headed to my Suite on the 7th Floor.

 

The Suite

The Executive Suite was situated across from the Elevator at an angle between the two perpendicular ends of the hotel.

Marriott Suite Upgrade for Elite Members

Boston Marriott Quincy Executive Suite

Just to the left of the entrance was a small bathroom.  Heading straight back was the living room area with a long table with 4 chairs around at, situated in front of a TV:

Marriott Suite Upgrade for Elite MembersFurther on back and to the right, there was a couch, beside another TV.

Marriott Suite Upgrade for Elite Members

Living Room Area

 

Angled to the left between the two TVs laid the entrance to the bedroom.

 

Marriott Suite Upgrade for Elite Members

Bedroom Entrance

To the right of the bedroom area was a desk and chair, across from the Bed.

Marriott Suite Upgrade for Elite Members

Desk/Chair

 

Marriott Suite Upgrade for Elite Members

Further to the left was yet another additional TV, followed by a closet across from the second bathroom.

(NOTE:  Hopefully this gives you a good layout and size of the suite.  I apologize for some of the missing photos, as I may have accidentally deleted them….:( )

My Thoughts on the Suite

In truth, I realized as soon as I set foot in the suite that it was a bit ridiculous. After all a sofa, two bathrooms, three TVs, and 10 chairs seemed to be a bit much for just one person!

That said, it was quite nice to be able to spread out and get some work done. It was a perfect reprieve from the busy streets of Boston, courtesy of Marriott’s friendly, courteous service.

In fact, I thought the service was quite commendable and that Yvonne should be recognized.  In that same way that I feel it is my prerogative to report when a program doesn’t do well, I feel compelled to brag on a program–and specific agent, so I will definitely pass this along to my contacts within Marriott!

To The Exotic and Beyond

The Question

As a travel blogger and an award travel consultant, I like to at least think I’ve heard it all when it comes to exotic locations.  But a reader email and comment on my Award Booking page had me baffled and intrigued:

Reader Molly asked the following question:

I want to use miles/points for two to get to and from Antarctica. What airline is going to be my best bet for this?

Fascinating question, indeed.

I was asked a rather intriguing question the other day and I thought it would make a great blog post. The question? How can I travel to Antarctica?

What’s the Best Way to Get to Antarctica?

After much research, I have found out that there is no easy way to answer this question. There are many factors to weigh before making this flight.
 

Question #1 – Where Am I Leaving From?

There are several different destinations to leave for Antarctica. While this list is not complete, it does list the major cities from which you can fly.
  1. Capetown, South Africa
  2. Punta Arenas, Chile
  3. Australia (Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne)
 

Question #2 – How Do I Want to Travel?

There are many options for traveling to Antarctica. The most common way is by sea. There are also a few options for flying and landing on a air carrier that will then complete the journey by sea.

Question #3 – How Long Do I Want to Stay?

Do you want to see Antarctica without having to endure it’s harsh conditions? There are several options that are available for flying tours.  While this may not appeal to everyone, doing so would be the most comfortable way to do so, in my opinion.  And one of these provides a very, very unique experience–I’ll just leave it at that!
Would you rather stay overnight? There are several different groups that provide travel and then a camp like experience.
Want to explore Antarctica? No problem! There are options for this as well.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are several unique options for travel to Antarctica. Stay tuned, as further posts will delve deeper into these options!

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