Tag Archives: United Airline

Using our Miles to get to Australia

As I mentioned earlier, Blogger Hubby and I had decided to take a BIG trip and we wanted to go Business Class and we wanted to use our miles and fly for free (other than taxes).

We wanted to fly from Washington Dulles to Sydney Australia and then fly home from Auckland, New Zealand.  This is called an Open Jaw ticket.  I began searching about 9 1/2 months prior to our trip to find the perfect flights and found that there weren’t many flights to choose from.  I was in for a shock!  Apparently the “rule” is to begin looking about (and each airlines is a little different) 330 days out.  There were no direct flights to Sydney from either LAX or SFO.  I had no idea of how to route us to Sydney.  I had asked for help and was told to try creative routing and to try to route through Asia.  But how?

australia

I was booking using United Airline miles.  To do this, you simply go to the reservation page, type in where you are flying from and where you want to go, check the box at the bottom that says award travel, add your dates and then enter all this information.  There are two types of award ticket – the saver award (which is capacity controlled which means fewer seats) then there are standard award )which are about double the miles but if a seat is available then you can book it).  I was not about to give any miles away by booking standard – I would rather come in a few days earlier or stay a few days later.  I had the somewhat luxury of flexibility.

While doing all this research, I found that one of the routings on the United Airline award booking site that I could fly was to Sydney via Seoul, South Korea.  Really, I asked? It was a “little, no it was a lot out of the way”.   I was, I admit, a little apprehensive about flying through South Korea, not because I don’t like South Korea but because it is so very, very close to North Korea and the government of that country scares me.

The option was to fly on Asiana Airlines which is a South Korean airline and I later found out to be one of the top 5 airlines in the world.  Everyone kept telling me what a great airline and airport Incheon (South Korea) was so I bit the bullet and  went ahead and booked us.  This would be a very long flight from SFO to ICN – 10,700 miles.  On this long haul trip on Asiana we were booked into Business Class and to this inexperienced Business Traveler, it looked like First Class.  I thought I hit the lottery.  We were escorted to our seats by the Asiana flight attendant.  She introduced herself to us, and saw to our every needs.  This flight had a 1-2-1 configuration.  We had the two “pods” in the center with lie down flat seats, footrest, a light over our shoulder, a personal in flight entertainment center beyond anything I had seen before.  We were given our menus to select our lunch and our wines.  Our meal was served to us on linen covered trays, nice china dishes, glass stemware – it was like I was eating in a elegant restaurant.  Our wine glass was always filled and they remembered which wine we were drinking.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t love being pampered like this.

the seat in the lie down  position
the seat in the lie down position
1-2-1 configuration in Business Class.  We had so much room.  For the center seats, there is a panel that you can pull up to give you some separation from your seat mate.
1-2-1 configuration in Business Class. We had so much room. For the center seats, there is a panel that you can pull up to give you some separation from your seat mate.

As this was an Open Jaw trip and since I was a little “nervous” about spending this many points and making sure that I got everything right, I called the international award desk for United and had them help me book this trip.  The fee was $25 per ticket and she spent 90 minutes on the phone with me helping me  get better flight times that I was able to do on my own through the internet.  If you are as unsure as I was, do not hesitate to call your airline.  The fee was well worth it.  If by chance you should get a reservation agent that is not helpful, thank him or her, hand up and call again and you’ll get another agent who will be more helpful.

We were booked  in First Class from Dulles to San Francisco on United.  We had a two and a half hour layover in San Francisco and then we were going to be flying on Asiana in Busness Class and then San Francisco to Seoul on Asiana to be followed a few hours later by our flight, again on Asiana, to Sydney.  Both of these flights on Asiana were booked in Business Class and we would have two overnight flights. This was a flight of almost 11,000 miles!

We still had to find a flight home from Auckland and there were no Business Class seats to be had.  We went ahead and booked on Air New Zealand coach seats from Auckland to LAX and then coach from LAX to IAD.  This flight weighed heavily on my mind and I was not happy about it.  I had been trying to convince Blogger Hubby to stop somewhere on our way home but he had felt that we were gone long enough and we should just go home.  He had also been in Japan and Korea a long time ago and did not feel very comfortable in getting around.  I tried to convince him that the Asia of now was very different from the Asia of when he visited prior to our marriage.

Finally, about two months before our trip he agreed we could stop somewhere on our way home.  With a long haul flight you get a free stopover (stopover is 24 hours or more; layover is less than 24 hours – important to know the difference).  We debated between Bangkok and Singapore.  Since Singapore’s official language was English and they were a former British colony we thought they would be a good introduction to Asia for us.

I could not get a direct flight from Auckland to Singapore and had to look around to piece this flight together.  I spent time on the award web site of United finding cities I could fly into from Auckland and then look for flights from that city to Singapore.  Now I understood about being creative in looking for award seats.  I found a flight on Air New Zealand from Auckland to Brisbane, Australia and then from Brisbane to Singapore on Singapore Air.  Once again, both flights were in Business Class.  I was becoming a travel snob and until this trip had never flown anything but coach.  I was anxious to try both airlines but most anxious to fly Singapore Air as I had heard so many wonderful comments on this airline. This flight was over 5,000 miles.

auckland 5000 miles

From Singapore we needed to get home.  We ended up booking a coach flight on Singapore Air to Beijing, China.  In Beijing, we again flew Business Class direct to Dulles on United Airlines.  This flight was almost 10,000 miles.

iad

What I learned through all this is that you have to be flexible.  Know what flights you want, and know the flight numbers.  It can be very difficult to book this yourself online so call your airline reward redemption telephone number and have them do it for you if you are unsure or want to make sure everything you did is correct.  For the Auckland to Singapore segment, I had to piece it together and give the reservation agent all the flights for each segment.  I first found the Auckland toFor us, United charged $25 per ticket and it was the best use of my money.  They also charge when you make a change to your ticket UNLESS they make a change (and usually they do for flights booked quite a ways out) and then you get to change for free.  We were not charged when we changed our flight from Auckland.  Just be nice and appreciative to the person helping you on the phone.

When booking through one airline and flying on another, you need to get your record locator number so you can call up the airline (in this case Asiana, Singapore and Air New Zealand) to reserve your seats.  Do not skip this step – it is very important. I called as soon as we booked and then I also called a month before the trip to confirm with the other airlines.  I didn’t want anything to happen at the last minute.  I wanted to be prepared as best as I could.  Some people have reported problems with other airlines not having their reservations so I made sure as best as I could that it wouldn’t happen to me.

So that is our flights in a nutshell.  The lessons to take from this is to look for indirect flights if you can’t find a direct one; piece together the segments, always get your record locator for each of the other airlines you are flying and finally, confirm, confirm and confirm!

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Hawaiian Babymoon using UAL and Marriott points

This post is written by Blogger Daughter:

My husband and I travelled to Hawaii for our first time in February 2012. It was so stunning, and such a special time for us. We truly had a blast. The entire time we promised ourselves that we would go back. At the time we thought it would be in  10 years when our kids are old enough to appreciate the trip and the beauty that is Hawaii.

We were wrong. We went back this past February for a “babymoon”. For those who may not be familiar with that term, a “babymoon” is a newer trend where expectant parents take a last vacation before the little one arrives. That is a lisa and natetrend that I am more than happy to jump on the bandwagon for.  The funny thing is, we went there  at the exact same time as we went last year. It worked out this way because I would be in my second trimester in February (which is a great time to travel for pregnant women) and I would also get a day off from work from President’s Day.   Besides, this way we can say we’ve gone to Hawaii twice in the same year. We like to pretend we’re ballers.

In actuality, it didn’t cost us that much. We had enough Ultimate Reward point that we transferred to United Airline miles to pay for one ticket and we had enough Marriott points to pay for 10 nights. But more on that later.

So why Hawaii again? We did think about all our options. We wanted somewhere where we could use our Marriott points to keep the expenses way down. We also wanted somewhere we couldn’t go easily once we have kids…you know, as a getaway for the two of us. We knew once we have children we won’t want to fly 11 hours away. Also, you can’t do Hawaii in a long weekend or even a week from the East Coast where we live, you need longer. If you bring the kids with you,  you want them to be old enough to remember it. We also photo: alohatopten.comwanted a location where there were fun activities to do but also relaxing, Remember I was pregnant.   That took Europe out. So Hawaii it was! The first time we visited the Big Island and Maui. We loved them both. Since there was so much to do and experience on the Big Island that we didn’t do the first time, we decided to visit that island again and Kauai.

The decision was made. Then it was time to actually book the travel. We have been Marriott credit card holders for about six or seven years now. My husband’s work allows him to put his hotel stays for business on a personal card and they partner with Marriott.  It made sense for us to get a Marriott credit card. We’ve been loyal to them since we got the card. They were definitely our first-in-wallet credit card. Well, we were loyal until my mom started learning about all these points and rewards and passing down some of the information to her kids. Now we have multiple credit cards but still use our Marriott a lot. Toblack sand us, it was more beneficial to have our hotel nights free when we travel versus a free flight. Free flights are great however they require more rewards so you don’t get to redeem as often. We redeem for free nights fairly often with Marriott. With Marriott, if you stay four nights you get the fifth night free. It was a no brainer that we would stay on each island for five nights with a total of ten nights in Hawaii, for the “cost” of eight.

The resort we stayed on the Big Island was the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Marriott recently changed the levels of the hotels but this in February it cost us 100,000 points at this hotel ( I believe it is now 120,000). The resort on Kauai was the Kaua’I Marriott Resort and when we stayed it was 120,000 points, now 140,000 points.

This year we reached Platinum level with Marriott (the highest level) which made my husband very happy. I wasn’t aware that this was apparently a goal of his. With that comes automatic room upgrade if available. Unfortunately both resorts were at full capacity so we didn’t a room upgrade at either. We did however get a room upgrade the first time we went and it was great. We had a corner room so it was massive, just so much space. Even without the room upgrade the rooms are very spacious and very well decorated. We didn’t pay for an ocean view for either of them but could see the water at both.

We really love the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa on the Big Island because it’s not too large and between the resort/pool area and the ocean is a waikoloawildlife refuge of sorts -this larger area has tidal ponds, lava rocks and paths to explore. Once you get to the ocean you can walk along the beach in either direction for a peaceful, secluded walk. The area does not have other resorts next door like they often do. Some of our favorite mornings were just talking a walk on the lava rocks watching surfers and keeping an eye out for whales while ogling at gorgeous houses we would see. Another plus was that we were within walking distance of an outdoor mall complete with a high end grocery store, shops and restaurants.

The resort on Kauai was also very nice. The view was spectacular and like the resort on the Big Island, it did not have resorts right next door. They had a good number of restaurants in walking distance. The beach was good with plenty of kauai marriottsand and we were protected in a bit of a cove. The pool area had a bit of a Grecian feel to it. Overall you could tell that this was a higher level resort. It was much larger and just more upscale. Even with the nicer feel, I’m partial to the resort on the Big Island.

As I mentioned earlier, we used points to “pay” for one of our flights. We had signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card after talking to my mom about it. With the sign up bonus and our usage, we had enough to cover one of our tickets. We transferred the points to United and redeemed  40,000 for a non-stop round trip ticket from Washington Dulles to Honolulu. This vacation was barely costing us anything. Okay well maybe that’s not true. We still had food, rental car, spending money, and resort fees to pay for (yes, Marriott charges those).

Our time on both islands was an absolute blast. We spent our time exploring photo:aloha-hawaii.comremote beaches, going on some picturesque hikes, visiting a volcano and numerous waterfalls, sea turtle and whale watching, visiting the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, taking a helicopter tour, and enjoying some great food. Overall, a perfect vacation with my sweet husband.

To read more about their babymoon, head on over to their blog “Life as a Liberati

UPDATE:  Blogger Daughter and her husband welcomed a son the beginning of June.  Here is a photo of the little guy:

nolan