Tag Archives: MilePoint.com

Flights Booked to a Wedding in Bangkok and Sepang 12h Piggybacked on That Trip

Just a few days ago I was day dreaming how nice it would be to go back to Southeast Asia after almost two years of being away, and I found a perfect excuse to commit to it: my FlyerTalker friend Brian is marrying a beautiful Thai girl in Bangkok a week before Sepang 12h.

Score!

This is going to be such an amazing journey I can’t find words.

This is also the first time I’ve paid for a flight to Southeast Asia, all of my previous trips, and there were plenty of them, were booked using frequent flyer miles. But with two Euro Trips this year and a trip to the Pacific next year I’ve blown through my frequent flyer / loyalty program budgets, on most airlines.

Luckily “The Flight Deal” facebook group alerted me to a reasonable deal on United Airlines to fly between Newark, NJ and Bangkok for just $684 bux. I figured getting from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur shouldn’t be too pricey but just for giggles I checked open jaw flights arriving Bangkok on this deal and leaving from KL, the price was only $27 bux difference which is less than what a low-cost airline would charge on that route, so I booked directly with United EWR-NRT-BKK and KUL-NRT-EWR for the trip back. The stop over in Tokyo introduces a new airline and a new aircraft I haven’t flown before: ANA Airlines and the Beoing 787 Dreamliner. Very cool!

great circle mapper ewr-nrt-bkk kul-nrt-ewr
original route: EWR-NRT-BKK and KUL-NRT-EWR  | map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper: http://www.gcmap.com/

UPDATE (8/16): by the time I got home from work other (cheaper) options opened up. So I cancelled my booking, since it was within the 24 hour period that a customer is able to change his/her mind, and re-booked my flight to go ANA from JFK-NRT-BKK and then Shanghai Air from KUL-PVG my first visit to Shanghai. I will have a 9 hour layover there and fly United back to Newark PVG-EWR. All in all pretty happy with the ability to visit three of Asia’s most amazing cities: Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai for $707! Of course I’ll be sure to add Singapore to the mix with one of the low-cost carriers.


great circle mapper jfk-nrt-bkk kul-pvg-ewr
new route: JFK-NRT-BKK and KUL-PVG-EWR | map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper: http://www.gcmap.com/

Now I’m left to determine what to do in Bangkok for about four days before the wedding, find my way down to Kuala Lumpur the week after, and squeeze a side trip into Singapore for a day or two. Easy!

I’m amazed with all the low-cost airline options that are now available on the route from BKK to KUL/SIN. Air Asia and Thai Air Asia fly it. Jetstar Asia, Tigerair, and Scoot from Singapore fly it. Indonesian airline Lion Air (probably operating as Malindo Air) and Thai Lion Air fly it. And the prices are reasonable from Don Mueng Airport DMK which is a new airport for me, I’ve never used it when in Bangkok. On the legacy front there’s Bangkok Air which is an option. But most interestingly Malaysian Airlines have decent flights for cheap because of their battered reputation, I just may give them a go.

So I’m just thrilled with this development, even though I have no idea how I’m going to fork out all this money especially with flights to Texas for WEC and Georgia for Petit Le Mans area already booked, as well as the Dubai 24h trip planned, and the Pacific trip booked and paid for. I’ll have to work extra hard this summer just to stay afloat.

I’ve also posted on the Miata.net forums if any of the local MX-5 owners in Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore would like to meet up. I’d be so interested in checking out and possibly test driving a right hand drive Miata.

Stay tuned for more updates on this and other trips!

thailand

I love Southeast Asia…

Frequent Flyer: Falling Airfare after the Flight is Booked

Normally I like to share good flight deals I’ve taken advantage of to volunteer as a marshal. In this post I’d like to share what happens when I don’t get the best deal, and overpay for my trip somewhere.

Don’t you hate when the air fare drops after you’ve booked  your flights? Don’t you just hate it when it continues dropping further?

Who doesn’t? I certainly do. And it happened to me several time this year… Boo! Hopefully by writing this down I’ll remind myself to be more patient in the future and make smarter decisions.

So first things first. I used frequent flyer miles to book both of my European trips this season. I thought I got a pretty decent deal redeeming 20k AA miles to go to Belgium via Finland to volunteer at the Nurburgring in May, and 30k AA miles to fly back home, also through Finland but this time the price hike was due to the peak season starting. I used a similar strategy for my second trip to Belgium for Spa 24h to fly via Italy on Alitalia using 30k Delta miles, and 30k AA miles on the way home, again through Finland. I wanted to use domestic miles to fly foreign carriers like Aliatalia (AZ) and Finnair (AY). Both were decent experiences for me, and I’m happy with the way I used my miles.

The two domestic trips I had to book to volunteer in Austin for WEC at Circuit of the Americas and in Atlanta for IMSA at Road Atlanta I decided to use a combination of miles and paid tickets. The reason for using the miles is that I had some 6.5k miles left over in my Avianca Life Miles account which were due to expire in October, and I didn’t foresee using them on anything else, so the decision was made to book a United flight either to or from Austin on a routing that I liked. So that’s precisely what I did. Avianca frequent flyer program allows you to purchase the necessary miles towards an award redemption when you don’t have enough. So using my available miles I only had to purchase another 6k for a standard 12.5k one way award flying their Star Alliance partner: United. I chose an early morning flight on Sunday that would get me back in Newark by 1pm so I can go back to work the same day and work the half-day shift. I thought that was a great use for those miles and the timing was perfect. In all I spent the 6.5k miles and $120 in taxes, fees and of course the additional miles I had to purchase. At the time it seemed like a great idea, though mind you that last year I went to Austin twice flying JetBlue from Boston to Austin/Houston, for $106 round-trip. Basically, I flew two round trips last year for the price of a one way ticket this year. Not that great…

With the trip home taken care of I was eager to book something on the outbound leg. The cheapest option was flying JetBlue from Westchester County Airport (HPN) to Austin via Orlando for $118. Why did I book this trip? I have no idea… totally went against my best judgement but I did. Part of me was afraid that one way air fare would either go up or stay high. The other part of me wanted to participate in the JetBlue promo where this one trip would count as two legs in their TrueBlue frequent flyer program promo, that when combined with the existing trips I’ve taken with JetBlue this year would yield an additional 5k bonus points with the airline, which could be redeemed for a one way medium range flight, like one from NYC to South Florida. Still, using the previous year’s example I paid more for a one way trip than I paid for a round trip before. In all, I spend $238 for the single round trip to Austin. Not great at all…

Now ideally, the best airfare you can get is one you are comfortable paying at the time of the booking. I was comfortable with both of my bookings, and I should have stopped checking prices after I’ve booked because neither ticket was refundable. But I didn’t. Curiosity got the best of me and I continued checking weeks and months after. And what do you know? The prices continued to drop. First I found a Southwest flight for $216 round trip outright, without using frequent flyer miles and departing directly from Newark to Austin without having to drive for an hour to Westchester on the New York Connecticut border, or having to connect through Orlando or Houston. And then the price dropped further to $188 for the same flight. I would have been better off letting the Life Miles expire and still saved $50 bux on this trip. Doh!

southwest ewr-aus

At this point I just wanted to kick myself. I paid $50 bux more for a connecting flight using multiple airports that are further away than my home airport and a direct flight now available through Southwest. Boo! The lesson to be learned is I didn’t have patience. (or common sense!)

Sometimes fares come along that you must pull a trigger on because the price is the rock bottom available for that market. This example happened with my Atlanta booking for Petit Le Mans. I saw Philadelphia to Atlanta direct flight advertised for $127 round trip, thought it was a great deal given the double and triple as expensive flights that were advertised around the same time, so I jumped on it. Only to see the price drop by $10 the very next day (more than 24 hours since my booking). Calling the airline didn’t really help. They were happy to cancel and rebook my trip using the cheaper fare, but it was going to cost me $200 in penalties/rebooking fees. Not very good! A few days later the same flights dropped another $10 bux to $107 round trip. Crap!

So I’m totally having buyer’s remorse for both of my domestic bookings this year. While the damage is fairly minimal on the grand scheme of things, people get burned by airlines for far greater amounts, I’m still not too thrilled with myself for making these rookie mistakes and not having enough discipline and patience to wait for the right deal to come along. For the $70 that I overpaid I could have had a car rental for a week in Atlanta.

But on the positive note I got the flights I wanted, for the precise times I wanted to fly. And I should get from the track right back to the office so I can make some money to pay for my next trip.

What’s the best price to pay for a ticket? The answers are many!

PS. there is one more flight I’m going to need to book this season and that is for my trip to marshal Dubai 24h in January. Normally the flight is in the $800 to $1000 range round trip. My goal is to get it between $300 and $400. We’ll see how successful I am 🙂

Ciao Roma!

I’m an #Avgeek to an extent. I read the frequent flyer forums like FlyerTalk.com and MilePoint.com and take advantage of the amazing deals people find on there to do most of my traveling. If not for FT or MP I wouldn’t be able to volunteer internationally, it’s as simple as that. But where I differ from other Mileage Runners out there is that I actually get out of the airport and check out the place I’ve flown into on a layover. The trip to marshal Spa 24h was a perfect example of this, where I attempted to stop over in Rome on a few hour layover. And spend a night in Chicago on the way home.

While I’m sure others would be weary of attempting a sightseeing tour of Rome after arriving at 7am and connecting to a 3pm flight, but I went for it. The Leonardo da Vinci airport is about an hour away from Rome using public transport, and at that hour of the morning rush hour traffic is guaranteed. However I got pretty lucky and made it to the city by 9am, by the time the flight arrived at the gate and I cleared customs it was 8am. The beauty of the bus ride is that it was great for sightseeing in air conditioned environment. For one, it passed right by the Colosseum (both on the way there and back along with a number of other historic sites that I know little about). But seeing that the Colosseum is in a hilly area I changed my plans of staring my tour from there and instead took the metro a few stops from Termini stations to Piazza di Spagna.

ciao roma spanish steps piazza di spagna

Took a quick shot with the famous Spanish steps, and continued in the direction of the Pantheon.

ciao roma citroen mitsubishi electric police car

Along the way spotted a cool police car, a badge engineered Citroen version of a Mitsubishi electric city car. (which always looked like a four door version of the Smart ForTwo from Mercedes-Benz… and knowing that Daimler-Benz was a stakeholder in Mitsubishi when this car was designed, I’m sure there was some collaboration).

Before I could reach the Pantheon I stumbled into a neat gelato store which offered some much needed relief for the rising temps outside, both with the air conditioner and delicious gelato. Rome went up to 36 Celcius during my visit and I was melting while running around for the three hours I spend in the city… my jeans were soaking wet.

ciao roma pantheon

After the obligatory selfie at the Pantheon I followed advice from a fellow FT’er from Germany to check out the classic salumeria in the square for a sample of their prosciutto and panini. It was delicious! I tend to compare foodie places to something I’m already familiar with, and my regular lunch place outside the office: Cosmo’s salumeria in Hackensack, NJ offers comparable experience as the authentic spot in Rome. I was very pleased discovering that.

ciao roma salumeria pantheon

While making my way towards Piazza Venezia and the Roman Forum I spotted a familiar car badge engineered to represent the home country.

ciao roma lancia thema

This Chrysler 300 was wearing a Lancia badge which calls it Thema. And the limo driver behind the wheel did a great job trying to avoid me running after it with my cell phone camera.

Eventually I made it to the Roman Forum, which was incredible.

ciao roma roman forum

These are several thousand year old ruins from the peak of Roman Empire. The sense of history is overwhelming in Rome, I highly recommend it for anyone even remotely interested in discovering things you learn in history books… experienced in real life.

The final stop on my tour was of course the Colosseum.

rome road trip

My plans did include a visit to the Vatican, but with my flight departing late from NYC and arriving slightly behind schedule after catching up some time in the air, there just wasn’t enough time to venture across the river. So I left it for next time. Rome definitely deserves another, longer visit in the future!

With buses running only twice an hour between Termini and FCO I decided to leave Rome at noon to make sure I don’t jeopardize my flight at 3pm. Of course once I arrived at the airport the sightseeing didn’t stop as I was pretty impressed with the Automotive dining options there.

ciao roma mercedes-benz cafe pizza fco

Yes, there is a Mercedes-Benz Cafe in the terminal. Conveniently it was right next to my departure gate for Brussels. And as much as I was craving the authentic thin crust pizza sold by the slice on a beautifully crafted long plate adorning the Mercedes-Benz star, I was not at all hungry and still had most of my panini and prosciutto left to finish. So I took the picture instead of buying more food.

I used my Delta Sky Miles frequent flyer program miles to book the flight to Brussels via Rome on Alitalia. On the way home I used American AAdvantage miles to fly Finnair via Helsinki. But the NYC flight was completely sold out, so I finagled a routing via Chicago and American was kind enough to throw in a freebie leg from Chicago to NY which was a day after arrival. That gave me a couple of hours in the evening and almost the whole day next day to explore Chicago downtown. Which I totally turned into a Foodie Tour while sightseeing.

chicago deep dish pizza

First stop on the itinerary was Giordano’s deep dish pizza the evening of my arrival. It was delicious. Absolutely delicious. Though at $18 quite pricey and way too big for me to finish at around 10pm at night. But it was so good.

The next morning the foodie tour continued. I made a list of about five places that I had to sample, Chicago Hot Dogs was represented by a few iconic places. There was a joint selling Chicago style fries with cheddar cheese which was not my favorite especially after being on a fry diet in Belgium for a week. But the hot dog places rocked.

chicago hot dog double

I followed the Chicago River as I visited one eating establishment after another and really enjoyed the Rivewark, Michigan Avenue and Millenium Mile. I’ve been to Chicago a few times before, but somehow I never managed to find the famous Bean until this time. It was hiding from me in plain sight:

chicago road trip

What an impressive piece of art work. And I was super glad to finally discover it for myself with the obligatory selfie to keep for my memory.

The two side trips on this Motorsport Road Trip were as exciting to me as the Spa 24h race. I love taking advantage of opportunities to see something that I would otherwise not have a chance to experience. I always tried in the past to piggyback a visit to Thailand whenever working Singapore or Malaysia events. And I’m especially looking forward to visiting the Cook Islands on my next trip to Australia and New Zealand.

Bon voyage everyone! Happy Travels…

 

The logistics behind planning a trip to Australia & New Zealand

2016 is going to be a great year. To start I’d like to do a couple of international events that I haven’t done in a long time. Bathurst 12h is perhaps the biggest one of them all.  But getting to Australia and New Zealand is a bit of a challenge. For one it’s on the other side of the world, and it literally takes days to get there. Which means I need more time off from work. But it’s also costly even when redeeming frequent flyer miles to pay for the trip.

The purpose of this post is to collect information on what my options are, and to seek advice from other frequent flyers to optimize my redemptions and get the best deal possible.

Virgin Australia booked through the use of Virgin America elevate points seems to be the best deal. It would take only 40,000 points and $140 tax to fly from Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD) round trip. Unfortunately I would still have to find my own way to LAX from NYC, and I don’t actually have 40,000 elevate points in my account which is currently at just 26k or so. Luckily one way redemptions start at 25,000 elevate points either LAX-SYD or SYD-LAX and $90 tax.

virgin australia using virgin america points

American Airlines AAdvantage redemption is the second best choice. It would require 75,000 miles and $114.50 in tax to fly from New York City (JFK) to Sydney (SYD) with a layover in Los Angeles (LAX). A bonus of redeeming miles with American as their credit card holder I would also get 10% rebate back on the mileage spend. So it would only take 67,500 miles to fly this route. I have flown Qantas on this route before a few times, using both their Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 birds, and it was a very enjoyable experience.

qantas using american airlines milesThe downside of course is that this year I have already used up 8,000 of the 10,000 rebate allowance with my two trips to Europe for Nurburgring 24h and Spa 24h. So the most I would actually get back is the remaining 2,000, which would result in 5,500 miles wasted. So I’m not too eager to redeem my AAdvantage miles on this trip. And I haven’t even gotten to the part of visiting New Zealand yet.

United Airlines Mileage Plus is also a valid option on this routing. At this point there are a lot of redemption opportunities both on UA metal and on their partners like Asiana Airlines or Air New Zealand. And best of all there is opportunity to book open jaw flights to arrive Australia and leave from New Zealand. However availability is non-existent to arrive NZ in the heart of their summer at the end of January so the only option is to fly to Australia first and leave from New Zealand after the race at Bathurst.

My ideal redemption would be to fly to Sydney (SYD) on a partner airline like Asiana with a connection in Seoul Icheon (ICN) using 40,000 UA miles and $36.40 in tax.

asiana using united miles

Or I could fly on United metal directly from Newark, NJ (EWR) with a layover in Los Angeles (LAX) with a minimal connection of 45 minutes which would definitely get me to Australia in the least amount of time and money using 40,000 UA miles and $27.40 in tax.

united mileage plus redemption to australiaOn the way back I could fly United’s partner Air New Zealand from Auckland (AKL) to Newark, NJ (EWR) with a connection in LA (LAX) and I would actually plan a trip in such a way that would give me a 13 hour layover in California so I can go do stuff in Los Angeles, have an In-n-Out burger at LAX or something. It would take 40,000 UA miles and $45.90 in tax to do this.

united mileage plus redemption from new zealand

The problem of course is I don’t have 80,000 UA miles to book this trip. I don’t even have 40,000 UA miles at this point, I’ve spent most of my savings flying Singapore Airlines in 2013 to get to Singapore GP and the Korean GP. But there was a UA credit card offer that I signed up and expect to earn the 40k necessary in the next few months.

So my real dilemma is how to mix and match the miles I have to make this trip a reality.

There is also a final option, and that is to buy the trip outright. However, at this point I’m looking at at least $1,200 to $1,400 investment, possibly more as I am dealing with arriving in Australia and traveling back through New Zealand. That’s a lot of money to spend on a Motorsport event. I remember Qantas put on a sale a few years ago offering NYC-SYD for just $700 USD. But that was back in the days of V Australia creating competition between Qantas, United and Delta AirLines which had started flying to Australia. Since then, Virgin Australia and Delta codeshare on the route eliminating some of the previous cutthroat competition. I will be keeping my eye out on The Flight Deal and similar web sites between now and the end of the year to see if any new sales or mistake fares pop up.

The sure plan though is to use frequent flyer miles. So if anyone has any suggestions or best routing tricks I could implement to make this trip a reality without breaking the bank, I would love to hear form you!

I haven’t mentioned how I’d get from Australia to New Zealand or vice-versa should things materialize that way. Since I lived in Kiwi land in 2012 I have saved up 300 AirNZ dollars that have been impossible to redeem for anything of value. They are best spent on purchasing tickets with AirNZ where 1 AirNZ dollar = $1 NZD. So my plan is to use one of the many AirNZ flights across the ditch from Sydney (SYD) to Auckland (AKL) and paying a premium for it just to use up the points. In the past I’ve purchased a flight round trip from Australia to NZ for less than $300, but now I just don’t want them to expire, so I’ll use them as necessary. While living in NZ my goal was to use those points to fly to some place exotic like Tonga, Samoa or the Cook Islands… but just like a job that never materialized there, neither did the dreams to go to a beautiful Pacific island for vacation… Boo freaking hoo!

air new zealand flight between sydney and auckland

Ironically, $300 NZD seems to be the sweet spot for booking the flight outright so many months out from my travel dates. While using Airpoints – the AirNZ currency, only a certain amount of points can be used with the rest paid in cash, which makes this trip ridiculously overpriced. Also ironic is the partnership between Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia to compete with Qantas and their low cost carrier JetStar on the route. The sub $300 round trip I mentioned before was booked on JetStar.

 

Frequent Flyer Miles

There isn’t a dollar that I spend that doesn’t earn me some frequent flyer miles. What’s my obsession with airline miles/points? It is my means of transportation to events far and wide to volunteer. Most people I tell have a hard time believing the fact that the last time I paid for a flight to Australia was the very first time I flew there on a working holiday. I don’t think I have ever paid outright for a flight to Asia, and over the past few years I’ve been to Singapore a number of times, typically in the luxury of the Singapore Airlines A380 to boot.

How is that possible?

Doesn’t it usually take thousands of miles to fly? And for an infrequent flyer it takes forever to earn those miles while paying for flights. Sure it does. But you don’t need to fly to earn miles. I’ve been a FlyerTalk.com and MilePoint.com evangelist for ages but most people I preach this information to simply don’t believe me. Let me say it again, you don’t need to fly to earn miles, especially if you live in the US. I take advantage of just about any promotion out there to earn miles. No matter how many miles I earn, it will all be useful at some point in time. No amount is too small or too big.

Currently, and probably for a very limited time, there is a generous promotion from American Airlines and Cadillac celebrating their partnership in offering service, giving you 7,500 FREE AAdvantage miles just for test driving a Cadillac of your choice. There are three Cadillac dealerships within 10 minute drive from my home, so you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll head over to one in a jiffy!

aa caddy

Here’s the link: http://www.aa.com/i18n/urls/aad-cadillac-offer.jsp

Such offers are rare though. But you must keep a look out and take advantage of opportunities as they come up. Obviously, you must not wait for a killer offer to come around because they are very unpredictable. You may however participate in various promotions on things you buy and do everyday to earn miles. One such example is Dining. In the past few months I’ve accumulated nearly 20,000 miles from several dining programs by taking advantage of their promotions. This included spending some money, but like I said it is for stuff that I buy anyway, so why not get some extra miles while doing it. I am of course speaking of the AAdvantage Dining promotion of 10,000 for 10 dines at $40+ apiece. Not the cheapest thing out there, but considering you earn miles for the money you spend on food anyway, between 3 and 5 miles per $1, you actually earn enough miles from the promotion to fly one-way anywhere in the continental US that American or USAir flies. That’s a ridiculously good deal. I’ve also used a similar promo to get United Airlines miles and am currently working on getting 7,500 Delta miles.

Remember you can double and triple dip on the mileage you earn. For example, I often book a car rental using a promo code from an airline or AAA to get a discount. Pay for the car with my Delta or American Airlines credit card to earn their miles, and credit the mileage earned for the car rental itself to a third airline, like Southwest for example which has one of the more generous earning capabilities with the car rentals. Considering that you can use a significantly smaller number of Rapid Rewards points to redeem free flights on Southwest, it makes perfect sense to do this. Using airline shopping portals is a great avenue of earning more miles for things you buy anyway. Recently I got more miles for purchases at auto-parts stores to do some maintenance on my personal vehicles, for buying parts than I earned for actually flying a short hop on that airline. It is amazingly generous.

The most generous airline frequent flyer miles/points earning potential is signing up for the airline credit card. This is mostly available for people living in the US. And many factors dictate if you qualify like your credit score. But when you can, definitely go for the generous sign up bonuses. It could mean the difference between paying $1,000+ for a flight to Singapore and flying for $60 (where you only pay a portion of the tax by redeeming miles).

Do it, do it… do it!  And if you need help, get in touch, I’m happy to share information about what I’ve learned so far…. Good luck!

Top photo credit: American Airlines – AA.com