Tag Archives: Qantas

The Logistics Behind Planning a Trip to Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands

Very excited to say that the 2016 Grand Prix Road Trip of a lifetime has been booked! This post is a follow up to the previous two posts I made on the subject while planning the trip, and it’s nice to see the evolution of the plan over a period of time. Have a look at the previous post at the start of the planning stage here: “the logistics behind planning a trip to Australia & New Zealand,” and a follow up here when I discovered it’s cheaper to fly home from the Cook Islands via New Zealand than directly from New Zealand: “booked a flight to Rarotonga, Cook Islands.”

the trip should look something like this, image from Great Circle Mapper
the trip should look something like this, image from Great Circle Mapper

The planning process went from a mock-up above to the actual route depicted below on this beautiful Great Circle Mapper image. The difference being the addition of Hawai’i stopover on the way to SYD.

dream trip to exotic pacific cook islands australia new zealand
the trip will actually look like this, image from Great Circle Mapper

For those that didn’t read the previous planning posts I’ll explain the process of selecting the routes based on the frequent flyer programs I used. Initially my plan was to burn some Virgin America frequent flyer points I had accumulated on a redemption on Virgin Australia to fly from Los Angeles to Sydney. I’ve determined that that was a poor use of those points, so instead I’ll save them for next year to fly on Singapore Airlines A380 between NYC and Frankfurt for one of the European events. Instead, I used American AAdvantage program to book the trip. My dilemma was that I had already used up 8,000 miles in rebates from booking this year’s European trips, and that 1,750 miles would be wasted as I would only get 2,000 back with the 10% rebate that AA offers for AA credit card holders (10,000 max/year). But in the grand scheme of things I’d rather waste 1,750 AA miles which I could earn back relatively quickly (use one of the many AA video promos or dining promos that give 1,000 bonus) instead of paying money on a connecting flight between NY and LA to position myself for the Virgin Australia alternative that I had dismissed earlier. The two options with AAdvantage were to fly Qantas from JFK-LAX-SYD or Hawaiian Airlines JFK-HNL-SYD. And while I was very much looking forward to another flight on Qantas on one of their soon to be retired Boeing 747’s, I chose the stopover in Honolulu instead. I’ve flown Hawaiian before on the way back from the Korean Grand Prix (ICN-HNL-LAX) and always wanted to step out of the Honolulu airport to see a little bit of the island, and now I’ll finally have that chance… I’ll spend the night in Honolulu arriving at 4pm and departing 12pm noon the next day.

kirribilli australia sydney
G’day Australia! Sydney Opera House from Kirribilli

The trip back home is just as convoluted as on the way over. I’ve blogged before that I booked a $21 USD flight from Auckland to Rarotonga and that was done for positioning purposes. You see, to fly from Auckland to New York requires 40,000 Mileage Plus miles to fly Air New Zealand, a United partner in the Star Alliance. Whereas it only takes 35,000 miles to do the same trip from Rarotonga to NYC. So it seems like a no-brainer, Kia Orana Rarotonga! The caveat is to fly home from the Cook Islands you actually fly via New Zealand, and a further caveat it is possible to spend the entire day in Auckland before heading home (with a 5am arrival and a 10:45pm departure). So I was absolutely sold on that deal. But since I didn’t have enough Mileage Plus miles in my own account, I asked mom for help. Signed her up for a new United credit card, spent very little time charging all the house renovation expenses on her card, and in a month I had the mileage at my disposal with enough miles left over in her account to book a round trip flight within the US. Great deal all around.

I have yet to book a flight between Australia and New Zealand mainly because the flights are quite pricey right now ($300+ with AirNZ direct or $149+ with AirNZ through a third party like Expedia). I will wait closer to the travel dates to book that leg of the trip hoping to use the remainder of my soon to expire AirNZ Airpoints. Luckily they’re spoiled for choice with connecting flights between the two countries, so if SYD-AKL doesn’t work out I can do SYD-WLG, MEL-AKL, MEL-WLG, etc.

auckland skyline new zealand nz
Kia Ora Aotearoa! Auckland Skyline from Westhaven Marina

So, compared to the previous trips I took to Oceania/Pacific with my numerous flights to Australia and New Zealand, I think this will be by far the most exotic one I’ve ever done. I’ve read great things about the Cook Islands and look forward to that being the highlight of my trip. But I’m also very excited to see my Aussie and Kiwi friends on their turf. Bathurst 12h is going to be an amazing event. Unfortunately I won’t get a chance to do the NZ V8 Supertourers (or just V8 Touring Cars since competing NZ V8 Supertourers and NZV8’s series merged), but I’m sure there will be a club event I could attend at Pukekohe or Hampton Downs while on the North Islands.

It’s going to be awesome!

For anyone needing help planning their next trip using a combination of frequent flyer miles and other cheap flights, please get in touch… I love a challenge.

 

Some stats on this trip, total mileage flown: 24,098 miles according to the Great Circle Mapper.  Honolulu is almost exactly half way from New York to Sydney, JFK-HNL 4,983 miles vs. HNL-SYD 5,066 miles. I will depart Auckland at 10am on a Monday morning and arrive the Cook Islands at 4pm Sunday afternoon, the day before! (giving me an extra day to spend on the island). Caveat: I will celebrate two Valentine’s Days one in Auckland and one in Rarotonga…

Winter/Summer North/South Hemisphere

2013 is already promising to be an incredible year. I’m particularly excited about the planning process of my next big trip this February and March. I’m not sure what I’m thrilled about the most… maybe its the prospect of flying again. Sure, I love flying! Or perhaps its the prospect of doing some more racing events in the Pacific. Yes, I love Australia and New Zealand racing series a lot, that’s where I got my education. Or maybe I’m just craving a double double with fries animal style? Hmm…

For anyone not familiar with the west coast chain In-n-Out, you don’t know what you’re missing. Well, maybe it doesn’t matter. To be honest, the fast food chain isn’t ridiculously different from any other fast food chains we have on the east coast, like Five Guys Burgers. But they do offer a secret menu and have a cult-like following so every time I get a chance I pay a visit to their establishments. (I think last time was in Las Vegas when I went for the SEMA show). I specifically arranged my flights to LAX in a way that would allow me to have enough time to visit their South Sepulveda location for a nice juicy burger, fries and some half-strawberry half-chocolate milk shake. I do plan to walk to and fro the restaurant to burn off some of the calories.

After I’m properly stuffed with the So Cal experience, I’ll be taking my comfy Qantas A380 flight off to Sydney. Its been a while since I’ve been there, save for of course the quick transit at SYD airport I did on my way home from New Zealand earlier this year. I will be visiting the Blue Mountains in NSW for my first race there. The 12 hours of Bathurst enduro series featuring some Mercedes-Benz SLS, Lambourghini Gallardo, Ferrari 458 Italias and a bunch of others including some Fords and Holdens that will have a GT race within the race running only for the first hour of the event. How cool?

Immediately after the race I plan to make my way over to Auckland for the opening season of New Zealand V8 SuperTourers at Hampton Downs. This would be the second year in a row I’ve volunteered for this event, so I’m especially looking forward to seeing all the folks I’ve worked with earlier this year. Whilst in NZ I plan to do a few trips to the South Island, an experience I missed out on while living there in 2012. Hopefully with the December 12 days of Christmas special I’ll be able to book some cheapo flights to Dunedin or Queenstown on Air New Zealand to make it happen. A visit to Taupo or Manfeild may be in the cards also.

Kiwi land may be the place where I will finally and possibly tragically run out of my savings. But it will not stop me from going. On the way back I plan to return to Australia for the Formula 1 race at Albert Park in Melbourne. A week before there will be another event at a track I’ve been wanting to work since the first time I visited Philip Island. Visiting some friends in Victoria should make an experience memorable as usual.

Retracing my F1 calendar of this year I plan to take a cheap Air Asia X flight to Malaysia for another amazing Formula 1 race at the Sepang Circuit. The flights have already been booked but the confirmation has yet to come, fingers crossed I won’t have any trouble like I did this year. Any visit to Southeast Asia turns out to be a fantastic experience and it would be a great way to end this two month journey.

The excitement will keep me going through the cold Northeast winter we’ll be having in the NYC / New Jersey area, where we just had our first snow not even a week after the superstorm Sandy had her way with us… yikes!

PS. No return flight has been booked yet. It may turn into another epic adventure of a trip!