How We Went On A $25,000 Trip Halfway Around The World For Less Than $1000 (a.k.a. What You Can Do With Points & Miles)

I’ve written plenty about how I earn credit card points and airline miles, but gathering all those points and miles is meaningless unless you do something with them. We saved points for several years and managed to take an once in a lifetime trip. We could have taken this trip by flying in coach on the cheapest tickets available but why would you want an amazing trip to be ordinary?

….and no, I didn’t actually pay $25,000 for the trip.

Here’s the details of the best trip I ever planned (with some help).

I booked an open jaw trip using Delta Skymiles (Los Angeles to Australia and then Tokyo back to Los Angeles). An open jaw trip means that you leave and return to the same city but have a gap between the destinations, thus the trip looks like an “Open Jaw”

The first part of the trip was from Los Angeles to Cairns, Australia (via Sydney) on Virgin Australia in business class.
Total distance: 8,710 miles
Cost: 80,000 Delta Skymiles + $229 each (we paid extra to change tickets)

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At almost 15 hours, this is by far the longest flight I’ve ever been on. Being able to get a good 6 hours of sleep on a flat bed made it it not so bad. For the rest of the flight we received two meals, watched plenty of movies and I even sat at the bar for several hours, talking with the other passengers. Yes, the plane has a bar with four seats.

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We spent 2 weeks visiting Australia with Adventures by Disney and had a wonderful time. We can’t wait to go back (Sharon wants to eventually be in Sydney for New Years Eve. It’s become a bucket list item for her. And you know what that means…).

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When we finished that part of the trip , we headed for Japan.

Our first flight was from Hobart to Melbourne on Qantas in coach
Total Distance: 384 miles
Cost: 4,500 British Airways Avios + $13.83 each

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Then from Melbourne to Tokyo (via Bangkok) on Thai Airways Business Class.
Total Distance: 7,435 miles
Cost: 40,000 United MileagePlus miles + $67.70 each

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These flights in total were almost as long as our flight to Australia. However we did get to spend several hours at the Bangkok airport, where as business class passengers we were entitled to get a 30 minute neck and shoulder massage at the Royal Orchid Spa.

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We only spent a few days in Japan. We’ve been several times before to visit the country. We decided to go to visit our favorite part of Japan, Tokyo Disneyland.

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Why yes, I did wear a Buc-ee’s t-shirt in Tokyo.

I know, we went to Japan and stayed in Tokyo Disneyland the whole time. I offer no apology for this. The Disney parks in Japan are the best in the world. For two huge Disney geeks at heart, it is the best place ever. We’ll visit Japan again and explore the country some more but this was just a stopover on the way home.

After getting our Disney fix, it was time to head home.

This was the second part of the Open Jaw ticket I booked to start the trip. We flew from Tokyo to Los Angeles (via Taipei) on China Airlines Business Class.
Total Distance: 8,155 Miles
Cost: 70,000 Delta Skymiles + $229 each (we paid extra to change tickets)

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Sorry, but by this time I was tired of taking pictures of planes (and didn’t know I would be writing a blog about our trip 3 years later). We did get to sit on the top deck of a 747 on the way home which is always cool. I slept for a great deal of this flight, as by this time we were exhausted.

I know I did a pricing of the whole flight at the time but I can’t find it. Sorry.

Looking now, here’s the prices of the flights if I booked them today

Los Angeles to Cairns (via Sydney): $5400 each
Hobart to Melbourne: $100 each
Melbourne to Tokyo: $2300 each
Tokyo to Los Angeles: $5060 each

So for a total of 389,000 miles and $621, we received over $25,000 worth of airfare.
Not bad. On average, that’s just over 6 cents of value per point.

Final Thoughts

When you think about value for your airline miles, using them for international business travel is the best way to get a bang for your buck (or point). The reason is because these seats are usually priced way over what most people would reasonably pay. I’ll tell you there is no way I’d pay over $5000 for any one flight, no matter how long.

What my points did was allow us to fly in a way we would not have otherwise been able to. All of the points I used were earned through sign up bonuses for credit cards, earnings for everyday spending as well as from flights, shopping portal bonuses, rental cars and other means. I only paid $621 to fly both of us halfway around the world, in style. Of the $621, $300 of that was a fee to Delta so we could change our tickets to better flights. I also paid a $250 fee to an award booking service to help me find flights that were best for us. Despite spending many hours of research on the trip, I still wasn’t able to find flights home from Japan by myself and I never would have thought to look at China Airlines. I still am learning all the tricks but I’m willing to go for help when I’m stumped. It’s worth the money for expert advice.

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