Going to see the Disney Theme Parks in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo are bucket list trips for many Disney fans. However most people never try to make the trip because it seems out of reach to them. The excuses that people most often give is that the flights are too long or the airfare is too expensive.
When I saw a post on Facebook from one of my friends saying that he and his wife just returned from Japan, I commented that I was so happy for them. I know they’re big Disney fans and I was thrilled they got to see Tokyo Disney. We talked a bit and I discovered that, in fact, they just returned from an epic 10 day trip where they visited all three of the Disney theme parks in Asia. On top of that, all their flights were booked with miles and they flew exclusively in business and first class the whole way. #FTW
It’s with his permission that I’m now going to share how they were able to go on this trip and pay almost nothing out of pocket for airfare. I’m quiet jealous of some of the flights they took, and am remembering that Sharon and I still haven’t been to Hong Kong or Shanghai.
Chicago to Hong Kong
Their first flight was on Cathay Pacific’s 777-300ER in Business Class. They were on a four class plane and they managed to snag two seats in the business “mini-cabin” in front. If I have to spend 14+ hours on a plane, this isn’t a bad seat to have for the flight.
They booked this flight with a combination of 70,000 American Airlines miles and 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles.
I love the look of Hong Kong Disneyland’s castle with the classic California look and the mountains in the background. After spending their time in Hong Kong, they were off to mainland China.
Hong Kong to Shanghai
It’s a short 3 hour flight to Shanghai from Hong Kong. They flew Cathay Pacific again, but this time on a regionally configured A330. No flat beds but you don’t really need them for such a short flight.
Intra-asia flights are a great deal using British Airways Avios. They used 15,000 Avios each for the flights, which they transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards If they had flown economy, the flights would have only cost 7,500 Avios each.
The Enchanted Storybook Castle at Shanghai Disneyland looks amazing and is the tallest of all the Disney castles.
It wasn’t long before they had to head on to Japan for the final stop of the trip.
Shanghai – Tokyo
They redeemed another 15,000 Avios each for business class flights on Japan Air Lines. This flight is also just three hours but they flew in style and had a flat bed seat on a 777-200 with JAL’s SKY SUITE III interior.
Their flight landed at Haneda airport and from there it was a short ride to get to the Tokyo Disneyland Resort. While Hong Kong’s castle looks like California’s, Tokyo Disneyland’s castle is almost a replica of the one in Orlando.
Besides using miles for all the flights, my friends also used points to pay for their hotel at Tokyo Disney. They booked four nights at the Hilton Tokyo Bay with the Citi Prestige card. By using this card’s fourth night free benefit, they were able to pay 71,355 Citi ThankYou points for the entire stay for a room that would have cost $1295.
All that was left to do after seeing all of those Disney parks was to get home. They took what might be the best way to get home from Japan, Korean Air’s First Class.
Tokyo – New York (via Seoul)
Korean Air is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. Availability on their First Class cabins can be quite good because their major transfer partner in the US (Delta) doesn’t allow you to book First Class tickets with SkyMiles. The flight cost 80,000 Korean Air miles, which is a bargain when you consider it’s 70,000 American miles to fly to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific in Business class.
For the flight from Narita to Seoul they were on a 777-300 in a Cosmo Suite. His comment about this seat was that they each had “Four Freakin’ Windows” per seat.
For the final flight, they got to travel from Seoul to New York in seats 1A & 1K in the nose of a 747-800. This plane has Korean’s Cosmo 2.0 suite product, which features doors on each seat for extra privacy. Perfect for you introverts out there.
Breakdown (There’s some math ahead)
How many points did this trip take?
- 70,000 American Airlines Miles
- 50,000 Alaska Airlines Miles
- 60,000 British Airways Avios
- 160,000 Korean Air Miles
That might seem like a whole bunch of points. However if you’re a couple and both have good credit and pay your bills off every month, it’s not hard to get that many miles if you have the time.
- American Airlines – Current sign up bonus is 60,000 miles for spending $3,000 in 3 months for the Citi American Airline card and the Barclays Aviator Red card is offering 50,000 for paying the $95 annual fee and making a purchase.
- Alaska Airlines – Current sign up bonus for the Alaska credit card is 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days. You can also transfer Starwood points transfer to Alaska and with the 20% bonus on 20,000 SPG points will become 25,000 Alaska miles. If you need more Starpoints, you can transfer your Marriott Rewards points to Starwood at a 3:1 ratio. The 100,000 point Marriott Rewards credit card offer = 33,333 Starpoints so there’s another way you can get some extra Alaska Airlines miles, if you need them.
- British Airways – The Chase British Airways card currently has an offer for 50,000 Avios if you spend $3,000 in the first three months (and up to 100,000 Avios if you spend more in the first year). British Airways Avios is a transfer partner with AMEX Membership Rewards and you can find sign up offers for AMEX cards varying between 50,000 to 100,000 Membership Rewards points pretty much all the time. Chase Ultimate Rewards also transfer to British Airways but you’d be better to save them for their other partners, like Korean Air.
- Korean Air – The main way people get miles in the Korean Air SkyPass program is by transferring them from Chase Ultimate Rewards. The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve both have 50,000 sign up bonuses right now. The Chase Ink Preferred Business card has a 80,000 sign up offer but you need to have a business to sign up for that one. You can also transfer Starwood points to Korean Air the same way you can transfer them to Alaska.
If you’re playing in two player mode (and getting awards for two people), here’s just one way you could go on this epic trip.
- Each person sign up for a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve (50,000 Ultimate Rewards x 2)
- Person 1 (who has a business) sign up for the Chase Ink Business Preferred (80,000 Ultimate Rewards)
- Person 2 sign up for the 100,000 Marriott Rewards Premier Plus card
- Person 1 sign up for an American Express card offering at least a 50,000 sign up bonus.
- Person 2 sign up for an Alaska Airlines card (30,000 Alaska miles)
- Person 2 sign up for an Citi American Airlines card (60,000 American miles)
Person 1 would have (just from the sign up bonuses from meeting the spending requirements). 130,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards and 50,000 Membership Rewards. Person 2 would have 50,000 Ultimate Rewards, 30,000 Alaska miles, 100,000 Marriott Rewards points and 50,000 American Airlines Miles.
You can pool Ultimate Rewards, so put all 180,000 points into Person 1’s account and you’d have enough for two one way, first class tickets on Korean Air and 20,000 points left over.
Transfer those remaining 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points to British Airways Avios along with the 50,000 Membership Rewards points. You’ll have 70,000 Avios which is more than enough for your intra-asia flights.
Person 2 will transfer the 100,000 Marriott Rewards points to SPG and then transfer 20,000 Starpoints into 25,000 Alaska Airlines miles. This will give a total of 55,000 Alaska Airlines miles, enough for a Business Class ticket to Hong Kong.
Transfer the other 13,333 Starpoints to American Airlines (it would be better if you waited until you had 20,000 Starpoints so you could get the bonus 5,000 miles, but for this example we’ll ignore that). You’d have 73,333 American Airlines Miles. There’s your miles for your other ticket to Hong Kong on American Airlines.
So, it’s possible. Person 1 would have to sign up for three credit cards and Person 2 would have to sign up for four cards. Meeting the spending requirements for these cards isn’t a small task but if you have the time to do this over a year or so, it’s not too bad. You’d also have the opportunity to wait and see if any of these cards would increase their sign up bonuses over that time. My friend was fortunate that he signed up for the Sapphire Reserve when it had an introductory sign up bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards. That made a huge dent in the amount of miles needed for the trip
Our friends were able to do it. We did it (three times). I’m sure if you set goals and go for them, you’ll be able to do it too.
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