I Just Booked My Best Award Flight Ever, And It’s Not For Me

I’ve been working on booking an award ticket for the last two weeks. I’m happy to say that I’ve successfully booked, on my own, my best award flight to date. Problem is, it’s not for me.

You probably don’t remember but at the end of last year Sharon and I decided to keep our travels for 2018 closer to home. That meant no plans for international travel like in 2016, when we went to Cuba and England/Austria. We’re having a great time on our domestic trips so far and there is so much to see in the USA that we don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything. However, it meant that I wasn’t able to put together any incredible trips this year. That is, until I received the phone call.

My dad and his wife called me one day and we were having one of our normal-ish conversations. Out of nowhere they let me know they decided they want to go back to Southeast Asia. Just a few weeks before that they told me that they want to go to Africa.  I was thinking they were looking at sometime in 2019 but they said they were looking at going in November/December of this year. {thud}. It sure must be nice to be retired.

Now, I knew they were going to travel so after their last trip I had them sign up for some flexible points credit cards. They now both have American Express Premier Rewards Gold cards. I figured it was a solid card for most of the things they spend money on and it earns 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines, 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations and at US supermarkets and 1X points on other purchases. They also have a Costco Visa card for all their Costco purchases and the Amazon Prime Visa for things purchased online from Amazon.

Having flexible points, even if only one type, gave me several options of how to book a trip for them. But before I could start planning the trip, I needed to know where they wanted to go. Originally their trip was easy…they wanted to go back to Thailand and visit Phuket and Bangkok for a two weeks. Easy peasy. I used to use an award booking service but I’m at the point where I know enough to get me where I want to go with the miles and points that I have. However, I wasn’t currently looking at a trip to Southeast Asia.

Luckily, I had just bookmarked an article from One Mile at a Time, Best Ways To Use Amex Membership Rewards Points To Fly To AsiaPro Tip, if you can’t do all the research yourself it’s OK to depend on the research of others 🙂

While dad and his wife have been racking up points for a couple of years, their balances weren’t sky high. I quickly realized that ANA would be the best way to book tickets for them. If you book only ANA flights (no partner airlines), a flight to Thailand would cost 110,000 miles plus tax for a round trip in business class. Since American Express Membership Rewards transfer to ANA Mileage Club at a 1:1 ratio, they already have enough points with AMEX in the bank for this flight.

I set out and found them flights to Bangkok.

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Sharon and I have flown on ANA before in business and first class and it’s a wonderful way to travel to Asia. Unfortunately, I couldn’t include flights to Phuket because ANA doesn’t fly there and adding that flight would cost more miles. That’s when I also found out that flights from Phuket to Bangkok can go for as little as $17 – that’s cheaper that Spirit!!

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It was at this time that JoAnn, dad’s wife, told me that since they were already flying this far, they’d like to add a stop in Bali. She lived there for six months many years ago and longed to go back and see how much things have changed since she left. Since they would already be in Thailand, it wouldn’t be that difficult to get to Bali, right??

Ummmmm………… let me get back to you.

I used my trusty friend Wikipedia to find out what airlines flew to Ngurah Rai International Airport, or DPS (short for Denpasar, the capital of Bali). While ANA doesn’t have flights there, many other airlines do, including Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and EVA Airways who are all members of the Star Alliance.

Here’s where knowing your airline alliances comes in handy. While you can use ANA miles to fly on ANA, you can also book flights on Star Alliance partners for a premium (136,000 miles vs. 110,000 miles). While they were both a little short miles in their AMEX accounts, I decided to see if I could find space available for their new destinations.

Sure enough, I found space available for two people on EVA Airways.

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With only one stop in Taipei, Taiwan. they could get from Seattle to Bali on EVA. What about getting home? Luckily, ANA allows an open jaw on round trip award tickets. They’ll be ending the trip in Bangkok so I looked for flights home from there. Since their travel dates were flexible, I was able to find availability flying on Thai Airways to Tokyo and then from Tokyo to Seattle on ANA.

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If you’ve lost count, that’s about 16,000 miles of flying. I priced this flight on Google Flights. Here’s the price to purchase one ticket.

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For 136,000 miles and $264 in taxes, I booked my dad and his wife on tickets that would have cost $9,368 each. That means they received 6.7 cents per mile in value for their points. This is why, if you are going to fly international business class, collecting points instead of 2% cash back is a much better value proposition.

They’ll get to fly on this seat in EVA Air’s Royal Laurel Class. 

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They’ll also experience Thai’s A380 plane in Royal Silk Class flying from Bangkok to Tokyo and then get to fly back home on ANA’s 787.

I’m already jealous and they haven’t even left. I’m not writing this article to humblebrag; instead I’m just showing you what collecting miles and points makes possible. Whether it’s a $25,000 trip to Australia or visiting all the Disney parks in Asia, miles and points can open up a world of travel you never dreamed of.

Speaking of which, does anyone have suggestions of a good hotel to stay at in Bali???? I know someone who is looking for some insider tips.

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