How We Went On A $25,000 Trip Halfway Around The World For Less Than $1000

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 a 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 are the details of the best trip I ever planned (with some help). Prices in miles are from when we took the trip. Many of these flights now cost more miles than before.

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’d ever been on. Being able to get a good 6 hours of sleep on a flatbed made 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 Year’s 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, whereas 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, as we had visited the country several times before. So this time 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. 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.

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 5 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 priced the whole flight at the time but I can’t find it. Sorry.

Here are the prices of the flights when I last looked them up in 2017:

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 that 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 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 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, as at the time you could only book flights with them using Delta miles over the phone. I’m still 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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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “How We Went On A $25,000 Trip Halfway Around The World For Less Than $1000”

  1. Pricing your flights and calculating your redemption value in one way legs is quite deceptive. A rational person would never pay 25k to go to Australia in business class. A more truthful approach would be to price a round trip ticket to your primary destination which was Australia I assume. That ticket costs around 4400-5200 per person. Even less if you go via HNL.

    1. I don’t think it’s being deceptive. We didn’t fly round trip to Australia. We took three one way flights. LAX-SYD-CNS HOB-MEL-BKK-NRT NRT-TPE-LAX.

  2. Well you could buy the miles you needed for around $7,000 (with around 5 minutes of total effort), so it’s really hard to value the trip at anything more than that. Oh and you will *earn points* for that spending!

    Then you need to subtract the time you spent accumulating/managing/researching the miles you used. Also subtract the opportunity cost of spending on those cards (meeting minimum requirements) and any annual fees.

    Overall I would say around $5,000 of value but you may disagree…

  3. Fair, I could have paid $7,000 to buy the points. But not many people would consider that a bargain, I’ll say that I was partially lucky as I took advantage of a “share” miles promo with Delta that helped pad our balances considerably. If I planned this trip today #1 I doubt I’d be able to find flights on VS and UA charges considerably more for partners than they did then. For what it was, I was extremely happy with my redemption. and I’m sticking to that story.

  4. Don’t listen to naysayers. Think what makes you happy. If you want you can even think you saved a million dollars. Rest of us aren’t buying it, but that is not important. It’s what makes you happy.

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