Back in January of 2015, I started planning our long awaited adventure to New Zealand. If you know the frequent flyer world already, you probably know that it is almost impossible to find 4 award seats to Australia/New Zealand. Though I was ready to make the journey in economy, my dad wasn’t too happy about the prospect. Understandably so since he only gets so much vacation to relax away from work.
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Introduction: Christmas in Hong Kong, and New Year in New Zealand
Cathay Pacific First & Business Class Lounge San Francisco
Cathay Pacific Business Class (Reverse Herringbone) SFO-HKG
The Conrad Hong Kong – Harbor View Twin Room
The Intercontinental Hong Kong – Harbor View Room
The Sights and Sounds of Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Lounge HKG Airport
Singapore Airlines Business Class HKG-SIN-AKL
The Rees Queenstown Luxury Hotel Apartments
Great Drives near/around Queenstown (Glenorchy, Milford Sound, Wanaka)
The Hilton Auckland
Attractions in/around Auckland (Hobbiton, Mt. Eden etc.)
Emperor Lounge @ Auckland Airport (via Priority Pass)
The Park Hyatt Sydney – Opera View Deluxe King Room
Virgin Australia Business Class SYD-LAX
As I was researching ways to redeem miles to the lands down under, I realized that there was no easy way to find 4 award seats on any flight let alone in a premium cabin. I knew that my best hope was to look for Virgin Australia award space as soon as the dates opened up on delta.com, but I also ran the risk of not having confirmed seats on Singapore Airlines from HKG to Auckland as well as Cathay from SFO-HKG. At the time AMEX Membership rewards was running a 25% Bonus on transfers to BA Executive Club, which made Cathay Pacific First and Business Class reasonably priced (I shall list the award prices later). Pairing the two, though expensive, would confirm premium cabin space the entire way and allow me to take my parents to one of my favorite cities: Hong Kong.
Even after finding seats on Cathay and Singapore, I waited for Virgin Australia to open up space on Delta.com (which does so around 330 days ahead of departure). But as the days went by, I really started to break a sweat since seats on the Cathay flight to HKG were starting to disappear rather fast. After a few days, I just decided to pull the trigger rather than wait for my trip to get shorter. I ended up booking SFO-HKG (Cathay First and Business) and then HKG-SIN-AKL-ZQN (Singapore Airlines + Air NZ), but now I was left with the problem of finding return flights. I looked high and low, but didn’t have any luck for many days. I kept searching for seats everyday for about a month until I found exactly 4 seats on Virgin Australia from SYD-LAX right on the day they release space. I grabbed the seats without hesitation. I’m sorry that the story may seem a bit long, but I just wanted it to serve as encouragement for those looking for aspirational awards. The key is to be persistent and to keep searching.
In the end my sister and I got business class seats, while our parents spent most flights in first class. I will interlude my pictures with some of my dad’s.
|Airline||Transfer Partner||Number of Miles Paid
|Spaces opens __ days before departure|
|Cathay Pacific (via BA Avios) SFO-HKG
|Membership Rewards, Chase UR||
105k /person (84k MR w/promo)
70k /person (56k MR w/promo)
|Singapore Airlines (HKG-SIN-AKL)
|Citi Thank You Chase UR Membership Rewards||
|Air New Zealand (AKL-ZQN-AKL-SYD)||Starwood||$325/person|
|Virgin Australia (SYD – LAX via Delta Skymiles)||Membership Rewards||80,000 Skymiles/person||331 days|
Now that the flight bookings were all completed, I promptly went through and booked/planned out all the hotels. I had an annual free night certificate from the Chase IHG Credit Card, which I used to book the Intercontinental Hong Kong. Since we were headed to Sydney, I applied for the Chase Hyatt Credit Card, which offers two free nights as a sign on bonus. The one problem I had using points was in Queenstown where there were no award rooms to be had the 4 nights I was there. After doing some research, I went ahead and booked the Rees, which had spectacular views. For the rest of my stays (Conrad Hong Kong, and Hilton Auckland) I used the HHonors points from various sign on bonuses.
|Hotel||Payment Method||# of Nights||Credit Card/Transfer Partner|
|Conrad Hong Kong
|32,000 HHonors Points + $150 for 2 rooms
|1||AMEX Hilton Surpass
Harbor View Room Upgrade
IHG Rewards Credit Card Annual Free Night for 1 room
40,000 points for 1 room
|1||Chase IHG Rewards Credit Card|
|The Rees Queenstown
2 Bedroom Lakeview Apartment
|Hilton Auckland||50,000 HHonors Points/night||2||AMEX Hilton Surpass Credit Card|
Park Hyatt Sydney
2 Hyatt Credit Card Free Night Certificates for 2 rooms
|1||Chase Hyatt Credit Card|
Attractions and Drives:
In Hong Kong where it was mostly foggy and even rainy the last day, we visited Victoria Peak, Stanley Market, Hong Kong Park, and the Ladies Market. Though I was planning on visiting the temples, the weather didn’t cooperate and had a large group with varied interests. One thing is for sure: we thoroughly enjoyed the views of the Hong Kong skyline from each of our hotel rooms. And that’s really what Hong Kong is all about: enjoying the skyline and natural beauty of Victoria Harbor.
In Queenstown, where we had 4 full days of some of the most fantastic weather, we went to Milford Sound, Wanaka, Glenorchy, and did some hiking up Queenstown hill. Words cannot describe just how beautiful New Zealand was and I wouldn’t hesitate one moment to return.
In Auckland, we walked around the city and the viaduct harbor and later enjoyed one of the greatest sunsets I have ever witnessed from Mount Eden. Since it was New Year’s Eve, we woke up just before midnight to catch a glimpse of the fireworks that go off from the Sky Tower. On New Year’s day, we drove to Matamata, New Zealand where the world famous Hobbiton movie set is located. We were captivated by just how beautiful the New Zealand countryside was with its rolling hills and green pastures.
Sydney was the last stop on our trip to the lands down under. Unfortunately we only had a day left when we arrived and so we didn’t get to go the zoo, but we did cover most of the city by foot. This included: the Royal Botanic Garden, the harbor bridge, and the opera house. And since we were very graciously offered a complimentary upgrade to the Opera View King room at the Park Hyatt Sydney, we really didn’t have to go far to enjoy the best views in the city.
Stay tuned for the trip report…….