Introduction: Christmas in Hong Kong, and New Year in New Zealand

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.

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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.

My parents seat looked like this except on the opposite side of the plane.
My parents seat looked like this except on the opposite side of the plane.

 

Airline Transfer Partner Number of Miles Paid

OR

Price Paid

Spaces opens __ days before departure
Southwest Airlines

MAF-LAS-SFO

DAL-MAF

Chase UR  

 

11000/person

6000/person

195
Cathay Pacific (via BA Avios)  SFO-HKG

First

Business

Membership Rewards, Chase UR  

105k /person (84k MR w/promo)

70k /person (56k MR w/promo)

354 days
Singapore Airlines (HKG-SIN-AKL)

Business

First

Citi Thank You           Chase UR                 Membership Rewards  

46,750 points/person

63,750 points/person

354 days
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

 

Intercontinental HKG

 

 

Harbor View Room Upgrade

 

 

The Twin Harbor View Room at the Intercontinental Hong Kong

IHG Rewards Credit Card Annual Free Night for 1 room

40,000 points for 1 room

+$130

1 Chase IHG Rewards Credit Card
The Rees Queenstown

2 Bedroom Lakeview Apartment

 

~$450/night

 

4 NONE
Hilton Auckland 50,000 HHonors Points/night 2 AMEX Hilton Surpass Credit Card

Citi HHonors Credit Card

 

Park Hyatt Sydney

Relaxing on the couch while looking out at the Opera House from the Park Hyatt
 

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.

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Auckland Skyline as seen from Mount Eden

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…….

  • wildsman

    Nice review! Love the pics

  • Viswanath Sripada

    Saw Australia, Newzeland, and Honkong more from your review!!