Bucket List Awards

A guide to using your miles and points for dream vacations.

Most of us have a bucket list—a list of places to visit and experiences we wish to have before we leave this planet for our final journey.

In a recent survey, we asked travelers to share three destinations in their bucket list. Antarctica was the top destination, followed by Africa, Argentina, Australia, Maldives and Japan. Other destinations with multiple votes included Tahiti, Thailand, South Africa, Jordan (Petra) and New Zealand.

We asked if they are saving up miles and points to travel after they retire. A majority at 66 percent said no while 20 percent said yes and 14 percent said they are already retired and are using their miles/points.

We also found that 30.6 percent say that they plan to travel business class for their bucket list award trips. And when it comes to flying first class and staying in a luxury hotel, 55.3 percent say that flying first class is not at all important, it’s where you land that’s important, while 45.8 percent of those responding said that the hotel you stay at during a dream trip is as important as the place you’re visiting. A few, 14.6 percent, say absolutely, the place you’re staying is as important as where you are.

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”
– John Steinbeck

In this article, we’re looking at bucket list travel with miles and points in mind. Everyone’s list is different but we’ll get you started with just a few inspirational destinations and will include information about how to get there with miles and where to stay with points. The mileage amounts for awards below are for roundtrip flights. The hotels are listed by their ranking on TripAdvisor. Where do you want to go?

Alaska (Northern Lights)

“I finally figured out we’re somewhere between the end of the line and the middle of nowhere.”
– Joel, Northern Exposure (CBS 1990–1995)

Alaska is logged on many bucket lists. And if you wish to see the Northern Lights before your lights go out, this is one place to see them. Also known as the Aurora Borealis, this natural phenomenon, according to Wikipedia, is “a natural light display in the sky caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere.” The Aurora Borealis is named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas. “There is something dream-like about these unpredictable light shows, and some people cherish an ambition to see them for years,” wrote Rob Hugh-Jones for PRI’s The World.

Travel tip: 
The best time to see the Northern Lights is from September to mid-April and the best place is Fairbanks. The best time for catching the aurora during spring and fall (September and March) is between 12:30am and 4:30am and in the winter, between 11:30pm and 3:30 am, with the peak at 1:30am.

Airlines direct from mainland U.S. to Fairbanks: 
Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, United Airlines, US Airways, Virgin America.

Airlines direct from Canada: 
Air Canada, Sun Country.

Aeroplan
ClassicFlight coach short-haul – 15,000 miles
ClassicFlight coach long-haul – 25,000 miles
ClassicFlight business short-haul – 25,000 miles
ClassicFlight business long-haul – 50,000 miles
ClassicFlight first – 70,000 miles

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Money and Miles – 50 percent discount up to $100 + 10,000 miles
Money and Miles – 50 percent discount up to $200 + 20,000 miles
Super Saver Coach – 25,000 miles
Choice Coach – 40,000 miles
Full Flex Coach – 55,000 miles
Super Saver First – 50,000 miles
Full Flex First – 100,000 miles
On partner American Airlines:
Coach – 25,000 miles
Business/first – 65,000 miles
On partner Delta Air Lines:
Coach – 25,000 miles
Business/first – 50,000 miles

American AAdvantage
Coach MileSAAver – 25,000 miles
Coach Anytime – 50,000 miles
Business/first class MileSAAver – 50,000 miles
Business/first class AAnytime – 100,000 miles
First class MileSAAver – 65,000 miles
First class AAnytime – 130,000 miles
On partner Alaska Airlines:
Coach peak – 25,000 miles
Business/first – 50,000 miles
Premium – 65,000 miles

Delta SkyMiles
Coach Low – 25,000 miles
Coach Medium – 40,000 miles
Coach High – 60,000 miles
Business class Low – 45,000 miles
Business class Medium – 80,000 miles
Business class High – 100,000 miles
BusinessElite or first class Low – 60,000 miles
BusinessElite or first class Medium – 110,000 miles
BusinessElite or first class High – 140,000 miles
On partner Alaska Airlines:
Coach – 25,000 miles
First class – 60,000 miles

Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns
Coach (one class of service) – 20,000 miles

JetBlue TrueBlue
From the TrueBlue website: The number of points required for a particular flight is based on the published base fare at the time of booking, which depends on, among other things, the flight chosen and applicability of peak travel periods.
Coach – roundtrip flights start at 10,000 points (earn six points per $1 spent when booking on jetblue.com)

United MileagePlus
Coach, less than 700 miles each way – 20,000 miles
Coach, Saver Award – 25,000 miles
Coach, Standard Award – 50,000 miles
First and business class, Saver Award – 50,000 miles (add 20,000 miles for first class when both business class and first class are offered)
First and business class, Standard Award – 100,000 miles (add 40,000 miles for first class when both business class and first class are offered)
Coach Saver Awards at the rates above also available with Star Alliance partners Air Canada and US Airways.

US Airways Dividend Miles
Coach Low – 25,000 miles
Coach Medium – 50,000 miles
Coach High – 80,000 miles
First class Low – 50,000 miles
First class Medium – 90,000 miles
First class High – 120,000 miles
US Airways Dividend Miles members can travel to Alaska on other Star Alliance carriers including Air Canada and United.

Virgin America Elevate
Virgin America flies to Anchorage with seasonal service between June 6 and Sept. 9. Elevate award flights are dynamically priced so the number of points required for a flight is based on the fare price and increases in direct proportion to the cost of a flight, which mirrors the way in which members earn points. When we searched, a roundtrip main cabin flight between San Francisco and Anchorage was 17,386 points. If you chose to purchase that same flight it would be $395.50.

Alaska Hotels: 
The best rated hotels according to TripAdvisor where you can spend points in Fairbanks are Hampton Inn & Suites Fairbanks (Hilton HHonors Category 6 30,000-50,000 points), Best Western Plus Chena River Lodge (Best Western Rewards 28,000 points), Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Fairbanks (IHG Rewards Category 2 15,000 points) and SpringHill Suites Fairbanks (Marriott Rewards Category 4 15,000-25,000 points).

In Anchorage, you could consider Embassy Suites Anchorage (Hilton HHonors Category 8 40,000-70,000 points), Homewood Suites by Hilton Anchorage (Hilton HHonors Category 7 30,000-60,000 points), Holiday Inn Express Anchorage (IHG Rewards Category 6 35,000 points), SpringHill Suites Anchorage Midtown (Marriott Rewards Category 5 20,000-30,000 points), Hilton Garden Inn Anchorage (Hilton HHonors Category 7 30,000-60,000 points), Sheraton Anchorage Hotel & Spa (SPG Category 3 7,000 points), Comfort Inn Ship Creek (Choice Privileges 16,000 points) or Preferred’s The Hotel Captain Cook.

Mexico (Copper Canyon Train)

“You must live life in its very elementary forms. The Mexicans have a very nice word for it: pura vida.”
– Werner Herzog

Copper Canyon (Barranca del Cobre) is larger and deeper in places than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The walls of the canyon are copper in color, hence the name, and the area is part of the Parque Nacional Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon National Park). The most popular way to see the canyon is via train. The Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico (ChePe), runs along the main canyon called Canyon Urique, between Chihuahua and Los Mochis, on the Gulf of California. The redemption amounts to Mexico mirror those to Alaska except for Delta and US Airways (listed below) and we are including information for Spirit Airlines.

Travel tip: 
The best time to take the train trip to Copper Canyon is between October and March, when the temperatures are cooler and it is preferable to start the train journey from Los Mochis or El Fuerte and travel towards Chihuahua City. The flight from Mexico City to Los Mochis is about 75 minutes.

Airlines direct from mainland U.S. to Mexico City: 
Aeromexico, Alaska Airlines, AirTran Airways, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, Virgin America.

Airlines direct from Canada: 
Air Canada.

Others: 
Copa, Avianca-TACA, WestJet, LAN, TACA.

Airlines that fly to Los Mochis:
Aeromexico, Delta, Volaris.

Aeromexico Club Premier
Economy – 30,000 miles
Clase Premier – 60,000 miles

Aeroplan
ClassicFlight coach – 40,000 miles
ClassicFlight business – 60,000 miles
ClassicFlight first – 85,000 miles

AirTran Airways A+ Rewards
Members earn credits by flights taken: one-way coach earns 1 credit, one-way business class earns 1.5 credits
Coach – 16 credits
Business class – 32 credits

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
(Same as going to Alaska. See above.)

American AAdvantage
(Same as going to Alaska. See above.)

Delta SkyMiles
Coach Low – 35,000 miles
Coach Medium – 55,000 miles
Coach High – 75,000 miles
Business class, BusinessElite or first class Low – 60,000 miles
Business class, BusinessElite or first class Medium – 100,000 miles
Business class, BusinessElite or first class High – 140,000 miles

Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns
(Same as going to Alaska. See above.)

JetBlue TrueBlue
(Same as going to Alaska. See above.)

Spirit Airlines FREE SPIRIT
To Toluca (near Mexico City)
Region 1: 0-1,249 miles (Houston to Toluca)
Off-peak – 5,000 miles
Standard – 20,000 miles
Peak – 30,000 miles
Premium – 50,000 miles
Region 2: 1,250-1,749 miles (Los Angeles to Toluca)
Off-peak – 10,000 miles
Standard – 25,000 miles
Peak – 35,000 miles
Premium – 55,000 miles
Region 3: 1,250-1,749 miles (New York City to Toluca)
Off-peak – 15,000 miles
Standard – 30,000 miles
Peak – 40,000 miles
Premium – 90,000 miles
Region 4: 2,500+ miles
Off-peak – 25,000 miles
Standard – 40,000 miles
Peak – 50,000 miles
Premium – 90,000 miles

United Airlines MileagePlus
(Same as going to Alaska. See above.)

US Airways Dividend Miles
Coach Low – 35,000 miles
Coach Medium – 60,000 miles
Coach High – 80,000 miles
First class Low – 60,000 miles
First class Medium – 100,000
First class High – 140,000

Virgin America Elevate
Award redemption amounts vary by flight. Virgin flies to Cancun, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta. The Elevate program is revenue based.

Mexico Hotels: 
There aren’t any aspirational properties near Copper Canyon where you can spend points, but you can stay at Best Western The Lodge at Creel (Best Western Rewards 24,000 points).

In Mexico City, you could consider The St. Regis Mexico City (SPG Category 5 12,000-16,000 points), Live Aqua Mexico City (Fiesta Rewards), JW Marriott Mexico City (Marriott Rewards Category 5 20,000-25,000 points), The Westin Santa Fe Mexico City (SPG Category 4 10,000 points), Hilton Mexico City Reforma (Hilton HHonors Category 4 20,00-30,000 points), Hyatt Regency Mexico City (Hyatt Gold Passport Category 4 15,000 points), Le Meridien (SPG Category 4 10,000 points) W Mexico City (SPG Category 5 12,000-16,000 points), Presidente Mexico City an InterContinental City Hotel (IHG Rewards Category 5 30,000 points) or Radisson Paraiso Hotel Mexico City (Club Carlson 28,000 points).

Italy (Pompeii)

“You may have the universe if I may have Italy.”
– Giuseppe Verdi

Any reason to go to Italy is reason enough. You certainly don’t need an ancient city buried in volcanic ash to entice you, but Pompeii is on a lot of people’s bucket list. Mount Vesuvius, a volcano near the Bay of Naples is hundreds of thousands years old and has erupted, according to the History Channel, more than 50 times. In 79 A.D., its eruption buried the Roman city of Pompeii along with 2,000 of its citizens. Today, you can visit the site to get a glimpse of what life was like before the great eruption.

Travel tip: 
Taking the 35-minute Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii from Naples and doing a self-guided tour of Pompeii gives you flexibility for post-Pompeii detours such as a one-hour EAV bus ride from Pompeii to peek inside still-active Mt Vesuvius or take the train to Sorrento to enjoy walking the narrow streets of the old town.

Airlines direct from mainland U.S. to Italy: 
Alitalia, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, US Airways, Meridiana.

Others: 
Lufthansa, Air France/KLM, British Airways, Iberia, SWISS, Air Canada, Air Berlin, Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Brussels Airlines, Aeroflot, SAS, Aer Lingus, TAP, Austrian Airlines, Air Europa, El AL Israel Airlines, TAM, China Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, EgyptAir, LOT, Transaero Airlines, Czech Airlines, Icelandair, Aegean Airlines, Norwegian, Finnair, Air Transat, Royal Jordanian, Ethiopian Airlines.

Alitalia MileMiglia
Economy Standard 50,000 miles
Economy Elite 57,500 miles
Economy Flex 100,000 miles
Premium Economy 65,000 miles
Business, Ottima or Magnificia classes Standard 80,000 miles
Business, Ottima or Magnificia classes SuperFlex 200,000 miles

American AAdvantage
Coach MileSAAver off-peak – 40,000 miles
Coach MileSAAver peak – 60,000 miles
Coach Anytime – 120,000 miles
Business/first class MileSAAver – 100,000 miles
Business/first class AAnytime – 200,000 miles
First class MileSAAver – 125,000 miles
First class AAnytime – 250,000 miles

Delta SkyMiles
Coach Low – 60,000 miles
Coach Medium – 95,000 miles
Coach High – 130,000 miles
BusinessElite, first or business class Low – 100,000 miles
BusinessElite, first or business class Medium – 200,000 miles
BusinessElite, first or business class High – 325,000 miles

United MileagePlus
Coach, Saver Award – 60,000 miles
Coach, Standard Award – 110,000 miles
First and business class, Saver Award – 100,000 miles (add 35,000 miles for first class when both business class and first class are offered)
First and business class, Standard Award – 250,000 miles (add 45,000 miles for first class when both business class and first class are offered)

US Airways Dividend Miles
Coach off-peak – 35,000 miles
Coach Low – 60,000 miles
Coach Medium – 90,000 miles
Coach High – 125,000 miles
First class Low – 100,000 miles
First class Medium – 200,000 miles
First class High – 325,000 miles

Italy Hotels: 
In Naples: You can spend your points at Hotel Excelsior Naples (SPG Category 5 12,000-16,000 points), M Gallery Palazzo Caracciolo (Accor Hotels Le Club 2,000 points = $60 voucher) Renaissance Naples Hotel Mediterraneo (Marriott Rewards Category 5 20,000-25,000 points), Best Western Hotel Paradiso (Best Western Rewards 24,000 points), Ramada Naples (Wyndham Rewards 16,000 points), Holiday Inn Naples (IHG Rewards 15,000 points) or you might choose the Hilton Sorrento Palace (Hilton HHonors Category 6 30,000-50,000 points) in nearby Sorrento.

In Rome: You might choose The St. Regis Rome (SPG Category 6 20,000-25,000 points), Hotel Eden (SPG Category 6 20,000-25,000 points), Rome Calvalieri Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts (Hilton HHonors 80,000 points), Boscolo Palace Roma Autograph Collection (Marriott Rewards 40,000 points), Crowne Plaza Rome St. Peter’s (IHG Rewards Category 5 30,000 points), The Westin Excelsior Rome (SPG Category 6 20,000-25,000 points), InterContinental de la Ville (IHG Rewards Category 9 50,000 points), Hilton Garden Inn Rome Claridge (Hilton HHonors Category 5 30,000-50,000 points), Clarion Collection Hotel Principessa Isabella (Choice Privileges 10,000 points), Sheraton Roma Hotel & Conference Center (SPG Category 3 7,000 points), Sheraton Golf Parco de’ Medici Hotel & Resort Roma (SPG Category 3 7,000 points) or the Radisson Blu es. Hotel Rome (Club Carlson Category 6 44,000 points).

You can choose to stay at a Small Luxury Hotels of the World property: Grand Hotel Parker’s in Naples or Hotel Bernini Bristol or Hotel d’Inghilterra, Hotel Lord Byron, Hotel Splendid Royal, L’Angolo di San Piertro, The Inn and The View at the Spanish Steps, The Inn at The Roman Forum or Villa Spalletti Trivelli in Rome.

Tanzania (African Safari)

“Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water.”
– W. C. Fields 

Tanzania was recently proclaimed the Best Safari Country of Africa by The Netherlands-based SafariBookings.com after a two-year study gathering reviews from over 1,000 travelers from 53 countries. The country scored 4.8 out of 5 stars because of it’s superb wildlife viewing, the 2.5 million wildebeest and zebra migration, authentic African wilderness experience with unfenced parks, budget to luxury accommodations and more. Tim Bewer, author of Lonely Planet guidebooks to Africa said, “Tanzania is home to Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater; and this fact alone makes a solid case for declaring it Africa’s best safari country.”

Travel tip: 
February is the calving season for the wildebeest in the great migration and the best place to be is Ndutu in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, just south of the Serengeti. If you are hoping for a “National Geographic Moment” with wildebeest crossing a crock-infested river, your best bet is late summer in northwest Tanzania.

Airlines, direct from mainland U.S. to Africa (not necessarily Tanzania):
Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, EgyptAir, LAN (Arik Air, TACV, Air Arabia Maroc). There are no direct flights from U.S. to Tanzania.

Others: 
KLM, Delta, Turkish, Emirates, Ethiopian, SWISS, United, SAA

Delta SkyMiles
Coach Low – 80,000 miles
Coach Medium – 130,000 miles
Coach High – 160,000 miles
BusinessElite, first or business class Low – 120,000 miles
BusinessElite, first or business class Medium – 230,000 miles
BusinessElite, first or business class High – 350,000 miles

United MileagePlus
Coach, Saver Award – 80,000 miles
Coach, Standard Award – 160,000 miles
First and business class, Saver Award – 120,000 miles (add 30,000 miles for first class when both business class and first class are offered)
First and business class, Standard Award – 280,000 miles (add 20,000 miles for first class when both business class and first class are offered)

Tanzania Hotels:
Most Northern Circuit Safaris that include the Serengeti and Ngorongoro start from Arusha and there are no hotels where you can spend points. In Dar es Salaam, you can choose from Protea Hotel Courtyard (Prokard), Hyatt Regency Dar es Salaam The Kilimanjaro (Hyatt Gold Passport Category 4 15,000 points), Southern Sun Dar es Salaam (Tsogo Sun Frequent Guest), Best Western Coral Beach Hotel (Best Western Rewards 36,000 points), Doubletree by Hilton Dar es Salaam – Oysterbay (Hilton HHonors Category 6 30,000-50,000 points) or Holiday Inn Dar es Salaam City Centre (IHG Rewards Club Category 2 15,000 points).

Argentina (Antarctica)

“If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it.”
– Andrew Denton 

Antarctica is the driest, windiest, emptiest, coldest place on earth. There are penguins, whales, seabirds and seals but no native people and the first man to set foot on the continent did so in 1895. The continent is roughly 5.4 million square miles (nearly twice the size of Australia) and about 98 percent of Antarctica is covered by ice. It’s on the bucket list of many of travelers, especially those keen to visit every continent on earth.

Travel tip: 
As Lonely Planet points out about travel to Antarctica, “Ice and weather, not clocks or calendars, determine the itinerary and the timetable of all travel here.” But few would wish to visit Antarctica in winter when the temperature can plummet to -58 degrees fahrenheit with almost no daylight hours. The tourist season runs from November (Spring) to March (Autumn). In November, the penguins are mating; December and January, which represent the peak season, feature hatching penguins with up to 20 hours of daylight and in February and March, the whale watching is at its best.

Airlines, direct from mainland U.S. to Buenos Aires: 
Aerolineas Argentinas, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, LAN, United.

Others: 
Iberia, Turkish, Copa, KLM, TACA, TAM, British Airways, South African Airways, Air Canada, Avianca, Aeromexico, GOL.

Aerolineas Argentinas Aerolineas Plus
Promotional class – 40,000 miles
Tourist class – 70,000 miles
Club Condor / economy class 80,000 miles

American Airlines
(Same as going to Europe. See above.)

Delta SkyMiles
(Same as going to Europe. See above.)

LAN LANPASS
Economy – 70,000 miles
Business class – 150,000 miles

United MileagePlus
(Same as going to Europe. See above.)

Argentina Hotels:
There are no major hotel groups that have a hotel in Ushuaia, the launching point for Antarctica cruises.
In Buenos Aires, you can choose from the Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires (Hyatt Gold Passport Category 5 18,000 points), Hilton Buenos Aires (Hilton HHonors Category 7 30,000-60,000 points), Park Tower Buenos Aires (SPG Category 5 12,000-16,000 points), InterContinental Buenos Aires (IHG Rewards Category 5 30,000 points), Holiday Inn Express Puerto Madero (IHG Rewards Category 4 25,000 points), Sheraton Libertador Hotel (SPG Category 4 10,000 points), Howard Johnson Plaza Florida Street (Wyndham Rewards 14,000 points) or the Plaza Hotel Buenos Aires (Marriott Rewards Category 6 25,000-30,000 points).

China (Great Wall)

“China is a big country, inhabited by many Chinese.”
– Charles de Gaulle 

Beijing beckons with ancient history, world class dining and entertainment, the Forbidden City, Hutongs (warrens of small streets that originated during the Yuan Dynasty, 1271-1368), and just outside the city, the Great Wall of China. Conceived by Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the third century B.C., the wall was built to keep out barbarian nomads. The Ming dynasty (1368-1644) saw the building of the best-known and best-preserved sections.

Travel tip: 
During warmer months the best time to visit the Great Wall is very early in the morning before the heat rises and the hawkers are in full force. Most tourists visit the Badaling section, but there are other sections easily accessed from Beijing that you could consider such as Mutianyu, Simatai and Jinshangling.

Airlines, direct from mainland U.S. to Beijing: 
Delta Air Lines, China Eastern, Hainan Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, Air China, China Southern.

Others: 
Cathay Pacific, KLM, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, JAL, Aeromexico, Air France, EVA Air, SAS, ANA, SWISS, LOT, British Airways, Emirates, Philippine Airlines, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, Brussels Airlines, US Airways, China Airlines, Saudia, Air Canada, Aeroflot, EL AL Israel Airlines, Asiana, Etihad Airways, PIA.

American Airlines
Coach MileSAAver peak – 70,000 miles
Coach Anytime – 140,000 miles
Business/first class MileSAAver – 110,000 miles
Business/first class AAnytime – 220,000 miles
First class MileSAAver – 135,000 miles
First class AAnytime – 270,000 miles

Delta SkyMiles
Coach Low – 70,000 miles
Coach Medium – 120,000 miles
Coach High – 160,000 miles
BusinessElite, first or business class Low – 120,000 miles
BusinessElite, first or business class Medium – 220,000 miles
BusinessElite, first or business class High – 340,000 miles

United MileagePlus
Coach, Saver Award – 65,000 miles
Coach, Standard Award – 130,000 miles
First and business class, Saver Award – 120,000 miles (add 20,000 miles for first class when both business class and first class are offered)
First and business class, Standard Award – 300,000 miles (add 20,000 miles for first class when both business class and first class are offered)

China Hotels:
Points toting travelers will have quite a few hotels to choose from in Beijing. You could choose Hilton Beijing Wangfujing (Hilton HHonors Category 7 30,000-60,000 points), The St. Regis Beijing (SPG Category 5 12,000-25,000 points), Park Plaza Beijing Wangfujing (Club Carlson Category 5 44,000 points), Park Hyatt Beijing (Hyatt Gold Passport Category 5 18,000 points), JW Marriott Hotel Beijing (Marriott Rewards Category 4 15,000-20,000 points), Renaissance Beijing Capital Hotel (Marriott Rewards Category 3 10,000-15,000 points), The Ritz-Carlton Beijing Financial Street (Marriott Rewards Ritz-Carlton Category 1 20,000-30,000 points), Comfort Suites Yayunchun (Choice Privileges 20,000 points) or the Best Western OL Stadium Hotel Beijing (Best Western Rewards 20,000 points). Like Marriott Rewards, IHG has several hotels to choose from in Beijing including Beijing Financial Street an InterContinental City Hotel (IHG Rewards Category 5 30,000 points), Holiday Inn: Central Plaza Beijing (IHG Rewards Category 2 15,000 points) or Holiday Inn Express: Beijing Temple of Heaven (IHG Category 1 10,000 points).

Australia (Sydney Harbor)

“If Paris is a city of lights, Sydney is the city of fireworks.”
– Baz Luhrmann 

Australia is the world’s largest island at 2.97 million square miles and is the sixth largest country after Russia, Canada, China, the U.S. and Brazil. According to Wikipedia, the fauna of Australia consists of a huge variety of animals; some 83 percent of mammals, 89 percent of reptiles, 90 percent of fish and insects and 93 percent of amphibians that inhabit the continent are endemic to Australia. But koalas and wallabies are not the only draw. The continent lures travelers with the unsurpassed views of Sydney Harbor, the coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef, the ruggedness of the Outback, bushwalking pristine forests, watching penguins as they make their way ashore to visit their nests or many other sights and activities.

Travel tip:
Some of the best views of the Sydney Harbor can be seen from the Park Hyatt Sydney Harbour, Four Seasons, Shangri-La, Harbour Marriott and InterContinental. Don’t miss the city’s Royal Botanic Gardens, a free activity that not only offers the pleasures of the country’s first and oldest botanical gardens, but also stunning harbor views.

Airlines, direct from mainland U.S. to Sydney: 
Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, Qantas, Virgin Australia, United Airlines, Jetstar (Qantas Group).

Others: 
American Airlines, China Eastern, Philippine Airlines, Emirates, Air China, South Africa Airways, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, LAN Airlines, Japan Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Aerolineas Argentinas, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, Air Pacific, Air Canada, British Airways, US Airways, China Airlines.

Delta SkyMiles
Coach Low – 100,000 miles
Coach Medium – 140,000 miles
Coach High – 190,000 miles
BusinessElite, first or business class Low – 150,000 miles
BusinessElite, first or business class Medium – 240,000 miles
BusinessElite, first or business class High – 370,000 miles

Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
Between Australia (Sydney or Brisbane) and Hawaii:
Coach SuperSaver – 80,000 miles
Coach Saver – 120,000 miles
Coach Flex – 160,000 miles
First class Saver – 130,000 miles
First class Flex – 260,000 miles
Between Australia and North America:
Coach SuperSaver – 120,000 miles
Coach Saver – 180,000 miles
Coach Flex – 240,000 miles
First class Saver – 210,000 miles
First class Flex – 420,000 miles

United MileagePlus
Coach, Saver Award – 80,000 miles
Coach, Standard Award – 160,000 miles
First and business class, Saver Award – 135,000 miles (add 25,000 miles for first class when both business class and first class are offered)
First and business class, Standard Award – 300,000 miles (add 20,000 miles for first class when both business class and first class are offered)

Australia Hotels:
You can choose to stay at the aspirational Park Hyatt Sydney (Hyatt Gold Passport Category 6 22,000 points) or the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney (Club Carlson Category 6 50,000 points), or the InterContinental Hotel Sydney (IHG Rewards Category 9 50,000 points), Sheraton on the Park Sydney (SPG Category 5 12,000-16,000 points), The Westin Sydney (SPG Category 5 12,000-16,000 points), Hilton Sydney (Hilton HHonors Category 7 30,000-70,000 points), Marriott Sydney Harbour at Circular Quay (Marriott Rewards Category 7 30,000-35,000 points) or Best Western Plus Hotel Stellar (Best Western Rewards 20,000 points).

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