Australia Strategy Help

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by Steven Schwartz, Sep 4, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    Like most of you, I plan ahead!. We are looking at going to Australia around January, 2014. While First Class would be nice, I'm more than happy if we can get flights with great Business seats. The best we have seen would be Cathay Pacific JFK-HKG-SYD (or MEL). Too many BA Avios points to use them and my sense is that the US Air miles would not be easy. Plus, Cathay Pacific is generous in making award seats available.

    Okay, here's the scenario. Use Marriott Rewards points to get a travel package which would include a hotel for a number of nights plus 120,000 miles transferred to Alaska Air. RT per ticket in Business on Cathay thru Alaska costs 120,000 miles. I'd rather not transfer my Starwood points to Alaska as I've used a bunch lately.

    An alternative is to buy the 120,000 miles over the next 3 weeks. Alaska has a promotion to the end of the month which would give a 40% bonus on purchased miles so 56,000 miles would cost $1100. All the miles I need would cost under $2400.

    I'm a newbie with Alaska and have no idea if this bonus is something they offer periodically or something I need to jump on.

    So how does this sound? I've already checked and seats are usually available - altho that could certainly change in a years time. Still, I would probably be booking this by February - only 5 months away. Does this sound like a reasonable strategy? Any better ideas?!

    Appreciate any feedback. Many thanks.
     
  2. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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    Alaska Airlines will allow you to book Cathay seats as soon as Cathay loads its schedule, ~ 355 days out, even though Alaska Airlines itself does not make its own flights available until 331 days out. (They also let you book Qantas this way too -- which is why Alaska miles are better for booking Qantas than AA miles are.)

    January is peak of high season for Australia, and Australia is the toughest award there is. So already a good thing that you're looking at flying via Asia, Although in January it can be tough even to get HKG-Australia seats.

    The biggest downside to Alaska Airlines is that if you're booking flights on partners you can only do roundtrip awards, and you must fly the same partner both directions (you can't mix Qantas and Cathay on the same award for instance).

    Starwood points take awhile to transfer to Alaska, the last time I did it the transfer took about 2 weeks. Alasks does periodically offer bonuses on mileage purchases though not nearly as frequently as US Airways does.

    US Airways will also allow an Asia routing to Australia, business class on Asiana is often possible and so is first class on Thai.
     
  3. wombat18
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    wombat18 Silver Member

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    I'll reiterate something gleff said, January is peak season for flying to/from/within Australia. It is the long summer break, and everyone flies home for Christmas/New Year and then goes on vacation.

    So, you might find that a week or two into January (when some folks have gone back to work) can make a big difference. February, indeed, is one of the quietest periods.

    Not that I'm a big fan of budget airlines, but there's a bunch of cheap flights between SE Asia and Australia. You might consider (I wouldn't!) Tiger Airways, AirAsia, JetStar among others.
     
  4. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    What's wrong with Tiger/AA/JetStar?

    Sorry to hijack but I was wondering
     
  5. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    I'd be happy to go in February as opposed to January - just want to go when the weather there is good. Wood February qualify? Is December better? At this stage of life and with my wife being retired from teaching, we can pretty much go whenever we desire. If there is a time I can get FC on Thai from NY to BKK and then continue on to Australia, that would be fine.

    And thanks to all of you.
     
  6. sharris503

    sharris503 Silver Member

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    Don't forget to apply for the AS visa for you and your wife if you have not done so already, It will save you a few bucks if you still plan on buying AS miles.
     
  7. honu

    honu Active Member

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    Oz is a very big country; so, when it's summer in the south (think Sydney, Blue Mountains, Melbourne, etc.), it's the wet season up north (e.g., Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu NP); high humidity is almost guaranteed there and occasional cyclones are a possibility. Something to be considered: summer in the south-east and south-west is also bushfire season, and, even without fires, it can get pretty hot. They're predicting a very hot summer for this year (but I guess you'd be traveling in 2014?). And that's even more true for the Red Centre (Uluru etc.).

    From mid-December 'till the end of January, most of the beach and holiday locations are very busy, as most Australians have their major holidays then. Prices go up accordingly. By the same token, the main cities aren't as busy, so you might find some good deals in Sydney, Melbourne etc. Should you decide to fly with an award to S. E. Asia and buy a ticket on one of the LCCs from there, I'd go with Virgin Australia or Air Asia rather than Jetstar or (gulp!) Tiger Airways.

    Shoulder season (Sep.-Oct. and March-Apr.) is very good IMHO, in that it allows you to visit many areas of the country without having to deal with weather extremes - well, most years anyway. In addition to the December and January holidays, there are three other brief school holiday periods (usually two weeks), in spring, autumn, and winter. Depending on which areas you'll be visiting, you might want to google the state/territory school holiday calendar: if you can avoid school holidays, you'll have more accommodation and domestic flights options, at a lower price, and generally fewer crowds.
     
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  8. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    Thanks for such a thorough answer. Sounds like last two weeks in Feb might be an ideal time to plan for - right? Really, half the fun is the planning and execution - I love this stuff!
     
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  9. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    If you have the option, I'm a big fan of visiting Oz in late March/early April. In the south, you get pleasant autumnal days, and the north is much more comfortable by then.

    The weather is sort of like New York in October (in vic/sa) and Miami in QLD. Nsw like the Carolinas that time of year. Really optimal.

    If you can't go then, February is fine...but it will be a scorcher up north. Think: Miami in August.
     
  10. wombat18
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    wombat18 Silver Member

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    All the usual concerns of LLC's (think Ryanair, Spirit, Allegiant, etc) - lots of fees, unpredictable connections, no interlining of baggage, flying into/out of non-standard airports, etc. Tiger, in particular, can be troublesome such as cancelling flights with no automatic re-booking/re-accommodation.
     
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  11. JanaW

    JanaW Member

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    Not sure if this would work for you since you are planning for 2014, but right now V Australia biz tickets LAX to Australia have no YQ charges through Delta. So instead of the $800+ per ticket in fees and costs you usually have to pay its going for around $140 per ticket. And usually V has great availability because no one wants to pay the fees.

    It also appears to be legit, b/c I called earlier today and they refunded me the fee difference for mine ($782 each ticket!!) after clearing it with a supervisor. Hopefully its a long term change and not a temporary glich.

    Also, if you have a bunch of Avios points, I used some for a couple of my inter-Aussie flights since they are short flights...so they came out pretty cheap mile-wise (4500 ea economy ticket). :)
     
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  12. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    Great and useful tip. Now I just have to remember! Thanks.
     
  13. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    With the current Delta pricing of VA flights, there's some temptation to hold something, but vacation time is at a real premium, along with the scope issues of throwing together a plan to visit a continent with limited time and choosing what makes sense to focus on as Australia was otherwise a couple of years down the travel priority list.

    Not to hijack a thread, but what's practical for a time-limited trip, and any recommendations on where to focus?
     
  14. Toula
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    Toula Gold Member

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    If you can pick your time to go I would have to agree with NYBanker on when to go. Jan/Feb will be scorching hot, by March it starts to get tolerable. Also it will be the wet season if you heard north. Also January is the most expensive time of the for accommodation because it is the major school holiday in Oz so competition for rooms will push prices up.

    Agree Avios are excellent for domestic redemptions.

    Have you looked at the possibility of using US Airways points to redeem on SQ?
     
  15. ratnasam

    ratnasam Active Member

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    I've never had a problem traveling to Australia in business or first (have been doing so for 12 years running) as long as I leave LAX on Dec. 30 or 31 and no problem on the return either. You just have to keep checking AA and UAL to see what's available on a daily basis and jump in as soon as a flight is available. I think it's ridiculous to fly to Australia via Asia, it makes the trip twice as long. Best of luck. Looking today there are flights available for those dates at the end of this year. Generally speaking, flights become available about 11 months out, disappear, become available again about six months out, disappear, and oftimes become available again within 60days of flying.
     
  16. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    Any idea how that would work for flights from NYC? Having to get to LAX means a whole other frequent flyer award search!
     
  17. y2karmagedon

    y2karmagedon Active Member

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    Another thing to consider. I know you had mentioned you wanted to do the Marriott Stay + Miles deal to minimize the cost per night of the hotels. While you are still a ways out from the trip, I would start to explore what areas you want to visit when you go. If you plan to stay strictly in Sydney then the Stay + Miles deal would work well, however if you want to venture out to other cities (Cairns, Melbourne, etc.) you may have some difficulties as that option does not allow you to move around as far as I know. Additionally, there are very few Marriott properties compared to Hilton and IHG group.

    A strategy to think about now since you are a year out is how to get the points to help cover these other stays. The Priority Club Visa is a good option with the 80k signup bonus. Once you have those you should be able to do points + cash to reduce the cost of the nightly stays.

    Just my 2 cents on some of the difficulties I have had as I booked my upcoming trip for end of this year.
     
  18. ratnasam

    ratnasam Active Member

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    Works exactly the same way from NYC. You can book the Qantas flight right from NYC or an available AA flight connecting through LAX. This year I'm traveling from NYC to LAX in November then to Australia at the end of December, AAdvantage even allows a stopover in LA. When I use United, there is no stopover.
     
  19. ratnasam

    ratnasam Active Member

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    37.5K
    QF 108
    6:30 PM

    JFK
    9:30 PM

    LAX

    QF 16
    11:50 PM

    LAX
    7:55 AM

    BNE

    QF 525THU DEC 27
    Flight Details
    11:25 AM

    BNE
    2:00 PM

    SYD

    • Overnight flight or connection
    • Terminal change
     
  20. Miss Staunton

    Miss Staunton Silver Member

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    I am a newbie myself so I am sure that others have a lot better advice than me. I will say that I am going to Australia Feb. 2013. I have a flight from IAD to SFO and then a change of planes on Asiana to Seoul and then another change to SYD. I booked in April and already it was almost too late. I was told to avoid January as that is "Summer vacation" and much more expensive. I was just talking with friends of ours who are going with us and they are trying to get an award room at the Hilton - and they jacked up the room rate. They now want 120,000 points per night. Morale of the story - make your plans early.
     
  21. ratnasam

    ratnasam Active Member

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    You should check united.com about a month before leaving, ofttimes direct flights become available. Since the Australian dollar has become so valuable compared to the US$, there are many less tourists flying to Oz, so more seats become available.
     
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  22. SFOPeter
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    SFOPeter Silver Member

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    A couple of years ago I booked UA 330 days out. The seats loaded at around 2am Pacific, and there was 1 F and 1 C on each flight. Also XF seats open up a couple of days before departure.
     
  23. VeryGoodPoints

    VeryGoodPoints Silver Member

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    I loved the Marriott Hotels in Australia. I stayed at the Melbourne Marriott for almost 2 weeks on a project and it was great. As a gold member I got access to the lounge and they served almost a full meal 7 nights a week. They also give free in-room wifi to Golds in Oz. The Marriott Brisbane is great too. The hotel restaurant was actually really good too. It had a very popular bar. Great location and easy to get around. The Sydney Marriott was very nice...they had a great lounge too. The location is a little off the beaten track, but the public transportation is great and it made it easy to get around. The Sydney Harbour Marriott was amazing. A luxury hotel and the location is great right in Circular Quay. The Marriott at Surfers Paradise was very nice. I only stayed there one night and was glad cause I didn't like Surfers Paradise that much too busy and commercial. I felt like I could have been on Daytona or Hilton Head or anywhere for that matter. The beaches just north were much better.
     
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  24. VeryGoodPoints

    VeryGoodPoints Silver Member

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    One other thing, if you're going to be there for NYE, the Four Points by Sheraton has an amazing view and they open the rooftop (for a fee) to guests. Most hotels were booked more than 6 mths in advance for NYE and the day after and the 4pts had room. I was very glad I ended up there for a few days.
     
  25. travelpye

    travelpye Silver Member

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    Re the make your plans early...I do agree.make plans early, but keep checking for even better deals closer in. I had reservations at Old Sydney Holiday Inn for months on points, but close in rooms opened up at Quay Grand Suites right on the Quay, on the harbour, behind the Opera House and across street from the Royal Botanic Gardens. The one bedroom apt there cost me about the same as the rooms I had booked at HI, given I had bought the points with cash + points. that was for a stay the week after Easter. Quay Grand was great. If i had not kept an eye out for deals closer in, I would have missed the chance to stay there.
    Anyway have a fabulous time. I loved Sydney. Since I had only one week vac, I did not get beyond Blue mtns. And it was worth every minute of my 30+ hour of travel time each way.
     

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