Flying to China on points

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by bowerad, Feb 21, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. bowerad

    bowerad New Member

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    Hi all-

    I'm pretty new to the points game but recently figured out I could get some free travel done by smarter use of credit cards. My youngest brother is teaching in China throughout the end of 2014 and we were thinking of trying to visit him sometime late winter or early spring of 2014. I am hoping to pay for our transpacific air travel and maybe a couple hotels on points and I am wondering if anyone has any tips about maximizing our miles. We should have a lot of freedom on choosing dates so I'm hoping to find good award redemptions.

    We currently each have about 60,000 United miles. (Spouse has Chase Freedom, Sapphire Preferred, and United Cards and I just have the United Card...sadly we cashed out his UR points for cash a year ago before figuring out they had more value as miles)

    I will shortly have 50,000 AA miles. Sadly I think I missed out on the 2 browser trick. I just got approved for the Visa not the Amex.

    Other cards: hubby has old PenFed card and I have a Barclays NFL card.

    I also have about 20,000 Delta miles from various flights but it doesn't sound like those will be too valuable.

    Anyway I was thinking I could get the Freedom and Sapphire cards for some more UR points and convert those to United miles, but not sure if that's the best strategy. We both have credit scores close to 800 and good income. I may be starting a secondary consulting job next month and then I'd be comfortable applying for business cards but right now I feel a little wary.

    Our home airport is PDX. My brother is outside of Chongqing but we would like to visit either Beijing or Hong Kong on a stopover if possible and are also considering some train travel within China. I can fly coach but if there is the possibility of getting business class I would not be opposed. We have 2 young children so travel is fairly limited and I don't feel the need to conserve miles.

    If anyone has suggestions about getting there I would love feedback. Would also be interested in general travel experiences with China as I have never been to Asia. Thanks in advance!
     
    tommy777 likes this.
  2. AUSsie

    AUSsie Silver Member

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    Hello!

    When traveling to China, make sure to get your visa well in advance. If using AA miles, you can do a stopover on the north american gateway, but not in Asia. If you're looking at a business class redemption with the AA miles, I do recommend trying for Cathay instead of AA, as Cathay's business class product is superior.

    For me, the flight east is more important to have business class than the flight west, as I usually just stay up on the westbound flight, but need to get some sleep coming east.

    Keep in mind that traveling around Chinese New Year (Jan 31 next year) will be very challenging, as a humongous amount of people will be traveling as well.

    The food will open your eyes as to what constitutes food. Keep an open mind, try new things, and you may be rewarded.

    Where I traveled in China, tap water was non-potable. I brushed my teeth with bottled water, and drank bottled water or beer the whole time. Check on the locations you will be going to. If non-potable, bring some Immodium or similar just in case.

    Do not attempt to drive in China unless you are from LA, Manhattan, or Boston and other drivers from your city fear you.
     
    tommy777 likes this.
  3. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Your plan of the freedom/Sapphire to get UR points & then transfer to UA is a good strategy esp if you wish to goto China and get a stopover. Air China is a SA so you can probably piece together stopover at PEK or HKG no problem.
     
    Lufthansa Flyer likes this.
  4. bowerad

    bowerad New Member

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    Thank you both for the quick replies. That's a good reminder about the Chinese New Year. I will definitely avoid that. Also a good tip to consider business class on the way back especially since we will be returning to toddlers and will need whatever rest we can get. The award chart indicates a split redemption would cost ~92,500 miles each which I think we could get to reasonably easily as long as we can find saver awards.

    My brother made a video about the food in China which was both hilarious and slightly terrifying...
     
  5. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    That's correct. I just flew LAX - (ICN) - TPE [stop] - BKK [dest] - (HND) - LAX; Bus there & Eco back for 92.5 each. I wish it was reversed, but that was all I could find on the dates that I needed.
     
  6. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    one thing to note; if you have the time ...

    you could buy yourself a oneway CKG - PEK.

    Then do PDX - CKG; PEK - HKG - PDX
     
  7. Lufthansa Flyer
    Original Member

    Lufthansa Flyer Gold Member

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    I would definitely say that UA is the way to go. Tons of availability normally to PVG or PEK and if you want you can go the long way through europe and take a break in MUC, FRA, LHR, etc for the same miles as flying westward. Ideal if you can snag LH F or LX C seats.
     
  8. bowerad

    bowerad New Member

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    Thanks again all for the feedback. I like the idea of buying a one way from CKG-PEK and getting to see a few more spots in China. (Or would anyone recommend the high speed overnight train?) The Europe stopover would also be great but I think this trip we'll try to maximize our time in China since I'm not sure when we'll get back there and we've both been to Europe many times.

    One other question: does anyone know how likely I am to find United saver level availability on flexible dates if I book out ~9 months in advance?
     
  9. daninstl

    daninstl Gold Member

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    Don't need visa if only going to Hong Kong, don't know where you plan to go. PEK seems to have the most options and you should be able to do Europe one direction and Pacific another if your lucky.
    Try for the AA gold card with $750 spend requirement. It is worth 30,000 more AA miles. You should be able to get this in addition to the 50k card or AMEX.
    I just booked star alliance to HKG for my wife and I in November in business for 100k each in us air miles with Japan and Korea stops each way. That was from STL via ORD on united code share all Nippon going and Asiana coming back.
     

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