Planning travel for the rest of the year is (nearly) impossible…

Am I the only one really struggling with planning travel for the rest of the year? Perhaps my ability to work from home and ultimate schedule flexibility works against me, because I only end up pulling the trigger on trips when they’re perfect. For the rest of the year I have mostly domestic travel planned, along with a trip on Virgin Australia in business class to Sydney (using Delta SkyMiles thanks to the lack of fuel surcharges on Virgin Australia redemptions).

I’m still not entirely sure whether to take that trip or schedule it as part of a larger trip, as there are a few other promotions I’m looking to take advantage of.

For one, American’s double miles promotion through the end of the year is seriously tempting me. Given that I’d be earning double elite qualifying miles and points AND double redeemable miles, it’s very tough to justify redeeming awards right now. For example, I’m still seeing some reasonable fares on American to Beijing for around $800 roundtrip, and that would earn me roughly 50,000 redeemable miles, plus the 70,000 miles from American’s 2012 Elite Rewards. That being said, Beijing really isn’t my first choice as far as destinations go since it’ll be darn cold and I’ve been a couple of times before. Otherwise I’m looking at some reasonably priced flights to/from Hawaii, though I’ve been before and would really like to go somewhere new. But I feel like I should push that off to the new year, when American isn’t offering double miles anymore.

Furthermore, Starwood has an awesome redemption promotion for up to 50% off select hotels through December 20, 2012. I’d love to spend a few nights at either the St. Regis Aspen, St. Regis Monarch Beach, or St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort for 50% fewer points than are usually required.

But then there are the destinations that I really want to visit, though they don’t earn me any American miles:


Even in the peak of winter I’d love to visit Iceland. It’s just a quick seven hour nonstop flight from Seattle, though I’m sure it would feel worlds away. And the prospect of being somewhere where it’s dark 20 hours a day sounds awesome to me. At this point I’ve convinced myself to push that off into 2013, though… I think.


I see a good amount of LAN business class award space, so this is the option I’m leaning towards. I’d love to visit both the Tambo del Inka (from which I could make a day trip to Machu Picchu)and Hotel Paracas, both of which are Starwood Luxury Collection resorts. The best part is that they’re both available on Cash & Points, making them just 4,000 Starpoints plus $60 per night. I had a friend return from the Tambo del Inka just last week, and she said that the hotel was so amazing that she felt like she was stealing by booking a Cash & Points rate.

The issue is that December is the rainy season in Peru, so I feel like I should push this trip off till March or April when it will likely be less rainy.

Australia/New Zealand

Generally December is the toughest time of year to find award space to Australia/New Zealand, though with a creative routing it’s not impossible. I’m thinking of canceling my Virgin Australia ticket to Sydney and instead planning a longer trip to both Australia and New Zealand. Queenstown, New Zealand is probably my favorite place on earth, so I’d love to return there during (their) summer. Thanks to hotel points this wouldn’t even be all that expensive.

Using a British Airways Companion Certificate

This might be my biggest “obstacle.” I have a British Airways companion certificate valid for travel through January 11, 2013. A British Airways companion certificate entitles the second passenger to travel on the award ticket without paying any mileage (though they do have to pay the hefty taxes/fees/fuel surcharges). Through today British Airways is even running a 25% off promotion, though I just can’t find any award space.

As much as I hate paying the huge fuel surcharges, I’d hate to see the voucher expire even more. But I’m still torn, because I’d rather travel to a warmer region than Western Europe in December.

Korean Air/China Southern first class to Taipei

I’ve really been wanting to try out China Southern and Korean Air Airbus 380 first class, as it’s a great use of 160,000 Korean Air SkyPass miles. I’ve outlined this redemption in the past, but just haven’t had the chance to actually use it yet.

Someone point me in the right direction here, please! Is anyone else pushing out award flights to next year and replacing them with paid American travel? Or going out of their way to stay at one of the promo Starwood resorts?

I sure could use the help of someone more decisive than me!

Filed Under: Advice, Travel
  1. Save Australia for a longer trip… There is so much to see and I barely got a taste when I was there for two weeks in July.

  2. I say do China, but go check out some “smaller” town out there. You can review a high speed train for a change lol. There are a ton of cities out there with populations in the multi millions and all have brand new western-brand hotels and pleanty to eat, see and do.

    The double miles seems too tempting to pass up. Especially when you consider what could happen if AA and US merge. Could you imagine a window after the merger when you could freely transfer your AA miles to a still *A US? Or the chance that US routing rules and agent geography teachers survive the merger to use on OW? I think it is a good time and price to stockpile some AA miles.

  3. I’d say if you go to Iceland for the northern lights, don’t spend more than a couple of days there. I was there in September and you could see the northern lights from the plane at midnight when the plane landed in Reykjavik.

    If the weather is cloudy you might as well be flying. Check out the Blue lagoon and get out of the darkness. I would also check the weather and solar activity before flying there.

    If you do this please write about getting your Iceland Air miles credited to Alaska as I am still fighting this with bothy airlines.

    I just thought about it and you are a stone throw away from Alaska, so that’s a good option too. I assume great award availability too 😉

  4. @ Jon P — Well, I *could* do Australia for 7-10 days, probably.

    @ Lauren — Might just do that then!

    @ Jonathan — Yes, not saying there isn’t any space, but just no “exciting” space. If I do BA F I’d like it to be out of an airport that’s fun/convenient, be it JFK for the Concorde Room or Seattle for the convenience (or departing from any other warm destination that I could spend a few days in before crossing the pond).

    @ AdamH — Have any specific city ideas? Sounds like it could be interesting.

    @ Romsdeals — You’re right. Fixed, thanks!

  5. I’m set for my end year travel since I booked that trip to Beijing Dec 6-13 on AA in Business for $2600. I used 2 system wide upgrade to get in First. However, I didn’t realize it would be so cold… Only did homework on fares not weather!! I booked the Park Hyatt Beijing for 5 nights with points and 1 paid night. If it is similar to the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, they will have an awesome gym and spa where I’ll spend time out of the cold. And I’ll reach the 125,000 EQP threshold with this trip. Keep searching Ben… I’m sure you’ll find a good trip before year end!

  6. Just curious, how are you checking LAN availability? I’m considering a Peru trip myself, but I’m not sure how to check LAN.

  7. Look up itineraries along the Grand Canal or the Yangtze River. I am thinking along the lines of places like Hangzhou and Nanjing to start.

  8. Ben, come to Asutralia for 7-10 days, as summer is around the corner! Potentially you could squeeze in a short trip to New Zealand, e.g. the South Island Marlborough region which can be reached via Wellington by ferry – truly a beautiful ride through fjords. It is an illusion you “can do” Australia even if you have 3 to 4 weeks, besides that, it is bloody expensive as well and if you want to see Australia properly, you will need lots of cash. In and around Sydney there are great getaways, alternatively take a flight up to Queensland or somewhere south. Let me know, happy to help you out whilst here.

  9. I’d vote for somewhere warm, or at least sunny. The sun’s taking its annual 6 month break from Seattle.

  10. Taipei has maintained the best of Chinese culture (food, National Palace Museum, etc) and is English-friendly. BR is flying the Royal Laurel Class (similar to AA’s new 77W C but with better food and service) between TPE-JFK, and soon TPE-SFO next year (redeemable with UA miles). You might also want to fly the Hello Kitty Jets, which I enjoyed. You could fly SEA-FRA-NRT (on LH) and NRT-TPE (on BR Hello Kitty) by using UA miles. There are also HND-TSA and HKG-TPE available for connections.

  11. I also vote for Taipei. But you should also go out to the Eastern coastline and enjoy the amazing scenery.

  12. Just got back from a trip to Taipei in September, so +1 there. But, as someone said above, you MUST stay at the W. If for nothing else, swimming in that pool at night is magical if you – which you almost certainly would – have the pool to yourself. Also, VIRGIN? Did you not take advantage of the SQ F bonanza? I would’ve thought you’d jump on Australia there, but perhaps I’m wrong; or, perhaps you want to take more than one trip.

  13. In Lima now, just got back from 4 nights c&p at tambo del inca. It is that good. Winter is mild and rainy season is not that rainy’, just showers. Go there.

  14. Lucky – I hope you take a few minutes to go outside today. Go for a walk, maybe run some of those pre-Thanksgiving errands.

    This is what our weather is supposed to be like.

    What you experienced here in late summer/early fall was a complete fluke. What it’s doing outside right now – that’s normal. Enjoy, newcomer.

  15. I’ll second what @diddley said. Today must be your first urban and small stream flood advisory since moving here!

    Go somewhere warm.

  16. I was in Peru last december and had no issues with the weather. In Paracas though it never rains. If you’re in Peru be sure to visit Lake Titicaca, a lot of people tend to skip it but its really incredible.

  17. I’d say try and combine two of those choices together if you can, and it’ll depend on how much time you want to allocate for yourself. That and also give preference to places you haven’t been to before. I’m guessing it’s the fact that you have to take round trips to make the most of your British Airways/American Airlines deals along with the Iceland trip that’s a big obstacle?

    The itinerary that keeps popping in my head is flying American to take your Peru trip to take advantage of their promotion, then flying LAN to Australia/New Zealand via Santiago, then back on American from South America.

  18. Come to Taipei, and I may show you around the city. In addition, you may also check out the Taipei 101 firework show on new year’s eve.

  19. I too have a BA companion tix expires jan 11th and while I found 2 tix in F from Philly jan 10-14 I have no one to go w/me as fees/taxes are $1100 w/promo it was 90k Avios -Philly is a great town w/direct flights from SEA on US or Alaska, the BA lounge is small and would bore you but we have lots of pretzels.
    As for the other options, I found the weather in South America good in April so I would wait
    Australia/New Zealand is always a first choice either alone or together

  20. If you’re asking all your anonymous friends what you should do, then I say…first Peru…and second New Zealand/Australia. I would spend at least 2 weeks if you head down under.

  21. Ben, I know you are trying to be funny when you write posts like these, but my first reaction to this one was sack up, dude. You sound like you need help on whether Pops is going to get you a Ferrari or Lamborghini and you, poor thing, can’t decide which.

  22. Tambo del Inka is just wonderful in every way. But you must plan ahead for Machu Picchu. Don’t just show up there and assume they will have open bookings. When you book your room, book the tour with the hotel, expensive but worth it.

  23. Took my wife to Paris (and side trip to Brussels) last December. We’d been to Paris four times, always in the Summer. We had a delightful trip. Short lines everywhere and everyone was happy to welcome tourists in December!

  24. Definitely first world problems. Why not come to the Jersey shore or Long Island and held the victims of the hurricane?

  25. i would save peru until 2013. i’ve been in both february and march and it worked out pretty well.

    how about book beijing round trip on AA and then find a cheap intra-asia destination? can take advantage of double miles and go somewhere warm.

  26. I’d say to go ahead and take advantage of the British Airways companion certificate. Western Europe can be an absolutely gorgeous winter destination if you’re prepared for the winter. Why have a fake ceramic winter village under your Christmas tree when you can have a real winter village to share with someone you adore?

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