This Is Why I Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Plan Travel…

Filed Under: Travel

A couple of days ago I wrote about my general frustration with trying to get to Tahiti. French Polynesia looks gorgeous, and it’s only a nonstop eight hour flight from Los Angeles, so seems like it would be much easier to get to than the Maldives or Bali, for example.


Well, at least that’s the rational side of my brain speaking. Then there’s the miles & points maximizer side of my brain, which thinks very differently:

  • While Air Tahiti Nui has business class award availability, the cheapest way to book those seats is for 160,000 American miles roundtrip, which is very pricey for such a short flight
  • At the same time, paid economy tickets are $1,200+, so as a relative matter maybe just redeeming miles for business class and calling it a day is the better option


As I explained in the post, Air Tahiti Nui also flies to Tokyo, and a roundtrip ticket from Tokyo to Tahiti costs 80,000 American miles roundtrip (half as much as from Los Angeles, even though it’s a longer journey). Tickets to Tokyo aren’t that expensive, and I could upgrade them quite easily on American.


And for a moment I almost considered that. Because if you’re half as crazy as I am, taking an itinerary like that almost makes sense on a micro level, since the individual components of the trip represent a good deal.

You thought that idea was crazy?

See, this is the problem with asking you guys for advice. You always have really great ideas. And when I say “great ideas,” I mean creative ideas that allow me to try new airlines on an unconventional routing.

You guys know I’m obsessed with trying new airlines, and reader Ben mentioned that Aircalin flies between Tokyo and New Caledonia, and also operates flights from there to Tahiti.


Woah, I had never even heard of the airline, so was fascinated. Their paid business class tickets are quite reasonable, or I could redeem Air France FlyingBlue miles for the flight.


Trying a new airline while also visiting a new country sounds like a great option.

We might as well have some more fun with it. LAN flies to Santiago to Tahiti once a week via Easter Island. So on the return, why not route from Tahiti to Easter Island to Santiago to Los Angeles.

Because that’s what normal people do, right?

I asked Ford a few days ago if he was interested in visiting Tahiti, and he said that would be amazing and that he’d love to. At the same time, I assume this is what he was imagining:


I guess we’ll see how he responds when I instead present him with this itinerary:


Being obsessed with miles & points and wanting to maximize value can be a dangerous thing, eh?

  1. Lucky – maybe its because you are still young (I am not that old 40s but still) but I am also diabetic. I can’t handle being on a plane for that type of trip around the PAC-RIM let alone the 12 hours in United BusinessFirst that I did to and from Israel in August. I wonder how others can manage something like that. I am getting to the point where I am willing to pay premiums for direct if not for the speed than for the wear and tear on the body.

  2. I would do that too.

    Last week I was in EDI and had to go to MAD. Instead of a direct flight I booked with miles EDI-BRU-ZRH-MAD. I stayed the whole day in BRU (my first time there), spent the night at ZRH meeting with family and the next day was in MAD for lunch. That seemed reasonable to me 🙂

  3. I mean, while you’re at it, could you not finish the trip to NZ you started? AKL isn’t that far distance wise, and I thought there were some reasonably priced flights from there to the various Pacific islands down that way.

  4. I flew Aircalin about six weeks ago (sadly not in J). Very professional airline, and I’ve heard the food in J is great.

  5. Enjoy your trip in France!

    So Ford and yourself will visit Noumea in France and Papeete/ Bora bora in France.

    I guess you are going LAX to NRT first, and maybe just transit in La Tontouta airport in Noumea and then get to Tahiti.

    That will be great to read the trip.
    Thank you for another interesting journey.

  6. On Easter Island, I highly recommend renting a car/jeep and self-driving around the island and stopping off to look at the moais of course. There’s hardly any traffic and you can’t get lost.

  7. How are you going to get to NRT? It would be REALLY cool if you flew ANA in business class, assuming there’s award availability….

    Also, there’s nothing direct from SCL to LAX as far as I know, so are you going to do LATAM’s 787-9 to New York, or are you going to find some way to get on a GRU – MCO flight on LATAM’s new A350?

  8. @Lucky – if you really are planning for this trip in early Feb, its perfect time to visit Easter Island, do spend some quality 2-3 days there. Feb would be the local festival season there.

    I myself was looking at a crazy 4 day trip in Feb long weekend to the place but wanted more time so skipping it this time, but there is tons of availability in LAN Business from JFK-SCL-IPC during this time.

  9. Seeing as I mentioned Aircalin I think this is perfectly fine and wonderful! 😉 I look forward to the trip report on the flights and hotels!

  10. This is what we pay you for for Lucky! (with our credit card referrals and page clicks of course). Go for it!!!

  11. Aww you didn’t pick the Air Rarotonga route via Cook Islands! Since you are going Bora Bora, it’ll be nice to check out Aitutaki in Cook Islands to compare the two lagoons. Aitutaki is like the non commercialized version of Bora Bora 🙂

  12. This does not sound crazy at all! You’re going to see 5 very interesting destinations, some of them very unusual and beautiful ones that everyone has heard about, but few people have been to. That sounds more to me like the vacation of a lifetime than some crazy miles routing.

    Go for it! And spend enough time at each place to really enjoy it.

  13. Please stop for at least 2-3 days in Easter Island. There’s no Hyatt/Ritz Carlton/W but it’s really worth at least 48 hours of your time.

  14. Flew ATN Business Class btwn LAX and PPT in July. I’d say the ONLY reason to do so is for the sleeper seats (the late hour departures in both directions mean you won’t be likely to take advantage of the cold supper and drinks service) which are angled rather than flat.

  15. I would do that, two weeks ago had few days at MIA and NYC after that trip ( J on AA): CDG-LHR-JFK-MIA-PTP-MIA//MIA-EWR//JFK-LHR-CDG….was fun, got plenty of miles and pay 40% les than a direct flight. … yes do that.

  16. That’s indeed crazy cool. But what is the total price for it?

    Air Tahiti from LA – 160k rt
    Air Tahiti from Tokyo – 80k rt

    What is the total cost for the other segments?

    LAX-NRT = ??
    NOU-PPT= ??
    PPT-IPG-SCL-LAX = ??
    I’ll be amazed if all these are worth less than the extra 80k miles on the direct flight.
    But what do I know, go for it!

  17. Aircalin is quite ok, the airport in New Caledonia even better, it is closed most of the day. Le Meridien Isle des Pins is something you must try. It is like a big size Maldives.

  18. @Craig – not sure how being diabetic gets in the way of long distance travel ? I am Type 1 and never go anywhere without a bag of needles and other kit but that has never affected any of my travel plans. I just let my blood sugar run a little higher on flights than I normally would. But in the odd one or two times I have had low sugar issues, FAs have been very helpful with quick deliveries of Coke.

  19. Why no love for HNL? If anyone wanted to make it feel left out, the gcmap of your trip would be a good reference! (:

  20. I’m learning this madness route with you, Ben!

    I was suppose to do a GRU-ZRH. Simple direct LX route, or maybe with one connection at FRA or LIS, or MAD or LHR, right?
    Actually no.


    Because a connection in North America makes everything worthwhile 🙂

    Not to mention the one I did last year:


    Right? 🙂

  21. @Tabea – My legs fall asleep if I sit too long even in First Class. I know I can walk around but planes aren’t places for exercising. Who knows I just know that plane travel wears me out so I go as direct as possible. So a 2 day around the PAC rim trip for me would put me down for a week. I am in great health otherwise fit trim don’t smoke. Just how it affects me. Maybe jet lag. Fortunately I have never had a diabetic crisis on a plane.

  22. Lucky, big fan here. But looking at this plan of yours, i think you need to start calculating your carbon footprint too.

  23. PPT-IPC will be hard to get it on LAN, shoot me an email and I will give you some tips. I did MIA-BOS-NRT-SYD-AKL-PPT-IPC-SCL-MIA on December 2014/Januay 2015 under the old OW award, but it took me a few weeks to learn the release date and time for QF/JL/TN/LA, where LA, specially PPT-IPC or IPC-PPT because the way than LAN release their awards seats to OW partners.

  24. Lucky, your itinerary look like how us non rev airline staff itinerary look. Haha. 0nce my itinerary of Clt-phl became clt-dca-lga-bos-Phl.

  25. @Lucky –

    Ford is very fortunate; I would be thrilled to be presented with this itinerary.

    All this talk of AirCalin has reminded me of a colleague who is bragging of his vacation to Reunion Island. He was very impressed and pleasantly surprised with his long-haul flight from Reunion back to Paris on Air Austral.

    I had always thought that Air Austral was one of those cheap charter operations for European holiday makers. Apparently I was seriously mistaken! From what my colleague is saying it sounds like Air Austral’s business class is worthy of consideration for your wish list.

  26. +1 for HNL feeling left out. Especially when you can get there for cheap from LAX on Avios. Then continue your route via NRT as planned. 😉

  27. This is hysterical! Forwarded to my husband. I spent most of yesterday glued to my computer figuring out how to get to NYC to tokyo to HKG to NYC contemplating all the factors! Good times!

  28. Hawaiian flies once weekly to Tahiti (on Saturday) with a connection you could fly from any Hawaiian served city. The bummer would be the return as the flight from Tahiti gets in early Sunday morning and most west coast bound flights don’t leave until the afternoon.

    Fun fact: French Polynesia is in the same time zone as Hawaii

  29. Lucky, while I like and admire your articles in General, you are constantly referring to Air France Flying Blue, and your airline index only speaks of Air France/KLM. Air France and KLM are two completely different airlines and companies. Ownership of both is hold in the Air France-KLM Holding which has a complex structure, but majority stakes in KL are Dutch, whilst majority stakes in AF are French. KLM is an and has always been a single flag carrier, not owned by Air France. Neither the other way around. I don’t see you catogorizing BA, Iberia and Aer Lingus under a IAG part of your site, nor Lufthansa, Swiss, Brussejs and Austrian under Lufthansa Group. Flying Blue is the partner freq.flyer program of AF and KL. It would be nice if you look into this subject a little further, because AF and KL are two worlds apart. Ownership wise and culturely wise. I would love to see your opinion on this and debate on that

  30. You are my kind of crazy! If I weren’t married and a lot younger, I would join you if Ford says no!

  31. What’s your normal day job? I’m amazed you have so much time to research all these fascinating trips. I love reading about y’all’s adventures!! Tell me (and everyone else) what type of money tree you have planted. We all want one!!! 🙂

  32. Now that is truly a “Circle Pacific” Trip–I have been to all except New Caledonia and would love to visit. Definitely Go for it!

  33. This itinerary sounds awesome, one thing though, if you did need a direct route, could you not use Air France between LAX & PPT? I should think it’d be considerably less than 160,000 flying blue miles (no doubt you’ve thought of that)

  34. Actually Ben, while being in NoumĂ©a, you could also try Air CalĂ©donie’s ATR42 to OuvĂ©a Island, which is considered to be a hidden gem in the South pacific. As far as I am concerned, I’ve been lucky enough to go 3 times, and I will remember this for the rest of my life.
    No business class on GEA-UVE but it’s only a 30 mins flight and it’s just another world. You can stay in Le MĂ©ridien in NoumĂ©a, and go for a few days to Paradis d’OuvĂ©a, the island’s only real hotel. Do not expect a 5 star service though but it’s definitely acceptable considering how remote this is and the experience will be unforgettable. It’s a very small island, very few people live there, but well, it’s mindblowing. People who have been to Tahiti say it’s as beautiful in terms of flaura and fauna BUT there is no big resort in OuvĂ©a and it’s very close to NoumĂ©a, making it a very different experience.

    If you want a crazier routing, you can hop in Air LoyautĂ©’s DHC- 6 Twin Otter 12 seats, OuvĂ©a to Lifou which is a 20 minutes incredible flight and then fly the ATR 42 back to NoumĂ©a. Lifou is also part of the LoyautĂ© Islands, and it’s very different from OuvĂ©a but very cool too. Therefore you would have flown the 3 only airlines of New Caledonia ( Aircalin, Air Caledonie and Air LoyautĂ© ! )

    Advices ? let me know !

  35. Well, inspired by your creativity, I just did FRA-DOH-BKK-HKG-CGK, when FRA-DOH/HKG-CGK should have sufficed. So, I think anyone that loves flying like us, would be very thrilled getting this kind of itinerary

  36. Normal people go fastest, cheapest, most direct. But then you are not normal. You live on airplanes and hotels as a hobby, business, and lifestyle.
    Most people dont have the time to do what you do or the money.

    How much cash would it take for someone who doesnt have all the miles and hotel points built up to do what you do for a year? Bouncing from place to place where whim and randomness takes you??

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