A million mile trip, oh my!

*1,000,000 miles! That’s right - in this reward redemption post we’ve got a million mile story to share!

Read all about how Brandon and his travel companion went on an amazing million miles trip from New York across Asia with stops in Singapore, New Zealand, Sydney, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. This story gives me some serious mile and travel envy.

Also, be sure to check out Brandon’s Instagram nycjetsetter for photos from his past and upcoming trips*

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I have a normal 9-5 job in the I.T. field and work in the NYC tri-state area and grew up in Brooklyn/Manhattan. I started travel hacking around 2010 - I had done a family trip to Hong Kong in 2007 and my brother had told me to sign up for frequent-flier accounts so we could earn miles for the flight. After the trip was over I suddenly had all these miles from the flight, I pooled them all together and used it to take a trip to Japan in 2009 and ever since then I started looking for ways to constantly travel using miles & points and stumbled across all the popular blogs back then (Million Mile Secrets, etc.). Travel is expensive cash-wise so I almost never pay for things with cash, I almost exclusively use miles & points for airfare and hotels nowadays.

Can you tell us a little about your most recent trip that you used points to go on?

I went to Singapore, New Zealand, Sydney, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Tokyo on this most recent trip from Mar 8 - 25. I went with a fellow Travel hacker friend I had met last year and this was our first major trip together, we got along very well and definitely gained a few pounds from eating so much!

Our route was JFK-FRA, FRA-SIN, SIN-AKL, AKL-ZQN, ZQN-AKL, AKL-SYD, SYD-BKK, BKK-HKG, HKG-NRT, and NRT-JFK (my friend is still in Asia as we speak as he decided to extend the vacation and stay there a little longer)

In SIN we had a 14 hour layover and decided to get a ‘day room’ so we could bring our luggage with us and rest a little so we got a room at the Andaz Singapore left our stuff there so we could go into the city to eat. In AKL we stayed at the Hilton Auckland for 1 night, then we drove down to Lake Taupo where we stayed there for 2 nights at the Hilton Lake Taupo. We then flew to Queenstown and stayed for 6 nights at the Hilton Queenstown. We flew back to Auckland to position ourselves for our flight to Sydney to we stayed 1 night at the Holiday Inn Auckland Airport. The next 4 cities we had layovers just slightly under 24 hours so we did 1 night in Sydney at the Park Hyatt Sydney, 1 night at the Intercontinental Bangkok, 1 night at the Intercontinental Hong Kong, and 1 night at the Andaz Tokyo.

What made it a great trip?

We both have a passion for travel-hacking so it was a great redemption for us to use our points and fly on 7 International First class products and sampling some new products along the way. Every location was special in its own way. Singapore is always great for food, New Zealand is just absolutely breathtaking, everywhere we went it was visual-stimulation overload. The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is crazy beautiful. Living in NYC you don’t really get to see the mountains and lakes occupying the same space so harmoniously. New Zealand isn’t really known for their food but everyone raves about one place in Queenstown – FERGBURGER, it was so good, we went twice! We both like to eat so we were going to many restaurants every night and just ate everything. The end of the trip was a little difficult, seeing so many cities in such a short amount of time can be very draining for most, airport-city-hotel, airport-city-hotel, etc rinse and repeat 4 times.

If I were to go here what are the top 5 things I shouldn’t miss?

  • Queenstown
  • Glenorchy
  • Milford Sound (I recommend the fly-cruise-fly, the drive is too long, the flight is short and expensive but you save so much time without needing to drive 8+ hours round trip and the view is so much better from the flight)
  • Stargazing at the top of the peak in Queenstown – WOWOWOW, just WOW!! The only stars I see in NYC are in Broadway musicals
  • Bungy Jumping or Skydiving if you’re adventurous! I did both and I’m still looking for my kidney!

How did you use miles to pay for the trip?

The miles/points we used were just from years of collecting/accruing on credit cards and getting new credit card sign-up bonuses. Sign up for a new card, complete the min spend, get the bonus added to your pool, rinse and repeat.

We booked this trip 11 months in advance, we booked most of the major flights at the same time, the smaller shorter flights we booked here and there as the months passed. I personally spent 1 million points/miles on this trip, I’m not sure how much my friend spent but I covered our hotels while he paid for most of my meals and a lot of our activities together.

  • Singapore Suites - 280,000 Krisflyer miles standard level (Saver wasn't available) - transferable from Amex Membership Rewards
  • Hilton Auckland - 1 night; 60,000 points
  • Hilton Lake Taupo - 2 nights; 54,000 points
  • Hilton Queenstown - 6 nights; 300,000 points
  • Air New Zealand Economy for AKL-ZQN-AKL - cash ($200 RT?)
  • Miscellaneous flights for Milford Sound, NZ – 47,000 Barclays Arrival+ miles
  • Holiday Inn Auckland Airport - 25K IHG
  • Air New Zealand Business & Thai Airways First & Thai Airways First - 40K United miles (sweetspot redemption, gone now)
  • Park Hyatt Sydney - 30K Hyatt
  • Intercontinental Bangkok suite - 35K IHG
  • Intercontinental Hong Kong - free night cert from the IHG CC
  • Cathay Pacific First - 40K British Avios
  • Andaz Tokyo - 25K Hyatt
  • Japan Airlines First - 80K AA miles

Total damage – 1,016,000 miles/points + $272 in taxes

What’s your next trip that you’re planning to go with points?

I’m going to Korea in June/July for 5 nights with 3 other Travel Hacker friends. We will be flying in the new Delta A350 ‘suites’ from Detroit for 80K Delta miles each one-way to Seoul. Returning we will all be on Korean Air First on the A380 at 80K points per person which is transferable from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Korean Air.