Let’s back up and talk Points and Miles. To start this trip, we had to get in place, Plane tickets, Hotel rooms, Visa’s and other miscellaneous transportation details. This was crunch time. A true A-Z, four Alarm Travel Fun Fest (this is the big build up).
First off, fair disclosure. My Firm provides the opportunity to take two trips around the world each year. This includes a Travel Agency. We pick the location from a long list, the Travel Agency fills in the blanks…Unless you go early, stay later or add other countries. Then they default to “we’ll give you x dollars for the flights and provide a Hotel for x nights at the original location choice”. The rest is on you. We’ll that’s us. We go early, stay later and generally #$@! up their plan in an epic way.
So they provided ~$4400.oo for Airfare, 4 nights in Vietnam at an IHG Intercontinental, a puddle jumper flight from Vietnam to Cambodia and 3 nights in a Sofitel near Angkor Wat.
This is a big financial start to the trip budget. I get that not everyone has that kind of a jump-start. Continue reading anyway, it’s worth it. We then sat down and decided we needed at least two weeks to do this trip. Remember it’s Vietnam, Cambodia and Beijing, China now.
For giggles, I called the travel agency and they advised we could do the trip for around $8000.00 additional dollars out of my very cheap Scottish pockets. How ’bout NO! I want business class, by the way, up it went to $13,000.00 and I want to fly out of Springfield, Missouri (laughter) and up the price went. Buh-Bye.
So here’s what I did…(finally)
1. Went to Google Flights and entered every scenario I could think of, different routes, cities etc…Still too much. I then made a mistake and entered the start date wrong and Forest Gumped my way to a solution. I knew that Kansas City was the cheapest starting point but I found that if we flew to say San Francisco, LAX or Seattle, THEN to Vietnam, the price dropped significantly. Keep in mind I’m ONLY using business class entries. I started at about $8000.00 out of pocket and when I was done, $3000.00 total out of pocket. KC to Seattle on a Tuesday with Alaska Air, Wednesday fly out to Vietnam with a short layover (2 hours) in Tokyo on ANA Japan. Four days later, firm provided puddle jumper to Cambodia, then off to Beijing on China Southern Air. Then after 4 days in Beijing we fly to Chicago (short stop in Tokyo) on ANA again, then from Chicago to Springfield Missouri. So basically total flight cost in Business Class, including Firm contribution, $7400 for two.
Google flights provided the Airline options, I just juggled the dates and times.
I am writing this from an amazing Business Class Pod, being absolutely spoiled rotten by ANA’s fantastic service on a 787 Dreamliner. Remember, when I first started, the travel agent quoted me about $7500 PER PERSON. I paid $1500 each AND as a bonus since most of the flights are United-Star Alliance, we are racking up 23ooo+ united miles EACH.
The Hotels were even easier, added two nights to the Ho Chi Minh Intercontinental (40k total IHG points) and was upgraded (IHG card=Platinum Status) to a suite for the total 6 days + a boatload of points for the nights that the firm covers). Basically used $280 in IHG points for a 2 night $480 stay.
In Beijing, the JW Marriott at 15k per night for four nights (60k total), basically $540.00 in points for a $1013.00 stay. In addition, being up-graded to a suite because of Gold Status with Marriott. Remember, Amex Platinum=Starwood (SPG) Gold=Marriott and Ritz Carlton Gold.
A few final points, Rented a car from Alamo for the one-way drive to KC for around $58.00, Alamo does one-way the cheapest. In Seattle, used Chase Sapphire to gain free access to ANA premium Lounge. Amex Platinum for free entry into the Centurion Lounge. Using gogo and Boingo (provided as a benefit from Amex Platinum) for Airport and Airline WiFi.
I’m sure that I’ve left out benefits that we are using that just escape me right now. I’ll add them later (luggage reimbursement benefits come to mind). I hope this get the wheels turning and helps in some way. Go big or Go home….
Oh, the ugly American part. We are standing in front of the All Nippon Airways (ANA) gate waiting to board. The staff are all dressed very professional, each at the front of a check in line (5 total), a few standing at the desk. I’m in the business class line in sweats, unshaven, a Despicable Me T-shirt with Minions on the front (hell, my fly was probably open too). I looked like crap holding a knap sack. A well dressed gentleman comes out, says something in Japanese and the whole staff bows at the same time…I’m looking at them, they’re bowing towards me…and there I am, in all my splendor with my big mouth wide open…the ugly American.