In the next 4 months I’ll visit 18 countries.
It’s a bit overkill, I admit. But you never know when an astroid will destroy the human race, right?
Go before the ice caps melt. Or worse: before banks stop handing out frequent flyer miles like candy.
After my $83 trip to 6 island countries I’ll fly the above route to Japan, China, and Myanmar.
In Myanmar I’ll train travel from Yangon to Mandalay to explore the area’s temples.
And then Malayasia again, and then, and then, and then….
This blog’s focus has shifted from writing about the destinations I visit to how I visit them so cheaply.
(Hint: credit card sign-up bonuses). It’d be a full-time job to write about each upcoming destination.
Me describing how much fun I have tramping around doesn’t help you much anyway.
I want you to see the world cheaply too.
The below 6 insights will help you travel for almost free to and in Japan and China (in Myanmar not so much).
Compare Mileage Pricing with the Avios Map
British Airways Avios can be redeemed on OneWorld airline partners, like American Airlines…and Japan Airlines. Simply open a free British Airways Executive Club account then search ba.com for availability.
In love with the idea of flying on award-winning airline Cathay Pacific, I almost paid 17.5K Avios plus $38.74 to fly from The Philippines to southern Japan via Hong Kong. Luckily, before clicking buy I pulled up the Avios Map. Via Tokyo was quicker, cost fewer miles, and avoided extra airport taxes.
In the end, Manila to Tokyo and Hiroshima cost only 14.5K Avios plus $17.
The color-coded map makes it easy to discover routes you may not have considered otherwise. Notice the one-ways from Tokyo, including only 12.5K to Bangkok and 4.5K within Japan. Given how easy it is to accumulate Avios and how expensive is paid airfare, these are great deals.
Avios are INCREDIBLY USEFUL in Japan
Get this: when flying to or from Tokyo every flight to every city has award seats.
Even ‘tropical Japan’ Okinawa has availability! Since I’ll likely be sick of islands by the time I visit Japan I decided to instead visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki (the one-way from Tokyo to Hiroshima was 4.5K Avios plus $2). I’m learning about the pre- and post-bomb era now to better prepare for this surreal experience.
Choice Hotels are EVERYWHERE in Japan
AwardMapper is a visual search engine that maps award hotels by location. It will simply your life.
Just as Avios can fly you most anywhere within Japan, Choice hotels can house you there upon arrival. Most downtown locations, with breakfast, are only 8K to 10K points per night. What does that mean exactly? Well, this Friday at 1pm EST you can buy 40,000 Choice points for $160 during the Daily GetAways promo.
That’s $40 per night downtown in the some of the world’s most expensive cities.
In Italy and Scandinavia hotels cost between 6K and 10K. I’ll use 64K Choice points for my 8 nights in Tokyo, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, and Nagasaki. My two-week stay in the Crowne Plaza Ube cost 70K IHG points thanks to the last PointBreaks promo.
Delta’s Online Multi-City Function is GARBAGE
“Travel for the date you selected is not offered or sold out.”
Over the phone I booked the exact same itinerary: Nagasaki (NGS) to Yangon (RGN) via a 24-hour layover in Shanghai (PVG) for 22.5K Delta miles plus $53.75. Start to finish the booking took less than 20 minutes.
You can’t trust Delta’s search engine on multi-city queries. Or any query really.
The workaround is simple: use Delta.com to search city to city, cut-and-paste each segment’s flight information into a document, call the Delta SkyMiles department, then feed each city-to-city segment to the agent. My agent agreed to waive the $25 phone booking fee when I said “the online system failed through no fault of my own, can you please waive the fee?” You must ask directly, politely yet sternly.
Since Delta recently axed their award chart—as in, it no longer officially exists—you can estimate how many miles are required by searching on Milez.biz. If a Delta award prices at a higher level, then adjust the itinerary or use different miles. Yeah, Delta hates you.
IHG and Marriott Redemptions are CHEAP in Shanghai
Again, AwardMapper is a visual search engine that maps award hotels by location.
There are tons of award hotels in Shanghai…but not all are good redemptions.
The InterContinental Group (IHG) and Marriott have the best locations and redemption rates.
An American friend who lived in Shanghai for five years recommended the neighborhood near Peace Hotel as the most visitor-friendly. This screenshot shows hotels within an acceptable distance of it. I’ll stay at either The Holiday Inn Downtown (10K) or Courtyard Puxi (7.5K). Personally, I don’t want to waste points for a fancy bed during a quick layover. If you’re staying longer, then use AwardMapper to check out all hotel options.
No DECENT Award Hotels in Myanmar
There’s not much to say here.
Lack of point options is just something to be aware of. Being a developing country in every sense of the phrase you wouldn’t think the tourist accommodation to be expensive…but it is. On par with Europe, I heard. There is a 30K Hilton halfway between Yangon and Mandalay and a Best Western in Yangon. I wouldn’t blow 30K on one night unless wanting privacy and Best Western points are difficult to accumulate. I haven’t yet bothered to Best Rate Guarantee (BRG) a Best Western (Drew has a how-to article here).
Hostels, guesthouses, AirBnB, and perhaps Couchsurfing are ways to keep expenses low in Myanmar.
I’ll update you on the sleeping situation after my trip.
Which Credit Cards Do You Need to Replicate this Trip?
This is the truly crazy part. Are you ready?
- 1 American Express Mercedes-Benz Platinum with a 50K Membership Rewards sign-up bonus
These points transfer to both 22.5K Delta miles and 14.5K British Airways Avios…with 13K points leftover!
- Apply for one card, earn one basically free trip
Or you can do what I do:
- Apply for multiple cards, multiple times a year, and not worry about airfare and accommodation
I’ve been approved for 57 cards…paying for travel is the very least of my worries….
It’s easier than you think to travel for almost free. My frequent flyer mile and hotel point accumulation service simplifies the process for you. Read more at MileMethod or contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
You’ll also receive blog posts and travel deals, completely free.