An Asian Holiday: Part 1 – Using Miles and Points to Get to India And Hong Kong

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Emily Jablon:  Daraius and I celebrated Christmas with his family in Macau and Hong Kong for ~8 days.  It was our 1st time to Macau and Hong Kong and we were very excited to visit!

Miles And Points To India And Hong Kong

Emily and Daraius Looking Forward to Celebrating Christmas in India & Hong Kong

An Asian Holiday – Trip Report Index:

Planning

We get a lot of wonderful tips from Frommer’s, but I could not find the newest version of Frommer’s Hong Kong.  Maybe they are in between versions?

Here are some other guidebooks (our Amazon links):

Keep in mind that the chart below covers only the cost for ferries, hotels, and airfare, and not for dining, activities, and other travel expenses.

We got great upgrades at the Grand Hyatt Macau.  Although I’m sure that our top-tier Hyatt Diamond status helped.

At the Hilton Conrad in Hong Kong, we also got upgraded, but just to a room on the executive floor.  Again, having top-tier Hilton Diamond status helped!

 Retail CostOur Cash CostMiles and Points UsedSources of Miles & Points
Two 1-way tickets from Austin to Washington, DC~$185 a person ($370 total)$5 per person ($10 total)21,000 Southwest Points (21,000 Southwest Points Total)Southwest Companion Pass earned from 2 Southwest credit card applications + 10,000 points
Two 1-way tickets from Washington, DC to Bombay~$8,000 a person ($16,000 total)$5 taxes and fees per person + $25 telephone booking fee per person ($60 total)90,000 American Airlines Miles (180,000 American Airlines Miles Total)- American Airlines Credit Cards
- BankDirect
- Transferring Starwood hotel points
Two 1-way tickets from Bombay to Hong Kong~$1,676 a person ($3,352 total)$26 taxes and fees per person + $25 telephone booking fee per person ($102 total)45,000 American Airlines Miles (90,000 American Airlines Miles Total)- American Airlines Credit Cards
- BankDirect
- Transferring Starwood hotel points
Two TurboJet Ferry tickets from Hong Kong to Macau~$32 a person (~$64 total)~$21 a person ($42 total)NoneNone
3 nights at the Grand Hyatt Macau (Grand Executive Suite)~$360 (~$1,080 total)None15,000 Hyatt Points (45,000 Hyatt Points Total)- Transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards
Two TurboJet Ferry tickets from Macau to Hong Kong~$19 a person (~$38 total)~$19 a person (~$38) totalNoneNone
4 nights at the Conrad Hong Kong (Executive Lounge Room)~$644 ($2,120 total)None170,000 Hilton Points Total (old Hilton AXON rate)- Transfers from Hawaiian Airlines & Virgin Atlantic
Two 1-way tickets from Hong Kong to Chicago~$16,173 a person ($32,346 Total)$36 taxes and fees per person + $25 telephone booking fee per person ($122 total)67,500 American Airlines Miles (135,000 American Airlines Miles Total)- American Airlines Credit Cards
- BankDirect
- Transferring Starwood hotel points
Total $55,395$37421,000 Southwest Points, 405,000 American Airlines Miles, 45,000 Hyatt Points, 170,000 Hilton Points

Southwest – Austin to Washington, DC

We spent ~21,000 Southwest points to fly from Austin to Washington, DC.  Because Emily and I have the Southwest Companion pass, Emily flew for free.  This was a contingency booking because Dallas, our original connection point with American Airlines, was experiencing a winter storm which cancelled flights for ~5 days.

We had originally booked 2 First Class tickets using American Airlines miles from Austin to Washington, DC.  We were supposed to fly from Austin to Dallas to Washington, DC on American Airlines.  And on Etihad from Washington, DC to Mumbai, India.

But there were weather issues in Dallas, so Daraius cancelled the Austin to Dallas & Dallas to Washington, DC flights and we flew to Washington, DC on Southwest with our Companion Pass.

This was good because our flights were eventually cancelled from Austin to Dallas and Dallas to Washington, DC!

Etihad – Washington, DC to Bombay, India

We took an Etihad flight from Washington, DC, to Abu Dhabi where we had a ~5 hour layover.  We then flew to Bombay, India which was a short ~5 hour flight.

We redeemed 180,000 American Airlines miles for 2 one-way tickets in First Class, and $60 in fees.  This is a much cheaper way to redeem American Airlines miles for flights to India.  That’s because you don’t pay high fuel surcharges (~$400 per segment) like you do when you redeem American Airlines miles for British Airway flights to India.

Each 1-way First Class ticket costs ~$8,000!

Business Class costs 67,500 American Airlines miles for each ticket and coach costs 45,000 American Airlines miles each.

Etihad First Class

Emily & Daraius Right Before Closing Off Their Suite for Privacy

We loved the Etihad flight!  The service and cabins were fantastic & the flight attendants were friendly and attentive.

Cathay Flight – India to Hong Kong

To get from India to Hong Kong, we redeemed 90,000 American Airlines miles and $102 in fees for 2 one-way flights in First Class on Cathay Pacific.  See this post on how to find Cathay Pacific award flights with your American Airlines miles.

Miles And Points To India And Hong Kong

It Was Almost Like We Had the Cabin to Ourselves

Business Class costs 30,000 American Airlines miles each and Coach costs 22,500 American Airlines miles each.

We could have used 75,000 British Airways Avios points instead of 90,000 American Airlines miles.  But we would have paid over $300 in fees.  I preferred saving cash, but it was a close call.

The Cathay Pacific flight rivaled Etihad in terms of service and experience.  It would be hard choosing which airline I liked better.

TurboJet Ferry from Hong Kong to Macau

From Hong Kong airport, we took a ferry to Macau.

The TurboJet ferry costs 246 Hong Kong dollars (~$32) per person.  It costs slightly more on weekends.  The ferry took 1 hour to reach Macau.

Riding the ferry to Macau was very easy because the port is located in the airport.  All you have to do is take a few escalators and an internal train and you’re at the ferry terminal!

Miles And Points To India And Hong Kong

Emily Happy that She Remembered to Use a Card With No Foreign Transaction Fees to Buy Our Ferry Tickets

As a big added bonus, TurboJet transfers the luggage.  So you don’t have to worry about lugging heavy bags on and off the ferry.  That alone is worth the price of the ferry ticket!

Grand Hyatt Macau

We spent 3 nights in Macau.  Macau is often referred to as the Las Vegas of the East.  But we wanted to visit Macau because of all the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

We redeemed 15,000 Hyatt points a night for 1 room in the Grand Hyatt, Macau.  The Grand Hyatt, Macau is a category 4 hotel and still costs 15,000 Hyatt points after the recent devaluation. The Grand Hyatt is located within the City of Dreams complex.  This was a great hotel with impeccable service.

The regular rooms are Grand Suite King rooms which cost ~1,988+ Hong Kong dollars or ~$256+ a night

Miles And Points To India And Hong Kong

Emily & Daraius in the Enormous Grand Hyatt Lobby Lounge

We were upgraded to Executive Suites because of Daraius’ Hyatt Diamond status .  These sell for 2,788+ Hong Kong dollars or ~$360+ a night.

TurboJet Ferry from Macau to Hong Kong

We took the free shuttle bus from the Grand Hyatt, Macau to the ferry terminal.  The shuttle to TurboJet ride was ~15 minutes so we arrived at 11:45 am for our 12:15 pm ferry.

We took the elevators upstairs and checked-in our bags.  The ferry terminal is a lot like an airport and I appreciated how smoothly everything went!

Miles And Points To India And Hong Kong

Unlike Any Ferry Terminal I’ve Been In

The TurboJet ferry costs 148 Hong Kong dollars (~$19) per person.  On weekends the price is a little higher.  It took 1 hour to reach Hong Kong.  

Conrad Hong Kong

Hong Kong is known for its rich mix of Chinese heritage.  It was ruled by the British.  Today it calls itself “Asia’s world city.”  Daraius and I loved the mix of the urban and natural landscapes as well as the vibrancy of life there.  The efficient subway, bus and ferry system made getting around very easy.

Miles And Points To India And Hong Kong

Emily at the Victoria Peak Sky Terrace

We spent 4 nights at the Conrad Hong Kong.  And booked the entry level King Bed Superior Rooms which cost ~80,000 Hilton points per night.  The rooms regularly cost ~$400 to ~$600 per night.  So our points saved us a lot of money!

But we used 170,000 Hilton points before the big Hilton devaluation for 4 nights (old Hilton AXON award level).  You could also use your 2 free weekend nights from the Citi Hilton Reserve card.  But we had already used our free weekend stay for our 2nd anniversary trip to Italy.

Miles And Points To India And Hong Kong

Emily Eager to Check-in at the Conrad Hong Kong Before Exploring the City

You also get free Hilton Gold status with the Citi Hilton Reserve card which means free breakfast and internet!

We were upgraded from our basic room to a King Executive Peak View Room which sells for about ~5,000 Hong Kong Dollars or ~$644 per night on the Executive Lounge floor.  But it was still a small room!

Cathay Pacific Flight from Hong Kong to Chicago

Daraius and I took a Cathay Pacific flight back to the US.  We used 135,000 American Airlines miles and paid $122 in fees for 2 one-way First Class tickets.  

These tickets sell for ~$16,173 EACH or $32,346 for TWO tickets.  We were happy with the price we paid!

Miles And Points To India And Hong Kong

I Wonder If Daraius Knows How Handsome He’s Going to Look in His Cathay Pacific Pajamas?

Business Class is 55,000 American Airlines miles each and coach is 35,000 American Airlines miles a ticket.

The flight was excellent.  I loved the food and being the only 2 people in First Class!  The purser joked that we had our own living room, dinging room, and bedrooms!

The cabins and service rivaled Etihad.

Miles And Points To India And Hong Kong

Emily Getting Cozy for Her ~15 Hour Flight

American Airlines Flight Home – Chicago to Austin

Our connecting flight home was on American Airlines.  This was included in our Hong Kong to Chicago flight so we didn’t have to book a separate flight.  

Daraius says when searching for award flights, be sure to search each flight individually to get the best results.  Then put in your flights 1 by 1 online or to the agent who can book them for you.  

Bottom Line

Miles and points have helped bring our family together.  We visited India with my mom, San Francisco with my dad, and I went to spend time with my grandma in Tampa who passed away last year.  And now we’ve gone to Macau and Hong Kong for Christmas with Daraius’ family.

Whether you take domestic or international trips, fly in First Class or coach, is up to you.  The important thing is to make memories with friends, family, and loved ones.  We are not promised tomorrow, so we try to make the best of today.

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58 responses to “An Asian Holiday: Part 1 – Using Miles and Points to Get to India And Hong Kong

  1. Amol (@PointsToPointB)

    I think you got the new/refreshed Cathay Pacific First Class on your Hong Kong-Chicago flight? It looks slightly different compared to my flight last week to LAX.

    Also a great example of how Southwest points+companion pass got you out of a huge jam with the cancelled AA points. That could have been an $800 problem.

  2. Can you explain how exactly you collected 400k aa pts? Even with 100k bonus cards it would be very difficult.

  3. You and Emily, your life together is awesome!

  4. 430,000+ points RT to Hong Kong strikes me as a terribly inefficient use of points.

    • @Amol (@PointsToPointB) – It was on a 777 back to the US and it certainly felt newer than the 747 from Mumbai to Hong Kong. We would have missed our flights if we didn’t have Southwest points or would have had to pay cash for a last minute flight (most other airlines were almost sold out).

      @Mike U – We’re very lucky!

      @Beth – You can use much fewer miles for a round-trip to Hong Kong. But we wanted a stopover in India and wanted to use our American Airlines miles.

  5. Daruis,

    I am from Hong Kong and I will be taking Cathay during Nov business class. (BA points) However, I was wondering how did you have so many aa miles!! Also, the availabity for first class and business class on Cathay is so hard to find!

    Also, do you feel that there is a difference between business class or first class on Cathay?

  6. can’t wait for Etihad F review… there are not many of those. Please post the pics of amenity kits as well.
    😉

  7. There’s even more value on your HKG-AUS redemption which you left on the table. For the same 67.5k each you book HKG-ORD (stopover) -HNL. Use Avios to get home to AUS… You would have a free 1st class one-way ticket still in your pocket …

  8. OUCH. We’re also looking to stay at the Conrad HK for 4-nights, regularly 80,000 points/night.

    With the AXON discount, we’re still looking at 65,000 points/night – 4 x 65k = 260,000 points total … which is a lot more than your spend of 170,000 points.

    Is it still worthwhile to open a couple of Hilton cards to amass these points? Another strategy?
    Or is there a better hotel option in Hong Kong?

  9. “can’t wait for Etihad F review… there are not many of those. Please post the pics of amenity kits as well.”
    Me too, +1

  10. Wow! Great trip. But how did you collect over 400K AA points for the 2 of you? I remember you used AA points when you went with your mother-in-law to India, so that’s a lot of new points. And how does one maintain Hyatt Diamond, since your trip reports say you stay on points at the Hyatts – don’t you have to have paid or cash/point stays? If you use VR’s or other MS for amassing points, you haven’t included that in the cash outlay.

    But still amazed at the trips you take!

  11. I think we’ve got the message: you guys continually have more miles/points than you know what to do with. Congrats.

  12. How did you book the Etihad segment on American? It doesn’t appear Etihad can be booked for awards on AA.com. Only BA and AA show up on segments to India.

  13. @MartyHs : You have to call AA to book on Etihad with AA points.

  14. Well, that’s a lot of points.

    -600K points for a vacation… nice work man!

    You’ve gotta get Kick Back Points from Citi and Chase as per your relationship with them and advertising… cause 3-4 trips baller style per year….um… if YOU DO good for you.. I visit this blog everyday for inspiration!

  15. Again how did you collect so many aa pts? It’s kinda weird that you’re avoiding the question.

  16. Curious George

    I thought with AA points, you couldn’t use any of their ME partners (EY or QR) for flights to India and Africa. Did AA change their rules or was I incorrect?

  17. also find it odd, all the AA miles. also odd the ignoring of said query. see larry’s reply near the top of the comments.

    keep in mind, many credit cards with referral bonuses are between 5K and 20K, so if these guys get those sort of referrals, well, you can imagine they’d build up. 20 referrals at 20K and there’s your 400K. but i’d like to hear from the bloggers themselves as to how it piles up, especially with minimal everyday expenses, very little out-of-pocket paid travel and a finite number of credit cards in the old wallet.

  18. Did you recently move to Austin?

  19. Look forward on the Etihad travel. How is the availability on Etihad ?.

  20. Maybe the collecting of the 400+K AA’s is the ‘secret’ part of Million Mile Secrets….. 😉
    Looking forward to details too.
    L

  21. The crickets are getting very loud in here… I think it’s a very legitimate thing to know how we can all get 400k pts.

    • @Larry @Marilyn B @Lanny @D L |- I’m traveling with family, so I’ve been late to get to the comments. 1) We spent 200K miles per person and we earned the miles from credit card sign-up bonuses, spending, BankDirect accounts etc. 2) I’ve been doing this for years before writing the blog, and things were different and more lucrative then. I want to spend as many AA miles as possible before they lose value sometime next year with a likely devaluation 3) If you go to the Hot Deals tabs, you can see how to earn 200K AA miles per person.

      @chris – The main message is to show what’s possible with points and miles.

      @Titop @Chris @jo – I get no payment in miles from the credit card companies. I collect these miles via sign-up bonuses, spending, BankDirect etc. Each post in the series will detail how folks can get the miles as well. And I’ve also been collecting miles before I started writing the blog. And things were different and more lucrative then!

      @Curious George – You can use them for flights to Indian Sub-Continent, Maldives etc. but not to Africa unless you book 2 awards.

      @Kyle – We did!

      @suns – It is good in coach, and not too bad in First or Business class if you’re flexible.

      @mike – That’s a nice tool!

  22. Pingback: An Asian Holiday: Part 2 – Etihad Lounge in Washington, DC | Million Mile Secrets

  23. Curious George

    The miles could be from manufactured spend.

  24. I’ll add to the drum beats in requesting an answer on how you guys accumulate so many points.
    There is no shame in admitting you gets lots of “rebates” from the credit card companies.

  25. I’d love to hear how you accumulated so many miles in such a short time too! Please respond to Larry’s question…..

  26. i have a cc engine on my site showing how to get about 340k AA points now from scratch – http://www.igobyplane.com/uaaa-goal-engine/

    i should have 1m by the end of the month, partially out of flying a bit for work, although most of those are smaller trips. plenty from cards over time and not actually using my AA miles or taking enough trips. got a decent chunk during the ebags 35x luggage offer as well.

    note with emily and daraius, 400k actually means 200k apiece… certainly that is doable.

  27. I think it is really easy for an individual to get 200K AA points, especially in the wake of the 100K offer. I am on my 2nd as we speak. Can’t wait to see my balance jump as soon as I finish my spend.

  28. Thanks for answering, but I am curious about this comment in your answer : “. 1) We spend 200K per person”. That’s a lot! So, I would assume you are doing a lot of manufactured spend. There is a cost (although much lower than your redemption values) that you have not included in your calculations.

    Also, can you address the 2nd part of my original question? Which was “And how does one maintain Hyatt Diamond, since your trip reports say you stay on points at the Hyatts – don’t you have to have paid or cash/point stays?” I thought you did get it a while back as part of attending a MegaDo maybe 3 years ago, but how do you keep it?

    Your trips are certainly inspirational to me. Now if I could just get my husband to catch my travel bug…..which is why I need miles & points to wow him with premium flights and stays!

  29. Pingback: Etihad First Class | Million Mile Secrets

  30. Things were much more lucrative with AA miles in the past. I’ve also built up a lot of AA miles. You say you want to use as many as possible before another devaluation. I also think that’s coming with the merger. With all the devaluations, do you just plan to fly less, or go back to economy? I’ve flown quite a few business class flights, but if there’s not as much devaluation and more availability with economy, then I’ll go back to economy. What a wonderful opportunity it’s been to fly business class. I’ve never tried first. Just glad I started this game when I did!

  31. Pingback: An Asian Holiday Part 4 – By Air and Sea – Cathay First Class to Hong Kong, Ferry to Macau | Million Mile Secrets

  32. @Larry @Lanny @DL Since everyone seemed to be so curious about the huge number of AA miles, as Daraius did say, he had accumulated them some time ago when things were very lucrative (like multiple browser trick). I was looking at some of his old trip reports (Love them!!) and tripped over this comment from his trip report post A First Class Passage To India Posted on June 17, 2011: “Emily and I have earned over 1.2 million AAdvantage miles from Citibank AAdvantage cards a few years ago.”

    So there you all go, folks. All I can say is – AWESOME!!! And the trips they’ve used them for – WOW!

  33. i give daraius credit for responding. thank you.

  34. Pingback: An Asian Holiday: Part 5 – A Free Stay in a ~$470 Per Night Suite at the Grand Hyatt Macau | Million Mile Secrets

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  39. Great fun E & D! thx for the report.
    to those who asked how he got so many miles, remember he is sharing his experience. if it so turned out that it does not work now or in the future, remember you asked here – dont bash him for spoiling/destroying the deal which you are too late to get in.

  40. i am new (< 2 yrs) to this circle & i've got 1 mil+ AA miles posted to my acct during that span. I am sure that's not uncommon, & did nothing different than the 3 things he outlined in his blog above.

    • @Marilyn B – I edited the comment to be clearer. Most of the miles were from sign-up bonuses. I also have business trips and book hotel rooms for friends/family from my account, but don’t review them on the blog.

      @ Lynn – I have no problem flying economy as long as it gets me where I want!

      @DJ – Glad you are enjoying it!

  41. Pingback: An Asian Holiday: Part 10 – Spectacular View of Hong Kong From Victoria Peak & the Amazing Symphony of Lights | Million Mile Secrets

  42. Pingback: Activities In Hong Kong | Million Mile Secrets

  43. I know you love to travel in first class but using points traveling in Asia where there are a lot of budget carriers is a waste of your miles. You can for example travel from Singapore or Kuala LUmpur to any part of India for less than $300.or from the same place to Hong Kong for even less than $200.I don’t think its wise using points for travel of less than 6 hrs flying time not unless u want to travel in luxury .You could have saved your points for long haul flights e.g. 8 hr flights from SIngapore to Auckland only requires 35K pts in economy using Star Alliance.

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  47. I follow your blog a lot and I live in Austin! It would be great to meet you!

  48. Pingback: Cathay Pacific First Class Review | Million Mile Secrets

  49. Hi Daruis,

    Very nice blog, can you show me how to book the AA for CX flight from US to HKG?
    Book it over the phone? Or via website?

    I have burnt all the UA points for this year. I am planning for 2015 trip to HKG.
    What’s your suggestions to travel from SFO-HKG in CX biz for 3 adults? I am okay to sign up new credit cards. Currently, I just have CSP, freedom and Chase United (canceling it). My wife just have CSP. thanks in advance!

    -Flyer

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  53. Macau is often referred to as the Las Vegas of the East. But we wanted to visit Macau because of all the UNESCO World Heritage sites.