Mother-In-Law’s First Trip to India: Introduction & Planning

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Emily’s mom, Connie, wanted to visit India to visit my family, so we used our miles and points to take her with us in December.  She has briefly visited Canada and a resort in Mexico before, so India was going to be very different.  Emily’s step-dad doesn’t like traveling and didn’t want to come – even in First Class! – so Connie brought along her childhood friend Judi instead.  They’ve been friends for almost 55 years!

Mother-in-Law's First Trip to India
Connie, Emily, and Judi by the Taj Mahal
Trip Report Index

In this post, I’ll explain how Emily, her mom Connie, and her mom’s friend Judi and I visited India using miles & points.  We went to 5 cities in 2 weeks:  Bombay, Pune, Goa, Delhi & Agra.  Later, I’ll post a more detailed account of the different airline, hotel, food, transport, and activity options so you can plan a trip to India.

Keep in mind that the chart below covers only the cost for hotels and airfare, and not for dining, activities and other travel expenses.  And we stayed with family in Bombay and Pune, so we didn’t have to pay for hotels there!

Retail Cost
Our Cash Cost
Miles And Points Required
Sources of Miles & Points
4 First Class one-way tickets from the US to India~$11,700 per person$350 per person in taxes and fees90,000 American Airlines miles, per person- Citi American Airlines Personal & Business Cards

- Bank Direct Checking Account
4 Business Class one-way tickets from India to the US~$5,700 per person$116 per person in taxes and fees60,000 United miles, per person- United Credit Card

- Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to United
4 one-way tickets from Bombay to Goa$123 per person$123 per person0
4 one-way tickets from Goa to Pune$105 per person$105 per person0
4 one-way tickets from Pune to Delhi$88 per person$88 per person0
3 nights in a suite at the Park Hyatt Goa$600 to $886 per night ($1,800 to $2,658 for 3 nights).$220 per night or $660 for 3 nights6,000 Hyatt Points- Various Chase Ultimate Rewards Cards

- Points Earned from Staying at Hyatt Hotels
3 nights in a regular room at the Park Hyatt Goa$220 per person ($660 for 3 nights)$015,000 Hyatt Points per night (45,000 points total).- Various Chase Ultimate Rewards Cards

- Points Earned from Staying at Hyatt Hotels
2 nights at the Radisson Blu - Agra$180 per night ($360 for 3 nights)$0 or $100 + 5,000 points ($200 + 10,000 points total).28,000 Club Carlson points per night (56,000 points total) OR 5,000 points per night + $100 cash- Club Carlson Promotions
1 night in a Regency suite at the Hyatt Regency - Delhi$364 per night$180 per night6,000 Hyatt Points- Various Chase Ultimate Rewards Cards

- Points Earned from Staying at Hyatt Hotels

Since this was Connie and Judi’s first visit to India, we had to take them to see the Taj Mahal.  And Emily wanted to take them to Goa and Rajasthan.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time, so we cut it out of this trip. We also wanted to visit family in Bombay and Pune (~120 miles east of Bombay) during our 16 days in India!

I’m writing my experience booking the flights in detail, so that you can see first-hand how much time is needed to book the flights and how I initially wasn’t able to get the flights I wanted.  I got lucky and ExpertFlyer helped me find award seats as they opened up.

I initially wanted to use my US Air miles, but I couldn’t find availability for the outbound journey, and since US Air doesn’t allow 1-way awards for half the mileage cost, I decided to book separate 1-way awards with American Airlines and United miles.

FLIGHTS 1-Way Using American Airlines Miles.  Since this was my mother-in-law’s first visit to India and her first long-haul flight, I wanted to make it comfortable for her.  So I booked 4 First Class award seats using American Airlines miles for 90,000 miles per person + $350 in taxes and fees.  The higher-than-usual taxes and fees were because we flew on British Airways from London to Bombay.

I usually like booking tickets as soon as the award booking window opens up (about 11 months before), but I slacked off and booked these tickets in March 2012 (about 9 months away).

Connie was leaving from Michigan, Judi was leaving from Alabama, and we were leaving from Kansas City, so we had to coordinate the flights.  So I went to the American Airways website and searched for 4 award seats from London to Bombay on British Airways, which I found.

Connie Likes the New American Airlines PJs
Connie Likes the New American Airlines PJs

The next step was to see if we could all be together on an American Airlines flight from the US to London.  I preferred connecting from Chicago since it was the closest hub for all of us.  Unfortunately, American Airlines flight 86, from London to Chicago, didn’t have 4 award seats in First Class.  They only had 2 award seats in First Class and 1 in business.

So I booked 2 award seats in First Class and 1 in Business Class, since I knew that I could change the business class seat to First Class for free if a First Class seat would open up.  That way, at least 3 out of 4 of us would be on the same flights from the US to India.

I booked the 4th ticket on an earlier American Airlines flight which connected to the same British Airways flight.  And I set Expert Flyer seat alerts to let me know if another American Airlines seat opened on AA86 in any class, so that we could all be on the same flight.  I also set an alert for First Class award seats on AA 86 as well.

Expert Flyer alerted me to a First Class opening on AA86 in July, and I immediately called American Airlines and changed the 1 business class seat to First Class.  And in September, Expert Flyer alerted me to a 4th First Class seat on AA 86, so I called and booked it.  Finally 3 months before departure we were all going to be on the same flights from the US to India!

1-Way Using United Miles.  I initially wanted to book a First Class award back from Delhi to the US, but I couldn’t find availability for all 4 of us.

But I did find 4 award seats from Delhi to Vienna on Austrian Airlines, and then Vienna to Frankfurt to Washington, DC on Lufthansa.  And Judi and Connie would have to overnight in Washington and then connect through Chicago to Michigan and Alabama.

This wasn’t ideal, but I have only myself to blame for starting the search so late and insisting on not splitting up.  So I booked 4 business class awards from Delhi to the US for 60,000 United miles per person and $116 in fees.

And here’s where I got extremely lucky!  In August, I got a call from a friendly United agent about a schedule change which meant that we would miss our flight back to the US.  So we bantered and I explained to her how it was my mother-in-law’s first trip to India, and how I wanted to make a good impression.

I lucked out when the agent offered us 4 seats on the non-stop United flight from Delhi to Newark!  These seats weren’t available as award seats (I was checking availability as we chatted), so she must have had special access to them because of the schedule change!

United Flight From Delhi
United Flight From Delhi

Some may scoff at flying on United, but the flight saved us so much time by having fewer connections which meant that we would arrive earlier in the US and wouldn’t need overnight stays in Washington DC!  I much prefer saving my time and flying on non-stop flights than making many connections.  We could also sleep for longer on the ~15 hour flight from Delhi to Newark

Emily and I were both excited about our 1st non-stop flight from India, since we’ve always taken flights with connections before. We had a 1-stop flight back to the US from Delhi to Newark to Kansas City.  And Connie and Judi would go from Newark to Chicago and then to Michigan and Alabama.

HOTELS 1.  Park Hyatt – Goa.  I booked 2 rooms for ~$220 a night at the Park Hyatt in Goa for my family, Connie, and Judi.  I upgraded these rooms to a suite using 6,000 Hyatt points for 1 room and a Diamond suite upgrade for another room.  The suite upgrades were spectacular and our parents loved it!

We got upgraded to a Park suite which sells for $600 per night and a Vista suite which sells for $885 per night!

Park Hyatt Goa Suite
Park Hyatt Goa Suite

Emily and I stayed in a regular room which we got using points (we wanted to save some cash), which was similar to the room which we stayed in the last time.  I could have booked all the rooms using points, but I wanted to save them for future trips.

2.  Radisson Blu – Agra.   I used my Club Carlson points from Club Carlson promotions to book 2 nights at the Radisson Blu in Agra at 28,000 points per night (instead of the cash rate of $180).  And I used 5,000 points and $100 a night for 2 rooms for Connie, Judi, and family.
Radisson Blu Agra
Radisson Blu Agra

The hotel was close to the Taj Mahal and was somewhat cheap, but I wasn’t particularly impressed with the hotel.  But it was adequate as a base for a 2 day visit in Agra.

3.  Hyatt Regency – Delhi.  We were in Delhi for only 1.5 days, so I booked 3 rooms at the Hyatt Regency – Delhi for $180 and then spent 6,000 points per room to upgrade them to a Regency suite (~ $364).  We checked out of 2 rooms in the morning the next day, and I negotiated keeping our room until 9:00 pm (for no extra fee) since we had late flights.

Using 6,000 points to upgrade to a suite is a terrific deal because it gets you free breakfast, access to the lounge, and free airport transfers at the Hyatt Regency in Delhi.

Our Suite at the Hyatt Regency Delhi
Our Suite at the Hyatt Regency Delhi

The lounge was excellent (as a Hyatt Diamond member we got access to the lounge regardless of the suite upgrade) and we didn’t really need to spend money on breakfast and dinner.  But we did eat outside the restaurant as well.

Bottom Line

Getting 4 seats on the same flights is tough, but it worked out for us with a bit of luck and using the right tools.  Using 6,000 Hyatt points to upgrade a paid reservation at Hyatt to a suite was perhaps one of the best uses of 6,000 Hyatt points!

But more importantly, we were able to use our miles and points to have a wonderful trip with Connie and Judi!

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