2015 was my first full year as a father. As mentioned in my recent post reviewing 2015 travel, I spent a lot more time on the road for work and therefore away from my family than I wanted. Sure, I love to travel, but moderation is best in most things.
Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan
There are many routines that I utilize in preparing for and during my travels. I guess I’m a creature of habit. It usually works for me, but my systems are far from perfect. While looking back on travel from 2015 and ahead to 2016, I’ve realized how a lot of these routines have changed.
I’ve recently returned from a wonderful trip to Japan with my wife. While we’ve been fortunate to travel around the world in premium classes, this trip was different in several ways. Previously, I often planned in advance as much as I could, or took advantage of some unique opportunity. I was lucky to book Lufthansa First Class in advance when a new route between Toronto and Munich was announced. I booked Singapore Airlines First Class using United miles during a maintenance period of the Singapore reservation system. I remember the days when it was relatively easy to use United miles to book trips to Asia via Europe on various Star Alliance partners for less than 150,000 miles in First Class, roundtrip. When compared with the current rates for partner redemptions…ouch.
Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Frankfurt. I love this place.
I used to often extend my business trips to do some exploring, and my wife and I would sometimes take vacations spanning several weeks. I very rarely have taken mileage runs, but didn’t used to occasionally mind hopping around to get extra miles on a trip. Now that I have a child, I have more of a reason to get home as soon as possible, so these extra segments are much more rare. I just can’t justify as much travel strictly for fun and on most trips I need to plan more efficient itineraries.
This Japan trip was unique for my wife and I since it was our first trip together without our daughter. We have wanted to visit Japan together for years. We’ve been trying to use up some vacation this year, and it took us until late December before we could finally make it work. I found space in ANA First Class using United miles for the outbound between Chicago and Tokyo. I originally booked it for travel in November, and through a few date changes, we were lucky to find dates that worked.
While I still have a large amount of United miles plus Ultimate Rewards points, I also wanted to use some of my American miles while the prices are more reasonable before their impending devaluation later this year. That said, I wasn’t having much luck finding reasonable options for the return flights. Fortunately about 12 days out, space opened up in Japan Airlines First Class for a return flight from Tokyo to Chicago. Perfect! While on past trips, I always tried to maximize my experiences, as many legs in First Class as possible, in the best possible products. Now, I think I value simplicity. I’m really happy with how this trip turned out. Having nonstop flights is a great convenience, but I didn’t take advantage of the awards as much as I possibly could have, or maybe would have in the past. Honestly, it was refreshing, and suited our needs very well. On a week long trip, we couldn’t hop all over the place.
People may ask why we would go so far (to Japan) for only a few days. To me, 5 days in Japan is better than 0. It was a good taste of a great place, and our visit to Kyoto was a new destination for both of us.
First class airline travel using points may not be as easy and certainly not as ‘cheap’ as it once was, but there are still opportunities. I still have lots of miles to use, and some fun trips to come. This game is evolving, and how I play is somewhat different than I used to, but I’m glad to still be able to take some pretty amazing trips using miles.
How about you? Have you changed your redemption strategies through all the changes of the last few years?