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Last Minute November Trip with ~270K UR Points and No Itinerary - Suggestions?

Last Minute November Trip with ~270K UR Points and No Itinerary - Suggestions?

Old Oct 28, 19, 1:22 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Mar 2015
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Last Minute November Trip with ~270K UR Points and No Itinerary - Suggestions?

I've been looking through the various regional threads and/or airline sub forums, but I (understandably) haven't found a post or sticky that is as open ended as my question. In short, the missus has an unexpected window to travel from Nov. 23-December 1st, and so we're planning a last minute trip. However, we have no particular itinerary and are in part letting point maximization guide decision making.

I've been considering different combinations of trips that are either (1) longer with premium flight segments (was hoping for something like a SIN A380 experience) and regular lodging on the ground, (2) longer/shorter with regular segments (either with points or in cash) with premium lodging on the ground, or (3) some combo of the two.

I'm struggling with maximizing points/cash with the number of variables we have and thought some of you that have been using your UR points more frequently might have some good suggestions. A few relevant points:
  • We have about 270K UR points, another 22K MR points, and some inconsequential FFs (7K United, 15K AA, 12K Alaska);
  • SF Based, but can fly down to LA or up to SEA/another hub on West Coast;
  • We have no particular location preference, other than going somewhere interesting that we haven't been before (Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, good # of the "larger" Western EU, Colombia, Cuba, Morocco + few others).
  • We're OK flying economy, although my preference would be business if we are flying > 6ish hours.
  • I'm happy to pay for flights up to about $2500-$3000 (together) if we aren't looking at ~2X at a minimum on flights and using those for lodging/experiences/future trips with more planning time.
  • I have UA Silver status, which means we may be able to squeeze in premium economy after paying for just economy on UA.
  • I have very rarely used UR points (or any) for hotel stays, but the past few days of research have suggested to me that this might be the best use of our points (other than the travel portal).
    • I'm getting educated on Hyatt and have an account with them already.
  • Treating this more as a relaxing/sightseeing trip rather than some of our more active trips we've done.
  • Some places we've been considering: Hawaii, Aruba, New Zealand, Australia, Greece, Singapore, French Polynesia, Portugal, South Africa.
    • NZ/AUS/SA all seem to be too late to get business flights and I'm assuming that I'll need to try to maximize points on the ground. Singapore Airlines site has been giving me issues for days so I can't confirm SIN yet.

Perhaps this is a better thread for TravelBuzz or Information Desk, but as most of my points are with UR, I figured this is probably the most rational place to start. Does anyone have any thoughts about maximizing points for this trip or what they might do in our situation?

Last edited by Hyakku; Oct 28, 19 at 1:24 pm Reason: Formatting
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Old Oct 28, 19, 10:15 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
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Your travel window coincides with thxgiving so i would avoid any us travel. International should be quite manageable so japan or europe (warmer places like spain portugal) etc may have award space. Just check united site for partner availability from sfo and lax and piece smth together.
Alternatively you can book some nice hyatt with points and pay for economy flights.
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Old Oct 29, 19, 11:34 am
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Originally Posted by azepine00 View Post
Your travel window coincides with thxgiving so i would avoid any us travel. International should be quite manageable so japan or europe (warmer places like spain portugal) etc may have award space. Just check united site for partner availability from sfo and lax and piece smth together.
Alternatively you can book some nice hyatt with points and pay for economy flights.
Thanks. I tried looking at Europe through BA as well but seems as though thereís very little availability unless something has changed with the app. Iíll keep looking there but otherwise am leaning towards economy with some nice Hyatt stays since that increasingly looks like the best use of points.
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Old Oct 29, 19, 5:54 pm
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Join Date: Dec 2003
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Stay away from Ba and crazy taxes. United miles should open a lot of *a options. If nothing practical then use points for hyatts and pay for flights. LH opens award space within 2 wks if you are willing to gamble but 140k pp is not cheap. Maybe do business outbound overnight and coach back. November is not july - tbere should be options with flexibility..
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Old Oct 30, 19, 9:54 am
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where are you flying from?
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Old Oct 30, 19, 10:17 am
  #6  
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Originally Posted by azepine00 View Post
Stay away from Ba and crazy taxes. United miles should open a lot of *a options. If nothing practical then use points for hyatts and pay for flights. LH opens award space within 2 wks if you are willing to gamble but 140k pp is not cheap. Maybe do business outbound overnight and coach back. November is not july - tbere should be options with flexibility..
Iím probably willing to gamble since we can always pay for Hawaii or something close if it doesnít work out, thatís what Iíve been thinking. Also thought about splitting business/economy.

Iím leaving from SFO but can also do LAX or elsewhere in on the west coast.
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Old Oct 30, 19, 7:03 pm
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Are you only want to travel aboard and on a land trip? How many days you have? as you need to account for the days lost on flying incl connecting flights / travel between airports and cities, stuff like that. That can easily take up 2 to 3 full days from the whole period.

On top of that, weather is another consideration - the destinations on your list have opposite weather conditions. SE Asia would be warm year round. Japan would be in deep Autumn time with much cooler temperature (but the leaves are spectacular). EU is universally COLD, and can be Very Cold plus Very Rainy starting from late November.

You seriously need to narrow down your locations because until then you could not even start to search award space or book pay flights.

The 270K UR pts do not go very far and definitely not enough for you to go Oceanic/Pacific zone in business for 2.

What kind of Chase UR card you hold? You could book a cruise down to Mexico Rivera sailing from Los Angeles or San Diego, and pay that with UR pts at 1.25 to 1.5x value.

Cruises tend to be cheaper during the week before and the week after Thanksgiving, as well as first 2 weeks of December, for the Caribbean and Mexico Rivera itineraries.
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Old Nov 3, 19, 3:20 pm
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Originally Posted by Happy View Post
Are you only want to travel aboard and on a land trip? How many days you have? as you need to account for the days lost on flying incl connecting flights / travel between airports and cities, stuff like that. That can easily take up 2 to 3 full days from the whole period.

On top of that, weather is another consideration - the destinations on your list have opposite weather conditions. SE Asia would be warm year round. Japan would be in deep Autumn time with much cooler temperature (but the leaves are spectacular). EU is universally COLD, and can be Very Cold plus Very Rainy starting from late November.

You seriously need to narrow down your locations because until then you could not even start to search award space or book pay flights.

The 270K UR pts do not go very far and definitely not enough for you to go Oceanic/Pacific zone in business for 2.

What kind of Chase UR card you hold? You could book a cruise down to Mexico Rivera sailing from Los Angeles or San Diego, and pay that with UR pts at 1.25 to 1.5x value.

Cruises tend to be cheaper during the week before and the week after Thanksgiving, as well as first 2 weeks of December, for the Caribbean and Mexico Rivera itineraries.
Thanks for this, your post gave me some time to reflect. We actually found decent business class one ways on Lufthansa to Frankfurt for 70K one way each, but between weather and travel time, we opted against that, especially since we had been in Europe for a wedding recently.

After thinking about it, we decided to go to NZ. Neither of us have gone and weather/unique opportunities are more appealing.

Grabbed Econ saver non-stop one ways for 40K/ticket and buying the tickets back for about $515/ticket. I thought this was pretty good as no other non-stop combo came in under $1500-1800/ticket. United/Chase portal required a minimum of 95-115K points, and one way outs were the bulk of that in USD terms, so we were able to effectively about 2-2.3X on the one way while saving the rest that wouldíve dragged that down.

My remaining plan is to sketch an itinerary and potentially use the portal for some experiences there, since we still get 1.5X with the reserve (I have the reserve and ink business preferred). Also figuring out hotel reward programs vs the portal in the next few days. With the extra MR, AA, and Alaska miles, I may also have some additional wiggle room on hotels, although Iím hesitant to spend Alaska and/or MR on hotels (AA seems to have lost more value recently) if I can optimize for UR. Unitedís points change has made UR much harder for me to justify on flights since thatís my primary airline and where I have status.
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Old Nov 3, 19, 11:25 pm
  #9  
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Originally Posted by Hyakku View Post
Thanks for this, your post gave me some time to reflect. We actually found decent business class one ways on Lufthansa to Frankfurt for 70K one way each, but between weather and travel time, we opted against that, especially since we had been in Europe for a wedding recently.

After thinking about it, we decided to go to NZ. Neither of us have gone and weather/unique opportunities are more appealing.

Grabbed Econ saver non-stop one ways for 40K/ticket and buying the tickets back for about $515/ticket. I thought this was pretty good as no other non-stop combo came in under $1500-1800/ticket. United/Chase portal required a minimum of 95-115K points, and one way outs were the bulk of that in USD terms, so we were able to effectively about 2-2.3X on the one way while saving the rest that wouldíve dragged that down.

My remaining plan is to sketch an itinerary and potentially use the portal for some experiences there, since we still get 1.5X with the reserve (I have the reserve and ink business preferred). Also figuring out hotel reward programs vs the portal in the next few days. With the extra MR, AA, and Alaska miles, I may also have some additional wiggle room on hotels, although Iím hesitant to spend Alaska and/or MR on hotels (AA seems to have lost more value recently) if I can optimize for UR. Unitedís points change has made UR much harder for me to justify on flights since thatís my primary airline and where I have status.
You will need a rental car to enjoy New Zealand - the beauty of the country is all about nature and outdoor. The popular lodging option in NZ is motor lodges - similar to the motels in US but most often carries kitchen and family oriented.

This NZ AA website should help you plan your trip. You can book the accommodations thru them without being a member. The site provides a wealth of travel information.

https://www.aa.co.nz/travel/
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Old Nov 5, 19, 4:37 pm
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Join Date: Apr 2014
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Originally Posted by Hyakku View Post
My remaining plan is to sketch an itinerary and potentially use the portal for some experiences there, since we still get 1.5X with the reserve (I have the reserve and ink business preferred). Also figuring out hotel reward programs vs the portal in the next few days. With the extra MR, AA, and Alaska miles, I may also have some additional wiggle room on hotels, although Iím hesitant to spend Alaska and/or MR on hotels (AA seems to have lost more value recently) if I can optimize for UR. Unitedís points change has made UR much harder for me to justify on flights since thatís my primary airline and where I have status.
I did NZ last year using UR on SQ older J before they devalued. Can't complain although a day flight on angle flat wasn't a disaster lol

From a hotel point of view, there aren't a whole lot of options for larger chains especially once you leave AKL. The option for 1.5cents per UR if you have the CSR can come in handy now that the Chase travel portal is linked to Expedia. Keep the AA/MR points, IMO, we aimed for NZ$150-250 per night on apartments via expedia/booking and were not disappointed.
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Old Nov 7, 19, 2:47 pm
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Originally Posted by gameover98 View Post
I did NZ last year using UR on SQ older J before they devalued. Can't complain although a day flight on angle flat wasn't a disaster lol

From a hotel point of view, there aren't a whole lot of options for larger chains especially once you leave AKL. The option for 1.5cents per UR if you have the CSR can come in handy now that the Chase travel portal is linked to Expedia. Keep the AA/MR points, IMO, we aimed for NZ$150-250 per night on apartments via expedia/booking and were not disappointed.

This is great, thanks. That's also what I was thinking as well; the 1.5 UR points seem to be a good option for a couple of hotels/apartments, but also for some experiences that are offered through there. Already see a couple I was planning on buying that are (1) lower in the absolute sense than what I was getting from some other sites and (2) work with the 1.5 redemption, so in some cases I'm actually looking at 1.75-2X.

Originally Posted by happy
You will need a rental car to enjoy New Zealand - the beauty of the country is all about nature and outdoor. The popular lodging option in NZ is motor lodges - similar to the motels in US but most often carries kitchen and family oriented.
Originally Posted by happy

This NZ AA website should help you plan your trip. You can book the accommodations thru them without being a member. The site provides a wealth of travel information.

https://www.aa.co.nz/travel/
Thank you for the link. I've got a weird thing with renting cars in places where the driving side is reversed, and because my SO doesn't like to drive in those countries, I tend to have to drive most of the time. As such I can sometimes miss out on things if we're not stopping frequently.

I was thinking instead this time of getting experiences that are fairly small group sizes (8-12) that involve driving those same areas. Already found a few all day trips that do the glow worm caves combined with Hobbiton with Waitomo, Maori experiences and/or the Volcanic Caves or an Island trip, and planning for the south island. I may brave a drive from Christchurch to Queenstown or vice versa depending on where we fly in from the North Island, but we're also considering just staying in Queenstown for 4-5 days instead of moving about.
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