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June 2020 trip advice

June 2020 trip advice

Old Jul 29, 19, 1:38 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Jan 2019
Posts: 15
June 2020 trip advice

Hello - US traveler (almost exclusively SWA because of Comapanion Pass). Europe for work with some frequency.

I'm going to Seoul next June for a wedding. Wondering a couple things:

1. Best time (and tips!) for buying at least business class tickets. There won't be direct flights from where I live (Kansas City), so I expect a connection. I think I'd prefer MSP/DTW/ORD so as to maximize the longest leg.

If it helps toward one of the tickets, I don't yet (but can get 120k points to sign up for) an AmEx platinum.

2. Best 2-3 night side trip to take from Seoul? I figure my wife and I probably won't be back for a long time, if ever.

Thanks in advance, and apologies for what must certainly be duplicate questions.
jfish26 is offline  
Old Jul 30, 19, 6:04 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea
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I would just use Google Flights to check and compare flights and prices - you will have a LOT of connecting options. If you can, try to connect through ORD and fly Korean Air. Personally, I am pleased with Korean Air's service and manner compared to Delta. And of course it's the local airline, always fun to try out, start your trip off right.

From Seoul - you can do a day trip to Yangsuri or Chuncheon if you want something easy. Other choices: Busan for a coastal port city with lots of nature (and totally different vibe from Seoul). Also you can visit Gyeongju which is the historical capital and also just great countryside town. Gyeongju you need at least a full day and a half and only one night. So many travelers do Seoul-Busan-Gyeongju and then back to Seoul.
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mikesaidyes is offline  
Old Jul 31, 19, 5:36 pm
  #3  
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Left Coast
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Originally Posted by jfish26 View Post
I'm going to Seoul next June for a wedding. Wondering a couple things:
[...]
2. Best 2-3 night side trip to take from Seoul? I figure my wife and I probably won't be back for a long time, if ever.
Without any idea of what you might find appealing, anything suggested is basically a shot in the dark. It will be warming up in June, which might make some outdoor activities less appealing, but here's my best shot:

You can go east, to Gangwon-Do; there are some parks on the east coast where you can stay in a reasonable hotel, do some hiking, get some seafood. Personally, it seems those itineraries they suggest (link) are waaaaay too packed; less is more, to my way of thinking. As I recall it, the hiking is pretty tame, I don't think you really need special boots... cross-trainers or regular athletic shoes should be adequate. You can get to the area by train, but will probably need to supplement it with bus/taxi on both ends.
You can go south, to Gyeongju and Busan; again, feasible by train.

I made these trips when I was younger and cared less about comfort and ease. Last year when we (Pinhead family) were there in June, our one major excursion out of Seoul was Gangneung, where we spent a day checking out their Danoje Festival. It was pretty warm while we were there, but it was a good bit of exposure to local culture that's not so easily found in Seoul these days. We took the train out and back, and used public transportation once we were off the train. It's not so hard if you have a couple of apps on your phone, and you rent a WiFi hotspot (Egg or equivalent) when you come in to ICN, but easier if you read Korean. However Naver Maps does English, so far as I recall.

My personal suggestion would be to opt for a redeye in Business class on the way over, so you can arrive as well-rested as possible.
zippy the pinhead is offline  
Old Aug 12, 19, 9:00 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Seoul, Korea
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Be careful, a lot of the redeye flights arrive around 4:30 in the morning which is a bit before the airport train/buses start. Asiana recently cut the ORD direct flight. Korean Air and Asiana are both good options, but the KAL flight from ORD is probably the best bet. Otherwise west coast flights would be the options LAX, SFO, SEA.

In terms of side trips while you're here, there are a lot of good options. It really comes down to what you're interested in. The country is pretty small, so basically everywhere is accessible. It's also a fairly English friendly country (especially for asia), so you shouldn't have much trouble in that department.
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Old Aug 14, 19, 12:23 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Left Coast
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Originally Posted by elliott44k View Post
Be careful, a lot of the redeye flights arrive around 4:30 in the morning which is a bit before the airport train/buses start.
Outside of hotels, Korea really doesn't have a lot of places open early for coffee or breakfast. Our (Pinhead family) habit when arriving at ICN via redeye is to grab some coffee and breakfast in the airport while we wait for the limousine busses to get rolling.



Restaurant at ICN T2 open for breakfast.



Same place in ICN T2, different entrance.



Korean breakfast at Myeoncheban (?) in ICN T2.



Korean breakfast in Myeoncheban (?), ICN T2.
zippy the pinhead is offline  
Old Sep 5, 19, 1:33 am
  #6  
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: San Diego
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I'm also planning a trip to Korea, but in June 2021. I know it's far ahead, but trying to get some tips from this forum. Food looks good from the pictures, but not sure whether better to book using award miles or if it would be better to pay cash. While business class would be ideal, it may be out of my mileage price range with 5 people (3 adults, 2 children). I'll likely start a new thread so I'm not too off topic, but make sure you post tips after your trip is completed!
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Old Sep 9, 19, 4:27 pm
  #7  
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
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Originally Posted by pdragn78 View Post
I'm also planning a trip to Korea, but in June 2021. I know it's far ahead, but trying to get some tips from this forum. Food looks good from the pictures, but not sure whether better to book using award miles or if it would be better to pay cash. While business class would be ideal, it may be out of my mileage price range with 5 people (3 adults, 2 children). I'll likely start a new thread so I'm not too off topic, but make sure you post tips after your trip is completed!
It is good to plan ahead, but do check carefully on the peak travel time costs in miles if you're on KE or OZ. The dates going over and coming back to the US are not the same, and you can stretch your miles for value if you choose your dates carefully. You can search and find some threads, but as an example, last time we traveled as a family, we did peak time (more expensive) economy class on the way over and off-peak business class (a better redemption in miles) on the way back. Two separate PNRs for each person.

Alternatively, since one-ways are usually not a good value on KE/OZ, you may pay for some family members and redeem miles for others. Do your due diligence. We have also split the team, so to speak, with half the family on one carrier and half on the other. Whatever it takes. Be sure to get your family pooling in place now, if you don't already have it. Both KE and OZ have family pooling.
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zippy the pinhead is offline  
Old Sep 10, 19, 8:07 pm
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Seoul, Korea
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Originally Posted by zippy the pinhead View Post
It is good to plan ahead, but do check carefully on the peak travel time costs in miles if you're on KE or OZ. The dates going over and coming back to the US are not the same, and you can stretch your miles for value if you choose your dates carefully. You can search and find some threads, but as an example, last time we traveled as a family, we did peak time (more expensive) economy class on the way over and off-peak business class (a better redemption in miles) on the way back. Two separate PNRs for each person.

Alternatively, since one-ways are usually not a good value on KE/OZ, you may pay for some family members and redeem miles for others. Do your due diligence. We have also split the team, so to speak, with half the family on one carrier and half on the other. Whatever it takes. Be sure to get your family pooling in place now, if you don't already have it. Both KE and OZ have family pooling.
This is good advice. For most international flights, one way tickets are a bad value (I've been looking for years and have yet to find a good one). I've definitely done it both ways, having lived in the US prior to Korea, but departing from Korea on major carriers is always cheaper on average. I've always wondered how the pricing logic is set on that one.

Can't give any more useful advice without knowing your origin city. I'm assuming you'd be coming from the US in the summer. Do note that Korean students returning to Korea for the summer tend to purchase their tickets really early.
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elliott44k is offline  
Old Sep 10, 19, 11:48 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
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I will add, if I am looking for award seats on KE/OZ, I usually just search using their respective Web sites, starting about 10-11 months out. For a big family trip, I pretty much regard the flights as the linchpin around which everything else revolves. I might augment my search with AwardNexus or something equivalent (free award searching). If I am using a legacy carrier (AA/DL/UA), or some other foreign carrier, I would happily pay for a month or two of ExpertFlyer to aid my search. You can tee up auto-searching on ExpertFlyer and it will email you when award seats become available, a feature which can be really helpful with carriers that dribble out award seats.

Too, with KE/OZ and their family pooling, there are rules about redeeming miles for family members which can be confusing.

The last time we went, we used AirBnB to more efficiently cover our housing needs for most of the trip. Towards the end of the stay, we switched to a hotel-- IC CoEx-- because it worked better for us in some ways, but we took pains to book both the AirBnB place (a host we have experience with) and the hotel several months in advance. If it was my big family trip in June 2021, I would have everything booked by the end of 2020, but that's my way. YMMV.
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zippy the pinhead is offline  
Old Sep 14, 19, 12:08 am
  #10  
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: San Diego
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Originally Posted by elliott44k View Post
This is good advice. For most international flights, one way tickets are a bad value (I've been looking for years and have yet to find a good one). I've definitely done it both ways, having lived in the US prior to Korea, but departing from Korea on major carriers is always cheaper on average. I've always wondered how the pricing logic is set on that one.

Can't give any more useful advice without knowing your origin city. I'm assuming you'd be coming from the US in the summer. Do note that Korean students returning to Korea for the summer tend to purchase their tickets really early.
Origin city is San Diego.You are correct that Round trip tickets (paying cash) is better than combining two one-way tickets A dummy booking for June 2020 showed $1500 for round trip and $1000 for one-way via KE . I don't believe it matters if booking with miles though. I do have various currencies to work with. I'm estimating I will have accumulated 400K Chase Ultimate rewards, 100K Amex points, 100K united, 200K Advantage points by 2021.

I attempted some test bookings in June-August 2020 (SAN to ICN) and was able to find some desirable 80K business award seats on various airlines, and assuming a 35K return award seat i'm looking at 575K total miles for 5 tickets. It would be 350K total miles if we flew both ways in Economy. I've heard it's pretty cramped in economy seats, but I do have 2 children so they don't take up too much space if I sit next to them. So i'm torn between settling on economy vs splurging on the business class seats.

The other issue is it was difficult to find 5 award seats for 80k miles in business class on the same flight. I could only find them if I booked close to 330 days out. My mother in law will likely stay in Korea longer than our family of 4. So I'm looking at two separate bookings. One booking for family of four and another booking for mother in law. I would like us all to fly out the same date and same plane (and same class). I don't think it'd be fair to have mother in law in Economy, while we fly in business haha.

Not sure if i'm going off topic or if I should be posting in a newbie forum, but so far found advice helpful in this thread. Thanks in advance.
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Old Sep 14, 19, 12:14 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: San Diego
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Originally Posted by zippy the pinhead View Post
I will add, if I am looking for award seats on KE/OZ, I usually just search using their respective Web sites, starting about 10-11 months out. For a big family trip, I pretty much regard the flights as the linchpin around which everything else revolves. I might augment my search with AwardNexus or something equivalent (free award searching). If I am using a legacy carrier (AA/DL/UA), or some other foreign carrier, I would happily pay for a month or two of ExpertFlyer to aid my search. You can tee up auto-searching on ExpertFlyer and it will email you when award seats become available, a feature which can be really helpful with carriers that dribble out award seats.

Too, with KE/OZ and their family pooling, there are rules about redeeming miles for family members which can be confusing.

The last time we went, we used AirBnB to more efficiently cover our housing needs for most of the trip. Towards the end of the stay, we switched to a hotel-- IC CoEx-- because it worked better for us in some ways, but we took pains to book both the AirBnB place (a host we have experience with) and the hotel several months in advance. If it was my big family trip in June 2021, I would have everything booked by the end of 2020, but that's my way. YMMV.
Thanks for the tip about AirBnB. I see some pretty nice apartments and will likely need a 3 bedroom for family of 5. Even though my wife's family live in Korea, they mentioned space limitations of hosting all 5 of us and recommended finding separate accommodations. I'm probably going to focus on finding flights first since that will be the biggest expenditure and fewer options when using mileage to book. It's definitely much easier booking 5 award flights in economy (350K miles total) since there is much more inventory, but I am tempted to splurge on business class if I can find 5 seats together for 80k (and if I have enough miles by 2021).
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Old Sep 15, 19, 3:48 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
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Originally Posted by pdragn78 View Post
Thanks for the tip about AirBnB. I see some pretty nice apartments and will likely need a 3 bedroom for family of 5. Even though my wife's family live in Korea, they mentioned space limitations of hosting all 5 of us and recommended finding separate accommodations. I'm probably going to focus on finding flights first since that will be the biggest expenditure and fewer options when using mileage to book. It's definitely much easier booking 5 award flights in economy (350K miles total) since there is much more inventory, but I am tempted to splurge on business class if I can find 5 seats together for 80k (and if I have enough miles by 2021).
I understand completely, but if you can't find that many desirable seats when you want them, on the same flights, consider splitting the team. KE/OZ redeyes arrive pretty close to each other, typically. I've not used other carriers to Korea recently; for such a trip, I do whatever I can to book direct flights.

One aspect of AirBnB that is often overlooked: ideally, you might want something close to an airport limo bus stop, and a subway stop. It is a long drive from Seoul proper to ICN and back, and though family has helped us in this regard, we try to minimize the burden on them to the extent it is possible. So our go-to AirBnB is a short walk from both a limo bus stop and a couple of subway stops; hosts should be able to inform you of such an amenity/feature. Since most taxis in Korea won't accommodate five people plus luggage, you can't take a taxi from the limo bus to your lodging; it would be taxis (plural). As well, make sure your AirBnB has air conditioning. If you search here on FT you can find one or two threads regarding AirBnB in Seoul.
zippy the pinhead is offline  
Old Sep 17, 19, 1:07 am
  #13  
 
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I may get flamed for this, but it needs to be said. The service on both KE and OZ have declined considerably since I've been over here. Even my Korean co-worker who usually prefers the Korean carriers noted that DL's service from the states was better on his trip last month. I've found the movie selection to be extremely limited on both airlines, and the food choices, even in C, were more limited and not as good as I remember just a few years ago. Both airlines are losing money and Asiana's parent company Kumho is trying to sell them off. Just my $.02.
etch5895 is offline  
Old Sep 19, 19, 4:33 pm
  #14  
 
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There's so much to do in and around Seoul it might be sensible to just stay there rather than go somewhere else for a couple of days
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