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Help! Need award travel advice! Graduation trip to Japan -- Summer 2021

Help! Need award travel advice! Graduation trip to Japan -- Summer 2021

Old Aug 10, 20, 1:51 pm
  #1  
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Help! Need award travel advice! Graduation trip to Japan -- Summer 2021

Hi! Could use some help from the more experienced travelers out there. I would like to take my son to Japan as a graduation gift (it is his dream destination) out of IAD or NYC. We donít have a lot of spare cash (Iíve been furloughed since April) but have some spare points.

We have more than enough to get there, but we are both over six feet tall so we are looking for the travel option that gets us the most legroom for the least money. We have 150k points on United (silver status) and 200k on Delta (gold status). Other than just booking a nonstop on United and crossing our fingers, does anyone have any suggestions as to partners or strategies?

I know there are services out there that help with this, but since Iím furloughed, not a lot of spare cash. Thanks!!

Tor
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Old Aug 10, 20, 2:00 pm
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Welcome to FT!, Tor Christensen

The first question is when?

Entry into Japan will be problematic until COVID settles down
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Old Aug 10, 20, 2:06 pm
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Next June or July. Thanks!
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Old Aug 10, 20, 2:14 pm
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One issue will be the Summer Olympics has been rescheduled for summer / July 2021. In normal circumstances this would make award travel difficult.
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Old Aug 10, 20, 2:17 pm
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Yes - I saw that. We would not be there during the olympics. The dates are pretty flexible, especially if an earlier or later date would result in business select/economy + or a partner carrier with bulkhead seats not for $200 each way. Thanks!
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Old Aug 10, 20, 2:24 pm
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UA/DL charges about 70k roundtrip for economy per person

There have been deals for USA(NYC) to Japan for sub $500 for sept-may, even down to $400 (though on Air Canada, and covid refund policy has been horrendous, see DOT complaints)

With the uncertainty of covid and lack of cash, I would advise to forgo this trip until things become more certain
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Old Aug 10, 20, 2:48 pm
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Paperwastage - certainly valid points. However. My son just spent the last four months in quarantine and his senior year is likely to be underwhelming, so planning his dream trip is one of the only things he has to look forward to this year. So even if we are not in a place when we can actually travel to Japan, I’m willing to risk 150k United points on a trip that might not happen. I assume that I will eventually get the points back if we can’t go. I’m not really in a situation where I can risk any money, even for a super great sale. And if United keeps the points, probably still worth it, to my son at least.

So if someone was pointing a gun at you and telling you to book the seats with the most legroom from the east coast to anywhere in Japan, in next June-ish, for points and as little $$ as possible, how would you do it?
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Old Aug 10, 20, 3:04 pm
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Originally Posted by Tor Christensen View Post
Yes - I saw that. We would not be there during the olympics. ...
Olympic activities start well before the open cremonies, so you are probably looking at June or late August/ Late August in Japan is terrible hot, humid.
Originally Posted by Tor Christensen View Post
... in business select/economy + or a partner carrier with bulkhead seats not for $200 each way. ...
In the good old days, TPAC business was 140K miles RT / partner 160K per passenger. Economy will be at least 70K miles RT, probably more. Be careful with economy bulkhead seats, not all are good for legspace. UA's E+ is decent legspace but does cost $$ in addition to the miles.
Premium Economy is hard to get as an award
Economy with purchasing the middle seat allows more personal space.

There is no way to use the UA and DL miles on the same flight. You could try trading miles but best to do that with a known person / friend.

Do you have UA elite states or a Chase MP credit card? That opens up additional award space.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Aug 10, 20 at 3:10 pm Reason: additional award space
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Old Aug 10, 20, 4:30 pm
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Originally Posted by Tor Christensen View Post
Paperwastage - certainly valid points. However. My son just spent the last four months in quarantine and his senior year is likely to be underwhelming, so planning his dream trip is one of the only things he has to look forward to this year. So even if we are not in a place when we can actually travel to Japan, Iím willing to risk 150k United points on a trip that might not happen. I assume that I will eventually get the points back if we canít go. Iím not really in a situation where I can risk any money, even for a super great sale. And if United keeps the points, probably still worth it, to my son at least.

So if someone was pointing a gun at you and telling you to book the seats with the most legroom from the east coast to anywhere in Japan, in next June-ish, for points and as little $$ as possible, how would you do it?
I think ANA would probably be the best best - I think they have 34Ē of pitch vs 31Ē on UA. Iíve flown them from SIN-NRT-HNL and thought it was perfectly acceptable
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Old Aug 10, 20, 4:36 pm
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Originally Posted by Tor Christensen View Post
Paperwastage - certainly valid points. However. My son just spent the last four months in quarantine and his senior year is likely to be underwhelming, so planning his dream trip is one of the only things he has to look forward to this year. So even if we are not in a place when we can actually travel to Japan, Iím willing to risk 150k United points on a trip that might not happen. I assume that I will eventually get the points back if we canít go. Iím not really in a situation where I can risk any money, even for a super great sale. And if United keeps the points, probably still worth it, to my son at least.

So if someone was pointing a gun at you and telling you to book the seats with the most legroom from the east coast to anywhere in Japan, in next June-ish, for points and as little $$ as possible, how would you do it?
I applaud your determination to plan summer 2021 Japan trip for your son. Itís unclear if 2021 Olympics can take place without mass availability of vaccine. Japan Covid-19 border entry /quarantine requirements for foreigners are restrictive, but relatively less restrictive for USA citizens
https://www.japan.travel/en/coronavirus/

So I advise you to involve your son in Japan trip planning by asking him to keep track possible travel issues with Covid-19, but hope for the best.
For award seat planning, UA has more nonstop and 1 stop flights from EWR and IAD to HND (Tokyo downtown) & NRT (Tokyo suburb) and KIX (Osaka-Kyoto area) than Delta, so I would monitor seat award availability weekly for 70k RT economy. UA 5k miles + ticket tax one-way can get Intra-Japan flight on ANA, so you can fly into one area and out of another area on UA (while fly ANA Intra-Japan without having to pay exorbitant price for that flight segment or pay bullet train).

Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
Olympic activities start well before the open cremonies, so you are probably looking at June or late August/ Late August in Japan is terrible hot, humid.
In the good old days, TPAC business was 140K miles RT / partner 160K per passenger. Economy will be at least 70K miles RT, probably more. Be careful with economy bulkhead seats, not all are good for legspace. UA's E+ is decent legspace but does cost $$ in addition to the miles.
Premium Economy is hard to get as an award
Economy with purchasing the middle seat allows more personal space.

There is no way to use the UA and DL miles on the same flight. You could try trading miles but best to do that with a known person / friend.

Do you have UA elite states or a Chase MP credit card? That opens up additional award space.
OP said UA silver status. I assume can be maintained by time of UA award seat booking (it may take many weeks/months of diligent monitoring to find UA seat award space) . This allow select free E+ seat for your leg comfort.

Last edited by npei; Aug 10, 20 at 4:41 pm
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Old Aug 10, 20, 5:28 pm
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Based on the amount of points you have, you should have close to enough miles to fly Business class both ways, using UA miles on the outbound and DL miles on the return (or vice versa).

It looks like UA partner flights are 88K per person each way (would only be 80K if you can find UA metal, but I didn't see any UA saver space in a quick cursory search out of NYC). That's 176K for two people, which isn't too far off from what you currently have. If you have any Chase UR points or Marriott points, you can top off your account and then book them that way. You could buy the points difference if you don't have either of the above, which unfortunately would be a sunk cash cost if you have to cancel the trip. Or you could book your son in J and you in Y to save miles and cash, and ensure he gets a great experience even if it's at your expense.

On the return, the days that Korean (KE) flights are available using skymiles, DL is charging 85K per person, which is not a bad price. The KE product is excellent.

Since the availability on partners to TYO is pretty widespread in June as of now, it may be smart to think of a strategy to quickly earn about 30K united miles with minimal cash outlay. Perhaps it's worth looking into signing up for a UA, Chase, or Marriott credit card depending on what bonus you can get and what minimum spend threshold is most realistic for your current situation.
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Old Aug 10, 20, 7:51 pm
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My 2c

We could not have predicted in January what the world would have looked like in March
We could not have predicted in March what the world would look like now

While it is nice to know the plan a year from now it's probably not realistic

Wait awhile, see what the $$ and points options look like 3-6 months from now. Not to mention the ability to get into the country on a US PP.
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Old Aug 10, 20, 11:03 pm
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I travel to Japan frequently. Mid to end of May is one of my favorite times to visit (early May has Golden Week which I would always avoid). The rainy season starts sometime in June and often extends through July. Summer is also incredibly hot and humid in Japan.

I wouldn't hesitate to start looking for a good award deal. Check the terms before you commit, but you should be able to reschedule if things haven't resolved by then.

In the past few years, I have found the best deals to Tokyo out of LAX. There has been the most competition from there. The pandemic makes the future less certain on where the deals will be next year, so look around.

If you can't find a business or premium economy award, booking early might allow you to pick economy seats with more legroom.
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Old Aug 11, 20, 12:12 am
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If you were to book United tickets prior to August 31st, aren't the change fees waived for up to 12 months? Doesn't this apply to award bookings? I assume that takes out a lot of the risk of booking so early. https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly...ChangeFeeTerms

I think you get free upgrade to Economy Plus if space is available upon check-in, so that isn't ideal if you wanted confirmed legroom space booking in economy. But I agree with @standbyalldtime to use United for the both of you one way in premium economy or business class and use Delta for the both of you the other way. Nothing says you have to fly the same alliance going in both directions.
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Old Aug 11, 20, 1:37 am
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biz class for 88k miles/pp on ana/swiss/air canada is 176k total one way but thats 26k miles short. i see 85k one way tyo-nyc on delta in biz class on korean stopping at icn. if you are going to do economy for the star alliance segment i think ana on an older 77W is better with the 9 across seats and 34" legroom but i think the newer planes are 10 across with 31" legroom. Before closing of borders i was booking friends out of jfk-hnd in the new biz class seat within 2 weeks of departure seats were always opening up on the 777-300 on ana, totally worth the extra 26k miles if you can somehow make it work.

Do you have amex points? you can transfer directly to ANA or virgina atlantic for really good deals on biz and first class for 75-120k points/pp roundtrip but they will have surcharges.
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