Our next trip

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djrez4
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Our next trip

Postby djrez4 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 1:47 pm

Two months ago, points took me and my wife to Europe for twelve days. We had a great trip, ate and drank way too much, and gained a small bit of culture (an upgrade from 'merkin to Amerkin', perhaps) with a total of less than $3,000 out of pocket.

Today, I booked our next trip: six nights in Tokyo.

We fly direct from Denver to Tokyo on a United Dreamliner. Upon arrival, we stay four nights at the Hilton Tokyo Hotel on an AXON award. For the last two nights, we transfer to the Conrad Tokyo using two weekend night certificates from the Citi Hhonors Reserve. On the way home, we stop in Seattle for a short layover and then arrive in Denver at a reasonable hour.

Flights and hotels have, so far, cost 145,000 Hhonors points, two weekend certs, 130,000 miles, and under $100.

You may recall me asking questions about Hong Kong previously. I originally had our stay booked at the Conrad HK for October. Then, my wife changed jobs and vacation schedules, so we had to reschedule our trip. I started the day by booking our flights to Hong Kong. That took some serious work because the United website refused to put the itinerary together, despite the fact that I could see saver space available on every segment I wanted. I finally got that booked over the phone (with the phone booking fees waived) and moved on to changing the hotel reservation.

I called up Hilton's Diamond office to change the AXON award. After 30 minutes on the phone, Hilton wouldn't let me move the booking to March because a) there was no availability and b) the devaluation has completely messed up AXON awards on the new category 8-10 hotels. We finally figured out that I could reuse the award at a category 7 Hilton in Tokyo. Then, I tried to use the weekend certs to extend the stay, but there were no standard rooms available, which kills the redemption. I asked if I could use the weekend certs at the category 10 Tokyo Conrad. No problem there!

But, crap! Now I have a flight to Hong Kong and a hotel stay in Tokyo. Back to United to stop the itinerary in Tokyo. That was the most painless call I made all day.

All told, I spent about three hours on the phone this morning, but we now have a week in Tokyo for less than $100 out of pocket in taxes and fees. Even those may get reimbursed because I paid with the Amex Platinum card and selected United as my reimbursement airline.

Now, what to do in Tokyo?
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Postby nvtech » Wed Jun 05, 2013 3:30 pm

djrez4 wrote:Now, what to do in Tokyo?


This is the place you need to go buddy ;-)
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djrez4
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Postby djrez4 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 4:40 pm

nvtech wrote:This is the place you need to go buddy ;-)
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Very helpful. The Tsukiji fish market is on the list, as is a day trip to Nikko.

The best part - my wife still thinks we're going to Hong Kong with a plane change at Narita. I'm going to have to convince her that the stopover is long enough for us to get on a train to the city.
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Postby FastSRT8 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:11 pm

Haahahaha that's great!

I'd play it and make it appear like the airlines messed up and kept you in Japan.

Did you get to apply an upgrade to Business First?

djrez4 wrote:Very helpful. The Tsukiji fish market is on the list, as is a day trip to Nikko.

The best part - my wife still thinks we're going to Hong Kong with a plane change at Narita. I'm going to have to convince her that the stopover is long enough for us to get on a train to the city.
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Postby DavidNY » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:11 pm

Have fun and don't forget your Discover card!

Check out TheJapanChannelDcom - YouTube :-)

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Postby djrez4 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 10:25 pm

FastSRT8 wrote:Haahahaha that's great!

I'd play it and make it appear like the airlines messed up and kept you in Japan.

Did you get to apply an upgrade to Business First?


Good call! "We're stuck here, honey! I can't do anything about it. Although, we just happen to have these hotel reservations..."

I'm pretty sure I don't have any upgrades available. I've done a woeful amount of flying this year and United ain't exactly generous with upgrades for non-elites.

If I had split the itinerary - one way on United and one way on something that MR points transfer to - I could have pulled business both ways. But, this way, there are still enough points left over for another flight somewhere. I just won't sleep at all on the flights.

DavidNY wrote:Have fun and don't forget your Discover card!


In all honesty, who knows what I'll be carrying 9 months from now. If we were going today, I'd carry the Platinum and CSP, and I'd bring Bluebird for cash withdrawals from ATMs. I know Discover works on the JCB network, but most Japanese don't know that and I don't speak even close to enough Japanese to explain it to them.
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Postby swipe_masta » Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:12 am

I LOVE TOKYO!

Tokyo Disneyland (not just for kids!)
Mount Fuji is a must!
If you are a fan of anime/manga/comics/ nerdy cool stuff I suggest you visit the Ikebukuro district.
Harajuku district is a hotspot too. There is a restaurant there that serves noodles thru halved bamboo trunks that slide down to you like water works!
Will you just be staying in Tokyo or traveling around to other parts of Japan? Okinawa is great! Best, freshest, cheapest sushi you can ever eat! I also came across this old temple like place a way further inland where they make samurai swords the real way like they did way back when. They also have calligraphy there which is super cool.

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Postby swipe_masta » Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:42 am

djrez4 wrote:In all honesty, who knows what I'll be carrying 9 months from now. If we were going today, I'd carry the Platinum and CSP, and I'd bring Bluebird for cash withdrawals from ATMs. I know Discover works on the JCB network, but most Japanese don't know that and I don't speak even close to enough Japanese to explain it to them.


If you stick to the tourism trail, you will use your Amex more. If you go off the beaten path, you will be using your CSP more, only because it is a visa/mc. For international use, Platinum isn't as great as people think it is IMO or at least in Asian countries... As for your Discover card, bring it with you! Nowadays, almost everything is in English. Even traffic signs and street names are romanized. I actually think I have seen the Discover logo sticker on a couple cash registers the last time I was in Japan. I don't know how or if Bluebird will work... I usually use the terminals at the airport to convert US dollars. I also have friends that live there who I just transfer money from my credit union checking acct (they have the cheapest foreign transaction fee) to their bank acct.

If you like your trip to Tokyo, I recommend you visit Seoul, S.Korea as well.

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Postby DoingHomework » Mon Jun 10, 2013 11:20 am

I have not been to Tokyo for about 15 years. I used to travel there for work and made it to some out of the way places. I also stayed at a couple of nicer hotels. Personally I do not consider it a tourist city because there is not a whole lot to do for a tourist. Kyoto is a better cultural city. A couple of places I enjoyed were walking around the electronics market area (Akihabra?) and the luxury shopping area Ginza. The imperial palace is also worth a visit perhaps. There are a number of shrines you can visit as a tourist but some of the more interesting ones are out of town and seldom visited by tourists. Basically if you read about it in your guidebook it's not going to be very authentic. I really liked Tokyo as a place to go for work and spent several weeks there at different times. But I never found much that interested me as a tourist.

I strongly preferred the business hotels in neighborhoods over the luxury hotels. The rooms in all the hotels were tiny. The luxury hotels offered very little for the price. The smaller places let me get to know a few locals, hang out in a couple of neighborhood pubs or noodle shops, and generally experience the real Tokyo rather than the tourist mask. There are also the traditional Ryokans as an option. You will find those much more enjoyable than a Hilton!

I completely agree about things being in English and cards being accepted. I never had any problem with any cards even 15 years ago. They are very far ahead of even Europe in that area. The signs are generally in English in both the tourist areas and even the most remote train stations. But you won't necessarily find English speakers away from the tourist areas. Learn to smile, point, and laugh and you will do great. It also helps to get the hotel to write down their name and address so you can give the paper to a taxi driver if needed. Most of them will not speak English.

Have fun!

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Postby djrez4 » Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:50 pm

Reviving this thread instead of posting a new one.

You read about our next trip to Japan. That's coming up in March. I was able to change the return flight from the layover in Seattle to a direct flight home from Tokyo on the Dreamliner again. It saves us about eight hours, which is huge on a Sunday when we have to work on Monday. I was expecting to have to pay a change fee, but for some reason, none was assessed.

Now read about our next-next trip to China and Turkey....

First, the route:

• Denver to Tokyo – UA139 (1A 1B) 2-hour layover
• Tokyo to Beijing – NH955 (3A 3B) 11 days
• Beijing to Seoul – CA131 (2A 2C) 19.5-hour layover overnight
• Seoul to Istanbul – OZ551 (3A 3C) 6 days
• Istanbul to Frankfurt – TK1587 (No seats yet) 24-hour layover overnight
• Frankfurt to Toronto – AC873 (2D 2G) 2-hour layover
• Toronto to Denver – AC1039 (2D 2F)

Cost? 180,000 US Airways miles and $230. 75,000 of the miles came from a pair of US Airways MCs from Barclays. I purchased the remaining 105,000 for $2,070, placing the grand total for a round-the-world trip in business class at $2300. The trick is, US Airways priced it at a 90k US to North Asia award that just happens to stop in Europe on the way home. See info here and here. This special award will only exist until the US/AA merger is complete and then it will be gone forever.

I would not be able to survive flying 19,000 miles around the globe in an economy seat. I swear I had bedsores after Europe last spring and Tokyo is going to be an eleven-hour test of endurance; I hope Dreamliner Economy is a step up from United's usual fare. I'm still working on points to rebook Tokyo in business as well.

The segment highlights:

United's Dreamliner BusinessFirst to Tokyo:

Image

Turkish Airlines Business Class from Istanbul to Frankfurt:

Image

Air Canada's Executive First on a 777-300ER from Frankfurt to Toronto:

Image

Next step: Find some hotels.
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