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A Dream Family Trip to South Pacific Vs. Being Rational

Last week, I’ve mentioned that I applied for  Chase Hyatt credit card with an elaborate plan in mind. So, it’s time to come clean. First, a disclaimer. Guys and gals, don’t try this at home. Not if you are a normal middle-class family with a gazillion  bills each month.

So, next year we were planning on doing a road trip out West. You know, the kind normal families in US do. It appears that next summer we are still heading  west (sort of)… all the way to Australia! But not just Australia. We plan on adding stopovers in Tahiti and New Zealand. This is the trip I drooled over for years before we had kids, and it just never materialized. So, “carpe diem”, I guess.

But why now? Well, my sister-in-law and I discussed doing this type of trip sometime in the future, way in the future. But she brought up something that I couldn’t argue with. Her parents are getting old. My father-in-law is in his mid-seventies and has  heart problems. She really doesn’t want to put  off this adventure any longer. After all, visiting Land Down Under has been a dream of theirs since they got married. In fact, at one point, they even considered moving to Australia.

I told her that she should indeed take her parents there, but we probably would not be able to join them. This is absolutely not a good time for us to even attempt a trip of this magnitude. Car payment, teeth braces, a need to replace the carpet and so on. Another issue is the fact that my husband can’t take off more than two weeks consecutively. And my SIL wants to spend at least three weeks. It wasn’t going to work, but she would’t take no for an answer.

Then my father-in-law mentioned that he really wants us to come, and my husband started seriously thinking about it. So, we came up with a plan. My in-laws will take the kids with them, and my husband and I will join them for two weeks, having an adventure of our own along the way. My husband said his main condition is that we don’t have another major trip for at least two years. Also, our anniversary trip to Costa Rica is off. We have a deal, sir.

Frankly, I don’t think we’ll be able to afford anything other than beach getaways in our state of Florida for quite some time. In order to pull this thing off, I’m cashing in all of my miles and points. Everything must go in order  to cut out-of-pocket costs. Getting less than 1 cent per mile in value? Bring it. So, let me outline our tentative plans and points I plan to utilize. Warning! The post is long and highly detailed. All quoted flight redemptions are for economy class.

My in-laws’ itinerary

As I’ve mentioned, they will be taking the kids with them. The plan is to fly on Air Fiji from LAX to Auckland, and return from Sydney to LAX, with a 2-night stopover in Nadi (Fiji) on the way. We’ll have to simply pay cash for all five tickets. Kids’ fares should get a sizable discount, so that will help. Based on current prices, I’ll have to cough up around $1,900 total for two tickets. Hopefully, this will be the biggest out-of-pocket expense for us. My sister-in-law said she will cover all the other costs (lodging, food etc.) for kids while they are with her.

My in-laws plan to burn Rapid Rewards for roundtrip flights from Orlando to LAX, so this portion will be covered. We’ll also use some hotel points on overnight stays, but I we’ll figure out that part later. They first plan to fly to Auckland and spend 2 nights in the area. They will then fly to Christchurch (South island) and spend 1 night, before driving  or flying to Queenstown.

After two nights in Queenstown, they will fly to Melbourne (Australia), Cairns and Sydney. From Sydney, it’s on to Nadi, and back to LAX. This is the gist of it, and the exact itinerary may change. Flights within New Zealand are cheap (about $80), so we  plan to just pay cash for those. We may use Avianca miles for flight from Queenstown to Melbourne on Air New Zealand. It runs at 21,000 Avianca miles, not cheap.

But it appears that they have the best schedule, and it’s an important consideration when you have kids. Cash fares seem to run at $268 per person ($54 is tax portion), so it means getting 1 cent per Avianca mile in value. I’ll take it. My sister-in-law applied for Avianca 60K miles offer with the idea of getting three award tickets out of it. My in-laws  absolutely wouldn’t consider anything that had a sizable  minimum spending attached, so this was the only logical choice. Avianca lets you copay with cash if you are short on miles.

I’ve mentioned before that my SIL is an avid buyer of IHG points. Fortunately, it looks like she will be able to use them in New Zealand and Fiji. The stays in Australia will involve vacation rentals. I hope to redeem my stash of Avios for their 5 one-way flights from Cairns to Sydney or Melbourne to Cairns, whichever is more expensive. The cost for either route is 10,000 Avios (plus $20 tax) per person on BA partner Qantas. I should have some leftover AAdvantage miles (same price as Avios), so I plan to utilize those as well. Like I said, everything goes.

Our itinerary

Here is how our portion of the trip should look like on the map, if things go according to the plan:

Map is provided courtesy of Great Circle Mapper

Yes, that’s a lot of travel to fit into a two-week span.

Flights to and from LAX

I have plenty of Southwest points, so this part won’t be an issue. I also have  12,500 Alaska miles and about 7,500 Delta miles (partner of Alaska). Delta will let you co-pay with cash (5,000 miles for around $95). So, assuming I find low-level availability, I may be able to cover two Delta tickets to/from LAX for $100 all-in. I would certainly do it in order to preserve Rapid Rewards points. Update: reader Stephanie has reminded me that Alaska/Delta partnership has been terminated. Oops! I totally forgot it. But I’ll figure out something regardless.

Covering overnight stays in Los Angeles shouldn’t be too hard either. I have a weekend certificate from (now expired) offer on Amex Hilton Surpass that will hit my account around April or May. If there is standard availability, I’ll reserve a room at Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills that goes for 95K points per night. For the night on the way back from Australia, I may burn Wyndham points for a basic hotel near LAX airport since I’m sure we’ll be exhausted beyond belief.

Tahiti portion

If I’m that close to Tahiti, I simply have to add a short stop, even if only for two nights. So, the plan is to fly on Air Tahiti Nui from LAX to Papeete. The cost is 40K AAdvantage miles per person, with minimal taxes. At the moment, I have 63K AA miles, but my husband has signed up for 60K miles offer on Citi AA card (read my post on the topic). If all goes well, the sign-up bonus will be deposited in August.

So, our one-way flights to Tahiti should be covered. But how can I go that far and not see Bora Bora? I can’t. So, as much as it pains me, I have to add flights on Air Tahiti (a different airline) that cost around $430 per person roundtrip. They can’t be covered with miles, unfortunately. My plan is to utilize sign-up bonus from Merrill+ Visa Signature. I currently have 53K points, and they should cover both tickets to Bora Bora.

Another thing that’s non-negotiable is a one-night stay in an overwater bungalow. How did I get to be so fancy? This is a tough one. Even though IHG and Hilton chains are both represented on Bora Bora, award availability is horrendous. Not surprising, because rates run at $1,000 per night. I plan to speculatively make a booking at Conrad Bora Bora Nui that costs 80K points per night.

At the moment I have 94K points, so that should cover one night. When the flights are booked, I’ll reach out and ask if we can get an upgrade to an overwater bungalow (reportedly, an upcharge of $200-$250 per night). As a Gold Hilton member, I should get free breakfast for two people. That will help since food costs in Tahiti are astronomical.

My first choice, however, is Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa The award rate is 60K IHG points (I think). I say that because there is no availability there till the end of schedule, not even for one night. However, occasionally, people cancel, so I plan to set a Hotel Hustle alert. You can use either points or annual IHG card renewal certificates, and book straight into an overwater bungalow.

Another possible option is InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora  This is  also a tough one when it comes to award availability, and you have to pay extra to get an overwater bungalow. Still, getting a regular room via renewal certificate and paying  $200 sure beats spending $1k on one night.

So, my hope is that one of these three award options will work out. If not, I will simply pay $1K. That’s why I plan to make a refundable reservation and check every day until cancellation deadline is upon us.

I know it’s totally insane price-wise, but it’s not every day that I get to go to Bora Bora. Sometimes you have to kill the cheapskate within you, even if just for one day. We’ll have to stay overnight on the main island of Tahiti before the flight to New Zealand, so I will just book a resort on the beach via cash rate or redeem points/certificate at InterContinental Resort Tahiti  

I have a feeling that this place is planning to leave IHG chain because there is zero award availability in 2018. There is plenty this year, though. Either way, I just need a room at a decent, reasonably priced beach resort, not an overwater bungalow. Any place for around $250 should suffice.

New Zealand portion

This is an interesting one. Even though Air New Zealand operates flights from Tahiti to Auckland, they are marketed as Air Tahiti Nui. So, strangely, you can redeem AAdvantage miles on this portion of the flight. I saw Drew at Travelisfree mention it once, and Google search confirmed it. The cost is 15K AA miles one-way, quite reasonable. We’ll have to land in Auckland and continue the same day on a separately purchased ticket to Christchurch, skipping North island altogether.

I hope to cover our three nights in Christchurch and Queenstown via IHG points, but for that, I’ll have to cancel some of our existing reservations. Still debating on that one. Obviously, we want to stay with the family, so I’ll either pay cash or redeem points. The rates are not horrible (about $120 per night), and maybe we can hit some IHG promos along the way.

Australia portion

As I’ve mentioned earlier, we plan to fly on Air New Zealand to Melbourne. Unfortunately, it appears that the airline consistently releases 4 award seats in economy per flight. Since there will be seven of us, we’ll need to pay for at least 3 flights. I’m hoping to use my sign-up bonus from US Bank Altitude Reserve card. Since I can get 1.5 cents per point toward flights, the 55K points bonus should cover all three tickets.

After spending three nights in Melbourne (in either vacation rental or a house), my husband and I plan to fly to Sydney for two nights, at a  cost of 4,500 Avios per person, while my in-laws continue on to Cairns ( gateway to the Great Barrier Reef). And that’s where I hope to burn my Hyatt certificates. Yes, that would be Park Hyatt Sydney that costs 30,000  points per night.

Few months ago I wrote about using my husband’s Diamond status for one of my readers, and mentioned that I really want to stay in this property if I ever visit Sydney. So, it’s time to put my certificates where my mouth is.

I’m hoping for this view, minus the crib. Nope, pregnancy is not part of the plan. 🙂

If this whole crazy scheme doesn’t materialize, I’ll just use the certificates in Costa Rica, as originally planned. Always have  a Plan B for a sign-up offer with an expiration date attached.

I’ll need to redeem Avianca miles for one-way flights from Sydney to either LAX or San Francisco on United Airlines. It appears LAX has better award availability, but I’m really hoping for SFO. The cost is 40K miles per person, and we have 120K Avianca miles between  us. If United has a low-level availability to Orlando (12,500 miles one-way) the following day, AND if the layover is less than 24 hours, I should be able to tack on that portion at no additional cost. But it does depend on Avianca program which has  a reputation for being buggy.

Is this for real?

It appears that way, otherwise I wouldn’t pull the trigger on the current offer on The Hyatt credit card. But as the saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men”… and you know the rest. As you can see, miles and points should substantially reduce the out-of-pocket cost, putting it within our reach financially. Of course, there will be lots of additional expenses, but then again, we would have to spend money during our trips to Costa Rica and Western US.

This epic adventure will be a hybrid: part family vacation, part special anniversary getaway. Because, why not? Am I being rational? No way. Am I super excited just thinking about it? You betcha! Now I just hope and pray that everything falls into place.

Readers, please hit me up with suggestions!

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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44 thoughts on “A Dream Family Trip to South Pacific Vs. Being Rational

  1. Wow, Leana! A very ambitious plan indeed. Very exciting!

    I took my kids to New Zealand and Australia last year and they really enjoyed it (we were there for 6 weeks though).

    I can’t keep your points/miles balances straight, but you can also use Avios to fly from NZ to Australia. Also within Australia, AA miles and Avios are the same amount (10k) for some routes, but for some reason AA often had better availability on Qantas than BA.

    We ended up just paying cash on Jetairways (LCC) a few times. (I think that it’s now a transfer partner of someone.) One advantage of miles on Qantas is you get a checked bag. I don’t even usually check a bag but the carry on limits were ridiculous (like 7 kg).

    I don’t know what time of year you’re going, but the jellyfish are a real risk in Australia. I had been there many years ago but don’t remember it being such a problem as it seems to be now.

    Lastly, remember to get a visa for Australia, and allow for serious jet lag on return home. I hope it all works and you have an amazing time!

    • @Audrey I am excited, now I just need to win a lottery! 🙂 This is a very ambitious plan, so I have to remind myself to be flexible.Tahiti portion may not materialize, and I have to be OK with that.
      Right now I’m working on getting AA miles on my husband’s Citi card, then I should be in good shape to go ahead with everything. I wish we could catch a mistake fare, but I’m not counting on it.
      As far as Qantas flights go, we do plan to redeem AA miles as well as Avios. Unfortunately, Qantas flights from Queenstown to Melbourne route through Sydney, and that’s a deal breaker for my SIL. Hence Avianca miles. Stay tuned, I’ll be recording everything in the blog.

    • @Audrey Oh yes, you are correct! I did see Jetstar listed on Kayak as having non-stop flights. There are few cons: it’s expensive to check in luggage, flights to Melbourne seem to arrive late, and they open schedule few months after New Zealand Air. So, we could go for bird in the hand (New Zealand Airlines) or gamble on the fact that the flights on Jetstar will be cheaper/have decent schedule. I’m risk averse, so if Avianca miles hit my SIL’s account, we may just burn them and be done with it. But it will be up to her. It’s tough to coordinate everything when so many people are involved. Why am I doing it again? 🙂
      P.S. Oh, and we plan to go in July. So no swimming.

    • Yes, the “Southern Hemisphere” seems to be very tight on baggage regulations so double check the size and shape and weight or all baggage rules before flying. Bags I regularly used as carryons in the US, Fijian Airways made me check. And they are stingy on the weights etc. Good point to bring up!

  2. WOW.

    I gotta say, an over the water bungalow is the BEST use of the anniversary certificate I can think of.

    What a great trip!! I agree, sometimes our you just need to jump on a trip like that. Miles and points need to be used someday so why not now.

    • @Emily Totally! An overwater bungalow in Bora Bora for $49 is most definitely the best deal ever. That’s why it’s so hard to get it. I’m not counting on it, and will be thrilled if one of three options works out.

  3. Go big or go to Costa Rica, I always say.

    We have reverted to more of a less and bigger trips mentality. I had planned on wiping out my balances for our 2018 anniversary Hawaii trip but we got to a more sensible place as the trip has come together. Here’s hoping you surprise yourself with some surprise savings along the way.

    • @Cheapblackdad Hey, visiting Costa Rica is nothing to sneeze at, right?
      I’m hoping for some surprise savings. Pretty please. 🙂 It’s going to be an enormously expensive trip, there is just no way around it. If it wasn’t for my in-laws, we would not be even considering it. But it’s one of those moments where you have to think long-term. Will I be OK skipping this trip and a chance to do it with in-laws? Being sensible is important, but sometimes you just have to go for it. Hopefully we won’t be eating cat food when we come back.

    • @Tscateh Thank you! Right now it’s just a plan. But I wanted to outline it in hopes that readers may benefit from it and perhaps use the same strategy for their own trips. How things will actually turn out is unclear at the moment. Stay tuned.

  4. Experiences are way more important than money in the bank, and way WAY more important than hoarding points. Yes, you’ve got to live within your means, but splurging once in a while is a good thing if it’s for the right reasons (and it doesn’t put you deep in debt).

    The only thing I would say is, try not to plan itinerary too jam packed to enjoy… and sign up for a bunch of credit cards right before you go on the trip for those food, lodging and other travel charges, to replenish some balances! Happy planning!!

    • @Debra I totally agree with you! I absolutely want to avoid debt of any kind. Unfortunately, we will need to pause retirement savings ( aside from 401k) and possibly have to dip into emergency fund in order to pull this thing off. I really wish I had more time to save, but it is what it is. My in-laws are getting old and may not be able to handle this sort of trip physically if we wait a few more years. I’ll probably do a post on some things we’ll have to forego in order to afford it. Its important to keep it real. We don’t make six figures, and I don’t want folks to get the wrong impression. Oh, and I agree with you on signing up for few new cards right before the trip. As far as not planning too much, that’s a tough one!

  5. @Leana – I got goosebumps just reading all of your preliminary planning and points strategy. I’m so excited for you, and I know you can pull this off if anyone can.

    You did mention that Delta partners with Alaska — I thought they had just stopped that partnership a few months ago — am I wrong? When you do a search on Alaska, they no longer show Delta flights – unless I’m doing it all wrong which is quite possible.

    Can’t wait to hear more credit card strategies for this trip.

    • @Stephanie Thanks! I think you have too much faith in me. And on Alaska/Delta partnership, yes, of course it’s been terminated! I’m doing a face palm right now. I totally forgot about it. I can redeem Alaska miles on Virgin America, but it appears all flights run at 20K miles. Of course, American is also an option, but you know how poor sAAver availability is these days. I’ll figure out something, though. I can always burn Southwest points if necessary. Unfortunately, the flights will have a connection, which is not ideal. I might apply for Jet Blue card down the road. They also fly non-stop to LAX.
      The part I’m most concerned about is getting the flights on Air Tahiti secured. Those can be challenging, and you have to call American. I’ll definitely be recording the process on the blog, assuming we go ahead with the plan.

  6. Once of the reasons I started following your blog is because you talk about affordable vacations. I am tired of the snooty blogs that want first class everywhere and complain about trivial things. I am way under 6 figures and I have a hubby with expensive medical issues. I do very little MS, and 2 of my places for that just disappeared, so even less now. I don’t have kids, but I still find your articles informative and helpful, and often fun to read. : )

    • @Clyn6 Thank you for your kind words. First of all, I’m sorry that your husband has medical issues. I’m sure it’s extremely tough for you guys, since most of the financial resources have to be directed to that area. Medical care in US is expensive, but I’m glad you are able to do trips here and there. I’m sure it helps to keep your sanity after dealing with stress of being the caretaker in the family. My heart goes out to you, and I hope your husband gets better eventually.

      As far as this trip goes, I definitely don’t want to give the wrong impression to my readers. If we go through with it, it will NOT be cheap. I want to be very clear on that one, and plan to reveal my out-of-pocket costs. I doubt we’ll be able to do it for less than $6K once all is said and done. And that’s a conservative estimate assuming my miles and points come through for me like I hope they will.

      This is a huge sum of money for us, especially now that we have a car payment and braces installment plan. Still, it would cost us double if I didn’t have my stash of points. We’ll see. As far as flying in first class, I would love to do that! Seriously, that would be so sweet, but it’s not an option most of the time. I sure would like to at least get exit row economy seats on 14-hour flight from Sydney to SFO, but I doubt that will happen.
      I try not to be too much of a complainer, but I can be picky at times. Plus, reviewing hotels and airlines, you almost have to be critical. My goal is to give an honest option and not just rant, in order to help readers to determine whether specific product is a good value. People work hard for their miles and points, so I have to keep that in mind. But it’s a tough balance at times.

      P.S. I saw your post on LoyaltyLobby. Glad you called out the hotel manager. I can’t believe they tried to deny that the bed bug was alive. Well, the video doesn’t lie, does it?

      • Thank you for your kind words. I am trying to do some traveling while we still can. Not sure how much longer he can work, and once we are down to just my income there won’t be money to travel. The points game has been a huge help! We are leaving for a quick 4 day trip to Mexico this weekend, all covered by points and miles. Score!

    • @Clyn6 Enjoy your trip and time with your husband! So very often we take good health for granted, and we really shouldn’t. There are no guarantees in life. We should appreciate every moment with our loved ones. Try to forget the problems and just have fun. I know, easier said than done!

  7. This sounds epic and crazy at the same time! You know how I feel, carpe diem!!! You’ve been talking about an overwater bungalow/Tahiti since I met you. 🙂

    • @Nancy It is totally crazy, in an epic sort of way! I call this plan a “South Pacific sampler”. And yes, I’m mildly obsessed with Tahiti overwater bungalows. So I will be crushed if Tahiti portion doesn’t work out. But New Zealand and Australia are the priority, so I have to keep that in mind.

  8. Sounds like an ambitious trip for 2 weeks, hopefully you will find some time to relax. You may get a bit of sticker shock in Australia, so be prepared. The minimum wage is around $17/hr and the economy has adjusted accordingly. For example, a meal in a Australia restaurant typically cost a lot more than it’s US equivalent (comparing same atmosphere, food quality, etc.). Attractions are more expensive as well, but you can look that up on web sites.

    There are a few IHG properties in Melbourne. We spent 4 nights at a vacation rental in St. Kilda and on our last night we used points at the Holiday Inn next to the airport, which was very convenient for our morning flight to Sydney.

    If you’re staying at the Park Hyatt, you should have a meal at a place called “Pancakes on the Rocks” which is about a block behind the hotel. See http://www.pancakesontherocks.com.au . They have great extravagant pancakes and other good food at reasonable prices by Australian standards. You won’t leave hungry!

    • I can’t remember how it is in Australia, but in New Zealand, the food *seems* more expensive, because tax is included in the price and there is no tip. Whenever I come home to the US I think everything looks so cheap, until I see the real total, and add the tip on top!

      • After posting this I remembered to add, don’t forget to take your 30% off for the exchange rate (if not obvious, haha!). So when you consider that we usually add 20-30% (or more, if you are generous) onto our restaurant bills in the US with tax and tips, (but there it’s built in), and THEN you take 30% off because you have US dollars, it’s not as expensive at it seems at first glance.

  9. @Erik Thanks for all your tips! I may reach out to you if this thing becomes a reality. At this point it’s just a plan, and I’m making lots of assumptions. Life rarely works out the way you plan it, but we’ll see. I’ve heard that Australia is expensive, sigh… We plan to share a vacation rental with in-laws in Melbourne, so hopefully we won’t kill each other. The rest of the time will be spent in hotels, and it’s probably better that way. Hotel rooms are great when you travel with an extended family. Not the cheapest way to travel, but a sanity saver.
    As far as relaxing goes, I doubt there will be much of it on this trip. Two weeks is just not enough, and there are certain things I feel like I have to do. I doubt we’ll be back, so I don’t want to have any regrets.

  10. I am planning a trip like this for next summer (currently posting from the Galapagos with my family of 3 kids 7, 5, 3, Australia will be the kids last inhabited continent, thanks miles!).

    I am planning to use Chase points transferred to Korean for 25k round trips to Hawaii, then purchasing a $400-$500 ticket round trip to Australia on Jetairways (have been tracking tickets on google flights). This plan would save $ and also your Southwest miles. Finally we would fly within the Oceania region on Singapore airways for 25k round trip with stopovers (as you know, transfers from everyone–finally a use for citi and Amex points)

    Also, my wife and I have split the kids up and arrived a day apart when arriving into South Africa last summer because of award availability. It really wasn’t that bad, but would eat into your time–but save money when award availability is an issue.

    We will have more than two weeks for our trip thankfully. Pre-kids, my wife and I spent a month driving along the eastern coast of Australia. I know you are limited by time, but if you enjoy road trips, Australia would be a great place to do so. It is just different enough to be new and exiting, but not much of a challenge as it has the comforts of the first world.

    Good luck and interested in hearing what you end up planning.

    • If you traveling with young kids and plan to drive in Australia or New Zealand, be aware that their car seat laws are stricter than the US. The “no-back” or “low-back” booster seats common in the US are not allowed over there. You must have a “high-back” booster. Our kids were 4 and 6, so we bought a folding travel high-back booster called “Harmony” before we left. We were able to pack 2 of them in a very large duffle bag. More info at https://www.harmonyjuvenile.com/us_en/products/high-back-booster-seats/folding-travel-booster-seat.html. There are also similar products from other manufacturers.

      • Ummmm…I live in New Zealand with children and everyone has the no back boosters…? And the stores sell them…?

      • I thought that the AU and NZ car seat laws were synchronized – maybe it is only the crash standards? Before our trip, we inquired with the rental car company and were told that backless boosters were not legal in Australia,

      • @Erik I saw that Australia has some of the toughest car seat laws in the world. Fortunately, it appears that when a kid reaches the age of 7, they can use a seatbelt. That’s great news because my son will be 7.5 next summer. I’ll be happy to say goodbye to car seats and boosters. Those can be a pain to drag on trips.

      • @Eric. Yeah, maybe the requirements are different based on age or something (or vary based on country) Ironically, my brother and sister in law, just bought a new carseat on our vacation in Canada, because they said their Australian car seat wasn’t official in Canada. If it were me, I’d just play dumb, and take what you have, if you need it! Luckily Leana doesn’t need to take anything! Hooray for age 7!

    • @Tyler Galapagos? Nice! Definitely on my list. It’s interesting you’ve mentioned flying to Australia via Hawaii. Sounds like a good plan. It’s funny, many years ago I helped my relatives construct this very trip, and it involved Jetairways. It was pretty cheap back then too. Unfortunately I have no UR points at the moment, and I REALLY want to see Tahiti. I will be kicking myself if I don’t attempt to add a short stop there.
      I hope it’s as nice as it appears on pictures because I plan to shell out a good bit of money on this little detour. I’ve seen options to get there from Easter island via Avios (now that would be epic!), but I’m afraid it’s a bit too ambitious.
      That’s the biggest problem: lack of time. I did mention to my husband the idea of flying to LAX on Friday after he gets off work, and he seemed OK with it. So I might do that in order to add an extra day in Tahiti. Not ideal, but an option nonetheless. I seriously doubt I’ll be able to pull off another trip to this region given my husband’s aversion to flying.

  11. Leana, I am NZ born, married a US citizen and we live in Australia. I have travelled very extensively in all those countries, including over 30 states in the USA. My thoughts and a wee bit of info as a “points junkie” are this.

    Sadly no IHG hotels in Christchurch after the earthquake but there are in Auckland and Queenstown. Plenty in Sydney, Melbourne and Fiji. We have yet to make Tahiti – very expensive and not an easy stopover using points or paying in my view.

    Auckland is a nightmare traffic wise to get around so your decision to transfer to Christchurch on the same day is the smart option. If you are planning the drive from Christchurch to Queenstown I suggest you take the road via Lake Tekapo (on a clear day you will see Mt. Cook), go over the Lindus Pass and through Cromwell. Beautiful and different. Three only days in NZ is such a shame when you are having three/four days in Melbourne. Melbourne, while a nice city, is just a city with trams. I would without a doubt, have four/five days in NZ and two days only in Melbourne. Take the extra two days to go to Lake Te Anau and do a day cruise on Milford Sound.

    One negative with your trip is the more stops you make the more time you spend at airports and less time you have sightseeing. Fiji though is a great stopover option. I worked there in the 1970’s and have been back twice visiting since.

    You have certainly chosen top hotels – I would be staying at slightly lesser but very good IHG hotels in Sydney and allowing you more time.

    Good luck.

    • @Bob Anderson Thanks for stopping by! I agree with you on not having enough time in New Zealand. To be honest, I wanted to skip Melbourne altogether, but hope to see the penguins parade with kids. My SIL absolutely loved it when she visited it years ago, so hopefully we’ll enjoy it too. And I can’t skip Sydney if we are that close. Decisions, decisions…

      We’ll have to cut some activities and cities due to time constraints. And yes, Tahiti appears to be extremely expensive, but that’s the one I want the most! In fact, I would just stick to Tahiti and skip the other options, but that’s where the in-laws and kids are going.
      It will be a very tough trip no matter how you slice it. I guess I’m assuming that we will never be back, so want to sample as much as I can! Not the best way to travel, but I like fast pace. My husband is the opposite.
      On Christchurch to Queenstown transfer, it appears that my SIL wants to do the Alpine Express and then rent a van. That would be about 13 hours of traveling in one day. Ugh.
      Of course, we’ll see how mileage redemptions will work out. Those will dictate much of my schedule.

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  13. That sounds awesome! Last summer I was able to use TY points to book Air Tahiti flights. Not sure if you still can, but you might want to check if you have TYP.

    • @Cynthia Thanks! At this point it’s just a dream, but it helps to see everything written down. I think with some good planning and luck we may be able to pull it off. Unfortunately, I don’t have any TY points or any other flexible points for that matter. Everything depends on AA program and I’ve heard that the agents have a hard time booking Air Tahiti. But I’ve never been the one to give up easily! #HUCA

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