My buddy Albert has PCS’ed back to the States causing a complete re-think of how he earns miles and points. Since this happens to a lot of military personnel. let’s see what he has to say.
ALL HANDS: New Travel Strategy (PCS Edition).
Greetings, Fellow Travelers!
BLUF: Relocating back to the U.S. requires a change of my travel strategy. Even without the amazing business class fares from Europe to Asia, I can still, with some strategic planning, buy tickets and redeem miles and points for some epically fancy airplane and locale experiences.
Today’s ALL HANDS focuses on how I’ve changed my travel planning strategy after my PCS back to the U.S. from Germany.
Apologies for being comms silent the past month or so, but I needed some time to coordinate our PCS back to the U.S. We’ve landed in Washington, DC, within spitting distance of the OG Military Frequent Flyer himself, BG Goddard! Plus, I’m moving agencies—DoD to the VA—so it’s been pretty hectic. Still, we are pretty excited as DC is where I wanted to be for work, and with the restaurants, the airport access (Hello, DCA and CLEAR!), and all the culture, we’re very lucky a good job came calling.
A few posts ago, I mentioned how amazing Europe to Asia business class deals were, but if you track U.S. to Asia prices, those types of deals are nearly non-existent. While I could easily find a $2000 business class ticket in a fancy reverse herringbone seat out of Europe, from the US those prices usually run double if not more.
So what’s a business class junky to do? Well, my new strategy consists of a combo of purchased business class and mileage tickets.
For example, right now, I’m working on our Christmas-New Year’s and summer 2020 travel plans. Already, using some of my precious Alaska miles, I’ve booked two one-way flight from TPE-NRT-ORD/JFK in JAL Business and First for 75K Alaska miles each. JAL First is on the transpacific route, which should be awesome. One ticket lands in ORD and the other in JFK, but since Joey and I don’t need to be on the same flight, you can’t beat that deal for First Class even if flying to different end points.
We’re also taking advantage of Alaska’s generous stop-over policy and spending a few nights in Tokyo to sample some sushi and see some Navy friends stationed south of the city. Should be an awesome trip back after New Year’s.
So, what about the trip TO Asia, as this is the return FROM Asia? Well, the JAL trip above is actually part 2 of 4. Parts 1 and 4 will be a purchased business class ticket. Right now I’m looking a $3900 business class ticket on Qatar our of IAH or a $3500 out of LAX on Singapore.
Now, before you say anything, remember this is parts 1 and 4 of the trip. Part 2 and the soon-to-be-procured part 3 will be mileage tickets…so essentially free! (Yes, I had to work and pay to earn those miles, but this is way the game is played.). So, with the miles already in my account, my only expenditure for two round trip tickets will be the cost of the one bought ticket. So in Qatar’s case, $3900 or $1950 per ticket (funny math, but it helps rationalize my spending! LOL!)
Parts 1 and 2 will take us to Asia for the winter holiday, likely to Chengdu, first, for pandas and hot pots. Then, we plan to tour Taiwan’s amazing food via high-speed train.
For parts 3 and 4, more complexity will occur. After enduring such a hot and miserable summer during the European heatwave of 2019, I’ve been itching to get to the Southern Hemisphere to escape what we know will be a swampy 2020 summer in DC. So, we’ve decided to head Down Under and tour Australia. We’ve been to Sydney and Melbourne (both amazing cities, and you should definitely go!), but I’ve been looking at Perth, Canberra, Adelaide, and Brisbane for this trip.
So part 3, the mileage ticket, will be from the U.S. to Australia, hopefully on one of Qantas’ new 787 routes from ORD or SFO (it has better business class seats than their A380 routes out of LAX). This would be 55K Alaska miles. Although, I’m always looking for Qantas First on their A380 for 70K Alaska miles, but those are unicorns!
For part 4, I’m looking at departing from Australia back to the U.S. Right now, both Qatar and Singapore offer a relatively painless single connection through their respective hubs in Doha and Singapore.
In sum, while this is definitely the turducken of travel plans, the high cost of business class tickets from the U.S. are cost prohibitive for a one-off trip. So, this is likely the way I’ll plan the next few years of travel: one-bought ticket, one-mileage ticket…two amazing trips!
Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.
“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”
Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler