Both trips were a blast, but if you’ve been reading my other posts you’ll know that I talk a big game about redeeming miles and points for business and first class flights, since it’s by far the best way to get the most value out of your points. Both of my trips this year have been in 9-abreast economy class seats – not exactly the throes of luxury. So, I’m sure many of you are wondering, isn’t it time for me to practice what I preach?
Well, this week I’ll be heading off on a two-week jaunt across the world in business class that I booked using Aeroplan miles. It’s the Aeroplan “mini-RTW” trip I’ve been writing so extensively about, put into action. I’ll be reviewing every aspect of the trip, from the usual hotels and lounges to the business class airline experiences and perhaps an Airbnb stay as well.
The motivation behind this trip is mainly to visit our family members back in China, but as an avid traveller I also wanted to have a stopover in Europe as well. Jessica and I gave a bit of thought as to where we’d like to visit in Europe (we only had about three days to allocate towards it) and settled on Poland, which is a place that had intrigued us for quite a while.
I found business class availability on Brussels Airlines from Toronto to Warsaw via Brussels. Our plan is to spend a few days in Warsaw and take a day trip to visit Auschwitz and Krakow via a tour company.
After that, we’re headed off to Asia on the new Swiss 777 Business Class via Zurich. We’re staying in Hong Kong for a few days – I lived in Hong Kong for quite a large chunk of my youth so I’m excited to show Jessica around.
Since Aeroplan can’t access Air China availability at the moment, I did an open-jaw here and booked an economy class ticket from Hong Kong to Beijing using cash. My family lives in Beijing, so we’ll be lying low at home for about a week.
Then it’s off to see Jessica’s family in a small city in China’s northeast, Anshan, via overnight train. After a night there, I’ll be “closing” the open-jaw and heading home from nearby Shenyang, in business class on Shenzhen Airlines and EVA Air via Taipei.
In summary, this whirlwind trip cost me 150,000 Aeroplan miles per person and about $170 per person in taxes and fees. I also had to pay a $75 plus tax change fee (as an Aeroplan Diamond member) for both our tickets along the way.
Our final itinerary is as below, all in business class unless otherwise stated. I’ve also included the aircraft type for the long-haul business class segments. For what it’s worth, I made the booking back in October 2016, so about eight months prior to the trip, and award availability was quite plentiful for the most part.
- Toronto to Brussels on Brussels Airlines (Airbus A330), departing 6pm and arriving 7:20am the next day
- Brussels to Warsaw on LOT Polish Airlines, departing 10:10am and arriving 12:10pm
- Warsaw to Zurich on LOT Polish Airlines, departing 5pm and arriving 7:05pm
- Zurich to Hong Kong on Swiss (Boeing 777-300ER), departing 10:40pm and arriving 4:30pm
- Hong Kong to Beijing on Air China, departing 2:10pm and arriving 5:30pm, economy class
- Shenyang to Taipei on Shenzhen Airlines, departing 1:20pm and arriving 4:15pm
- Taipei to Toronto on EVA Air (Boeing 777-300ER), departing 7:40pm and arriving 9:55pm
Hotels & Accommodations
On this trip, we needed to book accommodation for two three-night stays: one in Warsaw and one in Hong Kong. (We were staying with family in Beijing and Anshan.) Once the flights were booked, it was time to scour for hotel deals.
First stop, Warsaw. The Polish capital has plenty of decent hotels, plenty of which could be booked with points, including an InterContinental (35,000 IHG Rewards points/night), a Sheraton (7,000 Starpoints/night), and a Marriott (25,000 Marriott Rewards points/night). The problem, however, was that the cash rates for these properties were so cheap that it was almost never worth it to use points.
Since it was such a cheap hotel market, I decided I was comfortable with paying cash for at least a portion of the nights. The above hotels were all in the $175/night range, but the hotel that most caught my eye was the Hotel Bristol, an SPG Luxury Collection Hotel. Using points, the hotel would cost 10,000 Starpoints a night, but the cheapest rate I found was $180/night, so redeeming points would have been a terrible value.
That would have been that, but then I looked at Airbnbs as well, and I found that they were even cheaper – there were plenty of chic apartments going for $50–75/night. In the end, I decided to plonk some cash on a one-night stay at the timeless Hotel Bristol before moving to an Airbnb close by for the remaining two nights.
In Hong Kong, the story was much more straightforward. As I’ve discussed before, since the SPG–Marriott merger was announced, it’s often much better value to redeem points for high-end hotels with Marriott over SPG.
So while the W Hong Kong looked appealing, at 20,000 Starpoints a night I couldn’t justify its incremental cost over, say, the Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View or the JW Marriott Hong Kong (40,000 and 45,000 Marriott Rewards points per night, respectively, equivalent to 13,333 and 15,000 Starpoints due to the 1:3 transfer ratio).
I ended up choosing the JW Marriott, since I had previously stayed at the Renaissance a few times many years ago, and the JW’s location at the heart of Hong Kong Island and seamless connection to public transport also seemed unbeatable.
Taking into account the flights, hotels, and activities, our total out-of-pocket cost for the trip, per person, were as follows:
- Taxes and fees for Aeroplan business class booking YYZ-BRU-WAW-ZRH-HKG;SHE-TPE-YYZ: $170
- Aeroplan change fee: $85
- Hotel Bristol Warsaw, one night: $95 ($190 total)
- Apartament na Mariensztacie Airbnb, two nights: $52 ($104 total)
- Day trip to Auschwitz & Krakow with Poland Travel Tours: $185
- One-way itinerary on Air China HKG-PEK: $165
- One-way overnight train from Beijing to Anshan: $60
- Total: $812
I can’t wait for this trip! I started collecting points way back in 2015, and this is actually the first time I’m realizing the full power of all those miles and points I’ve earned by booking a “mini-RTW” trip. I’ve been talking the talk when it comes to getting value out of your points, now it’s time to walk the walk!
You can look forward to a full trip report, including business class flights on Brussels Airlines, Swiss, and EVA Air, as well as a few hotels I’m really look forward to staying at. We’ll see how it goes, but maybe I’ll throw in a review of the Airbnb as well. And just because I’ll be travelling doesn’t mean there won’t be new content on the blog. I’ve got several posts pre-written for when I’m on the road, so you won’t have to miss out!