Booked: Sun, Sand, and Australian Lamb

Greetings from the Gold Coast! After a fantastic time with the Prince of Travel team putting on the inaugural Travel Summit in Toronto, I high-tailed it to Brisbane via Vancouver for some relaxing time in the sun.

My wife and I will be visiting friends and family in various parts of the country, and I’m excited to visit some new spots and review some great luxury hotels on this trip. We were last here in January 2020, right before the world turned upside down, so being here again feels quite nice.

I wound up scoring some great deals on hotels and flights for this trip, so here’s what the breakdown looks like.

The Trip

This will be my fourth trip to Australia. I first came here in 2007 on a working holiday, where I stomached working in a slaughterhouse for four months to finance the rest of my eight-month trip to Thailand, Nepal, India, and the UK.

I have familial ties to the country, so there’s always a good reason to come down and visit. My sister has been living here for 16 years, and my uncle, aunt, and cousins moved from Saskatchewan in 1997.

Over the years and visits, we’ve had the pleasure of meeting much of my aunt’s extended family, so coming down to Australia always feels like a homecoming. I’m also looking forward to catching up with friends and colleagues in Newcastle and Melbourne who recently made the move.

Melbourne, Australia

My wife and I really appreciate all that Australia has to offer. November can be a dreary, wet month at our home on Vancouver Island, so spending time in the sunshine at the ocean, on beaches, and in forests is a very welcome change.

Furthermore, we have grown to very much appreciate the food and wine scene in Australia, which we find to be very much in line with our tastes. It’s also refreshing to be surrounded by the easygoing demeanour that Australians are known for, and we’re sure to have many laughs over the next few weeks.

We’re getting over the jet lag by spending some time in Queensland along the Gold Coast and in Brisbane. From there, we’ll stop in Newcastle and Canberra to catch up with friends and family, taking advantage of Virgin Australia lounges and intra-Australian flights booked with Aeroplan points

My family has raved about Tasmania for years now, and I’m very keen to spend three nights on the island to experience it for myself this time. We have a quick stop in Melbourne to meet up with two members of the Prince of Travel team, before heading inland to fruit and wine country for a week, which is where my family lives.

The tail end of our trip will be spent in Sydney, which is the departure point for our return to Canada. My sister and two nieces are joining us for the return flights, which I’m sure will be a blast.

There’s lots of moving around on this trip, but there are also lots of people whom we’re looking forward to seeing after so long. For our next trip, we plan to slow things down a bit by visiting other parts of the country and leveraging the value in vehicle relocations to cover more ground by vehicle.

The Flights

The long-haul flights for our trip were some of the best deals I’ve ever been able to score with Aeroplan. 

For our outbound flights, we flew from Toronto to Brisbane via Vancouver for the outstanding price of 47,300 Aeroplan points per person. We booked a Premium Economy (Flexible) fare back in February 2022, and then instantly confirmed much-needed Air Canada Signature Class seats by applying 13 eUpgrades each to the booking. 

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to score such a good deal to Australia again, but it was also a good reminder to check the premium economy fares when you’re shopping for flights. In this case, it was around 20,000 points less per person than the Economy (Latitude) fare, about half the price of what the same flights would cost at the lower end of dynamic pricing, and hundreds of thousands of points less than what it usually costs with high dynamic pricing on this highly sought after flight.

The only improvement I can think of would be using a Priority Reward to cut the cost by 50%, which would make it even more ridiculous. 

We’ll be getting around Australia using a mixture of short-haul Aeroplan and Avios redemptions on Virgin Australia and Qantas, respectively. I’m excited to check out Virgin Australia lounges in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, and Sydney, which I now enjoy complimentary access to with my Aeroplan Elite Status.

Virgin Australia Lounge, Melbourne

Rachel from the Prince of Travel team pointed out that I could redeem Avios for flights that weren’t listed on the British Airways website. For our regional flight from Albury to Sydney on QantasLink, I found award availability on the American Airlines website, and then called British Airways to book. 

As we were booking five passengers, we wound up saving hundreds of dollars, and the cost to each passenger was only 6,000 Avios and around $36 AUD in taxes and fees. Cash prices for the same flights were around $180 AUD, so I consider that to be great value, even though we redeemed for a short-haul economy flight.

We also have flights from Hobart to Melbourne booked on Avios, again for 6,000 Avios plus around $36 AUD taxes and fees per person.

To get home, I made three separate bookings to accommodate all passengers with eUpgrades. My older niece and I will fly from Sydney to Victoria via Vancouver, while my wife, younger niece, and sister will fly from Sydney to Victoria via Brisbane and Vancouver.

We booked this way as there were only so many eUpgrade seats available on each long-haul flight. My wife enjoys Aeroplan 50K status, so she is booked with my niece on one booking.

If you can find space, using eUpgrades can be one of the cheapest ways to get to or from Australia in business class

I nominated my sister as my eUpgrade nominee so she could use the eUpgrades from my account. This is a perk that’s reserved for Super Elites, and I’m glad that I was able to take advantage of it so I could treat my family to Signature Class.

It cost each of us around 65,000 Aeroplan points and 13 eUpgrades. While it wasn’t quite as good of a deal as our outbound flights, we’re still getting great value on the coveted direct flights between Australia and Vancouver, and it’s always great to use the “Latitude Attitude“.

By the time we fly home, Air Canada should have restored the full Signature Class experience, complete with welcome drinks, hot towel service, and improved amenity kits. I’ll be giving a full review of the soft product, as we’ve reviewed the hard products many times in the past.

This will be the first time my sister and nieces will have turned left upon boarding, and I’m particularly intrigued to get some input from a 9-year-old about lounges and premium cabins. 

In sum, I used a total of around 471,000 Aeroplan points, which includes a total of seven one-way flights between Canada and Australia in Air Canada Signature Class, as well as five intra-Australian flights with Virgin Australia (including stopovers). Furthermore, I redeemed 54,000 Avios for our regional flights from Hobart to Melbourne and from Albury to Sydney.

I should note that eUpgrade space on flights to or from Australia is increasingly difficult to come by. We booked these flights before Australia had reopened its borders, and I imagine that since then, Air Canada isn’t having any issues selling the seats to customers paying cash.

If you’re looking to head from North America to Australia and find that Air Canada Signature Class flights are either insanely expensive or don’t have eUpgrade space, look at taking the long way around either via Asia or the Middle East. 

The Hotels

We’re staying in some great properties on this trip, and I’m looking forward to experiencing quite the range of brands and styles.

We’ll be working off the jet lag at the JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa in Surfers Paradise. We booked on a travel agent rate one night, and used 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for the second.

We wound up confirming an Executive Suite using Suite Night Awards, which is the third highest suite available at the hotel (below Residential and Presidential Suites). 

JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa

From there, we head back to Brisbane for a stay in a Fantastic Suite, again confirmed in advance using a Suite Night Award, at the W Brisbane, for which we redeemed 40,000 Bonvoy points. Personally, I’ve never had a great experience at a W hotel, so I’m hoping that this relatively-new property changes that streak.

We’ll cap off our stay in Queensland with a night at The Westin Brisbane, booked on a travel agent rate. Since we have an early flight the next morning, I’m not too fussed about “suite-talking” my way into a better room, but I certainly wouldn’t be upset if we get lucky.

After visits with friends and family in Newcastle and Canberra, we’ll spend a few nights at The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Hobart, Tasmania. We have a combination of travel agent rate and Free Night Awards at this property, which was a steal at only 37,000 points per night.

This hotel looks absolutely dreamy, and since every experience I’ve had at Luxury Collection Hotels has been great, I expect this to be no different.

The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Hobart

I’m mulling options for a night in Melbourne, but currently I have one night booked at the Melbourne Marriott Hotel on a travel agent rate. I’m not sure if we’ll keep that or book something else with points, so that plan may very well change.

After staying a week with my sister and her family, we’ll cap off our Australian hotels with stays at the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel at Circular Quay and the Pier One Sydney Harbour, Autograph Collection. We booked both of these stays for 39,000 points each, which wound up being a fairly ordinary redemption when compared to our points valuations.

Pier One Sydney Harbour, Autograph Collection

Our last night in Australia will be at the airport, as the passengers connecting through Brisbane have an early morning departure.

Of the hotel stays we have booked, the JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa, the W Brisbane, The Tasman, and Pier One Sydney Harbour participate in Marriott STARS or Marriott Luminous. My reviews will be more in depth at these properties, as we’re able to offer cash bookings at these hotels through our access to luxury hotel programs.

Conclusion

I’m delighted to be spending a few weeks in Australia catching up with family and friends, as well as visiting some new destinations. It’s nice to spend some time in the sun, especially when it’s quite rainy and dreary back at home.

There are some great hotels that I’m looking forward to reviewing, in particular the JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa, the W Brisbane, The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel, and Pier One Sydney Harbour, Autograph Collection. 

Of course, there are many other places to visit and hotels to review in this country. Since I’ll likely be coming here every year, as will other members of the Prince of Travel team, there will be plenty of opportunities to expand our reach. 

5 Comments
  1. Paulk YYZ

    I’ve booked a cruise from Sydney to New Zealand just over a year from now, in December 2023. Flights to OZ are now “Dynamically Crazy Expensive” with Business Sig Class a year from now pricing at 400K plus aeroplan points, and PE at 200K+. Ridiculous. When available, I’m hoping for YUL-DOH-MEL/SYD/ADL or BNE on Q-Suites or maybe 1st class Qatar Airlines. Pricing at 120K – 240K Avios for a better product. Maybe I’ll eat and drink myself silly like they do on the PoT review videos!

    1. T.J. YQQ

      That would be a great flight redemption! I also recommend looking at Etihad and ANA to get between North America and Australia on a single connection. I’ve also seen flights from LAX/SFO to Australian hubs with United at the set partner rate.

      1. Paulk YYZ

        Thanks for the information TJ, I will look into it. There are worse things in the world then potentially enjoying the best business class long haul flights in the world, then sipping champers in a QR lounge in Doha, all thanks to RBC AVION sign up bonuses on their two cards plus the recent Avion-Avios 30% transfer bonus.

  2. Willem

    Despite your mention of the value, Pier One Sydney was one of my favorite hotels rivaling the Park Hyatt Sydney in some ways. Their breakfast is spectacular, they gave us free drinks the evening we arrived, and upgraded us to one of the best level suites with a SNA which was jaw-dropping. Hopefully you enjoy your stay there as well!

    1. T.J. YQQ

      Thanks for the info! It looks like a great hotel, and knowing that we might book two nights instead of just one.

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