Greetings from Tokyo!
View from my hotel, the iconic Tokyo Tower (photo shot at f11/15s/ISO 200)
I’m in the middle of my mini around-the-world trip, where I departed from Toronto, visited Paris for 4 days, stopped in Beijing for a day, Tokyo and Kyoto for 6 days, Shanghai for a week, then back home to Toronto. All flights in business class, redeemed with only 150,000 Aeroplan miles, and around $500 in fuel surcharges and taxes as my out of pocket expenses. To learn how to book this trip, please refer to this post here. I’d like to re-iterate that although using points and miles will greatly reduce your costs, traveling and seeing new things will never be free, they will cost you. My goal is to show you how you can follow my steps, and enjoy traveling with a smaller dent to your wallet 😉
Eiffel tower at night (hand-held shot at f7.1/1/30s/ISO12800, please excuse the poor photo quality)
Once you accumulated enough points, 150,000 for business class and 75,000 for economy; the difficult part, or rather, the Dark Arts of award booking, will be the routing and choosing of flights. Below are the flights and routing I picked for this trip, you may totally think I’m crazy for some of the routing and decisions I make. These are just what worked out for me, and may be different for each scenario and destination. The purpose of this is just to give you some exposure on what goes through my mind during the trip-building process. I will hopefully eventually publish all my knowledge on this, so stay tuned!
First leg: Toronto – Warsaw on LOT
3 hours layover
Warsaw – Paris
4 days stopover
There are lots of options going to Europe from Toronto, however, many of them involve a ridiculous amount of fuel surcharge, such as Air Canada and Lufthansa. Please see this page for a list of carriers without fuel surcharge. One way trip from Toronto to Paris, with Air Canada direct will cost you almost $500 extra.
This is because Air Canada levies over $400 in fuel surcharge! A roundtrip will cost you double that. If I went with the direct flight, it will cost me almost $1000 in extra expense, not exactly traveling for less is it now? So my first priority was to avoid Air Canada and Lufthansa, secondly, I wanted a good business class seats and service. Remember, not all seats are created equal! While AC has a decent business cabin and service compared to North America airlines, it’s rather average when compared to European and Asian airlines. My top choice was taking Turkish Airlines through Istanbul, or Swiss through Zurich. Unfortunately they were not available for my travel dates. Then I explored LOT Polish, they do have fuel surcharge, but it is only $90 one way, in addition, they are flying the new 787 Dreamliner planes to Warsaw. The LOT 787 has an amazing business class cabin from what I heard, so I decided to go with LOT and route through Warsaw instead of flying AC direct. Result of this: 3 more hours of flying, $300 less per person, better food and seats on a new plane! Looking back, that was a great decision.
Second leg: Paris – Beijing on Air China
21 hours layover in Beijing
Beijing – Tokyo on All Nippon Airlines (ANA)
6 days stopover
I had several choices for this, I knew I had to go from Paris to Tokyo. Since Paris is not a Star Alliance hub, the only direct flight would be on ANA, though, they levy a heavy fuel surcharge. I wanted to see what other options I have, I had choice of taking Turkish through Istanbul, Swiss through Zurich, Air China through Beijing or Shanghai. All 3 of these airlines do not have any fuel surcharge, I ended up picking Air China, because that gives me a chance to visit my home city for a day, eat some Peking duck, visit my grandparents. I also used 30,000 Marriott points for a free night at Ritz-Carlton Beijing (courtesy of Chase Marriott Visa).
Third leg: Tokyo – Shanghai on All Nippon Airlines
11 days stopover
This was rather straightforward, I would have preferred Air China, but the savings was only $50. ANA has much better service and meal on board, in addition, they are flying the new 787 Dreamliner!
Final leg: Shanghai – Taipei on EVA Airlines
3 hours layover
Taipei – Toronto
I originally had Shanghai to Toronto direct on Air Canada booked. I didn’t like it, one reason was due to the $200+ fuel surcharge on this leg, another was Air Canada… their product is just average, and I’ve tried a few times before. What interested me was EVA Airlines going through Taipei. I later called Aeroplan, and changed my routing from direct, to a transfer through Taipei. I had several reasons for this – save $200 fuel surcharge, the reverse herringbone business cabin is much better than AC, transiting in Taipei means I get to visit their awesome lounge again, finally, I would get a Rimowa amenity kit! (This goes for $50-$100 in ebay!)
The Rimowa amenity kit I would be getting
Now I hope you don’t think I’m some crazy maniac for tossing out a direct flight for a transfer 😉