This year’s annual “sister trip” was a two-week trip to Asia. Our itinerary was as follows:
Brunei – 2 days
Singapore – 6 days
Japan -2 days
As usual, we booked our first class long haul flights only a few weeks prior to departure. The original plan was to fly to Singapore for a week, hop over to Japan and then back home to Chicago.
Since we were traveling to Singapore, we figured it would be perfect timing to experience the famous Singapore Suites on one of the A380 routes from Singapore. We found two award tickets on Singapore Suites from Singapore to Tokyo (yeah!) but by the time our miles transferred from Ultimate Rewards, there was no availability (boo!).
We did not want to be waitlisted so we were faced with a choice:
1) Use our Singapore KrisFlyer miles to fly in another Singapore Airlines cabin or with a partner airline.
2) Use another airline’s miles to fly from Singapore to Tokyo in first or business class and save our Singapore KrisFlyer miles for a future trip.
3) Fly Singapore Suites to another Asian city and then book another flight from that city to Tokyo.
Since we had already transferred tons of points to our Singapore Krisflyer accounts, we decided to go with option number 3.
There was plenty of availability in Singapore Suites to both Shanghai and Beijing. We chose Shanghai thinking there was less risk of a flight delay (wrong!) or cancellation as the weather is better than in Beijing in February. We booked a connecting flight on ANA from Shanghai to Tokyo. This still left us with extra Singapore KrisFlyer miles, so we transferred some more miles to Singapore Airlines from Ultimate Rewards and added Brunei to our itinerary. Although we probably did not minimize the number of miles we used, we were happy for the opportunity to experience Singapore Suites and also visit Brunei.
We booked our tickets using United, American Airlines and Singapore Airlines miles on their respective websites. Other than one short flight in economy, all our flights were in business and first class.
Our flights were as follows:
ORD – NRT – SIN – BWN: First two legs on United Global First, last leg Singapore Airlines economy
BWN – SIN: Singapore Airlines Business Class
SIN – PVG: Singapore Suites
PVG – NRT: ANA Business Class
NRT – ORD: American Airlines First Class
Our focus has been on earning frequent flyer miles and points for flights so we did not use any points for award stays. We did, however, have a few strategies to maximize our points earning and save some money. Our two night stay in Brunei was booked using PointsHound, earning us an extra 2,000 American Airlines miles for a total of 2,600 miles. For our hotel in Singapore, we used a 15% discount code from Orbitz and applied our Orbucks to offset our balance.
Brunei, Singapore and Japan: Planning and Booking (this post)
Review: United Global First Lounge – Chicago O’Hare
Review: United Global First, ORD – NRT
Review: United Global First Lounge – Tokyo Narita
Review: United Global First, NRT – SIN
Review: Singapore Airlines Economy Class, SIN – BWN
Review: Radisson Hotel Brunei Darussalam (Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei)
Things To Do In Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Review: Royal Brunei Airlines Sky Lounge – Brunei International Airport
Review: Singapore Airlines Business Class, BWN – SIN
The Best Free Things to do in Singapore
Eating Like a Local in Singapore
Review: Pan Pacific Serviced Suites Beach Road, Singapore
Thaipusam In Singapore: Piercings and Hooks and Skewers, Oh My!
Review: Singapore Airlines The Private Room…You Weren’t Very Private
Review: Singapore Airlines Suites, SIN – PVG…Slumber Party In The Sky
Review: Air China Business Class Lounge – Shanghai Pudong
Flight Review: ANA, All Nippon Airways – Business Class, PVG -NRT
A Visit with the Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park, Japan
Snow Monkeys in Japan: How to Visit
Jinpyokaku Ryokan (Kambayashi Onsen, Japan)
Cathay Pacific First and Business Class Lounge – Tokyo Narita
Japan Airlines (JAL) First Class Lounge – Tokyo Narita
American Airlines AAdmirals Club Lounge – Tokyo Narita
American Airlines First Class, NRT – ORD
Your trip sounds fab! I am getting psyched for our 2016 Asia adventure just by reading your postings. I envy you for being able to wait and get flights at the last minute. I need to understand how you do that.
We did not book at the very last minute but more like a few weeks in advance:) We had a lot of flexibility on dates and were able to fly mid week (which has better availability). We also focus first on finding award availability on the longer flights and then work from there.
In past years, we had found pretty good award availability in January/February on United and AA to Asia so we thought that would be the case this year.
Ah got it. Our plan is to travel to SE Asia Oct/Nov 2016 for about 10 or so days and your trip reports are helping us to figure out where to go and how to get there. We’re stocking up miles now so we can ride up-front.
Hope you can find those first class seats! Feel free to email us with any specific questions you might have. Really liked Singapore and Brunei. Also visited Laos a couple of years ago which we really liked.
oooh thanks! I’ll send you a quick note.
Nice job. Would love to know how many miles used on each flight, how early in advance you book and if there is any close in fees?
We did not incur any close in fees. We booked about 4 weeks in advance so it was far enough in advance. First we booked the longer flights, then finalized the shorter flights.
The amount of miles we used:
ORD-NRT-SIN-BWN: 80,000 United miles
BWN-SIN: 14,875 Singapore KrisFlyer miles
SIN-PVG: 42,500 Singapore KrisFlyer miles
PVG-NRT: 30,000 United miles
NRT – ORD: 56,250 American AAdvantage miles (62,500 less 6,250 credited for having an AA credit card).
Why do you always wait a few weeks prior to departure to book your award tickets?
Usually because we are coordinating our vacation schedules, researching destination and we haven’t made a final decision where we want to go:) Although when Matilda and our mom flew to Europe to visit family last summer that was booked months in advance.
Looking forward to reading from your travel adventures! We have a 2 week cram-aton trip through Asia next year booked with miles: AHU, MLE, DEL, Agra, Khajurajo, KUL, DPS, SIN, NRT!
Sounds like an amazing trip!
Thankyou for your great posts. I grew up in Singapore and traveled a lot around SE Asia with my parents (I still do that). Your Singapore food review brought back tons of memories. I’ve been to Bruniei once – I think it pales as a destination compared to other SE Asian destinations, such as Bali or the Maldives (SIA flies there). If you’re able to use your Krisflyer points on SilkAir (SIA subsidiary), you can fly to popular exotic islands with beaches such as Phukey, Krabi, Koh Samui, Manado (if you scuba dive), or highlands in Thailand (Chiangmai) even Vietnam.