Earlier this year we visited 4 cities in Asia as part of our annual “sister trip”.  Our itinerary was as follows:

Tokyo- 2 days
Chengdu- 2 days
Taipei-6 days
Shanghai-2 days

We booked our first class long haul flights a few months prior to the trip but everything else was planned less than a week before we left.  Our original plan was to spend 8 days in Bangkok with a couple of days in Tokyo and Shanghai at the beginning and end of our trip.  We had previously traveled to Tokyo but thought it would be nice to visit again and attend a sumo grand tournament.  It would be our first time in Shanghai.  Conveniently, there was a lot of award availability from Shanghai to Chicago on American Airlines around our travel dates.  After we booked our flight we realized we would be in Shanghai for Chinese New Year.

About a week prior to our first flight, we decided to skip Bangkok because of all the protests.  We did not think Bangkok would be dangerous but since our family was worried, we chose to save it for a future trip.  We wanted to keep the same long haul flights so we began researching other destinations in Asia.  Taipei seemed like a great choice.  We were still debating whether we should add another place when Patti came across an article about Chengdu allowing 72 hour visa free transit.  Chengdu, home of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, was added to our itinerary.  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see pandas up close and even have a chance to hug a young panda!

Other than one short flight in economy, all the flights were in business and first class.  We booked our tickets using United and American Airlines miles on their respective websites.  We flew first class from Chicago to Tokyo and Shanghai to Chicago on American Airlines.  Our flights within Asia were booked with Star Alliance partners on  In total, we used 130,000 American Airlines miles and 60,000 United miles per person.  Unfortunately, since we booked the flights within Asia on short notice we did have to pay a late booking fee.

We did not use any hotel points for free stays.  We had been focused on earning frequent flyer miles and Matilda needed to meet the minimum spend requirements on her Chase Sapphire Preferred card anyway.  We did maximize our point earning by booking the hotels on through the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal and paying with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

Although it was winter, the weather was better than expected.  Temperatures ranged from high 40s in Tokyo to low 70s in Taipei and Shanghai.

Stay tuned for future installments of the rest of our trip.
Index: (for rest of series)
Introduction (this post)
American Airlines Flagship Lounge – Chicago
American Airlines – First Class – Chicago to Tokyo Narita
Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu
Tokyo – Devils and Sumo
Asiana Business Class Lounge – Seoul, Korea
Asiana Airlines – Business Class – Seoul Incheon to Chengdu
Fraser Suites – Chengdu, China
Things to do with 2 Days in Chengdu, China
Air China (Star Alliance) First Class Lounge – Chengdu, China
Air China – Business Class – Chengdu to Taipei
Forte Orange Hotel Kaifong (Taipei, Taiwan)
Eva Air Lounge – Taipei Taoyuan
Eva Airlines – Business Class – Taipei Taoyuan to Shanghai Pudong
Marriott Executive Apartments, Shanghai, Tomorrow Square
Dragonair/Cathay Pacific Lounge – Shanghai Pudong
American Airlines – First Class – Shanghai Pudong to Chicago


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