Throwback Thursday: How I spent New Years 2015 on the Great Wall of China
Suffice it to say–I love to travel! And the Great Wall was most definitely on my bucket list. I hiked over 4 miles on the Great Wall, on New Years Day 2015 and got there via a flight to China (with a stop in Europe) for less than $300. How?
Another way to maximize value: Mistake Fares!
Every so often, airlines or travel websites make a mistake. Back in May 2014, I stumbled upon a fare that was too good to pass up to China. The fare was via Priceline.com, and it definitely had some restrictions–first, I had to leave out of New York (JFK) and travel to Milan, Italy (MXP). From there I had to either make my own my to Budapest or Prague, and then fly to one of several Asian cities including Beijing, Ho Chi Minh, or Bangkok. This was a one way fare, so no flight back to the USA was included–but the price was unbeatable, starting at only $130!! Since my work schedule prohibited me from flying on just any date, I decided to look for holiday travel. Unfortunately, the price went up–but only to $280.
How did I find this fare?
There are several ways to get notified about amazing sales or mistake fares from airline. I like to follow Dans Deals, The Points Guy, Mile Value Alerts, and The Flight Deal. Maybe once a month I will get a Tweet or notification via e-mail that there is an unbeatable deal on travel. Sometimes it is to a location I really want to go, sometimes not. Either way, I like to know what’s out there! In this particular case I was alerted to the deal, went to Priceline, and did some research on dates and cities. I knew that I wanted to go to Beijing to see the Great Wall, and getting to spend a few days in Europe on the way was just a bonus. After about 30 minutes of playing with routing, I figured out an itinerary that worked best for me on the dates that I could travel. I ended up flying on Delta Airlines from New York (JFK) to Milan, Italy (MXP) on 26 December, spending 2 nights, then picking up a flight from Prague, Czech Republic (PRG) to Beijing (PEK) via Amsterdam (AMS) on KLM. Because of the odd routing rules on this mistake fare, I had to find my own way from Milan to Prague–but there are many options. In this particular case, I chose to use some United Miles that I had to fly LOT Polish Airlines (Star Alliance) from Milan to Prague (connect through Warsaw). This was only 15,000 miles as an inter-European one-way flight. I spent another night in Prague, then left on 30 December for Beijing.
Not only was this a very inexpensive trip to several great locations–but I also earned Delta Sky Miles since all the airlines that I paid to fly (Delta and KLM) were Sky Team! This is the definition of a mileage run–earning lots of value in miles without paying a lot of money. I arrived in Beijing on New Years Eve–but my goal was to be on the Great Wall on New Years Day. I did some research into private tour companies and found Great Wall Hiking. This was an amazing day with Peter as a guide. I experienced some areas of the Great Wall that most tourists never get to see and learned a lot of history via a knowledgable guide.
Not only did I have a once-in-a-lifetime experience spending New Years Day hiking the Great Wall, but I also earned valuable miles that I will be able to use for future travel. As a bonus I got to see Milan and Prague–and by maximizing the value of my hotel points, I stayed for essentially free in each city.
Just another method
The goal of these posts are to share ways to maximize value through points and miles–but sometimes a cash deal comes along that is just too good to pass up. Although I spent $280 and 15,000 United miles to get from JFK-MXP-PRG-PEK, I think that the travel experiences and Sky Miles accumulated (combined) were well worth the cash outlay. But, full disclosure, that wasn’t the full story–I still had to return to the USA. One way flights just after New Years were running around $800 from Beijing to NYC, which really would have broken the bank on the entire idea. Instead I looked for another way.
Using my American Airlines Miles to get home
Because I had signed up for the Citi American Airline Executive Card when it was offering a 100,000 mile bonus (now only 50,000), I had plenty of American Airlines miles to go around. American Airlines is part of the One World Alliance, and I did a quick Google search to see what airlines flew out of Beijing that were members of the Alliance. I found that Japan Airlines flies from Beijing to Tokyo, then Tokyo to JFK–and they were a member of One World. For 35,000 miles I flew economy on Japan Ailines from Beijing (PEK) to Tokyo (NRT) and then to New York (JFK), with the long leg on their new 787. This completed my relatively inexpensive around the world journey–and checked a dream off of my bucket list.
This trip really would not have been possible without my miles addiction. While I could have purchased a ticket to Beijing, it would have cost significantly more than the $280 plus miles I paid for this trip–and I would not have been able to stop and see two great European cities on the way. By following websites (and Tweets) that alert you to great airfare deals you are able to stay one step ahead of the game. When you also have miles/points to leverage it makes it so much easier to achieve your travel goals. The aim of this site is to show you some of the techniques I have used successfully to travel to places I wanted to see–and hopefully wet your appetite to do the same. Please continue to follow this site as we go into more details and offer more techniques to maximize the value of your miles!