Skip to Content

Miles Nerd: Planning another big trip

Last year, I pulled off a miles miracle by getting six people to Australia and back in coach using miles. In 2018, I was planning a much easier trip: from the San Francisco Bay Area to Hawaii and back for my husband and I to celebrate our 20th anniversary, plus lodging.

Then, my mom and I started talking about going back to Australia. We have close relatives there, and besides, we didn’t get to see the Great Barrier Reef when we went last year. So I started studying.

Complicating the idea of the Australia trip further, I thought I might try to combine the Hawaii and Australia trips. After all, when I go to Hawaii for my anniversary, I’ll literally be halfway to Australia.

I spent hours this week poring over different itinerary ideas and the points programs that might get us there. Here are some preliminary ideas. If you’re a miles nerd, feel free to offer input.

OAK-LIH (Kauai)

We have some Hawaiian Airlines points, but I have read that a more affordable way to do this is to get British Airways Avios points and use them to fly partner Alaskan Airlines, at a rate of 25,000 Avios per round trip or 12,500 one way. This is a good deal for us in California since British Airways sets its award rates by distance, and we are closer to Hawaii than other US departure points.

However, the British Airlines web site won’t display this itinerary, so I’d have to call to confirm the rate.


For the main flight of this trip, I’m thinking Hawaiian Airlines Business Class. They fly our route direct and have lie-flat seats, which would certainly make the 11+ hour trip easier. The Hawaiian Airlines Barclaycard currently has a 50,000-mile offer for just a $1,000 spend ($89 annual fee), which I just received today and already hit the spend on. (If that URL won’t load, use this trick to get to the 50,000 offer.)

The one-way price I am seeing on Hawaiian for business class is 130,000 miles, which is more than I expected.

Sydney-Cairns RT

If my mom and I visit the Great Barrier Reef in addition to Sydney, we’ll have to fly there. I’m told that Avios can be a good deal for this short-haul flight too, this time by transferring to Qantas, but again, I’ll have to call.


One flight I am already familiar with is the Qantas nonstop from Sydney to San Francisco. Last time, we took this flight in coach and it was OK. I’d love to experience one of the longest hauls you can take in first class, which we could do for 110,000 American AAdvantage miles on Qantas. At least I think we could. The AA web site only shows the flights with stopovers on its web site, not the direct flight.


One thing I don’t like about any of these ideas is that none of them take advantage of my Amex Platinum card. So one thing I should look into is using the 61,000 Amex points I currently have to book one leg with points through AmexTravel, which would offer me a points rebate if I use it on the right airline.

Next time I nerd out on miles, I’ll talk about the hotel stays I’m planning to fund with points on this journey.