Ten Days Exploring Japan — TPG Reader Success Story

Dec 2, 2015

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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about how award travel has affected their lives — the exotic vacations they’ve planned, the trips they’ve made to be with family and friends, the premium seats and suites they’ve experienced and so much more, all made possible by points and miles. I love to travel and explore, and it’s an honor to be able to help so many of you get where you want to go.

I like to share these success stories to help inspire you the way you inspire me! Every so often I pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy. If you’re interested in sharing your own story, email it to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. If we publish it, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure!

Three weeks ago I posted a story from TPG reader Heather, who used points and miles to book a honeymoon trip to Germany, France and Spain. Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Chris, who (along with his girlfriend) will soon be traveling to Asia for the first time. Here’s what he had to say:

Chris and his girlfriend will fly to Tokyo in Singapore Airlines’ luxurious First Class Suites.

Next year, my girlfriend and I will be visiting Asia for the first time to spend a week and a half on vacation in Tokyo. Thanks to all the information and advice I’ve gotten from TPG, we’re doing it in style and almost entirely by redeeming points!

To start our trip, we booked Delta economy awards from our home in Madison, Wisconsin to Los Angeles in order to position ourselves for the longer (and more luxurious) flight to Japan. We paid 17,500 SkyMiles per person for flights that were going for around $350, giving us a pretty good redemption value of just under 2 cents per mile. Our out-of-pocket cost was just $11.20 for security fees.

In case there are any delays, we’re spending a night in LA to give us a buffer before our big flight to Tokyo. I used the anniversary free night from my IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card to get us a room at the Intercontinental in Century City, saving us $245 in the process.

One thing we’re excited about for this trip is getting to experience the First Class Suites on Singapore Airlines. Several months ago we were thrilled to find availability from LAX to NRT, so we booked two one-way awards for 148,750 KrisFlyer miles (transferred from Chase, Citi and Amex) plus about $227 total in additional fees. Those tickets would have cost us over $14,500 if we paid cash, so we got an excellent redemption value of almost 10 cents per point.

Since it’s our first visit to Japan, we weren’t quite sure where we wanted to stay. We decided to split our time across a variety of hotels to keep it interesting. We’re starting at The Westin Tokyo, where we’ll redeem 16,000 Starpoints per night for a value of about 1.68 cents per point. I use my SPG Amex card for everyday spending, so I had enough to cover our five nights there.

Next, we’ll head off to Osaka on the bullet train (very excited for this too). We’ll stay at the Hyatt Regency Osaka for just 8,000 points per night (transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards), which gives us a redemption value of 3.2 cents per point.

Then, it’s back to Tokyo for a stay at a hotel TPG visited and reviewed this year, the Hyatt Andaz Toranomon Hills. This is a Category 6 property, so it costs 25,000 points per night, giving us about 1.95 cents per point. For our last night, we decided to indulge a bit at the Ritz-Carlton. We redeemed 70,000 points for a night that would have cost over $1,100, so again we were very happy with the redemption value.

A King room at the Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills.

Once our time in Japan is over, we’ll head back to the US using United MileagePlus miles for a Star Alliance award. For 75,000 miles and $38.70 in taxes and fees, we’ll fly from Tokyo to Seattle in business class on ANA’s 787 Dreamliner, giving us about 5.75 cents per mile in value.

We’re going to spend two nights in Seattle and relax at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront. This was definitely the lowest redemption value of the entire trip, but I had some extra Marriott points on hand thanks to the recent MegaBonus promotion. Each night is 40,000 points compared to a cash rate of $259, so even though we’ll only get about 0.65 cents per point, we’ll save over $500.

Finally, we head back to Madison on Delta for 12,500 miles each in economy. That makes for another nice redemption value of 4.38 cents per point, since our one-way flights were going for almost $550 per person.

My friends and colleagues sometimes ask me why I care so much about credit cards and points, and why I prefer some points to others. I explain that not all points are created equal, and that I can get more value out of points and miles than I can from earning cash back. This trip has been over a year in the making, and we’re very excited for it. All the posts and comments I’ve read on TPG helped make it possible, so I wanted to share this story with you and just say thank you! 

There are plenty of reasons to love Tokyo, and I’m glad Chris and his girlfriend will soon get to discover them firsthand. They did a great job getting value out of their rewards, as most of their redemptions top the amounts listed in my monthly valuations.

While jumping from one hotel to another means having to check in and out multiple times, it sets you up to explore parts of the city you might not see otherwise. I’ve had good experiences at other Ritz-Carlton properties in the region (including Kyoto and Seoul), and the Tokyo property seems like a great spot to spend your last night. I also enjoyed the Andaz, and while the Hyatt Osaka is unheralded, it could easily have made the list of great low-level Hyatt rewards.

There are lots of ways to get to Japan, and plenty of places to stay once you do. For more information about award options, check out these posts:

The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo is a good place to splurge on your last night in the city.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Chris for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on his travels (purchased from Office Depot with my Chase Ink Plus, of course), and I’d like to do the same for you.

Again, if the strategies you’ve learned here have helped you fly in first class, score an amazing suite, reach a far-flung destination or even just save a few dollars, please indulge me and the whole TPG team by emailing us with your own success stories (see instructions above). You’ll have our utmost appreciation, along with some extra spending money for your next trip.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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