I planned an end of the year trip to Taipei to visit relatives and Kyoto and Tokyo for fun. My wife has an end of the year break for 2 weeks and my work is slow at the end of the year so it was a perfect time to go. I planned most of the trip in June when Eva Air joined Star Alliance. In other words, we were allowed to use United miles on Eva Air. Availability on Eva Air was great back then, but it was a bit hard to find availability back from Asia. Luckily, I found two first class flights back from Narita using British Airways’ search engine early in January. After I found availability, I quickly booked Eva Air LAX-TPE in business and then Japan Airlines NRT-LAX in first. Intra-asia availability is usually decent, so I was not too worried about getting from Taipei to Japan. I decided to visit Kyoto because I found a flight from TPE to KIX (Osaka) on New Years Eve on Cathay Pacific and found tons of flights from Itami (Osaka) to HND (Haneda). Here is a breakout of the flights and costs:
- Two tickets from Los Angeles to Taipei on Eva Air business class one-way for 60K United miles per person = 120,000 United miles.
- Two tickets from Taipei to Osaka (Kansai) on Cathay Pacific economy class for 7,500 Avios per person = 15,000 Avios.
- Two tickets from Osaka (Itami) to Tokyo (Haneda) on Japan Airlines economy class for 4,500 Avios per person = 9,000 Avios.
- Two tickets from Tokyo (Narita) to Los Angeles on Japan Airlines first class for 62,500 AA miles per person = 125,000 AA miles.
Fuel surcharges were only $2.50 per passenger departing from LAX, about $35 from TPE to KIX, $3 from Itami to Haneda, and about $75 per passenger (which includes booking fee) from NRT to LAX. The total retail value for all the flights is well over $30,000 because first class flights on Japan Airlines are over $10,000 per person. I also added a free one way flight from LAX-HNL on my NRT-LAX first class flight as I explained here. My flight plan looked like this:
In Taipei, I stayed mostly with family with the exception of New Years Eve. For hotels I spent the following points:
- Grand Hyatt Taipei (category 3 with Regency Club upgrade) – 15,000 Hyatt points for 1 night
- Hyatt Regency Kyoto (Category 5) – 18,000 points for 2 nights = 36,000 Hyatt points
- Hiiragiya Bekkan – 38,000 Barclaycard Arrival points for 1 night
- Conrad Tokyo – 2 free nights from Citi Hilton Reserve credit card
I used airline miles and hotel points for everything this trip, which worked out quite well. I earned most of my points from credit card churning, manufactured spending, and everyday spending. I was definitely lucky finding availability for all my flights by planning well in advance. One thing to note is that my original flight was not on the Hello Kitty jet. I switched my flight 3 days prior to save a day by arriving early morning in Taipei instead of night. I did have to pay $100 change fee per person because I don’t have United status, but I would say it was well worth it. Stay tuned for my Hello Kitty adventures trip report!