Ever since our visit to Vancouver en route to a Whistler snowboarding trip, Joann and I have wanted to go back to enjoy the city for a few more days. Things fell into place when she scheduled a long weekend off – she’s a nurse and works odd schedules. Along with her free weekend, the other driving factors were visiting family, fulfilling the Hotels.com promotion, and completing our NEXUS interviews.
NEXUS approval comes with Global Entry which is a great perk to have while traveling. See The Points Guy’s review on Global Entry. The TSA is also piloting a new Trusted Traveler program to Global Entry and NEXUS users that will allow these users to use expedited security lines. Expedited security lines??? Sign me up! Anyway, let’s plan this trip…
There aren’t many nonstop options to Vancouver. My first thought is always Continental or Star Alliance because I have the most miles with them and they are Newark-based. Air Canada, a Star Alliance member, is 1 of only 2 nonstop flights from the NYC area to Vancouver (YVR). Unfortunately, that flight had no availability for our strict dates.
Plan B was Cathay Pacific. We have flown their nonstop JFK-YVR service and enjoy the airline very much, at least in Economy class. Also, Joann and I have hoarded a lot of British Airways miles (over 300k) so we might as well use them! Remember, there’s no prize for who has the largest mileage account! BA miles are best used, in my opinion, for their oneworld partners. BA’s most luxurious partner is probably Cathay and any time you can fly in their premium cabin, I’d call that a great day. Take a look at this series of screenshots for a quick and dirty way to book a partner award flight on BA’s site.
This is a tactic that The Points Guy has already taught us, but this is the first time I’ve completed the entire process. Now that I’ve done it once, it was a breeze. To sum up, I scored two Business class one-way awards on Cathay Pacific from NYC to Vancouver for a total of 50k British Airways miles. Since American Express had a 50% transfer bonus I took advantage of, this trip only cost me 33,333 Amex Membership Rewards points. One-way Business class for this date costs $2,699 per person… Not bad at all!
Since we’ll be arriving quite late (1:30 AM), we have to book a night at a hotel that will be ‘wasted’ sleeping, but with the Hyatt promotion going on, I’ll need a 3rd Hyatt night anyway. We’ll stay at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver for 3 nights to fulfill the promo and receive 5,000 bonus Hyatt points.
Basically, I chose the Hyatt promo over the Starwood promo because after number crunching, the Hyatt promo would give me 2,619 more points than the Starwood one. Both chains received excellent reviews of their Vancouver hotels so I figured if they’re both equal, go for the points! This is, after all, always about points.
After 3 nights, we’ll hotel hop 2 blocks to the Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver for a night. This expensive stay will complete the Hotels.com promotion I wrote about yesterday. I booked an Executive King Balcony Room for $347 and in 6 weeks, Hotels.com will credit my account with $347 credit for a future stay. Along with fulfilling this promotion, I was able to double dip with the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall. Hotels.com is an affiliate and by originating my shopping at the UR Mall and using my Chase Sapphire Preferred cards to reserve the room, I will earn 4x points on the reservation. You have to love a double dip!
This is the less eventful story. There was no availability for Cathay Pacific on BA.com so we decided to save a few miles and book coach on Continental.com. It has to be the best site when it comes to booking awards. It’s just so easy.
From all the availability, I chose United Airlines YVR-DEN with a 90 minute layover and then the DEN-EWR on Continental. Because of my mid-tier status on both UA and CO, we were able to select Economy Plus seats on the YVR-DEN leg and Exit Row seats on the DEN-EWR leg upon booking.
It pays to get creative for award bookings. Be flexible with your dates if you can. Don’t always search round trip. In this case, I got a great deal on a one way Business award and satisfactory availability on an Economy award, both for my original dates.
Also, airlines release award availability at random so the early bird may not always get the worm. Sometimes the best deals surface very late in the game.
The lowest price I found for 2 round trip tickets NYC-YVR was $1,026 and that was all in coach. 75,000 miles and $296 in taxes got us both round trip tickets NYC-YVR with one way in Business class on a top-rated airline! Crazy value for sure.
If you ever have any questions about booking any award, just comment or tweet me.