Disclosure: Basic Travel Couple, LLC has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Basic Travel Couple, LLC and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.
Up until recently, Dave and I had been loyal economy points bookers. We wanted to spread our points out as much as possible to travel as much as we wanted. This comes with some limitations though, as we can only travel on Dave’s school breaks, as well as holiday/vacation time. We still managed to travel any opportunity we could.
In 2018 alone, we used almost ONE MILLION Miles to travel to hot destinations such as Hawaii, Finland, Iceland, Egypt, Greece, and more.
ALL of these trips combined cost us less than $4,500 each for all of our flights & hotels.
*Spoiler Alert* almost all of the trips cost less than $1,000 total but Egypt & Greece we got engaged and splurged a little bit 😉
Shameless plug: Check out our 2018 year in review for a more in-depth breakdown of these trips.
Over the last few years, we seemed to have accumulated a LOT of points.
Now, we have opted to dip our toes into the First Class and Business Class Award Bookings.
Change of Plans
This summer we thought we weren’t going to be able to go on a big trip as we normally do as I was changing jobs and didn’t know if I could get the time off.
Then I broke my leg in the Galapagos Islands, and everything changed.
We realized we now had the ENTIRE summer open to us. We kept talking about going to Japan but were unsure with my leg still healing.
Dave was determined to get to Japan. Even if he had to push me around in a wheelchair (literally).
I was determined to fly First Class.
We heard about a sweet spot deal in the points world:
First or Business class ROUND TRIP for only 95,000-120,000 points per person.
Booking a flight on All Nippon Airways (ANA) but using Virgin Atlantic Points would get you this deal. This is typically the cost of a ONE-way flight in first or business class on any other airline.
Since I had time on my hands while my leg healed, I dug into researching HOW to book these coveted First Class tickets with ANA.
Researching flights in, I noticed that award availability opened up for First & Business class tickets last minute. Usually, it was about a week or two out.
So I watched.
Eventually, the end of June rolled around and I found it.
July 8th had TWO open First (F) class seats!
This is a RARE find to find them together!
I quickly found a flight home so I could call and hold the booking.
Unfortunately, I could only find a seat in Economy, but I knew I had to act fast!
I gave Virgin Atlantic a call to have the flights ‘held’ so I could transfer my points.
Being in Japan and wearing Kimono’s was closer than I thought!
A quick note on how Virgin Atlantic’s reward chart works. They only book round trip tickets, and the below are the points cost based on class.
- First-class is typically 120,000 from the East coast, 110,00 from West Coast
- Business is 95,000
- Economy is 65,000
When you book a ‘mixed’ award flight, they take half of each class you are flying and then add the two together.
Since we originally booked First & Economy, we paid 60,000 points for First, and 32,500 for a total of 92,500 Virgin Atlantic Points.
Taxes & Fees were $267.13 each.
On June 26th, we had a one-way ticket booked for July 8th in First Class and the return flight booked for July 21st in the economy!
If I were to book a First class seat on ANA, it would have cost us $12,822.70 each.
After a lot of research, and confirming with Virgin Atlantic, I found that you could change reward booking flights for $50 per person. This means that we could book any flight and then change it for a small fee.
If we change the date and/or the airport, it will be $50 each. If we happen to find First/Business on the same route however, we just have to pay the points difference! If we find Business or First on a different day/route, we pay the $50 fee and the points difference as well.
We really wanted to spend about 3 weeks on our trip, but I couldn’t seem to find any availability past the 21st. So our plan was to keep watch on flights for the last week or two of July to see if we can score Business or First class flights back.
Eventually, we found Business class seats from NRT to SEA on July 29. I was easily able to call up and change our flights for 15,000 more points and $50 change fee each!
I paid and we could finally breathe about having another week ahead!
Normally a business class seat from NRT to SEA is $7,498.64 per person!
Flying First Class one way and Business on the way home should have cost us $20,321.34 each.
Instead, we only had to pay taxes and a change fee of $317.13, and use 107,500 miles that we easily got with two credit cards each!
Since we do not live near a major hub, we have to ‘Re-position’ ourselves to one to get these great deals. Sometimes this is fun because you can spend a little time in a city on your ‘layover’.
Our flights to and from Tokyo were out of Houston and back home to Seattle.
So, we had to find some “repositioning flights” to get us to and from Buffalo.
Luckily, we have the Southwest Companion Pass which means we get buy one get one free flights!
I also had a stash of Southwest points to use.
Flights from BUF to IAH:
We always check other airlines, but flying on Southwest when you get one person for free usually makes the most sense.
Flying to Houston was a little more pricey than normal at about $375 a ticket, or 25,541 Southwest Rapid Reward (RR) points.
Luckily we only had to pay that once since Dave was my free companion!
- 25,541 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
- $5.60 in Taxes & Fees
- Companion pass = FREE flight
- $5.60 in taxes & Fees
Should have cost: $750
Flights from SEA to BUF:
Flights home from Seattle were $249 on Southwest, which wasn’t bad. We were flying back to the states from Tokyo on the 29th of July and these were for first thing on the 30th.
So that means we got to spend a day in Seattle to explore!
We still opted to use our Rapid Rewards points, which ended up being 16,689 each.
- 16,689 in Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
- $5.60 in taxes and fees
- Companion pass = FREE flight
- $5.60 in taxes & Fees.
Should have cost: $498
Total savings on Flights with Southwest: $1,248
Our GRAND total for our First & Business class flights, plus repositioning:
Total we paid: $656.66 and 257,230 points/miles
Total it would have cost out of pocket: $41,890.68
Looking for a Step-By-Step guide to booking ANA first-class tickets? Check it out here.
Want to start your own Travel Hacking Journey? Check out the articles below to get started!
New to Travel Hacking? Check out the BASICS Below!
- Get our FREE Ultimate GUIDEBOOK To SUPER CHEAP Travel
- Basic Travel Hacking 101
- Basic Travel Hacking 102
- Credit Scores 101
- Knowing the Rules
- 5/24 Status
- Top Credit Card Offers
- Earning Bonuses
- Expedited Airport Screening
- Cashback Sites
Next, you can apply for one of these great cards at our Top Credit Cards Page!
Until next time
Join Our Basic Travel Facebook Group to Stay in the Loop on the Latest Travel & Finance News!
Disclosure: Basic Travel Couple, LLC has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Basic Travel Couple, LLC and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.