Our Biggest Trip to Date…

In less than two months, we’re off on one of our biggest adventures to date. Our family, my sister’s family, and my aunt and her husband are headed down under for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays! Yep, Australia! And we can’t wait. But boy, has this trip been a lot of work…

I like to think that I’m pretty good at what I do. I mean, I book award travel for 8 – 10 clients per month to destinations all over the world, using miles from many different airline programs. But getting ten people to Australia during peak, peak season? And in business class for eight of those people? If someone asked me to do this as part of my award booking service, I’d have to politely decline because it’s basically mission impossible. But with the US Airways Dividend Miles program (may it rest in peace), I had a few tricks up my sleeve that I employed to get eight of us there in style…

Yes, our family of four has to split up two and two on the way there. But the four of us are together on the return. And my sister’s family of four are together in both directions. Just thinking of the work I put in gives me the shakes. And it’s something I’d rather not have to do again. Staying up until after midnight, making sure that everything was ticketed correctly, and being told that changes I wanted to make weren’t possible (even though I knew they were) were just a few of the challenges along the way.

But I think it will all be worth it for the experience that we’re going to have. And that was just the logistics of getting there and back. Not to mention the rest of the details. Once we actually get to Australia, we have another four flights, hopping around the country. We have some hotels covered with points (like the luxurious Park Hyatt Sydney) and we have some paid stays (like the Palm Bungalows on Hamilton Island). And we have a variety of pre-paid excursions like a bike tour of Sydney (yes, with our young crew members!) and a snorkeling tour to the Great Barrier Reef. Whew… Lots of work!

I’m hopeful that the work we put into our trip might be helpful for any readers planning a similar trip for their family. Before anyone asks, with the merger of US Airways with American Airlines, it will be virtually impossible to replicate our results of getting so many people to Australia in business class days before Christmas and back a few days after New Year’s. It will take three different routes to get the eight of us there and back in business class so even when US Airways was around, it was still tough. But, as long as you book right as the award schedule opens up (normally around 11 months), it may be possible to get two or even four there and back, but you have to be quick. And you have to have the right kind of miles. Feel free to reach out with questions or requests for assistance.

And even though we leveraged miles and points where we could, this is still going to be a very pricey trip. Of the four flights within Australia, we were only able to use miles/points for less than half of them. Given the peak timeframe, those flights are expensive. And two of the hotels that we’ve chosen to stay at don’t have any points options at all and those are several hundred dollars a night. When you add some pricey excursions into the mix, it results in a very expensive 2.5 weeks.

Over the next two months, before we embark on our adventure, I will outline some of the details of our trip and things that we learned during the planning process. And of course I’ll be posting updates once we’re on our way along with reviews of destinations and excursions once we get back.

It will be a blast. There will be hurdles along the way. Hopefully there are no missed flights en route. Hopefully the jet lag doesn’t get us. And hopefully the kids will always remember the Christmas and New Year’s that they spent in Australia.

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