There are very few things I chase in life… love, happiness, points and miles, and last, but not least – sunshine. There are two summers each year, and I think everyone should celebrate both. Hopefully you have your summer plans set for this northern hemisphere summer which is tantalizingly close.
Summer passes by too quickly here in NJ, and I’m already day-dreaming about where I want to go to escape the dreadful fall/winter, so how do I help fuel my imagination? By searching for awards, of course.
Now is also a great time to book an escape from our winter during the southern hemisphere summer. Award space is wide open to some top southern hemisphere destinations between November and March with United miles.
Here are some findings:
- United miles are undoubtedly the best miles to Africa because the Star Alliance has the most African partners, and I hear South Africa is one of the nicest places to be during its summer.
- I fell in love with Sydney when I visited last March (also by using United miles, but by flying in one of Singapore Airlines’ A380 first-class suites), and I’m happy to see United will operate three daily flights to Australia during its 2014/2015 summer, and economy award space is excellent.
- I’m dying to return to Southeast Asia, which has more of a dry season than a summer in early 2015, and United miles are the best with partners like Thai Airways.
Awards to all three places cost only 80k miles per person roundtrip. It’s quite easy to get United miles. Sure, you can get the United MileagePlus Explorer card, but make sure you find a targeted-offer that comes with a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus because the currently affiliate/public offer is not as strong (only offering a 30,000-mile sign-up bonus). I’m sure by now you already know that United is an instant 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. These are the best Ultimate Rewards cards:
- The Chase Sapphire Preferred (40,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months), The Ink Plus (50,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first three months) and The Ink Bold (50,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first three months).
United Miles to South Africa
Cape Town is the perfect winter escape. During its summer, Cape Town hums with beaches, mountains, easy access to vineyards and safaris, history, and culture. Cape Town has been on my bucket list for some time now, and is a strong consideration for early 2015 (perhaps a Dad trip?).
South African Airways is a United partner that flies from Washington-Dulles and New York to Johannesburg and from there to the rest of the country. United awards from the United States to South Africa cost 80k miles roundtrip in economy.
It can be tough to find award space on the direct South African flights. As this shows, there are only a handful of dates in February and March 2015 with saver award availability for two people from New York to Johannesburg on the direct flight.
But if you’re willing to connect, space is wide open. January and February are brimming with itineraries that connect in Egypt or Germany on other Star Alliance partners.
Australia is another place with an awesome southern hemisphere summer. I visited in early March 2013 and was graced with beautiful, cloudless, sunny days. I liked it so much that I booked myself a ticket to spend NYE 2014 there. Sadly, I had to cancel since I would have been over 8 months pregnant at the time. I would definitely love to ring in the new year in Sydney one of these years though.
The Great Barrier Reef, incredible beaches, and a laid-back, easy-to-travel country make Australia a great place to head during the southern hemisphere summer.
During summer 2015 in Australia, United will operate three daily flights:
- San Francisco to Sydney
- Los Angeles to Sydney
- Los Angeles to Melbourne
Award space is wide open for two passengers in economy from San Francisco to Sydney next February and March for only 80k miles roundtrip per person.
United Miles to Thailand
I love Thailand because it’s inexpensive, warm, and has an awesome culture. I visited last in March 2012 and I’m dying to return. Early 2015 should be a great time to visit Thailand during the dry season. Thailand has amazing beach resorts like Koh Samui and Phuket; a mega-city in Bangkok; and a cheap, culture-rich northern region featuring Chiang Mai.
There is plenty of award space for two passengers from Newark to Phuket, Thailand in economy for 80k miles per person roundtrip.
Traveling to your favorite part of Thailand is easy since United partners with Thai Airways, which in my experience, offers award space on nearly every intra-Thailand flight.
Award space to Southeast Asia with United miles is wide open in 2015. From the east coast, most itineraries route through Europe, while from the west coast, itineraries tend to transit North Asia.
Sure, riding long-distances in economy is rough, but as I mentioned in earlier posts, I like to stretch my miles out as much as I can, adding in the occasional business class and first class treat here and there. For me, seeing more places is more important than arriving in style.
Do you follow the same trend as I do by looking to escape winter by experiencing another country’s summer? If so, where are your “gem” redemptions? I’m still looking for inspiration!