Manly Beach, Sydney, Australia, photo by Andrew Ingersoll
I received some private news that required a last-minute award redemption. And through this, I learned a very valuable lesson: ALWAYS fly business class across the pond — especially for the 13+ hours from Sydney to LAX.
Thanks to a Suntrust Delta Skymiles promotion last year, I was able to score 125,000 Skypesos. With some leftovers remaining in my account, I had just enough for a last-minute redemption from Sydney to Sarasota, returning to Sydney from Miami. I am forever grateful to Delta for FINALLY posting on its website its three-tiered award chart for flights originating OUTSIDE the U.S. A low-tier saver economy ticket SYD-SRQ, MIA-SYD 100,000 economy vs. 150,000 business. But before that, I spent a good two hours searching the Delta website for as many possible redemption options that would get me into Florida within a limited time frame and, of course, in business class. I found nothing!
I was only able to find a combination of mid-tier economy (140,000 miles) and high-level business class (210,000 miles). Unfortunately for my 6’5” frame, I only had enough miles for the economy seat. I even rang Delta to inquire about low-level business SYD-LAX and economy redemption LAX-SRQ via ATL. Again — nadda!
So here I sit, aisle 52D. Arriving three hours early in Sydney still wasn’t enough to secure an exit seat. A packed plane, dirty diapers, and an interesting character slamming Fosters beer in the seat behind me are painful reminders of just how valuable frequent flier miles and business class seats can be. It was almost torturous loading through the front of the plane and seeing the lay-flat beds beckon as I made my way through business elite, then economy comfort, on to the rear of the plane and to my good ol’ economy seat.
Lunch was fair. Sitting in the rear, they ran out of beef before they got to us, so I had the chicken and potatoes, the latter of which were a bit underwhelming. And I was surprised alcoholic beverages are $7 back here! When did international flights stop serving free booze in economy?
On a positive note, the music and movie/TV selections are good, and the flight attendants are surprisingly pleasant.
Overall, my cramped legs and aching back have reminded me: always fly business class!
So I pose the question: Does anyone have a trick to securing a business seat at the lowest tier redemption mileage requirement for a last-minute ticket?
China Day 7: Shanghai
Day 7: Morning flight to Shanghai. Flights in China are delayed as much as New York flights, so it’s best to head out in the morning and get to your Shanghai hotel. The punishing parts of the trip are over. Most flights from Xi’an arrive at the Pudong Airport, far away from the city and home to almost all international flights, rather than the more convenient Hongqiao Airport. If you are not overburdened by luggage, you can take the 430 km/h Maglev Train to its terminal at Longyang Rd. From there you are still quite far from anywhere and can transfer downstairs to the Metro stop (line 2, not luggage friendly) or get a taxi. The most convenient method is a taxi right from the airport, but you can take the maglev for novelty value. There are several bus lines from the airport, which is the most frugal option and relatively fast to a number of central locations.
- The Bund (west bank of the Huangpu River)
- Lujiazui area of Pudong (east bank of the Huangpu River), with Binjiang Dadao Park and the Grand Hyatt in the Jinmao Tower
- Nanjing East Road (between The Bund and People’s Square)
- Yu Yuan (Yu Garden)
- Shanghai City Urban Planning Exhibition Hall (in People’s Square)
Nice to see, depending on interest:
- Shanghai Museum (in People’s Square)
- Fuzhou Road book street and Foreign Language Bookstore (running east of People’s Square)
- Xujiahiu Cathedral and shopping overload in Xujiahui
- Xintiandi & Site of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party
- Yufo Si (Jade Buddha Temple) Don’t bother with Jing’an Temple or Longhua Temple.
Day 7 (cont.): Now in Shanghai, the afternoon is a good time to crash in bed from jet lag. Shanghai does not have the monumental must-sees of Beijing. Some consider it only a crass commercial center, but there is plenty to enjoy.
The evening is a great time to head over to Lujiazui, the cluster of skyscrapers on the Pudong side of Huangpu River. Take a Metro ride to Lujiazui stop (Metro Line 2) or a taxi, and stop first at the waterfront park Binjiang Dadao to see the colonial Bund from across the river and to enjoy one of the cafes. It is located behind Super Brand Mall (Zhengda Mall).
http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/listings/dining/dessert/has/huilaoshan4/ (use this café’s address and map)
Then, walk back past Super Brand Shopping Mall (Shangri-La Hotel to its side). You can stop at Super Brand for dinner, with all range of cuisine and budget.
Past Super Brand, head to what is now the second tallest building in China, the Jinmao Tower. The tallest building — the nearby gray Shanghai World Financial Center with the hole in the top — has less character, but it does have a Park Hyatt at the top. I love the Jinmao with its steel exterior suggesting bamboo.
Give the expensive Jinmao viewing tower a pass and head for the Grand Hyatt’s dedicated entrance on the south side, with express elevators whisking you to the lobby on the 54th floor where you’ll find wrap-around views of Shanghai. Continue on another set of elevators to the restaurants on 56, heading to the bar in the center. Look up at the empty cylinder of the building, with rooms wrapping around the outside. For more views (but with a cover charge), there is an elegant bar, Cloud 9, way at the top of the tower. Pudong also has the gaudy Oriental Pearl TV Tower, but you have already enjoyed the views for free at the Grand Hyatt.
There is a Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, but I list it in Day 8 because the entrance is easier to find on the Puxi (Bund) side of the Huangpu River. Call it a night. The rest of your activities will be on the Puxi (west) side of the river.
Stefan of the Rapidtravelchai.com blog has spent two years in Shanghai and provides information on Chinese travel in his blog. Check it out.
IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card
- Annual Fee: $49 fee waived for the first year
- Foreign Fees: No
- Card Type: Hotel
The IHG Rewards Club Visa is often cited as one of the most underrated hotel credit cards, with good reason. The official offer is for 70,000 points after $1,000 spent within three months, with the first year’s fee waived. The card comes with an annual free night certificate that can be used at any IHG property, including Intercontinental hotels - making this certificate worth upwards of 50,000 points. This is far more generous than some other hotel cards, which limit the categories in which free night certificates can be redeemed.
Cardholders earn 5 points per dollar at IHG hotels; 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants; 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Moreover, you’ll get a 10% rebate on award redemptions, up to 100,000 points per year. The card also comes with Platinum status, though that doesn’t get you much with IHG. Still, this is a fantastic card to have in your wallet, with benefits that far outweigh the already low $49 annual fee.
- Earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
- Enjoy a free night of card membership at over 4,700 hotels worldwide
- Earn 5 points for each $1 spent at our hotels
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants
- Bonus points redeemable at hotels such as Intercontinental® Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts and Holiday Inn®
- Automatic platinum elite status, as long as you remain a cardmember
- $0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $49