Booking a Last Minute Award Trip to Tokyo with American Airlines & United Airlines Miles

Buenos dias everyone! For a few months now, we’ve been talking about going to Tokyo in May, but we weren’t sure exactly when or for how long. When we were in Barcelona earlier this year, we picked up tickets to the Ghibli Museum for May 13 at the local JTB office, but that was all the planning we had done. This was largely because my partner just enrolled at Universidad Autonóma Metropolitana (UAM) in Mexico City, and classes started this week – but he didn’t get his class schedule until last Thursday! And it turned out he has an early morning lecture five days a week.

We knew that this Wednesday and next Monday were school holidays, so we had a general sense of how it could work, but we weren’t 100% certain how much class he would be comfortable missing until he actually went to class. Ultimately, we decided we could leave Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning and return on Monday, which would mean he’d miss two days of school for a five day trip.

It’s not a very long time to go all the way to Tokyo, but we really wanted to visit the museum and catch the end of wisteria season, so we decided to make it happen. As a result, I ended up booking some of the shortest-notice award tickets of my life – I made reservations on Monday afternoon for a flight on Tuesday evening.

Here’s what our itinerary looks like:

  • Mexico City (MEX) to Los Angeles (LAX) on Tuesday evening (booked with AA miles)
  • One night at a cheap hotel near LAX (booked on Orbitz with Orbucks from a previous Best Price Guarantee claim)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Haneda (HND) on Wednesday morning (booked with AA miles)
  • Four nights at the ANA Intercontinental Tokyo (booked using a Chase IHG Credit Card free night certificate and 150,000 IHG points)
  • Narita (NRT) to Mexico City (MEX) on ANA on Monday evening (booked with UA miles)

map-mex-lax-hndThe flights cost 75,000 American Airlines miles, 75,000 United Airlines miles (some of which were transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards), and about $285 in fees per for 2 passengers (including $50 for close-in booking fees for United – I pay a lower fee because of my United Gold status, while AA doesn’t charge that fee for elites). About $50 of that is Mexican tourism taxes, which I’ll be able to get refunded after the trip.

We’re doing our best to make the most of our time here – as I write this post, we are in the middle of a day tour to Hitachi Seaside Park, strawberry picking, and Ashikaga Flower Park, and we’ve got some other general plans for our other days here. I’m walking a fine line between scheduling enough things to feel like we are getting our points and money’s worth, and scheduling so much that we wear ourselves out too quickly. Here’s hoping I find the right balance!

Any last-minute tips for us on our journey? Anything you’d love to see me write a blog post about? Let me know in the comments.

3 thoughts on “Booking a Last Minute Award Trip to Tokyo with American Airlines & United Airlines Miles

  1. choi lu

    when I saw the title, I though Grant finally took a chance and going to Asia, haha. Grant stop being an
    Asia Phobic, haha. see you at the next meeting.

    Reply
  2. Dennis

    We just came back from Japan 2 weeks ago. Loved it. In Tokyo visit Shibuya, go to Harijuku for some fun shopping. I recommend heading to the Imperial Palace, visiting as many parks as you can. Go to the Monster Cafe or another theme restaurant, robot or Alice in Wonderland are different…food isn’t great but it’s about the experience. Head over to Gonzalez and check out the 10 story Uniqlo store. We live in NYC and Uniqlo is a fun store with great fashion pieces at an affordable price. Eat tonkatsu, grab a bowl of ramen at Ippudo, go to the fish market. So much to see and do, enjoy!

    Reply

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