We Just Pranced into the Travel Hacking Marriage Crisis Precipitated by the Magic Word: Australia

Those of us that have relationships surving one partner’s travel hacking addiction dread the day the word ‘Australia’ is mentioned.

The partner, who to varying degrees of tolerance puts up with hours of computer screen zombie, endless credit cards showing up in the mail, coincidental stops at drug and grocery stores on weekend walks, and the rest, bide their time until they want payback for their suffering.

Someday they move beyond US trips, beyond Europe, beyond Asia and casually mention, “I want to go to Australia. During summer vacation (or Christmas).”

After all, it’s just another flight. For someone spending so many hours on this stupid hobby it should be trivial. Use all your geek skills to book me in business, Saturday departure, one connection max, returning on a Sunday evening. In July. With a month or two notice. And no, last minute bookings days before departure are not acceptable, I want it confirmed now.

We slink away to hope for luck.

What’s this? A Qantas Sunday flight New York – Brisbane in business? Oh boy, that saves my bacon…wait, click through and “The flight you selected is no longer available. Please modify your request.” dot.com support won’t be able to fix that. Glorious phantom availability!

AA No longer available

Every other search: no dice.

JFK-SYD

Whatever we say about AA not allowing routing through Asia will not work as an excuse, and even Hong Kong is blocked out for the month anyway.

The options go from bad to worse.

Triple connect in coach.

Spend $1,500 or more to buy a coach ticket and try to standby for an upgrade using Delta or United upgrade certs.

Tell her that half a million Delta miles from her business travel won’t cover a roundtrip because Virgin Australia availability has vanished. Maybe if she connects in Tokyo, Seoul and Guangzhou she might do it for 300k and a boatload of taxes (and only take 60 hours).

Get to Kuala Lumpur, overnight, then continue to Darwin and home free from there. Except Kuala Lumpur isn’t available, that flight to Darwin is 5 hours, and it isn’t a stroll down to Sydney after that, either.

As desperation grows, the ideas become more fanciful. It starts to seem plausible, despite having seen Manila Airport, to cash in Amex or SPG to transfer to ANA to book on Philippines with a 40+ hour itinerary and forced midnight overnight in Manila.

The moment of truth comes when we deliver the news: the miles and points are pretty much useless for this little request. Please pay for a coach ticket. Or let’s go to Orlando.

The storm breaks.

Note: I am too cowardly to have broken this news yet.

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  • TrAAveller

    If only I had a dime for every time I have been asked by a friend for this “simple” request. I’d be able to afford first class nonstop to Australia. I feel your pain.

  • Great post! I love it!
    Course, you could just book Austria and fall back on the fact that they sound so similar… 🙂

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Charlie – last time that didn’t work for Sweden and Switzerland!

  • danfromsanfran

    Just dealt with this and sucked it up and paid 300k UR for similar SFO-AKL…figured it was a small price to pay.

  • jon

    using aero plan was able to find decent space going NYC ICN in F or J on Asiana and then to Australia yes I had to stop in Bangkok but it was brief. and all flight in J ultimately arriving in Mel. then I found an open jaw out of Perth to JNB where I could stop and spend a few nights then back to NYC Direct on SA203. all that in J 160k per person over New Years. Magic

  • Gary

    Isn’t one if the top rules of travel hacking is to be open and flexible? You should have asked ahead of time for a bucket list. Wasn’t Australia and new Zealand recently available on mistake fares? So what happened there? Why not use points to get to Micronesia and pay for an island hopper.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Gary – those may be your rules and my rules but my wife never wanted me in the hobby and doesn’t feel she should be forced into rules she sees as constricting. She doesn’t want her life cluttered every moment with these concerns so will only discuss anything at a pre-set biweekly meeting and will only choose trips on her timetable, not what I may want to impose. She is happier that way, so I can’t really fault it.

  • I still have not told my wife I bought a ticket flying Qantas to Sydney and Auckland in November 2016 when there was the few hours last month SFO-AKL for $225 round trip.

    I did ask her if she would want to fly to Auckland, NZ in economy class during her Thanksgiving school break. She said that was too long a flight in economy class for a one week trip. That is what I thought she would say.

    Still too chicken to tell her I bought a ticket for a 10-day solo trip in November. After our economy flights to Europe in July is probably a good time to let her know I spared her flying to New Zealand via Australia in economy. Like your wife, my wife is more concerned with travel comfort than price.

  • Jig

    Hilarious and nerve wracking simultaneously. So glad I was able to check the NZ box proactively couple of years ago when a blue moon occurrence in May of JFK-LAX on AA F and LAX-MEL on QF F and MEL-AKL on QF J all lined up for 2 seats on DECEMBER 22, of all times.

    I rolled the dice with a coach return AKL-SYD-DFW-LGA booked and overconfidently told the better half “something better will show up by then” when she flat said no coach on a 16 hr flight (come on, upstairs mini-cabin bulkhead Y on QF’s 380 is just like J! she’s wise to this stuff). As we’re enjoying some really nice yellowtail hamachi in the MEL QF F lounge after her double length massage, she asks “you fixed that coach booking, right?” Um, something better will show up? She almost spits up her nice champagne. CX saved my bacon a couple of days before the inbound with J seats AKL-HKG-YVR-JFK, and she loves the Wing F.

    May the gods smile on you as brightly!

  • Marvin P

    Did you check connections in Honolulu? Hawaiian flies to both Sydney and Brisbane (and to Auckland, a truly wonderful city only 2 and half hours from Australia’s.west coast).

  • Ted

    What happens with those with kids and wife makes that request? :-O

    If only I had my own blog to share my “haven’t told my wife” stories.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Marvin – a brilliant option I overlooked, what partner is best value on Hawaiian, my direct balances with them were blown on American Samoa.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Ted – I haven’t put in the legwork to be able to share that experience.

  • Brendan

    What about an award to BKI, which I love, or DPS and then a cheap revenue ticket to Perth? DPS-PER is less than U$D100 each way on Jetstar or Air Asia in Y and less than four hours. I think and fear that Air Asia cancelled its BKI-PER route, so you’d be looking at closer to $200 and an extra hour and a half on MH. For UA miles, Asiana has a direct ICN-BKI flight (so does Korean, but good luck booking the NYC-ICN in C far in advance with DL miles). For AA miles, both JAL and MH have direct TYO-BKI flights. For Delta miles, China Southern and China Eastern fly to BKI from CAN and PVG, respectively. Not sure if Perth lives up to the idealized Australian vacation, though.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Brendan – that will certainly be useful for me in the fall, I keep trying to make Cocos and Christmas work during the crab migration. For this US summer trip, getting to BKI and to the giant trees at Walpole and up to Exmouth for the whale sharks would be great for me.

  • Brice

    You could always book her to Sydney, NS and pretend the airline screwed up. Just like the seemingly one person a year who gets on the news for this one.

  • Gil

    Have you checked going via South America? LAN from SCL or QF from EZE.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Gil – Hmmm…that might meet her one-connection rule, if I used AA it would price as two awards, correct? That is not a dealbreaker.

  • Ananomas

    Cx has a ton of bandwidth in/out of Australia serving so many cities from hkg. Use ba or qf to search. If you find avail nyc-hkg; then search syd, Adl, mel, per, bne, cns, etc. Ticket through as for 60k.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Ananomas – CX is surprisngly scarce in July, I wish I could convince her to wait for last minute CX openings out of NY, I hear that is generally a shoe-in?

  • victor

    Spare a thought for us who live in Sydney and want to travel anywhere in a premium cabin.

  • John

    @RTC, Ai Ya, what kind of situation have you gotten yourself into!?!?!?

    You just need to buy yourself some time. A booking one or two months in advance is never going to be easy, for anywhere but especially Australia. It is neither easy nor reasonable…

    If you get the time, then I’m pretty certain you will be fine. I would not risk last minute space on Cathay to get there all the way. OK for getting to HKG but not OK for getting to Australia. Maybe July will work but you def need a back up plan if nothing becomes available.

    Once you get to HKG, then you can book SQ or TG, but it won’t be nonstop obviously. Forget about trying to get any last minute J space on QF. They are impossible. They open two seats up on occasion from HKG and then never again.

    Before big credit card sign up bonuses/churning/MS (i.e., not so long ago), the limits to our travel were always going to be our imagination and our budget. Now, it is really just our imagination… In other words, you need to spend more time MSing! 🙂

  • Laura

    My comment has nothing to do with the improbability of finding such an award at such short notice, but rather more to do with your marriage. I’m assuming you’re likely joking or exaggerating (I hope?) re: what sounds like your wife’s inflexibility. If you’re not joking and she’s really like that, then I’m going to assume that she has many other wonderful qualities that more than make up for your excessive worrying about something as unimportant as one more trip. My husband is laid-back and wants nothing to do with travel hacking, but will willingly cooperate when signing up for credit cards and is a good sport about this whole game. I’m the travel hacker of the family and I love this game, and can also be somewhat inflexible at times. Having said that, once you get to understand what we do, it really opens your eyes as to the fact that flexibility is key. I suggest you take your wife out for dinner and tell her the honest truth — that it’s just not going to happen. Are you able to explain the specifics of traveling J to Australia in summer or Xmas? That is, its impossibility? Stand your ground and use your persuasive skills, and if she’s a great wife she will understand you’ve done your best. I wish you the best of luck and here’s some “chill-out” magic fairy dust for your wife. 🙂

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Laura – beautifully written. My wife has many great qualities and as I put in an earlier comment I respect her approach and looking at it fairly, she sees her flexibility in tolerance of all the time I am mentally absent from her in this little hobby (like now!). I did find a JFK-DTW-ICN-BNE-CNS Delta award (Delta-Delta-Korean Air-Virgin Australia), all in business, all good connection times and a Sunday departure, do you think your fairy dust will get her to take that? 🙂

  • WrightHI

    Use AA to search for HA seats. Looking just now, there’s surprisingly good availability in July, some through BNE but even some on the SYD nonstop. HA business isn’t a great product, but it is available.

    Of course, getting award seats to HNL in the summer is a whole ‘nother barrel of laughs.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @WrightHI – not having kids, this is the first time I have had those laughs at trying to get to HNL. Not a single saver award on AA the whole month of July. Tried Alaska and their EWR-SEA flights nearly as bad availability. Now I appreciate how negative a change it was last year when AA stopped Hawaiian awards from continental US. Thanks for the tip, I did not realize how good their availability from HNL is and I might start bulking up my Hawaiian miles again after a pause when they moved the cards from BofA.