Greetings from Tokyo!
I’ve arrived again in a metropolis that has been on the prime of my journey listing for years, and it feels nice to be again. I’m off on my first huge journey of 2023, which is able to deliver me to locations outdated and new.
It’s been a busy week getting right here and making ready for the adventures forward, and at last realizing certainly one of my aviation desires with over 14 hours of bliss. Right here’s a breakdown of the journey at hand, and the way it all got here collectively.
The impetus for this journey was a long-awaited ski vacation deliberate with some associates who dwell in Calgary. As with many individuals, Japan has been on the prime of my listing each as a ski vacation spot and as a spot I wish to go to as typically as attainable, and it didn’t take a lot convincing for my associates to hitch in for the experience.
I booked my flights speculatively all the way in which again in Could, lengthy earlier than Japan had introduced its reopening to tourism. To be trustworthy, I’d booked many speculative journeys to Japan over the previous couple of years for one thing to stay up for, and this journey was no completely different.
Fortunately, the gamble paid off this time, and I managed to attain some aspirational flights in each instructions, however extra on these later.
I’ll start my journey with two nights in Tokyo, adjusting to the jet lag and exploring Minato Metropolis on foot. From there, I’ll head to Osaka for a few nights on a Shinkansen bullet practice, the place I’ll meet up with associates who occur to be there and get to know a metropolis I’ve but to go to.
From there, I head again to Tokyo to fulfill with my associates who’re flying in from Calgary through Vancouver. That is their first time flying in enterprise class, and we managed to get them on the 55,000-point Aeroplan candy spot with ANA 787 enterprise class on the long-haul flight.
We’ll spend a couple of nights in Tokyo as they regulate to the jet lag. We don’t have too many concrete plans but, other than consuming our approach throughout the town, assembly up with different associates who occur to be in Japan, and perhaps trying out some go-karts.
From there, we’re off to Hokkaido for the primary objective of the journey, after we’ll spend six nights collectively in Niseko, getting as a lot time in on the mountains as attainable. A lot to our delight, it has been snowing lots this month, and the forecast requires a wholesome dose of Japow all through our complete keep.
I’m leaving a couple of days earlier than my associates, as I’ve to get to Bangkok for one more aspirational flight. Because it seems, I’ve some associates who can be within the metropolis throughout my keep, so I’ll get to go to with many individuals all through the journey.
After one other bucket-list flight, I’ve three extra nights in Tokyo earlier than making my approach again to North America in model. My spouse Ashley is assembly me in Montreal, and we’ll revisit our former dwelling metropolis for the higher a part of per week earlier than heading again to Vancouver Island.
I’m trying ahead to many components of this journey. Tokyo has lengthy been a metropolis that fascinates me, and it really works out that I’ll be spending extra time than I had deliberate to right here on this journey. My brother is transferring to Kobe in the summertime, and with the prospect of returning to Japan to go to as typically as attainable, I’ll get my repair of Tokyo after I’m travelling solo.
Every time attainable, I’ll be ducking into one of many many onsens which might be scattered all through Japan. Apart from Miles & Factors, I’m additionally a washing fanatic, and I’ll by no means say no to the chance to calm down.
Each individual I’ve come throughout on the airport, in motels, or usually has been very excited to listen to that we’re heading to Niseko. A pal of mine who lived in Japan for years talked about that we’re going to have an excellent time, and I can solely think about how nice it will likely be.
It goes with out saying that Japan is stuffed with delights to expertise: meals, tradition, nature, meals, bathrooms, bullet trains, meals… Whereas this can be my third journey to the nation, it’s by far my longest but, though it’s actually not my final.
Lastly, I’m additionally eager to journey with associates. We’ve talked about this journey ever since we labored on a wildfire crew collectively in Alberta seven years in the past, so it’s nice to see it lastly being realized.
I can’t wait to listen to about their first enterprise class expertise, though I feel they could be spoiled for all times by flying with such an amazing airline.
I spend extra time than I’d wish to admit trying to find flights. Whether or not it’s for myself, associates, household, or Factors Consulting shoppers, I’m typically trying to find award flights throughout many alternative channels.
In some instances, nevertheless, it pays off, as I come throughout “unicorn” flights which might be tough to come back by.
For my outbound flights, I flew from my dwelling on Vancouver Island to Toronto through Vancouver for a fast go to with my in-laws. I booked in premium financial system and waitlisted for an eUpgrade to Air Canada Signature Class, which fortunately got here by way of.
From there, I made a positioning flight to New York, flying into LaGuardia and out of JFK. I managed to attain a seat on ANA “The Suite” First Class from New York (JFK) to Tokyo Haneda (HND), a product that has been on the prime of my listing ever because it debuted.
Oddly sufficient, though I’d solely ever flown with ANA in financial system previous to this, it has lengthy been my favorite airline. There’s little doubt that there’s a large hole between financial system and First Class, and I’m completely satisfied to report that it totally lived as much as, and even exceeded, my expectations.
For intra-Japan flights, I booked utilizing Avios. We’ll fly from Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Sapporo (CTS) with Japan Airways, which we booked for 12,500 Avios in enterprise class. We’ll all be travelling with ski/snowboard gear and checked baggage, which had been included within the enterprise class fare.
After making my approach again to Tokyo, I’ll fly from Tokyo Narita (NRT) to Bangkok (BKK) on Thai Airways 777 enterprise class. Sadly, there isn’t a First Class cabin on this explicit flight, however I leveraged Aeroplan’s stopover coverage and nonetheless acquired a very good deal on my flights.
In complete, I forfeited 130,000 Aeroplan factors for the flights from Toronto to Bangkok through New York and Tokyo, plus round $100 (CAD) in taxes and costs, in addition to 19,000 Aeroplan factors for my flights to Toronto. Every leg of the flights to and from Sapporo value 12,500 Avios, with round $8 (CAD) in taxes and costs.
Happily, I used to be additionally capable of finding First Class award area for almost all of my return flights. To get from Bangkok (BKK) to Tokyo Narita (NRT), I’ll be aboard Thai Airways First Class, which is likely one of the few remaining routes on which it’s supplied.
Sadly, it seems that the spa has but to reopen on the airport, and all indicators are pointing to it being without end a factor of the previous. I’ll simply must make up for it with a couple of glasses of Dom Perignon onboard the flight.
After a stopover in Tokyo, I’ll head from Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Chicago (ORD), as soon as once more on ANA “The Suite” First Class. Once I initially booked the flight, I used to be set to fly of their older First Class product, and I’d have been completely proud of it.
I obtained an ExpertFlyer notification that there was an plane change on my flight, and far to my delight, ANA had upgraded the plane to characteristic its latest cabin. Certainly, there will be worse surprises to get, and I hope to make my approach by way of the few remaining components of the Japanese menus that I wasn’t capable of polish off on my option to Japan.
I’ve a fast layover in Chicago earlier than heading to Montreal in Air Canada enterprise class.
After our go to, I’ve us booked in premium financial system again to Vancouver, after which onward to Victoria to reunite with our canine and settle again into actuality.
For the Bangkok to Montreal flights through Tokyo and Chicago, I once more parted methods once more with round 130,000 Aeroplan factors and round $100 (CAD) in taxes and costs, and one other 19,000 factors for the premium financial system flight again to British Columbia.
Contemplating the astronomical value of even one flight in First Class, the cents per level worth of each bookings is nicely above the ten cents per level (CAD) mark, and I really feel fortunate to have had the entire flights line up.
Flying premium financial system inside North America is my go-to transfer, because it’s often less expensive than paying for an Financial system (Latitude) ticket and I’m first in line on the eUpgrade waitlist. Whereas it’s not all the time attainable to search out flights at across the 20,000-point mark, I’d argue that it represents glorious worth, particularly because you’re more likely to wind up in Signature Class (so long as your eUpgrade clears).
After Ricky’s luxurious lodge tour of Japan from Fall 2022, I used to be trying ahead to experiencing among the nation’s motels for myself. Whereas my listing of motels received’t be fairly as numerous as his, I nonetheless have some properties that I’m very a lot trying ahead to.
For Marriott Bonvoy properties, I’ve the next stays booked:
- Tokyo Marriott Resort, booked on an business price.
- Mesm Tokyo, Marriott Autograph Assortment, booked for 74,000 Bonvoy factors.
- Courtyard Osaka Honmachi, booked on an business price.
- The Westin Tokyo, booked on an business price.
- The Prince Sakura Tokyo, Marriott Autograph Assortment, booked for 52,000 Bonvoy factors.
- W Bangkok, booked for 30,000 Bonvoy factors.
- The Athanee Resort Bangkok, Marriott Luxurious Assortment, booked on an business price.
- Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, booked on a money price.
- Aloft Tokyo Ginza, booked on an business price.
Previous to my journey, I enrolled in a Hilton Honors standing problem, the place I used to be given Hilton Honors Gold standing for 90 days. After eight nights, I’ll obtain Gold standing till March 2025, and after 12 nights, I’ll be bumped as much as Diamond standing till March 2025.
I’m utilizing this journey as a option to diversify my lodge technique, which is certainly one of my objectives for 2023. My associates and I are booked at Hilton Niseko Village for our ski journey, which additionally has a really enticing out of doors onsen.
Whereas the price of our keep wasn’t low cost, pricing out at round $400 (CAD) per night time, splitting it 3 ways lowers the value to inside motive, with breakfast included for 2 as a part of my newfound Gold advantages. I’ll even be getting a complete of 28 Hilton Honors factors per US greenback spent, on account of a mix of the Winter 2023 promotion and my standing.
Previous to my flight to Bangkok, I even have an evening booked on the Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport, in order to not rush on the morning of my flight the subsequent day. I’ll have fulfilled the Gold problem by the top of this journey, and for the remaining 4 nights, I plan on profiting from a Keep Vancouver, Go to Richmond, or Edmonton’s Greatest Inns deal to get me to Diamond.
Previous to my flights again to Canada, I’ve a two-night keep on the Shangri-La Tokyo, which can be my first time experiencing the model. From what I’ve learn on-line, the lodge exudes all types of luxurious, and I’m excited to see what it’s all about.
I managed to increase my Shangri-La Jade standing, which was a leftover from an American Specific Platinum Card advantage of years prior, by way of an electronic mail supply in Fall 2022. By shopping for a cup of tea on the Shangri-La Sydney on my final journey to Australia, I’ll take pleasure in Jade standing by way of to the top of 2023.
Admittedly, I’ve been very Marriott-centric throughout my Miles & Factors tenure to this point, so I’m eager to diversify and check out new manufacturers this yr.
My first journey of 2023 will deliver me to a few completely different components of Japan, in addition to a couple of days in Bangkok to spice issues up. It’s nice to be again on this aspect of the Pacific visiting international locations which might be fascinating in some ways.
I haven’t been snowboarding in a couple of years, so I’ll seemingly be a bit rusty on the slopes to start with. Nonetheless, with the forecast calling for powder, at the very least I’ll have a strong cushion for any spills.
With an amazing mixture of aspirational flights, motels, and experiences, I hope that this journey can be a harbinger of extra fulfilling adventures to come back in 2023 and past.