I LOVE the game of collecting frequent flyer miles and points so much that sometimes I forget about the best perk of it all:  The actual FREE TRAVEL!  Today, I want to share a quick story with you about how frequent flyer miles will be benefitting me in the future.  No, this isn’t to make you jealous, but instead, to motivate you to continue to collect miles at every possibility so that you too can realize your travel dreams…and do so for FREE!

“But Mom, Plllleeeeeaaaasssseeee Come Visit Me in Japan”

I’ve been living in Japan for over a year and a half now, and as my tenure here winds down (I’ll be heading back Stateside in August), I find myself both happy (sports on tv, real pizza, buffalo wings, oh, and of course friends and family!) but also somewhat sad (I’ll miss you sushi train).

I’ll always love you, sushi train!

Also, its dawned on me lately that when I go back, it will be very, very difficult for me to describe my life in Japan to people.  Sure, they can see pictures of the cool places I’ve traveled, but no one will really understand what my day to day life entailed.  They won’t understand the nuances of the quirky everyday things that we encounter here, and that sadly, have become commonplace at this point.

Once, just once, I want to see a friend or family member’s face when they first lay eyes upon the 3 story high neon yellow waiving cat that adorns the karaoke bar near my house so that I can remember that I, for about the first 6 months of living here, was also amused and befuddled by it.

In the last couple weeks, I’ve really been putting the pressure on someone to visit us before we leave here, most of which has been aimed at my parents.  It’s not that they are adverse to coming to see me, but with my mom being a teacher and only really having time in the summer and my dad owning his own company which is most busy during the summer, it’s just never worked out.

With time running out, I decided to play the ace up my sleeve; FREE FIRST CLASS TICKETS!  Surely no one would turn this down, right?

My dad had built up 150k AA miles from the Citi/AA Visa and Amex deals last March (now they are 50k each instead of 75k, but I still suggest you get them; see the Top Deals page for more info), but there wasn’t anything available on AA in late June for them to come over.

This is where building balances in multiple carriers comes in handy.  I quickly checked United, saw that they had a great flight from Philadelphia to Tokyo, transferred my Chase points, and booked them both a ticket here before they could change their minds.

On the flight home, economy options were available on AA but they flew in to New York, not Philadelphia.  Not a huge deal, but I wanted to make this as painless on my parents as possible.  When I looked to Philadelphia, I saw that there were First Class SAAver tickets available for 62.5k a person.

Sure, this is a substantial amount more than the 32.5k they’d pay in economy, but they’d be flying in to their home city, leaving Tokyo at 6 pm instead of 6 am, and riding in style for the first time in their lives.  If anyone deserves to be spoiled, its my parents, so why not go all-in?  125k later, they can now begin dreaming of lay flat seats, caviar, and champagne!

Now, not only will I finally be having familiar faces experience the Japan I’ve come to know and love, but they’ll be able to experience something (flying first class) that most people only ever dream about.  And the cost:  FREE!

Thanks frequent flyer miles!

Indian Curry, The Great Wall, and Mount Everest

My contract in Japan ends July 27th and my return ticket home is paid for by the company I’m working for.  Luckily, they will allow me until the end of August to book my ticket home, giving Heather and I an opportunity to do some traveling around Asia before we head back.

We’ve toyed with the idea of training around Japan, but if you’ve ever been here, you know how expensive that can get, so I decided to start looking in to some international travel.  Three things stuck out in my mind immediately:  I wanted to see the Great Wall, I’ve alway been intrigued by Nepal (mostly because of their awesome flag!) and I had a friend moving to Mumbai in late July.

Could visiting all of these places really be possible?  Without frequent flyer miles, the answer is a resounding NO!  There is absolutely no way I’d be able to afford to fly to all three of those places.  One, maybe…but even that would be a stretch.

But guess what?  Frequent flyer miles once again are making my travel dreams possible.  Now, I’ll preface by saying I haven’t booked the tickets yet, so things could still change, but I have checked the routing rules and found that this itinerary is at least feasible.

Seeing the Great Wall used to just be a pipedream. Not anymore!

Using USAirway miles, it costs 40k roundtrip between Japan and India.  I was floored when I found that out!  40k?  That’s all?

All I’d need to do is sign up for the USAir Barclays Mastercard yet again.

Not only is a roundtrip ticket 40k, but USAirways allows you a free stopover at any hub city.  Beijing just happens to be a hub city, meaning Heather and I can stop over there for no extra charge.

Spend a few days exploring Beijing, see some friends, and then push on to Mumbai.  Easy, easy!

The tricky part will be getting to Kathmandu on the way home.  Two obstacles stand in the way;  first off, USAirways is not real explicit as to if they allow a stopover on each leg of the journey or 1 stopover total.

Secondly, Kathmandu is not classified as a hub city nor is it directly on a route to Mumbai.  However, there are many, many reports about USAirways being very flexible with their routing, so you better believe I’ll be taking a stab at it.

I’ll keep you updated on the progress, but this is just another example of how it is possible to travel frequent, travel far, and travel free with frequent flyer miles.  I could never even begin to dream of taking this trip were it not for the miles I’ve “earned”, and yet, here I am, ready to back my bags and jetset around Central Asia for nothing more than a credit card signup!  It’s truly amazing!

Do you have any success stories?  Trips made possible by frequent flyer mile that you never dreamed you’d be able to take?  If so, please feel free to leave a comment or write me an email.  With your permission, I’d love to share it them with other readers because I believe that is what this whole “game” is about;  achieving your travel goals and inspiring others to do the same!






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