The two most common questions I get as a frequent flyer and travel enthusiast are ‘what is the easiest way to collect points?‘ followed by ‘what is the best way to use points?‘. The first question I broadly answered in these two articles; ‘A Beginners Guide to Travel Points Collecting’ and ‘A Beginners Guide to Collecting Avios‘.
The second question is a lot more complex and depend on a wide range of factors, but mainly boils down to one’s own preference. What is important to you? To spend the same amount of money as you normally do, but travel better (e.g. upgrade from economy to business) or to save money (e.g. use points to book low-tax options). Anyway, when explaining this to friends I tend to wind up conducting a long monologue with multiple scenarios and assumptions.
So in order to avoid boredom I have made a series of Avios Inspiration posts. Each post is supposed to act as a inspiration or goal for travel points collecting; meaning what can I get for my hard earned Avios? The Avios Inspiration series contain everything from ‘How to Fly Around the World with Avios’ and ‘Using Avios to Experience First Class’.
This Avios Inspiration post focus on Japan with surroundings. The first example shows how to make the trip with as little Avios and cash as possible. You only need 62,250 Avios and £413 to do the trip in economy class! Even if you don’t make much of an effort collecting points, you should be able to collect 62,250 Avios in one year. To get an understanding of how many Avios you can collect in a year from everyday purchases see our ‘How to Collect Avios Without Making an Effort’ article.
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The Business Class Option
All of the flights in the above Avios Inspiration example are in economy class, but naturally you can do the same trip in business class as well, because to be honest, it’s a nicer way to travel. Or why not mix and match with business and economy class? Any combination work as long as you have enough Avios. To do the trip mostly in business would set you back 181,500 Avios and £628 in taxes and fees, which is 119,250 Avios and £215 more than the pure economy class suggestion.
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What do I get for my Money?
So now for the fun part, what do you get for your hard earned Avios?
Well, if we start with the destinations, your first stop would be Seoul, South Korea. You might wonder why I don’t suggest flying directly to Tokyo. You could, but since it’s a more popular destination reward seat availability tend to disappear quickly, especially if you want to travel to Japan in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Seoul is often overshadowed by Tokyo, but it’s a large city with plenty of skyscrapers, temples, palaces, an excellent subway system and tasty food.
The next stop would be Tokyo, a massive city that mixes ultramodern and the traditional. You can easily keep yourself entertained for a while here! It’s the perfect hub to explore the Far East from. From Tokyo you can fly everywhere in Japan for as little as 4,500 Avios plus £2 in taxes! Osaka International Airport is about an hour away and from there you can easily get to both Kyoto and Osaka. I would recommend going to Kyoto first, which is known for its classical Buddhist temples, gardens, imperial palaces and traditional wooden houses. Jump on the train for 30 min and you are in Osaka, Japan’s third largest city.
On the way back from Japan you would not regret a stop-over in Beijing. The city offers visa-free entry for 72 hours. This gives you enough time to explore the main sights and possibly do a day trip to one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China. During peak season, it’s usually easier to find reward availability to Beijing than Tokyo.
From London Heathrow you would be flying out from Terminal 5 to Seoul. Now, if you are flying in business, you would have three lounges to choose from; Galleries Club Lounge in Terminal 5A (North and South) and terminal 5B. Starting the holiday with a couple of glasses of wine and some snacks is never wrong! However, British Airways lounges in T5 tend to be very busy. The one in the satellite terminal tend to be less busy (albeit further away). If you don’t fly business you can try out the Aspire Lounge for £35 per person. If you have the American Express Platinum card entrance is for free or you can use one of the two complimentary lounge visits from the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card, you can read more about the cards here and here.
London-Seoul and Beijing-London
The London-Seoul route is operated by a Boeing 787-8, meaning there is no first class on this flight. For tips on where to sit check out the seat plan on SeatGuru. While British Airways is not known for the best business class product in the industry, it’s perfect for people wanting to try out flying in business as it can be booked with a quite modest amount of Avios. You can read more about British Airways business class here. The return flight from Beijing to London will be on a Boeing 787-9, which include a few first class seats (SeatGuru).
Seoul-Tokyo, Tokyo-Osaka and Tokyo-Beijing
All flights to and from Japan will be with oneworld airline alliance member Japan Airlines. Short-haul flights are an excellent use of Avios and can result in notable savings. In addition, regional flights tend to have excellent reward seat availability. When it comes to the domestic flights within Japan you often have several different options to choose from on the same day. The flight from Seoul to Tokyo will arrive at the Tokyo Narita airport. The domestic flight between Tokyo Haneda and Osaka is a pure economy flight, no business class seats are available. If you want to go to Kyoto before Osaka you should choose the Itami airport and not Kansai. To Beijing you have the option to fly from either Tokyo Narita or Tokyo Haneda. The latter option is usually preferred as it’s closer to Tokyo.
Things to Consider
Similar to all Avios bookings there are a lot of things to consider. Most comments I get on the Avios Inspiration posts are related to ‘I want to make this trip, but don’t have enough Avios‘. So, below I listed were and in what order I would downgrade on the business class example. The minimum amount of Avios needed for this trip is 62,250 if making all flights in economy.
- Seoul – Tokyo is a rather short flight and would be my first choice for a downgrade. I myself flew this route in economy as it cost 7,500 Avios instead of 15,000.
- London – Seoul would be my second choice for savings. Why? Firstly, if I have to choose I prefer to fly more comfortably on the way back. The main reason for this is the wonderful feeling of avoiding jet lag and arriving relaxed to work. Secondly, this is the most expensive flight in this Avios Inspiration post, both in terms of Avios and cash, meaning the possibility for savings is quite large. Downgrading from business to premium economy would save you 36,000 Avios (39,000 vs. 75,000) and to economy another 19,500 Avios (19,500 vs. 39,000). You would save £145 in taxes and fees by downgrading from business to economy.
- Lastly, Tokyo – Beijing is a medium-haul flight and is, as such, very doable in economy class. You would save 10,000 Avios by downgrading from business to economy.
If you have less than that you can always pay for London-Seoul and Beijing-London and use the Avios you have for the short-haul flights. If you are two people travelling, I would make the British Airway American Express 2-4-1 voucher a priority. You can read why the Amex 2-4-1 voucher is the most beneficial travel perk in the UK here.
If you have any questions, please drop a comment below! You can amend the Avios Inspiration itinerary based on taste. If you have a lot of time, why not explore more of Japan!