Why Australia is Too Far in Coach…for Us

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I wrote a post this morning about how my own family is approaching planning our potential next big trip to Australia and New Zealand using miles.  The premise of the post was tips for searching for business or first class award seats from the US to Australia for a family of three or more.  That is not impossible, but it is pretty challenging, especially depending on what type of miles you have to work with.  You are going to need flexibility, persistence, a big pot of miles, and luck to pull it off successfully when you want more than two seats.

In the post I was pretty up-front and definite that the longest commercial flight in the world (Dallas to Sydney on Qantas) at 17 hours is well beyond my family’s threshold for booking in coach.  Not surprisingly, a couple of the comments on the post were related to saying flying in coach is fine, it won’t kill us, most people fly that way, etc.

Yes, of course, all of those things are true.  In fact, I’ll take it a step further and say if the only way you have to get to Australia is in coach (like it is for most travelers), you are still insanely lucky and should go and have the trip of a lifetime.  I know I would, but…

I spend hours of every day thinking about, writing about, researching, or earning airline miles.  Granted, that is also basically my job, but it only became my job because it was my passion that I was already doing.  Part of the beauty of airline miles is that they unlock the world and allow you to go places your otherwise might not be able to, like Australia.  The other part of the beauty of airlines miles that I have learned over time, is that they allow you to go in exceptional comfort.

Fancy seats are always more enjoyable than coach seats

Fancy seats are always more enjoyable than coach seats

When the time comes to book the longest journey my family has been on together, and my obsession/hobby has given me the means (miles) to do it in a lie-flat seat, I’m not about to miss that opportunity and book us for 17 hours in economy.  My husband is much, much, much happier in business class, my kid sleeps much better, and goodness knows I like it better, too.  You have a more pleasant journey, the flight becomes a big part of the fun, and you both arrive at your destination and back home again more rested and ready for whatever comes next.  I even sort of like that chasing award availability means leaving some things up to chance and not having total control over when you will go and how you will get there.

IMG_0491.JPG

If the kid sleeps well, we are all happier

I would still go if coach were the only way within our reach to get there, but that isn’t our current reality.  I can do better than that for my family in this instance, and that’s my plan.  It will be much harder to book multiple seats in business than just getting the seats in coach, but it will also make for a more pleasant overall experience, especially for a 17 hour+ journey!  Seriously, 17 hours.  That is a very long time to sit in any seat.

If you only have enough miles (or money) to go in coach, you should still go.  Those folks that say it are right, coach won’t kill you (just do some stretches and stay hydrated).  If your family doesn’t care at all about sitting in coach for 17 hours, then great, use that to your advantage and save the difference in miles for something else.  Sometimes coach is a good amount cheaper than business class, and sometimes it isn’t.  For example, with US Airways miles to Australia you are looking at 80,000 miles round trip per person from the US to Australia in economy.  For just 15,000 miles additional each way (110,000 miles round trip), you go from an economy seat that we all know won’t be comfortable, to a lie-flat business class seat.  Sure that’s around 38% more miles to get to the same destination, but I can guarantee we will enjoy that flight way more than just 38% more.

If you book your family in coach for a journey to Australia I won’t think you are doing it wrong. I will think you are doing awesome and I’m certain doing the best you can with what you currently have to work with.  Getting a family to Australia on miles is a huge accomplishment, end of story.  Heck, we fly in coach too and are doing some economy flying to Europe this spring because that made the most sense for that trip.

However, if I book my family to Australia in economy I know I’m not doing the best I can, because I know I can do better with what I currently have to work with.  That may not be true in a couple years, but for now I have the miles, the availability does pop up from time to time, and it’s just my job to work hard enough to find and grab it.

There’s no right or wrong way to use miles to fly with your family, but I would love to hear how you decide between coach and premium cabins for long haul flights.  Or, do you just ignore the possibility of premium cabins in order to stretch your miles as far as they can take you?

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Comments

  1. So, are you actually booked? If you found 3 Biz or First tickets on Qantas from DFW-SYD on miles, I think you could knock me over with a feather.

  2. No, we’re not booked yet. I don’t think we will actually get three biz class seats on that exact flight (though I have heard of it happening as a combo of biz and first to get to 3). I don’t know yet how we will get there, but I trust it is possible.

  3. Australia is a nice enough place I suppose and some folks think i am fortunate to go there for work on an expense account. I love my Australian colleagues, but to be honest, it isn’t really worth the long trip, and everything is super expensive.

    • Carl, I’m quite excited to see Australia, but on this trip Australia is likely more of a gateway for us as the bulk will be spent in New Zealand…just easier to write about Australia as there are more flight options from the US to get there.

      • Different strokes for different folks. I have been only twice, but am trying to get back already again a year or so from now. I love it.

      • If your ultimate goal is getting to New Zealand, then focus on that, don’t focus on going to Australia. They are both way too big and way too far apart to try to cover in two weeks. It would be like someone flying into Houston for two days, but saying they really wanted to see Vancouver. (Well then why didn’t you just go there.) If you are only going for a few weeks, take your time and really enjoy a few places rather than trying to do everything. Remember, you can always go back.

        Thai, Singapore, Cathay, LAN, Malaysian, all fly there from their hubs and those would likely be your best bet. It is well known that Air New Zealand has terrible J availability.

        Enjoy your trip.

        • I agree that New Zealand is a much better destination for Americans than Australia — at least during their summertime — but nobody who’s never been will ever understand this. Australia somehow captivates the American mindset in a way that NZ doesn’t. The great advantage of NZ is that it’s got better attractions in a more compact space. Australia is big and major attractions are quite far apart.

          Sadly, both destinations are still overpriced, but less so now that the US dollar is strengthening.

  4. Good luck. I hope it works out for you. I’d love to be on that flight one day on points in Biz or First. Never been on an A380 at all, actually.

  5. i agree….business class is the only way to go. My husband and I used Delta miles (only 160k plus $444 each) to book business class to Sydney, with a stopover first in Tahiti. It’s way way too long to go in coach!

  6. So MommyPoints…when are you planning this trip? I’m planning the same journey for June 2016 and don’t want to have to compete with you for 3 biz seats!!!

    I flew to Thailand in coach last year. We survived but I swore “never again”

    Thanks to 3 Citi Executive 100k sign up bonuses, I don’t have to!

  7. I recently took the DFW-SYD flight in premium economy, and it was surprisingly comfortable. The seat was wide enough, and legroom wasn’t bad. It helped that the seat next to me was empty, but since you can’t move the divider in between, it didn’t mean much more in terms of occupy-able space. I am a terrible sleeper on flights, and I managed to get a few hours. For those for whom business class isn’t within reach, premium economy may be a nice compromise.

  8. Well, I want to help….
    Especially with the 40% amex bonus, let’s hope you have enough BA miles to make this happen as the the windows for BA miles open much sooner than US.

  9. Since you are a famous blogger, surely you can find a friend with tons of BA miles who can loan them to you for a month so. That way you can sit on the seats you want before booking with AA. Problem solved.

  10. Of course it’s possible to go in Y, but that goes against the point of points, at least to me. For me, 80% of a trip is the planning and anticipation of a trip, including how we’re going, and where we’re staying. Thinking about 17 hours in Y would just bring about negative feelings for 7-8 months of planning…why do that to yourself?

    (I realize that most travelers are 100% about the destination, etc., but that isn’t me and my tribe.)

    • Oddly enough, I agree with you that the journey is part of the fun but I’ve always had fun in economy too. I’m slim and of average height so I’m fine in economy and sleep in business isn’t that great. I do agree that for an Australia flight it might be nice but if the choice is between not going at all because you can’t get a seat in business or going in economy, I’ll always choose the latter.

      It’s a frame of mind issue. Some of us can get excited about Economy. I love reading Economy TRs on FT and airliners.net.

  11. We have a daughter a bit older than your own. We both grew up grateful to be able to fly to different continents, but had never flown business until recently. We really struggle with letting our daughter fly business at such an early age. In the short term it’s easier, but in the long term is it preparing her for the real world? Love to hear your thoughts or anybody else in the same boat.

    • Rich, I think our kids are so lucky to travel the world and that is the real lesson to teach them. I don’t think they put meaning into the seat at that age, though they do know which seat is more comfy. 😉 As they get older you can teach them to earn airline miles, just like they are taught about jobs and finances.

      • I struggle with the same thing about flying with my 4 year old in business class. I don’t want him to feel entitled or to think that we are rich (we certainly are not). I would not pay for a J seat out of my own pocket. I can tell you that he most certainly notices. His absolute favorite thing to watch on youtube is views of the different business class seats. He is constantly asking me questions all about the seats and how they fold into beds, etc.

    • Rich: I’m in the same situation. My daughters (15 and 13) have done a lot of travel — all in coach until we had a business class redemption last summer to Asia. They really enjoyed the seats, the food, the lounges, the bling. Now, when we’re planning a flight they want to know if we’ll have lounge access. Like you, I was a little worried about raising a couple of prima donnas (although when we get where we’re going we mostly stay in hovels) but just last week we were discussing a possible trip to England this summer and I told the girls that I wasn’t sure if it was worth using the extra miles for Business class for such a short trip. One of them rolled her eyes and said “So, we’ll fly in coach. Big deal!”
      .
      So, I think we’re going to be okay.

      • We have never flown outside of coach, but my kids would definitely notice if we had cause now they roll play about 1st class seats. and when we got to a recent destination (5 star hotel on the blogger circuit) my tween said “we travel like rock stars!!” Yep, we do and I rarely buy something without a coupon. KIDS notice EVERYTHING.

    • My dad was an expat who was stationed in Hong Kong for 4 years back in the early 90s when HKG was still part of the UK. As part of his package, his company paid for the entire family’s airfare to go back to the USA once a year. Mind you business class back then was simply more leg room, wider seats, and longer recline (no fancy flatbeds or bars from what I recall.) During the holidays, we’d fly back to the USA in business class paid for by my dad’s employer, but during the summer, my family would fly economy out of my parents’ dime.
      Now as an adult, I’m definitely not a primadonna and most of my flights that are paid for by myself are in economy, though I do enjoy flying in business or first class here and there thanks to miles/points. I’ve flown to Australia twice in my life and both times I flew in economy. ***I definitely think flying to Australia is possible in economy class but try to do it during a slow season when it’s highly likely you can have an entire economy row to yourself.

  12. We recently booked 3 seats business on points (Qantas) from Vancouver to Sydney, we were then upgraded free to first class!!! This is a special route and only flies January.. We are now tryin my to get home in mid Feb, coach is an option but I’m sure we will get 1st, Fiji Air is currently available.

  13. Whatever cabin you travel in the destination is the same:)

    I have traveled on quite a few 1st class trips. The kids actually don’t care about premium cabins and recover faster than adults. Just plan an extra day with massages to recover from the economy trip. If you really want to see Australia – go for it. I would love to be there someday.

    But recently due to an emergency I took a 16 hour trip on Air India economy (doesn’t get any worse). My expectations were so low I actually even enjoyed it. It was like watching a really extremely horrible movie with friends.

    Examples:

    (1) Mother asks for chocolate milk for her kid. The guy says we don’t have chocolate milk, only milk (but would not stop there). He says I can add some coffee to the milk, if you want.

    (2) Old ladies usually have trouble opening and closing lavatory doors. Someone was inside with the help light on and slowly banging the door from inside. The air hostess walked by and without missing a step reached up to merely switch off the help light…..kept walking.

    (3) There were at least 4 service call lights around me that were on for 12+ hours of the flight. It meant nothing to the crew.

  14. So we just did SAN-LAX-BNE-CNS-AYQ-SYD-BNE-SYD-LAX-SAN all in Y over Christmas and New Year. CNS-AYQ and SYD-BNE-SYD were with Avios on QF and the long haul with VA/DL. 100k each in Y. My kids are 8, 6 and 3. On the way be we had economy comfort which helped. Did we have enough miles for C? Yes we did (and there was availability with VA at 330 days out), but it meant forfeiting other trips in the future I’m planning on with less work travel coming up to earn more miles. My wife and I can now fly on our Anniversary in C somewhere fun having saved 300k of miles. Going there was easy, kids slept 7-8 hours straight. Coming back took a day or 2 to recover. For us at the end of the day enjoying Australia for 3 weeks was the most important thing.

  15. Honestly, if Delta is out, that leaves Qantas, Air Canada, and United. Qantas is nearly impossible. Air Canada will only work mid-week if you are very flexible. Aeroplan members can book 360 days in advance, but United members can only book 331 days in advance, so it will even be more limited. United may work if you hit a very lucky flight. 3 seats not routing through Asia is a very tall order. I wish you luck, but you are going to have to be flexible. I personally doubt you will find anything in January in J for 3 people on one flight.

  16. Thanks Team America. For those of us living in Australia, we now know who’s booking all of the premium cabins. Spare a thought for all the Aussies who have to fly long haul to get anywhere. Economy.

  17. Easy, while I would love to goto some places, I know my limits.
    If a flight is longer than 7 hours, I will not fly coach.
    That means I either fly business/first, or I do not go.
    If I can leverage miles to fly business/first, I will go.
    I cannot afford to pay $$ for business/first.
    So if I cannot fly business/first, I won’t go. And I am ok with that.

    Travel is a luxury, not a necessity. I know my priorities and focus on making sure I meet my priorities.

  18. We are going back again in November for my son’s graduation from law school in a combination of Biz and First. We used PMM Travel Consulting and are flying on Japan Airlines across the Pacific. Longer route but upfront. We won’t do it in coach

  19. We have flown 17 hours in coach between Dallas and Vladivostok, Russia 8 times. Not pleasant at all! Especially with kids. If you have the points for business class, use them for sure! 🙂

    • Nic, just for time reasons. In a perfect world that would an added bonus to the trip. If that’s the only routing we can get we will make it work.

  20. We have flown to New Zealand three times in the last 8 years in coach on Air NZ each time. We live on the east coast so each time we flew to San Francisco and spent a couple of days relaxing then took the 9 pm flight from SFO direct to AKL, a trip of about 13 hours. My daughter was 7 during the first trip and 9, then 11 years old. She has managed to sleep wekk each time on the way there. It is harder for some reason on the return; if I had the option, I would upgrade on the way back. NZ is a wonderful place — we will go back again when we have the time. We also visited SYD. Your daughter will love the zoo there.

    • I have flown to NZ/OZ twice — both in coach and I survived. I went during slow seasons so I had a row to myself in Y so I can’t complain much.
      I agree with you that I’d upgrade to biz on the return leg. The excitement of going to a new place normally outweighs the journey in economy for me; but it would be great to travel in comfort going back home!

  21. MP, the reason I enjoy your posts and others like it is in part to have a roadmap to truly special travel experiences. Can’t wait to see how it works out! If you just went in Coach and stayed in ordinary hotels, your blog would provide all of us with much less value.

    • Jake, I’d like to gently disagree. There are plenty of bling bloggers around and what has been special about Summer’s blog in the past is that she — hasn’t — focused so much on the bling, but rather on the nuts and bolts of family travel. I’m much more interested in how she’s going to find three seats in business than which particular airline she flies.

  22. Kind of conflicting signals in this post: “Australia is too far in coach for us” and “if the only way you have to get to Australia is in coach, I know I would”.
    .
    Three summers ago my family flew to SE Asia and back in coach; last summer we did a similar trip with lie-flat business class for the trans-Pacific segments. The family really enjoyed the premium cabin with all the toys, etc. Also, I personally slept much better than I possibly could have in coach. However, I don’t think the kids slept any better than they did in economy (kids are smaller and more flexible than us old folks). Also, on each trip we had a long layover after the long segment, and having been in business class did not ease the jet lag that the kids felt. So I would echo what a commenter in the original post said — prioritize schedule over cabin.
    .
    Honestly, it sounds like your biggest challenge is keeping your husband comfortable for the trip since it sounds like he’s the least rugged (and the largest) traveler in your party. That’s not a knock on him; better that he’s happy and kudos to him for being willing to undertake an adventure that might not be at the top of his personal list.
    .
    Since miles are not a limiting factor for you, it would be silly to be uncomfortable rather than comfortable — especially given the small difference when using US Airways miles, for instance. Sadly, I don’t ever see myself being in a situation in which miles are limitless, especially with the increasing redemption costs for premium cabins.
    .
    Australia and New Zealand are remarkable places — my wife and I spent three months in Oz and three-and-a-half in New Zealand, and my daughters have already expressed an interesting in visiting — maybe summer 2016.

  23. If you want to fly to Oz in the front of the plane, take a little effort and you can pull it off. There are two relatively easy paths….a) use Delta miles on Virgin or one of the Chinese carriers (they often have 4+ j availability) or b) do a higher miles award (on delta or united).

    In general, non-DL SkyTeam partners offer the highest instances of 4+ j or f awards on given flights. You should know this.

    If you can’t stomach flying in back for that long, then look at alternatives. Don’t just kvetch about it….take action. Post back in a week when you’ve figured it out.

  24. Everyone has their own personal threshold, budget (whether that is real money or miles/points), and timeframe. I don’t think you need to justify anything to anyone. I think it also depends on perspective – someone who has actually experienced flying 15+ continuous hours in economy may have a different view than someone whose longest coach flight was JFK->LAX. I flew 15 hours one time from ATL to NRT – it wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable either (and I was in an economy exit row on a 777 with 5 feet of open space in front of me). That was about 10 years ago and the longest economy flight I’ve had since that time was probably 10.5 hours. If I have to travel a very long distance and economy is my only realistic booking option, I will either try to break it up with a connecting flight/stopover or buy a fare that is upgradable with miles/certs. That’s my preference. On the other hand, if I was that guy who automatically falls asleep at takeoff and wakes up shortly before landing, I probably wouldn’t care. Unfortunately I have great difficulty sleeping in the typical coach seat.

  25. For me, I will stretch my miles to fly my family in the front of the plane. A year ago we took a big trip to China. One of my kids gets sick on planes, so flying in coach was really not an option. I booked us in biz class with Cathay, and upgraded to first class just few days before we were scheduled to leave. It was worth every mile! To this date, my kids remember every part of their experience in first class! It is not just the comfort that matter, the special memory matters too!

    Have you considered flying Cathay? Granted it is not nonstop, Cathay consistantly release 5 biz seats from west coast to Hk and 4 from HK to Australia, with 3 flights daily from LAX and 3 more from SFO (incl a new one that just announced today), your chance of getting the 3 seats migh be better. Good luck in your search! Can’t wait to hear what you end up with 🙂

      • Yes. She laid flat in the seat/bed in first class the entire flight, so that helps a lot. When we travel with U.S, we only fly economy, she is getting better as she gets older but she still dreads about flying.

        • My son gets very nauseous in economy when flying for more than six hours and when he is tired, a phenomenon we discovered on our 15 hour flight from Europe. We still tough it out in economy domestically but I definitely book business with miles if our flight is eight hours or more.

  26. I am so glad you’re researching this trip. We hope to do the same thing in a couple of years. I would not fly 17 hours in coach. My thought was to break it up and stop in Hawaii for a few days. I’m curious to see what you come up with.

  27. As a newbie to miles/points…

    I will be watching with interest. I am planning my first big trip for the summer of 2016, and am aiming for economy class. If I manage to get the miles/points for more, it will be an added bonus.

    I sincerely hope you can score the seats that you want! 🙂

  28. Last January I found 3 biz seat bne-lax, I built round the world ticket for 3 on that one flight before the AA rtw award was taken away.

  29. I too and am looking for three J seats for my family for net winter/spring, but to a different destination. We are actually fairly flexible about our destination. We want to go to Southeast Asia or Southern South America from the east coast. My goal is to do it with everyone being on the same flight and using one of the worst currencies there is, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles… I’ll let you know how it goes.

    Good luck on your hunt and let us know how it goes. Lots of comments tonight, people feel very passionate about Y vs. J.

  30. MP, I’ll give you advice no one else here seems to know about, even supposed expats. Australia is cool, but not the places everyone is clamoring for. Sydney and Melbourne are nice towns to see, but they’re just that, cities. The real beauty of Australia is Tasmania, the outback (red center as they call it) and tropical north Queensland. Two of those are best seen during our summer, when it’s the dry seasons, which also means there’s more award space.

    Tasmania is a stepchild of New Zealand though, so if you’re a fan of beautiful mountain scenery, head straight there and don’t look back. I’ve been to all of them and it’s the most beautiful place of all. Spend at least 10-14 days in the south island, and maybe a week in the north island. Don’t miss Milford Sound, Mt Cook state park, Oamaru penguin colony and Queenstown…those are the highlights.

    • I agree that you should spend some time outside of the cities. During our 3 week trip, we spent 6 days in the Port Douglas/Cairns area of north Queensland. Did some cool things like 1) exploring the Great Barrier Reef, 2) driving up to Cape Tribulation, 3) touring the Daintree rainforest with an aboriginal medicine man (who was pointing out all kinds of vegetation that was dangerous and then the remedies 4) seeing huge crocodiles on the Daintree river, and 5) taking a tour of the outback in the Atherton tablelands mining areas (outback refers more to the rural/remoteness rather than the red earth). In south Queensland, we enjoyed visiting the Australia Zoo in Beerwah and Lone Pine Koala/Animal sanctuary in Brisbane. Outside Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road was great because we were able to see the iconic animals in the wild on our 2nd day in Australia (kangaroos, wallabies, parrots, cockatoos, and koalas). Outside Sydney, we could have easily spent more than a day exploring the scenic Blue Mountains. Didn’t get to Tasmania or the red center, but hopefully we can do that on a future trip.

  31. Australia is too far! I flew Qantas first class more than 10 years ago, and even that flight was becoming a nightmare. You feast for a few hours, watch a couple of movies, sleep for like 6 hours and you still have like 6 hours to complete!

    I cannot imagine flying there in coach. Been trying to go back, but I promised myself, first-class or no flight.

    Country and people are amazing, so do it while you are young and have a behind!

  32. Um… So, I am on http://www.usairways.com. I try to book award travel, but the “To” box will not allow any of the Australian airports or codes. So, how exactly could I even look for the 110,000 mile award? Yes, I could find the PDF award chart that shows it should be possible. But, it ain’t.

  33. Success story on booking to Australia. I used my Alaska miles to book 2 Qantas business class seats on LAX-BNE-MEL and Cathay in business SYD-HKG-YVR on the way back. Found all the flights on ba.com and called AS to ticket. When searching on BA, it tells you how many seats are available in each class of service. Hope that helps. Good luck.

  34. @mommypoints.

    I’m not sure if this post was written in part as a response to my comment in your last post, but let me restate my prior point.

    I have been to Asia with my kids and wife 7 times since 2011. We have also been to Europe with them countless times, and and to Hawaii even more often than that. We have flown CX J several times, as well as TG J. And the flight were all nice enough.

    But we have also flown coach several times. And while there are certainly some Airlines that do drink in coach, there are some that are downright excellent. TG and SQ for example are both very good experiences in coach. Lufthansa less so, but still better than most.

    I honestly cannot say that I have ever liked a vacation better because I have flown J. Our first trip to Thailand was in Y on TG on their LAX-BKK non-stop and that was blocked am hour longer than the flights you are considering. Yes, J would have been more comfortable, but I don’t remember the flight as torturous at all. That was the trip that had kept us coming back for 4 years now.

    Bottom line is that the success of any vacation we have ever taken has never hinged on the class of service we flew.

    One other issue at play is that for most of us, miles are not limitless. Flying 4 family members to Asia is expensive in terms of miles and if you like to travel often, J is not always doable. Obviously given your profession, you have a leg up on us, but I used to earn 400k-500k RDMs annually from flying with AA and UA but that gravy train is over in about a month when I’ll be taking a haircut as an average spend 1k.

    Because we have traveled as much as we have, I think we have figured out that sitting in Y for several extra hours over flying Y non-stop simply always seems to remove the gain in comfort of flying J.

    I find that starting at the right Hotels on site is arguably the biggest decision in how successful a vacation is. The questions I always ask myself are:
    – Are we close to the things we want to see?
    – Can we walk as much and drive as little as possible?
    – Are the kids going to be kept busy?
    – Is the weather going to cooperate?
    – Are ocean conditions good?
    – Is the beach nice?

    Australia in particular can be tricky especially when it comes to beach vacations. Not only do you have to consider weather which is vastly different between the south and north, but when considering beach vacation you also have to look at jelly season. And all this assumes that you don’t mind how expensive Australia is once you get there.

    If you are shooting for NZ, my recommendation would be to figure out how to fly directly to directly to AKL with NZ. If you can get J, good for you, but if you can’t, it should not be a deal breaker IMO.

    I have lost paid hotel nights due to complex itineraries, have had to stay overnight near airport Hotels where we got nearly stabbed once and taken huge delays, all in business class. The best trips are the ones that are problem free, so I suggest you plan with that in mind.

    • Gets my vote for best comment. A lot of experience-based sense. The only thing I’d add? Check apartment rental when traveling with children.

      • Larry. I have done rentals, too, but I have abandoned that concept a few years ago. I will never forget the trip when we rented a house near Hanalei on Kauai where I shopped, cooked, did laundry, and cleaned the house before leaving not to have to pay the cleaning fee. That was the last time I rented because if I want to do all that work, I can do it at home much cheaper 😉

  35. I figured this one would get lots of replies. Isn’t the message that if you’re wealthy (in cash or points), you might as well spend extra since you’ve got a lot more where that came from? That’s true of a lot of things in life. And of course you’re very upfront about acknowledging the reactions you’ll get from those of us who fly coach and somehow manage to live to talk about it. Of course as a veteran of all-night bus rides on un air conditioned chicken buses in Latin America, I can see coach to Australia as luxury travel in itself. I guess it depends on perspective.

  36. If your trip hinges on whether you fly J or Y on the way, then you’re way too high maintenance. And you’re grossly underselling QF A380 Y experience, which we felt was the most comfortable flight we’ve been on in Y, even though it was the longest.

    You said “…That may not be true in a couple years, but for now I have the miles…” But that misses the point of not unnecessarily spending extra miles today – you will have more in the future, even factoring in devaluation.

    The vast majority of families don’t rake in miles as you do, so it’s puzzling how your advocacy of this approach is helpful to 99% of folks.

    • @Ryan – of course it’s puzzling. But MP has long stopped being a blog about flying for families back of the bus. Heck, she took her family on around the world trip in J/F because it was so “educational” for a 4 yr old. Contemptuously laughable. If people would just wise up and stop clicking all the credit card links, MP would stop blogging tomorrow…

  37. I’d be looking for business or first going to Australia as well. Also, I’d echo a couple of points made above… tasmania and queensland are really must see unique Australian destinations. I do really like Sydney and Melbourne, though.
    The other excellent point made by AAExPlat is that coach is by no means equal on different carriers. I wish I knew of a blog that did a good job of reporting on this. I’m certainly not an expert, but we fly to Europe once or twice a year and there is a huge difference even in Economy between, i.e. AA, Virgin, BA, Austrian in our experience. The three European airlines were much much better than AA.
    I realize that the flight doesn’t make the trip, but I find travel to be stressful, and starting off in business class means I start relaxing a bit sooner. It really makes the vacation start as soon as we arrive in the airport for departure rather than as soon as we exit the airport at our destination.
    A final PS, I flew to Australia in coach LAX-SYD, and I do not remember it being unpleasant. Just would’ve been boring if we hadn’t brought lots of movies.

  38. We did it last year (2 adults and our 6 yrs old son and 4 yrs old daughter) using the Explorer Award (now gone) via Europe all in Business Class. We visited (from JFK) London (AA), Kuala Lumpur (MH), Sydney (MH), Singapore (CX), Hong Kong (CX) and back to JFK in CX. If you don’t mind making it a 2 week trip you can do an around the world trip!! Good luck!

  39. I’m a long time reader and huge fan of your blog (it’s a staple of my morning must-reads). My family and I (four total) did Melbourne and Sydney in Business during the summer of 2013. Finding four LAX or SFO to Australia was impossible and since we were doing Asia anyway, we took PHX-SFO (UA First), SFO-HKG on UA (upper deck 747), HKG-SIN (SQ), SIN-MEL (SQ), SYD-ICN (OZ), ICN-NRT (OZ), NRT-LAX (NH) and LAX-PHX (US First). 520K total UA miles (pre-devaluation), but the availability from within Asia to MEL or SYD was very good. We also did HKG-TPE-HKG and MEL-SYD using Avios on CX and QF. The SYD-ICN-NRT-LAX-PHX return leg was the most challenging, but made all the more easier in OZ’s and NH’s new Business class product. Good luck on your search!

  40. It’s not just the seat, I get that if you’re short you’ll be fine in Y. What also matters is the ground services, especially in F, but even with J. You get access to lounges, priority customer service, just less time spent dealing with all the inane stuff outside the plane.

    But the real beauty, and what MP is alluding to, is that the delta between Y and J/F is where miles shine. I guarantee that you won’t find a J ticket for 38% more than Y when paying cash.

  41. Hi MP,
    This isn’t an answer to your business-economy question, but a description of our vacation and possible activities for your family.

    My wife and I went to Sydney and New Zealand last November for three weeks. We live in Hawaii and traveled on AA points on Hawaiian Airlines to Sydney.

    In Sydney, we stayed at the Sheraton on the Park in a club room on SPG points. Since we were staying several nights in a club room, we were offered a free breakfast buffet in the restaurant. Our other breakfasts were in the club lounge. The breakfast in the club lounge was more limited selection, but the quality was the same. The baked goods were excellent. Sydney is very expensive. We made a dinner out of the evening appetizers in the club lounge three nights. Sheraton on the Park is only 100 yds from the St. James Metro stop, which is on the route for the airport. Circular Quay with the ferries and the Sydney Opera House is one stop away. We got a week MyMulti 2 pass for trains, buses, and ferries and round trip to the airport for $76AUS. It only takes about 20 minutes to go to the international terminal on the train.

    I think your daughter would really enjoy the Featherdale Wildlife Park. You can hand feed kangaroos and pat a koala. I don’t think they allow you to get close to the animals at the zoo. They have about 20 koalas. It is about 15 miles from the center of Sydney. We took a tour bus.

    We took a flight on Quantas to Auckland using AA points.
    Went on the top rated Trip Advisor activity, Tiritiri Mantangi Island. Its native vegetation was burned off by sheep farmers. The gov’t cancelled the lease and took it back in the 1960’s. Since then it has been restored to its native state, mainly by volunteers. They have introduced many rare birds. There is a daily ferry ($75) to the island. An introductory walking tour is only $5. Bring your food and water. They don’t sell food on the island. Get reservations in advance. The animals are very tame.

    We didn’t want to drive so we got an independent bus tour. Our bus picked us up at our hotel and took us to Rotorua. Along the way we stopped at the Waimano Glowworm Caves. I thought $49 was too much for a 45 minute tour and boat ride. Also, we stopped at the Agrodome, where there was a sheep shearing and sheep dog demonstrations, and displays of many farm animals including deer and ostriches. We enjoyed it.

    In Rotorua, we went to the Te Puia, Maori Cultural Arts centre, where we saw a Maori Show and geysers. We also went to the dinner show at the Mitai Maori Village. The food was cooked in an above ground oven using heated rocks. It was delicious and the show was very good.

    We flew from Rotorua to Christchurch. Christchurch is still recovering from the earthquake 4 years ago. 70% of the historical buildings were destroyed. Downtown is a patchwork of empty lots where they have cleared away the damaged buildings. The Botanic Garden is still very nice. The adjacent Museum has a large display of historic Christchurch for children.

    We took the TranzAlpine railroad for a very scenic view of the mountains dividing South Island. They were still snow capped.

    The bus ride down the west coast to Queenstown was very scenic. This is a rain forest with up to 200 inches/year. We had an overnight stop at Franz Josef Glacier.

    Queenstown is on a lake and is very scenic. It is the center of adventure touring. There is bungee jumping, jet boat rides, river rafting, and excursions to Milford and Doubtful Sound. I went to both and I thought Milford was more scenic with more waterfalls and more steep cliffs.

    We went back to Christchurch while stopping for lunch at Mt. Cook. We stopped at Tarras, the home town of Shrek, “the world’s most famous sheep”. Normally, Merino sheep are shorn once a year. Shrek hid and avoided shearing for six years. His shearing was on national TV and he produced 60 lbs of wool. The local school kids wrote a book about him.

    After Christchurch, we took a bus to Akaroa to board our cruise ship for a 5 day cruise back to Sydney. Akaroa is a very pretty bay. The Christchurch port facilities still weren’t working. We went to Dunedin and then the cruise ship went through Dusky, Doubtful and Milford Sounds. It had been raining very heavily for a few days and there were waterfalls everywhere. I got some great video. It was the highlight of our trip. We docked opposite the Sydney Opera House and flew back.

    I think it would be difficult to see Australia and New Zealand in only two weeks. I thought NZ was very scenic, especially South Island. Seeing only Sydney and South Island in two weeks is more doable.

  42. I hope to visit Australia and New Zealand in late 2016 (no competition LOL). I agree it’s too long to fly there in regular economy. If business is not a realistic option, look into premium economy. Qantas premium economy seats look great and would be an acceptable medium between regular economy and business. Definitely post a follow up on what you decide.

  43. MP,
    In regards to your seat – as if you need another opinion…. We’ve taken 7 trips across the pacific (eastern US to BNE) in the last 3 yrs in economy and only flown in C on the last return in moving back to the US. If you have the miles for C, use them. The difference between traveling in C vs Y with a child is worth it. Space, sleep, lounges. I booked BNE-BKK-NRT-SJC-CMH on the return. Got to fly TG’s 380 and ANA’s dreamliner. Loved it and would fly through Asia again if I had to.
    On the destination – obviously do what you want but from living in Oz for a couple of years I’m going to say that you’re going a long ways to sell yourself short on your time in Australia. I totally echo rick b and eric when they say Melbourne and Sydney are just cities. Especially so when you have C to think about. Go on the shoulder season, stay out of their school holiday season cuz they take it very seriously and everything is super $$$. My .02 and I admit to being biased about Queensland 🙂 Cairns and Atherton tablelands is good. For beaches check out Rainbow Beach north of BNE and on up the coast you’ll find Agnes Waters and 1770, miles of fantastic beaches with very few people. Check out Fraser Island. Hervey Bay/Urangan has some great whale watching tours if you’re in season. (we loved just renting a house and hanging out on the beach)
    C would love Lone Pine Koala Santuary south of Indooroopilly and while I’ve never been, the zoo in Dubbo (NSW) is supposedly really good. I’d pick that one over the Australia Zoo which in my opinion is overpriced and trying to survive on Steve Erwin’s name. The turtle hatching season at Mon Repos is also awesome for young and old. If you had a month or more I could give you some things inland and on the west coast but you prolly won’t have time for that.
    Hope you have a great time and hope it all works out for you !

  44. I think I got “in trouble” for saying this on Flyertalk a couple years ago, but I still think Australia is one of the most over-rated travel destinations for Americans. Every American thinking of vacationing there should immediately abandon that idea and head to southern Africa instead. A fraction of the price, and probably 5x as interesting. I would particularly recommend a self-drive safari to Kruger Nat’l Park in South Africa and Etosha National Park in Namibia.

    Personally, I’ve flown around the world in coach, and I’ve flown around in biz class. It’s better to be in biz class. Honestly, though, it makes nearly zero difference in the enjoyment of your vacation. If you have more miles than you need, go business. If you don’t, go coach and take 2 vacation instead (assuming biz class costs 2x coach; if it doesn’t, biz class can be a good deal). Of course, you have to FIND the biz class seats. It’s better to have a faster coach routing than a slower, convoluted routing just to fly biz class.

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