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I have wanted to use airline miles to go to Australia and New Zealand for years. And years. And years. I fact, this was my goal redemption with the US Airways miles I was earning back during the big US Airways Grand Slam promotion years ago… that many of you probably don’t even remember because it has been so long and that promotion and frequent flyer program no longer even exist. I’ve had some great trips with my miles since then, so I’m not complaining, but Australia and New Zealand have eluded me.
We once had a trip to Sydney and then onto various points in New Zealand just about 100% booked in first and business class on miles and in some great hotels on points, but we canceled the whole thing a few weeks before departure because it ultimately just wasn’t the right time to go. Our littlest was sleeping terribly, she had some health issues we were working through, she was too young to just leave behind, and the trip started to loom like a chore rather than the amazing opportunity that it is.
That canceled trip was close to a year and a half ago, but in that time I haven’t even penciled in when we might again set our sights on Australia. I’ve got travel plans outlined into 2020, but Australia and New Zealand are noticeably completely absent from that list despite the reality that all of us would probably love being there.
When United announced their new (surprising) nonstop route from Houston to Sydney that will kick-off in January, there were many hours when four lie-flat business class saver awards were available from my home airport to Sydney. That just doesn’t happen very often to Australia regardless of your US departure city, so you would have thought I would have booked those seats from my home airport faster than I click on Amazon Subscribe and Save coupons, but I didn’t. I didn’t book anything. I didn’t put anything on hold. I wrote about the great availability knowing it would disappear (and it did), but I didn’t grab anything for us.
As I’ve reflected on why I didn’t book flights to Syndey when I had the chance, and why I wasn’t sad when the opportunity window closed, I’ve realized there isn’t one reason why Australia and New Zealand aren’t in serious contention as destinations for us for us right now, there are several. I frequently write about how and why we are going various places, but this time I’ll talk a bit about why we aren’t going somewhere that on the surface sounds pretty fabulous.
First, while we have healthier than average frequent flyer accounts, at 140,000 miles per person for a round trip United business class saver award, over half a million miles spent on one trip for our family would be a substantial hit to our United account balances. I don’t manufacture our spending or frequently purchase large quantities of miles, so re-earning over 1/2 a million miles would be a long term process that has only gotten harder since the miles were earned the first time. Would one trip really be worth spending that many miles? I don’t know.
Second, and probably even more importantly, the flight from Houston to Sydney is scheduled at 17 hours and 30 minutes in length. SEVENTEEN HOURS AND THIRTY MINUTES IN AN AIRPLANE SEAT. As I was thinking through the reasons why I didn’t hop on these awards when they were available, I was actually flying home on a United operated flight from New York to Houston. That flight is about three and a half hours long, and by the time it is over I am pretty much always ready to say adios to the plane.
If instead of just flying from Newark to Houston I was flying the same length of time as it would take to get to Sydney, it would be roughly the same as making close to three round trips in the air from New York to Houston. Oh heck no. That sounds completely miserable. Even more so if kids are involved. No, just no.
This will sound very uncool from a ‘traveler’, but 17 hours and 30 minutes in the air sounds like punishment, even if it is in a lie-flat seat. I mean, I know most people who are lucky enough to travel from Australia to the US and vice versa aren’t even in lie flat seats, but I can’t imagine signing up to do that flight in economy unless I was getting paid handsomely or it was an emergency situation. I’m sure it is all worth it when you get there, but I would dread that flight for quite a long time leading up to departure, even if we were using miles to sit up front.
My longest nonstop flight to date has been Narita to Houston at 11 hours and 45 minutes, and while maybe 17 hours and 30 minutes doesn’t sound that different to some, it sounds a heck of a lot different to me. That said, I could be totally making a mountain out of a mole hill and the flight that spans over multiple calendar days thanks to cruising over the international date line may just fly by (pun intended), but it also might not. In my mind, that is just an intimidating amount of time to be stuck on an airplane.
Flight length aside we have a (bad) habit of making trips too short. This is often at least in part because we need to get back to work. This is more acutely accurate in Josh’s case, but also true for me as it is virtually impossible for me to work much when traveling with two small kids. We could put aside my work issues with some planning, but I wouldn’t want to go to Australia and/or New Zealand if we weren’t going to be on the ground at least a week, and even that is on the short side. Once you add in travel time, that puts you at probably close to a week and a half you would need to be away from work at a minimum, and with Josh’s job situation that just isn’t realistic at the moment, especially factoring in the time zone difference.
Which brings me to the reality that the reason why I didn’t book those awards to Australia is that it clearly just still isn’t the right time for us to plan that big of a trip. It doesn’t sound right. It doesn’t feel right. And so it probably just isn’t right. As cool as being in Australia or New Zealand sounds, in our relatively normal family lifestyle with two young girls, it just is the square peg that doesn’t yet fit.
In the meantime, we have plenty of other adventures we are looking forward to such as swimming in the Bahamas, skiing in Canada and Colorado, building sandcastles in Grand Cayman, and exploring cities, castles, and mountains in Europe. We are lucky that we are still able to explore beyond the confines of our own neighborhood, city, state, and even country, but some places are just still outside our radius. I guess we just still haven’t just haven’t grown into an Australian sized adventure. So, we will keep it sitting on the shelf, waiting for us to grow bigger, to get braver, to push our limits a bit more…to find a way to sit for seventeen hours and thirty minutes without going mad.