Introduction: First Class To Beijing Using Reward Points
I’ve wanted to visit Beijing for a long time. To me, it’s one of those ‘bucket list’ destinations with everything a global traveler expects: culture, history, shopping, food, nightlife, and of course, The Great Wall of China. Getting to Beijing using reward points is relatively easy from North America, with many carriers offering direct and one-stop options over the Pacific.
I decided to book this trip using Aeroplan for a couple of reasons:
- I have more Aeroplan points than any other reward currency, and know that in a few years they will likely be harder to use for good flight redemptions as Air Canada is launching a new program and cutting ties with Aeroplan
- Star Alliance has multiple airlines offering direct and one-stop options from the west coast, many of which I’ve tried, and some that I’ve been dying to try (more on that in a sec)
Beijing Using Reward Points – The Flights
I wasn’t originally planning to visit in December, but as luck would have it I found just the right amount of time in my schedule and a whole lot of ANA first class availability from California so decided now was the time! ANA is one of my favourite airlines in the world, having recently flown their business class product home from Tokyo, and am really excited to try their terrific first class product again! Aeroplan charges 105,000 miles for a one-way ticket from North America to Asia 1, including Japan and China, but keep in mind on a roundtrip ticket you can add a stopover in each direction, which can make for a very valuable reward redemption. Even without the stopover I consider this decent value, since the surcharges are relatively low and you get to experience one of the best first class products in the world.
With my outbound flight booked, it was time to consider the return options. I’ve wanted to fly Air China for a long time, and only recently did they become bookable again using Aeroplan after a long period where reward space was being being blocked (supposedly because Air China had a habit of randomly cancelling tickets). Now, anyone who has researched the best first class airlines knows that Air China has never made anybody’s top 10 list, but as Mathew at Live and Let’s Fly points out, a lot of that is based on their old reputation. In actuality, Air China offers a fairly competitive hard product (nearly identical to what Thai offers in first class on their Airbus A380), and award availability is excellent on nearly all routes and cabins throughout the year. While I would always prefer sipping Krug on Cathay Pacific, sometimes there’s a lot of value in knowing you have a seat further than two weeks before departure. I was able to snag a one-stop option from Beijing to Vancouver through Los Angeles, with the transpacific route operated by Air China on their Boeing 777 in first class, and the short flight from Los Angeles to Vancouver on Air Canada in business class (a route and product we’ve reviewed before). All of this for 105,000 Aeroplan miles and $66 dollars – seems like a good deal to me!
Beijing Using Reward Points – The Hotels
Because of the morning departure out of LAX, I decided to fly in the night before and stay at one of the many airport hotels for a more relaxed morning while eliminating the risk of misconnecting (not many flights from the Vancouver area get into LAX with much time to spare). I’ve stayed at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel LAX before, and had no complaints, though it doesn’t come close to competing with The Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel – one of my favourite properties in the world. For this hotel stay I redeemed 35,000 Marriott Reward points (11,666 SPG points) for the one night stay. While on the steep side, rates were approaching $275CAD after taxes, plus I have a significant balance of points on hand, so I considered it a better option than paying cash.
Also, as Marriott Gold, I’ll have guaranteed lounge access including breakfast, which adds a bit of value to the stay over other airport hotels nearby.
For my stay in Beijing, I decided to spend the entire three nights at one hotel – The JW Marriott Beijing. While I would normally break my stay up for more variety, I have a bunch of work to get caught up on plus I plan to do some sightseeing, so staying in one hotel will be much less time consuming. This is a category 4 Marriott property, and free nights range from 15,000-20,000 points per night. I was able to grab the first two nights at the lower rate, and the third night at the standard redemption cost, for a grand total of 50,000 points (or 16,667 SPG points) for the three night stay. Again, as Marriott Gold, I’m guaranteed lounge access for the stay, which is significant in Asia and includes a generous buffet breakfast, evening ‘snacks’ and cocktails, along with more personalized service. Considering the room was selling for approximately $350 CAD per night, I consider this a very good use of Marriott Reward points!
Beijing Using Reward Points Bottom Line
I’ve always considered Asia to be one of the best destinations for reward travel, considering flight availability is generally much easier to find and hotels are often much cheaper/more luxurious than their American/European counterparts. Traveling to Beijing using reward points is going to be a fun experience for me, and I’m incredibly grateful I was able to book such luxurious travel arrangements using points. Since I managed to book my flights and hotels (and essentially all breakfasts and dinners with status) using rewards, I have almost my entire travel budget left for more experiences! I’m already planning to book a private car and tour guide for a day trip to The Great Wall of China, try some other local experiences, arrange for a car service to/from the airport, and maybe even get some Christmas shopping done. Should be a great trip!
Have you been to Beijing Before? What Bucket List Destination Would You Like To Redeem Travel Reward Points For?