Friday, January 6, 2012

Winter in China: Introduction


After our Moscow adventure during winter in 2011, Lydia was keen to freeze up again on another winter adventure. We stumbled on the snow and ice festival in Harbin, China through some forwarded email and after some more research online looked like a must-visit destination. Lydia’s family that include her mum, stepdad, sister and brother were also crazy enough to join us in the freezing temperature.

Redeeming flights through BMI miles appeared to be the best option to get to Harbin. One could buy up to 24K miles a year and 22.5K miles +cash would be enough for a return business class ticket. We had everyone buy the miles during a sale period and the entire ticket including the miles purchased, cash and taxes ended costing ~$1000 USD per person which would have been about the same amount required to purchase an economy class ticket.

Harbin is only served by Air China via Beijing or Cheng Du and Asiana via Seoul on Star Alliance. We initially wanted to route on Asiana through Seoul but Asiana has their black-out period during the time we wanted to travel. We settled for a routing with a stopover through Beijing since most of us had never visited Beijing before.

Booking the flights for 6 people using miles was somewhat of a challenge. It was hard to explain to everyone that it would be impossible for everyone to travel on the same flight especially in business class. In the end I routed Lydia and I on Thai through Bangkok and Beijing. On the return, we would take Air China back to Beijing before flying to Shanghai and then connecting to Singapore on Singapore Airlines. Instead of routing the flight back to Penang, we flew back to Penang on Air Asia from Singapore and we tagged on a Bali flight from the redemption a couple of months later for a weekend getaway to further increase the value of the redemption.

The rest of the family wanted to travel together on the same flight as much as possible. I routed them on Air China since they had good availability and even up to 4 seats from Singapore to Beijing. On the return, my sis-in-law and bro-in-law would fly from Beijing to Singapore on Singapore Airlines where as the adults would fly on Air China. 

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