Booking My First Rewards Trip (to Japan!)

With the recent Hilton HHonors devaluation I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the Hilton reward I intended to use for four nights in Tokyo will cost me more points after March 28th. Currently, I can book an AXON award for a Category 7 hotel like the Conrad Tokyo for four nights for 145,000 points. It is unclear how much this will change to after the 28th, but for a single night the Conrad Tokyo is going from 50,000 to 95,000 and Cat 7 to Cat 10! So it most likely will be much more. Due to this change I’m booking my trip earlier than I had planned.

I currently have enough for one way Business class on American Airlines and enough hotel to cover 5 Hilton nights (four AXON at the Conrad Tokyo and one at the Hilton Narita by the airport). I will have enough United miles after my next month’s statements to book the other flight. And also just met the minimum spending for the two free Citi Hilton Reserve Weekend Nights (although hope to get the Hyatt card and use the two free nights at the Park Hyatt Tokyo instead of the Hilton certificates if possible). But with the Hilton changes I wanted to lock in that award.

Honestly I have no idea if I’m going about this the right way, or if there’s a much better strategy – but here’s what I did. If it’s terribly wrong hopefully you can learn from my mistakes. I started by choosing a date and then looking at available flights on both airlines – I had recently read that United.com can sometimes show false availability as Mile Value explains here. I therefore did as suggested in that post and searched ANA’s website, and found out how to do so by using The Points Guy’s ANA Search Methods here. We narrowed down our trip dates and chose a return flight on American based on flight scheduling and availability. Then, backed up the number of nights we plan to stay and looked at availability on United. The date we chose has one flight available with Business Class seats on a Star Alliance Partner (ANA). The days on either side have two flights. The theory is that hopefully one of those 5 options will be available when we are able to book the flight out!

I first called Hilton to confirm AXON award availability. You book AXON awards by calling 1-800-920-5649. It apparently does not matter what time you call as I was able to book my award Sunday night at midnight. You simply tell them you want to book an AXON award and they will request more details and a credit card to hold the booking. It was very easy, and I did not even need to confirm having a Hilton HHonors American Express card. I don’t know if that means you can just call and request an AXON award or if it was attached to my rewards profile, but it may be worth a try if you don’t have one. The hotel was booked for four nights at the Conrad Tokyo – at 145,000 Hilton Honors points and no charge to me! I looked into booking a room at the Hilton Narita, but that is actually one instance where the changes in Hilton Honors redemptions will help me as that will be dropping from 25,000 points per night to 20,000. So I decided to hold off until we book the United flights and are sure about our arrival day.

I then went ahead and booked our American Airlines flight, and the total came to 100,000 miles and $92 for two business class seats on flight from Tokyo followed by a first class flight home! Not too bad! The flight to Japan using United miles looks like it will cost me $10 – but I will let you know when I am actually able to book that one.

For more of a look at how I collected these miles, check out my posts on planning my trip to Japan and my first “app-o-rama” that followed shortly after.

In the next month or two I will attempt to book the United flight, after converting some Ultimate Rewards points. The question will be award availability. I’m hoping it works out, but if anyone has any tips for how I might have gone about this differently feel free to comment below.

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About Rebecca

I'm an engineer who is new to the points game. Hoping to share my discoveries as I collect points to travel the world.

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