What it Cost Us: 85,000 Ultimate Rewards points + $44.61

Cash Value: $1,319.62

Realized value: 1.5 cents per point

Cities Visited: Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo

Duration: 12 Days, 11 Nights (September 27 – October 8)

Booking Flights

When our friends Gyl and Trinh got married last fall in Cancun, we were stoked for them. We were even MORE stoked when they invited us to join them during their 3-week honeymoon to Japan this year. Although our work is flexible, Jenny and I opted to meet them halfway and travel ~2 weeks. We both love Japanese food and culture, so were excited to be able to tag along.

Round trip flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo (NRT or HND) usually hover around ~$800 USD.

Roundtrip - LAX TYO

But because both Jenny and I have the Chase Sapphire family of credit cards, we were able to redeem our Ultimate Reward points and cover the entire trip for both people on points! Read more about my breakdown of Chase Ultimate Rewards here. With my Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) enabling a redemption value of 1.5 cents per point through the Chase Portal, we were able to snag two round trip flights to Japan for only 85k points! I charged a small amount in cash to my CSR to ensure we were covered by Chase’s travel insurance – you never know when you might need it. This was a great redemption for us because we found a great cash deal. Ultimate Reward points are usually best used when transferred to travel partners such as United where you can see values of 2+ cents per point. It would have cost us 60k UR points per person if transferred to United, so the Chase Portal made sense here.

If you’re looking to stock up on valuable Ultimate Reward points, consider signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which is currently offering 50,000 UR points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.

Booking Hotels

We elected to stay in AirBnbs in Kyoto and Osaka since cash rates were fairly inexpensive. In Tokyo, we stayed at the Hilton Tokyo using Trinh’s Hilton Honors Points earned through her status with Hilton Grand Vacations. We are forever thankful for her generosity! All three of our stays were in convenient locations near metro stations, so were always a short walk + train ride away from the next destination. My Hilton Gold status earned through my American Express Platinum Card reduced the room upgrade cost, so it was a no-brainer to upgrade and get free breakfast + access to drinks at the Exec lounge!

The Executive Suite at the Hilton came with access to the Executive Lounge and Daily Breakfast at the Buffet and the In-House Restaurant!

The Journey

As an aviation buff, I was excited about getting the chance to fly to Japan and back on All Nippon Airways. When flying to Asia, I usually prefer Asian based airlines compared to U.S. domestic carriers due to better service and experience. A few weeks before departure, United contacted notified me of upcoming maintenance to be done on ANA’s fleet of 777s, so we’d have to switch to a United Airlines operated flight. Usually this would mean bad news to me, but I was delighted to hear we’d retain our ANA operated flight on the trip back home AND get to fly United’s 787-8 Dreamliner to Tokyo! They even bumped us up to Economy+ for the hassle.  My Priority Pass membership from my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card allowed us to chill at the Alaska lounge in Terminal 5 at LAX before boarding. On the way home, we were able to access the KAL Lounge at NRT for unlimited onigiris.

Once we met up with Gyl and Trinh, we spent the next weeks eating, checking out temples, and eating more! One of the highlights of the trip was racing go karts around Tokyo! We dressed up as different characters from the Nintendo universe and whipped around traffic. It was such a thrill.

For a richer recap of our trip, check out my Instagram story here.