Martinis Down Under–Introduction and Trip Planning

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I pride myself on a ‘book first, think later’ mentality when it comes to using points and miles.  I wish I had some fancy story as to why a trip to Australia and the Great Barrier Reef needed to happen but in reality, it was the result of the decisions that are found at the bottom of a 45 1/2 oz. margarita.


  1. Introduction and Trip Planning
  2. LAX Oneworld First Class Lounge
  3. Qantas A380 LAX to SYD Economy
  4. Park Hyatt Sydney Part I
  5. Sydney Qantas Business Lounge
  6. Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas
  7. Exploring the Great Barrier Reef
  8. Cairns Qantas Club Lounge
  9. Park Hyatt Sydney Part II
  10. Exploring Sydney
  11. Sydney Qantas International First Class Lounge
  12. Qantas 747 SYD to LAX Economy

Our ‘margarita’ discussion revealed that a friend of mine and I shared a strong desire to visit the land down under with a specific goal of SCUBA diving the Great Barrier Reef before it deteriorates.  I strangely enjoy planning out award trips in my head even if I don’t intend to take them and fortunately Australia has been on my mind for a few years.  I was able to quickly propose a few cool hotels, airlines, and lounges off the top of my head that could be included in this trip and a mutual agreement was quite easy to arrive at.

The route we decided on would originate in Denver, stop in LAX briefly before taking the long haul to Sydney.  From there we would explore Sydney for a few days and fly up to Cairns, grab a rental car and drive to Port Douglas to SCUBA dive the Great Barrier Reef. After 5 nights near the reef, we would backtrack and spend a few more days in Sydney before returning home.  Because I was using two one way AA awards, I was able to consider a Hawaiian island as my final destination on the return one way which prices as the same as considering LAX my final destination.  It is always fun to see the puzzled look on someone’s face when you ask them which Hawaiian Island they want to go to for free as a result of your award trip to Australia.  We chose Maui though that trip will be covered separately.


The tally – Flights

For the international flights, I used 150k AA miles to redeem for two round trip tickets in Economy on Qantas from LAX to SYD. The tack-on flight on American Airlines to OGG is essentially at the cost of a few extra taxes. Taxes and surcharges came to 310 USD including a 50 USD telephone ticketing fee that I could not avoid if I wanted to add the free tickets to Maui.

For the US domestic flights, I used 10,920 Southwest Points and my Companion Pass for two round trip flights from DEN-LAX, where Qantas departs its A380’s from the US for SYD. Taxes and surcharges came to 10 USD.

For the Australian domestic flights, I used 40k Avios to redeem for  two round trip tickets in Economy on Qantas from SYD to CNS.  Taxes and surcharges came to 120 USD.

The tally – Hotels

For the Sydney hotels, I booked a two night stay at the Park Hyatt Sydney at the beginning of the trip and a three night stay at the end of the trip.  As a category 6 Hyatt hotel, I redeemed 22k Hyatt points per night or a total of 110k Hyatt points for the pleasure.

For the Port Douglas Hotels, I used SPG’s 5th Night Free benefit and booked 5 nights at the Category 5 Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas at a total cost of 48k SPG points.  In addition to using points, I used 5 Suite Night Upgrades to confirm a suite for all 5 nights.

The tally – Rental Car

For the rental car in Cairns/Port Douglas, I booked online using Alamo Rental Car serviced by Europcar. For five days in an automatic VW Jetta-equivalent, I paid 210 USD with all taxes included.

Miles and Points Game Motivating Factors

Aside from both wanting to visit Australia since we were young, there were a number of other frequent traveler motivating factors that I, as a points and miles fanatic, used to decide on taking this trip:

Motivation #1 – Fly the majestic A380.  A special thanks to Expert Flyer for getting us tickets on board.


Motivation #2 – Stay at the Park Hyatt Sydney, the hotel I now believe is the finest Hyatt in the world.


Motivation #3 – Visit Qantas International First Class, Business Class, and Club lounges while flying on Economy tickets as a oneworld Emerald member. 



My Frequent traveler motivating factors all delivered amazing experiences and then some though as with any trip, we ran into a few snags…..


….but in the end, the ability to try out a brand new airplane, exclusive lounges and world class hotels funded almost entirely by points and miles was an easy decision to make. IMG_3361

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed on this site are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed.

About alex

Alex loves to travel and does so a lot. Logging 100,000 flight miles each year over the past 4 years, Alex uses points and miles to power his passion. Alex is continuously striving to experience the far reaches of the globe. In his day job, Alex is a Management Consultant frequently on the road advising Technology organizations. I love thinking about, reading about, and talking about all things travel. Feel free to reach me at

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  1. Awesome report! I am going to Australia in February and staying at the Park Hyatt Sydney for 6 nights. Were those pictures from your actual room? I thouhgt reward nights at that hotel were only garden view rooms?

  2. @Charles – Excellent choice. Yes, the pictures are the real deal. This hotel will upgrade elite members up to an Opera Deluxe room, the room shown in the pictures. Most every room has a view of the Opera House.

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