Travel hacking Hong Kong
Spending a week in Hong Kong for spring break this year, wasn’t going to happen without travel hacking. I talked about our reasons for spending spring break in Hong Kong here. And one of the main reasons was that the trip was hackable. To be fair, most trips can be made cheaper by the use of points and miles, but some more than others. Not to pat myself on the back, but I hit this one out of the park. Let’s get started…
1) Flights: After school let out on Friday, we flew on Southwest points to San Francisco in order to position ourselves for our direct flight to Hong Kong the next day. We used 52,000 points and only had to pay the fees on those flights which amounted to only $28 for our family of 5. From SFO-HKG direct one way flights on United were 200,000 United points and just $35 for all five of us as well. On the way home, I splurged a little with points and taxes and used 390,000 American Airlines miles to fly all of us on a combination of Cathay Pacific and America all the way home. Hubby flew in first class with the rest of us in business, so the taxes were a little more, at just over $240. I was sad to see the miles exit my account, but the lie flat beds, awesome food, and great service made getting home on Sunday night a little easier. So flights all together, we spent 642,000 miles and approximately $304. If I had purchased economy seats for all 5 of us we would have spent a minimum of $8500 based on current market price. In addition, the business class seats on the way home priced out at over $4000 one way per person, but since we would have flown in economy without the use of miles, I didn’t factor that in. Total savings on flights: at least $8,196.
2) Hotels: I didn’t know anything about hotels in Hong Kong and seriously tossed around renting a condo since with 5 of us, we would definitely need two rooms in Asia. Just like most of Europe, the maximum occupancy in a room is 3 people. But I was sitting on A LOT of IHG points from a crazy mail in promotion I entered and a raffle I won a few years before. Over the years, I’d seen great photos of the view from the Intercontinental in Hong Kong on Salisbury Road. So, I used 240,000 IHG Points (almost all I had) for the first two nights in two standard rooms. The last four nights in two harbor view rooms, I paid for with 240,000 ultimate rewards points through the Chase travel site. Average price of a harbor view room was over $400/night. Prior to our trip, I achieved IHG Platinum status just by having the IHG credit card. Upon check in, they converted our first two nights in a standard room to a harbor view for the whole week so we wouldn’t have to move ($200 total value). They also waived the nightly fee for a rollaway bed in our kids room ($300 total value). The front desk staff stated these were all in order to thank me for my platinum status. Our status was mentioned several times throughout our experience in the hotel, so even if I only keep the credit card in a drawer, it was worth it. So our total for the week with those extras would have been well over $5000. Total savings on hotel: $5500.
3) Food: This one is harder to quantify savings. Food in the airport is expensive so we saved money by eating in airport lounges as much as we could. Several credit cards offer Priority Pass airport lounge access as a benefit and we used it as much as we could. Most food tours include history about the city and the food as you walk around, so I consider that a 2 for 1 deal. Food tours are usually in the afternoon, so we eat a late breakfast, skip lunch, and the food tour is dinner. Our platinum status at the hotel included a welcome gift of fruit in both rooms. So we had a healthy snack before bed on the food tour day. The hotel also gave us one drink voucher for every person in our party. So, we used them for drinks in the lounge and had appetizers for dinner instead of heading out to some fancy meal. Street food is everywhere in Hong Kong and it didn’t take long for the kids to love some of the egg waffles and wonton soup we saw everywhere. On the flip side, we ate breakfast at the hotel most mornings and it wasn’t cheap. But it definitely filled up my teenage boys so much that they were barely hungry for lunch when we were out and about. If I had to do it all over again I would pay a little extra on the front end to have breakfast included in our room rate. For us, in Asia it made the rest of the day easier. Lesson learned. Total savings hard to calculate but at least $200.
4) Transportation: The great thing about big cities like Hong Kong is the public transportation system. We each got Octopus cards and loaded them up for the week. They are good for use on buses, ferries and the subway. They require a $50 deposit, that is returned with any remaining balance when you turn in your card when you are finished. The customer service booths were everywhere (unlike NYC, I feel like) and easy to understand. Although we usually just used a machine if we needed to add money to the cards. To and from the airport we used Blacklane. There is something great about getting off a long flight, thru customs and seeing your name on a poster. With tax and tip included in the charge on your credit card, there is nothing to fumble with as you get to your hotel late at night with jet lag. With 5 people, we didn’t want to have to take 2 taxis, so I think this decision expedited the process. After checking out the local competition on price, there just wasn’t a big enough difference to try another company. We’ll definitely use them again in the future.
5) Credit card/ Phone fees: These small fees are often overlooked. Do not use a credit card in Hong Kong (or any foreign country) that charges a foreign transaction fee. Just take the ones that charge fees out of your wallet and leave them at home. Always pay in the foreign currency, in this case, the Hong Kong dollar. The exchange rate from your credit card company will be much better than the gift shop in country. Don’t forget to sign up for the international calling plan for the country you are visiting. We’ve had this done before we left and cancelled the service as soon as we got home. Without it, that call or text will cost way more than you thought. Some of my travel blogger friends swear by T-mobile with free international roaming, so you might want to check that out.
So there it is. We had a high end trip and saved a minimum of $14,000! This trip was a little special than most of our others, so we kind of went all out on some points and miles redemptions because of it. But we think it was totally worth it! It also allowed us to spend a little more on shopping, tours and excursions as well. Hong Kong has a wide variety of accommodations, transportation and activities at every price point. So don’t let price deter you from such a vibrant city!
Note: This post wasn’t sponsored and the links within it are for your convenience and NOT affiliate links of any kind. As always, all opinions are my own. And the photos too!