Thursday, July 24, 2014

Australia Day 1--Qantas flight 8 DFW-BNE (Dallas to Brisbane)

Australia series

Australia Day 1--Qantas flight 8 DFW-BNE (Dallas to Brisbane)
Australia Day 2--Flight to Sydney, the Westin Sydney hotel & sightseeing
Australia Days 3/4--Hunter Valley & the Blue Mountains
Australia Day 5--Sydney sightseeing and Manly Beach
Australia Day 6--Paddy's Market, Bondi to Coogee Walk & Darling Harbour
Australia Day 7--Sydney to Cairns, Holiday Inn Cairns & the Cairns Esplanade 
Australia Day 8--The Great Barrier Reef  
Australia Day 9--Kuranda Koala Gardens, Skyrail & Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
Australia Day 10--Daintree Rainforest & Cape Tribulation 
Australia Day 11--Going home, Part 1, Cairns to Brisbane 
Australia Day 11--Going home, Part 2, Brisbane to Honolulu 


In July 2014, I took my dream trip to Australia. Many people are deterred from going to Australia because it is so far away and because it can be very expensive. I will detail what I did everyday and talk about how I stayed on my set budget of $1,000, which includes all meals, transportation and activities for 11 days.

The Flight

The first key, and probably most important, to traveling cheap is to not pay for a flight. Well, award flights to Australia in business or first class are extremely tough to get, especially if you're trying to book multiple tickets, like for a family. You basically need to book as soon as the schedule opens (330 days in advance). Luckily, I only needed a ticket for myself, but availability was still pretty limited. I noticed coach availability was fairly open, but that wasn't what I wanted for such a long flight. One thing that probably helped me was that I was going in July, which is winter in Australia. I think it would have been tougher to find a seat if going November-January.

Anyhow, I was able to locate and book my flights in October 2013, using 125,000 American AAdvantage miles for round-trip business class. I accumulated the miles through credit card sign up bonuses, credit card spending & doing many different AA miles promos. It cost me $153.30 in taxes.

On my travel day, I arrived at the airport only about 90 minutes early. Check-in was very easy and the security line was short and moved quickly. I headed straight to the Qantas lounge in Terminal D. I wished I had more time to spend in the lounge, but grabbed a few snacks & glass of wine, and soon they were calling for boarding. The gate area was very busy, but I got to stand in the boarding line for business class. When I stepped on the plane, a 747-400, the flight attendant looked at my boarding pass, pointed the way & said "you have the best seat in the house." "That's what I hoped," I replied.

 I was absolutely thrilled with my seat, 5J. It was an aisle & window all in one.

Lots of storage space
Tons of leg room

Lie-flat bed
Nice Kate Spade bag amenity kit

I enjoyed a pre-departure glass of champagne while studying the menu. I looked around at the other folks in business class. I wondered did they pay $7,000+ for tickets or do they know the free flights "secret" like me. Or maybe they got an inexpensive upgrade from economy tickets??

Dinner options (click to enlarge)
Beverages (click to enlarge)

My first pair of airline pajamas!

After the seatbelt sign was off, I headed to the lavatory to put on my jammies :)

Dinner was the only snafu. Before take-off, I had requested the chicken schnitzel when the FA came around to take orders.  Shortly after take-off, I was served bread, green leaf salad & champagne.

Bread, salad and champagne
I watched as others around me got their main course. I got nothing. Finally, the FA noticed & gave me my meal. I'm a picky eater, but I ate a few bites.

Chicken schnitzel
 For dessert, I got the orange savarin (sponge cake) with vanilla ice cream.

Orange savarin
After dinner it was lights out. It was time to get some shut-eye. I put "Skyfall" on the IFE (in-flight entertainment) because for some reason this movie always puts me to sleep after 15-20 minutes. I slept comfortably, waking up off and on. Periodically, I checked the flight path to see where we were.

Flight path on the IFE screen

Breakfast came out about two hours before we reached Brisbane (I noticed the Aussies pronounce it like Briz-bin).

Mmmm crispy bacon, just the way I like it

All-in-all, it was a fantastic flight. Definitely not a bad way to spend 16 hours. The seat was amazing. The flight attendants were pleasant and friendly.

Goodbye big jumbo jet

This is my second trip to fly international business class (last year I flew United BusinessFirst & Lufthansa business to & from Italy). I really appreciate that miles & points gives me the chance to experience luxury at a low price.


  1. I love this. Great feedback on your flight experience. Following your posts and seeing your photos makes me want to travel more especially venturing outside of the U.S. great travels on a budget. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Sunbird! I'm glad you are enjoying my posts. Hope there is an exciting trip in the near future for you.