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Anybody have any experience with www.awardplanner.com???

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Feb 9th, 2004, 12:22 PM
  #1
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Anybody have any experience with www.awardplanner.com???

I just shelled out $100 to this company that is a self-proclaimed expert at finding frequent flier seats.

I am hoping that they can pull a rabbit out of their hat and find me a frequent flier business class seat from Los Angeles to Europe to South Africa for late May, 2004 (3.5 months away). If so, I would go from possibly paying $4,000 USD for economy class to $0 + around 240,000 frequent flier miles for business class. Business Class seats would be around $15,000 USD, so it is worth the $100 gamble.

The only downside is that www.awardplanner allows itself 5 business days before getting back with an answer. Glad I contacted them on Monday.

So, anybody here have any success with Awardplanner.com??? Thanks.
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Feb 9th, 2004, 12:25 PM
  #2
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By the way, South Africa would only be so that I could get to Maun, Botswana or remotely possible to Harare, Zimbabwe.

If I cannot find anything to Johannesburg, my next choices would be to Kiliminjaro (Tanzania), Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) or possibly even Lusaka (Zambia).
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Feb 9th, 2004, 02:31 PM
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I'm watching this space because I'm a bit incredulous that they can finding something that you can't. Sure, for someone unwilling or unable to do the research, their service may be worthwhile. But you seem to leave no stone unturned. I hope I'm wrong but I can't believe they are more creative or clever than you.
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Feb 9th, 2004, 02:36 PM
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thit cho,

My problem is that I do not have the time to wait on hold for the airline reps each time, and they never seem to give me more than about 10-15 minutes of their time. Half the time, I am on hold for 10+ minutes before I can even speak to a rep and I usually get nowhere.

It is definitely worth the gamble and I am keeping my fingers (and toes!) crossed!

What a score it would be to fly business class for the majority of my upcoming trip.
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Feb 9th, 2004, 05:11 PM
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AwardPlanner is a company started by Randy Peterson, frequent flyer guru. He is also the owner of FlyerTalk.com, a great place for FFers to get together and share ideas, advice and information. The company is very reputable, but don't expect them to find something that's not there to begin with. They do not have access to any extra seats. It's their knowledge of the programs that makes them successful in many, many cases.

Just curious, but since you're flying from the west coast, why fly through Europe to get to South Africa? Why not fly through Asia? It wouldn't be that much longer, and it will open options for you, unless Europe is a stop over.
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Feb 9th, 2004, 05:25 PM
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Roccco:

I had no problem at all getting two business class tickets on American Airlines that goes from Detroit to LA (through Chicago) then from LA to Hong Kong for a 3 night stay over on Cathay Pacific, and from there to Jo'berg. Hate to say it but only cost me 56.00 USD and 100,000 miles per ticket. They have of course increased the air miles needed to fly to Jo'berg but the idea I had was to go through Asia, see Hong Kong, and then on to Africa. I didnt have to be on the phone for more then 10 minutes, got the times/dates we needed. Never had a problem with American Airlines. As AA ff said check all routes and airline partners out. Head to the ff boards and ask questions. For 56 dollars a ticket who can beat that? Hope it goes well for you and good luck! Let me know how you make out.
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Feb 9th, 2004, 08:49 PM
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AAFrequentFlyer:

Unfortunately, the priority of all my trip planning centers around an obligatory little 9 night Insight tour of Italy. To make it more comfortable for myself, I am planning on 3-4 nights in Prague beforehand and 9 nights in Southern Africa or possibly even Tanzania afterward.

Taking South African Airways out of the mix really makes it more difficult but hopefully I can still accomplish my task of getting at least a portion of my trip on business class with my frequent flier points.

Wulfstan:

I can get creative with the best of them, but as I explained above, I need to go to Europe beforehand.

I have a feeling that, worst case scenario, that I may be able to find a Business Class seat on the London-Lusaka (Zambia) flight. I also need to do more research on airlines that fly directly into Harare (Zimbabwe) or Lilongwe (Malawi). Lilongwe is actually closer to South Luangwa than Lusaka. The only reason I knew about British Airways direct flight to Lusaka was because last year at Kafunta (South Luangwa), my wife and I made friends with a British couple whom had taken that same flight.

I will take a ticket to anywhere reasonable...Nairobi, Dar Es Salaam, Kiliminjaro, Harare, Lilongwe, Johannesburg, etc.

You did a remarkable job on the Detroit-Los Angeles-Hong Kong-Johannesburg flight for $56 and 100,000 miles. Surely that would have been a $15,000+ ticket in business class. I am starting to think, however, that those that I see in business class NEED those seats to recover from all the research and advance planning that was necessary to sit in those seats!

I cannot believe that although I have already done perhaps 90% of my research on the game lodges I wish to stay that I still have a few more sleepless nights ahead with this airfare thing. Worst case I will just have to eat it and buy economy class seats throughout, spending perhaps $4,000 - $4,500 that I wouldn't have to spend otherwise.
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Feb 10th, 2004, 02:00 AM
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I'm not saying that paying $100 to AwardPlanner is such a bad idea, but I agree with Wulfstan, it's not that difficult to score one of these tickets. This Friday I'm flying in First on AA and Cathay Pacific on the following routing: TPA-DFW-LAX-HKG-JNB with a stop over in HKG on the way back. I picked up the phone, called AA in August and within 15 minutes I was booked and ticketed for 140K miles and $56. About a month later I added a side trip in business on BA from JNB to NBO, and again it took about 10 minutes on the phone with AA. And finally, only about a month ago I added another side trip in business on CX from HKG to SIN, and again it took about 10 minutes on the phone. Personally I find that these long haul premium class trips are easier to book, only because there is not much competition for these award seats.

AwardPlanners will take good care of you. If there are seats available the will find it for you.

BTW, your trip sounds great. Almost like mine , except I'm going in the opposite direction!

Good Luck!
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Feb 10th, 2004, 04:52 AM
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Well...I didn't sleep today but I did find a frequent flier flight from New York - Johannesburg on Virgin Atlantic in Premium Economy section. That has to have a mandatory stopover in London and from the research that I have done, it shows that I should be able to have 12 nights in Europe (three in Prague and nine in Italy) and still have a reward seat to Joburg and back. Even if I have to buy my airfare to New York, I will have saved a ton of money.

Luckily I have unused tickets to New York that are still valid. I just have to pay $50 per ticket alteration fee and just make up whatever the cost difference of the tickets is.

Unfortunately I am too exhausted to be excited but this was a VERY LONG night...probably signed up to five different programs and finally found what I needed on Virgin Atlantic. Hopefully I can use my American Express Membership Rewards Points here or else I would be really bummed out.

Good morning and good night!
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Feb 10th, 2004, 07:06 AM
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Virgin does not directly participate in American Express Membership Rewards (at least its not listed on the current website), but Delta does, and you can move Membership Rewards to Delta and then use your Delta Skymiles to book on Virgin. If this succeeds, I will send you a bill for only $90 (yes, $10 less than what Randy Peterson charges). I may even be willing to drop down to $80. I think this is what those who play the milage game do -- they know how to transfer miles to one airline to book on another. Good luck. If Delta doesn't work, maybe Continental does (I'm not as familiar with their program but you can chech their website).
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Feb 10th, 2004, 11:03 AM
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thit cho,

Yeah...I guess my only chance is probably getting air to a European gateway and then getting myself over to Africa.

I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially the South Luangwa variety of horses. I have been offered amazing discounts by both Kaingo and even Star Of Africa at their two best camps (Puku Ridge and Kulefu Tented Camp), but I still have Botswana running through my mind.

Doesn't this sound awesome:
Kwando Lagoon (3)
Duba Plains (3)
Kwando Kwara (3)
Transfers would be fairly simple but they all look like great places and would allow me to make a comparison between Kwando and WS.
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Feb 10th, 2004, 12:04 PM
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I've been following your posts, and I'm hoping that you decide to visit Botswana. In my experience, a repeat visit, at least so close in time, is not as rewarding as the initial visit, and I know you visited South Luangwa last year. The Okavango Delta, and the Linyanti Conscession (I stayed at Savuti Camp, a Wilderness lodge), are special places and are very different than South Luangwa. Plus there's a great chance to see wild dogs, which are very rare (some estimate only 3,500 to 5,000 left in Africa) and a lot of fun -- they don't spend as much of the day sleeping as the cats. Plus you may get some water activities in the delta, like mokoro or boat trips. Is there any chance to add a couple of days at Chobe? The Chobe River is the only place in southern Africa where I saw game in the large numbers I saw in the Masai Mara.
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Feb 10th, 2004, 02:42 PM
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Thit Cho,

Trust me, I am very heavily leaning towards Botswana. Unfortunately, I really do have a maximum of 9 nights to spend. The funny thing is that this will be my shortest trip yet but I will end up spending more time in the bush than I have on any previous trip!

I remember after my first visit that I found it strange that some people spent 2-3 weeks straight on safari with little or no time in Cape Town. Well, as lovely as Cape Town is, it is not Cape Town that finds its way into my dreams and at times, my every thought.

While I am sure that Chobe is great, I have a pretty good deal lined up with Kwando for about $3,000 USD pp for a 9 night safari and that includes my air from Johannesburg and all transfers. That works out to $667 per night and that is an excellent rate for Botswana when you consider that everything is included and that Kwando looks like a first class operation.

If anybody wants to pose as my brother/sister/cousin whatever to visit Puku Ridge or Kaingo in South Luangwa, I will play along to help you get a 50% off rate!

South Luangwa is such a great place, but as you suggest, Thit Cho, it will not be as special when I am visiting for a second consecutive year. That is what I experienced with the Sabi Sand. I fell into the same trap as many newbies do and thought that Sabi Sand MUST be the best after my first visit to Singita. I swear I will never return to Singita again when there are so many other more genuine places out there beyond the borders of South Africa. I mean, seriously, take that same $1,900 USD per night per room and spend 5 nights in South Luangwa at a couple different camps. Don't be scared of the Africans and surround yourself with Europeans! (stepping off my soapbox)

Thit Cho, I think your hopes will come true and I will most likely visit Botswana, even though I cannot believe that I am turning down the deals that I am to South Luangwa. But, it is Botswana that is calling out to me right now, not South Luangwa. South Luangwa would still run a firm second though. For whatever reason I just cannot "get into" East Africa yet. Its just not calling out to me yet, but I'm sure its time will come.
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Feb 11th, 2004, 06:28 AM
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Your Botswana itinerary looks great. There was recently a show on National Geographic called Be the Creature, and the hosts followed lions successfully hunting baby elephants in Botswana, and I believe it was filmed in Kwando (which was written on the door panels of the vehicles).

I have traveled pretty widely, and I find that repeat visits so close in time, be it a city, museum, restaurant, etc., are usually not as great as my initial visit. I have been on safari the last five years, and my only repeated country is Kenya, and even there I visited a different national park. My only other "repeat" in Africa has been diving with great white sharks near Cape Town because that was tremendous.

These are the parks and years I visited so you can see how I spread things out:

August 1999 -- Kenya (Masai Mara and Amboseli) and Tanzania (Ngorongoro and Serengeti)

May 2000 -- Kruger and Sabi Sands

August 2001 -- Botswana (Okavango, Linyanti and Chobe), Zambia (South Luangwa) and Malawi (Lake Malawi)

August 2002 -- Swaziland (Mkhaya) and Namibie (Etosha and Namib-Naukluft)

August 2003 -- Uganda (Queen Elizabeth and Bwindi), Rwanda (Parc Nacional Volcans) and Kenya (Samburu)

I think the only major safari country I have missed is Zimbabwe -- although I have been to Vic Falls and Harare, I haven't been to Hwange or Mana Pools, so that's likely my next safari.

But now that I've covered a lot of Africa, we are looking for other wildlife encounters. This Christmas we visited the Galapagos (great, but not as interesting as Africa), and we may visit Churchill to see polar bears in October.
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Feb 11th, 2004, 12:09 PM
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Thit Cho,

You really burst my bubble with that news about Virgin Atlantic! I had personally given up right there but I guess that's why I pay www.awardplannner the big bucks.

DRUMROLL PLEASE..........

I am the proud new owner of two Premier class seats for two from JFK-London-Johannesburg-JFK!!!

I have an 11 night stopover in London, allowing me to proceed to Prague for three nights and then shaving my final night off in Rome (big deal) so that I can connect with my 9PM flight to Johannesburg!

Retail value for this wonderful flight for two fat Americans is...$6,000 USD.

Now I am in heavy negotiations with my better half to try and negotiate my way to Botswana and losing badly, but I may have a good chance at South Luangwa/Lower Zambezi/Victoria Falls. At least Lower Zambezi would be new to me. Puku Ridge in SL looks almost as nice as Singita and Kulefu Tented Camp (another Star Of Africa property) looks almost as nice as The Sausage Tree Camp nearby and is usually similiarly priced to the STC except that I am getting a much better rate through the lodge directly.

About Botswana, I would still love to go there and I may still go, but for the time being, I would say South Luangwa/Lower Zambezi/Victoria Falls is in the lead. The alteration of leaving for JNB a day early does allow for one extra night, or 10 nights in total. I think 4 nights Puku Ridge, 3 nights Kulefu Tented Camp and 3 nights Stanley and Livingstone in Victoria Falls would be pretty nice.
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Feb 11th, 2004, 12:32 PM
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Roccco, this may be too late for you, but Iberia has good fares to SA, From NY to Jhb via Madrid return, I am paying $480+ tax (about $90.) I'm not sure how much extra it is to fly from LA to Madrid but not much more, I believe.
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Feb 11th, 2004, 03:19 PM
  #17
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Waverly,

No such luck on my late May possible dates and mid June returns. $1,309pp for the date I want, but had I been able to get it for under about $800, I would've held onto my AMEX Membership Reward points for another time.

It will cost me 112,500 miles per person for JFK-London, London-JNB and JNB-JFK. I should have my batteries recharged enough to charge a hopeful January, 2005, trip to India.

Thanks for the suggestion.
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Feb 12th, 2004, 06:08 AM
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I'm very glad that Awardplanner was successful, but I'm curious -- what did they do that you or I couldn't do for ourselves? Did they move Amex miles --> Delta --> Virgin, or did they come up with a more clever or direct means to move Amex miles to Virgin? In any event, looks like you got a great deal.
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Feb 12th, 2004, 06:52 AM
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Thit Cho,

What they did was they advised me not to listen to misinformed people on forum boards who say that Virgin Atlantic is not partners with American Express. Just kidding.

What they really did, I suppose, was help me get motivated enough, not wanting to be outdone by any mortal, to finally, personally, do the necessary work only to pass it along to them. I just could not motivate myself,for months, until the other night, to spend the necessary time and effort on finding a trip.

In the end, I would say it was about a 6-8 hour effort that will paid off.
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Feb 12th, 2004, 07:06 AM
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Great news. Its always satisfying when you are actually able to convert miles to something tangible. You're also very lucky. Several weeks ago I tried to use Delta SkyMiles to book a flight to J'burg for August, and the biz class tix were all gone, and there was very limited availability in coach. I'm still debating in my head where to go on safari this Summer, or whether to go someplace else. I've now been on safari for five years in a row, and maybe a different Summer vacation will be worthwhile.

Anyway, can't contemplate Summer vacation now since we are leaving for Paris in nine hours and I'm working with Amex Concierge service to try to get into one of the Michelin 3-star restaurants. I guess I shouldn't have left it until now.
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