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When friends who want to start traveling abroad ask me for a good place to start, I always recommend Sydney. Although it’s a long way away, the city feels enough like home for newer travelers to feel comfortable exploring, while still being dynamic enough to allow the more experienced to find something new and exciting each time they visit. Here are my best tips for getting to Sydney and making the most of your stay there with points and miles.
The aptly named Sydney Airport (SYD) is the island nation’s busiest, averaging more than 100,000 passengers each day. Despite it being a major world city, if you’re in the US, you can only fly nonstop from Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Dallas (DFW) and Honolulu (HNL). And get ready for a long flight: the shortest, from Honolulu, runs almost 10.5 hours, while the longest, from Dallas, is a whopping 16 hours and 50 minutes. The good news is once you arrive, the city center is about five miles away and easily accessible by train.
Note that redemption costs vary greatly, as does award availability. Book with American Airlines to fly nonstop from LA or on Qantas to fly nonstop from LA, Dallas, San Francisco or Honolulu with MileSAAver awards starting at 40,000 AAdvantage miles one-way in economy, 80,000 one-way in business class and 110,000 one-way in first class.
United, on the other hand, flies nonstop from LA and San Francisco, with huge differences in one-way Saver and Standard award redemptions: 40,000 to 85,000 for economy and 70,000 to 175,000 for business or first, adding 10,000 to 20,000 when both business and first are offered. Keep an eye out for occasional sales with reduced redemption costs.
Coming in from Hawaii? Consider Hawaiian Airlines’ nonstop flight to Sydney, with one-way SuperSavers for 40,000 HawaiianMiles in coach and 65,000 for a First Class Saver. Jetstar also has nonstop flights from Honolulu via Qantas Points, but its award calculator is not available to US residents on the Qantas website and putting in sample dates showed only availability on Qantas.
While Delta doesn’t publish an award chart, a brief search showed availability one-way starting at 45,000 SkyMiles for economy and 175,000 for business, on both Delta and Virgin Australia flights from Los Angeles. A better way to get on Virgin Australia’s flight from LAX might be to use 40,000 Virgin America Elevate points for a round-trip flight in economy, 60,000 in business or 80,000 in first. The only downside is you can’t redeem these points online; you have to call to book.
Where to Stay
If you’re a member of the World of Hyatt, you’re familiar with the chain’s hotel categories and may have wondered how nice a Category 7 hotel must be — you’ll get the chance to find out at the Park Hyatt Sydney. For about $697 or 30,000 World of Hyatt points per night, a room can be yours at this five-star property right along beautiful Sydney Harbour.
Like your luxury for less? How does free grab you? Use the Anniversary Free Night from your IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card to snag a night at one of the brand’s many appealing properties in Sydney. Choose anywhere from a stately hotel like the InterContinental Sydney, normally about $224 or 40,000 IHG Rewards points per night, or the Holiday Inn Old Sydney, located in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, starting at $209 or 35,000 IHG Rewards points per night.
Is the shadow of the bridge too far for you? How about staying along it? Pier One, Sydney Harbour is an Autograph Collection boutique hotel situated next to the south pylon. Book this Category 8 Marriott property from $222 or 40,000 Marriott Rewards points per night.
For a more mid-level treat, Starwood offers The Westin Sydney, with its stunning artistic lobby and Sheraton on the Park, with a rooftop swimming pool, with rates at each starting at $213 or 12,000 Starpoints per night.
Budget redemptions at chain hotels are hard to come by close to the Central Business District, so consider using Chase Ultimate Rewards to book a hotel. I found The Bayswater Sydney hotel, with a high rating on TripAdvisor, available for just $81 or 6,414 Ultimate Rewards points per night.
Sydney has a vast and modern public transportation system, mixing trains, buses and ferries. Almost every mode of public transportation requires an Opal Card, which you can find at any convenience or grocery store — top it off with your Chase Sapphire Reserve Card so you can get 3x Ultimate Rewards points for the travel purchase. Whether you’re going to the airport, the beach or the park, your Opal card and Sydney’s award-winning transit system can get you there. One caveat: Many of the trains stop running at midnight, so plan accordingly.
One of the best — and least-expensive — ways to appreciate Sydney is by ferry. My pick: Take the ferry to Manly and return around sunset. The journey takes about 20 minutes each way from Circular Quay and it’s nearly impossible to take a bad picture of the skyline, the Opera House or the Harbour Bridge.
Taxis can be pricey but fortunately Uber is available all over the city. And while it doesn’t have Lyft to compete with here, a newer service called GoCatch is Aussie-owned and allows riders to earn points with Qantas.
Finally, consider seeing the city by bicycle. Sydney’s topography is rather flat and makes for excellent biking, either on your own or with a tour — my trip with Bonza Bike Tours was one of the highlights of my visit.
Sydney is a vibrant and friendly city, enjoyable as quick stopover on your way to other parts of the South Pacific or as a destination in its own right. And while it can take a long time — and a lot of points and miles — to get there, you’ll find plenty of ways to make your visit affordable no matter which programs you use. Whether you’re new to traveling, new to points and miles or new to neither, any day in Sydney is a g’day.
What are some of your best tips and tricks for saving in Sydney with points and miles? Sound off, below.
Featured image by AtomicZen/Getty Images.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees