After months of research, I came to the conclusion I would have a more stress free vacation in China with Discovery Tours by Gate1. Discovery Tours is Gate1’s small group tour division with groups limited to 24 travelers.
I looked at many tours and while a river cruise would be relaxing, I opted for 3 nights in Tibet in lieu of the cruise. I can relax at home…I like to be very active on vacation. Also, will I ever have another opportunity to see Tibet?
The tour I selected, China and Tibet Discovery, is 14 days and limited to 22 travelers. With a small group, we are able to visit places larger groups cannot visit. As an example, we will be sharing lunch and taking a cooking lesson at a villager’s home in Donghan Village, Huxian County. (I’ll be an expert Chinese noodle maker when I return home.)
Gate1 can arrange flights from any gateway at excellent prices and also include airport transportation when you use their booking service. Because of Delta frequent flyers miles, I decided to book my own flights. I did chose Gate1’s optional airport transportation to make my journey to and from the hotel stress free.
I’ve been a fan of Delta’s frequent flyer program for many years and with the added perks of my Delta Skymiles Platinum American Express Card, it’s awesome. I basically have four choices when I book a flight through Delta.
- Cash – I can pay in cash
- Miles – I can pay with frequent flyer miles.
- Miles + Cash – I can pay with a combination of frequent flyer miles and cash.
- Miles at checkout – This is where the American Express perk comes into play. I can select a cash fare and at the final checkout screen, I can trade miles for cash.
I selected a flight from Richmond, Virginia to Shanghai and returning from Beijing with transfers in Detroit. Delta recently began adding the Airbus A350 to their fleet and lucky for me they replaced my route in April 2018. This new plane includes three classes, the Main Cabin (aka coach), Premium Select and Delta One. While I would love to have a Suite in Delta One ($6000), my budget was screaming “Main Cabin”. HOWEVER, I have 85,000 frequent flyer miles and a Delta Skymiles credit card. Could I afford a ticket in the new Premium Select cabin? This new cabin includes a foot rest, better seat recline, headphones, a larger entertainment screen AND a wine glass…I hate paper and plastic.
I first price a round trip ticket in the Main Cabin which is an amazing $687 including taxes or 68,000 miles plus $41 in taxes. If I convert 68,000 miles to cash (option 4), I would have $680 and only need to pay $7 in cash. If I used the same 68,000 to purchase a ticket with miles (option 2), I would pay $41 in taxes. I also looked at Miles + Cash (option 3) and did not consider it a bargain. I would use 53,000 miles and pay $321. At checkout 53,000 miles could be cashed in for $530 so it be like paying $851 for the ticket. After checking every option, I decide to use my Miles at Checkout.
If you are confused, I’m going to try confuse you even more. Another great option, you have with Delta, is the ability to select multiple seat classes on each flight segment. My biggest concern is the 14 hour flight to Shanghai from Detroit. I can upgrade this segment for about $200 which also includes a First Class upgrade from Richmond to Detroit. Upgrading my return flights is another $700 so I decide to suffer in Coach on the flight home but ride in comfort on my way to China. I cash in 80,000 miles for $800 and pay the balance in cash.
Sometimes it just takes patience. I check my flights on the Delta website every few weeks and one day out of the blue, the upgrade price for my return flight is $312. Hmmmm…I would not pay $700 but $300….YES – I get a foot rest and a real wine glass. It’s a bargain.
Stay tuned as I search for the perfect Camera Bag/Purse…more to come soon.