Ground Transport: $5
Ground Transport: $5
AIRFARE- 62,500 miles + $51 instead of $10,431
For only 62,500 American Airlines miles and $51 in ticketing fees, I got a first-class seat on JAL that normally costs more than $10,431 each way. Frequent flyer programs are constantly changing, but for right now AA has a very attractive award chart for first-class trips to Asia. The redemption works out $0.17 per mile, an extremely attractive valuation, especially if you consider that even with a decent promotion of 35% off it only costs about $0.02 per mile to purchase them outright. I wrote a handy guide on how to book these types of awards with American Airlines.
THE MILES + POINTS
I signed up for Citi's Executive Aadvantage Card, a serious traveler's card that comes with a hefty $450/year fee and access to the Admiral's Club Lounges, along with a few other benefits. As of this writing, Citi is offering a promotional 75,000 mile bonus for meeting their initial spending criteria; more than enough for one ticket. (UPDATE: As of late 2016, this car now offers 50,000 miles as signup bonus).
When you're far from global hotel chains (like in Kyoto, where there's only a Hyatt Regency that's always booked and a few Crowne Plazas that are roughly the equivalent of Motel 6's) it's very useful to have a hotels.com account. Stay at any of their hotels, whether they are members of a global hotel network or not, and earn free nights. I stayed at the Crown Prince Kyoto, a local chain that was totally decent.
HOTEL- 10 stays = 1 free on hotels.com
GROUND TRANSPORT- Subway, $5
Kyoto has a simple and (somewhat) intuitive subway system (a decent guide can be found here). The price varies a bit by origin and destination, but
RESTAURANT- $45 Bento Box lunch
Though their lunch and dinner Kaiseki menus can run well over 20,o00 yen (~$200), the restaurant offers a very handsome and reasonably-priced lunch Bento Box for only 5,400.
Call far in advance (or, much easier: have your hotel concierge call to book) and make sure to specify the lunch bento box menu when booking.
GO MAKE THIS HAPPEN FOR YOURSELF
Have your hotel in Japan make the reservation with Hyotei
If you have any questions at all, contact me here. Would love to talk about this with you!