How I Paid $875 Total for 4 Roundtrip Flights to Asia

International flights are normally the biggest cost of any travel budget. And when you’re traveling to Asia from the U.S. during the peak summer months, those flights can be an even bigger burden.

Sometimes all it takes is a little creativity and good timing to save a lot of money on flights. This was the case for our flights to Asia in July. Our trip includes stops in:

  1. Hangzhou, China
  2. Seoul, Korea
  3. Osaka, Japan
  4. Nara, Japan
  5. Kyoto, Japan

Grand total for all these flights is $875 for our family of four!

How did I do it? 

I booked our flights on points. Through United, I booked 4 roundtrip flights from San Francisco and back with a free stopover in Seoul. Each ticket costed 70,000 points and $60 for taxes and fees.

Total: $240

How did I get 280,000 in United points?

I signed up for two Chase Sapphire Reserve cards (one for myself and one for my wife) with a 100,000 signup bonus each. Along with my accumulated points on United, I had enough to book the tickets.

For our Seoul to Osaka flight, I paid an average of $159 per ticket for our one-way tickets on Orbitz.

Total: $635

The cost for comparable roundtrip tickets just from SFO to Hangzhou, China is about $1,000. At minimum, I saved over $3,000 for our tickets by booking with miles. Add a stopover in Korea and my savings is somewhere around $4,000. Note that I booked the United mileage flights in December for a trip in July, as availability for these mileage flights already was very limited at the time.

Since I saved approximately $4,000 on our airplane tickets, we can use that money elsewhere, whether it’s paying for hotels, Airbnbs, food, or entertainment costs while we’re in Asia.

How do you save money on flights and other travel costs? 


Cliff Hsia is a writer, husband, and father, who is determined to live a better than normal life by traveling the world, slowly and purposefully, with his wife and two young daughters. His writing has been featured on MSN, TODAY, The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and other publications. He writes about travel, parenting, and lifestyle design.