How to Travel More and Pay Less: North America to Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific

One of the most elusive continents to get to (aside from Antarctica) is Oceania, which includes countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Papa New Guinea among others. The biggest (and most obvious) reason is simply that it is located very far away from the rest of the world. Flights from Southeast Asia, for example, are a minimum of 5 hours.

That said, due to its low population density and relatively large surface area, Oceania boasts some of the most beautiful and untouched natural landscapes in the world. If you ever have two weeks off - I highly suggest spending some of it in Oceania. The flight is worth it, I promise!

I’ll be focusing mainly on Australia and New Zealand as they are usually the “gateway” to the other countries, and specifically Sydney and Auckland.

Last Updated: February 21, 2020

Disclaimer: Some of the links below are referral links, which means I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. This post is not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned. All opinions are my own.

Flights: An Overview

If you’re flying out of North America, there aren’t a lot of options for non-stop flights unless you live in a city on the West Coast. As a result, you will likely end up with at least one stop on the West Coast or in Asia.

Within North America, your entry point to Oceania is likely going to be Sydney, Melbourne or Auckland. This means you’re flying through the following cities:
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco (Sydney & Auckland only)
  • Vancouver (Sydney & Auckland only)
  • Dallas (Sydney only)
  • Houston (Auckland only)
  • Honolulu
I wouldn't recommend flying through Asia to get to Oceania as you're adding 10-15h to your flight time, which is 10-15h you don't get to spend sightseeing! In my opinion, getting to Oceania through Asia is only worth it if a) you plan on being in Asia anyway or b) you’re trying to fly business class (more on that later).

Another point to keep in mind for planning your Oceania trip is that the seasons work slightly differently down there. In Australia, it’s warm from November to February, and coldest during June to August. New Zealand is very similar, although somewhat colder than places like Sydney.

Now that we’ve covered options of getting there, we can get into how to save money on flights.

Flights (Economy Class)

Flying from North America to Sydney or Auckland probably tops the list of most uncomfortable flights in Economy. Los Angeles to Sydney is 15 hours, and when they say 15 hours they MEAN the full. FIFTEEN. HOURS.

I personally found it quite torturous and I was by no means the fattest or tallest person on that flight.

That said, I’d probably do it again if I could get it for the same price. When looking up flights, I found that one-way tickets in late November-ish (right before American Thanksgiving) were pretty reasonable. As an example, my one-way from Toronto to Sydney with a layover in Los Angeles was around $562 per person.

Flights during the summer months (December to February) are quite expensive, while flights during the winter months tend to be lower. Late November is a sweet spot when the weather is nice (not too hot), and prices are reasonable.

Otherwise, there have been some sub-$1000 deals to Sydney and Auckland. Here are some that I’ve seen recently from YYZ Deals:


The programs I'll be focusing on are Aeroplan and Alaska Mileage Plan, as there are more options for accumulating points.

For Aeroplan, you could redeem travel rewards points for economy class, but it's not really good value for points. One-way tickets start at 45,000 miles + fuel surcharges, which means you'll get a better "return on points" if you manage to snag a good deal around $600 cash one-way.

For Alaska, you can redeem one-way tickets for 40,000 Alaska miles + $99 USD, which doesn't seem like a bad deal on the surface. However, most of these flights involve at least 2 stops (unless you're based out of Los Angeles or San Francisco already). The great thing about Alaska rewards is that you can build in a free stopover, and the flights are usually structured such that you're spending a night in Los Angeles anyway. However, if you weren't really planning on visiting the City of Angels and are able to snag a one-way ticket under $700-800 CAD, then you're better off paying cash rather than using your points.

Alternatively, you can save up your points for...

Flights (Business Class)

Here's where it gets interesting. You will almost never find error fares or deals on business class to Oceania, because it's the route that EVERYONE wants to fly business class on. There are plenty of people willing to pay a healthy premium for business class - tickets typically start at $5,000 CAD.

As a result, you will need to resort to points for the lay-flat seat experience to stretch your trip budget.


Program: Aeroplan

Points Required: 160,000 Aeroplan miles round trip or 90,000 one-way + as low as ~$75 fuel surcharge

How to Book:

How to Maximize Your Points: You will need to find a Star Alliance airline that flies to Sydney or Auckland, which are the two most serviced airports in this region.

Air Canada does fly Vancouver to Sydney/Auckland, but you'll end up paying $300+ each way in carrier surcharges.

To avoid carrier surcharges, look for the following airlines:
  • Air New Zealand (look for YVR-AKL routes)
  • Air India (look for YYZ-DEL-SYD routes)
  • EVA Air (look for connections through TPE and SIN to PER)
  • United Airlines (look for connections through LAX and SFO)
Here are examples of one-way business class flights from Toronto to Oceania with low fuel surcharges:

EVA Air & Singapore Airlines - Toronto to Perth for 80,000 Aeroplan miles + $79.26 CAD

Air Canada & United Airlines - Toronto to Auckland for 80,000 miles + $132.96

Although you need to be a little flexible with dates and destinations when it comes to award flights, you really need to be flexible if you're traveling to Oceania, simply because there aren't a ton of flights going back and forth from North America every day. Figure out the dates the flights are available first, then plan your trip around those dates.

How to Earn Points:
  • Fly with Air Canada or partner airlines (e.g. United)
  • Sign up for the American Express Platinum Card (Personal and/or Business) and convert points to Aeroplan miles
  • Sign up for the American Express Gold Rewards Card (Personal and/or Business) and convert points to Aeroplan miles
  • Sign up for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card (Personal and/or Business) and convert points to Aeroplan miles in 60,000 point chunks to get an extra 5,000 mile bonus = 25,000 Aeroplan miles
  • Sign up for the American Express Cobalt Card and convert points to Marriott points, then convert to Aeroplan miles in 60,000 point chunks to get an extra 5,000 miles bonus = 25,000 Aeroplan miles
  • Sign up for the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite and/or Platinum Cards to earn Aeroplan miles directly (PSA: If you sign up for a TD All-Inclusive bank account, you can get the annual fee waived)
  • Sign up for the CIBC Aerogold Visa PrivilegeCIBC Aerogold Visa Infinite, and/or CIBC Aero Platinum Visa to earn Aeroplan miles directly
There are other cards by TD, CIBC and American Express that do earn Aeroplan miles directly, but have higher annual fees / minimum spends than the ones listed above.

    Program: Alaska Mileage Plan

    Points Required: 80,000 miles one-way (American Airlines) + $105 USD, 120,000 miles one-way + $88 USD (via Dubai on Emirates)

    How to Book:, check "Use miles" when searching for flights

    How to Maximize Your Points: There is generally quite a bit of availability on American Airlines to Oceania, although as I pointed out above, you are likely going to have 2 stops. The business class flights definitely help with the multiple stops, or you can build in a stopover in Los Angeles to break up the flight.

    If you're looking for just one stop, you will likely end up in either Asia or the Middle East, and it will generally cost you more points.

    How to Earn Points: 
    • Fly with Alaska Air and partner airlines (e.g. American Airlines)
    • Sign up for the MBNA Alaska Card and earn Alaska miles directly
    • Sign up for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card (Personal and/or Business) and convert points to Alaska miles in 60,000 point chunks to get an extra 5,000 mile bonus = 25,000 Alaska miles
    • Any American Express Card that earns Membership Rewards points (e.g. American Express Platinum, American Express GoldAmerican Express Cobalt) can be converted into Marriott points that convert into Alaska miles as well, but this is only recommended if you need to top up as the conversion rate is not that favourable

    Inter-Oceania Flights

    I found that flights within and between Australia and New Zealand weren't too bad, and could range between $100-300 one-way depending on the distance traveled. Although you can redeem flights on Qantas Airways via Alaska Mileage Plan and/or the British Airways Avios program, I find that with the amount of points required + fuel surcharges you end up with a low "return on points" and are better off paying cash fare.

    Another way to get around Oceania is to fly with Alaska Airlines partners on a reward flight, which allows for a free stopover. For example, you could have a free stopover in Nadi, Fiji with Fiji Airways.


    Aside from hostels/AirBnBs, you can look towards hotel loyalty programs to stretch your accommodation budget. Marriott/SPG hotel coverage is great in Australia and Fiji, but not so much in New Zealand or other countries. As a result, outside of Australia and Fiji, I would suggest getting an AirBnB.
    Program: Marriott Bonvoy

    Points Required: From 17,500 points/night - 50,000 points/night to stay in a central location

    How to Maximize Your Points: Use them on expensive cities such as Sydney or Melbourne, or at a resort in Fiji

    How to Earn Points:
    • Stay with Marriott hotels
    • Sign up for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card (Personal and/or Business) and earn Marriott points directly
    • Sign up for the American Express Cobalt Card and convert points to Marriott points
    • Sign up for the American Express Platinum Card (Personal and/or Business) and convert points to Marriott points (only recommended if you're in a pinch)
    • Sign up for the American Express Gold Rewards Card (Personal and/or Business) and convert points to Marriott points (only recommended if you're in a pinch)

    Other Trip Costs

    Within Australia & New Zealand in particular, we noticed that coffee is usually a minimum of $5 CAD. It is due to the higher minimum wage in these countries, as well as the fact that Aussies and Kiwis take their coffee very seriously. So although you're paying quite a lot for coffee, you can be sure that it's really damn good coffee.

    Eating out every day can get expensive in Australia and New Zealand in particular, so we sometimes did grocery shopping and cooked our own food to save on costs.

    Activities will likely run you at least $100 CAD per person, depending on how much you want to accomplish and whether meals are included or not.

    Australian brands are obviously cheaper in Australia (such as sunglasses and UGG boots), but there is a significant markup on brands that come from outside of the country, due to Australia being so darn far away. As a result, we didn't end up doing a lot of shopping.

    While Oceania can be an expensive destination to get to, there are tons of ways to make your trip budget a little better by using travel rewards credit cards in the right way. Let me know if you have any other tips for making a trip down under more budget-friendly!