Seoul on Points and Miles


Our original plan for this trip was only to visit Japan. However, we were going to be visiting Japan during the Hanami Season – the Japanese art of springtime flower watching, aka Sakura or Cherry Blossom season. This is one of the busiest tourist seasons of the year in Japan. Finding five award flights (even in economy) to Tokyo was difficult when planning our trip. So, instead, I started running award searches for all the big airports somewhat nearby—Seoul, Taipei, Shanghai, Hong Kong, etc. Seoul ended up being our best option for flights, and when I found five Delta flights booked through Air France, I jumped on them. Here’s how we spent our few days in Seoul on points and miles.


How to Fly to Seoul on Points and Miles

It is often recommended to reposition to a larger airport to find the best international flight; however, we’ve been very lucky to find economy flights from our small home airport in Rochester, NY (ROC).

I transferred Amex points to Air France to book our flights to Seoul. I booked our 5 flights on Delta via Air France since they are in the same airline alliance. (If you’re unsure about Airline Alliances, get our cheat sheet here!) I paid $73 + 252,500 miles for all 5 flights from ROC, with a 4-hour layover in Detroit (DTW) and then straight onto Seoul.

This same flight was also available on Virgin Atlantic, as they are in the same airline alliance with Delta. I checked all the major Delta hubs for this flight—Atlanta, Minneapolis, Detroit, SFO. DTW had our best option: the short 1-hour flight from Rochester to Detroit and the direct 15.5-hour flight into Seoul. 


Where to Stay in Seoul, South Korea with Kids

Seoul is lucky to have many beautiful Hyatt hotels (Park Hyatt, Andaz, and Grand Hyatt) and many other options for every loyalty type. This makes a trip to Seoul on points and miles rather easy to do! We had originally booked two rooms at a Holiday Inn Express Seoul Hongdae on IHG points, however about a month before our trip, I switched us to the Grand Hyatt Seoul.

While our family of five needed two rooms, we were all SO happy that we made the switch. The Grand Hyatt Seoul was a beautiful hotel that was incredibly family-friendly, and club access improved our stay. You can read my full review of it in the future.


Grand Hyatt Seoul, Seoul on Points and Miles


Arrival Day in Seoul, Airport Transfer from Incheon Airport (ICN)

While we usually travel only by public transportation on trips to big cities, I knew that after a crazy long travel day (over 24 hours), this would not be fun or easy for us. So, instead, I booked a car transfer ahead of time.

We had an eventful flight. About two hours before we were supposed to land in Seoul, there was a medical emergency on our flight, and it was recommended that we land at the nearest airport so that the person could get medical attention. We made a one-hour stop at Tokyo Haneda airport, where an ambulance met the airplane, refueled, and continued on our way to Seoul. 

I reserved a 9-passenger van with K-Vans Korea through Viator. It was about $100 (with 10% cash back on Rakuten!), and I would recommend it. Our driver was so patient and communicative via WhatsApp. We kept him updated with our arrival time as we learned more information. Then, once we came through customs at ICN airport, he was waiting on the other side with a sign with our name on it. We walked right out to the parking garage; he ran to get the van while we waited, and then we made the 1-hour drive to the Grand Hyatt.


Day 2 in Seoul with Kids

For our first or two full days in Seoul, we were all awake by 4 a.m. We had to wait until 7 a.m. for breakfast at the club lounge to open. After breakfast, we walked down to the Itewon metro station and made our way to the Gyeongbokgung Palace for the 10 a.m. Changing of the Guard ceremony. 


Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in 1395 and was the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty. Admission costs 3,000 won (around $2.30) for adults and 1,500 won (about $1.15) for visitors ages 7 to 18.


Seoul on Points and Miles - Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul


Gyeongbokgung Palace Changing of the Guard

The Changing of the Guard ceremony occurs daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. It was so fun to watch, and it’s free, as it occurs in the open space before the palace entrance.

It was easy for the kids to make their way to the front of the crowd and have front-row viewing. We all also loved checking out all the people dressed in traditional Hanbok outfits. 


Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changing of the Guard


Buckshan Hanok Village

After watching the Changing of the Guard and visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace, we made our way to this traditional Korean village. It is open to visitors (for free) from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. People live in these homes, so workers stand around with signs reminding tourists to be quiet and respectful. 


Seoul on Points and Miles - Buckshan Hanok Village, Seoul


Korean Pancakes for Dinner

We just happened upon this little husband and wife duo making what looked like hand pies. The sign said “Korean pancakes”, but I’ve since learned that they are called “hotteok”.

We had ordered a cheese and a vegetable one. The woman gave us a free third one with nuts and honey in it. She insisted we take it and said, “The kids will like it!” She was right. They were so good!


Korea Pancakes, Seoul


Day 3 in Seoul with Kids

Our third day in Seoul started bright and early again. We had breakfast in the Grand Club at 7 a.m. and then headed out to explore.


Changdeokgung Palace

Our first stop of the day was another UNESCO World Heritage site, the Changdeokgung Palace. This was the second royal palace built around 1405 by the Joseon Dynasty. It is the most well-preserved of the 5 main palaces in Seoul. 

General admission to the palace costs around 3,000 won for adults ($2.23 U.S.) and 1,500 won ($1.11 U.S.) for children (7-18 years old).


Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul


Changdeokgung Palace Secret Garden Tour

Behind the palace is the Secret Garden, the private garden of the emperors. You can visit this site for a small fee by attending one of the tours: 5,000 won ($3.71 U.S.) for adults and 2,500 won ($1.86 U.S.) for children ages 7-18. Most of the time, when I mentioned the girls’ ages of 9 and 7, they wouldn’t make me pay for my 7-year-old twins and just told me to let them go.

We caught the 11 a.m. English-speaking tour. The tour lasted about 70 minutes and surprisingly kept the girls’ interest. There were tons of families and other kids as well.


Seoul on Points and Miles - Changdeokgung Palace, Secret Garden Tour


Gwangjang Market

From our Secret Garden tour, we walked to Gwangjang Market. This was the first permanent market in Korea to be open 7 days a week. This market houses more than 2,000 shops and nearly 20,000 employees! You can find almost anything here, from fabric to seafood to juices and spices. We ate many different things, and I couldn’t even tell you what most of them were. Everything was very good, though. The market was loud and crazy, but it was definitely something to experience while on your trip to Seoul on points and miles.


Other Things to Do in Seoul

For some reason, I always forget how much slower things move when traveling with kids. I am the planner in our family and always create our itineraries with lofty goals of things I want to do and see. Over the years, I’ve learned to make a wish list and then bump things to another day (or even another trip!). Here are a few things on my list that we didn’t get to do this time.

  • Ikseon Dong Hanok Village
  • Insadong neighborhood
  • Bukhansan National Park
  • Dongdaemun Design Plaza
  • Cheonggyecheon Stream
  • Foods to try
    • Fried chicken – this is super popular in Seoul!
    • Tteokbokki – We didn’t get to try this one, but we saw it on the Netflix series Somebody Feed Phil, and it looks delicious. 


Check Out Day

On our third morning, we had a 6 a.m. airport transfer pick-up from Grand Hyatt Seoul to Gimpo (GMP) Airport. At about 5:45 a.m., the Grand Hyatt staff met us at the front desk with to-go boxes of breakfast foods for us to take. They gave us two coffees, 3 bottles of water, and 5 breakfast boxes with bread, pastries, yogurt, and fresh fruit.

We booked this airport transfer through the same company as our arrival—K-Vans Korea through Viator. The driver arrived about 10 minutes early for our 6 a.m. departure.

He drove us 30 minutes to GMP airport for our Asiana Airline flight to Osaka, Japan. I booked this flight through United Airlines with United miles for a total of $105+44k miles for our five flights. That would be $21 and 8,800 United miles each. 


Bottom Line

Seoul was a wonderful start to our family trip to Asia. I’m so glad we spent the few days there on points and miles, but I wish we had time to explore more of the country. While I’m not one to repeat trip destinations, we might return to Seoul again to explore more of South Korea outside the capital city.

Asian temple near water

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