Booking a TWARE requires snap decision-making. While thinking through when I would leave and how long I'd be gone, I received an email from a friend who is a bigger player in the mileage game than I'll ever aspire to be. Precisely twice as big: while I'm chasing United's Premiere Executive level (50,000 miles flown per year), my friend flies to maintain "1K" status (100,000 miles flown). Like me, he loves to ride on airplanes and drop in on interesting places. He planned to "go to Sydney for brunch" so he could earn nearly 15k miles without missing a moment of work. By leaving San Francisco on United's Friday 10:30pm flight, he'd get to Sydney around 8:30am Sunday. That would give ample time for brunch and a bit of fun before heading back on the 4:30pm flight to San Francisco. Due to the magic of crossing the International Date Line from west to east, the arrival time in San Francisco is around 10:45am. Lunch, a shower, and a good night's sleep later and he'd be back in the office on Monday. United awards bonus miles for his current 1k status in addition to the qualification miles he earns, so he'll return home with the equivalent of a free ticket to anywhere United (or US Air, or Continental) flies in the continental US.
While I knew that flying with him would be a lot more fun than going alone, I couldn't bear the thought of back-to-back long haul flights in coach. I figured a four night recovery time would more than work out any physical kinks, and would give me an opportunity to further explore Sydney. I'd spent nearly a week there two years ago, so my "must see" list had already been covered. Three non-flying days would let me see and do a new thing or two without spending too much time and money on my mileage run. I decided to split my time between Sydney and the Blue Mountains, which are easily reached by a scenic two-hour train ride from Sydney.