Trip Reports

It’s going to be an exciting year for travel

2018 was a fantastic year for me. It was the year of firsts. The first time to travel 40 flights in one year. The first time flying international first class not only once but 7 times! Flying 14 airlines for the first time. Flew the A380 for the first time. The first year of travel hacking.

I loved 2018, and I am so grateful for the experience.

115,065 miles (185,179 km) flown in 2018

However, 2019 will be even better! For 10 months, I will be outside of the United States living on planes and in hotels just for fun. The only times I will be back in the US would be for graduation and because of th Cathay Pacific mistake fare for first class.

My plan is to break my 2018 records by traveling around randomly.

Flights

My goals for flying this year are a little dreamy, but if I position and plan correctly, I have no doubt in achieving these goals. My goals are:

  • Fly 80 flights in this calendar year. (As of 1/24, I have flown 3 flights.)
  • For long-haul and medium-haul flights, I will fly in first or business class.
  • Fly on an inaugural flight.
  • Do flight reviews.

The airline products I want to try are:

  • Qatar 777 or A350 QSuites
  • Qatar A380 first class
  • Singapore new A380 first class suites
  • Etihad A380 first class
  • Garuda Indonesia 777 first class
  • ANA A380 first class
  • Lufthansa 747-8 first class
  • JAL 777 first class
  • Korean 747-8 first class
  • Malaysia A350 and A380 business suites (aka their renamed first class)
  • Thai Airways 747 first class
  • EVA 777 and 787 business class
  • China Eastern A350 business class

As you probably noticed, I have lots of first class products I want to try. The good thing is, I have already flown first class products like Emirates A380 first class and their new 777 first class.

So far I have four first class flights already booked. The flights I have booked are:

1/27 Delta CRJ700 exit-row economy Detroit-DTW to Chicago-MDW [DL3801]
1/29 ANA 777 first class from Chicago-ORD to Tokyo-HND [NH111]
2/01 JAL E190 economy from Tokyo-HND to Yamagata-GAJ [JL179]
4/21 Cathay Dragon A330 business class Hanoi-HAN to Hong Kong-HKG [KA294]
4/22 Cathay Pacific 777 first class from Hong Kong-HKG to New York-JFK [CX840]
5/09 Asiana A380 first class from New York-JFK to Seoul-ICN [OZ221]
8/15 Cathay Pacific 777 first class from New York-JFK to Hong Kong-HKG [CX831]
8/17 Cathay Dragon A320 business class Hong Kong-HKG to Hanoi-HAN [KA297]

White = future
Yellow = already flown one-way

As you noticed, I have no flight back to the US for the second Cathay Pacific flight. The Cathay Pacific first class flight to the US was because my uni graduation is at the end of April and I will attend it. The second Cathay Pacific flight was randomly selected for August. It’s too soon to decide the flight back to the US. Yet, I am hoping to fly the longest flight in the world from Singapore-SIN to Newark-EWR.

February flights

I am also looking for flights from Japan to Indonesia. I am wishing to find award availability in Garuda Indonesia 777 first class, but there is very little availability for the month of February.

My backup plan for no Garuda first class was Malaysia Airlines A380 or A350 business suites (their renamed first class.) The sad thing is, since they changed the name of their first class to business suites the availability is gone on Malaysia’s website. Beware that Expert Flyer is showing phantom availability.

So, in the meantime, I will wait till there is availability for Malaysia business suites. If there is no availability for the first few weeks of February, I will end up booking Garuda Indonesia 777 business class or JAL 787-8 business class to Jakarta.

After getting to Indonesia, I will end up doing a few domestic flights to different cities. For now, I am not sure what cities exactly, but that is fine since my travel style is pretty last minute when I am not chasing a flagship product or a deal.

March and beyond

I wish I knew where and what places I will go to pass February, but I have to be honest and write that I don’t even know what happens after I arrive in Indonesia.

See, I am going to be flying randomly. When I see a deal or award availability for a flagship product, I will then jump on it. Even if the flight is the next day, I bet you I will be on that flight.

In short, I will be traveling around without any worries in the world hoping to find what I am searching for.

Hotels

It’s not only about flights. During my travels I have to stay somewhere for months and I have chosen to stay in hotels, with the occasional Airbnb if hotel prices are pricey.

Since I am focusing on destinations in Asia, Middle East, and Africa I will stay in hotels majority of the time because they are cheap in price offering nice benefits and good quality. In regards to the occasional trip to Europe, I will most likely stay in Airbnbs.

Currently I have status with a few programs:

  • Marriott Platinum (via nights)
  • Hilton Diamond (via card)
  • IHG Platinum (via card)
  • Hyatt Discoverist (via card)

As you can see, Hilton, IHG, and Hyatt are the three loyalty programs that I have status through a credit card. If you want to learn more about the cards I have, you can learn more here.

However, I gained Marriott status through nights. In 2018, I achieved 50 nights because of staying in SPG and Marriott properties with credit card nights. This year, I am planning to spend months at Marriott properties becasue of cheap properties in Asia.

Where will I spend my nights?

As I wrote above, I am going to be away from my own home in Michigan for 10 months. I have many possibilities to spend my nights in different loyalty programs.

I want to achieve:

  • Marriott Titanium (aka Platinum Premier)
  • IHG Spire
  • Hyatt Globalist

Focusing on Marriott, IHG, and Hyatt with the occasional Hilton property will give me the best coverage and the option of picking the best property and price in the area I am choosing.

The hotels I will stay in won’t be aspirational properties. Depending on the area, I will usually focus my nights on limited service to full-service hotels. I will have aspirational property stays throughout the year using points like the Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Resort during New Years. But I have pretty big plans and lots of points with Hilton, Hyatt, and IHG to burn for nights at aspirational properties.

Bedouin Suite view. Source: Marriott

Why hotels?

I am staying in hotels verse Airbnb for a few reasons:

  1. I am able to earn points and extra benefits at hotels. Hotels are often pricey within North America and Europe, but since I am staying in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa the majority of the time, there will be cheap hotels. I could easily stay at a JW Marriott property for $55 a night with breakfast and executive lounge access for evening cocktails and canapes. On top of that, I can still earn points for future stays. Then I could stay at a Four Points property for $35 a night and in the center of major cities with a full breakfast buffet that rivals buffets at a St. Regis in North America.
  2. Security is slightly better at hotels. While I have had strange experiences in both hotels and Airbnb, there is something about Airbnb that is sketchy. No matter if you have the entire place to yourself or have a private bedroom, the hosts are a wildcard, and you still have to interact with throughout the stay. If there is an issue, there isn’t someone available 24/7. If there isn’t a door chain, it’s not truly locked since the host still has a key.
  3. Cleaning is more frequent at hotels. While I do use the do-not-disturb sign every other day, the service of someone coming in changing towels and taking out the trash is nice. I usually like to change my towels frequently, and at an Airbnb, it’s sometimes an inconvenience getting a fresh towel after a few days. Of course, I am well aware of the lack of cleaning at hotels, but the same goes for most Airbnbs and how the host won’t clean certain surfaces and things after each guest.
  4. I don’t cook and there isn’t a need to cook no matter if I am home or out. So, the “benefits” of having a kitchen at an Airbnb isn’t a benefit to me.

No matter what, I will look at prices for each type of lodging before deciding. Ultimately status is nothing special besides being a bragging right, but given the opportunity and correct positioning to cheap locations I am able to take advantage of cheap nights earning status and points.

Blogging and final words

During my wandering travels, I do wish to write a lot of content for No Travel No Life. Each flight, lounge, hotel, train, and destination I hope to write a review about my experience and thoughts. I hope to share some good and bad stories on here. There will be points and miles articles and how to get the best value for the experience you want. There is a lot I will write about.

As some have asked, I currently make no money on this blog. There are no ads. No credit card referrals. I am not sponsored by any company. Everything you read here will be my own thoughts coming out of my own pocket. This is just a fun experiment that I hope turns into something greater.

So, I hope you stick around for future articles and travels. You can follow me around knowing as much as I do now, which isn’t much. As for now, I am waiting for the day I leave the US to start my 2019 wandering journey. <3

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Deb Pollack
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Looking so forward to following you on your journey!!!

EllE
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EllE

Good luck Steve!..I will be following you around the world..xoxo