So, why go around the world?
This trip was a bit of a bucket list item for me. I’ve wanted to fly around the world for quite some time, and things came together quite well for that to happen over the July 4th long weekend this year. It would also allow us to make quick stops in a few cities to see if they would be places we wanted to spend some more time at later.
Planning and Booking the Flights (you know, the hard part about traveling while employed)
The planning started out by looking at our mileage balances in the various accounts we use, and figuring out what was possible. Two things were apparent right from the start: We needed to keep costs reasonable (so, HAD to use miles), and we needed to be in business class at least. We also looked at vacation balances, which, thanks to trips later in the year, were looking quite thin. We were able to budget two additional days to the trip, which meant we needed to pick a long weekend to snag an extra day. We only had July 4th or Labor Day open left this year. Also, I wanted to go West, as its the “long” way around. So, with those things in mind, I went to work.
We have very healthy balances of Delta and AA miles, so I started there. We have flown Delta business class before, and while way better than coach, I wanted to see what else was out there. I noticed Korean Air had great availability over the 4th of July, which could be booked using Delta miles. The flights were not ideal, but would work, so I booked us flights from MCI-ATL-LAS(on Delta) and LAS-ICN-SIN (on Korean), all in business. I knew I wanted to try out a Korean Air A380, which that booking wouldn’t allow, but as a Delta Diamond I can cancel for free, plus I was happy enough with those flights that I wouldn’t be disappointed if we took them.
Next up, I knew I wanted to fly either Etihad or Emirates to try out one of their very aspirational first class products. Etihad can be booked using AA miles, but their availability was not working with July 4th weekend. I could find single seats on various flights, but this trip would be way more fun traveling together, so I nixed that option. Emirates, on the other hand, had fantastic availability from SIN-DXB-almost every US city they fly to. Downside? The only reasonable mileage program to use is Alaska Airlines to book Emirates flights with, and we didn’t have many of those (it requires 100,000 miles/ticket!). However, 100,000 miles for a Asia-US the long way with a free stopover is a FANTASTIC deal in terms of miles, possibly the best out there. So, thanks to a credit card application or two, then freaking out and checking the availability every day waiting for miles to post, I booked the flights from SIN-DXB-DFW. Why DFW? I knew it was a cheap flight for booking using either dollars or British Airways Avios on AA. I ended up buying that ticket for myself, and using a voucher for Courtney we had from a past deal.
So, all set, right? Sure, if we were fine with settling for 2nd best. We are likely only going to do this once in our life, right? So, I set about making it even better for the flights from USA-SIN. I tried all the other big ones, Cathay Pacific, JAL, Singapore Air, but none had availability that matched up. It was only a few weeks to go before leaving, that I looked up on Expert Flyer and saw Korean Air had first class availability on flights from LAX-ICN-SIN on our same dates. Now…first class can’t be booked using Delta miles, but thanks to having a few Chase Ultimate Rewards points, I was able to transfer 180,000 of those over to our Korean Air accounts and book the flights in first class. Not only that, but Korean allows last minute cancellations just in case something went wrong unlike Delta. Plus the nice little layover in Seoul meant having enough time to check out downtown. Boom. All that was left was to cancel our Delta tickets, super easy, and then book ourselves flights to LAX. Taking an evening flight there meant saving a half day of vacation, worth the “extra” expense of 30,000 Delta miles each. Booked that in first class to give us the ability to do a same day change for free, which ended up saving our entire trip later!
How much did it cost?
So, all told, we spent a total of 60,000 Delta miles, 180,000 Chase UR transferred to Korean, and 200,000 Alaska miles. In addition, we had to pay fuel surcharges on Korean that ended up being another $500. Yes, this is a insane number of miles for a 5 day trip, but miles are worthless unless you use them.
We waited to book hotels until the flights were set a few weeks out. This way, we knew we only needed 1 night in Singapore and 1 night in Dubai. The only other requirement was free cancellation. So, I started with looking at Hyatt properties since I am a Diamond in their Gold Passport Program, and this generally give free upgrades plus free breakfast/club access. Well, as it turned out, the Grand Hyatt Singapore got great reviews and was right where we wanted to stay. The rates were reasonable, but it is easy to do better with Hyatt rates thanks to their best rate guarantee (BRG) offering 20% off a cheaper rate found on another website. It helps I know the hints and tricks to getting these approved (which websites they allow, what types of rates, where to look, etc) and was able to drop the rate from over $200 USD down to under $100. Done.
Next up was Dubai, which had several Hyatts as well as a bunch of other cool looking hotels. Our first thought was to stay at the Ritz on Jumeriah Beach, but with us getting in so late the night before (around 1 am), a short cab ride to the hotel seemed more ideal and it over 30 minutes to that area. Well, what do you know, three Hyatts are close to the airport, so it was just a matter of picking which one. Looking up reviews, we found that the Park Hyatt, in their suites, offered free minibars. Well, knowing that Dubai is expensive, alcohol is even more expensive, and finding a drink during Ramadan is not going to be easy, I set about getting us into a suite. I called the Diamond number, and they had upgrades on cash rates only, not cash+points. Darn, that meant I had to find a cheap rate. Well, July in Dubai is low season already since its crazy hot. So, cheap hotel rates! Another BRG and again, less than $100 for the hotel. I apply the suite upgrade (Diamonds get 4 suite upgrade per year) on the phone after I get approved for the BRG. As you’ll see from the pictures in our review of the hotel, it was very much worth using an upgrade for even just the 1 night stay.
Airport Code Legend:
ATL – Atlanta
DFW – Dallas/Fort Worth
DXB – Dubai
ICN – Seoul, South Korea
LAS – Los Vegas
LAX – Los Angeles
MCI – Kansas City
MSP – Minneapolis
SIN – Singapore