Last year I organized a trip for my family and best friend around the world. We flew nothing but business and first class, stayed in 4 and 5 star hotels and paid literally a fraction of the cost. My parents spent time in London and New York as stopovers en route to Africa while Dave and I took the trip below:
Here was our itinerary – dream trip 2015
- Etihad Business and First Class Lounge Washington DC
- Etihad Business Studio – IAD to AUH
- Review: Etihad Arrivals lounge and Etihad Chauffeur experience
- Grand Hyatt Dubai
- Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
- Etihad Business and First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi, AUH
- Etihad Pearl Business Class – AUH to JNB
- Intercontinental Johannesburg Sandton Towers
- Blue Train Johannesburg to Cape Town
- Queen Victoria Cape Town
- Chitwa Chitwa Sabi Sands Luxury Game Reserve Kruger National Park
- Royal Chundu Zambezi River Lodge – Victoria Falls
- Intercontinental Johannesburg Airport
- Review: S(h)ongololo Lounge JNB
- Cathay Pacific Business Class – JNB to HKG to HND
- Ritz Carlton Tokyo
- Japan Airlines First Class Lounge Tokyo, NRT
- American Air Flagship First Class – NRT to LAX
Flying around the World on one trip – check!
Miles and I had wanted to fly allllllll the way around the world on a single, extended, fantabulous trip since, well, I can’t even remember it’s been that long. But, we didn’t want to do it sitting up…
We wanted to lie flat!!!!!
And we wanted to send mom and dad on a dream vacation in First Class on a safari in Africa
Lie Flat and make the folks feel all that!?!?! Double Check!
So how did we do it?
We maxed out the value of the points we had, made some strategic credit card sign ups, used transfer bonuses, and ultimately weren’t that picky on dates. That’s probably the biggest thing – be flexible.
How did we pick the places?
We knew we wanted to get to South Africa for a safari, but didn’t know exactly how much time we needed. After a lot of research online I found Chitwa Chitwa safari lodge – their website has some great options for multi-destination trips. Reaching out to them put us in contact with Bianca at Icon expeditions and we nailed down the spots we wanted to see: Joburg, Blue Train, Cape Town, Kruger, and Victoria Falls. We then referenced the award availability and picked dates that gave us wiggle room. All in all for my parents we booked everything on BA.
How did we get them the flights?
- BA credit card sign up for 100k bonus
- Card gives one free ticket with a purchased ticket, even with points, after 30k spend in a year.
- The ticket cost 300k avios for two people roundtrip in First.
- 150k was already in the account
- the other 150k was earned from a 40% Amex to to BA transfer bonus.
- Total: 150k each plus taxes
~ Each ticket would have cost roughly $17,000 when we booked them with points: almost $0.12 per point ~
How did we manage the stop overs – BA allows free stopovers in London on award tickets
- My parents and I love high tea
- London is quintessential for high tea
- Grosvenor House on Park Lane is a great spot to stay and enjoy high tea for 45k Marriott rewards per night
- Blacklane offers great, reliable, and often cheaper than taxi, black car service. They love it
Dave and I balled out in the middle east. Flew Business, stayed 5 star and spent $150 for 4 nights and flights to and from U.A.E.
We sought out a different experience. Both of us were keenly interested in seeing the fare of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, plus I REALLY wanted to fly on a 787 and specifically with Etihad. Unfortunately, American doesn’t allow routing, nor stopovers, through the middle east to Africa. Our only real option was through Europe, so we booked two separate one way tickets on Etihad using AA miles to route through Abu Dhabi.
- The first: Etihad Business Studio IAD-AUH 67,500
- The Second: Etihad Pearl Business AUH-JNB 45,000
- Total: 112,500 ( but a 10,000 discount for having a a Citi or Barclay branded AA card)
After Africa we used the ITA matrix to investigate options of getting home. Often times when you’re at the antipodes of the earth you can find stunningly good deals. We found one way tickets to Japan for $1100…that’s almost 17 hours of business class for less than what a lot of roundtrip first class tickets cost domestically.
So we thought we’d head East to get back West.
Dave and I had wanted to check out Tokyo and the Ritz had avail with points. We also were fans of the Netflix documentary ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ about the first Michelin 3 star sushi restaurant in the world Sukiyabashi Jiro. We were lucky enough get a reservation at the Roppongi Hills location by using the concierge at the Ritz. Both experiences were truly out of this world.
I then set out to find us avail back from Tokyo…
We were lucky enough to catch a huge dump of award avail on AA before BA devalued last May. We nailed down tix for 75k +$135.
So what did the flights and hotel cost us
States to Middle East: LAX-IAD-AUH-JNB
- Etihad Business Studio and Etihad Pearl business class
- 112500 + $40 ( 10k were refunded for having the Citi Aadvantage Platinum card)
From Africa to the States: JNB-HKG-TYO-LAX
- Purchased a Cathay Pacific JNB-HKG-HND flight for $1100
- Used 75,000 Avios + $135 for a 1st class ticket on AA from NRT to LAX
- 2 free nights in a category 4 with Chase Hyatt Credit card
- 1 night $200 and 3000 points for a suite upgrade
- $95 total
- 70k per night
- Aadvantage: 102,500
- Avios: 75,000
- Marriott 140k
- Hyatt 1500 points and $150 each
- Cash – roughly $1150 each for flights ( including taxes paid on award flights)
How did we get the points?
- We both did two sign ups.
- US Airways 50k after 1st purchase, which converted to AA after the merger
- Citi AA Platinum 50k after 3k spend in 3 months
- Chase BA card 100k bonus after 20k spend in 12 months
- The Marriott points we had, but could have done a Ritz Carlton 140k sign up offered last year
- Hyatt card offers a great deal of 1 free night annually with a $75 annual fee
If you’re interested in seeing more in depth reviews and looksat all the places, check out the links at the top and bottom of the report! If you have any questions – hit me up!! And if you’re interested in Miles booking a trip for you like he did for us…hit up the Award Booking page on the home screen – he will get you more lux for less bux!