30th Birthday Trip, Part I: Planning

Planning
Re-planning
Lufthansa A330 Old First Class DFW-FRA
Driving the Nurburgring Nordschleife
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Oslo to celebrate Chris Guillebeau
Singapore A380 Suites Class FRA-SIN
Singapore Airlines Private Room and Singapore 777-300ER First Class SIN-HKG
Hong Kong and the Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui
Cathay Pacific’s The Wing Lounge and 747 First Class HKG-SFO

People only turn 30 once.  The previous sentence is one of those things that people say that never really make sense to me, because duh.  Anyway, I’m turning 30 in a couple of weeks.  Those of you who know me well know that I’ll use just about any occasion as an excuse for travel (“I’m turning 30!  I should go on a trip.” “Ow, I stubbed my toe!  I should go on a trip.”), and this year I actually haven’t traveled much, so I really needed to get away for a while.

Which brings me to my next trip…The 30th Birthday Trip.

The Route

So, before I go on and on about the trip, which will be great if not a little crazy, there’s something you need to remember about me: I love flying.  I have no problem flying somewhere, getting on the same plane, and flying back.  That’s an enjoyable day for me.  Another thing about me is I’ve long held the belief that my miles are worth the absolute most they’ll ever be worth today, because you never know when they’ll be devalued (ask anyone with a big Hilton HHonors point balance how they felt after their big announcement last month).  So, most people see a big point balance and say “that’ll be great for a trip someday” whereas I see a big point balance and say “crap, I gotta use these”.  So, for my 30th Birthday Trip, I’m going to fly around the world in a little less than 4.5 days.

Trans-Atlantic: Dallas-Oslo
3-4 years ago I started reading a blog at www.chrisguillebeau.com about this guy who, on his 30th birthday, made it his goal to visit every country in the world by the time he turned 35.  It was cool reading about all of his adventures and his ability to hack airlines miles and credit cards to get most of his travel for free.  Over the years and throughout his travels he authored two bestselling books and founded the World Domination Summit (which I’ll be attending this summer), so the guy has accomplished a ton in the past 5 years.

Last year, he was trying to figure out the best way to celebrate not only the completion of his goal but celebrate it with all of his readers who have followed him over the years.  In looking over a map, he realized he had never been to Norway, so a while back he posted on Twitter and said he’d be having a big party on April 7th in Oslo, Norway, and if we had enjoyed his writing and had used some of his tips on accruing miles, why don’t we come join him?

So, to Oslo I will go.  But why miss out on all the symbolism of the occasion, as I will be turning 30 on April 2nd, which means it’ll be time for me to embark upon some epic quest to accomplish by the time I turn 35.  While I’m still not sure what my quest will be, I do have some ideas, and you’ll be hearing about some of those soon.

British Airways 747-400

I enjoy flying on all different kinds of airplanes, but there’s something about a 747 that just seems so…big.  So, for my first flight on this trip, I redeemed 25000 British Airways Avios points to fly in Coach (I know) from Dallas-London on BA’s 747.  Another bucket list item is to fly on the top deck of a 747, but that won’t be on this trip.  I have about a 4 hour layover in London, and, thanks to my Executive Platinum status on American, I can enjoy BA’s Galleries First Class lounge at Heathrow airport (since 4 hours isn’t really enough time to go into London), then I purchased (no award availability) a one-way ticket on British Airways from London to Oslo.  I arrive in Oslo on Saturday night and the party isn’t until Sunday night, so I have to figure out some stuff to do in the meantime, but I’ve reached out to many of the people who will be at the party and there are plans to get together and sightsee a bit before we celebrate.

Trans-Eurasia: Oslo-Singapore
Instead of being boring and just flying back to the US after I’m done with Oslo, I wanted to spend some miles and enjoy some premium flights and premium lounges.  The “after Oslo” part of this trip has seen numerous revisions, but I settled on a quick Round-The-World itinerary.  Due to a current bit of work craziness, I won’t have time to stop anywhere else other than Oslo, but my layovers are long enough that I can leave the airports for a while.

From Oslo I used 12,500 United miles to book a one-way Economy flight to Frankfurt on Lufthansa.  Nothing glamorous or glorious about this flight, it’s coach on Lufthansa to an airport to which I’ve been many times.  Thankfully, this will conclude the coach portion of my trip!

Singapore Airlines is known the world over for their top of the line hard product (seats, planes, in flight entertainment, etc.) but what really sets them apart is their soft product (flight attendants, in flight dining, etc.).  They’re simply the best in the world, according to most.  The best of Singapore Airlines is their Suites Class.  It’s “better than” First Class.  Only available on their A380 planes (on which I’ve never ridden), Suites Class features enclosed suites with doors that shut, a massive seat that converts into a massive and comfortable bed, and if you have two people sitting in the middle next to each other, they can even lower the partition and make the seats into a double bed!

A while back, I decided to let my membership to American’s Admirals Club lapse and considered getting an American Express Platinum Card, which has a really high annual fee but gets you access to most airline lounges in the world.  The annual fee was only a little more than what it would’ve cost to renew my Admiral’s Club membership, so that’s the direction I was leaning.  Then, one day I found an amazing deal that offered 100,000 American Express Membership Rewards points for getting a Platinum card, and next thing you know I had a bright and shiny Platinum card on the way.

Why are Membership Rewards points useful?  Well, I have points with a few programs I can transfer to a big number of airlines, but Singapore Airlines does not (with few exceptions) release Suites to its airline partners for award travel, you can only redeem miles through Singapore’s Krisflyer program.  Membership Rewards points transfer into the Krisflyer program, so it really all came together quickly and magically.

The Whale: Singapore Airlines A380 superjumbo

I’ll be flying in Suite 3A on the A380 super-jumbo nonstop from Frankfurt-Singapore.  When I arrive in Singapore, I’ll have about 7 hours to maybe go into Singapore and see some sights, but I’ll be traveling onward to Hong Kong in Singapore First Class on a 777, which means I get access to one of the best lounges in the world: Singapore’s The Private Room at Singapore’s Changi airport.  So, I may leave the airport, or I might just relax at the lounge.

Transasia: Singapore-Hong Kong
Last year I had a nice layover in Hong Kong and was able to go into town, go to Victoria’s Peak, eat some dim sum, ride the Star Ferry, and steal wifi from the Apple Store, all great things.  Hong Kong has an incredible skyline during the day, but it gets even better at night, as all of the buildings are neoned almost to the level of Las Vegas.  I was in Hong Kong in the early morning last year, and this year I’ll be there in the evening, so my plan is to run into town (I have about a 7-hour layover), see the skyline, get some pics, steal more wifi from the Apple Store, and then try to get into the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world for some dim sum.

Hong Kong Skyline

My final flight will be on a Oneworld carrier, so I’ll have access to the new Wing First Class Lounge at Hong Kong’s international airport, getting me ready for a wonderful final set of flights back home.

Trans-Pacific: Hong Kong-Dallas
Last year, I flew in international First Class for the first time on Cathay Pacific from Los Angeles-Hong Kong.  It was an incredible experience, with the exception of some massive turbulence over the Pacific.  After comparing notes with some other travelers, I realized I missed out on a few things (for example, I didn’t think the attendants were walking around the cabin much, and I was right.  On Cathay, they take the stance that you don’t want to be continually bothered, so they stay out of sight until you ring your call button, after which they’ll be at your side within seconds).  So, I want to try it again!

Me in my Cathay First Class seat last August

I’ll be flying from Hong Kong to New York’s Kennedy airport with a one-hour stop in Vancouver.  It actually works out pretty well, because I arrive in NYC at 7am and my company has a New York office at which I can work before flying home on American (what a disappointing first class flight that will be!) that night from Newark.

Looking forward to sharing this with everybody, should be a great trip!

3 Comments

  1. Just stumbled across your blog looking for info on calculating RDMs. This sounds like a great trip. I booked an award ticket in part ICN-JFK on Asiana’s new first class 2 days ago. However, now I’m thinking about rebanking those miles and doing a status challenge on AA and paying for a ticket back to the US from Aisa.

    Reply
  2. Hey Andy, I came across your blog while doing a search for the Lufthansa FCT in Frankfurt. I really like your writing and style. I’ve already read several of your postings and will come back to read more. My wife asked what I was laughing at and I read the line about the 87 whiskeys and a pitcher and busted out laughing. We (my wife and I ) are arriving in Frankfurt on a first class ticket and connecting to Paris in business.We’ll have about an hour and a half and I’d like to partake of the FCT. Do you think that would be enough time to check it out and still make our flight? I read that you had basically the same thing and had the ride to the plane. I’d like to have that opportunity also. I like that your not as aloof .as some of the other well known bloggers on miles and have a great perspective on the joys and blessings of being able to travel for almost free. Let me know your thoughts and keep up the great blog!

    Reply
    • Charles,

      Thanks for the kind words my friend. With that short of a connection, I’d recommend going to the First Class Lounge instead. It has literally the same services and creature comforts as the FCT, with the exception of not driving you to the plane 🙁

      By the time you cleared customs, walked to the terminal and gained entry, I fear you’d only have about 10-20 minutes to really enjoy it, and that’s just not enough enjoyment for me! You’d only be able to make it halfway through the 87 whiskeys joke (so like a 43 whiskeys joke)(sorry, that was bad).

      My layover in Germany was 13 hours (so I could go to the Nurburgring), so I didn’t have the time constraints that you will.

      My recommendation: go to the FCL, try ALL the whiskey, then get your wife to act like you somehow were able to get a ride out to the plane, because by that point you’ll be in no condition to remember anyways 🙂

      Thanks again for the pleasant thoughts, and I wish you nothing less than an amazing journey. Please let me know if I can help!

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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