Reflecting On My 2013 Travels

First of all, happy new year to everyone! I’m not usually big into new years, because the whole “show affection thing at midnight” is kind of lost on me. Not because I don’t think it’s cute (I suppose), but more because there are 20+ timezones where it happens. If anything it’s hogwash because if you fly strategically you can have two new years (maybe more?), and that’s just cheating!

And let’s be honest, the only real things that change in the new year are some fake resolutions that people end up keeping for only a few hours/days/weeks/months (at most).

December-31-January-1

At any rate, I usually spend the new year reflecting on the past year rather than making lofty resolutions I know I won’t keep. And 2013 was an amazing, amazing year for me, on the whole. Yes, every year has its ups and downs, and I certainly had my share, but 2013 was incredible for me overall, and I owe it to you guys. I consider myself to be insanely lucky in that I get to spend every day doing what I love, and it wouldn’t be possible without the support I get from each of you. I’m truly thankful.

In reflecting on my 2013 travels I realized that even though I’m a total airplane nerd, I don’t typically record the amount of flying I do. So yesterday I sat down and got to work recording all my flights from last year, and put together this map:

2013-Travel-Year-Review

In total I flew 406,038 miles in 2013. I’ve been averaging 300,000+ miles per year for the past few years, but this is the most I’ve ever flown in a single year. In the above map I’ve marked the flights I flew using miles in blue, while I marked the flights I flew on revenue tickets in red (which I’ll explain in more detail below).

The first thing that springs to mind about 2013 is that it was a great year to redeem airlines miles for premium cabin travel. Often you don’t realize how good you have it till it’s too late, and I think we’re kind of seeing that right now with the slew of devaluations that have been announced. 2013 was just an amazing year for redeeming airline miles, especially when you look at the current award charts of American, United, and US Airways.

The other interesting thing for me about this past year is that roughly half of my flying was on award tickets. It would have been a lot higher than that, but I booked several reasonably priced paid premium cabin tickets, including from Colombo to Seattle in January, to Buenos Aires in April, to Managua a few times throughout the year, and to Brazil in November. All of my revenue flying was credited to either American AAdvantage or Alaska Mileage Plan, and I qualified for top tier status in both programs (Executive Platinum and MVP Gold 75K, respectively).

I know the above map makes it look like I took a lot more award flights than revenue flights, but that’s simply because a lot of my revenue flights are on repetitive domestic routes, so whether I flew a route once or a dozen times, it shows up the same on the map.

In total I only flew four segments in economy class in 2013, all of which were short-haul domestic flights. I’d say that’s some pretty damn amazing upgrade luck I’ve had, which I absolutely don’t take for granted, and don’t expect will necessarily continue next year, as airlines look to more and more ways to generate revenue (like selling upgrades to non-elite members when elite members are on the upgrade list).

I figured I’d also briefly recap the major trips I took in 2013:

January: A380 Extravaganza

This was my first time flying Suites Class on Singapore Airlines, after they made saver redemptions possible about a year ago. Suffice to say that after sleeping in a double bed for over 10 hours it’s hard to go back to any other type of travel. I also flew Emirates A380 first class on the return from both Singapore to Dubai and Dubai to London, connecting to British Airways first class back home to Seattle.

Singapore-Suites-Class-100

January: Vienna to Istanbul via Tokyo

This trip was booked using 90,000 US Airways miles on one of their well known US to North Asia business class awards, and I flew almost continuously. I took this trip to sample Brussels, Austrian, Turkish, and LOT business class for the first time.

Austrian-Business-Class-100

February: OneWorld Welcome

Malaysia Airlines joined OneWorld back in February, and at the time they released a ton of first class award space between London and Kuala Lumpur. This trip was solely to try their first class product, given that they were the newest OneWorld member airline.

Malaysia-First-Class-100

March: The “New” American to Europe

This was a sponsored trip I took on American to London to try out their brand new 777-300ER. Their new reverse herringbone business class seats are a hell of a hard product upgrade, and make it one of the most comfortable transatlantic business class products, in my opinion.

American-Business-Class-100

March: A Royal (dis)HHonor

This was a spring break trip I took with a friend to the Conrad Koh Samui in order to redeem Hilton HHonors points before the devaluation. While we flew Cathay Pacific for the transpacific flights, the most eventful flight was the Royal Jordanian flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong, which was the scariest flight of my life.

Conrad-Koh-Samui-100

April: Buenos Aires for the Weekend

Earlier in the year there were some cheap business class fares available on LAN to South America, so along with a few friends I went down to Buenos Aires for a weekend and stayed at the gorgeous Park Hyatt.

Park-Hyatt-Buenos-Aires

May: To Sicily for the Weekend

Friends of mine were spending a few months in Sicily, so I decided to visit them. I booked an award ticket in Lufthansa first class, and stopped in Budapest for a couple of nights on the way out, a city I hadn’t visited before.

Lufthansa-First-Class-100

June: Mom’s Bali Birthday Bonanza

My mom had a “round” birthday in June, so I wanted to take her on an extra special trip. I decided on two of the Aman properties in Bali – Amandari and Amankila – and we flew Cathay Pacific first class to get there. It was one of the most special trips for me, since I was able to share the experience with my mom. And my mom even shared her impressions of the trip!

Amankila-100

July: Going to HEL with American

On this trip I had the opportunity to take a blog reader with me to Helsinki. I booked a revenue ticket and held a contest (sponsored by American) to see who would join me. I don’t think I could have asked for a better travel companion than Andrew!

Helsinki-100

July: Another Round the World for 90K

You can’t beat redeeming US Airways miles to North Asia, so in summer I decided to visit France and check out their new Hyatt properties there, in Cannes and Nice. From there I continued to Taipei to stay at the W Hotel and fly EVA Air Royal Laurel Class on the return, Star Alliance’s newest member airline.

Grand-Hyatt-Cannes-100

August: The Rimowa Quest

This trip was motivated somewhat by my obsession with Rimowa amenity kits. ANA and Thai had “perfect” award availability, whereby I could connect from ANA’s new 777-300ER first class to Thai’s new A380 first class with just a short connection. The fact that both airlines give out Rimowa amenity kits made it even awesomer. In Singapore I checked out the W Sentosa Cove, and on the return flew Singapore Airlines first class on a flight my friend Janesis was operating.

Thai-First-Class-100

September: To the Vaterland with my Vater

This was another special trip for me, since I was able to take my dad to Europe for a week in Lufthansa first class, which he loved. We visited one of my favorite cities, Berchtesgaden, and also visited Salzburg and Brussels, neither of which I had previously explored in depth. Much like my mom, my dad also shared his thoughts on the trip.

Lufthansa-First-Class-101

October: Around the World in 80 Hours

This was another trip intended to sample new products, again using a US Airways award to North Asia. I was able to book an award that included travel on US Airways’ new Envoy Suite, Air China business class, ANA’s 787 (my first 787 flight ever), and two flights on EVA Air’s Hello Kitty service.

ANA-787-100

December: Air France vs. British Airways A380

I’m making a point to try first class on every airline that operates the A380, and Air France and British Airways were both missing from my list. So I figured I’d take a quick trip to Germany’s Christmas Markets to sample Air France first class on the way out and British Airways first class on the return – I was pleasantly surprised by both products.

Air-France-A380-First-Class-100

In a follow up post I’ll share my best and worst travel experiences of 2013, but overall it’s been an incredible year.

I sincerely hope you all have a phenomenal 2014, and really appreciate the company you keep this introvert here on this blog. It has been a pleasure meeting some of you all around the world this past year, and I hope to meet many more of you in the coming year(s). I also hope everyone has enjoyable — and most importantly safe — travels!

What did your 2013 look like? How many miles did you fly, and what were your highlights? 🙂

Comments

  1. Awesome year in the air! I also had the chance to fly some of the same products this year – Singapore Suites, Cathay First, Emirates 380 first, and British First. Singapore was definitely my favorite!

  2. 353,305 BIS miles in 2013 for this fellow SEA-based flyer. That’s as a full time college student with job on the side. I didn’t get to experience multiple New Year’s, but both Friday, Sep and Dec 13, I flew back from Asia and “survived” twice. Thanks for taking time to share your experiences and insights, I’ve been hooked since stumbling upon your blog last January.

  3. Wow! I thought I was burning it up this year, but you rocked it!

    Oh what I wouldn’t give to know what program/software you used to map out your flights! A friend of mind and I have been searching for a way to track our travels and have come up empty handed so far…

  4. are we going to get a trip report for time in florida and new years eve plans? i just happen to love your trip reports! 🙂

  5. I remember the years not so long ago when 400k was normal for me and then look back at my relatively pedestrian 75k in 2013 and realise that I enjoyed this level of travel just as much.

    You are absolutely right that you need to enjoy it while you can. One day your priorities will inevitably change and it’s much better to look back at all the stuff you did do than to look back and regret all the stuff you didn’t.

    I’ve been reading your posts for almost 10 years now Ben and the quality continues to improve from an already high standard. Keep it up. Who needs to waste time, effort and money on so much travel when we can live vicariously through your adventures that are so brilliantly chronicled here. 🙂

  6. “I booked several reasonably priced paid premium cabin tickets”

    Is that the new euphemism for mistake fares?

  7. Happy New Years Lucky!

    The one thing that sticks out is that both Africa and Oceania we left un-lucky’d in 2013. Maybe this year? What are your thoughts?

  8. Love the blog lucky. Looking forward to following it in 2014! I was 80,000 miles this year as an 18 year old college student. Going for 100,000+ this year!

  9. It has been an entertaining year, thank you for all your posts 🙂 keep up the good work in 2014!

  10. Great stuff. But how much $$$ did you make from pimping cards? That’s the dirty linen we never get to hear about.

  11. Hey Lucky, thank you for what you do and share with us on your blog. I have benefited a lot from your experiences!

    I couldn’t agree with you more about “showing affection at midnight” thing, I turned my phone to silent yesterday so I won’t be bombarded by them.

    Looking forward to what you are going to share with us in 2014!

    @Renee, further to what Grant suggested, you may want to check out flightmemory.com or openflights.org to track your travels.

  12. @ miquel — Thanks, happy you enjoy the trip reports! Yep, you can absolutely expect trip reports about my time in Florida, New Years, and the Brazil mileage runs (which I still have to write about).

  13. @ Unbiased observer — Some of them were mistake fares, and some of them were “legitimate” paid premium cabin sales. For example, my ex-CMB tickets were on a paid first class fare that was ridiculously cheap but was definitely not a mistake. My Brazil mileage runs were meant to be coach fares, I think, but were accidentally published as business class fares.

  14. @ JD — Yep, was disappointed by that as well. Stay tuned, because I’ll be sharing my 2014 travel goals shortly (and they include both Australia and Africa).

  15. Happy New Year! All I can say is that amount of traveling you do in a year is just… crazy. Just crazy. *shakes head* 🙂

  16. Happy New Year, Lucky! And thank you for opening my eyes to this new (for me) world of points and miles and premium cabins. I easily earned enough sign-up bonus points to get a round trip business award ticket Phiily-Budapest for my sister.

  17. So in the past, you’ve mentioned that you have other elite statuses with airlines, for instance US Dividend Miles Gold.

    Besides AA and AS, mind sharing the full list? If your flying is focused on flights that can credit to AA/AS, how do you maintain these?

  18. Only 230K BIS for me this year… 160 flights. Last year was 270K! Since I pay for many of my flights for business, I consolidated quite a bit this year and didn’t have any purely leisure trips, so both things combined equal a lower total this year. Lucky, that’s EXTREMELY impressive. I hope one year I can match! 🙂

  19. 46,734, 46 segments, highlight was Koh Lanta, Thailand for 2 weeks in Feb. Lowlight was flu and stranded at JFK for Winter Storm Nemo and 25 inches of snow. 400K is unbelievable.

  20. Just wow! A great year indeed- I flew 51k this year -1 biz BA and three vacation trips. Highlight was RTW to Australia via Asia and Europe w/US 110k award in biz class on Asiana, Singapore, Thai A380 and US. I’m just starting to write my posts from this trip – I’m exhausted and applaud you for being able to do this full time with the blog and job- I look forward to your 2014 adventures

  21. I just realised… what do you have against Africa? LOL I reckon you’d love Morocco or luxurious Tunisia or Seychelles, Mauritius or Zanzibar!! Maybe 2014 will see African trips?

  22. A great year for a great blog, Ben. Keep up the good work in 2014.

    Would you care to share to the total number of miles redeemed for all your award travel? I know some of it comes from your revenue tickets, but the sheer number must mean you did some serious credit card churning. As a Canadian, I can only dream of credit card signup bonuses to fund my award travel like you get state-side.

  23. Lucky, do you by any chance know how many miles you redeemed this year? i would be very interested to find out!

  24. Happy New Year Lucky!
    I read your blog daily since discovering it earlier this year, love it!

    I did 194,294 BIS miles (66 segments) this year, mostly company travel, almost all in Y.
    Highlights for me were my trips to OZ & NZ, as well as TG on an A380 in F from NRT-BKK.
    Travel in 2014 will probably be similiar to 2013, however, I want to squeeze in some personal trips to Hawaii, Palau, Madeira & Sicily.
    BTW, I while back you had written about going to LYR….you still doing this?

  25. Hi Lucky,
    Happy 2014. I discovered your blog a few months ago and have consulted it regularly ever since. You do a terrific job of identifying and publicizing really useful information for frequent flyers. I am AA EXP and few 165K revenue miles on AA and One World in 2013 — more productively, thanks to you!

    One question: How did you manage to book half of your +400K travel in 2013 using awards? You need revenue tickets to earn miles. And even with credit card, hotel, and other deals — and your nose for finding low-miles awards — I can’t quite make the math work.

  26. Since stumbling upon your website, it’s been both an inspiration and source of great info. Thank you for traveling for the rest of us, and well done!

    I’ve decided I’m going to do what you do when I retire. Earn and burn! :^)

  27. Ben It will be hard to top all the great travel you had in ’13. Thanks for letting us participate in your adventures! I look forward to more of your “aspirational” travels in 2014.

  28. Crazy stuff Ben! Always look forward to your posts. I know much of the focus is on miles/points and thus the means of travel as opposed to the destination, but I’d love for you to include just a bit about what you do in the actual destinations of your trip reports. I envision this as being one of the links in your trip reports that could include highlights from all cities visited.

    Also I echo what Larry/Steven/Todd say when I’m curious to see how much you’ve earned and burned. Given your level of travel and some previous posts of yours, I know you do very little manufactured spending, and there’s only so many credit cards to open. For example I went hog-wild this past year and earned 1.1M miles/points from bonuses alone, but am kind of tapped out for the future from bonuses. I presume you earn a ton from revenue flights/stays but it’d be interesting to see a more detailed breakdown. Thanks for all you do!

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