Best Trip Ever: Introduction

Filed Under: Alaska, Emirates

I’ll keep this introduction short, simply because it could be 50-Shades-Of-Grey-length if I actually shared all the planning details. After all, this trip was a year in the making.

In November my dad was celebrating a “round” birthday, and I wanted to make it extra special. I love my parents more than anything, and taking them on trips is possibly the greatest use of miles there is… and the greatest reward in life, for that matter.

In 2013 I took my mom on a trip to Bali for her “round” birthday, while I took my dad to Europe for his birthday.

But last November my dad had his “round” birthday, and I wanted to make it extra special. So I planned a round the world trip for his birthday, which I thought was awesome in and of itself. But what was especially awesome was that he was cool with it being a total surprise. He knew we’d be gone for about two weeks, but beyond that knew nothing.

Not only was the trip a surprise in advance, but even during the trip he had no clue where we were going. Every step of the way he only found out our next destination as we boarded the flight to that destination.


Looking back at the trip, this was probably the coolest aspect of it. Seeing his genuine excitement and surprise every step of the journey selfishly made me the happiest person in the world. I’m afraid planning a total surprise trip and blowing someone away is a once in a lifetime thing, but this is a memory I won’t ever forget (and I don’t think he will either!). I have a massive grin on my face right now just thinking back at the expression on my dad’s face while we took this journey.

I could write thousands of words about the planning process of the trip, but instead will just link to the posts I wrote about the trip during the planning process:

In the end our itinerary looked as follows:

11/13 AA1209 Tampa to Los Angeles departing 7:40AM arriving 10:10AM
11/13 EK216 Los Angeles to Dubai departing 3:35PM arriving 7:35PM (+1 day)
11/18 EK354 Dubai to Singapore departing 3:15AM arriving 2:40PM
11/20 SQ217 Singapore to Melbourne departing 10:45AM arriving 9:15PM
11/22 QF438 Melbourne to Sydney departing 2:00PM arriving 3:25PM
11/26 QF11 Sydney to Los Angeles departing 3:00PM arriving 9:45AM
11/27 QF107 Los Angeles to New York departing 8:55AM arriving 5:05PM
11/28 US1908 New York to Charlotte departing 2:45PM arriving 4:47PM
11/28 US1829 Charlotte to Tampa departing 5:50PM arriving 7:29PM

In terms of booking our flights, here are the miles I used:

FlightsNumber Of MilesCash
Tampa to Los Angeles on American0$200
Los Angeles to Dubai to Singapore on Emirates100,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles$29
Singapore to Melbourne on Singapore Airlines63,750 Singapore KrisFlyer miles$192
Melbourne to Sydney on Qantas9,000 British Airways Avios$14
Sydney to Los Angeles to New York to Charlotte to Tampa on Qantas/US Airways72,500 American AAdvantage miles$96

Here’s a map of our routing:


And then here’s how I booked the hotels for the trip:

HotelCost Per NightNumber Of Nights
Park Hyatt Dubai10,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points + $1253
St. Regis Singapore$4001
Westin Singapore16,000 Starpoints1
Park Hyatt Melbourne10,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points + $1252
Park Hyatt Sydney22,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points4
SLS Beverly Hills$3001
Park Hyatt New York$0Free night certificate

For me this trip is the perfect example of how damn awesome our hobby is. At retail, the flights alone would have individually cost $40,000+ per person:

Qantas-1 Qantas-2 Qantas-3 Qantas-4

Now, of course I wouldn’t base the value of miles off of the retail cost of flights since I’d never be able to pay that in cash, but it is still pretty cool what kind of experiences our hobby can afford us.

Thanks in advance for any comments or questions, and thanks for reading! Now let’s get straight into the trip reporting!

  1. Hooray!!!! Have been waiting patiently for this report…. Now it is here I am bery excited to read it, keep the posts coming quickly please!

    Is the ‘miles used’ per person or total please?

  2. Would be interesting to see what the year end total was on miles spent. This trip alone was around 500,000 miles. I believe Ben has posted he does not participate in manufactured spending and gets his miles through purchasing miles, cc sign ups, flying, living in a hotel I assume he can transfer some points to miles, and credit card spend (personal and business). How exactly does one get 200k Alaska miles? It would be nice to have him disclose which miles were purchased with cash. This way others will know how to obtain similar results.

  3. @Brent: About this time last year Ben posted a summary of the miles he earned the previous year (about 1,000,000 if I recall) and where they came from. He’s the only “bling blogger” I know of who has done this.

    It stated with 400k miles earned from 200k miles of paid flying (again, to the best of my recollection).

  4. Ben,

    I love reading your blog, and thanks to that I have been able to take some very nice trips, but, I don’t think there’s a more “aspirational” and inspirational trip than this one you took with your dad. It was an awesome thing to do. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  5. if chase can give out 10k per ink referral to us regular people, i’m sure Lucky is well taken care of in terms of how he accumulates ;-). times that by chase, barclay, amex, citi….

  6. Any news on EK first availability via Alaska? It still appears to be nonexistent after Mar 28, and has been for a number of weeks now.

  7. Wow, you found F capacity on award space on Qantas? I thought that was a myth. Whats your secret?

  8. Everyone knows that return business and first fares are usually less than half the one way fare so the amount you’re saving is slightly skewed. It’s very rare for people to book one way business tickets when travelling for leisure

  9. Even at a very conservative “what you would have really been willing and able to spend in cash” of $0.18/mile, that’s still about $4800 worth of airfare, and a corresponding redemption rate of just under 2 CPM. The upgrades and the selection of flights/carriers shows that one can have fantastic experiences at a reasonable redemption rate.

  10. Loved the updates and videos during the trip but looking forward to the report, especially your Dad’s thoughts. Your trip inspired me to take my Mom on a trip later this year to S. America.

    @Jonathan–only partially a myth. I’ve been able to snag QF F when looking close to a year out and only from Australia, never to. For instance, a few days ago I saw one or two seats SYD-LAX around Thanksgiving.

  11. That’s ridiculous to try and say it’s a $40k retail. I’d expect better of you.

    Add a $1k to that Qantas flight alone and could head back on a return ticket.

    Lift your game and stop treating your readers like Joe Bloggs off a street corner.

  12. @ Lucky, @ kevinbryan – After asking for availability on the date you want to fly and receiving the answer that there is no first class available, ask the agent if he can search on the older system. Not all of them will say it’s possible, but after a few calls you can find someone who will do that and he will be able to book your first class ticket.

  13. @ Andrew — Did you read what I wrote next to the picture? C’mon, I wasn’t claiming that’s what the ticket was “worth” to me, and I made that perfectly clear. I’m not one of those bloggers that claims “OMG I booked a $100K ticket for free.” And if you’ve read my blog for any amount of time you’d know that.

  14. Exited for this trip report! But still missing the Tap and icelandair reports! dont forget to share this one with us! Im flying tap executive next month on the old A330 🙁 hope to see your impressions before i go on that trip

  15. Your dad must really appreciate what you’ve done for him. From people around me though, for non-aviation-geeks, this kind of long flying trip mostly burns them out more than they would enjoy it, even all the way in first class, especially along with dramatic time zone changes.

  16. Wow, very “high society” type of trip. How about some experience mingling with common folks?

  17. @ ff_lover — You’re right, shame on me for wanting to plan a nice trip for my dad for his “round” birthday. I’ll make sure we take Amtrak and stay at roadside motels for his next round birthday.

  18. Hi Lucky, I can’t wait to read the full trip report. I have enjoyed the previews you have written so far. I’m sure this trip was very special for you and I appreciate that you are sharing it with your readers.

    My father also celebrated a “round” birthday in 2014 and we went on a RTW trip flying NH, OZ, and EK in J and F. It was the “best trip ever” for me to see the joy and happiness my father got from that trip.

  19. Lucky,

    Fantastic trip report, thanks for sharing your insights and experiences with us. Hope to capitalize on some of your ‘teachings’ in 2015 and beyond.

    @Andrew, when you have a moment, please post your blog link with all of your trip reports. And while you’re at it, why don’t you show us how you booked yourself and your dad a series of flights and rooms around the world. Show Lucky some respect and stop trolling.

  20. @ben, @ dennis.

    my apologies – i guess my comment was a little heated.

    Perhaps i approach this frequent flyer points thing differently as i don’t have the funds to ever consider paying retail for J/F. instead i come from a point of view of “well i want to go on this trip, how much more than Y would it cost me to travel in J/F”, so any comparison to retail doesn’t strike a chord with me.

    i do however think it’s a bit rich for Ben to say this is a “hobby” – unless you’re loaded already, i am guessing you make plenty of affliate commissions from the various credit card offers your USA readers can take advantage of (and yes i do appreciate the disclaimer at the top of those posts). furthermore, i would think people reading Ben’s, and others’ boardingarea blogs have at least a bit of ‘skin in the game’/ experience of this FF points thing. perhaps i have misjudged the target audience.

    anyway, i will continue to peruse these TR’s with keen interest, as i do enjoy the variety of premium products you get to experience Ben.

    for the record, i do like to keep a diary of my trips and have utilised the above mentioned QF F trip for an upcoming trip in 2015 so thanks Ben!


  21. Andrew, that’s why I suggested thinking about capping your “retail cost” at 18cpm earlier as opposed to whatever the posted price is for J/F. It’s not like large corporate fliers are paying those prices either, they have corporate contracts with negotiated discounts. To you and me, that’s similar to rack rate at a hotel.

    I find that 18cpm is a lot more than I’m ever willing to pay for leisure Y unless I’m going to a time-sensitive event or I’m using systemwides to upgrade, a little more than I’m willing to pay for domestic F, but about what I have paid for transatlantic Premium Economy and thus certainly reasonable if I found a three-class J fare at that price. (It also translates to $90 for a short-haul non-stop segment vs. 4500 Avios + $2.50, so it seems consistent to me.)

    Regardless of your valuation scheme, however, it’s still an awfully nice present of Ben to give to his father, not just the travel but the time. if he gets to make a little coin on it by readership, so be it.

  22. Ben…awesome post. Loved how you broke down the methods and points on how you did it…I will plan something like this in the future with the twins, and use your method….Happy New year!

  23. Looking forward to reading your trip report, Ben! A little surprising to see some jealous trolls have their claws out before its even been published. I totally agree with you about how awesome and gratifying it can be treating one or both of your parents to an international adventure. Many people in their 20’s and 30’s don’t “get it” but I love how you are able to see different side of them as people, I often find they are more relaxed and crazy than you would ever expect. I can tell its an experience you’ll both treasure forever! PS: That photo of your Dad rocking the Emirates cabin crew hat is EVERYTHING! Did they let him keep it?

  24. @ Tom S — Thanks! Hah, it was one of the flight attendant’s uniform hats, so he couldn’t keep it, unfortunately. But he enjoyed every second of wearing it. 😀

  25. From the tidbits we’ve read thus far this sounds like not only a fantastic trip but a deeply meaningful one as well, like the one with your Mom. Never mind the naysayers – glad both you and your Dad had a fabulous time.

  26. Awesome awesome awesome. I will do this one day!

    Was the whole trip booked at once or were you doing it on the fly? If it was, having dates and such all fall into place like that has to be a great feeling. Especially for 2pax.

  27. Very cool. Can I ask if you used mostly Amex or Chase Sapphire to redeem the points? Or depending on which program you chose accordingly?

  28. @ Jimmy — All depends on the program. In this case Alaska doesn’t partner with either, though I transferred points from American Express for the Singapore flights.

  29. Thanks for the info! The site is great. Been my go to read reviews and stay up to date on deals! Keep up the good work.

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