Trip Planning: 3 pit stops to F1 Abu Dhabi

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I visited Abu Dhabi, where the final Formula 1 event of 2022 took place, and in the usual Suitesmile fashion, I attempted to squeeze in as many high-value redemptions on miles/points as possible to learn (and share) the travel-hacking limits.

How it started

I had previously shared the opportunity to book off-peak nights at Andaz Abu Dhabi, a World of Hyatt sweet spot, during Formula 1 weekend.

I made a 2-night booking at the hotel about a year in advance, and had plenty of time to piece together a dream itinerary at some great hotels and on superb Business Class seats, almost entirely on miles/points!

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Objectives

My key objective while planning this itinerary was to try Business Class seats that are new to me (and the world), as well as to burn miles/points, a free-night certificate and suite upgrade awards on high-value redemptions/sweet spots.

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Challenges

As you would expect, it wasn’t easy finding flight and hotel award availabilities that are perfectly aligned with my plan, especially with fixed travel dates, during the Formula 1 weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Some inconveniences/sacrifices had to be made and that includes:

  1. Positioning to a city other than my home (Singapore)
  2. Long layovers
  3. Unfavourable flight times
  4. Lack of proper sleep
  5. Convincing my partner to skip the long detours/layovers and fly alone to Abu Dhabi

I’ll be sharing more details about each redemption in separate, upcoming reviews.

Final itinerary and Flight routes

My final itinerary included a couple of short Economy Class flights (for positioning) and less popular hotels that I stayed in just to get some sleep.

Here are my favourite redemptions that were pieced together on this trip:

RedemptionLoyalty
Program
Total
Cost
Manila to Delhi (via Tokyo) in
Japan Airlines Business Class
(Sky Suite II and
Sky Suite Apex Suite)
Alaska
Mileage
Plan
25k miles
+ US$32
Delhi to Abu Dhabi in
Etihad’s NEW A350 Business Class
Air Canada
Aeroplan
25k miles
+ US$45
Andaz Abu Dhabi
(2 nights)
World of
Hyatt
6.5k points
per night
Abu Dhabi to Muscat in
Etihad’s regional Business Class
Air Canada
Aeroplan
5k miles
+ US$44
Al Bustan Palace,
The Ritz-Carlton, Muscat
Marriott
Bonvoy
40k free night
+ 3k points
W MuscatMarriott
Bonvoy
35k points
Muscat to Kuala Lumpur in
Oman Air Business Class
(Apex Suite)
Etihad
Guest
39k miles
+ US$309

Related: Sweet Spots: Best ways to redeem Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles in 2023

Flight routes for this trip

Sneak Peeks

Here are some sneak peeks of my flights and hotel stays that I had previously shared on Suitesmile’s Instagram page:

Japan Airlines Sky Suite (Apex Suite)
Meal onboard Japan Airlines Business Class
Etihad’s new Airbus A350 Business Class seat
Breakfast at Andaz Abu Dhabi
Grand lobby at Al Bustan Palace, The Ritz-Carlton
Wow suite at W Muscat
Oman Air’s Apex Suite Business Class
Meal onboard Oman Air Business Class
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Getting around the cities

Delhi

I’d got out of the airport to a cheap hotel near the airport to get some sleep before a 4am flight to Abu Dhabi.

It was my first time in India and I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of taxi touts at the airport. I was expecting a similar kind of madness like what you may be used to in Bali!

I could easily book an Uber from the designated pick-up point at the airport and paid through the app.

Abu Dhabi

The 2 popular ride-hailing apps in the UAE are Careem and Uber. As expected, because of high demand near the vicinity of the Formula 1 event, ride prices were about 3-4 times higher than usual.

I managed to hail a metered-taxi near the event to get back to my hotel and it was so much cheaper!

Although I had travelled in Dubai for a couple of months during the pandemic, I’d only just found out that street-hailing a taxi is generally cheaper than booking through the mobile apps; even when travelling outside high-demand areas!

Muscat

Getting around in Muscat is trickier.

There are a couple of ride-hailing apps (OTaxi and Marhaba), but rides are hardly accepted there. Even the popular Middle-Eastern ride-hailing company, Careem, decided to pull out because of the absence of regulatory factors in Oman.

The taxi-monopoly seemed to still be strong here, like what you may have experienced in some areas in Bali and Istanbul, and even in Kuala Lumpur over a decade ago.

When taxi drivers run the show, you can expect the usual tricks and scams to squeeze tourist dollars. I took about 6 taxi rides during my visit in Muscat and on all occasions, I had to either negotiate the ride fare before the ride, or hear the taxi drivers come out with an excuse that the meter had miraculously stopped working, mid-ride!

It is such a pity that tourist experiences in beautiful cities like this are still being tainted by dishonest taxi drivers.

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Best cards for overseas spending

While in Delhi, Abu Dhabi and Muscat, I used the Amaze card for all of my spending, while linking them to the Citi Rewards card and Citi Prestige card.

This gives me up to 4 miles per dollar while minimizing foreign currency charges.

RelatedBest Singapore Cards for Foreign Currency & Overseas spending in 2023

Bottom line

It was not easy to piece together a 10-day itinerary with miles/points with this many high-value redemptions. However, with some minor inconveniences, early-planning and flexibility, it can definitely be done!

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