How I planned a 17-day Round The World trip in Business & First Class using Miles

ADVERTISEMENT

I’ve completed a 17-day Round The World (RTW) trip in mostly Business and First Class, and what an experience it was!

I’ll be sharing my thought process in planning this RTW itinerary.

Key objectives

  • Complete flight paths around the globe
  • Use up excess/expiring miles* in my Frequent Flyer accounts
  • Use up miles from Frequent Flyer Programs (FFPs) that were showing signs of award devaluation
  • Experience Business/First Class seats from my wishlist
  • Experience airport lounges from my wishlist
  • Hit as many award sweet spots as possible
  • Visit at least 1 country that is new to me
  • Travel without checked baggage

*Miles that I don’t forsee using in the next 3 years.

Subscribe to Suitesmile on Telegram
to be the first to know about amazing
deals and travel hacks. It's FREE!
Subscribe

Key challenges

Award availability

Award availability is a common hurdle that all travel hackers face, when trying to redeem miles for seats in premium cabins, on preferred dates.

Finding award availability for one flight is challenging, but finding multiple award flights that check all the boxes of my objectives was a different level of difficulty.

Due to poor award availability from my home airport, Singapore, I decided to start my RTW journey from neighbouring Kuala Lumpur.

Undesirable flight/connection times

Flight and connection times hardly align perfectly with a traveller’s plan, especially when the options are limited by award availability.

This led me to spending additional nights in cities that I do not intend to visit, on top of the additional costs incurred.

To make the trip a little more convenient, I travelled without a checked baggage; just a backpack and cabin luggage.

Jet lag

Travelling across 24 time zones in 17 days is a recipe for insane jet lag!

Instead of “fighting” to adjust my body clock each time I enter a new time zone, my plan was to sleep whenever I feel sleepy; basically function without a fixed body clock.

Flight changes/cancellations

While deciding on the flight dates, I allowed some buffer time, in case there are flight delays or cancellations. This also gave me sufficient time to rest, work and explore the cities.

I signed up for Singlife Travel Insurance, which also covers the loss of frequent flyer miles, on top of travel inconveniences.

ADVERTISEMENT

Flight bookings

The first 5 bookings that I made were key flights to take me around the world in Business/First Class, through some fantastic award sweet spots.

They were all booked about 3 months prior, within a couple of days after I have checked that there were award availability.

1) Japan Airlines First Class Chicago to Tokyo

1) Japan Airlines First Class Los Angeles to Tokyo

Cost: 70,000 Alaska miles + S$24

I started with a speculative booking for a Japan Airlines First Class flight from Chicago to Tokyo, when Alaska Mileage Plan was showing signs of an award devaluation (it happened a few months later).

Although I had a rough idea of the routes/airlines that I would like to fly in, I was thankful that I had not started making other bookings, as the airline later swapped the aircraft type used for this route to one that does not have a First Class cabin (Boeing 787 vs Boeing 777).

I took the next best option, Los Angeles to Tokyo, scheduled a month later than originally planned. This wasn’t a perfect alternative, as I had planned to enter the US via New York, and Los Angeles is a further 6 hours away by air.

The first piece of the puzzle was locked in, and I planned the entire RTW trip around this flight.

Dining in Japan Airlines First Class

2) Turkish Airlines Business Class Kuala Lumpur to Abu Dhabi (via Istanbul)

Cost: 32,900 Turkish miles + S$437

As award availability to/from Singapore is generally poor, I made the decision to start and end my RTW journey in Kuala Lumpur.

I’ve not experienced Turkish Airlines’ newer Boeing 787-9 Business Class seat and took advantage of a Miles&Smiles award promo to kickstart the westward journey.

This booking also gave me the opportunity to check out the beautiful Turkish Airlines Business Lounge in Istanbul.

Turkish Airlines Boeing 787-9 Business Class

3) Etihad First Class Abu Dhabi to Frankfurt (via London)

3) Qatar Airways Business Class Abu Dhabi to Manchester (via Doha)

Cost: 42,750 Qatar miles + S$295

My original plan was to fly in Etihad’s Boeing 787 First Class from Abu Dhabi to London using 65k Aeroplan miles. However, as Etihad announced that their Airbus A380s were returning soon, I decided to cancel the booking and save the experience for a future trip in the airline’s Airbus A380 Apartments. This cancellation was made free-of-charge, as there was a slight timing change.

As a replacement, I booked Qatar Airways Business Class to Manchester, which featured the new-ish Business Suites in a Boeing 787-9.

I’d booked flights with a 19-hour connection time, to get a good sleep/rest on a proper bed in a Doha hotel.

This booking also gave me the opportunity to experience the airline’s newly-opened Al Mourjan (The Garden) Lounge in Doha airport.

Al Mourjan (The Garden) Lounge in Doha airport

4) Royal Air Maroc Business Class Casablanca to New York

Cost: 44k Etihad miles + S$400

I had just over 50k Etihad miles in my account, and this sweet spot was a great opportunity to use them, despite the high taxes/fees.

Including Morocco in my trip meant that I would be visiting a country that is new to me!

Royal Air Maroc Boeing 787-9 Business Class

5) EVA Air Business Class Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur (via Taipei)

Cost: 25k EVA miles + S$212

Despite the overnight layover in Taipei, Infinity MileageLands is great for Business Class award redemptions on EVA Air, between Japan/Korea and SouthEast Asia.

As Tokyo (Narita) – Taipei was a route that was serviced by EVA Air’s Boeing 787-10 aircrafts, it also gave me the opportunity to experience the airline’s latest Royal Laurel Business Class seat.

EVA Air Boeing 787-10 Business Class

6) Connecting the dots

As the key flights were already locked in. All that’s left to do was to connect the remaining dots and find the best ways to travel from Manchester to Casablanca, as well as New York to Los Angeles.

Manchester to Casablanca: As there were no direct flights between these cities, I chose to take a train to London Gatwick for S$120, before catching a 3-hour flight to Casablanca. I redeemed 15k Asia Miles + S$127 in taxes/fees for an Economy Class flight on Royal Air Maroc.

New York to Los Angeles: I paid S$230 for a 6-hour direct flight in United’s Economy Class.

As I had United’s Premier Silver status by being a Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite member, I could make a free seat selection.

Final flight paths

It would be amazing if there was award availability to redeem just 7.5k Turkish miles (or 12.5k miles for Business Class) + S$8 for this flight! But oh well, you can’t win it all.

Redeem just 12.5k Miles&Smiles miles for a 6-hour Business Class flight from New York to Los Angeles

Accommodation

Kuala Lumpur (Day 1): As my RTW journey started with an early flight out of Kuala Lumpur, I took a late positioning flight from Singapore to the city on the night before, and spent the night in an airport hotel, Aerotel, to wake up fresh for the morning flight.

This booking was made through a Bank x Agoda deal for S$59.

Private room in Aerotel Kuala Lumpur

Doha (Day 3): I spent a night at Hyatt Regency Doha, a fantastic Hyatt sweet spot, which costed just 5k points.

I received complimentary breakfast and evening cocktail benefits as a Globalist member.

Manchester (Days 4 to 7): I spent more time in Manchester to recharge and catch up on work. I made a booking through Citi Prestige concierge to receive 4th Night Free (cash rebate) at Hyatt Regency Manchester, for a nett nightly rate of S$150.

I received complimentary breakfast and evening cocktail benefits as a Globalist member.

Manchester City vs Chelsea in Etihad Stadium

Casablanca (Days 8 to 10): I allowed 3 nights to explore the city, and used 17.5k Marriott points per night at Casablanca Marriott hotel.

I received complimentary breakfast and evening cocktail benefits as a Titanium member.

The beautiful Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca
Food served during cocktail hours at Casablanca Marriott was good for dinner!

New York (Days 11 to 12): In New York, I spent 21.7k Marriott points per night at Fairfield Inn & Suites Brooklyn, as part of a Marriott Bonvoy PointsSavers deal.

I received complimentary breakfast and US$10 F&B credit as a Titanium member.

Los Angeles (Day 13): To allow some buffer time in case of a delayed flight, I decided to arrive in the city a day prior to my Japan Airlines First Class flight, and spent a night at Holiday Inn LAX near the airport for S$218.

I received complimentary breakfast an IHG Diamond member (which I got for free).

Tokyo (Day 15): Although there are hotels near Narita airport that include free airport shuttle, I chose convenience (and more sleep time) by spending the night at Nine Hours Capsule Hotel located within the airport terminal.

This booking was made through a Bank x Agoda deal for S$62.

Nine Hours Capsule Hotel in Tokyo Narita Airport

Taipei (Day 16): Like the previous night, I chose convenience again and stayed at CHO Stay Capsule Hotel in the airport terminal.

This booking was made through a Bank x Agoda deal for S$55.

Summary of itinerary and costs

I spent a total of 229,650 air miles + S$1,725 in taxes/fees on flights, and a further 100,900 hotel points + S$1,026 on accommodations.

Here’s a quick summary of flight and hotel bookings that I made, as well as the cost and order in which they were booked:

Route/
Location
Flight/
Hotel
CostBooking
Order
Kuala
Lumpur
Airport
Aerotel
(1 night)
S$599
Kuala
Lumpur

Abu Dhabi
(via Istanbul)
Turkish
Airlines
(Business)
32.9k
TK miles
+ S$437
2
Abu Dhabi

Manchester
(via Doha)
Qatar
Airways
(Business)
42.75k
QR miles
+ S$295
3
DohaHyatt
Regency
Doha
(1 night)
5k/n
(Hyatt
points)
10
ManchesterHyatt
Regency
Manchester
(4 nights)
S$150/n
(4th night
free)
11
Manchester

London
Gatwick
TrainS$1208
London
Gatwick

Casablanca
Royal Air
Maroc
(Economy)
15k
CX miles
+
S$127
6
CasablancaCasablanca
Marriott
(3 nights)
17.5k/n
(Marriott
points)
12
Casablanca

New York
Royal Air
Maroc
(Business)
44k
EY miles
+ S$400
4
New YorkFairfield
Brooklyn
(2 nights)
21.7k/n
(Marriott
points)
13
New York

Los Angeles
United
(Economy)
S$2307
Los AngelesHoliday Inn
LAX Airport
(1 night)
S$21814
Los Angeles

Tokyo
Haneda
Japan
Airlines
(First)
70k
AS miles
+ S$24
1
Tokyo
Haneda

Tokyo
Narita
Limousine
Bus
S$3217
Tokyo
Narita
Airport
Nine Hours
Capsule
Hotel
(1 night)
S$6215
Tokyo
Narita

Kuala
Lumpur
(via Taipei)
EVA Air
(Business)
25k
BR miles
+ S$212
5
Taipei
Taoyuan
Airport
CHO Capsule
Hotel
(1 night)
S$5516
ADVERTISEMENT

Bottom line

I thoroughly enjoyed this RTW bucket-list experience and it was a great way to burn off excess/expiring miles. A trip like this would not have been possible if I had only “focused” on credit card earn rates (mpd value) and ignored miles/points flexibility.

As I travelled mostly in premium cabins and had some elite hotel statuses, about 70% of the food that I consumed in those 17 days were free of charge!

An interesting observation: We know how humans from different regions of the world behave differently. But to experience (and adapt to) huge behavioral/ethical shifts within a short period of time, man…it was quite eye-opening!

I think I did pretty well in hitting the key objectives of this trip:

✅ Complete flight paths around the globe
✅ Use up excess/expiring miles* in my Frequent Flyer accounts
✅ Use up miles from Frequent Flyer Programs (FFPs) that are showing signs of devaluation
✅ Experience Business/First Class seats from my wishlist
✅ Hit as many sweet spots as possible
✅ Visit at least 1 country that is new to me (Morocco, Qatar. Although, Qatar didn’t really count as I did not explore Doha)
✅ Travel without checked baggage

Look out for upcoming airline seat, hotel and airport lounge reviews from this trip! You may also view story highlights from this trip on Suitesmile’s Instagram profile.

1 thought on “How I planned a 17-day Round The World trip in Business & First Class using Miles”

  1. Simply amazing. The itinerary was put together so beautifully by you. The most important part is the flexibility which you have shown in adjusting the buffer time in case of delays and so on. A good lesson for all of us.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

ADVERTISEMENT