2016 was, without question, my busiest travel year yet.
I flew 77,136 miles on 54 flights across three continents. I criss-crossed the US, and was fortunate enough to visit Europe and the Middle East/Asia. All this travel took place across a broad swath of airlines, including American (where I concentrate my paid travel to maintain my Platinum status), Alaska, United, Delta, Southwest, Aer Lingus, Emirates, Maldivian, and Etihad.
My travel was made immensely more comfortable domestically thanks to my Platinum status with American airlines, as well as the premium cabin award tickets I booked internationally. Sure, I had my share of bus trips with the masses on Southwest, but I also got to enjoy first on an American 777-200, business on an American A330-300, first on an Emirates A380, first on an Emirates 777-300ER, business on an Etihad A330-300, and first on an Etihad A380.
I enjoyed all this travel at a fraction of the retail cost thanks to maximizing miles as well as our Southwest Companion Pass.
Most importantly, each one of these flights – luxurious and not – allowed me to see the country and the world, exploring new, interesting places with my wife. 2016 allowed me to visit 18 cities in 7 countries, and I am all the better for it.
I spent a ton of nights in hotels this year, 74 to be precise. The majority of those were at Hyatt properties to maximize and re-qualify for my Diamond (now Globalist) status, but also included some Starwood hotels, Hilton hotels (where I also have Diamond status), and a few random others.
With all those nights at hotels, I seriously missed home, but the comfort of fantastic properties, often booked for pennies or less, significantly eased the sting. Status with Hyatt, SPG and Hilton meant fantastic upgrades across the board (and lots of free breakfasts!).
I feel extremely lucky to have enjoyed all this travel, especially my recent hop to the Maldives. All the Park Hyatt properties which I enjoyed were fantastic – I would return to each of them in a heartbeat. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Hyatt Paris Madeleine and the Andaz Amsterdam (order the apple pie from the room service menu!).
On the air front, while there’s nothing better than first class on a Middle Eastern carrier, something much more attainable that blew away my expectations was American’s A321 transcon flying from JFK to LAX. Having a flat bed on a flight that long is game-changing; I would consider routing through LAX in the future (adding an hour or so to my travel) just for the opportunity to upgrade to that service again.
I flew Alaska Airlines for the first time in a half a decade this year, and fell in love with the Crater Lake Hazelnut Espresso Vodka they offer. I’d fly them again just for the drink!
Plans for 2017
Oddly enough, I’m facing a new year without much planned in the way of travel. I’m heading to Israel in a few weeks, and will “get to” review economy on El Al’s nonstop from LAX, along with a few lounges on the way there and back. I’ll have plenty of flights here and there for work, and I have my eye on Costa Rica these days (including Andaz’ fantastic property there in Papagayo).
Other than that, the calendar is wide open, and I’m taking suggestions. I hope to continue to maximize my Globalist status with Hyatt and my Platinum status with American, of course, but I fear that changes to both those programs will make it increasingly difficult for me to retain status after the year ahead.
Is this the end of the road? Hardly. The game is just beginning. This bug is not cured easily. But the path forward for me is clear, for now.
Happy New Year!
Where are you going in 2017? What points redemptions are you maximizing and what properties/planes do you recommend?