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Old Aug 1, 13, 4:46 pm   #1
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The Trip of a Million Lifetimes: 30 F/J Flights Around the World in 69 Days

The Trip of a Million Lifetimes - 30 F/J Flights Around the World in 69 Days on AA, LA, JJ, TK, A3, OS, NH, TG, NZ, and QF


53,979 nautical miles
So it begins in two days. August 3, 2013. For almost two years, my wife and I have been planning to take an epic trip. We knew we wanted to do it. It was just a matter of coordinating with our work and life goals. To set the stage, here is the breakdown on us:
  • My Wife: Just turned 30, Management Consultant within Financial Services, loves food, wine, and quality time
  • Me: About to turn 30, Management Consultant within Mergers & Acquisitions, loves traveling and NASCAR
  • Us: Just married 15 months ago [Did a short and sweet honeymoon in St. John's USVI], live in North Carolina, were not afraid to churn credit cards to enhance our butt-in-seat earned miles and points

In September 2011, when we were just dating, we cashed in 120,000 Delta SkyMiles each to go to Malaysia and China. While walking hand in hand on a beach on Tioman island, watching the tide come in, we both came to the conclusion that we were savoring every moment of travel we did together, and should find a way to one day take an epic trip.

Over the following months, we methodically began opening credit cards, using them to get a bonus amount of miles, closing the credit cards, and moving on to the next one. We did this over the course of a year to strategically supplement the miles we were earning from work travel. We earned 330,000 points through this year-long churn.

In October 2012, coincidentally, we had both left our current employers for a competitor. When accepting our new offers, we made one request. "Could we take a sabbatical about a year out for 2-3 months? We wish to travel the globe while we are newlyweds and before we have started a family." Fortunately for us, our prospective employers were very enthusiastic on the idea. Because our breed of Management Consulting is project based, as long as we give enough notice, our absence will not be too disruptive to our teams and clients.

So in November 2012, I called, and spoke for hours of agents of different airlines, competencies, patience, and customer experience orientation putting business class and first class award tickets on hold. I did the research to see which airlines release what seats and when. And we strategically strung together 3 tickets to give us the trip that we wanted. So on 2 separate Business Award tickets, and 1 F Award ticket we dropped a total of 300,000 miles each and got our Trip of A Million Lifetimes locked-in. 23 Destinations. If the flight had a forward cabin, we were booked in it. Some of our flights are short-haul economy only flights, so we settled for that. I had over 1m Marriott Points at the time, and my wife her balance of 200k+ SPG points, and we started reserving hotel rooms where we saw the best value for money. For some areas, we are staying in a hostel or a private guesthouse in a residence. In other places, we are staying in 5* hotels with confirmed suite upgrades and lounge access. Overall, I calculate we are getting $90,000 total value for free from our air and hotel awards. This trip isn't just a once in a lifetime, it is a once in a million people's lifetimes!

We stay in each of our destinations for 1-5 nights:
  • 1 Night: 5 Destinations
  • 2 Nights: 4 Destinations
  • 3 Nights: 9 Destinations
  • 4 Nights: 1 Destination
  • 5 Nights: 4 Destinations
So as we go I will attempt to give accurate, fun, and insightful trip reports to the FT community fodder. I hope I don't grow too weary of taking photos and documenting insights of everything, but I'll try.

Now it is time to go pack our carry-on bags. Damn the TSA and their 3-1-1 liquids/gels/aerosols rules. We will make this work. I hope everyone enjoys!

**Update 8/6: One thing I ought to mention is that my wife has just begun Lady Tocqueville's Food Blog to capture the food and drink insights we come across during our travels. Hopefully it will complement this trip report.
  1. Introduction
  2. CLT-MIA-LIM-CUZ on AA/LA in Y/J/Y
  3. JW Marriott Cuzco
  4. CUZ-LIM on LA in Y
  5. Sheraton Lima Hotel & Convention Center
  6. LIM-SCL-IPC n LA in J
  7. Steve's Guest House Easter Island
  8. IPC-SCL on LA in J
  9. Marriott Santiago
  10. SCL-MDZ on LA in Y
  11. Wine Farm Posada in Mendoza
  12. MDZ-AEP on LA in Y
  13. Hostel Ostinatto Buenos Aires
  14. AEP-IGR on LA in Y
  15. Secret Garden Guest House Iguazu Falls
  16. IGU-GRU on JJ in Y
  17. Marriott Renaissance Sao Paulo
  18. GRU-IST on TK in J [1] [2]
  19. AirBNB Guest House Istanbul Hotel Sphendon, Istanbul
  20. IST-ATH-JTR on A3 in J/Y
  21. Starwood Luxury Collection Vedema Santorini
  22. JTR-ATH on A3 in Y
  23. Intercontinental Athens
  24. ATH-VIE on OS in J
  25. Courtyard Marriott Messe Vienna
  26. VIE-LED on OS in J
  27. Marriott Renaissance Baltic St. Petersburg
  28. LED-IST-SGN on TK in J (w/ First Class Seats) [1] [2]
  29. Park Hyatt Saigon
  30. SGN-NRT on NH in J
  31. Grand Hyatt Tokyo Roppongi
  32. HND-ITM on NH in Y
  33. Westin Kyoto
  34. KIX-HKG on NH in J
  35. JW Marriott Hong Kong
  36. HKG-BKK-SYD-AKL on TG/NZ in F/J ( First Class ) [1][2][3][4]
  37. Friend's Air Mattress, Auckland
  38. AKL-NOU on NZ in Y
  39. Le Meridien Noumea, New Caledonia
  40. Le Meridien Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia
  41. Le Meridien Noumea, New Caledonia
  42. NOU-SYD-MEL on QF in J [1] [2]
  43. Park Hyatt Melbourne
  44. MEL-CNS on QF in J
  45. Sheraton Resort Port Douglas
  46. CNS-SYD on QF in J
  47. Marriott Sydney Harbourside
  48. SYD-DFW-CLT on QF/AA in J [1] [2]
  49. Concluding Thoughts

Last edited by beofotch; Oct 24, 13 at 5:09 pm Reason: hyperlinking
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Old Aug 1, 13, 6:54 pm   #2
  
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Wow!! This is just out of this world.
Can't wait to see how your journey unfolds.
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Old Aug 1, 13, 7:01 pm   #3
  
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That's incredible stuff. I just got a job where I'll be travelling TATLs on weekly basis, but I still expect it'll be years before I get enough miles to treat myself with such a trip. Looking forward to this trip report anyway
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Old Aug 1, 13, 7:01 pm   #4
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We stayed at the Secret Garden in Iguaza.. loved the caipirhinias!

FDW
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Old Aug 1, 13, 7:44 pm   #5
  
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Ok then. S**t is about to get real, I guess?
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Old Aug 1, 13, 8:00 pm   #6
  
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Good for you, this looks like a wonderful trip!
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Old Aug 1, 13, 10:31 pm   #7
  
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I'm tired already
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Old Aug 1, 13, 11:56 pm   #8
  
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Incredible. Looking forward to reading every word.
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Old Aug 2, 13, 12:04 am   #9
  
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Really looking forward to reading your updates!
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Old Aug 2, 13, 12:45 am   #10
  
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That is some trip.
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Old Aug 2, 13, 3:50 am   #11
  
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OMG !! is it a dream?? surely follow your trip here in FT
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Old Aug 2, 13, 3:54 am   #12
  
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This is definitely going to be a trip of a lifetime that millions of people only dream of and can never achieve what you and your wife are about to embark on, cannot wait to start reading, know it will take a long time to get it all done, but it will keep everyone on tender hooks and make the reading that more interesting and will enjoy looking at all the photos.
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Old Aug 2, 13, 5:21 am   #13
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Incredible! Surely to go down in FT history as an epic TR. Look forward to it.
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Old Aug 2, 13, 8:27 am   #14
  
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Most people envisage themselves doing something like this, except during retirement, and in economy, and on a lesser scale. And I bet 99% of the time it never happens. Kudos for making it work while you're young and able!
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Old Aug 2, 13, 8:57 am   #15
  
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Looks awesome! Best of luck!
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