Nine Thoughts After Circling the Globe

Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.

….and like that, we circled the world.  We just got back from our around-the-world journey to celebrate my husband’s 40th birthday.  I’ve flown to both Europe and Asia before, but I’ve never circled the globe in one trip.  I didn’t really ever think I would circle the globe in one trip.  I mean, that is something that real explorers do, not families from East Texas, right?  Wrong.

As it turns out, traveling (literally) around the world is something that folks with miles and points and a desire to travel can do.  With the exception of the final three hours of the journey from LAX to Houston on a United operated flight, and the Maldivian Airlines transfers from Male to Kooddoo, the entire experience was in business class – most of it lie-flat business class.  As a visual reference, here is a map of our journey from the Great Circle Mapper.  It clocks in at 22,902 miles flown.

Around the world

Around the world routing from Great Circle Mapper

I’ve got lots of pictures and notes from all of the flights that I will share relatively soon (after I finish our Paris trip report), but as we fly toward home on the last leg of the journey I wanted to write down a few thoughts.

The world is both big, and small. 

On the one hand, I feel like we have been flying forever, and on the other hand I can’t believe we are already nearly home.  The getting home part did take quite a long time as we left the Park Hyatt Maldives resort about 42 hours before we landed back in Houston.  However, to have spent two days in Amsterdam, gone through Istanbul, stayed four nights in The Maldives, and gone home through Singapore, Taipei, and Los Angeles in 8 days is pretty incredible.

20140508-091726.jpg

Exploring in Amsterdam

Business class was the only thing that made it work.

I love travel, but I am not masochistic enough to want to travel literally around the world in a short amount of time in coach.  That would be exhausting, painful, and no fun at all (for me).  Being able to get reasonably comfortable on the planes and lie down to get some sleep was the key to this working.  As I write this, I’m not home yet, but I feel like aside from some general exhaustion that I will deal with the first few days, I’m going to be able to go to bed at a normal time and immediately hop back into my normal busy mom schedule.  Add to that some stretching (and if I splurge maybe a quick massage) and it is almost like all the flying never happened.

Business Class on EVA

Business Class on EVA

We didn’t lose days on the trip adjusting to where we were, as we were able to rest on the plane in lie-flat seats, and then just keep on moving once we landed.  To me that is the key to business class – being able to rest on-board and not waste time on the trip or upon the return home flat out exhausted.  At times the food on-board was pretty decent, too.

Travel makes you want more travel.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to be going home right now, but experiencing different parts of the world just makes me want more.  For example, transiting through parts of Asia to get home just made me want to leave the airport and stay a while.  Destinations that sound so ‘foreign’ and intimidating when looking at a globe, really are just a plane ride or two away.  We looked at the map as we were in Singapore and Taipei and saw how close we were to so many other places we also wanted to visit.  I’m glad we had a couple of stops on our journey around the world, but I wish we could have had a few more as well.  I hope that the next time we are able to take a trip this ‘big’, we will have even longer to stop and smell the roses (or the tea, or the noodles, or the tulips, or whatever the case may be).

You can’t take too many pictures.

The trip always seems to go by so quickly, and while you can certainly capture some moments in your mind, it helps to have some pictures to go along with that.  From the blueness of the water, to the rainy day hanging out and playing chess, I can’t help but smile looking back at some moments from the journey.  I have pictures to thank for picking up where my memory leaves off.

20140508-091637.jpg

Maldivian Blue

Travel isn’t always as hard in other countries.

The longest lines and biggest attitudes we encountered on our journey were upon arrival back into our home country at LAX.  I’m not about to pretend that security, airport operations, customs, and immigration are perfect everywhere else but here.  However, we at least felt like we were treated as the customer, or even at least as a human, everywhere else we went.  We weren’t expected to be able to read minds and know how all the procedures went in all the airports we visited.  Instead, we were told through words, hand gestures, pointing, etc. what we should do next.  Back here in the good old US of A, within 30 minutes of arrival we had been yelled at, fussed at, and ignored by airline and customs folks.  We weren’t treated as a customer or person, we were treated as garbage… which we probably looked and smelled like by that point, but that’s another story.

I really feel for those who are visiting this country and start their visit in that manner.  It isn’t necessary and it isn’t like that in many other places.  We should be happy people want to visit our country, because there are lots of other great places to choose from as well.

Miles and points dramatically bring down the cost of travel.

This trip certainly wasn’t free, but the overall cost was brought down dramatically thanks to miles and points.  Having such a large portion of your travel expense already covered thanks to airline miles and hotel points, you can shift your spending to other things like excursions, shopping, spa visits, and more and still be able to come home to pay the mortgage.  Of course if you are traveling on a tighter budget then leveraging miles and points for the bulk of your costs means that you don’t have to spend very much out of pocket at all if you don’t want to or can’t.

I will also add that if you are newer to traveling on miles and points and trips like this seem way “too big” or out of your league, just wait.  A few years ago I never thought I would be able to fly in business class seats on Singapore, Turkish, or EVA and yet I did.  I didn’t even have the destinations they serve on the list of places I wanted to go simply because I wasn’t dreaming big enough.  I didn’t think it was possible, so I didn’t bother wanting something I couldn’t have.  Well, after a little patience and a lot of miles and points earning, that has changed.

Do it with friends.

Solo travel can be very freeing and exciting in its own right, but sometimes being able to share the experiences with friends and loved ones is pretty cool.  Obviously my husband was with me the entire trip, but we were also lucky enough to meet up with friends both in Amsterdam and in the Maldives.

20140508-091748.jpg

Enjoying each others company in paradise

That fact that this was his big birthday celebration made it a little easier to rally friends to meet up than it otherwise might have been, but even without a specific “reason”, any chance you have to share a part of the world with friends is special.  Having friends with miles and points makes it much more likely that they will be able to meet up with you around the world, so be sure to help those you care about the most earn miles, too (or be ready to share some of yours)!

20140508-091704.jpg

…because you can’t play chess by yourself

Have a good carry-on bag.

We did this whole trip with just carry-on luggage.  This meant that there was no chance we were going to get separated from our stuff, and it also cut down on waiting time for our bags everywhere we went.  This strategy wouldn’t have worked if we needed bulkier winter clothing, but it worked just fine for spring/summer attire.  Since we were managing our own bags the whole way, it really paid off to have very good carry-on bags that were light, easy to maneuver, and legal carry-on size.  I’ll be writing a review of my new Rimowa carry-on soon, but if I liked it before this trip, I loved it by the time the trip was done.

20140508-091803.jpg

This bag took my stuff around the world

The flight home is still the best.

This trip around the world was amazing.  I don’t think I will even fully recognize what a big deal it was until weeks, months, or years down the road.  However, coming home to my amazing kiddo after the longest we have ever been apart is the most exciting part.  This trip just didn’t make sense to bring her along, so instead we used both sets of grandparents while we were away.  I’m sure she had a good time in our absence, and we had a good time while she was safely back home, but it is high time to be reunited.

My kid, my dog, my bed, my shower, and my kitchen will all be welcome sights.  I’m so grateful to have the ability to visit destinations very far away, but yet still have a warm and inviting (and probably messy) home to return to.

20140508-092017.jpg

A final birthday wish at home to celebrate his 40th year

Don’t be afraid to journey far from home.  A worst case scenario is that you will simply end up appreciating where you live even more.  A best case scenario is that you have an amazing journey and want to do it all over again.

After laundry and a shower, of course.

Comments

  1. Wow, what a fantastic trip in only 8 days! As a relative newbie to this miles hobby (since last Nov), I am curious about how many miles/points you used for your flights/hotels and how long it took to accumulate these? I also have a wife and 10 month old son so I enjoy your posts about family travel and jet lag and all of that, very enlightening. We are looking forward to travel like this as well when our son is a bit older.

  2. Really Enjoyed your trip report especially knowing that you had someone to come home to which was your daughter. I look forward to hearing more from the trip and which points were used for the trip.

  3. What is the model of your Rimowa? Still strugling to find a carry on that would be allowed in any flight. I would hate to have to gate check a $500+ bag.

  4. What a great trip !!
    Couldn’t agree more on the bad impression/experience once returning to the USA.
    I see it everyday in my job how badly people are treated by customs officials and immigration.

  5. Amazing trip!!! Glad you enjoyed and I cannot wait to read your posts about it. Regarding your feelings after landing in the US and the way you were treated I share the same feelings and I am sorry it is that way. I came to this country 12 years ago and customer service was probably the best thing this country had to offer. Top notch customer service. In 12 years I’ve seen that erode and unfortunately today I feel surprised when I am treated well in this country and that shouldn’t be that way. That does not apply only to airlines and airports but I notice everyday on small things. Sometimes it is just the way people talk. You can say NO in so many ways. It is still a NO but depending on the way it is said you won’t feel that bad. Education and family values seems to be going downhill here. Too bad. I want the America I saw 12 years ago back.

  6. Did you have a long layover in Singapore or Taipei that you were able to take advantage of their free city tours for transiting passengers?

  7. “As it turns out, traveling (literally) around the world is something that folks with miles and points and a desire to travel can do.”

    MP, you’re 100% right on that point. In March of last year we did a 12 day round trip from/to Syracuse to Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and with a return to Singapore. Our 120,000 points covered all segments with the EWR – SIN and the SIN – LAX segments in Singapore Airline’s all Business Class flights. Also noteworthy, both of these flights were the longest commercial non-stop flights flown anywhere. Bucket list! Unfortunately, they are no longer available, thus history.
    Guess the point I’m trying to make to others is that our “hobby” makes this all possible for extremely few $, potentially saving tens of thousands of $ per trip.
    Oh, also all hotel stays with breakfasts were covered by hotel points.
    Happy travels to all!

  8. Aww – You two are adorable! I see where Little C gets her cute looks from. Happy birthday to your hubby. Maldives and Sydney are next on my bucket list…

  9. Whenever I hear about an 8-day around-the-world trip, I always think of an old movie: “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_It's_Tuesday,_This_Must_Be_Belgium

    The Europeans think American travel habits are nuts and I think they’re right. Even if you CAN fly around the world in 8 days, you probably shouldn’t. Or — once the novelty wears off — you will understand the European attitude. Of course, if you don’t have much vacation time — or make your living as a travel blogger — you can certainly rationalize that 8 days is better than not taking the trip, even if one flight segment alone took more than a day and a half! While business class is certainly better than coach, it’s still not as pleasant as just eating at a chain restaurant and sleeping in your own bed. So I do think it has to be about the destination(s), and not the journey.

    Of course, everyone probably has to figure this out for themselves. And they seem to.

    • iahphx, I would have loved more time, but since husband gets just two weeks off a year and we spent 6 of those days on this trip, that was as much as we could do. Also used up all grandparents days to pull this off. We could have shaved a little bit of time off routing back through Europe instead of getting home through Asia, but not enough to justify not going ahead and “going around”. Hope to do a leisurely trip one day, but Europeans often have a bit more vacation days than us Westerners with two weeks a year. 😉

  10. Nice trip! Can you tell us how many miles, points and money on taxes and fees were spent for this trip? thank you.

    • Ron, I have a link a few comments up but it was 120k United (UR) miles a piece plus a very minimal amount of taxes ($50ish) per person for the flights. The hotel was 22k Hyatt (UR) points per night. Both of those amounts would be higher now via the same methods. We paid a cash upgrade charge some of the nights at the PH Maldives to try different room types, but the base villa is just fine. There is a $490 Maldivian Airlines and boat transfer fee per person to get from Male to the island the PH Maldives is on.

  11. I’m also wondering about your Rimowa model. The IATA model I looked at was 15 or 15″ wide instead of 14″. We are going to Asia next summer and I’ve read that the Hong Kong airport is vicious in terms of size compliance!

  12. What an amazing trip. Great that your daughter got some time with both grandparents too – that is special. We did the same thing when my daughter was almost 4 when my husband and I did a 10 day Spain/Portugal trip. Nice to get a parenting break and know the kids are ok while you see the world!

  13. This is really really awesome! What a way to enter 40! Your husband is one lucky guy!!! Out of all 9 items, doing it with friends, I think, is the most meaningful. It’s great to circle the globe and what not but it’s always better to do it with friends and/or loved ones. I’m looking forward to reading about your adventures!

  14. Congratulations to you and your husband! Great picture of both of you in paradise. I had the great privilege of circling the globe in business for the first time last July when I went to Europe and Asia in one trip. I also had the opportunity of summiting Mt Fuji too. This is all thanks to points and miles of course.

  15. Thank you for sharing these thoughts! After completing an around the world trip with my husband two months ago, I fully agree with everything you said.

    We really went all out and did all first class flights except our domestic positioning flights were on Southwest and then we had a business class flight between Kuala Lumpur and Bali. It was still fantastic though and I fully agree about the value of more comfortable seats. I’ve been struggling with our recent return from Hawaii more than I did after our return from that trip.

    I’m glad things went so well! Now enjoy some time with your baby! Never have I appreciated my kids more than when we got back from our trip. Absence makes the heart grow fonder after all.

  16. I can certainly relate to not thinking big enough. I used to think getting a domestic flight in coach was a huge deal, and it is, but we are slowly moving on to bigger and better trips. Can’t wait to read more detailed posts on each stop.

  17. I just returned a week ago from my second around the world trip using miles. My first was in 2011 using an Oneworld Explorer Award that I redeemed 180,000 AA miles for Business Class. I traveled for 5 months and maxed out my 15 allowed stopovers by visiting the top 15 cities I had always wanted to see.
    My most recent trip I used 100,000 US Airways miles to do a Business Class Asia award routing via Europe. 6 days in Europe on my stopover then 22 days touring mainland China.
    I would agree with what you said about most people not realizing how easy it can be to put together “trips of a lifetime.” Once you get the points and miles you really learn that the world is your oyster and is waiting to be explored!
    Travel is 100% addicting in the best possible way and I firmly believe it makes you a better person. Every trip I go on I come back with a longer list of where I want to go.
    Finally I wanted to say I agree if at all possible do it with a carry on bag. I did it for both of my trips and if you can squeeze it in it also means less weight and bulk to lug around through planes, trains, and automobiles. More time at your destination, you can get to the airport later (!), and no chance for a lost bag that causes stress and inconvenience when you should be relaxing.

    TWM

  18. Interesting about traveling with friends. I’ve talked to several traveler friends and they say it is equally fulfilling to travel by oneself (instead of with friends). When traveling with friends, you won’t always get to do what you want as it’s usually a compromise between the all of you. As a young female, I’ve been told I would make friends easily if I travel by myself so I won’t feel as lonely. What do you think?

    • Jenna, I have traveled by myself some (even after having kids and being married), and I do like it. However, I personally prefer it for short trips. For my longer vacations I want to be the ones I care about…but if you are single and ready to explore it can be fun for sure to do your own trip. I say try it out and see what you think!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *