The Upgrade

The Full-Time Traveler Who Flies 8,000 Miles Every 7 Days: “What I Love Most About My Life Is..."

PART 32: One Mile at a Time blogger Ben Schlappig wraps up his round-the-world journey... and reflects on his ultimate jet-setting life.

Hello again from Ben Schlappig, the full-time traveler behind One Mile at a Timeand the guy who introduced you to my uber-luxury travel lifestyle all made possible by using miles and points. In our series with Jet Set, we're going around the world in 21 days... all in five-star luxury, and booked at the very last minute.

In my last post, I had just returned to the U.S... in time for happy hour!

To complete this crazy round-the-world journey, I had to fly back to Los Angeles, since that’s where we started. I chose a rather unconventional way to do so.

New York to Los Angeles is known for having the best domestic first- and business-class products in the US. American, Delta, United, and JetBlue, all fly specially configured planes on these routes featuring fully flat beds.

It used to be that this route was outrageously priced for travel in business class, but ever since JetBlue introduced business class in the market (which they call “Mint”), fares have gone way down, and it’s now possible to fly one-way business class starting at just $550. That’s often only marginally more than economy costs.

However, over the years I’ve flown all those products, so decided to try something different. I took Singapore Airlines Suites Class from Frankfurt to New York, which is a “fifth-freedom route,” and decided to also take a fifth-freedom route to get back to L.A., in a very roundabout way.

Philippine Airlines flies from New York to Vancouver. The flight continues to Manila, but if you want, you can fly it just for the first segment. The business class fare was just over $400, which is even cheaper than any of the business-class fares offered between New York and Los Angeles.

So I had a really unique experience flying with Philippine Airlines between the two cities. The flight has a very odd flight time, since it’s scheduled around the flight to Manila. The flight leaves New York at around midnight, and gets into Vancouver at around 3 a.m.

I arrived in Vancouver very early in the morning.

Then I booked a 7 a.m. flight from Vancouver to Los Angeles. The ticket cost $100, and I got an upgrade to business class thanks to my elite status with American.

Philippine Airlines isn’t the only international airline flying between New York and Vancouver — Cathay Pacific also operates the route, and arguably has the best premium-cabin product available within North America. You can fly Cathay Pacific first class from New York to Vancouver, and suffice to say that it’s a very nice way to fly across the continent. Back when I lived in Seattle, I’d sometimes use that route to get to New York.

So while I wasn’t using miles and points to get back to Los Angeles, I do think I scored a great deal.

I'm used to flights at any hour, day or night.

However, there are lots of great points opportunities to be had within North America.

For example, one of the best programs for travel within North America is British Airways Executive Club. They have a distance-based award chart, meaning that the number of miles needed for a ticket is based on the distance you fly, rather than the region. For example, this means you can fly nonstop from the West Coast to Hawaii for just 25,000 miles roundtrip in economy, which is less than virtually every other program charges.

When it comes to maximizing miles, in general I think you’re better off saving them for longhaul international flights, especially in first and business class. While there are some values to be had on domestic flights, overall domestic airfare isn’t that expensive, at least if you book at the right time. As a result, you typically won’t get disproportionate value out of those points redemptions. 

On top of that, many U.S. airlines have gotten stingy when it comes to making domestic award seats available, given how consistently full flights in the U.S. are. The exception is JetBlue and Southwest, since they charge points based on the ticket cost, rather than having award charts. As a result, you’ll typically get the same value per point, regardless of when you redeem.

Where to next?!

And that's a wrap on this trip!

I'm so glad you followed my journey... and I hope you learned something about how you, too, can live the good (very good) life on miles and points!

RECAP THE WHOLE TRIP:

I returned to the states, and headed for a bloody mary at the bar that invented it.

This flying first-class suite experience was so phenomenal, I didn't want to deplane.

The journey back to the states begins.

Confession: I don't love Paris.

Check out my Paris suite upgrade (on points, of course).

Here's what it's like to hang out in an in-flight bar.

That feeling when your far-flung luxury trip looked great on paper... but now you're just tired and cranky abroad!

Confession: Even first-class travel can be utterly exhausting.

A day in the life in the Maldives... breathtaking!

Gasp at the beauty and luxury of my Maldives hotel.

Getting to the Maldives is one of the best parts of the whole experience!

Why the Middle East is an ideal place for a sensational stopover.

Dubai is over-the-top glitzy — but here's why it makes travelers like me feel right at home, too.

Here's why hotels club-level lounges are no-brainers for travelers (especially if you work on the road).

This is one of the best hotel suite upgrades I ever got... and that's saying a lot!

Here's what makes a Middle East vacation so unique.

Is this the most incredible all-inclusive hotel in the Middle East?

Tour one of the world's best first-class airport lounges.

This is what it's like to fly inside one of the fanciest cabins in commercial air travel: an apartment in the sky.

Come with me on my flight filled with caviar, designer pajamas, and luxury gifts.

I support my boyfriend's first-class travel life (and in return he lets me pull stunts like this).

See how I booked a $12,000 flight for nearly free.

See Bali's littler-known party side — including a hangover brunch (with a DJ) to end them all!

Glimpse the five-star life I love (and buy with miles!) in Bali.

Here's why I call Bali the ultimate place to recharge.

Check out my epic layover in the world's best airport on the way to Bali.

Read up on my Hello Kitty-themed flight to get this far...

And the Hello Kitty airport experience to match!

And here's where it all began at LAX.

See why I'm totally addicted to the miles and points life (if it wasn't already abundantly clear)!

Ben Schlappig, the blogger behind One Mile at a Time, experiences about $1 million worth of travel every year using miles and points — and covers about 400,000 miles annually this way. Ben has teamed up with Bravo’s Jet Set for a series called The Upgrade, in which he shows you how you — yes, you! — can score real-world-ready strategies for upping your travel game. Come along for the adventure!

Jet Set is Bravo's launch pad for the most extravagant, luxurious, and unforgettable travel experiences. Ready for takeoff? Then Like us on Facebook to stay connected to our daily updates.

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