My Trip Round the World on Business Class [Travel Blog]
At the beginning of 2017, I traveled around the world. I visited 12 countries on my bucket-list, met countless amazing people, and experienced Business Class seats on every flight. I enjoyed over twenty lounges at various airports, got to see cultures I have never seen, and food that I have never trie. Best of all, I got to experience something I’ll never forget.
I did it without drastically changing my life, using much of my savings, or quitting my job.
Here is my unforgettable journey.
First Half of My Trip (Asia Segment): Taipei, Taiwan – Hanoi Vietnam – Bangkok, Thailand – Singapore – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I really did not plan or expect to go on this trip but it had always been something I wanted to do – to travel and see the world.
I have my own small business but around that time, there was some downtime so I decided I would finally take that trip I had always wanted to go on.
I booked my round the world ticket via Singapore Airlines Kris Miles, under the Star Alliance Round the World program. I decided Business class seats weren’t much more than economy (240,000 vs 180,000 points).
I used AMEX points for redemption but I know there are plenty of ways to transfer other Credit Card points. And really, you don’t need a business or spend a lot of money to accumulate a lot of points. In fact, I wrote a blog entry on how to collect 500,000 miles in about a year.
Most people spend months if not years planning for a trip like this. I spent about 3 days planning and left for my trip 1 ½ weeks after I thought of the idea (though I would not advise doing this as you really have to be flexible and may not get to go to a lot of the places you wanted to go if you plan last-minute).
So without further adieu, here is my journey round the world on Star Alliance:
I traveled 30 days with just a backpack and small carry-on. This would prove to be vital later in saving a lot of costs/headache, but more importantly it allowed me to enjoy full days at the lounge.
My first destination was to LAX for my transfer to Asia. Immediately, I felt the difference of flying business class vs economy (I had never flown business class before). You don’t wait in normal lines, there’s a priority line to check you in. You don’t wait at uncomfortable chairs, you wait at lounges with food, shower, and work space. You don’t worry about luggage space, you’re the first to board. It’s just a totally different and pleasant experience to travel.
The best part of business class seats? The business class meal, even if first is just yogurt and granola. I arrived in LAX in the morning but my flight to Asia was not until 10:30pm. With almost a full day at the airport, I had plenty of work to catch up on. So I decided to go to the airline lounge.
Note** this wouldn’t have been possible if I had any checked luggage since airline gates normally open earliest 4 hours before departure. But since I only had a carry-on, I was able to check-in early.
At the lounge, I had breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the buffet. The food varied only a bit from each meal service but nonetheless it was superb food so I didn’t mind at all.
After each meal, I would go back to work, take a nap, or enjoy a bit of alcohol and dessert. I’d also take breaks in between and walk around the terminal to see some of the shops and just get some exercise in.
My full day stuck at the airport turned out to be not bad at all as I ended up getting a lot of work done. I felt relaxed and refreshed as well since I had amazing food and an incredible office to work in. I also had a chance to plan out more of my trip (where I would stay, what to do, etc).
Above is a map of the first half of my trip around Asia – I planned to visit Taipei, Hanoi, Bangkok, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur.
Finally, at 10:00pm, I was called to board my flight to Taipei. I got to be one of the first passengers to try the new Laurel Business Class on Eva Airlines.
The flight to Taipei was 14 hours but it didn’t feel like an overhaul flight at all (I had flown overseas many times before) Rather than feeling like groggy and drained after a flight, the difference between business class and economy class is you walk out of the flight feeling refreshed and ready to go. The ability to fully recline and lie down to sleep in a flight makes an enormous difference. On top of that, all the amenities (better food, personal care kit, large seat and workplace) helps make the experience a very pleasant one.
I spent a week in Taipei catching up with friends and family. It was wonderful. After Taipei, my next destination was Hanoi.
Hanoi was interesting and definitely a culture shock for me. As soon as I went into the City, I was overwhelmed by the traffic with seemingly no laws to govern any vehicle or pedestrian from transporting in any orderly fashion. People just sort of drove or walked around as they wished. It was quite incredible seeing how vehicles maneuvered around such chaos dodging other ongoing traffic and people by inches. It was like everything just worked out in harmony despite the chaos.
Hanoi was beautiful. I went to see Ha Long Bay, which was a full day tour from Hanoi. The tour included a private ferry ride around the UNESCO site with local seafood lunch, a side tour into some of the caves, and transportation back to your hotel.
I stayed at a 4 star hotel that only costed about $25 per night and included an incredible breakfast of local fruit, snacks, and hot made-to-order food.
Throughout the day, I was able to work for a few hours, go out to explore a few hours, work a few hours, and repeat the routine.
All in all, Hanoi was just a very different place with a different culture and an environment that was new to me. I was glad to be able to see Vietnam, enjoy great amenities, eat good local food, and not break bank staying there.
After Hanoi, I did a quick stopover in Bangkok (if you’ve never been Thailand, Thailand is a must place to visit but since I had been to Thailand, I decided to stopover at the airport and go directly to Kuala Lumpar). Before my flight, I stopped by the lounge in Hanoi. I was pleasantly surprised to learn I would be the only passenger in the lounge for an hour or so. In Asia, most people don’t care to pay extra for business class. Understandably so – I normally wouldn’t pay for business class either.
The airport in Bangkok is ginormous and also a fun place to visit if you have lounge access. I visited 4 lounges just in the half day I was at the airport- the Thai orchid lounge, Singapore Kris lounge, Eva lounge, and one of the general premium lounges they had. If you book your Round the World Trip with Star Alliance, you have access to all of Star Alliance partners lounge. I got to enjoy 4 different types of cuisine, relax, shop, and work. The stopover was well worth the visit!
After Bangkok, I did a full day stopover in Singapore. I had been to Singapore before so I really just wanted to take the free tour I had heard Chiayi airport offered to passengers with a layover of at least a couple hours. Singapore is rich full of interesting government structures and regulations that make the country a very efficient and harmonious place to live. On top of that, the food is amazing.
The lounges in Changi Airport was off the hook! I guess Changi Airport IS known for one of the best airports in the world… And indeed there were so much to see, so much awesome food, and was one of the liveliest airports I have ever been to. So comfortable I slept in the lounge for 5 hours.
After my stopover in Singapore, I moved onto my next destination. Kuala Lumpar. KL was also a very different culture – completely different from its tiny neighbor, Singapore. The food, however, was arguably as good as Singapore’s – very diverse and rich in taste. I stayed in a 4 star hotel (under renovation) for about $30 USD which was a steal! Again, throughout the day I visited sites like the Batu Caves and at night I would mostly stay in my room and do some work. I was really getting the hang of this life on the road!
KL would be my last destination in Asia and the next stop on my itinerary was a stopover in Istanbul, Turkey. I really had no reason to travel to Istanbul other than it was just the only available connecting flight to where I wanted to go – Rome.
However, at Istanbul I was again treated to a jaw-dropping Turkish Airlines flagship lounge that was almost like a high-end mall with fresh made food, showers, large screen movie theaters, a train station game, virtual reality games, and more! What an awesome stopover experience!
I had spent about 2 ½ weeks traveling around Asia. The latter part of my trip would go through Europe, Canada, and a few other countries I wanted to visit (but could not fit in my itinerary due to their segment requirements). The places I visited that aren’t pictured were: Tel Aviv, Israel – Kiev, Ukraine – Guernsey, U.K.
My first destination in Europe was Rome. Rome was full of beautiful architecture, rich in history, and so much to soak in, particularly if you are a historical biblical enthusiast. I only had 2 days here so I wanted to maximize my short stay and see all the main attractions. It was truly amazing just to be there.
Two things that did happen to me while I was in Rome though was getting scammed by a cab driver and then taking the wrong bus 15 miles out of the main city. Lesson learned: Don’t book a hotel outside of the main City area even if it’s cheap. That mistake was the costliest mistake of the entire trip.
After Rome, I took my next flight to Frankfurt. Originally I had actually planned to take trains to nearby countries to explore Europe via Frankfurt but things didn’t go as planned. Simply because I had found a cheap ticket to Israel from Frankfurt.
Israel was a destination on the very top of my list of places I wanted to go to.
So I got to Frankfurt, slept one night at a hostel, and went straight back to the airport the next morning to take my flight to Tel Aviv. But before that, I had a quick stopover in Kiev, Ukraine.
Tel Aviv was by far one of the most interesting places I got to visit. To my surprise though, I was almost immediately stopped by Israeli secret service who grew suspicious of a single traveler staying overnight at their airport (some places I didn’t book a hotel for some nights).
After trying to stay calm with holstered guns all around me, I answered their questions as honestly as I could.
Aside from the security ordeal (which later I connected why Israel is incredibly safe considering having hostile enemies all around), Israel was actually one of my favorite destinations. Similar to Rome, the history and culture was so rich and awesome to experience. I chose to do a Biblical history tour to see sites such as the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ burial place, Old Jerusalem, where Jesus walked to Golgotha, the place of the last Passover, David’s tomb and so much more.
It was worth the security ordeal without question. But alas before I flew out, I would get interrogated again – this for over two hours at the security gate.
Israel wasn’t part of my around the world ticket only because it just didn’t workout to meet the requirements of the ticket rules and there was no good available flights at the time of my booking. However, I’m glad I took the side trip to visit and was actually able to use my travel credit (courtesy of my Chase Sapphire Reserve card) to pay entirely for the flight.
After Israel, I headed back to Frankfurt.
Quite frankly, Frankfurt really was my least favorite destination. Everything was expensive. My cheap hostel was about $40 a night but was not pleasant to stay at in the shared bunks with shared bathroom. The only upside I found in staying in hostels is the people you meet.
I was able to meet another business owner from Bali, Indonesia who sold specialty furniture. Not only did we have great conversations, but he was also able to bring me into the largest furniture trade show happening in Germany at the time.
Germany was planned as a travel center to other countries in Europe but in the end although I did not go to any other countries nearby, I did get to visit Israel from Germany.
Had I more time, I definitely would have visited more places around Europe.
After Germany, I took a flight to London. From London, I flew to a tiny island called Guernsey to visit my brother there. My round the world ticket did not cover my flight to Guernsey but the separate flight was not expensive.
After a short visit to Guernsey, I headed back to London. I didn’t stay in London for long. I also didn’t book a hotel so I stayed overnight at the airport. It’s interesting staying overnight with virtually nobody there but the cleaning crew.
The nice thing though was the lounge opened at 6:00am… which means a fresh shower, full buffets, and beautiful work spaces to start the day!
My final destination before I headed home was Toronto, Canada. Originally I had planned to visit Niagara Falls but after looking through some travel sites and blogs, I decided I was pretty exhausted already from travel and I didn’t want to take the 2 hour ride to get there. Instead, I visited Downtown, Chinatown, some local markets and around the City in Toronto.
And that concluded my 4 weeks of travel around the world. In such a short time, I got to visit all the countries I had always wanted to see, got to fly business class seats about a dozen times, visited over 20 lounges, and had an unforgettable experience. Best of all, I did it without any big “sacrifice” from my life.
Total I spent no more than $3,000 on everything including airline fees you pay for the round the world ticket, hotels, food, and everything else. Albeit I slept a number of nights in the airport at the lounge or sometimes at the regular seating area.
There’s a lot of tips I tried to document in my other blog posts (such as how to get cheap accommodations, what to bring, where to sleep in airport, and guides to help make your trip as awesome as it can be.
Of course, there were so many more stories I didn’t include in here and so many incredible people I met I did not mention. I really only covered an overview. But every story is different and I know your story around the world is going to look vastly different than mine.
Regardless of where you go though, it is said traveling opens your horizons to a whole new world outside of your own. And the world really is far more different than I could have ever imagined.
But one thing I realize will always remain constant across every culture and every place…and that is the concept of home.
The circumstances in each place, the environment, the lifestyle, and people are vastly different from place to place. But I think what I realized was all of it didn’t matter as much as simply wherever someone can call “home”. Home is where the heart longs for – home is the people you do life with, being with loved ones, and perhaps a deeper longing for a sense of belonging and love. So don’t leave for home for long.
I hope you too will get a chance to travel the world one day like I did. I know your experience will be different. I would love to hear about your travels. Email me at daniel @ luminate5k.com.
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