My Best Travel Experiences of 2017

Bart Lapers at Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt
Pic: Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt
Another year of intense traveling has come to an end. Time to wrap up with an overview of my highlights of 2017. For a detailed travel report of the first 5 months of 2017, check my post The Luxury Nomad Lifestyle.

Flights


After a record year in 2016 with 116 flights and 160432 miles flown, it was going to be tough to beat my record in 2017. With 3 more flights scheduled on December 29th and 30th, I will break my personal record with a total of:

Best First Class Flight: Lufthansa

Lufthansa First Class Caviar Service with Grey Goose Vodka
Pic: Lufthansa First Class Caviar Service with Grey Goose Vodka.
Not hard to choose a winner in this category as I only flew Lufthansa First Class this year. Compared to last year, 12 First Class flights with 6 airlines, my presence in the First Class cabin was limited this year. I redeemed 62,000 Miles & More miles for Lufthansa First Class to the Middle-East twice and 190,000 miles for a roundtrip First Class to Mexico City. I have now flown more than a dozen Lufthansa First Class flights on all airplane types (B747, A330, A340, A380) and still see it as one of my favorite First Class experiences. The ground services at both Frankfurt and Munich are the cherry on the cake. Check my Instagram Stories video: Lufthansa A330 First Class to Dubai.
Lufthansa B747-800 First Class Bart Lapers
Pic: Lufthansa First Class Frankfurt to Mexico City on B747-800
Emirates new First Class B777-300ER Bart Lapers
Pic: Emirates new First Class on B777-300ER
Bonus: Emirates invited me on the inaugural day (December 1st) of their new First Class on the B77W for a static tour at Brussels Airport. Result: added the new EK F to my bucket list, a potential candidate for Best First Class Flight of 2018. 😉

Best Error Fare: Brussels Airlines

Azul A330 Business Class Lisbon to Sao Paulo
Pic: Azul A330 Business Class Lisbon to São Paulo (Nov 2017)
I’ve flown a number of Business Class error fares this year, including:

  • Madrid to São Paulo (VCP) via Lisbon with TAP and Azul (one-way, 414 EUR)
  • Athens to Mumbai via Brussels with Brussels Airlines (649 EUR)
  • Sofia to Johannesburg with Austrian and Lufthansa (883 EUR)
  • Mexico City to Easter Island via Santiago de Chile with LATAM (1023 EUR)

Bart Lapers Brussels Airlines Business Class
Pic: Brussels Airlines A330 Business Class (May 2017)

The combination of a solid A330 Business Class product with good service and the excellent value for money (649 EUR roundtrip, earning 20140 redeemable Miles & More miles) made the Brussels Airlines Athens to Mumbai error fare winner of the year.
LATAM B787-900 Dreamliner Business Class
Pic: LATAM B789 Business Class to Easter Island (Dec 2017)

Best Miles Redemption: Etihad Guest


Pic: Brussels Airlines intra-Europe Business Class meal
As detailed in my June 2017 post, I flew a series of Brussels Airlines intra-Europe Business Class flights in the first half of the year by redeeming ridiculous low amounts of Etihad Guest miles. I don’t think I’ll ever have the opportunity again to redeem 775 miles + 28 EUR for a Business Class flight!

Hotels

2017 was the first year I kept track of my hotel stays:

      • InterContinental: 37 nights
      • Hilton: 23 nights
      • Holiday Inn: 17 nights
      • Airbnb: 11 nights
      • Crowne Plaza: 7 nights
      • Holiday Inn Express: 5 nights
      • Double Tree by Hilton: 4 nights
      • HappyCulture Hotels: 3 nights
      • Park Inn: 3 nights
      • Other: 43 nights
      • TOTAL: 153 nights

Best Beach Hotel: Qunci Villas

Qunci Villas Lombok Beach July 2017
Pic: Qunci Villas at Lombok Beach (July 2017)
Originally planned as a ‘transit’ stay on my way to the Gili islands, Qunci Villas turned out to be the best beach hotel I stayed at in 2017. At just 112 EUR for the night it was a real steal. It even included the best breakfast I had in 2017. Highly recommended, even by Gilles De Coster! 😉
Sunset Gili Islands
Pic: Sunset at Gili Islands (July 2017)
BTW Gili Islands are not worth it: overcrowded, overpriced and polluted (definitely Gili Trawangan). Stay on Lombok, enjoy Qunci Villas and make sure to add a night or two at Flemish owned boutique hotel Puncak Lombok. Check my Lombok & Gili islands Instagram Stories.
The Puncak Lombok Infinity Pool
Pic: Infinity Pool at The Puncak, Lombok (Jul 2017)

Best City Hotel: 1898 The Post, Ghent

1898 The Post Hotel Ghent
Picture by Zannier Hotels
My most expensive hotel stay of 2017, but also one of the best city hotels I have ever stayed at. The brand new 1898 The Post hotel in Ghent. I paid 255 EUR (excl. breakfast) for a ‘The Letter‘ room. The service, the attention for detail, the setting, the history and the breakfast on bed made the high rate more than justifiable. Highly recommended for a romantic getaway!

Best Price Guarantee: InterContinental Malta

InterContinental Malta Club Suite
Pic: Club Suite at InterContinental Malta (Aug 2017)
Many of my IHG stays this year were free thanks to the Best Price Guarantee. This included 3 stays in a fabulous new Club Suite at InterContinental Malta. Check my Instragram Stories for a tour of the Club Suite.
Sunset at InterContinental Malta
Pic: Sunset seen from Skybeach at InterContinental Malta (Aug 2017)

Best Destinations & Activities

Bart Lapers Gozo Malta September 2017
Pic: Sannap Cliffs at Gozo in Malta (Sep 2017)
I visited 34 countries in 2017 of which 9 for the first time: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Chile, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and Paraguay.

1. Easter Island

Rano Raraku Bart Lapers Easter Island
Pic: Rano Raraku on Easter Island (Dec 2017)
In December, I visited one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world, Easter Island. The more than 900 Moai, monolithic human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people between the years 1250 and 1500, make the island a unique travel destination.
Anakena Beach Easter Island Bart Lapers
Pic: Anakena Beach Easter Island (Dec 2017)

2. Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls Argentina
Pic: Argentina side of the Iguazu Falls (Nov 2017)
In November, I visited the largest waterfalls system in the world, the Iguazu Falls. Check my Instagram Stories video of both the Brazilian and Argentina side of the falls and experience Devil’s Throat in 360.
Bart Lapers at Iguacu Falls Brazil
Pic: Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls (Nov 2017)

3. Aiguille du Midi

Bart Lapers at Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix, France
In February, the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world (1035m to 3842m) transported me the top of Aiguille du Midi, a mountain in the French Mont Blanc massif. Even with a temperature of -10ºC / 14°F, it was a fantastic experience thanks to the sunny weather with no wind at all.

4. Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet

Lufthansa First Class Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet Experience Bart Lapers
Pic: Lufthansa First Class Porsche Experience (Jul 2017)
One of the unique perks of flying Lufthansa First Class is the ability to rent a Porsche for just 99 EUR during your layover in Frankfurt or Munich. I’ve done this a few times now, but it’s still a thrill to push the gas pedal in kickdown mode on the German Autobahn! Want to try it yourself? Start saving those Miles & More miles. Signing up for the Brussels Airlines American Express card gives you a head start with 12,000 bonus miles.

5. New York City Helicopter Flight

FlyNYON Manhattan New York Helicopter flights
Pic: FlyNYON Helicopter flight above Manhattan (Nov 2017)
Finally checked off my bucket list: a doors off helicopter flight above New York City! FlyNYON is the only licensed tour operator flying helicopters directly above Manhattan. It was freezing cold early November, but a mind blowing experience. Check my FlyNYON Instagram Stories video. TIP: Want to do it yourself? Make sure to sign-up for the FlyNYON newsletter or follow them on social media. They regularly have 40% off sales. I booked the NYC Experience tour for just 139 USD.

Your Best Travel Experiences of 2017?

What was your best flight, hotel stay, destination or travel experience in 2017? Share it in the comments below. I’ll reward the best contributions mid-January with a Lufthansa First Class Rubber Duck, Lufthansa First Class Rimowa amenity kit or Emirates B777-300ER model aircraft!
Update 1-Feb-2018: Congratulations to our winners Wendy Maes (Lufthansa First Class Rubber Duck), Jasper (Lufthansa First Class Rimowa amenity kit) and Anthony VT (Emirates B777-300ER model aircraft)! Thank you to everyone who participated.

24 Comments on “My Best Travel Experiences of 2017

  1. The rim walk around Kings Canyon and meeting some gigantic humpback whales up close and personal on a cruise in Hervey Bay (Australia) were some of my highlights this year!

  2. I went to South-Africa for the 3rd time and it’s still unbeatable. We stayed in many great hotels but Rosenhof Country House in Oudtshoorn is my nr 1. My husband and I stayed here over 20 years ago during our honeymoon. This year we returned and expactations were high. Thank God the hotel was as good as we remembered. Charming, luxurious and intimate. A true hidden gem.

  3. My 2017 highlights:
    Best week outdoor: Annapurna Base Camp trek.
    Best miles redemption: domestic JAL flights in Japan with avios.
    Best hotel redemption: 40000 HH points for 5 nights at Hampton Inn & Suites Mexico City which came with a room upgrade thanks to Diamond and 10000 points back (2000 points/night promo).
    Best error fare: hands down BRU – TYO QR in J at 650ish Euro.
    Happy new year to Bart and all readers!

    • Hampton Inn Mexico City! Stayed there too earlier this month, on my way to Easter Island. Yeaaa, that BRU-TYO QR J fare was an error fare gem! Thanks for your input Beppo.

    • WOW! That is an insane amount of flying you did this year Willett, more than 410,000 miles?!? Mind blowing! Wonder if you will have time to blog. 😉

      • Yes, that’s probably why I haven’t started my own, but I think I could offer some good insights. 2016 was big too and I am also booked on over 100 flights already for 2018. I noticed you were in and out of BRU a lot. I thought my DOH in and outs was a lot until I saw that. Love your blog by the way, keep up the good work and have a Happy New Year.

        • Thank you for the feedback Willett. On my way to Brussels Airport now for my last LH First Class of the year… BRU-FRA-KWI-BAH We should meet-up in the lounge next time. 🙂

  4. Well you keep it on track Bart… Easter Islands posting is so great! Love your inspiring pics and stories on IG I’m digging into every time and post again.
    Best wishes for 2018.Keep flying, exploring and posting so I can conclude by myself if I’d like visiting most of these places by myself. thanks for the fast and helpful replying anyways.
    Best regards

  5. I’ve had my first business class experience this year (Delta from SFO to JFK), which was quite nice. And my favorite hotel for the year was definitely the W hotel in Barcelona.

    Also, this year I achieved status at an airline for the first time (Delta Silver Medallion) and SPG Platinum (by making good use of the SPG Double elite-qualifying nights and stays bonus). If you have any recommendations for redeeming the SPG Suite Nights, let me know! 😉

  6. Impressive travel log for 2017! This year I had 67 flights in total, including first business class flight on QR from “Sake fare” deal. Looking forward for more elite class flights in 2018.

    I moved from Poland to the US this year, where I have been mostly travelling, visiting 11 of the westernmost states. I also been to Canada (flown with Seaplane for the first time) and Mexico.

    My log: https://my.flightradar24.com/poolek/2017

  7. Our first trip to Japan thanks to the Qatar sake fare! Great experience in the A350 and the Al Mourjan lounge. We also got a celebrio suite at the Tokyo Bay Hilton thanks to a status match.
    Thanks for all the great tips and repirts Bart.

  8. Hi Bart,

    Always nice to read up on your stories and follow you on Instagram posting some great pictures of dito experiences.

    My highlight of the year was my trip to Myanmar and Singapore in Oct/Nov. In SGN we stayed at the Marina Bay Sands which was just mindblowing. The pool, the setting, the overall experience was really nice and definately something to recommend or put on anyones bucketlist.
    Although a crazy balloon festival in Myanmar with selfmade balloons with fireworks in it or a balloonride over cultural Bagan are also worth it!

    Hope to collect some more great memories in 2018. Wish you all the best and safe travels for the upcoming year. Keep it up and enjoy some of that champagne, vodca and caviar for me next time you’re on Lufthansa’s First 😉

    Cheers,

    Anthony

    • Thanks for sharing Anthony! Myanmar is amazing, visited a few years ago. Wish you many great travel adventures in 2018!

  9. Hi Bart, our highlight was a business class trip Brussels-Doha-Perth and return Melbourne-Doha-Brussels. Excellent service and loved the A350 and the lounge-bar on the A380. Astonished by the size of the Al Mourjan lounge at Doha airport.

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