My Best Travel Experiences of 2019: Flights and Hotels

Bart Lapers Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge London Heathrow Airport Terminal 3

Time to wrap up 2019 with an overview of my travel highlights of the year. In this post I review my best flight and hotel experiences of the year. In a second post, I talk about my favourite destinations of 2019.

Flights

2019 was another great aviation year for me with:

  • 107 flights (152,446 miles) (6.1x around the earth, 370 hours up in the air)
  • 3 First Class flights with British Airways and Qatar Airways
  • 24 Business Class flights with Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Cathay Dragon, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Oman Air and Turkish Airlines
  • 5 Premium Economy flights with Austrian Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and Norwegian

Best First Class Flight: Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways A380 Bar The Lounge Bart Lapers 2019
In June, I redeemed 50,000 British Airways avios + €112 for Qatar Airways First Class from Doha to Frankfurt on the A380. Check my Instagram TV for the full trip report. Consistent service & great value. Still my favourite airline whatever cabin I fly.

Best Error Fare: British Airways First Class

British Airways B747 First Class Breakfast
As my focus in travel shifted towards new destinations, I didn’t book as many error fares as in the past. Also the number of published error fares has been on the decline the past years. Still I managed to fly some great error fares in 2019.

  • Norwegian B789 Premium Economy from Singapore to London OW (€78)
  • LOT Polish Airlines B788 Business Class Copenhagen to Singapore RT (€653)
  • British Airways B747 First Class Cape Town to Barcelona RT (€774)

The Norwegian flight from Singapore to London Gatwick was the very last one before Norwegian suspended their service to Singapore. 14 hours in Premium Economy for €78 was a heck of a deal. I also received €100 in Norwegain CashPoints as compensation for my broken seat on the flight. The LOT Polish Airlines Business Class error fare earned me 16,206 status miles with Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles enough to renew my Star Alliance Gold status for another two years. But the title for “Best Error Fare of the Year” goes to the British Airways First Class Cape Town to Barcelona for €774 roundtrip earning me 40,420 avios and 560 tier points renewing my OneWorld Sapphire status. Check my British Airways First Class IG Stories: Part 1, Part 2.

Best Miles Redemption: Turkish Airlines Regional Business Class

Turkish Airlines A321 new regional business class seat
In May, I redeemed 15,000 miles + €157 for a roundtrip Brussels to Izmir via Istanbul in Turkish Airlines Business Class. This deal was part of a promotion to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles loyalty program. Apart from the low number of miles required for this award, I also got to fly the new Turkish Airlines regional business class. Definitely the best Business Class you can get on European flights!

Other great redemption in 2019 worth a mention:

  • Turkish Airlines Business: Brussels to Muscat 35K Miles & More miles + €195
  • Oman Air Business: Muscat to Doha 6K Etihad Guest miles + €85
  • Ethiopian Airlines Business: Brussels to Mekelle RT 70K M&M miles + €134
  • Turkish Airlines Business: Brussels to Bahrain 29K KrisFlyer miles + €130

Hotels

El Patio Courtyard House Tunis
Pic: El Patio Courtyard House Tunis (Apr 2019)

In 2019, I stayed 107 nights at hotels:

  • Hilton: 46 nights
    • Hilton: 26
    • DoubleTree by Hilton: 12
    • Hilton Garden Inn: 7
    • Hampton by Hilton: 1
  • IHG: 13 nights
    • Holiday Inn: 8
    • Holiday Inn Express: 3
    • InterContinental: 2
  • Park Inn: 5 nights
  • Hyatt: 5 nights
  • Marriott: 2 nights
  • Airbnb: 3 nights
  • Other: 33 nights
  • TOTAL: 107 nights

Despite having Spire Elite Ambassador status at IHG Rewards Club, my business shifted to Hilton due to a lack of top tier elite recognition at IHG. I still don’t get it why no complimentary breakfast is offered to the highest elite members at IHG while it is a standard perk at Hilton Honors as soon as you hit Gold status. I status matched my IHG Spire Elite to Hilton Honors Diamond and stayed 30 times at Hilton this year to renew my Diamond status for 2020.

Best Error Rate: Hilton Phuket Arcadia

Superior Deluxe Suite Jacuzzi at Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort Spa
In February, I stayed 3 nights at a Superior Deluxe Suite at Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa. The 138 sq. m. suite featured panoramic ocean views, balcony with jacuzzi and more… Thanks to an error, it was possible to book this suite for €135 per night during Chinese New Year, the same price as a regular room. Check my Instagram Stories for a full tour of the suite & hotel grounds.

Best Hotel Redemption: Hyatt Regency Bali

Hyatt Regency Bali Pool
In January, I stayed 5 nights in a Regency Suite at the new Hyatt Regency Bali. I bought the required 40K World of Hyatt points for ˜€600 instead of paying €2693 cash for the stay. An excellent deal which included complimentary breakfast and club lounge access. Full trip report on my Instagram Stories.

Best City Hotel: Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort

Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort Pool 2019
After having stayed at a few dozen hotels in Bangkok in the past 10 years, Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort is one of my absolute favourites. It offers a true sanctuary along the riverside of this bustling city with it huge pool, sundecks and outdoor jacuzzi. Using HotelsCombined you can usually book the hotel between €120 and €140 per night.

Best Elite Recognition: DoubleTree Resort Zanzibar – Nungwi

DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel Zanzibar Nungwi
I november I stayed as Hilton Honors Diamond member at DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel Zanzibar – Nungwi. I was upgraded to an Ocean view room with direct beach access, complimentary minibar, complimentary breakfast & dinner (!), 6PM late-checkout and 15-min free foot massage at the SPA. The staff was super friendly and service minded. The rooms weren’t fancy or newly renovated, but the service compensated for it. Full Zanzibar trip report on my Instagram Stories.

Conclusion

Despite not being my main focus anymore, loyalty programs and their points & miles combined with error fares and error rates uplifted my travel experiences once again in 2019. What were your flight and hotel highlights of 2019? Feel free to share them with us in the comments section below. Have an awesome travel year 2020!

7 Comments on “My Best Travel Experiences of 2019: Flights and Hotels

  1. It’s great to see what others are doing in the sphere, makes me realise how much I am traveling. in 6 months June – Dec in 2019 I did according to my FlightDiary profile:

    • 102 flights, 24 domestic in US and 78 International
    • 465 h in the air ( 19.4 days )
    • 325,741kms ( 202,406 miles )
    • 8 First / 67 Business / 10 Economy + / 17 Economy
    • Top Airports @10 x each were CDG / DEL / DOH / SFO ( 8 each CMB / FRA / LIS )
    • Passed through 49 airports in total
    • Airlines are 10 x each for AA / QR / UA and 8 x each for AI / TP, 6 x each AF / LH
    • Miles flown most with QR 44,756 / TP 43,398 / UA 32,174 / AA 27,114
    • Aircraft included 14 x A321 / 13 B737 / 12 x B787 / 12 x A319 / 10 x A320 / 6 x A330
    • Miles flow on B787 @ 68,883 / A388 @ 40,345 / A330 @ 36,526 / B777 @ 29,984
    • Longest flights LIS-SFO / HKG-DFW / SYD-LAX / SFO-SYD / AUH-JFK / FRA-GIG
    • With this I retained my QR Platinum, therefore One World Emerald
    • I also retained UA 1K and reached Million Miler so got Lifetime *A Gold
    • I retained AF Flying Blue Platinum until June 2021 therefore Skyteam Elite Plus
    And all f this I achieved in only 6 months. Needless to say, now I am recovering for 6 months in Sri lanka with a few small Visa runs in between

  2. Bart, have you ever looked at Nomadmania? You can use it to record the UN 193, but you can go way beyond that. They’ve divided the world up into 1281 regions. There are numerous other categories e.g. Traveler Century Club list, Most Traveled People list etc. It would allow you to record your visit to a non-UN entity like Transnistria. But a warning – you may be envious when you look at the list of top-rated travellers there.

  3. “Despite not being my main focus anymore, loyalty programs and their points & miles combined with error fares and error rates uplifted my travel experiences once again in 2019”

    Where has your focus shifted now?

    • Hi Max, I’m now focusing on visiting every country in the world. I’m at 98 UN countries out of 193. I’ll provide more details in my upcoming blog post about my favourite destinations of 2019.

  4. Pingback: Grundregeln zur (Preis)Optimierung eurer Reisen | You Have Been Upgraded

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