I’m about to hop on my last flight of the year, so I figured this would be a good time for my 2013 travel year in review post. It’s been a very big travel year for me, though I haven’t been able to keep up on the blog as much as I’d liked. I still have two trip reports to finish, though, and hope to soon. 2014 isn’t looking to be as travel-filled for a number of reasons, but who knows. You may have noticed that I’ve given up on trying to be an “up-to-the-minute for deals and promos” blogger. I’d like to say that was intentional, but it’s mostly a function of time and energy. And that space is very crowded already, and dominated by some mega-bloggers who have made a career out of selling credit cards and flying around the world. Putting aside the questionable ethics/conflicts/tax treatment that some of those bloggers engage in, that’s never going to be me. I’ve come to appreciate my time at home with friends and family and having a sense of place that some of those bloggers will never have; I work in a profession that does the world a lot more good than telling you the top 10 ways to use United miles. I will never stop loving travel, but business class and nice hotels isn’t the point of life.
So, what were my travel patterns and accomplishments of 2013? I’ve put indices of the places, planes, and hotels I’ve reviewed at the bottom of this post, and have some statistics as well. This is a pretty wonky post, and might not interest many people. But it was a pretty good year. In terms of new countries, I hit nine: Macau/Hong Kong (China?), Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Finland, Estonia, Austria, Croatia, and Panama. (I also did repeats in Germany and Spain.) I added Alaska, New Mexico, and Arkansas to my new state column. I had my baggage lost for the first time, missed two connections, and I lost my wallet for the first time in a foreign country. I moved from New York to DC, and in the course of doing so, switched from Delta to American, so next year I’ll be Silver Medallion on Delta, and Platinum on the New American/US Airways. On the hotel front, not much has changed for loyalty. I’ve qualified via stays for elite status with both SPG and Club Carlson, but have higher status with each due to credit cards. So next year, I’ll be SPG, Club Carlson and Hilton Gold, Hyatt Platinum, IHG Platinum Ambassador, and Marriott Silver.
I hope you all had a wonderful 2013 and that you are celebrating the holidays with those you love and love you. Here’s to a great 2014.
Total miles flown: 98,609 on 66 separate flights. As a point of comparison, last year was only 75,000 miles on 44 flights.
Longest flight: EWR-SIN on Singapore Airlines (business) 17 ½ hours, 9,540 miles
Shortest flight: DBV-BEG on Jat Airways (coach), 57 minutes, 186 miles
My new airlines included Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Thai (and ThaiSmile), Singapore, Croatia, Austrian, Aeroflot, Air Europa, and Jat Airways. I had two United redemptions – one to Asia and one to Europe – so I had a lot of Star Alliance flying, in addition to one large Skyteam redemption.
Top Airlines (by number of segments):
1) Delta (16)
3) (Tie) United and Thai (6)
Flights by Alliance:
Sky Team – 27
Star Alliance – 23
OneWorld – 14
Unaffiliated – 4
My best flight was probably my Thai Airways First Class flight from Bangkok to Paris, and the worst probably Jat Airways from Belgrade to Pula (coach, obviously). I was impressed with Lufthansa First Class, but it wasn’t the holy grail many have made it out to be, and Lufthansa Business Class was barely a step up from Delta Economy Comfort.
I continue to be disappointed in the American in-flight and service experience – particularly on their disgusting regional jets, but between the move and Delta’s devaluation of elite status and their award redemptions, it wasn’t much of a choice to switch. My last big Delta burn is already booked for next summer, IAD-CDG-TLV-CDG-IAD in business class on Air France. I’m not expecting much, but to be able to do the trip from DC in one stop is pretty good. I don’t have a lot of United miles left, after redemptions in business/first to Asia, and business to Croatia, but I may try and transfer a bunch from Chase and book something before their pending devaluation.
I spent 71 nights in hotels this year, over a total of 46 stays, which is actually less than I would have thought – though that still is almost 20% of the year.
No one hotel jumps out as the best experience, as they are so hard to compare, but I definitely enjoyed the Sheraton Macao Cotai Central, the Hyatt Regency Tamaya outside of Albquerque, and the Intercontinental Berchtesgaden. The worst by far was the Maistra Park Hotel in Rovinj, Croatia, though the Eaton Hotel in Hong Kong receives a dishonorable mention.
In terms of brand loyalty, I wasn’t super loyal to anyone, oddly having 8 stays at each of four major brand families.
SPG: 15 nights/8 stays (at a mix of brands)
Club Carlson: 14 nights /8 stays (all Radisson or Radisson Blu)
IHG: 11 nights/8 stays (7 nights at Intercontinentals)
Hilton: 9 nights/8 stays (all Hiltons)
Marriott:6 nights/6 stays (5 Courtyards, 1 Renaissance)
Hyatt: 2 nights/2 stays (1 Park Hyatt, 1 Hyatt Regency)
To me, the real surprise here is that I stayed at five different Courtyard by Marriotts! I have mid-tier (or something like it) at all of the top four chains I stayed at (SPG, Club Carlson, IHG, and Hilton), so that makes some sense. Club Carlson got a lot of business from me due to the amount of European travel I had – particularly in Finland and Estonia, where it really dominates. I love Intercontinentals, but there aren’t many of them and they can be overpriced. Hilton has the best mid-tier elite benefits, but they stink on the redemption side. Marriott is super-inconsistent across and within its brands. SPG has great redemptions and some good rates and packages, but also can be inconsistent.
Something else I was interested to figure out was my percentage of award versus paid nights. Of the 71 nights, I (or someone else) only paid for 48.5. (One was cash and points). The rest were free as either traditional points redemption, annual award night certificates, best rate guarantees, or buy one get one free. That seems like a pretty high amount to me, but if you took out my business travel, it drops to just about 60% paid, which is pretty good, especially since many of my paid stays were at lower end hotels and I got great deals on others.
I don’t see a change in my hotel habits in the year ahead unless my work travel changes drastically.
Hotel List (not all reviewed, but ask me if you have questions)
Riviera Hotel, Palm Springs, CA
Radisson Blu Madrid Prado
Intercontinental Asiana Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City
Park Hyatt Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City
Radisson Blu Plaza Resort Phuket Panwa Beach, Thailand
Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok, Sukhumvit 15
Sheraton Macao Cotai Central
Eaton Hong Kong (Dishonorable mention, Worst Hotel of 2013)
Holiday Inn Resort Penang, Malaysia
Hilton Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport
UCLA Guest House
Mondrian South Beach Hotel
Courtyard by Marriott Miami Beach Oceanfront
Hilton Bentley South Beach
Westin Washington, DC City Center
Hyatt Regency Tamaya, New Mexico
Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza
Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder
Courtyard by Marriott Anchorage Airport
Holiday Inn Express Seward, Alaska
Courtyard by Marriott Washington Convention Center
Radisson Blu Style Vienna
Courtyard by Marriott Vienna Messe
Radisson Blu Marina Palace Turku, Finland
Radisson Blu Plaza Helsinki
Radisson Blu Tallinn
Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach
Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel, Virginia
Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik
Maistra Park Hotel Rovinj (Winner, Worst Hotel of 2013)
Beach View Motel, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown
Intercontinental Atlanta Buckhead
Intercontinental Miramar, Panama City, Panama (review has disappeared into the ether somehow)
Radisson Decapolis Hotel, Panama City, Panama (review coming soon)
Holiday Inn Little Rock Presidential/ Downtown (review coming soon)
Courtyard by Marriott Lancaster, PA
Radisson Martinique on Broadway, New York
Intercontinental Barclay, New York
Reviewed Flights, Airports, and Lounges
Alitalia JFK-FCO (Coach) and JFK Alitalia Lounge
Air Europa FCO-MAD (Coach)
Alitalia MAD-FCO-JFK (Coach)
Singapore EWR-SIN (Business) and the SAS Lounge at EWR
Singapore SIN-SGN (Business), Changi Airport, and the Silver Kris Lounge
Thai SGN-BKK-HKT (Business) and the Thai Domestic Lounge
Thai HKT to BKK (Coach)
Thai Smile BKK-MFM (Coach) and Premium CIP First Class Lounge BKK
Cathay Pacific HKG-PEN (Business) and various Cathay HKG Lounges
Thai PEN-BKK (Business) and Malaysia Airlines PEN Lounge
Thai Airways BKK-CDG (First) and Thai First Class Lounge
Lufthansa CDG-MUC (Business) and Lufthansa CDG Business Lounge
Lufthansa MUC-EWR (First) (and Munich First Class Lounge)
Delta JFK-SLC (Economy Comfort), US Airways SLC-PHX-ABQ (Coach)
Delta JFK-SLC-ANC (First)
Delta ANC-SLC-JFK (First) (and Alaska Boarding Room at ANC)
Delta JFK-AMS and KLM AMS-VIE Business Class (and Delta new T4 at JFK)
KLM VIE-AMS-HEL Business Class
Aeroflot TLL-SVO-JFK Business Class (and TLL Nordea Lounge and SVO Aeroflot Lounge)
Austrian JFK-VIE Business Class (and Lufthansa JFK Business Lounge)
Croatia Airlines VIE-DBV Business Class (and VIE Austrian Lounge)
Jat Airways DBV-BEG-PUY (Coach) (and lounges in Dubrovnik and Belgrade)
Lufthansa ZAG-MUC (Coach) (and Zagreb Airport)
Lufthansa MUC-IAD (Business) (and Lufthansa MUC Business Class lounge)
American DCA-MIA-PTY (Coach) (and Admirals Clubs in DCA and MIA)
American PTY-MIA-DCA (Coach) (and PTY Priority Pass lounges) (coming soon)
American DCA-DFW-LIT (Coach) (coming soon)
DFW Centurion Lounge (coming soon)
American LIT-DCA-DFW (Coach) (coming soon)
Santa Fe and environs
Seward and Seward Highway (Alaska)
Melk, Berchtesgaden, and Salzburg
Little Rock (coming soon)
Panama (coming soon)