As a self-professed travel addict, I spend maybe 50% of my day thinking about the destinations around the world I’d like to visit next (and that’s a conservative estimate). As I plan my travels for the remainder of 2019 (and indeed the beginning of 2020), I wanted to share a casual list of destinations that I’ve got my eye on at the moment, as well as a few quick thoughts as to how I’d make each trip happen using Miles & Points.
Some of these are places I’ve already booked a trip for sometime during the year, while others are only in the early planning stages. There’s a good chance I won’t make it to ALL of these places in 2019, but if that’s the case, the ones I miss will certainly be high on my list for 2020.
After taking a memorable trip down to Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil last year (and indulging in an almighty binge session of Narcos recently), Colombia is the next big Latin American hotspot on my list. I’m currently trying to plan a quick 10-day excursion for the end of April, although it’ll depend on Jessica’s schedules whether the trip becomes a reality or not.
Since Avianca, the Colombian national airline, is a member of Star Alliance that doesn’t levy any fuel surcharges, I’ll likely be looking to leverage Aeroplan’s stopover policies to visit Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena all in one go, without paying too many additional taxes and fees. The W Bogotá, a Category 4 Marriott property, also looks to be a great place for me to redeem one of my seven-night hotel certificates that I had earned before the merger.
I’ve booked a trip to Turkey in May, which I’m really excited about. Over the years, I’ve passed through Istanbul Airport many times without entering the city, and I had a great time upon finally embarking on the free Istanbul city tour during a recent trip. I’m looking forward to returning in May and spending more time in the city, as well as checking out other parts of Turkey, such as Cappadocia and its famous hot-air balloons.
In my mind, there’s no better way to get to Turkey than flying Turkish Airlines, who are about to supplement their award-wining in-flight catering with a brand-new business class product on their Boeing 787s. Hotels in Turkey also look very reasonably priced (both in cash and points), so I’m looking forward to having a great trip without spending too much money out-of-pocket.
3. The Greek Islands
From Turkey, the plan is to hop on over to Santorini, where the unbelievable views of the caldera are the stuff of dreams for many travellers from around the world. No doubt the opportunity to stay at the €700/night Mystique for only 60,000 Bonvoy points a night is a big part of what’s bringing me here.
The trip isn’t fully fleshed out yet, so I’m still in the process of deciding whether to hop over to Mykonos as well, or to schlep it up to the European mainland for a few days there, before hopping on a long-awaited Emirates First Class flight down to…
4. Middle East
(Don’t worry, I’ll provide the full details of this trip with the next edition of “Booked!” in due time. It’ll be a good one, I promise.)
Obviously, I can’t miss out on the opportunity to stay at the $1,000+/night Al Maha Desert Resort – again for only 60,000 Bonvoy points a night, an opportunity which only lasts for the next few weeks. Throw in the full board and two desert activities a day? It promises to be one of the most unique hotels I’ll have the pleasure of staying at.
Besides Dubai, though, I have about 10 days’ time in the Middle East that I don’t have anything planned yet. I’d like to visit Jordan to see the ruins of Petra and Wadi Rum, and maybe another country in the region like Bahrain or Oman. Meanwhile, I’ll probably leave Abu Dhabi for a later trip, when I (hopefully one day) get to fly the Etihad Apartments.
If you’ve spent time in the Middle East, I’d love to hear your recommendations!
5. Sichuan Province
Despite living in China for 14 years of my life, I’ve still never been to Sichuan Province, one of the country’s most popular tourist hotspots. Sichuan is home to the famous giant pandas, tremendous hiking and natural scenery, and mouthwatering cuisine focusing heavily on the sizzling Sichuan pepper – all the ingredients for a fantastic trip.
This one will take place in the summertime, and I might bring my parents along for the ride, since they’ve recently expressed an interest in tagging along on my globe-trotting adventures. In terms of accommodations, I can’t look past the St. Regis Chengdu, which, as a Category 4 hotel until it rises to Category 5 in early March, represents another excellent use of my seven-night certificates.
6. Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia
From Chengdu, I plan to head south for a few weeks. I’ve spent a lot of time around Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia in recent years, but haven’t given much attention to the Indochina region – Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. And the incredible Cathay Pacific First Class mistake fares originating in Hanoi gives me a perfect reason to visit.
Of course, no trip to this part of the world would be complete without visiting the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, one of the largest religious sites in the world. The notoriously low cost of living in this region also means that I can live relatively large without spending too much money – an objective that’s summed up perfectly by the $1,350 Cathay First fares that will be bringing me back to North America in late July.
7. Western Canada
I’d love to take some time in the summer to see more of Canada. It’s one of the travel goals that I keep mentioning here on the blog, but with so much of the rest of the world to see, I’m often guilty of glossing it over and continually pushing off seeing the treasures that lie within own backyard.
Cathay Pacific will drop me off in Vancouver, where I have a wedding to attend that weekend. But after that, Jessica and I were thinking of renting a car and doing a road-trip through BC and Alberta, checking out some of our country’s beautiful scenery through the Okanagan Valley and the Rockies, and topping it off by seeing Banff, Jasper, and Lake Louise. I’d expect it to be a nice change of pace from flying around all the time 😉
This one is a little ambitious, but since we find ourselves in Western Canada anyway, why not jump on the unbelievable British Airways Avios sweet spot that lets you fly from Seattle or Bellingham to Hawaii for just 12,500 Avios?
I’ve been to Hawaii once when I was a very young, and I saw enough during my recent layover in Honolulu that made me want to return. Plus, Jessica’s been clamouring for us to go for quite a few years now, and now that I think of it, the only thing that’s stopped me from booking a trip has been the absence of a truly compelling award redemption sweet spot from Toronto.
The only problem? If we head straight out to Hawaii from the West Coast, we’ll have been on the road for a very long time by this point. Oh well, we’ll see how badly Jessica really wants to go to Hawaii, won’t we?
9. The Philippines
After two winters in a row resort-hopping in Bali, Jessica and I both decided that our next foray into South East Asia ought to be something a little different. The Philippines was one of the options we found most appealing, and with the return leg of the Cathay Pacific First Class mistake fare scheduled for October, it’s likely we’ll plan a week-long getaway around Manila and Cebu for then.
The return journey is currently a blank slate, and my initial thoughts are to use this opportunity to try out some new airline products that I haven’t tried before.
Using Aeroplan miles, the brand-new 787 business class products of both EVA Air and Turkish Airlines are in the mix, as are a few left-field options like Delta One (which I’d use Delta SkyMiles to book), China Airlines business class (SkyMiles again), or Korean Air First Class (a combination of Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Marriott Bonvoy points, transferred to Korean Air SKYPASS).
10. New Zealand
I loved New Zealand during the brief two days I spent there on my recent round-the-world trip. In fact, no sooner than the 30 minutes I spent walking around downtown Auckland did I frantically message Jessica and tell her we simply must come back sometime soon.
Well, it’s looking like that time will be this upcoming December, when the balmy climate of the southern summer should make for a very enjoyable time exploring both the North and South Islands.
The problem, of course, is that award availability to New Zealand is notoriously difficult to find. Air New Zealand pretty much has a monopoly over the long-haul routes out of Auckland, and they’re therefore extremely stingy with award space – finding seats on the Kiwi carrier’s long-haul routes, even in economy class, can be compared to looking for a needle in a haystack.
As a result, most award travellers head to Sydney or Melbourne first, and then redeem Avios for a short-haul trans-Tasman flight on Qantas. That’s probably what I’ll be doing, though the question remains of how I should get to Sydney.
Right now, it’s looking like there will be a big tradeoff between convenience and cost: I could either book a convoluted Aeroplan award through Asia and/or Europe with numerous stops, or splurge a small fortune in mileage for an extremely comfortable ride like the Etihad Apartments from Abu Dhabi. We shall see!
After kicking off the year with not one but two round-the-world jaunts, the remainder of 2019 promises to be full of more exciting adventures, with many new destinations on the horizon. I’ve already booked trips for some of the above destinations, while I’m adopting a more fast-and-loose approach with a few of the others; in any case, there will be plenty of travel to tell you about!
What’s your travel year looking like for 2019? Leave a comment below and let me know!