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The 10 Places I Plan to Visit in 2019 Ricky February 22, 2019

The 10 Places I Plan to Visit in 2019

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.

1. Colombia

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. 

Medellín, Colombia

Medellín, Colombia

2. Turkey

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. 

Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia, Turkey

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…

Mystique, a Luxury Collection Resort, Santorini

Mystique, a Luxury Collection Resort, Santorini

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! 

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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.

Chengdu, China

Chengdu, China

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. 

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

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 😉

Osoyoos, BC

Osoyoos, BC

8. Hawaii

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? 

Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

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).

EVA Air new 787 business class

EVA Air new 787 business class

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.

Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, New Zealand

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!

Etihad Airways A380 First Class Apartments

Etihad Airways A380 First Class Apartments

Conclusion

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!

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12 Comments
  1. Avatar
    Alex

    If you are in Colombia and plan on going to Santa Marta to see Tayrona park you should also visit Minca to see 2 different waterfalls. I know how you like chasing them, they are both small and you can swim and jump off them (kinda). In the town of Minca you basically choose which trail to take to either one. Pozo Azul is the one that is free while the other one is on private property and you pay a small fee.
    Both worth it for a nice refreshing dip. If you dont want to spend the whole day hiking up both trails or even the big trail to get to the top which has a coffee shop you can pay to have the motorcycles take you up either trail.

  2. Avatar
    Brett

    I don’t know how people rack up these points. Saying "60,000 bonvoy a night" to me is CRAZY TALK. I have 202,000 which have taken me years to build up, from SPG signup to now, I’ve only moved 20,000 SPG over once if my memory is correct. That said, I’m a fan of all these destinations for different reasons.

    HOWEVER, I own an apartment in Medellin, Colombia, and if you need a place to stay for a couple days, I don’t airbnb it, but I rent it to friends, or friends of friends, and I’m happy to offer it up for a couple days no charge if you want it. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s in a good location and has all the normal homely amenities one needs.

    Feel free to message me if you want some tips for Medellin, or a place to stay!

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Lots and lots of credit card applications. Then plenty of spending on top of that as well – some organic, some not 😉

      Thanks for that generous offer Brett! I will for sure be in touch if the Colombia trip does materialize.

  3. Avatar
    Dr.BadVibes

    Nice plans Ricky! Colombia is great…look up Parque Tayrona for Caribbean bliss…also make sure you do the Escobar tour in Medellin (since ur a Narcos fanatic)….it was cool and we actually went and met his brother! When ur in Capadoccia, make sure to skip the chain hotels and stay in one of the stone hotels…super cool experience. And in NZ, Hilton offered amazing redemption opportunities….Hilton Auckland was super posh with amazing views….Doubletree Christchurch was historical and Doubletree Queenstown has to be one of my best Hilton redemptions ever! Thats all i got…

    Thanks to your blog, my wife and I were able to make these our 2019 plans:

    1. Started the year in with a week in Bhutan….Flew JAL F (Alaska miles) to India (amazing sweet spot) and returned to Toronto with BA F (Alaska miles)…

    2. Followed by a week in Barbados staying at the Courtyard Bridgetown with a 7-nighter Marriott cert and using Aeroplan points for the flights in econ

    3. Just finished 2 weeks around SE Asia visiting Koh Samui (Hilton free night certs), Bangkok (Hyatt free night certs + Club access upgrades), and finished off in Laos. Flew roundtrip ANA F (120k Virgin Atlantic sweetspot) and flew Thai F from BKK-Tokyo to get the Bangkok Thai first class experience

    4. Next month, we are doing Paris/Bordeaux….Flying roundtrip Icelandair business (Alaska miles) from Toronto….staying at IC Paris Le Grand for 3 nights (IHG free night certs) and then 2 nights at IC Bordeaux (IHG points…amazing value at only 55k/night)

    5. In May, we are going to Jordan…flying Egyptair J there (Aeroplan points) and flying back with Etihad apartments (AA miles)….staying at the Hyatt in Amman and the Marriott in Petra

    6. In June, flying to the Maldives staying at the St.Regis for 5 nights (240k Marriott sweet spot)….flying there in Cathay F (Alaska miles) and returning with Eva J (Aeroplan)

    7. In August, staying local and doing a week at the JW Marriott Muskoka over Civic Holiday long weekend (using a 7 night legacy Marriott TP)

    8. In September, flying one way to Seoul with Asiana F (via the amazing Black Friday LifeMiles promotion) and doing a week in Mongolia and then visiting Hanoi before returning on Cathay F (NYE mistake fare)

    9. In November, flying back to Hanoi on Cathay F (NYE mistake fare), flying to Tokyo on JAL J (BA avios), spending a few days at the Park Hyatt Tokyo (Hyatt points), and then flying Air Tahiti J to Bora Bora for a week at the St.Regis (5 nights with the 240k Marriott sweet spot)…returning to Toronto on United J (Aeroplan points)

    10. Finally, Spending Xmas holidays in South Africa and Mozambique…..Doing a Safari in SA and then going to Mozambique to stay at the Diamonds Pemba (Hyatt points)….Getting there with Delta One direct from Atlanta (Virgin Atlantic sweet spot) and returning from JNB via Hong Kong via Cathay J direct to Toronto with a 2 day stopover in HKG (Alaska sweet spot)

    Also was able to win major brownie points with in-laws getting them both roundtrip Qantas F from LAX to Melbourne/Sydney in the summer

    We are Marriott Platinum, Hilton Diamond and Hyatt Globalists….so should be a great year!

    As you can tell….Ive learned a lot from your blog! lol

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      WOW! Thanks so much for your input and for the tips. Stone hotels in Cappadocia is definitely on the cards 🙂

      Your travel plans are the stuff of envy, and I’m glad I was able to play a small part in helping you put them together. Well done!

  4. Avatar
    D Black

    I booked J from SIN-PPT via BKK, SYD and AKL. The last 2 legs were with Air New Zealand, but only the SYD-AKL was in J. It was very annoying to observe multiple empty seats in J on Air New Zealand’s flight to PPT! They are intentionally very stingy with J awards it seems.

  5. Avatar
    Harry

    Cebu is beautiful but you’ve got to skip Manila. Go to Palawan, or other provinces but Manila. The traffic is unbelievable, it’s not worth it.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Aye that’s most likely what will happen. One night in Manila tops.

  6. Avatar
    Mike

    UAE is one of my favourite destinations! If you want to try EY F apartments, a nice sweetspot in the AA chart is from Europe to Indian Subcontinent (or vice versa) so you can go to or from the Maldives and try both the A380, A330, and flagship lounge in AUH all for 62.5k AA miles or
    89.2k RBC pts… much better price than to JFK or SYD.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Correct, and a nice sweet spot…

      Except I do need to get to SYD, and all the other options are looking very painful, so a sweet ride from AUH is sounding like exactly what the doctor ordered!

  7. Avatar
    John Bucher

    At the Al Maha, the points deal does not specifically state meals and tours.
    Where can I find proof that this is included. I do not want to get into the desert to find out that food is an outrageous extra fee

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Email the hotel and confirm. It should 100% be included even if it’s not explicitly stated.

Ricky

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