I’m ready to do this trip all over again in a heartbeat!
In early March we finished a trip that had been planned since last July. The day I booked the tickets I had no plan to go traveling anywhere. However word spread online that there was a great opportunity to book Singapore airlines with United miles. Judging by the number of blog posts travel hackers were posting, it was a big deal.
Waiting for the trip was the hardest part. I think I was more excited about the flying part than where we were going. I had flown Singapore Airlines before, but that was 10 years ago. It’s consistently ranked as one of the best airlines in the world. So I couldn’t wait to fly with them again.
I wrote in detail about booking so you can read that post to get the backstory. In that post, I wrote about going to Bali, however, we changed it to Hong Kong a few months later.
We had been talking about going back to Bali since we were there two years ago, but she suggested going to Hong Kong instead. She had never been there and it had been about five years since I had been. Plus she wanted to go visit her dad and stepmom who live in Zhuhai, China, which is just a hour ferry ride away from Hong Kong.
That’s okay with me, but on one condition.
NO WAY did I want to change our flight from Singapore – Tokyo on the way back. Why? That’s the flight we would be in the A380 suites. It has been a dream of mine to fly it since Singapore Airlines began flying the A380 in 2007!
I never thought I would get the chance to experience it cause of the cost. Even now it’s not cheap at all. New York to Singapore round trip costs $15,750 per person.
We got very lucky cause Singapore Airlines changed the plane on that route from the 777-300 to the A380. Since we were already booked in first class, that meant we would be in first class on the A380. First class in the A380 are the suites.
I wanted to know how much it would cost for the suites on this route so I checked online. It would be $8,949.44 for two seats. That’s just one way. If I divided that by seven hours we would be sitting on the plane, that’s $1,278.49 per hour.
Great value for 260,000 miles and $393.76!
So we could fly to the North Pole if she wanted, but as long as we were still flying from Singapore – Tokyo.
Before we start, I just want to say this anyone can do this. I’m not a millionaire. I’m just a regular guy who started to learn about this exciting world of travel hacking, and have amassed around 1 million miles and points to date.
In fact, there are much more experienced travel hackers who find ways to squeeze every drop out of every online deal. I have just squeezed it a few times, and have been enjoying the result that I have gotten.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Flying to Taipei
When I booked those tickets, I had it leaving Taipei because we would be back around Chinese New Year anyways. My wife wanted to go to Sydney during that week because her mom would be on vacation and she could go.
I used 240,000 Delta Skymiles plus taxes for both of us to fly China Airlines in business class from Los Angeles. To get to Los Angeles from Jacksonville, I just bought the tickets outright. Not worth spending points on it.
I think I was a little bit too excited the morning of our flight to Taipei because we got to the airport too early. We still had to wait 30 minutes before we could even check in.
The flight from the west coast to Taipei is a solid 14 hours. Sitting in economy is tough on my whole body and mind for that long. I’ve done it more times than I can remember though, but it’s nice to fly with more comfort.
So I was really looking forward to flying in bigger seats, bigger TV screens, better food, and more intimate service.
It was my wife’s birthday the day we flew, so I told her this would be her birthday present. She was pretty happy with that idea. We had good food, great service, had so many movies to choose from, and got some good sleep. It was nice to get off the plane and not feel achy and tired.
Taipei – Beijing – Singapore – Sydney
After two weeks in Taipei, it was ready for our big trip.
When I booked this ticket back in July, something hit me that I found so funny. A direct flight from Taipei to Sydney takes 8 hours. I’ve done that flight once before in 2008.
The flight I booked would take a total of 28 hours and 40 minutes. That included a 8 hour layover in Beijing. Talk about taking the long way to Sydney! I’m glad my wife didn’t yell at me for wanting to spend so much time flying and waiting in airports.
The longer way meant more flights and more airport lounges to enjoy, so it was a great trade off.
We started the day in the lounge in Taipei. Food would be a theme these next 29 hours. It felt like we were always eating.
The first flight was on Air China in business class. This was a two cabin plane with no first class. So business class is like first class here. Service and food was good. Nothing spectacular. Wasn’t a full cabin at all. This was just the warm up for the next two flights.
We had 8 hours in the Beijing airport. We did consider leaving the airport during that time, but didn’t want to feel rushed coming back. It was the start of Chinese New Year and we imagined tons of people flying.
We spent majority of the time in the airline lounge. It was a shared lounge between many airlines.
The lounge was basically walls set up in the middle of the terminal. Pretty surprised by how bland it was. Food selection was weak, but no big deal because we weren’t hungry.
Beijing will soon overtake Atlanta International airport as the busiest in the world. Just figured they would have lounges that reflected that. That’s okay though cause the next lounge in Singapore would make up for this 100x.
The good thing was there was free wifi, drinks, and a shower.
Beijing – Singapore
Finally the wait was over. First class on Singapore Airlines.
The configuration of the cabin was 1-2-1 with eight seats total so it felt spacious. The seats were so wide you could probably fit two people inside it. The seats turn into a fully flat bed that the cabin crew makes for you. So much storage space in front and power outlets for anything you want to charge.
With enough movies and TV shows on the 23 inch LCD screen, there’s no feeling of boredom on the flight.
What I looked forward to as well was the service. The flight attendants go out of their way to make sure you’re happy. It makes the experience that much better.
This flight was a red-eye so we had the choice of eating first or sleeping first. My wife decided to sleep first, while I wanted to eat first.
The food was amazing. I don’t know why I wanted to eat first since I wasn’t hungry at all. I think cause I didn’t want to sleep yet so I could soak up the experience. I did sleep some. I slept so well that when I woke up I I saw we were landing soon. I asked my wife if she had breakfast and she said a long time ago! I didn’t even know.
Singapore International airport – The Private Room
We arrvied at 6:50am. First time ever to this airport and was impressed by all the of stores and restaurants. There is also the world’s tallest slide in an airport and a butterfly garden. It’s a great place for layover.
We skipped all that and went straight to the lounge. Since this is the main airport for Singapore Airlines, their lounge would be top notch.
We were greeted at the front, showed our first class boarding ticket for the next flight, and escorted all the way to the back to the Private Room.
We passed the business class and first class lounge along the way. So what’s the Private Room? It is for first class passengers on Singapore Airlines only. The regular first class lounge is for partner airlines or members of their top tier status.
The Private Room is a very nice elegant space with a small dining room, two private rooms for getting work done, and a large general seating area. What stands out though is the butler service (that’s what they called it). They walked around to see if we needed anything. We were given menus to order from, or we could get what they had on the buffet.
I wasn’t all that hungry (common theme), but I still ordered some dim sum and hot tea. I knew on our next flight we would be eating great food and I didn’t want to miss out on any airplane meals.
We took advantage of the great shower facilities though. I needed it to help wake up and start the day off right.
The Private Room was the best lounge I had ever been in. There were hardly any people there while we were there for a couple hours. So it felt even more private.
I wish we could have stayed longer. Luckily we’d have one more change to experience it towards the end of our trip.
Singapore to Sydney
Again we’d be flying first class in the 777-300ER. So the same 1-2-1 configuration as the last flight. As you can see, the seats are big and lots of room in the front to stretch out.
We were offered pajamas and an amenity kit which contained Kiehl’s products. Since it was a day time flight, the meal was more elaborate.
One feature of flying Singapore Airlines business or first class is Book the Cook. That’s where you can pre-order your meal online. It’s an extensive menu so it was hard to choose. I searched for suggestions and chose the Japanese wagyu beef for this flight. I love a good steak and this one did not disappoint.
One small problem on this flight. My seat would not recline at all. The flight attendants tried resetting it a few times. No luck. They apologized a lot for that. I was fine. I wasn’t sleepy so I didn’t plan on sleeping anyways.
Before we landed, the senior flight attendant apologized to me again. He gave me a $300 voucher that I could spend on in-flight duty free within a year. It was a nice gesture and surprised by it. I let my wife spend it on stuff on a later flight.
Second time to Sydney, but this time very excited about staying in the Park Hyatt Sydney. Another dream of mine since I began reading trip reports from other travel hackers who raved about this hotel. It finished a $65 million renovation about a year ago. Standard rooms start at $795.
I booked three nights at the Park Hyatt Sydney in the Opera House Deluxe King room. It was all free.
Two main things stand out about this hotel. The location and the view. We were very fortunate to get a view of the Opera House., even though that tree was in the way. No complaints!
A couple mornings I jogged from the hotel, around Circular Quay, past the Opera House, and to the Royal Botanical gardens. What a scenic route.
Sadly we were only there for three days. I wish we could have stayed there the whole trip, but if we stayed longer I would have had to pay out of my own pocket.
The room we stayed in would have cost $4,538 for the three nights we stayed! Crazy prices. So thanks to credit card bonuses I got, we stayed for free.
Our second hotel was the Radisson Hotel and Suites. No pictures needed as it was a basic studio room. I did use 200,000 points to book four nights for free.
The rest of the time we stayed at a studio I booked on Airbnb.com. If you’ve never used Airbnb to book a room, you should try it on your next trip. You can save a lot of money compared to staying in a hotel. If you join Airbnb.com for the first time, you can get $25 off your first stay. (That is a referral link so I do make commission if you join and book a place in the future.)
However I’ve used many times and will do so for future trips.
The room we got was in a great part of town with lots of restaurants and the rooftop had a pool, laundry room, picnic tables and this view of Sydney. Amazing!
We stayed two weeks in Sydney and took a ton of pictures, but I’ll share probably my favorite one. We tried to recreate this picture as closely as we could.
We found the same spot from four years ago, but was hard to get the background exact. Four years ago I used a digital camera and this time I used my iPhone. So maybe that’s why.
Natalie Sisson from the Suitcase Entreprenur said on my Instagram I look like Clark Kent in the top picture and Superman in the bottom. Thanks Natalie!
Sydney to Singapore
Though I was sad to leave Sydney, I was excited to leave because we would be flying on the A380, the world’s largest passenger airplane, in business class. I have always dreamt to fly on the A380, even in economy.
On later flights we would be flying in the suites and economy on the A380. So it was cool to try out their business class as well.
Unbelievable amounts of space and comfort on this 8 hour flight.
The food was great as usual. I love getting ice cream on an airplane. I love ice cream anyways but getting on an airplane makes me happy. I don’t know why.
Singapore Airport Business Class Lounge
We arrived and headed to the lounge for our 1.5 hour layover. We were flying business class from Singapore to Hong Kong so we had access to the business class lounge this time.
We were not hungry at all from all the food on the last flight. Still there was a huge selection of really good looking food. We couldn’t resist and ate a little.
Singapore to Hong Kong
We flew on the 777-200ER in business class. However this is a two cabin plane so it doesn’t have a first class.
It was an older plane and I could definitely tell by the wear and tear in some parts of the seating area. Still we enjoyed the heck out of this flight.
This flight I pre-ordered my meal on Book the Cook again and tried the Beef Redang based on recommendations I saw online. While it was good, it was spicy! I’m a lightweight and can’t handle spicy food. I wish i had known so my mouth wasn’t on fire.
It was a short 2 hour flight so I didn’t sleep at all. In fact, from the time I woke up in Sydney till the time I slept in Hong Kong, I was up for 23 hours. I don’t know why I wasn’t tired at all. Maybe too excited about traveling today or maybe cause I drank too much Chinese tea. My mind was acting weird though by the end, so it was definitely time to sleep.
We first stayed in a studio I found on Airbnb.com. Finding a place in Hong Kong for a reasonable price was tough. This one was $86 a night and it was fine for two nights.
The good was that the location was amazing. Right on Nathan Road which is right in the middle of shopping and food. It was very easy to get from the airport even after midnight.
The bad was that hot water would only last a few minutes before having to wait a few minutes for the hot water tank to heat up more. Also it had two windows, but no light came in. So in the morning, we couldn’t tell if it was 7am or 1pm. It was just dark.
It was fine for two nights at that price.
That’s okay because after that we moved to the Conrad Hilton Hong Kong. As a Hilton Diamond member, I got upgraded to a harbor view room with a king sized bed.
So we went from zero view to this view.
As a Diamond member, we also had access to the Executive lounge on the 59th floor. We could have afternoon tea, breakfast in the morning, or just sit and have drinks anytime during the day. The view was identical to the one in our room since it on the same side, just one floor apart. We definitely took advantage of free drinks and free food during our stay there.
The service was friendly all throughout the hotel. The hotel is connected to a mall with a movie theater and high end stores like Louis Vuitton and Chanel if that’s your thing.
I used cash and points to book four nights. So it came out to $150 a night + taxes and 100,000 points total.
We really enjoyed staying here and would do so again when we go back.
We spent four nights in the Hilton before leaving to go to Zhuhai, China by ferry. The only reason we went was cause her dad and stepmom lived there. Nothing special about Zhuhai if I’m being honest.
After staying a few nights, we took the ferry directly to Hong Kong international airport for our trip back home.
Flying back to Taipei the long way
Flying from Hong Kong to Taipei takes less than two hours if we flew direct. Just look at the map and see how close they are (HKG – TPE).
What I booked would take a total of 30 hours, including a 10 hour layover in Narita (Tokyo). Just like living life in a straight line is too boring, flying direct, in this case, was too. This was going to be fun.
Hong Kong to Singapore
When we changed our tickets, we got put into economy leaving Hong Kong. While I would have preferred business or first, since that’s where the rest of our flights were, I was just glad we were able to change the flight.
Plus we were on the A380 again. I went from dreaming about flying on the A380 to flying it in every cabin in a month: suites (coming soon), business, and economy.
I figured the A380 economy on Singapore airlines couldn’t be that bad. It wasn’t at all. Great flight. Great service. Good food.
When we arrived in Singapore we had a 4.5 hour layover. We headed to the lounge.
The next flight we would be flying in the suites, so we had access to the Private Lounge again. We had more time to enjoy the lounge, take a shower to refresh and relax. I wasn’t hungry, like usual on this trip, but couldn’t resist good free food.
Singapore Airlines A380 Suites!
The time had finally arrived! I had been dreaming about this since 2007 and waiting since last August. I had read so many reviews about flying in the suites to prepare for it. Every review said it was amazing.
I couldn’t wait to find out for myself.
I got on the plane and had to pinch myself that this wasn’t a dream. Each seat is a private room. It has sliding doors and even window shades for more privacy.
The three flight attendants working that night were so great. Each one introduced themselves to us when we sat down and the whole flight they made us feel like VIPs.
Each one, at different times, saw us taking pictures and offered to take our picture. It was funny because each had no idea the other had already done it. That’s great service.
Here is one of them.
There are only 10 seats in the suites class. Three single seats on the left and right and in the middle has two sets of double seats. I definitely chose the middle two seats because when it was time for sleep, the suites would turn into a double bed!
Originally we were in the last row in the middle and was asked if we wanted to move a row up so we would be away from the galley. We thought someone would be sitting there. Nope. There were only three people total in the suites: Us and an older Japanese gentleman. Wow!!
Since it was a red-eye flight we had the choice to eat first or sleep first. Eleanor decided to eat first. I had way too much ice cream in the lounge, so I decided to eat before we landed.
After she was done eating, it was time to make the beds. The flight attendants had to come over and convert the seats into beds. All three of them did it and It took about 10 minutes to do. Lots of moving parts but when it’s done it looked amazing.
The only problem was that I was so excited from being on the flight that I had a hard time sleeping. I slept off and on for probably a couple hours.
I told a flight attendant to wake up me so I could eat before we landed.
For this flight I used Book the Cook again. When reading recommendations for what to eat, many people suggested the lobster thermidor. Most said it was great.
I love eating lobster.
I don’t know why I didn’t choose it on an earlier flight, but this was my last chance so I pre-ordered it. However, I had planned on eating it right after take off. I didn’t know I’d be so full from the ice cream in the Private Room.
So I had my lobster thermidor for breakfast. It’s safe to say this was the first time I had ever eaten lobster for breakfast.
It was really good. No imitation lobster here. It’s the real thing and a really nice breakfast. 🙂
From take off to landing, it was the best flight I’ve ever taken.
This is why when my wife suggested we go to Hong Kong instead of Bali, I said that’s fine, BUT I do not want to change our Singapore – Tokyo flight no matter what. Everything else can change but that flight.
Even when I called United airlines to change it, I made sure the agent did not touch this flight and just changed our flights in and out of Hong Kong.
I will say the only negative thing about this flight, and we knew it before we even got on the plane, was that it would be too short. The flight time was around 6 hours only.
We wished it could have been for 13+ hour flight. When the flight was winding down, my wife was definitely sad to leave. She told me to start saving a bunch more points so we can do this again, but next time take a longer flight!
Ana Lounge in Tokyo
After flying in the A380 suites, it was well worth the 10 hour layover we had here. Our next flight would be in business class so we had access to the ANA lounge. I did my homework and learned where the biggest ANA lounge was and headed there.
Since we arrived in the morning, the lounge was pretty quiet to begin with. As the day went on, it filled up.
Eleanor was still sleepy so she headed off to the nap area to sleep. I wasn’t yet, but knew I would be later. A nice hot shower woke me up. I took a seat and watched planes land and takeoff while on my laptop for most of the time. I loved every minute of it.
Finally heading back to Taipei
We could have taken a 2 hour flight from Hong Kong to Taipei, but that would mean we would miss out on the adventure. Thankfully my wife didn’t think I was complexly nuts for wanting to take the really long way.
She loved all the flights we took, the lounges we had access to, and especially the A380 suites.
Our last flight would be on ANA in business class. It’s a two cabin class, so technically there isn’t a first class. A flight attendant saw us taking pictures and was kind enough to help us take ours.
I know I was sad that there wouldn’t be any more flights on this trip. What an awesome time.
We flew a total of 19,519 miles and had eight flights in a span of one month. It was my wife’s first time flying business or first class. Now she told me she can’t go back to economy. I think she’s just joking, but probably not.
I’m thankful the trip went smoothly with so many different flights. We didn’t have any delays, no missing luggage, no problems with immigration or customs. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip.
It’s a trip we will always remember!
Want to learn about travel hacking? Join the Travel Hacking Cartel
If you want to learn how to do all this, you can join the Travel Hacking Cartel which is run by Chris Guillebeau. I’m going to assume most of you know who he is, but if you don’t, he is a blogger, author and travel guru.
He’s accomplished his goal of visiting all 193 countries in the world. That’s an amazing achievement!
He’s gotten many of these flights for free from travel hacking and this course teaches you exactly how to do it.
Tutorials get you started and teach you everything you need to know. It gets straight to the point.
Then you get text + email alerts when there is a great deal. That saves you time from searching forums and blogs for a limited time offer.
There are different plans.
- Economy Class ($15/month): Economy class level will feature email and text alerts, the full suite of travel hacking tutorials, as well as sweet, sweet deals on airline offers.
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Try it out for 14 days for only $1. Only one dollar. That’s pretty much no risk. Sign up and go through membership. Stay as long as you need. Cancel anytime.
When you do join, you have his 100% guarantee. If members follow the directions and spend at least 30 minutes a month travel hacking, they’ll earn enough miles for at least 1 plane ticket every three months, or 4 plane tickets a year (he also provide info on how to redeem miles for great awards).
(Note: Those are affiliate links and I do make a small commission if you do buy. Thanks!)
Where would you travel if you had a free roundtrip ticket to anywhere in the world?