Sunday, August 06, 2017

Honeymoon: A loop around the world

Honeymoon Trip Dec 30, 2016 - Jan 25, 2017
"A loop around the world"

First off, before I get into this whole thing, let me just clarify that we are insane.

We decided to wait almost a year after our wedding to go on our honeymoon -- not because we had originally decided to wait that long -- mostly because we could guarantee that we could both take off a no-questions-asked-work-does-not-exist-for-us month-long trip then and not feel like we were leaving our colleagues in the lurch. Also: we needed extra time to plan how insane this honeymoon was going to be.

The initial plan was a little simpler. We had originally teased the idea of a simpler "loop" trip, starting in San Francisco and traveling to just a couple of magical and glorious honeymoon spots: perhaps pairing Japan and Hawaii, or doing a more complicated Japan, New Zealand, Hawaii loop, or if we really wanted to be crazy then maybe Bora Bora Tahiti, then Japan, then New Zealand. All sounds pretty wonderful and pretty crazy in it's own right.

But then we decided we really wanted to go to Thailand. So what do you pair with Thailand? Maybe Cambodia and Vietnam? People said really great things about traveling to all of those places, Cambodia specifically has a couple of Raffles hotels we could use perks at, and in general it seemed like an amazing fit. Maybe a bit humid around the equator, but a truly memorable and incredible experience.

One major issue..... ZIKA!!!! You jerk mosquitoes, messing up our honeymoon plans. Evidently, we were not the only "young couple" nervous of certain regions and changing honeymoon plans in 2016 due to Zika concerns. The CDC made it clear that there were some Epidemic areas (South America particularly bad) and some "Endemic" areas (where Zika had been in an outbreak in the past, but was not currently in an outbreak, and locals were likely to be immune). We hummed and hah'd about it for a while and Thailand being out #1 interest for the honeymoon, we were focused mostly on that. There were news reports of potential underreporting of Zika in Thailand and the travel minister even came out and said "We don't want people to get nervous and not come travel here, that's why we're not giving all the details of the outbreak". Whooops. Eventually the CDC updated their info to specifically warn against Thailand and a few other spots as they were concerned about intentional underreporting. I am sure we were just being WAY overly cautious and didn't really need to be quite so over-concerned, but we decided we were most comfortable being extra cautious and so we decided to make another plan.

Attempting to take advantage of Fairmont and Raffles and Swissotel perks, we wanted to find some super special "once-in-a-lifetime" places where we could go and pair some countries together. Michal was particularly psyched about The Seychelles -- an island in the indian ocean off the coast of East Africa I had never heard of (and had perhaps only seen on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" -- we are neither of those two things) ;) As it turns out, William and Kate (you know, PRINCE WILLIAM) went on his honeymoon to the Seychelles -- to a private island there. Well, I suppose if it's good enough for the future King of England, we should be fine. hahaha. (How the heck we afforded this was 1) hotel perks, and 2) free flights with accumulated airline miles -- more on that later).

This remote and crazy epic place is not easy to get to. It's a 10hr flight from Europe, and only a few cities and only 2 or so airlines service The Seychelles directly (Air Seychelles and Condor). Never heard of those? Us neither, except of course it turns out that Air Seychelles is a partner with Etihad Airways, so we were able to finagle some airline point usage. More on that throughout this blog.

VERY long story short, we decided to start in Europe. This would allow us to get used to the jet lag so we weren't trying to acclimatize in Seychelles and we could fully enjoy it. Seychelles is very close to Europe in time zone even though it's such a long flight from there -- we decided to essentially travel vertically so that we would not be battling any jet lag in general throughout the trip. That turned out to be a pretty brilliant strategy and it was totally epic. We started in quite a random spot -- Switzerland!! It was never originally on our plan for the trip, but was truly amazing. Then a short jaunt to Paris essentially to get us there so we could take a direct flight to Seychelles (and also for some pastries and baguettes and cheese-- obv.) From Seychelles, Michal had always dreamed of going on a Safari, so we decided to go to South Africa after that -- to both go on Safari and also for Michal to meet some of my family who live there, especially my Grandmother who had just turned 90. Seychelles to South Africa is also a direct flight, so that was also a win. After South Africa we could have flown back to San Francisco via Europe, or do the JoBurg to New York City to San Francisco trip -- but I've done that before and it is VERY long, and a real schlep. And we didn't want to go back through Europe on the way out too... so why not make one more stop! We decided after much debate to go to Hong Kong, a place I'd always wanted to visit and to give us yet another climate to pack for in our single medium-sized suitcase each. :)

So with that plan in-hand, we began workin' the flights like crazy. We used an award flight search engine, and since we'd been building up both United and Air Canada points, and well as non-airline-specific points with Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum, we could transfer those points to one of many airlines and therefore get the majority of our flights for the honeymoon for free... AND IN BUSINESS CLASS. That was the most insane part of this trip apart from the destinations and sheer craziness of looping the world on our honeymoon... that almost all the flights were free. We paid a small amount of taxes on a few of the flights, and through a complicated mechanism with Etihad Airways, we were able to get the Air Seychelles flights for free as well. That was especially crazy and amazing.

This flight manipulation and date planning to try to get award-point flights on the days that direct flights were available to Seychelles was particularly complicated, but after a month or two of fiddling with dates and details and shuffling things around a bit, we managed to get it all sorted out as planned and had a crazy epic honeymoon sorted out with basically all point-award flights. I told you we are crazy.

Here's the final itinerary before I begin in the next post with the first day of travel. Herrrreee weeee goooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Date
Accommodation
Transportation
Fri 12/30
n/a
✈San Francisco to London
UA930: SFO 7:35pm - LHR 12/31 2:05pm
Sat 12/31
Swissotel Zurich

✈London to Zurich
Stopover in LHR (2hr 55min)
LX325: LHR 5:00pm - 7:45pm
Sun 1/1
Swissotel Zurich

Mon 1/2
Fairmont Montreux Palace
🚄 Zurich-Montreux
Tue 1/3
Fairmont Montreux Palace

Wed 1/4
Fairmont Montreux Palace
🚄 Montreux<->: Gruyere/Broc (TBD)
Thurs 1/5
Fairmont Montreux Palace
🚄 Montreux<->: Skiing (TBD)
Fri 1/6
Fairmont Montreux Palace

Sat 1/7
Raffles Le Royal Monceau
🚄 Montreux-Geneva (TBD)

🚄 Geneva-Paris
Geneva 1:41pm-Paris 4:49pm
TGV Lyria
Sun 1/8
Raffles Le Royal Monceau

Mon 1/9
n/a
✈ Paris to Mahe
HM17: CDG 6:15pm - SEZ 1/10 7:35am
Tues 1/10
Raffles Praslin, Seychelles
✈ Mahe to Praslin
HM3096: SEZ 9:55am - PRI 10:15am
Wed 1/11
Raffles Praslin, Seychelles

Thurs 1/12
Raffles Praslin, Seychelles

Fri 1/13
Raffles Praslin, Seychelles

Sat 1/14
Raffles Praslin, Seychelles




Sun 1/15
InterContinental Johannesburg  Sandton Towers
✈ Praslin to Mahe
HM3065: PRI 6:30am - SEZ 6:50am

✈ Mahe to Johannesburg
HM61: SEZ 9:15am - JNB 12:25pm

🚇 JNB-Sandton
Mon 1/16
Simbambili Game Lodge
Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Kruger Park
🚇 Sandton-JNB

✈ Johannesburg to Hoesdspruit
SA 1225: JNB 10:15am - HDS 11:20am

🚙 Hoesdspruit-Simbambili
Tue 1/17
Simbambili Game Lodge

Wed 1/18
andBeyond Ngala Private Game Reserve, Timbavati
🚙 Simbambili-Ngala
Thurs 1/19
andBeyond Ngala Private Game Reserve,
Timbavati

Fri 1/20
InterContinental Johannesburg  Sandton Towers
🚙 Ngala-Hoesdspruit
✈ Hoesdspruit to Johannesburg
SA 1228: HDS 1:55pm - JNB 2:55pm
🚇 JNB-Sandton
Sat 1/21
n/a

🚇 Sandton-JNB
✈ Johannesburg to Singapore
SQ 479: JNB 1:45pm - SIN 1/22 6:10am
Sun 1/22
The Langham, Hong Kong Hotel
✈ Singapore to Hong Kong
SQ 860: SIN 8:25am - HKG 12:25pm
Mon 1/23
The Langham, Hong Kong Hotel

Tues 1/24
The Langham, Hong Kong Hotel

Wed 1/25
n/a
✈ Hong Kong to San Francisco
SQ 2: HKG 11:40pm - SFO 7:40pm

No comments: