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United BusinessFirst and Domestic First Class Reviews

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The beginning and end of my Round the World 2016 journey was flown with United Airlines. Since I’m based out of Hawaii, I could have flown using the Hawaiian Airlines points I accrued, however, I wanted to save those points for redemption on their new lie-flat seats on their first class cabin, which I’ll get to try out in May 2017.

The two United flights I took to/from Hawaii are as follows:

UA903 from Honolulu to Tokyo Narita on the Boeing 777-200 on February 4, 2016. It was a late morning flight that left at 11:35AM and arrived about 8 hours later into Tokyo at 4:00PM next day.

I flew in BusinessFirst on seat 3E. Because it’s an international flight, I had access to the United Club lounge at Honolulu.

The total redemption rate for this United BusinessFirst segment (along with an Economy leg with EVA Airways from Tokyo to Taipei) was total of 42,500 Mileage Plus points plus $18.30 taxes & fees.

UA15 from Newark to Honolulu on the Boeing 767-400ER on May 31, 2016. The flight left in the morning at 9:15AM arriving about 11 hours later in Honolulu at 2:00PM late afternoon, on the same day.

I flew in First on seat 1D. Although I was flying in first class, because the flight is considered domestic, there is no lounge access allowed. It might sound strange since the flight from EWR to HNL is 11 hours, almost double the amount of time it would take even with flights going from Newark to Europe. However, it’s just United rules. That being said, I had United Lounge Passes from the Chase United card, so upon presenting that lounge pass, I had access to Newark lounge as well.

The total redemption rate for this United First segment is 46,000 United Mileage Plus points plus $5.60 taxes & fees.

Now that I’ve given the brief background into the first and last flights of my Round the World trip, let’s move on into some details of the actual lounges, service, and cabin features.

United BusinessFirst Honolulu Lounge

Prior to boarding my flight to Tokyo, I first relaxed at the United lounge in Honolulu. The lounge itself is a bit dated, still using antiquated furniture that looked like it came from the 90s. Although I’m not surprised by the style since it is retro-Hawaiian accents on the wooden chairs and windows.

Don’t expect too much in terms of food either – just the basic fruits, coffee, tea, and some snacks. However, all in all, it wasn’t crowded at 10:00AM in the morning, and the internet worked just fine for the few minutes I had to write out a couple emails letting people know I was starting my Round the World journey!

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Photo above: The United lounge at Honolulu International Airport

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Photo above: Refreshments and snack at United lounge in Honolulu

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Photo above: The bar area at United lounge in Honolulu. Looks like it definitely needs an update!

United BusinessFirst Cabin Features, Amenities, and Dining

After relaxing in the United lounge, I was off to board my flight. At Honolulu airport, they have two separate bridges to board BusinessFirst separately from Economy class (photo below).

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Upon first look at the seat, it’s nice to see a huge plush pillow. I have to say the pillow actually is quite comfortable, and although perhaps not as extravagant as Emirates or Etihad, the pillow sufficed for good sleep.

The seat is fully lie-flat and has multiple controls on the side of the seat. As well, there is a small compartment area just to the upper left area of the seat that can store your electronics and drinks. The plugs and outlets are also located there as well.

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The United BusinessFirst amenity kit is decent. I do like the amenity kit bag. At the time in February 2016, United partnered with Cowshed to supply the amenity items including lotion, lip balm, and others. Inside included comb, sleeping mask, ear plugs, tooth paste and tooth brush. Good kit, but nothing extraordinary.

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In terms of legroom, there was ample space lengthwise when my seat was upright. When the seat is in lie-flat position, there is enough space widthwise from the head to the waist, although the foot rest area might be a bit tight as you can see from the photo below. If you are a tall person over 6 feet, you might feel a bit squeezed while in the lie-flat position.

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The next series of photos was the dining experience from Honolulu to Tokyo. Not surprisingly, the dinner menu had Japanese, and with my liking of Japanese cuisine, I opted for the Japanese style appetizers along with the main course. The Japanese appetizers was actually surprisingly delicious. The fish and miso soup for the Japanese entree was decent, but not great.

As for the salad course and cheese course, those were good as well, but nothing out of the ordinary. Overall, the dinner service was good and the flight attendant came back several times to check on if I needed anything else. I couldn’t help but order many rounds of my favorite cocktail: Disaronno and orange juice 🙂

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Photo above: Japanese appetizer course.

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Photo above: Salad course.

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Photo above: Japanese main entree course.

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Photo above: Fruit and cheese course. I decided not to have the dessert course.

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Photo above: Light snack and refreshments prior to landing.

United BusinessFirst Tokyo Narita Lounge

After landing at Tokyo, I proceeded to find the United Tokyo Narita lounge. The Narita lounge has the general lounge area for all BusinessFirst passengers, and then a separate lounge upstairs for GlobalFirst customers. Since my next flight was only in Economy, I technically did not have lounge access, however, since I had arrived coming in on BusinessFirst, my United ticket worked in terms of access into the lounge (this works for any arrival of international airline segment and as long as United has a branded lounge at that arrival airport). If I didn’t have that, then I could have simply used my United Club lounge pass to get access as well.

The United Tokyo Narita lounge is very clean and modern. There entire lounge was well lit and the food and refreshment area was always well stocked with the evenings appetizers like sushi and various sandwich meet with Japanese salad. What I liked most was being able to grab the local Sapporo Japanese beer 🙂

The only con is that when I arrived at 4:00PM in the evening, the lounge was quite crowded and finding a seat, even though the lounge is big, was tough to come by. I initially had to sit along the window area until a regular seat opened up elsewhere.

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Photo above: Always a digital nomad in transition!

United Domestic First from Newark to Honolulu

On my final leg of my Round the World journey, I was to travel from Newark to Big Island via Honolulu. The long-haul route with United would take me from EWR to HNL and then I’d connect at Honolulu with Hawaiian Airlines to take a short-inter-island flight to Hilo.

Newark Airport has a separate check-in floor just dedicated for business and first class passengers. The entire second floor check-in area mostly has self-serving boarding pass kiosks. After grabbing my boarding pass, I proceeded to security that again, is only for United business and first class passengers.

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After going through security, I proceeded to locate one of the several Newark United lounges. Even though I was flying in First Class, because Newark to Honolulu is a domestic route, that in itself does not allow entry into the lounges. Again, kind of ridiculous when you think about an 11 hour flight not getting access to lounge when having a First Class ticket. But thankfully, I had extra United Club lounge passes, so I simply used one of them.

The United Club at Newark similar to Honolulu once again, is quite out-dated in terms of furniture and overall state of the look and feel of lounge. And again, the refreshment area choices was pretty lame in the morning, so no point in me taking much of photos of this lounge since it was nothing really special.

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After boarding, I proceeded to go towards the front of the First class cabin to seat 1D. The Boeing 767-400ER has a unique business class set-up where it’s a 2-1-2 set-up. The entire middle row is simply single First class seats that have access to the aisle on both sides. The single aisle seats obviously would be great choices for solo travelers while those who are couples travel along the window seats.

The lie-flat seat is very similar to my United BusinessFirst experience flying from Honolulu to Tokyo so I won’t repeat again the seat features. Since the flight is domestic, there is no amenity kit handed out.

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Interestingly, with a flight of 11 hours, being around 3-4 hours longer than my Honolulu to Tokyo flight, one would assume that food would be at least on par with international business or first class? Wrong! It’s really disappointing to say the least, but the food quality was not great at all.

In the below photo is what they served as breakfast in First class. The sausages tasted rubbery, and the omelette pretty much had no flavor. I usually am I person that finishes meals, but I couldn’t stomach eating all of that breakfast.

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Lunch service wasn’t any better either. The pizza calzone was rough on the palate, and again, simply had no flavor or taste. That being said … gratitude is key and I’m just grateful that I got the chance to sit up in First Class on the 11 hour flight. United economy does NOT serve any free meal on that entire long journey, so if you don’t have food, then prepare to starve or bring your own snacks and food to last you the 11 hour journey.

Hawaiian Airlines would be the better choice flying direct to Honolulu from JFK if you flew in economy as a side note! And as I mentioned before, soon, Hawaiian Airlines will fly their new lie-flat seats on that long route starting February 2017 … so the most obvious option would be to choose that airline. Hopefully this little competition will spur United to “up their game”.

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What has been your experiences flying domestic First with United?

If you also fly BusinessFirst with United internationally, do you agree that the level of service differs dramatically between domestic and international flights?

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Emirates A380 First Class Review

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On my RTW 2016 trip, I had the privilege of trying out Emirate’s luxurious First Class cabin, not just once, but three different times! I routed the Emirates flights towards the end of my round the world journey on my return back to the U.S.

The journey back started with the first A380 flight from Barcelona to Dubai (where I stayed for 5 days to meet with friends). The second A380 flight went from Dubai to Milan. And then the third A380 flight went from Milan to New York. Technically, the second and third flights were booked under the same flight, but the plane makes a stop-over in Milan to pick up/drop-off passengers before heading onwards to New York.

The one-way flights on the Emirates First Class can go upwards of $10,000 or more. When I priced out the actual cost of each of the one-way flights from Barcelona to Dubai, Dubai to Milan, and Milan to New York, the estimated total cost would have been nearly $20,000 for all three first class flights! I definitely did not have that kind of money.

So how much did I actually pay for all of those Emirates First Class flights? (drum roll …)

$79.20 – which covers the taxes and fees. Yes, you read that correctly. But how?

Since Emirates is not part of an airline alliance, the airline is still partnered with other airlines, and one of those partners is with Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines has a personal and business travel credit card with Bank of America. At the time in 2015, I had applied to both the personal and business Alaska credit cards. I would spend the minimum requirements within 90 days and then receive the 30,000 Alaska bonus points. With the first two cards, I had total of 60,000 points.

The trick to earning much more Alaska Airline points is to simply, apply for the same cards again! I know it sounds ridiculous that Bank of America would let people do this, but after every 90 days, one would be able to apply to the same personal and business card and get approved for the same cards again and receive the same exact bonus points. So I did do that, and then earned yet again another round of 60,000 bonus points, to bring my total Alaska Airline bonus points to 120,000 Alaska miles!

Onwards to booking flights, I wanted to find award availability with Emirates First using Alaska Airlines search tool. I would search routing from Dubai to New York one-way and the number of required points was 90,000 Alaska miles. Now that’s an amazing redemption. But another trick is to add a stopover, in this case, it would be simply Dubai. So I routed Barcelona to Dubai as the extra flight. And boom, it was ONLY an additional 10,000 Alaska miles, to bring the total miles required at 100,000 Alaska miles for the Barcelona – Dubai – Milan – New York routing ALL in Emirates First. Incredible!

Unfortunately, those Emirates First class redemption rates are thing of the past. Back in March 2016, Alaska intentionally, unannounced, that they would significantly raise the award redemption rates in Business and First by as much as 100%! Depending on the Emirates routing, First class redemptions now require anywhere from 150,000 to 180,000 Alaska air points. Gone are the days of easy Emirates First redemptions, even though it was not surprising that this would likely end.Also, the above credit card churning strategy may also have most likely ended as Bank of America would scrutinize over the number of Alaska Airline credit card applications you have.

So to recap, my three Emirates flights were as follows:

EK186 from Barcelona to Dubai on the Airbus A380 on May 9, 2016. It’s a late afternoon flight leaving at 3:50PM and arriving in Dubai just after midnight next day at 12:35AM.

I flew in First on seat 2K. Since Emirates doesn’t have a lounge in Barcelona, Business and First class passengers have guest access to the Sala Miro lounge.

EK205 from Dubai to Milan on the Airbus A380 on May 16, 2016. It’s a morning flight leaving at 9:45AM and arriving to Milan around 1:00PM.

Again, I flew in First on seat 3A. Emirates does have their own branded lounge at Milan airport.

EK205 from Milan to New York JFK on the Airbus A380 on May 16, 2016. It left in the afternoon at around 3:30PM and arrived at JFK around 7:00PM.

 I flew in First, retaining the same seat at 3A. Going through customs at NYC was a breeze.

Onwards to the actual Emirates First class cabin experience:

My first leg of the journey with Emirates First started out in Barcelona. Since Emirates does not have their own premium lounge at Barcelona airport, they give guest access to the one lounge called Sala Miró VIP Lounge.

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The lounge was decent, however no where near the top standards of Emirates Business or First class lounges.

Emirates First Class Cabin Features and Amenities

After relaxing in the lounge for 1 hour, I headed out to the gate to prepare for boarding. The boarding process was separated with First and Business boarding at a separate gate and Economy board at another nearby gate. One thing I wish was that Emirates had a way to separate the First/Business boarding process as it got confusing, but it wasn’t such a big deal. Once I got into the cabin, I was pleasantly enjoying the cabin interior:

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The photo above is view of neighbor First suite from my window seat. You can see how the suite doors really give ample privacy!

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There was leg room for miles! Since Emirates First didn’t have any overhead bins, you would put your carry on in the corner space under the front table. There are extendable wall straps that can hold bigger rolling carry on luggage from shifting around during the flight.

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Lighted table vanity mirror with some lotion, cream, and wake/sleep sniffing box.

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Next to the seat is a self-serve bar with sparkling water, still water, and other juices and sodas, within easy reach.

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Right in front of the self-serve bar is a tablet that controls the seat position, seat massage, all the lighting in the suite, and also controls the suite doors.

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So before take-off, the friendly flight attendants came around providing a welcome Dom Pérignon champagne drink, Arabic coffee, and a date. They also came around with newspapers/magazines and provided wonderful Bvlgari amenity kits, which included toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shaving cream, shaver, hair comb, tissues, and Bvlgari fragrance and lotion. Comfortable slippers and pajamas were passed out as well as Emirates branded beach bag. Lots of cool Emirates items to keep!

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Now, after taking off from Barcelona, I noticed something strange in that the plane kept circling around and around. After 45 minutes of circling, the pilot finally came on and mentioned that the landing gear had issues retracting back. I was thinking, uh-oh, that can’t be good. To ease my mind, I decided to simply explore the cabin by meeting up with a fellow business class passenger I had made acquaintance with and hang out with the friendly flight-attendants while the pilots were figuring out if they had to return to Barcelona. In the end, the pilots decided to return and cancel the flight.

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While the flight was dumping fuel, I decided to have some fun and become an Emirates flight attendant, wearing their signature head piece.

Once we landed back in Barcelona, you can imagine the amount of stress and work that the ground crew would need to do in rebooking over 500+ passengers into hotel rooms overnight. Luckily, I got my hotel room all paid for at the Renaissance Barcelona Fira Hotel along with dinner and breakfast. When I showed up the next morning, they still handed me another food voucher for more breakfast. Nice touch. And since the Emirates plane cancellation was well over 5 hours, under the EU compensation laws, I ended up getting 600 euros. So not bad for one plane cancellation!

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So up and early, I boarded our replacement flight that flew in from Dubai the night before. Luckily, no problems and it seemed like everyone was optimistic for a pleasant on-tim journey towards the Middle East. The flight crew was the same from the day before, so it was fun joking around about the whole cancelled flight situation!

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Emirates Onboard Shower, Spa and Bathroom Amenities

Back in late 2015, Emirates made a short commercial featuring Jennifer Aniston, that poked fun at the US-based airlines. In the commercial, Jennifer Aniston gets up in a bath robe and asks the flight attendants, “where’s the shower?”. And to her dismay, the flight attendants make fun of her for making a ridiculous remark. You can view the Emirates commercial here.

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In actuality, I kept thinking back to the Jennifer Aniston commercial as I went into the Emirates First bathroom. It truly is the biggest airplane bathroom facility I’ve ever seen.

The bathroom has amenity kit drawers, hair dryer, sink, full size toilet, close-in door timed shower, and full line of hand/body soaps and body products.

A flight attendant goes around to each First class passenger and asks what time you would want to take a shower. The showers are limited to around 4-5 minutes, however, on flights where it’s not as full, the flight attendant can manually set it to as long as 8 minutes. There is also a bathroom/shower attendant who freshens up the bathroom and helps with any questions pertaining to the use of the shower.

After you take a shower, they set the table with a post-shower tea, brandy, and fruits. Nice touch!

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If you are hungry for other treats or want to make a drink (without having to ask flight attendant), the front of the First class cabin area has a self-serving mini-bar.

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Emirates Inflight Cocktail Bar and Lounge

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The cool thing about each of the Emirates flight is their inflight bar. The inflight bar is located towards the back of business class on A380. I decided to venture across the business class cabin (which felt like a long journey lol) to get to the inflight bar. There, I had a good time pretending to be making drinks.

The Emirates flight attendants were happy to assist in taking souvenir photos of me (and my acquaintance friend) behind the bar using a Polaroid camera. The inflight bar area is spacious with two couch seatings on each side of the inflight bar area. There is also a big flat screen TV showing the flight path along with extra snacks and treats to grab.

Emirates First Class Dining Experience

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I’ll let the various above photos of my Emirates dining experience speak for itself. Prior to the Emirates flights, I had experience a bunch of other business class flights ranging from United to Qantas to Royal Jordanian to Thai Airways. But nothing was going to prepare me for the thick menu booklet with tons of appetizers, main entrees, and desserts to choose from. So much food, so little room in my stomach!

The appetizers I enjoyed the most was the caviar plate and the Arabic mezze. For the main entrees, I opted to order more of the fish dishes.

And lastly, the drinks, below it was awesome to hold the incredibly expensive Hennessy Paradis bottle that cost upwards of $900 per bottle and the 40 year old Tawny Port. Of course, I had to sample both!

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Emirates First Class Lounge at Dubai Airport

Upon arriving to Dubai airport from Barcelona, the flight attendant hands a Fast-Track pass, which allowed me to bypass long lines at customs. That being said, Dubai airport is incredibly HUGE. It was hard to find where to go, but luckily I found my way out!

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After having a great time in Dubai with friends, I headed off to the airport. Emirates has it set-up where Economy class passengers have separate check-in terminal and the Business and First class have their own check-in terminal. It’s a pretty big check-in area for Business and First class passengers!

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Further more, Business and First class passenger lounges are separate as well. Above is the entrance to First Class lounge.

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I was greeted to have breakfast and seated at an empty table within the First lounge breakfast area.

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The rest of the First class lounge is enormous and spans across the second floor of the terminal.

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Overall Emirates First Class Impressions

My experience flying with Emirates First three times all were definitely amazing. It’s unfortunate that Alaska Airlines redemption rates have doubled, so I’m grateful that I was able to take advantage of the low redemption rates prior!

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Have you ever flown Emirates First? What was your experience like?




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Flying First Class to Hawaii with Lie Flat Seats Travel Guide 2017

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Having lived in Hawaii since August of 2012, I’ve had the privilege to fly quite often to/from the islands with dozens of airlines to travel to Europe, Caribbean, mainland US, East Asia, and South Pacific. The airline travel market for Hawaii is quite unique and very much different than other high traffic routes around the world.

One of the main questions I get quite often is what kinds of premium cabin seats are available when flying first class to Hawaii?

Because Hawaii is a vacation destination, not surprisingly, airlines that fly aircraft to/from Hawaii will treat most passengers as leisure travelers. This also translates into sub-par cabin services compared to other long-haul international routes.

That being said, some airlines are catching on and providing upgraded premium cabin services and amenities trying to attract higher paying passengers to fly in comfort when traveling to Hawaii. The coveted type of premium cabin seating is lie-flat bed seats. These types of each can fully recline 180 degrees so that a person can lay down completely. Note that the lie-flat bed seats are different than the angle-flat seats (which usually lies down to approximately 160 to 170 degrees, but never fully 180), and different than the recliner seats which simply give more recline than economy seats.

Which U.S. based airlines have lie-flat bed seats to Hawaii?

The majority of domestic US / mainland routes to/from Hawaii on other airlines marketed as First Class only have the typical 2-2 first class set-up in single aisle aircraft (usually Boeing 737 and Airbus A320).

Alaska, Virgin America, Air Canada Rouge, Westjet, Allegiant, and along with obviously the US legacy carriers (United, Delta, American) all in their own respective ways, fly these single aisle aircraft to/from Hawaii. The first class cabins don’t really have much interesting or out of the ordinary aspects to bother going over in this airline comparison review roundup. The one exception might be the Virgin America first class cabin, with it’s modern seat, however, even their premium offer is not lie-flat bed seat.

The following U.S. based airlines provide lie-flat seat options:

Hawaiian Airlines Lie Flat Seats to Hawaii

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Photo above: Hawaiian Airlines “New” Business Class cabin on A330-200

Hawaiian Airlines first class seats to Hawaii started out as 18 recliner seats on their Airbus A330-200 aircraft. These first class seats while nice in appearance just did not compare to other US legacy carrier (Delta One and United BusinessFirst long-haul cabins) or internatonal airlines business/first class cabins.

Now, that has all changed since Hawaiian Airlines announced of their launch of new premium cabin seat set-up that is unique and not seen with any airline around the world. They teamed up with a California-based consultancy to design a cabin to include Hawaiian elements and natural outdoor feel such as the night-time constellations, earth, and ocean.

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Photo above: Hawaiian Airlines just recently as of November 2016 started selling premium cabin seats between JFK-HNL. The set-up they have caters more towards couples and honey-mooners.

The new premium cabins will be retrofitted into existing A330-200 aircrafts starting September 2016 and will take all through the entire year of 2017 to complete. There will still be 18 lie-flat bed seats on these aircraft. Below is example of the First Class pricing one-way between HNL – JFK:

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Photo above: Example pricing of Hawaiin Business/First cabin between JFK-HNL. Notice that they aren’t so cheap!

As of November 2016, Hawaiian Airlines will fly these lie-flat bed seats to between Japan and Hawaii, NYC and Hawaii, and select West Coast and Hawaii (for the West Coast, these short routes most likely will go towards the single aisle new Airbus A321neo when they get those deliveries sometime in 2018/2019 time period, a first for Hawaiian which has previously only operated two aisle A330s for flights outside of Hawaii).

I’ll be getting a chance to try the new Hawaiian Airlines lie-flat premium cabin seating in May 2017 so I’ll be giving a full review then. Stay tuned!

United Lie Flat Seats to Hawaii

Photo above: United First cabin on Boeing 767-400ER from EWR to HNL

United first class seats to Hawaii exist “consistently” on two long-haul routes. Those are from Newark (EWR) and D.C. (IAD) to Honolulu (HNL). On few select flights, United will also operate lie-flat seats to Hawaii from San Francisco, but be sure to check the seat map just to be sure your booking is on an United aircraft with lie-flat seats.

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Photo above: Seat map of United First cabin between EWR-HNL. Best United First seats would be the single middle seats for solo travelers and couples along the windows.

There are also long-haul flights from Chicago and Houston to Honolulu with the Boeing 777-200 aircraft, however, the first class seats on those routes are “extremely” sub-par, and are only recliner first class seats. Note that there is also no entertainment system. Don’t be fooled into purchasing these first class seats on these routes!

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Photo above: Example pricing of United First cabin between EWR-HNL

The aircraft that flies these lie-flat seats to Hawaii from EWR and DC is with Boeing 767-400ER. United markets these seats as First Class since it’s a domestic flight, but usually these seats are marketed as “BusinessFirst” on international routes. There are 39 lie-flat seats with an approximate seat pitch of 75″ and seat width of 21″.

I got the chance to try out United’s lie-flat seats on both a domestic leg (EWR to HNL) and on an international leg (HNL to NRT [Tokyo]). Both times, the lie-flat seats operated the same way, however, the business cabin structure was different and the food service was drastically different.

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Photo above: Food offered on the EWR to HNL flight. Pretty lame.

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Photo above: Food offered on the HNL – NRT flight. That’s only a Japanese appetizer course!

I will have a separate post that describes my thoughts on the comparison of United First EWR-HNL vs. BusinessFirst HNL-NRT experiences.

Delta Lie Flat Seats to Hawaii

Photo above: Delta One cabin on the A330-300 between ATL-HNL

Delta first class seats to Hawaii exist “consistently” is only from ATL (Atlanta) to HNL. The two other routes on a seasonal basis will have lie-flat seats is (MSP) Minneapolis and JFK. On occasion, Delta may fly their Delta One lie-flat product between LAX and HNL. Otherwise, some other routes such as Salt Lake City (SLC) to HNL flies simply angled-flat seats.

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Photo above: Seat map of Delta One cabin between ATL-HNL. The cabin is set-up in a way to cater towards mostly solo travelers with single seats along the windows.

The Delta One first class cabin when first introduced at the time was their brand new lie-flat premium cabin offering. The A330-300 aircraft that Delta flies between ATL and HNL has 34 lie-flat seats with seat pitch of 80″ and seat width of 21″.

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Photo above: Example pricing of Delta One cabin between ATL-HNL

American Lie Flat Seats to Hawaii

Photo above: American Airlines First cabin between DFW – HNL & OGG

American Airlines first class seats to Hawaii recently switched over to lie flat seats from the previous angled-flat seats.

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Photo above: Seat Map of American First cabin between DFW – HNL/OGG. Again, single seats along the window great for solo travelers and middle two seats great for couples.

The only city that American flies those lie-flat seats depart out of DFW (Dallas) to either HNL or OGG (Maui). The aircraft they fly is Boeing 767-300 with 28 angled-flat seats at seat pitch ranging from 60″ and seat width of 20″.

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Photo above: Example pricing of American First cabin between DFW – HNL.

Which international airlines have lie flat bed seats to Hawaii?

Since Honolulu is the hub for Hawaiian and focus city for Delta (Delta One) and United (BusinessFirst), lie-flat seats are available internationally with all of these US airlines, particularly between the Japan and Hawaii markets. With Hawaiian Airlines completing it’s A330-200 premium cabins, they will most likely be redeployed on all of their international locations (with the possible exception of Pago Pago and Papeete routes as those are more leisure destinations).

Now onwards to the international airlines that have lie flat seats to Hawaii (and in no particular order):

Air New Zealand Lie Flat Seats to Hawaii and AKL (Auckland)

Photo above: Air New Zealand Business Premier cabin between AKL-HNL.

Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Number of Flat Bed Seats: 18
Seat Pitch: 79-80″
Seat Width: 22.0″
Route: HNL – AKL

Photo above: Seat map of Air Zealand “Business Premier” cabin on the Boeing 787-9 between AKL-HNL

Qantas Lie Flat Seats to Hawaii and SYD (Sydney)

qantas-a330-300

Photo above: Qantas Businss cabin on Airbus A330-300 between SYD-HNL.

Aircraft: A330-300
Number of Flat Bed Seats: 23
Seat Pitch: 73″
Seat Width: 23″
Route: HNL – SYD

Photo above: Seat map of Qantas Business cabin between SYD-HNL.

Air China Lie Flat Seats to Hawaii and PEK (Beijing)

Aircraft: A330-300
Number of Flat Bed Seats: 30
Seat Pitch: 58″
Seat Width: 21″
Route: HNL – PEK

China Eastern Airlines Lie Flat Seats to Hawaii and PVG (Shanghai)

Aircraft: A330-200
Number of Flat Bed Seats: 30
Seat Pitch:58-78″
Seat Width: 20-21″
Route: HNL – PVG

Korean Air Lie Flat Seats to Hawaii and ICN (Seoul)

Aircraft: 747-400 (Many Variants)
Number of Flat Bed Seats: 10-12
Seat Pitch:  83″
Seat Width: 21.6″
Route: HNL – ICN

Philippines Airlines Lie Flat Seats to Hawaii and MNL (Manila)

Aircraft: A330-300
Number of Flat Bed Seats: 18
Seat Pitch: 60″
Seat Width: 21″
Route: HNL – MNL

The other international airlines that don’t have lie flat seats, but do have angle-flat or recliner seats:

Asiana Airlines Angle-Flat Seats to Hawaii and ICN (Seoul)

Aircraft: A330-300
Number of Angle-Flat Seats: 30
Seat Pitch: 58-60″
Seat Width: 26.5″
Route: HNL – ICN

China Airlines Angle-Flat Seats to Hawaii and TPE (Taipei)/ NRT

Aircraft: 747-400 or A330-300 (dependent on season)
Number of Angle-Flat Seats: 70 (On the 747) / 30 (On the 330)
Seat Pitch: 60-63″
Seat Width: 19-20″
Route: HNL – TPE/NRT

All Nippon Airways Recliner Seats to Hawaii and NRT/HND (Tokyo)

Aircraft: 767-300
Number of Recliner Seats: 30
Seat Pitch: 50-59″
Seat Width: 20-21.5″
Route: HNL – NRT/HND

Japan Airlines Recliner Seats to Hawaii and Various Japan Destinations

Aircraft: 767-300
Number of Recliner-Flat Seats: 30 – 42
Seat Pitch: 38-47″
Seat Width: 18.5-20″
Route: HNL – NRT/HND/KIX (Osaka)/NKM (Nagoya)

Fiji Airways Recliner Seats to Hawaii and NAN (Nadi)

Aircraft: 737-800
Number of Recliner-Flat Seats: 8
Seat Pitch: 48″
Seat Width: 21″
Route: HNL – NAN

Jetstar Recliner Seats to Hawaii and MEL (Melbourne)/ SYD

Aircraft: 787-8
Number of Recliner-Flat Seats: 21
Seat Pitch: 38″
Seat Width: 19″
Route: HNL – MEL/SYD


What are your experiences flying premium cabins to/from Hawaii?

Which of the airlines do YOU prefer to fly in First or Business class to Hawaii?




How I Booked 20 Flights – 40,000 Mile Flying Trip for $1,016

how-i-booked-20-flights-for-1016

Some Background

I never imagined that it would be possible to book the round the world journey I’m about to share with you, had you met me just 3 years ago. I thought that round the world trips was strictly for those who saved up enough funds from working years or that simply you had to be wealthy.

Before I go into the details of how I booked my RTW trip, there a number of “conventional” ways to go about booking your round the world trip. One of the ways is to use a third-party service such as AirTreks that offers round the world planning packages. Expect to shell out anywhere from $3,000 or more for round the world trip itinerary that includes 5 or more cities. The second way of getting round the world packages is to book directly with an airline alliance. Each alliance has their respective round the world plans. Check them out: Oneworld, Star Alliance, Skyteam. Each alliance therefore has their own rules and stipulations on how you can book, change, or cancel flights with round the world tickets.

Now onwards to how I booked 23 flights for just $1,016. I know, sometimes I pinch my cheek just to make sure that I actually did this.

Where I Wanted to Travel

Prior to any booking of flights, I had some general sense of where I wanted to travel around the world. I wanted to check out Australia and New Zealand, connect with digital nomads in Southeast Asia, visit Barcelona out of many friend recommendations, and check out the tallest building in the world at Dubai. Once I figured out where I wanted to go, I had to figure out which airline credit cards was going to get me to those locations in the best way.

The Earning Period – Credit Card Point Accumulation

Over a 3 year time period, I applied to many different travel credit cards. The following are credit cards I’ve applied, accepted, and redeemed mileage points with (in no particular order of preference or timeframe of applying):

Airline Credit Cards

Citi AAdvantage – Personal and Business Credit Card

Chase British Airways Avios – Personal Credit Card

Barclay US Airways – Personal (defunct)

Chase United Mileage Plus – Personal Credit Card

Bank of America Alaska Airlines – Personal and Business Credit Card

Barclays Hawaiian Airlines – Personal Credit Card

Hotel Credit Cards

Chase IHG – Personal Credit Card

Amex Hilton HHonors – Personal Credit Card

Citi Hilton HHonors – Personal Credit Card

The above is majority of cards I applied. Some things to note:

1.  Each credit card has their own rule of applying the first year annual fee or waiving the first year annual fee. For cards that include the annual fee in first year (for example with Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines card), you usually pay it with the slight possibility that you maybe able to call in and have them waive it, but usually doesn’t happen. I NEVER pay the annual fee when it comes time to renew, so be sure to cancel your card right before the annual date. Some credit card companies may entice you with bonus offer or waive the fee … never hurts to call up and ask!

2. Something VERY important to note. Credit card travel hacking ONLY works if you are able to pay off in timely manner all of your statement balances. If you are not able to do this, DO NOT do credit card travel hacking. All the fees you pay will negate any benefits you get from earning and redeeming travel reward. Actually, if you can’t do this step, then just stop reading this post as it will be useless for you. Having good to great credit score helps with credit card application time, but isn’t entirely impossible to apply for multiple credit cards with average credit score.

3. Which brings me to the next point, many people I’ve run into always keep asking if the constant applying and cancelling of cards affects credit score. The answer: only very small amount. When you open and cancel cards, your credit score company will lower your score by only around 5 points and at MOST 10 points. But you will quickly regain those points after one month. I’ve applied to many cards and my credit score always hovers around the upper 700s to 800. Note that the number of credits opened can be seen by credit card approval managers, so at times, space out the types of credit cards you apply.

4. Many major credit card companies now have rules and stipulations pertaining to the eligibility of receiving bonus mileage points. Be sure to read up the fine print prior to applying for cards. For example, the Chase United Mileage Plus card bonus points can only be received if you haven’t gotten the bonus points within a 24 month time period. So that mean you got to wait every 2 years to reapply and get the bonus points. Some other choices such as Bank of America’s Alaska Airlines card allow you to reapply at much shorter timeframe. Again, just depends on how strict a bank is and all the major banks are different in their policies.

5. The number of bonus points you receive on the card will always differ on the time period. On average, most cards provide 30,000 bonus mileage points, but this can range from as low as 20,000 to up to 75,000 bonus points. To get these bonus points, you usually have to spend some kind of amount, on average, most cards have spend of $1,000 to $3,000 within 3 months with as high as $5,000.

In total, I’ve accumulated well over 1,000,000 combined airline and hotel points across all of the credit cards I’ve applied over the last 3 years. As an avid travel hacker, that pales compared to seasoned travel hackers that accumulate well above 5,000,000 points! The key point here is to start slowly and work your way to wherever you feel comfortable.

The Redeeming Period – Airline Redemption Tips and Tricks

Now earning is one part, redeeming these points for travel is another part. I will have separate detailed posts on each airline redeeming strategy, but for now, here’s the general overview:

The process of redeeming your points will totally depend on the number of points you have, which airline mileage program those points are located, and where you want to go. With that in mind, here’s how I went about redeeming my points for the RTW 2016 trip I planned:

Oneworld Alliance via American Airlines & British Airways

I first figured out where all my points were located. Having had multiple credit cards for AAvantage program, majority of my points were located with American Airlines (especially after the US Airways program folded into AA). I had combined number of 180,000 AA points. The next program I had points with was British Airways Avios at around 50,000 Avios points. Note that British Airways and American Airlines are part of the Oneworld alliance, so together, I had 230,000 points that I could use with Oneworld flying partners!

In great ways, many of the locations I went to are within the Oneworld network, and actually in other ways dictated how I would travel.

For my various flight plans to get between all were redeemed using a mixture of the Avios and AAdvantage points:

Taiwan and Hong Kong

Hong Kong and Australia

Australia and Singapore

Thailand and Jordan

Jordan to EU/UK

In separate post outlining Earn and Redeem Process with American Airlines and British Airways, I’ll speak specifics on types of award flights I booked. For Oneworld related bookings, I redeemed a total of:

170,750 AAdvantage and Avios points

$324.19 for taxes and fees

1 Economy Class Flight

6 Business Class Flights

Star Alliance via United Airlines

Other airline points I had accumulated included 80,000 points with my United Mileage Plus account. These points could be used directly with United or with Star Alliance partners. I ended up using a mixture of United few partner airlines. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough points to redeem for a flight segment I needed, so I actually purchased a few additional points in order to redeem the award. Flight segments I booked included:

Hawaii to Taiwan (via Tokyo)

Bali to Krabi (via Bangkok)

New York to Hawaii

For Star Alliance related bookings, I redeemed a total of:

113,500 United Mileage Plus points

$302.88 for taxes and fees

1 Economy Class Flight

3 Business Class Flights

1 First Class Flight

Non-Alliance Airlines via Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines

Another airline program I had many points is Alaska Airlines Mileage account with 100,000 points. Again, you could use those points with Alaska Airlines, but although the airline is not part of a major alliance, Alaska is partnered with MANY lucrative international airlines. One of those airlines is with Emirates. Alaska points go long ways when redeemed to fly with Emirates.

Flight segments I booked with Alaska include:

Spain to Dubai

Dubai to New York

Both those segments are with Emirates with redemption statistics as follows:

100,000 Alaska Airlines points

$79.20 for taxes and fees

2 First Class Flights

I’m definitely excited to experience flying with Emirates in their first class suites on board the A380.

I also had up to 200,000 Hawaiian Airlines points, but I usually use those points for travel strictly with them on domestic and international flights. For the RTW 2016 trip, I will not be redeeming any of those points for this trip.

Other Miscellaneous Revenue Paid Flights

So now that leaves behind flights I actually paid with cash. One of those segments I couldn’t find any award redemptions was between Singapore and Bali. That being said, it makes sense since no Oneworld partners actually fly direct between those two cities. Star Alliance’s Singapore does and Skyteam’s KLM does as well, both airlines of which I didn’t have enough points on.

There was plenty of low-cost airlines that fly in Southeast Asia, but I opted to fly with KLM since they are more of a reputable airline vs. Air Asia Indonesia. The cost of the KLM flight for business was surprisingly only $274 so I figured if that is one of the only flights I’d paid, it was worth the value of flying in upgraded class.

The last flight I purchase was to return to Bangkok from Krabi so I could catch my flight from there to Jordan. With Thai Airways, the short flight costed only $36.62 for economy.

So here’s the tally:

Oneworld Flights

170,750 AAdvantage and Avios points // $324.19 for taxes and fees

2 Economy Class Flight // 7 Business Class Flights

Star Alliance Flights

113,500 United Mileage Plus points // $302.88 for taxes and fees

2 Economy Class Flight // 4 Business Class Flights // 1 First Class Flight

Non-Alliance Flights

100,000 Alaska Airlines points // $79.20 for taxes and fees

2 First Class Flights

Miscellaneous Flights

$310.62

1 Business Class Flight // 1 Economy Class Flight

Grand Totals:

Points Redeemed: 384,250 points

Dollar Value: ($706.27 taxes and fees) + ($310.62 revenue flights) = $1,016.89

Total Flights: 20 Flights

Total Miles Flown: 40,541 Miles

There is much more detail when it comes to the thought process of earning and redeeming award flights, but stay tuned for the detailed specific posts on the above itinerary as I write them up.

Let Me Know: What are your personal experiences with earning and redeeming travel award points?




Ultimate Travel Gear and Trip Packing Guide 2016

ultimate-travel-gear-trip-packing-guide-2017

When you go traveling, whether short vacation or long round the world trip, you want to be properly ready to have certain belongings with you on your journey. Every traveler will have their own unique taste of items that they want to bring with. The packing for a trip will differ by gender, purpose of travel, and personality of the traveler. However, there are some general pointers that all travelers should consider when packing for a short or long-term trip.

Where to easily buy your travel gear? You could go to brick-and-morter store, however, I’ve found that many items I need I would have to go to several different stores and the hassle of going through large big-box store aisles doesn’t sound appealing to me. Since I live on Hawaii, the other issue I have is the cost of shipping, which can add up each time I order from an online site that doesn’t offer free shipping.

Luckily, Amazon is my best friend. Majority of the products I get, I usually get from Amazon as they have most competitive pricing and offer free shipping either through easily spending more than $35 or through Amazon Prime. Plus, if there’s something you don’t like, you can easily ask Amazon to get you a return package slip to refund your purchase. Can’t get any easier than that.

Now below is the travel gear and packing tips that I will be utilizing on my RTW 2016 trip:

Backpacks and Other Luggages

For this first category, decide what kind of traveler you are.

For example, if you don’t like to carry around many items or want to avoid checking-in any baggage on airlines to avoid baggage fees, then perhaps you’ll want to get a backpack that is lightweight and compact in size to easily carry-on airplanes.

For others that need much more necessities and don’t mind checking in baggage, than rolling travel luggage will be an ideal choice.

Don’t also forget to consider having a way of carrying your items while you are actually touring a location. Many times, people will have a small drawstring sack or a daypack to carry personal items such as camera, phone, beach towel, etc.

Optional items that aren’t necessary but can be helpful depending on your situation. I decided to get a backpack rain cover to cover my daypack and backpack in case I had to walk or travel outside if it ever rained. Couple locations such as Thailand and Indonesia might have long periods of rain so protecting my electronics from the rain is essential. Another optional item is getting TSA-approved luggage lock. Although TSA themselves can open your luggage anytime (and we just trust that they don’t steal) – it at least can give you some peace of mind, even though having locks is never foul-proof.

Tortuga 44 Liter Travel Backpack

Tortuga-Backpack

Dakine Explorer Backpack

Dakine-Explorer

Hurley Drawstring Sack Bag

Hurley Drawstring Sack

Quiksilver Roll Luggage

Quiksilver Luggage

Backpack Rain Cover

Backpack Rain Cover

Luggage Lock

Luggage Lock

Clothing and Apparel

The weather conditions and seasonal climates of a certain location will dictate the type of clothing and apparel you need to bring. Keep in mind the time of year you will be traveling to certain location (for instance, New Zealand in July will be their winter time). Also keep in mind if location is in their dry or wet season (for example, Costa Rica’s wet season starts anywhere from August to November while their dry and hot season goes from February to May).

The point is, you’ll need to be prepared for any type of weather condition.

Below I have suggestions for what I usually pack for long-term trips, but obviously, this portion is more geared towards males, but for my female readers, you can do a quick Google search online of “Travel Gear Packing for Women” and find plenty of ideas for what you need to pack.

I like to pack clothing that is lightweight and breathable, as many of the locations I will be traveling will be warm or moist climates. Usually, I buy a handy pack of V-Neck T-Shirts, boxer briefs, and socks as clothing necessities. I’ll bring two pairs of pants and two long sleeve shirt for occasions that require me to be a bit more dressed up. In terms of footwear, I bring two pairs of flip-flops and one pair of shoes. Again, since I’m traveling to warm, tropical locations, I also  bring a lightweight beach towel and several board shorts since I do lots of water-based activities.

Simply think about the location where you are going to determine the type of clothing and apparel you need. For colder climates – expect to pack or have on hand some heavier type of coats and jackets.

2xist Men’s 3-Pack V-Necks

2xist V-Necks

2xist Men’s 3-Pack Boxer Briefs

2xist-Boxer-Briefs

Pairs of Flip-Flops

Flip-Flop

Toiletries and Other Accessories

For this section, toiletries are the basic necessities you’d need like any other day of your life. This would be the section where you can’t skimp, as taking care of your personal hygiene is pretty important for your well-being and health.

Remember to pack: toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, toothbrush, nail clipper, comb, and any other special personal preference of toiletries for example body wash and hair products.

Because of carry-on baggage restrictions, just keep in mind that you can’t exceed a certain amount of fluids. This amount changes from time to time, so be sure to check online for the exact amount limit.

Laptops, Cameras, Phones and Other Electronics

Although the electronics section is something optional and not required when traveling, I haven’t met anyone really that doesn’t at least bring one type of electronic, whether used for communication purposes or used for creating memories (which most people use the electronics for).

The typical electronics you should pack on your journey include having some sort of laptop. I recommend having a Macbook Air 13″ simply because the laptop is so lightweight. Having a laptop weigh anything more than 2 pounds, it will add heaviness to your backpack. I’ll be using my laptop extensively to work remotely as well as document my RTW 2016 travels.

Other devices I have on hand to record my journey include GoPro Hero and FujiFilm camera. Both are waterproof with their respective casing. However, I use the GoPro mostly for adventure-type activities such as snorkeling or surfing. I use my FujiFilm camera to record my airline and location land-based activities.

Be sure that you also have camera accessories such as handheld selfie stick or tripod to help with recording experience. Also keep in mind that majority of cameras you buy will only give you small amount of recording space with existing memory card.  So make sure to order SanDisk 32G (or higher) memory card to store more photos and videos of your trip.

Since I will be bringing lots of electronics, there will be many power cords or USB cords to go with them. To keep them all organized, I got a Travel Organizer Case that helps to keep all of the cords untangled and organized. Another free way is to simply organize them using ziplock bags.

Lastly, if you plan on communicating, get a phone where you can put a SIM card in. SIM cards are easy to get at airports or local towns and are very cheap compared to the phone plans within the United States. I tend to not get an expensive phone as I don’t really use it much besides to check the internet find information on the spot.

Macbook Air 13″MacBook-Air-13

GoPro Hero 3

GoPro-Hero-3

Handheld GoPro Selfie Stick

Extendable Handheld Monopod

Fujifilm FinePix XP80

Fujifilm-XP80

Lightweight Mini Tripod

AmazonBasics Lightweight Mini Tripod

SanDisk 32G Memory Card

SanDisk

Travel Electronics Organizer Case

AmazonBasics Travel Case

Phones – Any kind of phone that can take a SIM card.

Other Miscellaneous Items

I bought a few other items that didn’t fit into any of the other categories above. I decided that since I would be sleeping on SO MANY different surfaces including the airplane lie-flat beds or AirBnB beds or hotel beds. Therefore, I wanted to bring my own Travel Sleeping Sack so that I could have a peace in mind of sleeping on clean surface (not that I would assume any other surface is not clean).

Since I plan on doing many outdoor activities including hiking, snorkeling, and surfing – I know that I get cuts and bruises easily so I wanted to have a First Aid Kit on hand in case I needed to clean cuts and cover it with bandages.

Lastly – since I’ll be bringing lots of personal information on my travel including passport, credit cards, money, and other important documents, I wanted to have a lightweight portable “safe” that could help organize all of those items. I ended up getting a English Dictionary Diversion Safe. It’s something I would have for travels, but I thought would be cool to simply leave in my home book case anyways for storing important information.

Travel Sheet Sleeping Sack

Travel Sheet Sleep Sack

First Aid Kit

Lifeline Trail Light Dayhiker First Aid Kit

Dictionary Diversion Book Safe

Dictionary Diversion Book Safe with Key Lock

Well that’s generally my round the world trip gear packing tips. I know that I can’t be fully prepared 100% since I won’t know exactly what I’ll encounter in the countries and locations I’m traveling to, but at least I feel 90% ready with the items I’ll need.

Let Me Know: What are your personal tips or travel gear that you suggest I pack?