A warning at the top: I talk about money and costs quite a bit in this post and will continue to throughout. This is slightly awkward since friends and family are reading this but then one of the reasons I'm doing this trip report is so that people realize that trips like this are possible with the wonders of the miles and points world. I am not a wealthy man by any means. In fact with student loans and continuing depreciation in the Florida housing market I'm probably worth more dead than alive. I'm also a public school teacher so you can guess my salary. I have two dreams in life: one is to become a skipper on the world famous Jungle Cruise (get paid to tell corny jokes? Hell yes!) and the other is to start my own financial planning business because damnit no one talks about money the way they should. So here's one step to demystify it.
At the beginning of 2011 I sat down and drew up a list of places I really wanted to visit. I was just about to turn thirty, I'd comfortably settled into a job I love and, if I hadn't quite found the love of my life, I was pretty happy with where things were. But I had also just been through a period in which several people I knew and cared for were diagnosed with cancer* and I thought "well, if I'm going to go to these places I may as well go now". I've hit many of the domestic ones since but the international ones prominently included:
• visiting friends in England and seeing Arsenal play
• visiting as many Gothic castles & cathedrals in France & Germany as possible
• going to any and every Disney park that I could get to
Originally I was going to spend last winter in England and then try and visit Tokyo in the spring. This had the advantage of cutting down on costs as I have friends to stay with in England. Except who wants to visit England in December? Not this Floridian. Especially with airfare that was surprisingly expensive for non-holiday winter travel.
At about the same time I had started one of my most fervent hobbies: collective airline miles and points. I had miles in a few different programs and I was trying to see how to make it work. And then one day I was reading one of Ben's posts at One Mile At A Time and it hit me: for the same number of miles to go to Tokyo I could hit England and Tokyo in the same trip with England being a stopover. Within the next 24 hours a planned formed. I was going to go to every Disney park in the world in one trip and I was going to do it without going broke.
The final itinerary involves stops in Anaheim, Chicago, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris, England and the Rhine Valley in Germany**. Oh, and probably a day in Orlando at the end because otherwise I'm not really going to every park, am I? And for those who worry, ::cough cough brother cough cough:: I am not planning on spending even half the trip in Disney parks. It spans over six weeks with most of the trip being in first class and with most of the stays happening in far nicer hotels than I usually stay in. Best part is that the hotels + the airfare came in for less than $1500 out-of-pocket.
In the next few posts I will go through the planning in a bit more detail as I think that's one part that's often missing in blogs about frequent flying. Redeeming the miles intelligently is a lot harder than it should be.
* - thankfully everyone diagnosed has recovered but it reinforced for me one of the lessons of collecting miles and hotel points: use them because you never know at what point you won't be able to anymore.
** - technically the itinerary is a lot more convoluted than that. For the FT'ers out there or anyone else who loves airport codes, it's: TPA-ATL-SNA-ORD-YUL-ZRH-HKG-NRT-ICN-FRA-CDG-LGW-FRA-ORD-TPA. Or, to put it graphically:
28000 miles on airplanes. Ought to be interesting.