Around the World in 80 Hours: Part 1 (Itinerary and Singapore Flight 15)

Around the World in 80 Hours: Part 1 (Itinerary and Singapore Flight 15)

I like to travel. A lot.  More specifically, I like to fly. There isn’t much that makes me more happy than looking out the window and seeing the earth thousands of feet below and being high enough to see the curvature of the earth on the horizon. It’s why I became a pilot, and it’s part of why when a chance to fly SFO-LAX-IAD-MIA-IAD-LAX-SFO in a single day pops up, I go for it. (I am, in fact, writing this blog post from Washington-Dulles [IAD] right now on that itinerary, but mileage runs are a topic for another discussion.) Some people don’t quite understand this obsession, which is why I got a lot of strange looks when I talked about the plans for my short round-the-world trip.

This is the first post of three about the trip:

  • Part 1: The trip plan, and Singapore Airlines Flight 15 (San Francisco [SFO] – Seoul, South Korea [ICN] – Singapore [SIN])
  • Part 2 (coming soon) : 22 hours in Singapore, then flying (Singapore [SIN] – Colombo, Sri Lanka [CMB] – Dubai, UAE [DXB]- Paris, France [CDG]
  • Part 3 (coming soon): Two days in Paris, then the trip home (Paris, France [CDG] – London, England [LHR] – San Francisco [SFO])

The Itinerary

Singapore Airlines boarding pass

This trip had two purposes: 1) to fly in as many premium international first class experiences as possible (by employing a bit of a trick), and 2) to visit the Paris Disneyland Resort. In May, I set a goal to visit every Disney park in the world within a 12 month period, and Paris was the next-to-last one for me to knock off the list. (The last one is Hong Kong Disneyland, which I will be visiting in under two weeks.) Here’s the basics of what I did …

  1.  San Francisco, CA – Seoul, South Korea – Singapore – Colombo, Sri Lanka
    • Total Cost: 80,000 United miles and $12.00 for airfare, and about $300 for the hotel room
    • August 31st, 2012: Singapore 15, Boeing 777-300, First Class, San Francisco – Seoul, South Korea – Singapore
    • September 1st, 2012: Check in at the Mandarin Oriental Singapore
    • September 2nd, 2012:
      • Check out of the Mandarin Oriental Singapore
      • Visits to Downtown Singapore and the Singapore Zoo
      • Singapore 468, Boeing 777-300, Business Class, Singapore – Colombo, Sri Lanka
  2. Colombo, Sri Lanka – Dubai, UAE – Paris, France – London, UK – San Francisco, CA
    • Total Cost: about $2,000 for the airfare, about $400 for the hotel room, and about $160 for Disneyland tickets
    • September 3rd, 2012:
      • Emirates 349, Boeing 777-200, First Class, Colombo, Sri Lanka – Dubai, UAE
      • Emirates 79, Airbus A380-800, First Class, Dubai, UAE – Paris, France
      • Check in to the Dreamcastle Hotel in Paris
      • Disneyland Paris
    • September 4th, 2012: More Disneyland Paris
    • September 5th, 2012:
      • Check out of the Dreamcastle Hotel
      • British Airways 307, Airbus A320, Club Europe Class, Paris, France – London, UK
      • British Airways 287, Boeing 747-400, First Class, London, UK – San Francisco, CA

Singapore Airlines Flight 15, 777-300, First Class, San Francisco – Seoul, South Korea – Singapore

First, here are some photos from the flight so you can follow along …

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Singapore Airlines is notoriously stingy about allowing passengers to redeem award travel (using frequent flier miles) on their premium routes. Even though they are a member of Star Alliance, which theoretically allows one to redeem United or US Air miles for a ticket on Singapore Airlines, on their long-haul routes they lock out awards for everyone except for members of their own program. In May, however, Singapore moved over to a new reservation system and accidentally opened up a bunch of award inventory to partner airlines, and I snagged a seat first class ticket on their SFO-ICN-SIN route.

The day started off with a visit to the United First Class lounge at SFO. Singapore has a lounge at SFO, but generally the United lounge is considered superior and, unlike the Singapore lounge, is exclusively for first class passengers. Since I was allowed to bring a guest, I brought Sarah with me since she had a Delta departure within an hour of my own. (This caused her a bit of a headache later, though, because she unexpectedly had to re-clear security to get to her gate.)

I eventually left for my gate, and upon boarding the plane the purser informed me that there would only be two of us in first class for the 12-hour San Francisco – Seoul leg, so we pretty much had the entire cabin to ourselves. Because there are no overhead bins in that section of the plane, I chose a another seat to serve as the home for my stuff, and the flight attendant eventually made up that seat as a bed so that I wouldn’t have to convert the one I was sitting in.

Singapore Airlines is known for its food and service, and true to its reputation, it was fantastic. The flight attendants did a fantastic job of anticipating my needs, while tactfully avoiding being overbearing. There were three meals total on San Francisco – Seoul – Singapore, and I enjoyed a pretty wide medley of food from a duck and fruit salad to a korean steak dish to lobster thermidore … there are lots of pictures (and pictures of the menu) in the gallery above. This ended up being, by far, the best food and service of the entire trip.

Dunkin Donuts’ presence in Seoul provided some me with some temporary amusement.

The plane makes a one-hour stop in Seoul, South Korea, during which one must deplane, re-clear security, and then wait in the airport. It was a pretty painless ordeal, especially given that I was the first person off of the plane. I tend to be quite amused at which brands find a presence overseas, so the Dunkin Donuts at the end of the terminal in South Korea provided me with some temporary amusement.

I arrived in SIN just short of 1 AM local time and was greeted by the driver I had arranged ahead of time. Cabs are cheap in Singapore, but so was the black car, and I wanted to have prepaid transportation so I wouldn’t have to deal with any potential currency conversion issues at 1 AM. The ride was pleasant and uneventful, and I checked in at the Mandarin Oriental where I promptly passed out.

Up next …

How I spent 22 hours in Singapore, and then the ridiculous (and awesome) route I took to get to Paris.