Anatomy of a Trip - The Mad Dash

We're on the move again and I've spent a lot of time planning our upcoming trip. The house is rented out and we'll be away for sixteen weeks. This time we're really taking the show on the road with no more than (and often much less than) three weeks in one place. Generally we like a theme to our trips, ideally one that follows a historical route or a cultural thread. I had thought of combining Rome, Ethiopia and Eritrea for a tour of Italy and its colonies but this time we've ended up with a far less coherent conglomeration we're calling the, "Mad Dash Across Too Much!"

How did we end up with this seemingly incoherent ramble across half the globe? Well, London and Dublin were givens as we were already planning to  visit  family for the holidays. We have three weeks free before Christmas and Rome made sense because it was at the top of my list when we opted for "Our Small Adventure" in  Paris. 

But, Europe is a warm up to the main event which began as a long awaited trip to Burma. When the house rental stretched to three months our plans expanded to fill the vacuum. Suddenly I was looking at how we could get to and from Burma economically and where else could we stop along the way? For us this is always a dangerous enterprise because we're interested in visiting most places at least once. 

Our bucket list is extensive, so I looked to see where I could find value in the frequent flyer award charts. American Airlines offers a great award between Europe and the Indian Subcontinent that we've used before. It's only 30,000 miles one way  in Business  and 20,000 miles in economy. 30,000 miles is an amazing deal to get between Dublin and the Subcontinent and if we avoided British Airways there would be no fuel surcharge. From Dublin we could fly Eithiad - first to Abu Dhabi and then on to Dhaka. Astonishingly this cost only $45 in taxes and fees each, including the the phone ticketing charge! Bangladesh has long be somewhere we wanted to learn more about but the added incentive was that for our purposes  it's also an award mile sweet spot. 

Let me explain, Burma was our ultimate destination but getting there on miles would have cost 52, 500 miles one way per person on AA or 62,500 per person on United, either are far more than the 30,000 we'll pay to get to Dhaka. But here's the true advantage, while AA categorizes Bangladesh with India for the purposes of frequent flyer awards, United  classifies Bangladesh as the same region as Thailand, Burma, Indonesia and Malaysia. Thus we could fly into Bangladesh on an American Airlines award and out with a United partner without crossing an expensive regional  barrier. In a venn diagram Bangladesh is the sole point of intersection on the two award charts.

As you can see it was a short line between discovering this and defining an   itinerary on United miles that would take us from Dhaka to Burma and on throughout the region. I'll be detailing this award in the next post but these awards in combination with a cheap one way from Penang to London made the entire trip possible. 
Crazy, but with miles it's feasible. Here are all the details: 

  • Return flights San Francisco-London-Dublin in Business on a British Airways awards. 118,000 miles for both of us using a BA Visa 2 for 1 coupon. The fuel surcharges are very steep at $900 per person but BA is very comfortable. Essentially you are paying for Economy and getting Business.
  • 30,000 miles per person in Business Dublin-Abu Dhabi-Dhaka on American Airlines. 
  • 35,000 miles in per person in Business Dhaka-Bangkok, Rangoon-Bali, Bali-Kuala Lumpur with a total of $75 in taxes and fees each. I'll be talking about this award in a forthcoming post.
  • Penang to London via Kuala Lumpur in Economy on Malaysian Airlines. With the help of Itasoftware I found an amazing promo fare of  $370 each,  available only  at the Malaysian Airlines website. Malaysia has been in D.'s list for some time but this fare clinched the deal as I was planning to fly home from wherever I could find the best deal! 
So there it is, no cultural or historical logic just a value proposition followed doggedly to the nth degree. It's a tour of the B's, Bangladesh, Burma, Bangkok and Bali. It was perfect until we switched Borneo for peninsular Malaysia! 

More details to follow and I hope you'll be coming along too...