My 2015 Travel Year in Review

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With 2015 nearing its end, I can easily say this has been an amazing year for me. Although there were some announcements that were less than welcomed among the points and miles rewards community, like the long-awaited AA devaluation and the Starwood-Marriott merger, I’ve personally had an phenomenal travel year that I wouldn’t change for anything. From experiencing new airlines on new routes to new destinations, I’ve made some amazing memories.

Here’s the breakdown:

Total flights taken: 112
Shortest Flight: Provincetown, MA to Boston, MA – 46 Miles
Longest Flight: Hong Kong to JFK – 8,050 Miles
Total miles flown: 203,058
Miles redeemed: 1,623,460
Favorite Redemption: 67,500 AA miles and ~$62 for Cathay first class from Saigon to JFK
Airlines flown: 28

Hotel Stats Year To Date:

Hilton: Gold after $20,000 spent on the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card – 1 stay, 2 nights
Hyatt: Diamond after a status match from SPG Platinum – 1 stay, 4 qualifying nights
Marriott/Ritz Carlton: Platinum after $75,000 spent on the Ritz Carlton Visa – 14 nights
Starwood: Platinum Preferred Guest – 42 stays, 100 nights

points for peace
My trip to Ghana was the highlight of my year.

I’d have to say that the highlight of my year was my trip to Africa — this summer, I traveled to Rwanda, South Africa and Ghana. To say Ghana was a life-changing experience is an understatement (be on the lookout for more information regarding my trip and TPG’s partnership with PeaceJam next week). Be on the lookout for TPG TV’s full coverage in 2016, including this video of how PeaceJam and TPG are working together to change the future.

brian cuba
My first trip to Cuba was unbelievable – so I decided to go back a second time.

In case you couldn’t tell from all the coverage from earlier this year (and the hyperlinks in this paragraph), my first trip to Cuba was unbelievable, and it made me wish that it had been open to US tourists sooner. It was so breathtakingly beautiful that I found myself making reservations for another trip to Cuba just four months later. And with the removal of Cuba from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism and the US Embassy reopening in Havana, US travelers can now access the country with fewer obstacles than ever.

Whereas it used to be simplest to book trips to Cuba through a travel agent, it’s about to get a lot easier for individual travelers to book themselves, as US airlines will begin offering service to the country sometime in 2016. When I went the second time, I flew on Sun Country Charters — and charters are a viable way to get there — but there are many other ways to get to Cuba you can consider. A return trip to Cuba for a third time to explore different cities is definitely on my radar for 2016.

Thanksgiving dinner in the sky.
A Thanksgiving dinner in the sky and my amazing butler, Eren, made my trip on The Residence unforgettable.

I could never forget the most expensive flight of my life — my trip on The Residence on Etihad’s inaugural flight from New York-JFK to Abu Dhabi. The $32,000 one-way trip lived up to all my expectations. From the above-and-beyond customer service to the amenities onboard, The Residence was more than I could have ever expected — not to mention the phenomenal Thanksgiving meal that I requested.

Although Etihad forgot to load my bag on the plane, the airline made up for it in its willingness to make the situation better for me in Abu Dhabi (because I had no clothes!) and its donation to my favorite charity, PeaceJam. It was an amazing experience, but I’m not sure if I’ll be flying The Residence again any time soon — I think I’ll just stick to first or business class.

At Bali's Ubud Monkey Forest: not the first time I've been mistaken for a tree.
I had so many unforgettable experiences in 2015, like hanging out with this monkey in Bali.

I can’t go into detail about every memorable travel experience I’ve had this year — there are too many to count, and that post would be way too long. But there were definitely memories that will last me a lifetime, from redeeming points for great experiences — like attending the US Open and the Kentucky Derby — to meeting readers at our events and my not-so-fun SSSSaga with the TSA, which finally ended in October. A couple other favorites include going on the first-ever White House tour that permitted photography, celebrating five years of TPG and an amazing around-the-world trip.

And as for 2016, I can only hope that it’s half as rewarding (pun intended) as 2015. Keep an eye out for a post detailing my 2016 travel plans, as well as our Points For Peace sponsorship and the all-new TPG TV, which is launching February 1, 2016. Finally, I want to thank all of you for joining me on all my travels and experiences. Follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to my YouTube channel to keep up with my journeys in the coming year!

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