JT Genter's 2019 travel stats: miles flown, hotel stays and more
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While TPG has a bunch of road warriors, for the last two and a half years, my wife -- and fellow TPG writer -- Katie and I have lived on the road — and we don't mean that in a figurative sense. In mid-2017, we moved out of our apartment in Austin, Texas and haven't had a place of our own since then. What was originally planned as a gap year has now turned into a "gap life" as we transitioned to working as digital nomads for TPG.
But contrary to what some may assume, our job isn't to travel. I've published over 500 articles in 2019 and Katie -- who does posts that are much deeper dives -- has published 200 herself. And a vast majority of those articles haven't been directly related to our travels.
Still, we were able to put up some impressive travel numbers this year. Here's my 2019 travel recap by the numbers:
266,099 direct flight miles
While I barely reached 300,000 butt-in-seat flight miles in 2018, I didn't fly quite as much in 2019, one reason being I focused more on points and miles posts rather than flight reviews for TPG. My final flight of the year on December 29 from Atlanta (ATL) to Tokyo's Narita (NRT) pushed me just over 266,000 miles for the year.
266,099 miles is more than 10.5 times the circumference of the earth, and it's approximately the equivalent of flying 107 flights between New York and Los Angeles.
And no, those miles weren't all in first and business class. I started writing for TPG as an economy flight reviewer and still try to stay true to my roots. However, thanks to my top-tier AA Executive Platinum elite status, I was upgraded on more than 44,000 miles of domestic and international flights. The Cathay Pacific New Year's Eve sale added more than 50,000 miles of business and first-class flying. And incredible mileage deals -- like 47k Amex points for Delta One Suites from Atlanta to Tokyo and a 75k AAdvantage award from the U.S. to Pakistan in Qatar Qsuites -- helped make it very affordable to rack up some miles in business class.
In 2019, I flew:
- 103,846 miles in economy -- including reviews of American Airlines A321neo, American Airlines "LUS" A321, Delta A330, British Airways, French Bee, Qantas, Sun Country and Swoop
- 37,230 miles in premium economy -- including reviews of Japan Airlines and Virgin Australia
- 35,730 miles in domestic first class -- including a review of American Airlines A321neo
- 64,849 miles in lie-flat business class -- including a review of Air Tahiti Nui and American Airlines A321T
- 24,444 miles in international first class -- including a review of Cathay Pacific
For 2019, I set the goal of flying at least 30 airlines and staying in at least 30 major hotel brands. While I thought that I had hit 30 airlines in late November, I double-checked my OpenFlights logbook in early December to find that I'd mentally double-counted a couple of airlines. With the end of the year approaching, I opted to fly Southwest rather than a much-cheaper Spirit flight to fly from Atlanta (ATL) to Tampa (TPA) to reach my goal of 30 airlines for 2019.
As a top-tier elite on American Airlines, it's not surprising that AA was my most-flown airline. Perhaps more surprising is that I "only" flew 43 flights on American in 2019 -- down from 75 segments in 2018.
The next most-flown airline might seem out of left field: Katie and I flew 20 flights on Malaysia Airlines in 2019. 18 of these were thanks to a segment run that we did in early January 2019 to get Oneworld Sapphire elite status for 24 months for under $500 in flights while we toured five different destinations in Malaysia.
Thanks in part to the airline's incredible New Year's Eve deal and an excellent premium economy deal to Singapore, I flew a combined 18 flights on Cathay Pacific and its regional airline Cathay Dragon.
After that, the number of segments drop off significantly. We flew 6 flights on Air Tahiti as we island-hopped around French Polynesia. Between four domestic flights in Australia and a retirement flight on a 747, Qantas was my sixth most-flown airline with five segments.
I flew four flights each on Jetstar Pacific, British Airways and Delta -- including my first-ever Delta business class flight on December 29. And, despite having Star Alliance Gold elite status, I only flew United three times in 2019.
That leaves 20 airlines that I flew on only once or twice: Air Canada, Air Tahiti Nui, AirAsia, Bamboo Airways, Emirates, Fiji Airways, French Bee, Japan Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Kenya Airways, Pakistan International Airlines, Qatar Airways, SereneAir, South African Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, Swoop, Vietnam Airlines, and Virgin Australia.
Considering the number of miles I flew, it may be surprising that I "only" flew 134 flights in 2019 -- compared with 150 in 2018. But, Katie and I tried to limit our travel days this year so we could focus more on work. Plus, staying a month in one location -- as I'll discuss blow -- certainly hampered the flight count.
My 2018 featured two inaugurals of the world's longest flights: Qantas' Perth to London and Singapore Airlines' Singapore to Newark. While 2019 didn't feature as noteworthy of flights, my longest flight of the year was also the most luxurious: Emirates First Class from Dubai (DXB) to Los Angeles (LAX). That was 8,326 direct flight miles of pure bliss for 150,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles.
On the other end of the spectrum, my shortest flight covered just 11 miles from Papeete in Tahiti (PPT) to Mo'orea (MOZ) in French Polynesia. There's a ferry between Tahiti and Mo'orea that we would have taken under different conditions, but the flight was free as part of an Air Tahiti island hopper ticket we purchased. Cruising altitude for the short flight on the ATR 72-600 was just 1,500 feet. The wind required a slightly-longer route, stretching the flight all the way to 8 minutes.
For only having flown 134 flights, I was surprised to find that I flew through 62 different airports. Thanks to plenty of trans-Pacific flights, Los Angeles (LAX) ended up being my most flown-through airport with 26 flights. And thanks to switching between tickets in Los Angeles numerous times, I got to know the best hotels for a layover in LAX very well.
My next two most-flown airports for 2019 were in Asia. Thanks to the Malaysia Airlines segment run, Kuala Lumpur (KUL) was my second most-used airport with 22 segments. Similarly, the Cathay Pacific deal helped make Hong Kong my third most-transited airport with 20 flights in and out.
Rounding out the Top 10 airports was Atlanta (ATL, 15); Da Nang, Vietnam (DAD, 12); Kualanamu, Indonesia (KNO, 10); Austin, TX (AUS, 8); Charlotte, NC (CLT, 8); New York Kennedy (JFK, 7) and Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW, 6).
82 unique routes
My 134 flights this year stretched across 82 unique routes. I flew 55 of those routes only once, leaving just 27 routes I flew more than once.
My most-flown route was between Kualanamu, Indonesia (KNO) and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (KUL) -- which I flew 10 times as part of our Malaysia hopper. As part of the Cathay Pacific New Year's Eve sale, I flew six times between Da Nang, Vietnam (DAD) and Hong Kong (HKG) and four times between Hong Kong and New York Kennedy (JFK).
Only one domestic route made my top 5 most-flown routes with four flights between Atlanta (ATL) and Los Angeles (LAX) -- three of which were paired with the four flights I flew between Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia (SYD).
22 aircraft types
As an AvGeek, I enjoying flying all different types of aircraft. However, my flights are usually dictated more by scheduling needs than by the aircraft type. So, I'm pleasantly surprised to find that I flew 22 different aircraft types in 2019. That includes:
- 65 Boeing flights:
- 717-200 (1)
- 737-700 (1)
- 737-800 (39) -- my most-flown aircraft in 2019
- 737-900 (1)
- 747-400 (2)
- 777-300ER (13) -- tied for my third most-flown aircraft type in 2019
- 787-8 (2)
- 787-9 (6)
- 53 Airbus flights:
- A319-100 (5)
- A320-200 (13) -- tied for my third most-flown aircraft type in 2019
- A321-200 (19) -- my second most-flown aircraft in 2019
- A321neo (2)
- A330-200 (3)
- A330-300 (5)
- A350-900 (5)
- A380-800 (1)
- 6 Embraer ERJ-175LR flights
- 6 ATR flights
- 72-600 (4)
- 42-600 (2)
- 3 Bombardier flights
- CRJ-701ER (2)
- CRJ-900LR (1)
- 1 McDonnell Douglas MD-83 flight
15 countries visited
While my flights touched 19 countries in 2019, I only count countries as visited if I leave the airport and have a genuine local experience in the country. Of the 15 countries I visited in 2019, I hadn't visited seven countries before: Pakistan, Indonesia, French Polynesia, Fiji, Malaysia, Vietnam and Liberia.
208 nights at 37 major hotel brands
In addition to flying 30 different airlines, I set a goal of staying at 30 major hotel brands in 2019. And this one didn't end up being nearly as hard as my airline goal. But, due to staying at so many hotel brands, there were only five brands that I stayed at more than 10 nights: Ascend Hotel (29), Holiday Inn Express (20), Staybridge Suites (17), Four Points (15) and InterContinental (12).
28 of those 29 nights at an Ascend Hotel came during our longest stay of 2019. In the fall, we stayed at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic for 28 nights for just 8,000 Choice points per night. At TPG valuations, that's just $48 per night, but we were able to buy points during Daily Getaways to drop our actual cost for those 28 nights to under $40 per night.
In 2019, I stayed at:
- 89 IHG nights at 10 different brands:
- Holiday Inn Express (20) -- my second most-stayed hotel brand in 2019
- Staybridge Suites (17) -- my third most-stayed hotel brand in 2019
- InterContinental (12) -- my fifth most-stayed hotel brand in 2019
- Regent (9)
- Candlewood Suites (8)
- Hotel Indigo (8)
- Voco (6)
- Holiday Inn (5)
- Crowne Plaza (2)
- Holiday Inn Resort (2)
- 54 Marriott nights at 13 different brands:
- Four Points (15) -- my fourth most-stayed hotel brand in 2019
- Marriott (9)
- Fairfield Inn & Suites (7)
- Aloft (4)
- Residence Inn (4)
- JW Marriott (3)
- Westin (3)
- Sheraton (2)
- SpringHill Suites (2)
- TownePlaza Suites (2)
- AC Hotel (1)
- Courtyard (1)
- Delta Hotels (1)
- 46 Choice nights at six different brands:
- Ascend Hotel (29) -- my most-stayed hotel brand in 2019
- Ascend Resort (7)
- Comfort Hotel (4)
- Quality Inn (3)
- Rodeway Inn (2)
- Econo Lodge (1)
- 8 Hilton nights at three brands:
- DoubleTree (4)
- Curio Collection (3)
- Conrad (1)
- 4 Hyatt nights -- all at a Hyatt Regency
- 2 Best Western nights -- both at a Best Western Plus
- 2 Wyndham nights -- both at a Days Inn
- 2 Accor nights -- both at a Grand Mercure
- 1 Loews night
87 nights on points
Of those 208 nights spent in a major hotel brand, 87 nights were paid for using hotel points. Broken out by hotel loyalty program:
- 46 IHG nights (605,000 points)
- 27 nights at 15,000 points each -- including 18 nights at PointBreaks hotels
- 4 nights at 20,000 points each
- 4 nights at 30,000 points each -- all of which were at the centrally-located Holiday Inn Express & Suites Austin Downtown during South by Southwest, making it a great deal.
- 11 nights at 0 points each thanks to the fourth-night free benefit on the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card
- 31 Choice nights (256,000 points)
- 30 nights at 8,000 points per night -- including 28 in an all-inclusive resort
- 1 night at 16,000 points per night in New York City
- 7 Marriott nights (170,000 points)
- 5 nights at 20,000 points per night in Karachi, Pakistan
- 2 nights at 35,000 points each at Marriott Fiji Resort Momi Bay
- 2 Hyatt nights at 5,000 points each
- 1 Wyndham night at 7,500 points
Katie and I helped boost our IHG points balance by buying IHG Rewards points at 0.5 cents each and by achieving Accelerate bonuses. Similarly, we built up our Choice balances by buying Choice points through Daily Getaways and by taking advantage of promotions.
37 nights at independent hotels
In addition to the 208 nights I stayed at major hotel brands, I also accumulated 37 nights at independent hotels -- usually when a major brand wasn't available. That includes stays from the Heritage Luxury Suites in Lahore, Pakistan to The Farmington Hotel outside Monrovia, Liberia.
Among the 16 independent hotels that I stayed at in 2019 were two worthy of a review:
- Staying at the world's only Hooters Hotel in Las Vegas -- a property that's since been purchased by Oyo Hotels
- Now departing: Your dreams. A review of Nine Hours, a Tokyo airport capsule hotel
21 nights at an Airbnb
We used to stay at more Airbnbs in the past, but we have had some very disappointing experiences at Airbnbs that have led us to cut back drastically. In 2019, I stayed just 21 nights across eight Airbnb stays -- and 12 of those nights were with the same Airbnb group.
For our first stay in Da Nang, Vietnam this year, Katie found a very well-rated Airbnb group called Christina's. We were able to book an apartment for a three-night stay for just under $121, so we gave it a shot. We loved the experience so much that we stayed at Christina's properties for our next three Da Nang stays. In total, we spent just $490 for 12 nights -- or just under $41 per night -- for a centrally-located apartment with very friendly hosts.
Our other four stays included a two-night stay in Kota Bhara, Malaysia during our Malaysia hopper; two nights with friends as part of a wedding party outside Boston, MA; a two-night stay in Mo'orea, French Polynesia and a three-night stay in Raiatea, French Polynesia.
68 nights with friends & family
When we first started our digital nomad journey in mid-2017, we figured we would quickly wear out our welcome at our family and friends. Thankfully, that hasn't been the case, and we keep getting questions from family about when we are going to visit them next. In 2019, 50 of the 68 nights spent with friends and family were spent at a parent's house with the other 18 split between friends, uncles, cousins and my grandparents' place while my grandmother was in hospice earlier this year.
31 nights in-flight, camping and on a train
That leaves 31 nights unaccounted for so far. Of those, 26 nights were spent on red-eye flights. Three nights were spent camping at the Gorge Amphitheater outside Seattle, Washington during a music festival. And finally, two nights were spent on the Empire Builder train from Portland, Oregon to Chicago, Illinois as part of a buy-one-get-one-free booking on Amtrak.
10 elite statuses earned
In 2019, I earned or maintained elite statuses on four airlines and six hotels. Airlines included:
- American Airlines Executive Platinum: Thanks to the Cathay Pacific New Year's Eve sale, a Cathay Pacific premium economy flight and a British Airways flight, I was able to earn Executive Platinum elite status by early April 2019. I ended the year with just over 150,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) -- which means I'll be able to select two more systemwide upgrades or bonus miles as a threshold bonus.
- Malaysia Enrich Gold: For under $500 each, Katie and I were able to earn Oneworld Sapphire elite status through Malaysia's triple elite segments promotion by hopping around Malaysia from a base in Medan, Indonesia. We flew 18 flights and earned 54 elite-qualifying segments -- which was enough to get up Oneworld Sapphire elite status through January 2021. Since then, we've used this status to get into American Airlines Flagship Lounges when flying on domestic flights. Plus, it was a fun way of seeing Malaysia.
- Asiana Diamond: Although neither Katie nor I have flown Asiana, we both have Diamond status with the airline by crediting Star Alliance flights to the South Korean airline. After reaching the 40,000-mile threshold in January 2018, we have Star Alliance Gold elite status through Asiana through December 2021.
- United Silver: As I reached Marriott Titanium elite status, I'm eligible to get United Silver elite status.
For hotel programs, I earned:
- IHG Spire Elite (with Ambassador): For the second year, I earned IHG Spire elite status, in part thanks to rolling over 18 elite nights from 2018. While I stayed a total of 89 nights at IHG properties, I mostly stopped using my account to book stays once I earned 57 elite nights this year due to how wacky IHG's elite rollover nights work. Instead, we booked award nights through Katie's account.
- Marriott Titanium Elite: I came into this year with Marriott Platinum elite status from The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card (no longer available for new applications). While I figured that this status would be useful for stays planned at Marriott properties in Pakistan, I didn't expect to re-earn Platinum elite status in 2019 due to Marriott's troubles with the Starwood Preferred Guest merger. But, perks like 4 p.m. guaranteed checkout and free breakfast made re-earning Marriott Platinum elite status a priority. And thanks to hosting a meeting at a Marriott hotel, I was able to get enough nights to reach Titanium elite status on December 26.
- Choice Platinum: Thanks to the 28-night all-inclusive resort stay alone, I was able to earn Choice Platinum elite status. While I figured I might hit Choice's top-tier Diamond status, I didn't end up reaching the 40-night threshold. Thankfully due to Choice's elite rollover nights benefit, I'll start 2020 with 14 elite nights. So, I'm likely to re-earn Choice Platinum elite status naturally -- although I won't prioritize it.
- Hilton Diamond: I have top-tier Hilton Diamond elite status from The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, which I plan to keep for the foreseeable future.
- Wyndham Diamond: I have Wyndham Diamond from an elite status match.
- Best Western Diamond: Likewise, I have top-tier Best Western elite status from a match.
And that's a wrap on 2019. Stay tuned for an even busier 2020!