TPG U.K. staff travel highlights for 2019
It's been a huge first year for TPG U.K. We launched the site in April with a big pop-up event, the small but close-knit team has grown to eight full-time staff (plus our wonderful freelancers) and they have traveled the world to help you maximize your adventures.
Here are their personal travel highlights:
Flying Norwegian Premium on the leased Evelop A330 from New York to London Gatwick. There was very little information online about what seats the aircraft even had in the premium cabin, and I trusted a single TripAdvisor review that said it was well worth upgrading on this flight. The aircraft turned out to be an ex-Singapore Airlines-fitted plane with angled flat seats Norwegian sold as Premium. It was easily the best premium economy flight I’ve ever taken and was a wonderful surprise.
From a points and miles point of view, Gold Guest List and Concorde Room Card maintained -- a total of 8,000 Tier Points earned (mostly through creative routing for personal trips). That included some great flights and products including Qatar's Qsuite as well as Cathay Pacific and Finnair long-haul flights. I also ticked off the places from my list like New Orleans, Iceland and Bali.
Less positively, I have been able to use miles to book almost next-day trips to see family when they were unwell and attend a funeral. Having that last-minute ability to book flights without paying hundreds of pounds is one of the upside for having miles and points.
Flying the world’s shortest flight is something I have wanted to tick off my AvGeek bucket list for a long time. It turned out to be more of an adventure than I could have imagined as I found myself stranded due to bad weather. In the space of 48 hours I took five flights, numerous travel sickness tablets, flew with two new airlines and survived two extremely rocky boat trips.
I also discovered a beautiful and unique part of the country. I experienced the most incredible hospitality from those Orkadians and expats that I encountered on the island. To top it off, I ate some great local food and sampled a few local Orkadian gins. I would highly recommend a trip to Orkney.
Before this year, I'd only flown first class once -- a 50-minute hop in Emirates first class between Dubai and Muscat. But this year, I took it a step further and flew two of the world's best first-class products within a week. I got to test out both Cathay Pacific first class and Air France La Première in the same trip. My high expectations were met, and I think it'll be hard to not sip Champagne and dine on caviar on any flight going forward.
My travel highlight of 2019 was spending two weeks in St Lucia with my husband on our honeymoon. We stayed at some amazing hotels, and I also loved going on local radio to talk about being a travel writer. Climbing St Lucia's famous Gros Piton mountain was another highlight.
In terms of flights, I was unexpectedly upgraded from economy to business from Oman to London on Oman Air back in March. It was glorious. The best food I've ever eaten on a plane and the best amenities. A fond memory is watching Bohemian Rhapsody drinking Champagne and getting a "bit" emotional watching Freddy perform.
With 10 countries and 34 flights under my belt in 2019, this has certainly been the busiest travel year of my life! Out of all those flights, one in particular stands out: Munich to New York on Lufthansa's A340 in first class. Prior to this I'd only ever flown in economy so needless to say I was absolutely blown away by the experience.
My 2019 travel highlight was easily flying Singapore's new suites. Best flight of my life hands down, and a great redemption at 125,000 KrisFlyer miles and £19 ($25) tax.
KATHLEEN PORTER KRISTIANSEN
This was my year of using Avios and hotel points to fly to sublime islands on nonstop flights from London. I made it to the Seychelles and Maldives on points. For 34,125 Avios plus £436.86 ($574) I flew direct to the Seychelles on a Dreamliner with just my boys who were 3 and 1 at the time. We spent a few days at Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort and Spa before joining friends on another island and then heading to Ethiopia for our return journey.
For the Maldives, my husband and I maximized a BA Companion Voucher for two tickets in premium economy from London to Male for 82,000 Avios and £943 ($1,240) return. Due to good luck and an oversold flight, we were upgraded to Club World on the outbound. In the Maldives, we stayed at the St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort with 360,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (rates have since increased) — a true points dream property.
Last February, I decided I wanted to take a special trip to escape winter and focus on my well-being. I used 70,000 AAdvantage miles to fly business class on Qatar to Bangkok from Madrid via Doha. I snagged a cash deal for about £700 ($920) to fly back on Royal Jordanian via Amman — a solid start to earning some EQMs to get AAdvantage elite status this year. After a couple days eating as much street food as humanly possible in Bangkok, I then flew to my favorite Thai island Koh Tao to do a yoga retreat and relax in the sunshine, staying in secluded beach huts and boutique hotels.
A truly blissful wellness experience I’m so glad I gave myself.