I’m not traveling this year as much as I have in past years. The big reason is that I have less vacation time than I have had in the past. While that seems like a pretty big impact, there’s something else that has also impacted some of my travel choices. Ultimately, I’m choosing time over experience of in flight products.
Over the past few years, I have made an effort to fly on tons of new (to me) airlines, aircraft, and products (e.g. you get a different experience on an Emirates 777-300ER than a 777-300 than an A380 for example). In some cases, doing this has led me to fly out of my way, given me long layovers, and sometimes forced stopovers that I would not otherwise have chosen. You might argue that I was doing the exact opposite of pursuing time over experience of in flight products.
A perfect example is my trip from last year, where we flew from Washington, DC, to Chicago, so we could fly the Japan Airlines 777-300ER to Narita; but we wanted to go to Bali, so we ended up needing to transfer to Haneda’s airport (where I was able to get my shoes shined, which was nice), so we could fly on a sub-par JAL 777 product to Bangkok, where we then got a second mileage award ticket to fly onward to Denpasar-Bali on the new Thai 787.
That trip out got us 2 new airline products, the Japan Airlines 777-300ER and the Thai 787. But boy were we exhausted when we finally got into Bali!
Then for the way home, we flew from Denpasar-Bali to Singapore (which is one of two routes that seems to have the hands down best award availability out of Bali), spent a night in Singapore, then visited the Singapore Airlines Private Room, and flew the Singapore Airlines A380 Suites up to Hong Kong, had a 5 hour layover in Hong Kong, and then flew Emirates to Dubai and onward to Washington-Dulles.
The way home essentially got us back on Singapore Suites for a 3-4 hour flight, and back on Emirates, which we do enjoy flying. In the past, we’ve flown via Bangkok (the other fairly good award option out of Bali), and connected to Thai’s A380 to Frankfurt, further connecting to Lufthansa First Class (with a stop at the Lufthansa First Class Terminal). In truth, I think the Emirates option ends up being better, because you arrive earlier in the day.
Cut to the Present
In January, my wife and I had 5 days to take a quick trip. In the past, we’d do something crazy like go to Singapore for the Weekend. This time, we returned to the Westin Playa Conchal in Costa Rica. We had no regrets, we even got the chance to check out the new United Polaris lounge. The key shift, was a focus on time over experience; in this case, it was time at the destination, over a more exclusive in flight product and less time on the ground.
Later this month, we’ll be returning to Bali, and it’s less than ideal, but we had jumped on a $500 American Airlines economy ticket from Washington, DC to Hong Kong, via DFW, on the 777-300ER; and immediately upgraded it to Business Class with Systemwide Upgrades; we did this a few years ago. At the time, we hadn’t decided where we would go, we just saw a great fare and so we booked it.
We ultimately decided that we’d go to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia–a country neither my wife nor I have been to before–onward to Bali, and because we could find award space back, a night in Singapore at the Grand Hyatt, which is quickly becoming one of my preferred hotels in the region.
Conclusion – Pursuing Time over Experience
So, last year, our trip had 4 legs between origination and destination, and another 4 legs for the way home. This year, our trip has 3 legs for us to get to Malaysia; we’ll spend a couple of days there, then a short 4 hour flight to Bali, a few days there, a short 4 hour flight to Singapore, an overnight there, and 3 legs to get home. I’ll be curious to see how the added stop in Kuala Lumpur changes things up. One other aspect, is that for this trip, we will have no more than 3-4 hour layovers. In fact, most of our layovers will probably be cutting it tighter, at under 2 hours, except for one in Hong Kong, due to flight schedules.
All of this was spurred after reading Daniel of DemFlyers talking about how saving $50 used to be a priority, but now the non-stop is the priority. I totally agree; time is so incredibly finite; ultimately, I value time over experience now more than I used to. As I’ve said on a different topic; you can always make more money as a weekend entrepreneur or otherwise; but making more time is harder.
Have you noticed a change toward more efficient travel?