The Upgrade

A Full-Time Luxury World Traveler's Confession: It Can Be Brutally Exhausting! (Yes, Even in First Class)

PART 24: One Mile at a Time blogger Ben Schlappig admits that his punishing flight schedule sometimes gets to be too much, even for him.

Hi! It's Ben Schlappig here again, the full-time traveler behind One Mile at a Timeand the guy who introduced you to my uber-luxury travel lifestyle all made possible by using miles and points. In our series with Jet Set, we're going around the world in 21 days... all in five-star luxury, and booked at the very last minute.

In my last post, I was walking you through a day in the life in the Maldives... pretty incredible stuff!

Goodbye, Maldives!

Our three nights in the Maldives were far too short, though it was time for our next stop — Paris! Well, at least for me.  

We managed to redeem American AAdvantage miles to fly from Male to Abu Dhabi to Doha to Paris. We’d leave Male in the evening, and get to Paris at noon the next day, after two stopovers in the Middle East.

I was excited about this because the flight from Doha to Paris would be in Qatar Airways first class, which is another great first-class product, and would nicely contrast to Etihad’s first class. Once again, we booked this ticket very last minute, and there were four first-class award seats at the time we booked. That’s despite the fact that the cabin only has a total of eight seats. Redeeming miles last minute really is the way to go!

However, Ford would be going back to Los Angeles at this point. We managed to find award availability for him to take the same flight from Male to Abu Dhabi, and then he’d continue nonstop from Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles in Etihad first class. Not a bad routing for him either!

In the afternoon we took the seaplane from the resort back to Male Airport. The flight was at around 4 p.m., plenty early to catch our 8 p.m. flight to Abu Dhabi. Interestingly the pilots on the seaplane were from Canada and Germany — they must have interesting lives living in the Maldives.

Upon arriving in Male we had a layover of about three hours. Rather than going straight to the international terminal, we stayed in the St. Regis’ lounge for a bit, which is much nicer than the airport’s main lounge.

At around 7 p.m., we were driven to the international terminal (again in a Bentley), and checked in for our Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi.

By the time we checked in and cleared immigration and security, our flight was ready for boarding — perfect timing!

Our Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi was great. The flight time was about four hours, and Etihad has fully flat beds in business class on this route. The food on Etihad is generally excellent as well.

On the road again...

We arrived in Abu Dhabi late at night, shortly before midnight. The airport was really busy at this point, as it usually is late at night and early in the morning. We bid farewell to Ford, and headed to the lounge before our flight to Doha.

Our flight from Abu Dhabi to Doha departed at 2 a.m. In the U.S., 2 a.m. is a quiet time for flights, while in the Middle East you have flights to just about everywhere departing at that hour.

The flight from Abu Dhabi to Doha took just 45 minutes, though service on flights within the Middle East is better than just about anywhere else. In the U.S., you probably wouldn’t get a drink on a 45-minute flight, while within the Middle East you get a full meal on such a short flight!

There were pre-departure beverages (including champagne), warm towels, and then a meal service after takeoff, along with custom made cappuccinos, espressos, and more.

Airplane snack

Then at around 3 a.m. we found ourselves in Doha.

The funny thing about these types of overnight itineraries is that they always look better on paper than when you fly them. When we booked this, my main thought was how efficient the route was — we were leaving the Maldives in the evening, and getting to Paris by noon the next day.

What we don’t think about when booking an itinerary like that is how you’ll nearly go crazy by the time you get there. Don’t get me wrong, we were lucky to fly in comfort, but having two layovers of a few hours in the middle of the night definitely isn’t glamorous, and at times almost makes you wish you booked a more direct routing during daytime hours, even if it's one that was not as comfortable. 

Then again, this is something I do to myself all the time. For example, I once flew six transpacific flights in five days, or just last year I flew from Casablanca to Doha to Colombo to Jeddah to Manchester to New York to Los Angeles, without spending a night in a hotel. Now that was exhausting!

Fortunately the journey got significantly more comfortable once we got to Doha. Stick around for more!

FOLLOW MY JOURNEY:

A day in the life in the Maldives... breathtaking!

Gasp at the beauty and luxury of my Maldives hotel.

Getting to the Maldives is one of the best parts of the whole experience!

Why the Middle East is an ideal place for a sensational stopover.

Dubai is over-the-top glitzy — but here's why it makes travelers like me feel right at home, too.

Here's why hotels club-level lounges are no-brainers for travelers (especially if you work on the road).

This is one of the best hotel suite upgrades I ever got... and that's saying a lot!

Here's what makes a Middle East vacation so unique.

Is this the most incredible all-inclusive hotel in the Middle East?

Tour one of the world's best first-class airport lounges.

This is what it's like to fly inside one of the fanciest cabins in commercial air travel: an apartment in the sky.

Come with me on my flight filled with caviar, designer pajamas, and luxury gifts.

I support my boyfriend's first-class travel life (and in return he lets me pull stunts like this).

See how I booked a $12,000 flight for nearly free.

See Bali's littler-known party side — including a hangover brunch (with a DJ) to end them all!

Glimpse the five-star life I love (and buy with miles!) in Bali.

Here's why I call Bali the ultimate place to recharge.

Check out my epic layover in the world's best airport on the way to Bali.

Read up on my Hello Kitty-themed flight to get this far...

And the Hello Kitty airport experience to match!

And here's where it all began at LAX.

Would you fly this travel blogger's crazy routes?!

Ben Schlappig, the blogger behind One Mile at a Time, experiences about $1 million worth of travel every year using miles and points — and covers about 400,000 miles annually this way. Ben has teamed up with Bravo’s Jet Set for a series called The Upgrade, in which he shows you how you — yes, you! — can score real-world-ready strategies for upping your travel game. Come along for the adventure!

Jet Set is Bravo's launch pad for the most extravagant, luxurious, and unforgettable travel experiences. Ready for takeoff? Then Like us on Facebook to stay connected to our daily updates.

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