The Upgrade

I Take $1 Million in Uber-Luxury Trips Every Year Using Miles — And You Can Have This Life, Too!

PART ONE: Come along for the journey and learn real-world strategies you can absolutely use.

Let me introduce myself. I’m Ben Schlappig, the blogger behind One Mile at a Time. I experience about $1 million worth of over-the-top luxury travel every year using miles and points, and I cover about 400,000 miles annually around the globe this way.

Through my blog, I dispense advice on the best ways to amass gobs of miles and points — I earn about 2 million per year — all written from apartments in the sky and $1,500-per-night hotel suites. Yes, it can actually be done!

My first move on any flight: photo documentation, of course.

While some people think the rewards points collecting dust in their loyalty and credit card accounts are worthless, I know how to turn them into drool-worthy experiences of a lifetime. And you’ll want to follow along because in this series, I’m going to show you how you can do it too.

I teamed up with Bravo’s Jet Set to go around the world in 21 days in total luxury — five-star and premium airline cabins — and all attainable on miles and points. After my first destination, I have no idea where I’m going or how I’m going to do it. Come along for the ride as I go carry-on only, with minimal advance planning, and grabbing last-minute first- and business-class award space and hotels!

For my first destination, I’m headed from Los Angeles to Bali. Planning for this trip started off only a few days before departure.

However, as usual, didn’t take the most direct routing there. There are many ways to fly from Los Angeles to Bali with just one stop, but we made an unnecessary extra connection. Why? Because we wanted to take one of my favorite flights out there — a special Hello Kitty themed flight offered by Taiwanese airline EVA Air. (We’ll talk more about that in a subsequent installment — stick around!)

EVA Air business class is stellar.

While we flew many incredible international first-class products later in the trip, we started off our journey with EVA Air’s business class, which is excellent: There was a five course meal, starting with a foie gras appetizer, pumpkin soup, a garden vegetable salad, miso seabass, and then ice cream and cheese for dessert.

Did your last airplane meal look like this?

On top of that there were high-end Rimowa amenity kits. There were also pajamas, a great duvet and pillow, endless entertainment, and more. Most business-class cabins don't offer pajamas, typically reserving this amenity for passengers in the first cabin. Other airlines don't offer them at all. As you'll come to see this is one of my favorite parts of flying first, so to get pajamas in a business-class cabin is a big deal!

Epic amenities on EVA Air

The airline also makes tons of last-minute business-class award seats available, so we were able to book this ticket with miles just a few days before departure.

That was the case for the entire trip, really. We went through the whole trip without ever knowing where we’d go next. We booked most of our flights within a couple of days of departure. That’s the beauty of miles — while paid tickets are usually outrageously expensive last minute, the best time to redeem miles is in the days leading up to departure.

Here's how you, too, can make the best use of every single mile you earn:

The flight time on our first leg was about 14 hours, though for me it was like any other day at the office. I’m fortunate to be able to work from anywhere in the world, though the other side of that is that I never really take a vacation. I always try to keep a consistent schedule, meaning I’m always at my computer from around 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. When I’m traveling is no exception, so I was connected to the Wi-Fi and was working for most of the flight.

I'm hard at work when I'm at cruising altitude.

But there’s nothing better than an “office” at 34,000 feet, with a flight attendant coming by your seat every 10 minutes to see if you want a coffee refill!

Next, I’ll spend the night in Taipei with a giant panda bear then head to the Taipei airport to immerse myself in a Hello Kitty-themed wonderland. Stay tuned, won’t you?

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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