The Upgrade

That Feeling When Your Far-Flung Luxury Trip Looked Great on Paper... But Now You're Just Tired and Cranky Abroad

PART 25: One Mile at a Time blogger Ben Schlappig shows the other side of “living the dream” as a world traveler.

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 confessing that even though I travel in the poshest of styles, it can be exhausting even for me.

Let me tell you a little more about that...

This was a trip of great airline lounges. So far on this trip we had visited two of my favorite first class lounges — the Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge in Hong Kong and the Etihad Airways First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi, both of which are fairly new.

Upon our arrival in Doha in the middle of the night (after flying from Male to Abu Dhabi to Doha), it was time to visit another one of my favorite lounges — the Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha. This lounge is also fairly new, as it just opened in the past couple of years, though quickly became one of my favorites.

Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha

There are many things to love about Doha’s new Hamad International Airport. For one, the middle of the terminal has a massive teddy bear. It reportedly cost $6.8 million in U.S. equivalency, is 23 feet tall, and weighs about 35,000 pounds. It’s certainly the most photographed thing at the airport.

However, the highlight of the airport is the Al Safwa Lounge. Since we were flying Qatar Airways first class to Paris, we had access to this lounge. Our flight arrived from Abu Dhabi shortly before 3 a.m., while our flight to Paris was departing at 7:15 a.m., giving us just over four hours at the airport.

The Al Safwa Lounge almost feels like a museum. The ceilings in most of the lounge must be 30 feet high, and the lounge is so unnecessarily big. Even if there are dozens of people there, you’ll almost feel like you’re there alone. 

In a way, this design comes at a cost, though. While the Cathay Pacific lounge in Hong Kong feels warm, inviting, and like someone’s (super swanky) home, the Qatar Airways lounge feels sterile and grand, but like a place where you’re almost scared to put up your feet up, out of fear of being yelled at. Yes, that’s how much the lounge feels like a museum.

See what I mean?

This lounge scores big points for all the amenities it offers, though. The lounge has everything from a bar to a restaurant to nap rooms to family rooms to showers to a spa to relaxation areas.

The single best amenity is about a dozen proper bedrooms you can sleep in. A lot of people connecting in the Middle East have long layovers due to flight schedules, so it’s great to be able to sleep in a real bed during your layover.

While many world-class lounges have rooms where you can nap, the bedrooms in the Qatar Airways lounge are hotel quality, with a comfortable bed with a proper mattress, a shower and toilet, and a TV. Best of all the rooms have no views, so they’re fully dark — this means you’ll have no trouble getting rest even in the middle of the day.

On top of that, the lounge has a great restaurant with an extensive menu. You can have as little or as much as you’d like to eat, and the food is excellent. They have both local and international cuisine, and over my visits I think I’ve had breakfast, lunch, and dinner there.

The food is superb.

Generally there’s diminishing marginal return in terms of the amount of time you spend in lounges: The better lounges are fun to spend some time in, though after you’ve been there for a few hours it’s easy to get bored.

I once spent a 23-hour layover in this lounge, and wasn’t bored one bit (for the record I’d usually go into the city and explore, but I’ve been to Doha a countless number of times).

What made a 23-hour layover here so fun is that I was a given a bedroom for the entire time, meaning I could store all my stuff there. I managed to get a full night of sleep, and could go into the restaurant to dine whenever I was hungry, or go to the bar when I was thirsty.

Given that I can work from anywhere in the world and am usually stuck paying for hotels, spending a full day in this lounge isn’t a bad thing — not at all.

But back to this particular visit. This time, we were exhausted.

Now that's a proper place to get some real rest!

We arrived at 3 a.m. after a long day of travel, and our connecting flight was at 7 a.m., so in this case the priority was just to get some rest. Those aren’t the ideal circumstances for enjoying a lounge. In a way I wish we had a significantly longer layover, so I could at least have slept for longer. I guess ultimately that’s a good problem to have, to wish that your layover were longer!

There are some great first-class airline lounges in the world, and the Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge ranks up there.

It's easy to get refreshed around here... unless you're just too tired to perk up, even with all this.

Stick around to see what's next on my epic trip around the world!

FOLLOW MY JOURNEY:

Confession: Even first-class travel can be utterly exhausting.

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.

Here’s how collecting miles and points is just like extreme couponing:

The Daily Dish
Here’s How Collecting Miles and Points Is Just Like Extreme Couponing
If you do it right, you can redeem for a disproportionate value that most people aren’t getting.

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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