As previously mentioned, I wanted to book at least one more behemoth trip before Aeroplan reduced the number of stopovers from two to one. Over the course of a month, I scribbled objectives on a notebook until I eventually arrived at the following:
Leisurely explore Portugal and Spain. Warm weather, good food, cheap wine and lodging – what’s not to like?
Spend a weekend in London. I have never visited the UK and London seems like a logical first stop. However, not many people spoke glowingly of London, so I won’t commit a large chunk of time. On the bright side, a hard Brexit might further reduce cable by the time I visit.
Spend a day in Geneva and Zurich. Having previously transited through the airports of both cities, I wanted to actually see them this time. However, the relatively high cost of living makes them unattractive for longer stays.
Visit my sister in Beijing. In July, I wanted to catch up with my sister for the few hours that our paths crossed at YYZ, but flight cancellations on my end scuppered that plan.
Visit a friend in Hong Kong. I have never been to Hong Kong and a friend recently moved there for work. Hopefully, the police won’t turn me into a smurf.
Visit a friend in Manila. A friend is planning to spend the winter in Manila, so I made it my Asia hub. If he’s no longer there for some reason, Bali is not far away.
I had also wanted to visit friends in Bucharest and Kiev, but couldn’t make the flights work.
The original plan was to make Lisbon my Europe hub and take a side trip to Madrid, but then I learned that a friend was traveling to Spain around early December. Suddenly, it made more sense for Lisbon to be the detour. So I moved some flights around and arrived at the following itinerary:
This flight plan allows me to spend a day in both Geneva and Zurich. A long stopover in Madrid will give me the opportunity to explore Spain and Portugal with time for a weekend in London. Layovers in Beijing and Hong Kong en route to Manila check off the final three objectives.
The two long flights from JFK – GVA and ZRH – PEK will be on Swiss. I was suitably impressed by their short haul product and am looking forward to experiencing the long haul version. HK – TPE – MNL will be served by Eva, so more Kavalan is in the cards. And out of the three airlines I’ve never flown, I’m most excited about Singapore Air based on reviews of their lounge and in-flight meals.
I had planned to fly back on Swiss as well, but my routing to Shanghai on Thai Air came back unavailable while I was trying to book the flights. The friendly Aeroplan agent waited patiently as I scrambled to come up with an alternative. Eventually, I found availability on Turkish through IST without exceeding the 16 flight segment maximum and came up with:
90 minutes and one very stressful line disconnection later, I paid the associated booking fees and breathed a huge sigh of relief. I then spent the next two days working on an ambitious six continent itinerary for the following summer, but decided against it at the last minute. Work life balance is important, and I’ve been tilted too heavily towards life.