2023’s half a dozen trips included many of the things I enjoy about travelling. I found adventure in the shape of wing-suiting in Sweden and bouldering in Germany, before turning spectator at the climbing world championships in Switzerland. I explored art on a giant scale, from Stockholm’s metro stations to the total immersion of teamLab’s planets via Cincinnati’s multi-storey murals. Architecture, too, loomed large, with visits to American icons in Washington DC and modernist masterpieces around Europe. In destinations both old and new I was ever on the lookout for curiosities, which lead me on some obscure quests; but I was also happy to tick off more obvious landmarks!
Here’s what it took to make all that happen…
It was unlikely that I would match 2022’s year of revenge travel, but I posted my second highest annual total, with 24000 great circle miles flown. The true distance is likely much higher due to avoiding Russia, which also resulted in my first polar routing.
14 flights in a year is fairly typical, but being in business class for 8 of them is a new record. Along the way I tried three new carriers – Finnair, Japan Airlines and Southwest – and visited six new airports (ARN, BWI, CVG, HEL, HND and IAD). Alas I have no new aircraft types to report, just the -8 variant of the 787.
I claimed two new countries – Finland and Japan – and a trio of new US States this year. Technically I circumnavigated the globe, travelling through every line of longitude: I set foot as far west as Cincinnati and vastly extended my eastern record by reaching Chiba. I returned to six previously visited countries, and thanks to Baarle Hertog / Nassau crossed a ridiculous number of international borders!
All told, I boosted my Nomadmania region count by ten – which was barely enough to keep me in the top 10,000 of what is a growing and well-travelled user base. I definitely want to reach triple digits in 2024, and have a plan which could potentially take me much higher. More on that next summer…
I racked up the equivalent of six weeks away from home, although for seven of those nights I only got as far as Heathrow… As usual, hotels accounted for most stays, alongside a couple of AirBnBs and my traditional week in a country house with friends. But I also enjoyed some less conventional digs: an “Eco Pod”, a former prison, and a grounded 747!
Of the places I paid for, rates varied by an order of magnitude from about £40 at an ibis budget to over £400 for an Intercontinental. As well as making a handful of points redemptions, I had one truly free stay. The Hotel Indigo in Exeter didn’t open in time for a booking I made last year, so they gave me both a refund and a voucher for any night of my choosing. Claiming that in April, I was impressed with what I found – unsurprisingly, as I was upgraded all the way to a suite. As I now live in Exeter, I’m unlikely to use the property again, but it’ll definitely be my go-to recommendation for visitors.
I started 2023 with about 44,000 avios, and end it with 30 – not 30 thousand, but just 30! 13,750 were spent on my trip to Switzerland, whilst I burnt the rest on a flight for next year.
That may mark the end of Executive Club activity for me; I had long known that the shift to spend-based earn was coming, and this would be particularly bad on my discounted hotline tickets. I found a new home in Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan, which has always offered significant bonuses on BA flights: 2638 flown miles yielded 7060 redeemable miles. I was also able to credit my Finnair and Japan Airlines flights, bringing me to just shy of 20,000 RDM for the year – which I am hoping are more valuable than an equivalent stack of avios. I might even be able to earn status next year, as the requirement to fly their metal has been dropped – although I had been looking forward to an Alaskan segment run…
Hotel-wise, I was most loyal to IHG One Rewards, with 11 nights across 7 stays. I purchased 78K points for £327, and immediately redeemed 75K at Yours Truly, DC where the cash price would have been £670. Admittedly, I wouldn’t have paid that (A Holiday Inn would have saved £40 per night, and avoided the ridiculous amenity fee), but this was still a pleasing return. I also earnt 36K points, helped by this being my tenth year of membership in the programme, for which I was rewarded with triple points during my birthday trip. Signing back up for Intercontinental Ambassador also effectively paid for itself at the IC Tokyo Bay, but I should try to squeeze some more benefits from it in 2024.
My HHonors gold status somehow survives, and so I enjoyed upgrades to three of my four stays, plus of course breakfast at all of them. At the start of the year I liquidated my Radisson Rewards account, whilst at the end of it I earnt with Marriott Bonvoy for the first time since the summer of 2021. Thanks to a series of offers attempting to lure me back, a single £140 night yielded 9400 points!
So that’s 2023 by the numbers – a solid year, but with an obvious omission: no epic train journey! That’s something I’ll seek to remedy for 2024, when I’ll try to both set a good pace of new countries / states, and fit in a return to some favourites. As mentioned, I’ll have IHG Ambassador perks to lean on for much of the year, and have an eye on earning at least MVP status with Alaska Airlines. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll do a better job of keeping this blog up to date 🙂 .