Trip Report: Introduction – Camels, Bats, and Bloggers

a map of the world with red lines

***This is part 1 of my “Camels, Bats, and Bloggers” trip report detailing a recent trip to Dubai and Seychelles, with a final stop in Las Vegas to attend the 2014 BAcon conference hosted by BoardingArea***

1. Introduction – Camels, Bats, and Bloggers
2. Emirates Lounge at SFO
3. Emirates First Class San Francisco to Dubai
4. Conrad Dubai
5. Old Dubai, Ski Dubai, and At the Top
6. Emirates Terminal B First Class Lounge at DXB
7. Emirates First Class Dubai to Mahe, Seychelles
8. Four Seasons Seychelles
9. Air Seychelles Economy Class Mahe to Praslin
10. Raffles Praslin Seychelles
11. Island Hopping – La Digue
12. Island Hopping – Praslin, Cousine, Curieuse, St. Pierre
13. Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort and Spa
14. Emirates Business Class Mahe, Seychelles to Dubai
15. 7-Star Luxury at the Burj Al Arab
16. British Airways Lounge at DXB
17. Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai to Los Angeles via Hong Kong
18. 2014 BAcon Conference in Las Vegas + Mandalay Bay Hotel
19. American Express Centurion Lounge at LAS

It all started with BAcon. Not the type that you get on a cheeseburger at 2AM after a long night of drinking, but the type that involves sitting in a room for 3 days with 75 other bloggers and learning some really cool stuff.

As a recent addition to the BoardingArea/Prior2Boarding family of bloggers, I was ecstatic about receiving an invitation to attend the 2014 BoardingArea Conference (BAcon) in Las Vegas. It would give me the chance to develop my amateur skill set, and to meet and network with my fellow bloggers from the BoardingArea family.

And best of all, with BAcon scheduled for mid-September, the stars aligned with work schedules to allow for one final vacation for the year leading up to it. We blocked off the time, and turned our attention to figuring out where to go.

One of the many takeways from blogging school? People freaking love lists. For some reason, we have a deep need to see things ranked in list form. Everything from weekly power rankings of all 32 NFL teams, to the 10 best things to eat in a particular city, and even stuff like ranking the 6 Kardashians from best to worst. Or are there 7? 8? They’re multiplying too quickly and I can’t keep track.

And a list is exactly how we ended up deciding where to spend the bulk of our two week vacation. In my opinion, beach vacations are the best type of vacation. Based on some detailed research which involved Googling “what are the best beaches”, I came across this CNN list “World’s 100 best beaches“. Scrolling down to the bottom, I noticed that 2 of the top 5 beaches in the world, including #1 in the world accordingly to this list, were located on the island of La Digue in the Seychelles, which is located off the East Coast of Africa.

My wife isn’t a big fan of complicated, long flights itineraries, and a best-case scenario for getting to the Seychelles from San Francisco would involve 2-3 connections and 24+ hours in transit each way. Given this, I knew that there could be some hiccups in getting her on board, so I made sure to use a less direct approach than simply asking:

“So, I’m leaning toward heading to the Seychelles for our trip. Seems like they have some really nice beaches there”
“Seychelles? Never heard of it, it must be really far away. How many connections will it take to get there?”
“It’s where Kate Middleton and George Clooney recently went for vacation”
“I’m in!”

Getting to/from the Seychelles is actually quite easy as there are basically two choices – flying Emirates via Dubai or Etihad via Abu Dhabi. With enough Alaska Airlines and American Airlines miles on hand, respectively, I had my choice of either.

Unfortunately, when I started looking for award availability we were sort of in no-man’s land. We had missed the really early booking window (~330 days out) and the semi-early window (~4-6 months out), but hadn’t reached the last-minute window (~2 weeks out) when things really start to open up.

With about a month to go, I started to make placeholder bookings with the outbound on Emirates in Business Class via ORD, and the return from DXB where I found a great Business Class fare on Cathay Pacific which would also be a huge help in my quest to re-qualify for MVP Gold. It was a relatively low-risk move since Cathay’s cancellation policies, even on revenue tickets, is very generous and the ticket could be re-scheduled (route must stay the same, but dates can change) for free, or cancelled for $50.

I wrote about my experiences using Alaska Airlines miles to book Emirates, and in the end was able to get First Class seats aboard the direct flight from SFO to DXB just a couple days before departure. I was holding out hope for First Class seats aboard the AUH to LAX flight on Etihad which never opened up, so I decided to stick with the Cathay Pacific flights that had been booked.

My trip reports seem to be getting longer and longer. Clocking in at 19 parts, this will officially be my longest trip report to-date.

Speaking of long, that’s a good way to describe the route that we took from San Francisco to Vegas. Normally, it’s 414 miles each way and takes about an hour and a half. Our routing? A 2 week trip that took us around-the-world, spanning 23,866 miles. As a miles and points fanatic, when given the choice between those two, you can guess which I’d pick every single time.

a map of the world with red lines


    1. Thanks! I’m actually waiting for the CX flights to be released for Nov. 2015 booking. Hoping to snag two first class to Hong Kong and onwards to Maldives. Do you have any tips? We’re looking at the PH Maldives. Also really looking forward to reading your trip reports to Seychelles.

    2. Awesome! Just be ready to jump on them ~11months/330 days in advance when it opens up and you should be fine. Not sure which program you’ll be booking through, but keep in mind the HKG-MLE segement is only 2-cabin, so you’d be in Business Class. Some programs’ online searches have trouble showing mixed cabin itineraries, so if in doubt you can call-in as well.

      PH Maldives is fantastic – a lot of good information in this thread:

      We loved the Conrad Rangali in case you decide to go down the Hilton HHonors route.

  1. I am assuming that FS was paid out of pocket. Please do let us know if there are any points/miles possibilities for the FS and raffles.

    1. That’s correct, both FS and Raffles were paid out-of-pocket and booked through Virtuoso travel agent.

      Only points/miles possibilities would be through programs that provide a travel redemption cash-equivalent such as Barclays Arrival or Citi ThankYou Points.

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