flying first class to Singapore with American Airlines and what to do around Singapore, like visiting the Super Trees

My First Travel Hacking Experience: Singapore

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.

flying first class to Singapore with American Airlines and what to do around Singapore, like visiting the Super Trees

How I ended up going First-Class to Singapore on a whim

So, here’s what happened… 


My pals, Philip and Tracy, were having a beer at the newest brewery in town and invited me to join them. A few beers later, Tracy invited me to go on a work trip with him to Singapore! Oddly, later that night, a different friend offered me her buddy pass through American Airlines.

So, this crazy hair brain idea emerged and got traction. Two weeks later, I was flying FIRST CLASS to Japan and then economy to Singapore. What a ride!

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First Class on American Airlines flight from Chicago to Tokyo

How did I end up in Singapore?

OK, so here is the rest of the story. When I told friends that I was thinking about going to Singapore, one of them offered me their ‘friends and family’ buddy pass through their employer: American Airlines. So, we looked it all up and found out that I could go standby for a first class seat from Chicago to Tokyo for $800! That’s a $6000-12000 seat! Woah. Shit just got real.

I kept digging and looked into flying from Tokyo to Singapore and learned that those long-haul flights are much cheaper than they would be in the US. I mean, I got an economy ticket on United for that 7-hour leg for $300 round trip. Totally worth it. I put it onto my United Mileage Plus Explorer credit card for the maximum points earning power.

If you find an international flight, like I did, then go to the English version of the country you are flying (example: United Airline’s Japanese website, then switch to English). you can usually save TONS of money on taxes and fees!

It took forever to get there. Even in first class, it was rough. Part of the problem was that it was my first time in first class and I wanted to enjoy the experience! All the booze and quality food… and the view of Mount McKinley in Alaska!!! Yesssss.

Now I know to just sleep when other people sleep and do not get seats right next to the business class cabin galley…They do give you a lay flat bed, pajamas, noise-canceling headphones and an eye mask for a reason. My fave perk in first class was the little Dopp kit, complete with slippers and a toothbrush.

what to do in Singapore

Tracy and I stayed at his hotel and toured the area via foot. It was very hot and humid. This was our view from our hotel! We arrived at midnight on his birthday and the hotel had a cake waiting in the room. So great.

For such a large town, the streets were rather quiet. It turns out the streets are quiet for two reasons:

  1. everyone is underground!
  2. no one can afford a car!

Travel Hacking to Singapore with travel photographer and blogger

We learned the hard way about taxi drivers offering to take us to China Town…. Um, just say no. It’s all a scam. We were given the local Tiger Beer and whisked quickly into a Tailor’s shop, then a pearl shop. The extremely high-pressure sales tactics were fascinating and gave me the insight that I should never ever apologize for my prices or sales ever again. I can’t imagine how wealthy I would be if I used their techniques. Crazy pushy. Be forewarned!

Travel Hacking to Singapore with travel photographer and blogger

The two things I noticed about Singapore were the epic malls and the gorgeous green spaces everywhere. The highway railing was even lined with flowering shrubs. The bathrooms were full of plants, roofs had gardens, etc.

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In Singapore, shopping is certainly the main attraction. For me, it was like being in another world. The top floors have all of the super high end and exclusive brands, complete with their own security inside. As you move down the floors, the brands get less fancy.

Travel Hacking to Singapore with travel photographer and blogger

My very favorite thing to see in Singapore was indeed the Super Trees at the Botanical Gardens. First of all, it was FREE. Second, it was stunningly beautiful. We went twice. They have a laser light show at dusk and for a measly $5 you can go up to the catwalk and walk around. The trees are a simple structure with air plants and succulents growing and climbing.

Travel Hacking to Singapore's Super Trees

It was rough timing for a long weekend away on a whim, however, it was an experience I’ll never forget.

Travel Hacking to Singapore's Super Trees

The only major bummer was that the Travel Hacker that I’ve been following on the Art of Non-Conformity Blog, Chris Guillebeau was in town the NIGHT BEFORE and having a meetup. What are the odds?! I missed him by just one day on my first official Travel Hacking trip. Though I didn’t use exclusively points and miles to take this trip, I’d say visiting Singapore for $1200 and flying First Class was pretty darn good. It sure was a great test drive for my big Africa trip.

food and things to see in Singapore's China Town

Do you have a great travel hacking tip?? Where was your last big international trip?? Leave a comment below!

What the heck is “travel hacking“? In short, travel hacking is a way to see the world on the super cheap. Alternative funding and exploring the US and beyond!

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