The Upgrade

Why the Middle East (In the Summer!) Is an Ideal Place for a Sensational Stopover

PART 20: One Mile at a Time blogger Ben Schlappig shows how you can have a great meal, go sightseeing, and even hit the beach... with just a few hours.

Ben Schlappig here again. I'm the full-time traveler behind One Mile at a Time, and 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 telling you all about the over-the-top glitz of Dubai, as well as a lesser-known quality that makes travelers like me feel perfectly at home there.

In the last installment I wrote about why I like Dubai, though it’s not the only city in the UAE that I think is fascinating. Abu Dhabi is just a short 60-minute drive away, and has just as much to offer.

What I love about Abu Dhabi is that it has a bit more culture than Dubai. It actually feels like a Middle Eastern city with a soul. No, there’s not quite as much to do as in Dubai, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The great thing is that you can see Abu Dhabi in a short amount of time. For example, typically when I redeem miles to fly Etihad, I’m using American miles. American has a policy of allowing free stopovers of up to 24 hours, so I can always make a 24-hour stopover in Abu Dhabi en route to another city. The great thing is that you can see a lot in Abu Dhabi in that little time.

Even without a 24-hour stopover, you could realistically see quite a few of the city’s highlights with just a six-hour layover or so.

So much to see, (even in) so little time.

Abu Dhabi has the incredible Sheikh Zayed Mosque, which is one of the most beautiful mosques I’ve seen. Best of all, it’s only about a 15-minute drive from the airport. There’s a beautiful waterfront to walk along, along with great architecture, markets, and restaurants.

Plentiful excellent food to enjoy

Abu Dhabi also has the advantage of having Saadiyat Island, which is a gorgeous island with beautiful beaches and great resorts (for example, there’s a St. Regis and Park Hyatt there, both of which can be booked with points). I could even imagine doing a beach vacation on Saadiyat Island, which most people probably couldn’t imagine doing in the UAE — at least based on the impression they may have of the place.

It’s also worth checking out the Emirates Palace Hotel, which has all kinds of great dining venues, including my favorite Emirati restaurant. The hotel even has a gold ATM, which is the most UAE thing ever.

Gold, gold everywhere

If you don’t want a full meal, at least stop by the cafe for a gold cappuccino. Yes, the cappuccino really has gold in it.

A cup of Instagram gold

Keep in mind that the UAE is highly seasonal. In summer it gets excruciatingly hot. Sometimes it’s 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and the heat is dry. If you want pleasant weather, I recommend visiting between November and February.

However, personally I love visiting in summer. Since I live in hotels full time, I’m always chasing the best deals. While hotels in the UAE can be expensive in peak season, in summer you can get some incredible bargains on hotels there, both in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

For example, I’ve stayed at several five-star hotels in the UAE in summer for under $100 per night with breakfast and dinner, even though they’d retail for $400-plus in the high season. Since I spend most of my waking hours working, the climate outside doesn’t matter that much. That’s especially true in the UAE, given that most activities are indoors, rather than outdoors.

So while visiting in summer won’t be as pleasant as visiting in winter, it’ll be a much better deal and there won’t be as many people.

I prefer crowd-free travel experiences.

That’s actually an approach I like to take no matter where in the world I travel. I never travel anywhere in the peak season, simply because I don’t actually find that to be enjoyable. Everything is more crowded and expensive. I remember spending some time in Amsterdam a few years ago in July, and I remember hearing more people speak American English than Dutch.

Stick around for more of my adventures — plus valuable tips and tricks!

FOLLOW MY JOURNEY:

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.

This is what airport life is like... when the middle of the night is rush hour!

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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