Destinations Marathons

Dubai Marathon Trip FINALLY Set! (and why I love miles and points)

Dubai Marathon
Written by Charlie

I had mentioned a couple of times about my travel for the upcoming Dubai Marathon (4 weeks from tomorrow!) and yet plans had kept changing/never fully solidified until now! *that is, until I decide to change them again! 🙂

Dubai Marathon Trip Plans

The Dubai Marathon (and associated distances) takes place on January 24, 2014. The race begins at 7:00AM.

Former Plans

My original plans looked like this:

  • Depart Thessaloniki, Greece for Athens at 11:30AM on January 23 (booked)
  • Separate ticket – Depart Athens, Greece for Abu Dhabi on January 23 (booked)
  • Arrive Abu Dhabu at 8:00PM on January 23 and be driven to Dubai
  • Stay two nights at the Radisson Blu Downtown Dubai very near the race start last year (booked)
  • Depart Dubai ? The ticket I wanted for this disappeared from the award bucket and I was holding out for something to come up.

For the Thessaloniki flight, I booked it as a cash ticket (it is one of Aegean Airline’s new fare class tickets that cost $28 total). The ticket to Abu Dhabi was on Etihad Airways in business class booked with American Airline miles (30,000 and $49 tax/fees). The difference between coach and business with miles was 10K miles – true, that is a 50% increase over coach but I went with it for a couple of reasons. One of them was that a 5 hour flight would feel nicer in business :), and the other was that I would receive a private car in Abu Dhabi to take me anywhere in the Emirates I needed to go. Since I needed to go to Dubai, this saved me an expensive taxi ride or having to rent a car. As for the hotel reservation, that was an award stay for two nights with the last night being free (thanks to being a Club Carlson credit card holder). I chose that hotel because of the close proximity to the starting line.

Course Change

BUT, after I booked all of this, Dubai released their course maps and I saw that they actually revamped the marathon route. Now, instead of starting/finishing near the Dubai Mall (largest mall in the world), it was going to start/finish near the Mall of the Emirates (one of the world’s largest malls) a few miles from the Dubai Mall. The reason for the course change was that many of the elite racers and their managers requested a course change to be similar to one from a few years ago (apparently faster). They complied and went with this new course. There were five men that ran under 2:05 in 2013 – can’t wait to see what they do with the faster course!

Dubai Marathon

The 2014 Dubai Marathon Route

However, that change was not good for me with my hotel selection! At the same time, I also realized that to get some of the material for the blog that I want, I need to be there earlier. So, I decided to arrive a day earlier – this way, I am not arriving in my hotel at 10PM the night before and having to be at the starting line by 5AM to get my packet. Plus, I still did not have my return flight! I was considering leaving Friday afternoon and flying to Qatar for the night and out the next morning (all one business class ticket). My other option was to use the amount of UR points that I would have used for the economy option I had wanted but to pay towards the actual ticket and then pay the remaining with cash. I really did not want to use my points like that, so I kept thinking.

Dubai Marathon

The distance from the old start line (and my hotel) to the new one

Current Plans

With these changes, I set about to make some new travel plans. This is one of the great things about miles and points – many programs have flexibility with making changes. American Airlines has very generous change allowances. General members are allowed to make changes up to 21 days before departure at no charge (all elites can make the changes for free) – the changes cannot include a change of departure/arrival airports. The funniest part about the changes was when I went to change my Aegean ticket. I knew that there was a change fee but wanted to see how it priced out. It turned out, if I changed it, I was going to have to pay a total of $40. If I purchase a new ticket, I would only have to pay another $37. So, now I have two tickets to Athens! 🙂

  • Depart Thessaloniki, Greece to Athens on January 22 (booked)
  • Depart Athens for Abu Dhabi on January 22 on Emirates in business with AA miles (booked)
  • Stay at Radisson Blu for two nights (booked)
  • Stay at Park Hyatt for one night (booked)
  • Depart Abu Dhabi for Athens on January 25 on Emirates in business with AA miles (booked)
  • Depart Athens for Thessaloniki on Aegean (booked)

For the return flight, I had been 5,000 AA miles short for the return and I had really wanted to get on Qatar Airways (also 30K AA miles in business). The problem was that the only flight from Dubai was at 12:30AM. I did not really like that, so went with another Etihad flight. It turned out my dad had 30K, so I borrowed his while the rest of my miles post.


It is a relief to have the travel set and behind me! It is unfortunate that the Etihad business class flight will not be as great as their longer haul flights, but it still gives me a chance to try out the last of the Big Three Middle Eastern Airlines (I flew Qatar and Emirates last year for the marathon). I still may make some changes to the hotel for marathon night, but for now, I am set! Be sure to check for the review on the travel after the race!


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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.