Update: This post has been updated with our new itinerary and mileage amounts.
As many of my readers know, this month was a special one for me as I began my first around-the-world adventure – the holy grail for frequent flyers.
Today I write to you from the Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, an elegant paradise where I dive into today’s topic: how to book an around-the-world trip using frequent flyer miles.
Several websites out there recommend booking a single around-the-world ticket, either by paying or using miles. Unfortunately the latter of those options is getting increasingly hard to do, so Andrea and I improvised and decided to book one-way flights to every continent using miles.
We took a similar mindset to a paid around-the-world ticket: move in one direction - west, in our case - and limit the number of stops as much as possible to minimize time at the airport.
The benefits of this perspective over a paid (or even miles) ticket are primarily the increased flexibility in destinations, as the single around-the-world ticket traditionally has restrictions on number of stops in each continent. The other big benefit is that if you miss one leg of your journey, the rest of your tickets are still valid – not so when booked all together.
And finally, as you will see, the ability to book on multiple airlines gives you greater flexibility in which credit cards you can apply for in pursuit of your own around-the-world journey.
While we are using a small amount of miles – or even paying, when cheap - for intra-regional flights, below is the bulk of our itinerary (per person). In the coming months, I will write an update on each location that will consist of flight options (economy versus business), hotels you can book on points and more detail on our own experience.
But, for this post’s purpose, below is what we did in preparation for a 6+ month journey around the world:
- Buenos Aires, Argentina (50,000 American miles in business)
- Montevideo, Uruguay (paid or 12,500 United miles)
- Santiago, Chile (10,000 American miles)
- Sydney, Australia (37,500 American miles)
- Auckland, New Zealand (10,000 American miles)
- Bangkok, Thailand (25,000 American miles)
- Seoul, South Korea (30,000 United miles in business)*
- Guangzhou, China (paid or 15,000 United miles)*
- Hong Kong, Hong Kong (paid or 15,000 American miles)
- Hanoi, Vietnam (15,000 American miles)*
- Taipei, Taiwan (paid or 20,000 United miles)
- Kyoto, Japan (paid or 15,000 United miles to Tokyo)
- Bali, Indonesia (25,000 United miles in business)*
- Singapore, Singapore (paid or 10,000 American Airlines miles)*
- Beijing, China (layover included in below flight)*
- Cape Town, South Africa (75,000 United miles in business)
- Maputo, Mozambique (17,500 United miles)
- Munich, Germany (55,000 United miles in business)
- Los Angeles, USA (20,000 American miles)
*Added after this post was published and are not included in the totals below.
This nets out to just over 350,000 miles per person– a hefty sum. But in actuality we spent less than 300,000 miles since we ended up paying for the majority of Asia flights (and offsetting the cost with travel statement credits - more on that later). Our total also includes business class for the majority of our long haul flights – a more frugal miles traveler could shave another 100,000 miles per person by staying in economy.
So how are you, the reader, supposed to earn 200,000+ miles to do this yourself? At first glance it seems like it will take years to accumulate enough – I admit that even after writing that you can earn half a million miles in ten months and personally crossing the 2,000,000-mile threshold recently. But I am confident in your ability to book a similar journey for one reason: every flight uses American or United, the two easiest airlines to obtain miles.
American Airlines miles can be earned through Citibank credit cardsand, even though the 100,000-mile offer is dead, you can apply to multiple versions of the 50,000 Citibank business card – just observe the 65/8 rule I mention in quotations of that post.
For United, there is the Chase United card as well as any Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points (as they are transferable to United). By my count, in the next six months a reader spending $3,000 a month could earn the required amount of miles for an around-the-world itinerary in economy. A little more time and business or even first class legs could be booked.
Hotels, as I always recommend, should be up to the reader to decide if they want fewer nights in luxury or more nights somewhere else. As I mentioned earlier for (cheaper) flights, travel statement credits are also an option - the Barclays Arrival Plus or Capital One Venture cards both give two points per dollar spent and can be used as a statement credit on a wide variety of travel purchases. I believe in these cards so strongly that both are in my wallet on my own around-the-world trip.
So there you have it – 200,000 miles or more and you can be globetrotting with the best of them. Our itinerary is just one sample of what an around-the-world itinerary could look like and is meant to be a template for your own, more personal ideas.
For example, we decided to follow warm weather everywhere we go after years of New York City winters - your journey could be about beaches, hiking, food, or all of the above.
Regardless, with the above cards and ideas I believe anyone with a strong credit score and decent income could achieve their own around-the-world trip for the ages. As always, if you have any questions or comments I am happy to answer. Good luck and safe travels.