Around the World in 80K
How we maximized our status miles to book the world's cheapest round-the-world flights. (Updated 2022!)
My husband and I are about to undertake an incredible journey. We've cashed in every frequent flyer point we've ever had and spent 80,000 points each to purchase tickets to Australia. Except we don't really have tickets JUST to Australia - we have tickets around the world. And while we spent 80,000 points, we really got 200,000 plus points worth of tickets. Confused? So were we - at first.
Learning To Play Aeroplan The Points Game
It's taken a lot of research on websites like FlyerTalk - but we've learned how to use the fine print in frequent flyer program policy to our advantage. We live in Ottawa, making Australia about half way around the world for us. Given that it's just about the same distance no matter which way we fly, the Aeroplan program rules allow us to essentially fly to Australia going east and go home by flying west. There are a few provisos to that though, so for full rules, check out Aeroplan, look on the FlyerTalk forums, or check your own frequent flyer program website. The rules of our program also allow for two stopovers of our choosing as long as it's on an established flight path. Rarotonga, Auckland, Tokyo, Bangkok, Frankfurt, Los Angeles - they all fit the bill.
Love the Layovers!
The program rules also allow you some flexibility with airport layovers. So long as you make your connecting flight in under 24 hours, it's not considered a proper stopover, just an airport layover. You are not compelled to take the very next available flight to your destination. This allows you to enjoy short visits of up to 23 1/2 hours along the way. Imagine the many ways to enjoy nearly 24 hours in New York City, Singapore, Munich, Jakarta, and more!
One Destination, Two Stopovers, Endless Layovers
If you've been following along, you've grasped much more quickly than us that you can turn these loopholes into one heck of a trip! For the amount of points it takes to get to Australia, you can not only enjoy as much time as you want 'down under', but you can have a week at each of your chosen official stopovers (and they can be back to back, one before your destination, one after, it doesn't matter) and every time your plane touches down you can get off and spend nearly 24 hours in town before taking the next plane onto your destination.
Our Dream Destinations
After a lot of research, examining other successful routes and taking into consideration many tips and suggestions, we settled on our route. Newark (New York City) 12 hours, Brussels (5 days as stopover #1, with our own side trip to Paris) Istanbul (13 hours) Bangkok (7 days as stopover #2 with our own side trip to Myanmar), Singapore (23 hours), Sydney (our main destination where we'll stay for 8 days), San Francisco (23 hours) and - we can't forget! - 2 hours in the Chicago airport! We had originally hoped to make our stopovers in Asia and in the South Pacific, but we weren't seeing any published rewards routes that went through Rarotonga during our desired timeline.
Taxes And Fees? No Way!
We researched the exact routes and flights we wanted. We chose airports and airlines within our alliance that minimized "scam charges" - extreme surcharges for airport improvement fees, outrageous fuel surcharges on certain airlines, and the like. For instance, we took care to avoid expensive airports like Pearson and Heathrow and avoided using Air Canada when flying to Europe. Overall, we paid approximately $350 each in fees ($320 in taxes, a $30 phone booking charge - necessary for a complicated route), an excellent deal when you consider how many flights we're taking. But to get the route and savings we desired we had to make some compromises. We are flying through Newark airport, which consistently ranks among the worst in the United States for delays. And we're taking two very long flights on United, which receives mixed reviews.
A Wee Splurge
While we did make the extravagant upgrade to economy plus on our overnight flight from Newark to Brussels (1 of us was seated there for free (unknown reason), so we paid the fee to get us seated together), for the rest of our flights we are flying in bare bones economy. In order to make the most of our travels, we used Seat Guru to choose the best possible seats. When it made sense, we chose seats near the front of the plane so we can exit as easily and quickly as possible. We avoided seats that offered more leg room (for instance, at emergency exits) if it limited storage or armrest movements. When possible, we chose configurations of two seats so we could of course sit next to each other but also sleep and slump, get up and move around, without bothering a third person.
Design Your Own Dream
Of course, you don't have to go literally around the world to enjoy this kind of trip. People have used their points to fly to places in Asia and/or Europe and still take advantage of the two stopovers. There was just something about circumnavigating the globe that greatly appealed to us and, with a little luck, going in a continuous circle will help us with jet lag.
My blog has always focused on value for travel - making the most of what time and money you have, finding extraordinary travel experiences on an ordinary budget, and doing things just a little bit different to have unforgettable memories. Paid for individually, these flights would have cost thousands, maybe tens of thousands of dollars, but instead we've managed to do it on $700 for 2 people. I'm hoping to chronicle every aspect of this trip and repeat this experience of gaining great value again and again.
You can read about of some of my travel philosophies I'll be trying to use throughout this trip, and to keep up as it unfolds, you can read more below, or use the "Round the World" post tag on the right. Thanks for reading!
Part 2: The Start of Our Accommodation Search for Bruges, Belgium, and getting value for our time and money.
Part 3: Slow Travel on a Fast Trip - How you can make sure you're actually getting a vacation.
Part 4: Our Proud New Partnership - We'll be travelling in style with Tilley Endurables
19/1/2013 03:08:26 pm
Wow. This is quite impressive! I will have to do some investigating regarding the Air Miles fine print for stopovers. You have some great adventures ahead!
19/1/2013 03:13:55 pm
Thank you so much! It took us a while to figure out the fine print but it was worth it Can't wait to start planning!
20/1/2013 01:52:12 am
You guys are after my own heart! Such an amazing amount of research to utilise the system that's available just by paying attention to the small print. Great read and some more than fair compromises to get such a good deal. Look forward to reading about the trip :-)
20/1/2013 03:45:21 am
Yay! Thank you! Once we got into it, we really enjoyed the research. It took a while to master the lingo of the frequent flyer points world but once we did a whole host of opportunities seemed to open us to up.
Alfred A Michon
21/1/2013 02:26:52 pm
Looking forward to reading about your trip!
21/1/2013 03:09:21 pm
Thank you so much!
21/1/2013 02:29:32 pm
Really got me excited! We are using our Aeroplan points in a similar manner to go to South Africa and South East Asia stopping to see the Great Wall and a bit of Europe too. You had some great tips I didn't think of though, thank you! Can't wait to hear how your trip goes. When do you leave?
21/1/2013 03:10:53 pm
I'm so glad you have an awesome trip planned out. We're planning to go at the end of Nov for just under a month.
21/1/2013 04:33:09 pm
Anticipation must be killer!
21/1/2013 11:55:52 pm
Thanks for the question!
Ryan (for Vanessa)
21/1/2013 11:23:26 pm
Thanks for the question!
22/1/2013 12:13:50 pm
That's really helpful. I've been digging around on flyer talk but found it a bit above my head. Your advice really helps narrow it down.
22/1/2013 12:35:24 pm
I wish! It was 80,000 points each, which is the reward cost for Australia. Aeroplan counts your destination (turnaround / furthest point of travel) when calculating your mileage cost.
23/1/2013 06:28:05 am
Thanks so much for the info! I thought 80,000 pts for two was a steal, haha. We have yet to book but your tips have changed things for us, thank you!
23/1/2013 06:40:22 am
Good luck! Can't wait to hear where you book.
25/1/2013 02:26:42 pm
I have done this a few times and though it doea say that star alliance flies to South Pacific, and they do through New Zealand, in a window of an entire year, Aeroplan was unable to provide me and my family with 2 seats to Tahiti ... So we had to go to Fiji instea, which was ok, but now i continue to dream about Tahiti:(
13/2/2013 03:22:25 pm
Oh, I know all about Tahiti dreams! So beautiful, right! It's always a bit hard when you have your heart set on one destination, but you get directed towards another. Fiji would be wonderful, I'm sure, but when something is a second choice you always want to get to your first choice. Good luck!
14/4/2013 02:36:29 pm
18/4/2013 03:47:11 pm
Thanks for the information!
19/12/2014 05:57:07 am
We didn't - we found ANA pretty helpful but maybe we either lucked out or maybe they have changed things since we used it.
Love how you laid it all out...I am so impressed! I always try to use the layovers to max benefit to reduce costs! They once tried to charge us an extra $800 for our bicycles when we did a one week layover in Melbourne - but I knew my rights and my ticket and it was so easy to eliminate the sudden fee! So excited for your upcoming travels...you guys will have a blast!
20/5/2013 07:49:33 am
Thanks so much! The fine print is always worth reading to see how it can benefit you!
That is absolutely amazing! Wow, looks like doing some thorough research and putting the miles to work will definitely pay off in the end for you and your husband Vanessa.
21/5/2013 06:55:20 am
Thanks Karla! We're getting so excited as we start to count down the time!
Love that you have two stopovers on your RTW - my USAirways award only allows for one. Make sure to check out the free city tours that Singapore airport offers for those with a long delay - i am hoping that i can do those during my time there as i have 10hrs.
20/9/2013 04:50:33 pm
You're right - doing the research and taking the time to call in is well worth it.
10/11/2013 09:33:07 am
Thank you! It won't be long now until we depart...
10/11/2013 01:53:07 pm
Wow. This is brilliant!!! Such a great way to get around the world.
11/11/2013 01:03:40 am
Thanks Bethaney! We're getting really excited now!
21/11/2013 04:16:00 am
Wow this is impressive. I need your advise. do you think this is a valid itinerary. Flying from Vancouver- to Sydney(1st stop), Auckland (destination), Fiji(2nd stop). with 80,000 Points.
27/1/2014 04:07:39 pm
I think it looks good - we saw many similar routes on Flyer Talk.
22/1/2014 12:24:51 pm
this is definitely a great story.
27/1/2014 04:08:08 pm
Thank you - so glad you enjoyed it!
29/1/2014 03:33:42 am
This is a great story - just came across this while looking up Mini RTW on Aeroplan. Do you know if you'd be able to do this with a one-way flight reward? I can't seem to find that much information about one-way rewards (I guess technically it's not a mini-RTW though).
7/4/2014 06:17:28 am
I am not sure about the one way reward but I do know you can have as many 24 hour or less unofficial layovers as can had in terms of connecting flights on the path to your main destination.
9/7/2014 08:29:07 pm
Hi I'm still trying to figure out what your itninerary was..did you fly from Newark -> Brussels, Brussels -> Istanbul, Istanbul -> Bangkok, Bangkok-> Singapore, Singapore -> Sydney and then fly back to Newark? Cause I understood the multicity ticket you have to fly in a full circle pretty much and connecting each flight..how did you by pass that? thanks for sharing your tips :)
10/7/2014 01:32:43 am
Good question! We actually technically started out in our home town of Ottawa and then went to Newark, Brussels, Istanbul, Bangkok, Singapore, Sydney, San Francisco, Chicago, Ottawa. Maybe we should have talked about Ottawa more but being our home town it didn't seem like too exciting a destination compared to our other stops.
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