The idea of big trips fascinates me. True round-the-world (RTW) awards are basically dead, so the game now is to string together several cheap one way awards into a RTW trip. To help you out, I regularly update a page that strives to list all the cheap awards between all regions of the world.

Here’s how you could use that post to put together a RTW trip. I put this one together in under half an hour.

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The example RTW trip in this post starts and ends in Los Angeles (imagine your home airport instead), takes about a month, and has stops in all the places on the map above:

  • Fiji
  • Sydney
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Delhi
  • London
  • Madrid

It flies a mix of economy, Business, and First Class flights. It has logical jumping off points if you want to really take your time in one region and see a lot of that area before continuing to the next region. Let’s walk through it:

Los Angeles to Fiji to Sydney for 40,000 Alaska miles + $142 (economy)

While most programs charge about 40,000 miles one way from the United States to Australia, Alaska lets you fly Fiji Airways and stop for as long as you’d like in Fiji. Search on alaskaair.com for a multi-city award.

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I’m imagining that this RTW trip starts January 31, 2016. The stop in Fiji is four days.

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Total cost is 40,000 Alaska miles + $142 of taxes and fees. Business Class would be only 55,000 miles if you could find award space, but Fiji Airways releases very little Business Class award space.Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.43.39 PM

Sydney to Kuala Lumpur for 40,000 United miles + $60 (Thai First Class)

United has way underpriced awards between Australia/New Zealand and Southeast Asia. Search for them right on united.com.

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After five days in Sydney, the trip picks back up.

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.46.11 PMThe United award flies from Sydney to Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur. The long segment is in Thai First Class on its 747, which means you will get First Class lounge access and a free hour-long massage in Bangkok. The short hop down to Kuala Lumpur is on a Thai Dreamliner in Business Class.
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The total price is 40,000 United miles + $60.

Note that both Sydney and Southeast Asia are great spots to take a longer amount of time to explore the surrounding regions. Particularly in Southeast Asia, the low cost carrier flights are plentiful and cheap, so you can see a lot of places quickly and cheaply.

Kuala Lumpur to Delhi for $187 (economy)

After four days in Malaysia, the trip continues to India. You could fly this segment on Malaysia Airlines, booking the ticket with Avios, but the taxes and fuel surcharges are over $130, so you might as well just buy the ticket with cash on a low-cost carrier.
Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.47.33 PM Malindo Air prices the route at about $186 for most of February 2016.Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.47.47 PM

You can of course use the $250 Air Travel Credit on your Citi Prestige® Card, Arrival miles, or ThankYou Points to get the flight for free.

This brings up an important point for all awards including those that are part of a RTW trip. Consider cash tickets. Sometimes they are a better value than using miles.

Delhi, by the way, is a two hour train from Agra, site of the Taj Mahal.

Delhi to London for 40,000 American Airlines miles + $40 (Etihad First Class)

After six days in India, keep flying west. American greatly underprices premium cabin awards between the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent and Europe.

Search on etihad.com for award space.
Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.48.43 PMThe flights you want need to have space in the Guest Seat column in order to be bookable with American Airlines miles. Pay special attention to the aircraft. If you can snag Etihad First Class on the A380, you will get a huge sweet and a shower onboard.
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Ignore the price listed on etihad.com. Etihad charges its members way more miles for the exact same flights. American Airlines only charges 40,000 miles in First Class from India to Europe. Ignore, also, the out-of-pocket price listed on etihad.com. It includes fuel surcharges that American Airlines doesn’t collect on Etihad flights. I called American to price out these flights, and the agent priced them at 40,000 miles + $39.55.

London to Madrid for $36 (economy)

You don’t want to return to the United States from London. Taxes for departing London are outrageous. After five days in London, head to Madrid.

Avios are decent intra-Europe because there are no fuel surcharges on such awards. I searched ba.com to see about award pricing between London and Madrid.
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The award on off-peak dates is 6,500 Avios (7,500 on peak dates) + $24 or 2,150 Avios + $68.Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.52.23 PM

I checked cash fares, and Ryanair charges only $36. Iberia had some $40 fares. I didn’t check which is cheaper when you include baggage, which I would always do if I were actually booking this RTW trip.

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You can of course use the $250 Air Travel Credit on your Citi Prestige® Card, Arrival miles, or ThankYou Points to get the flight for free.

Madrid to Los Angeles for 20,000 American Airlines miles + $54 (economy)

Finally we have to come home after about a month away.

From October 15 to May 15 each year, American charges only 20,000 miles between the United States and Europe. Just make sure you avoid booking British Airways flights with your American Airlines miles to avoid huge fuel surcharges.

I searched on aa.com from Madrid to Los Angeles.
Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.53.21 PMA great itinerary on American Airlines flights popped up that costs only 20,000 American Airlines miles + $54.Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.53.48 PM Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 5.54.10 PM

Total Cost

  • 40,000 Alaska miles
  • 40,000 United miles
  • 60,000 American Airlines miles
  • $519

If the $519 sounds like a lot, you could instead use under 50,000 total Arrival miles to pay for the low-cost-carrier flights and award taxes to make the out-of-pocket cost $0.

How to Get the Miles

One person, opening only personal cards, could easily get all these miles. He could open the:

Some credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

The cards are from five different banks, so you could even open them all on the same day. Combined they have minimum spending requirements of $13,000 over the first three months. If that’s more than you spend, either stagger your sign ups or manufacture spending.

The cards have combined annual fees the first year of $75 (on the Alaska card), and you could cancel all of them before the annual fees are due in 12 months.

Meeting all the minimum spending requirements, you’d have:

  • 25,000 Alaska miles
  • 49,000 Ultimate Rewards
  • 53,000 American Airlines miles
  • 28,000 Starpoints
  • 46,000 Arrival miles

Transfer 40,000 Ultimate Rewards to United miles, 15,000 Starpoints to Alaska miles, and 7,000 Starpoints to American Airlines miles. Then you’d have:

  • 40,000 Alaska miles
  • 40,000 United miles
  • 60,000 American Airlines miles
  • 6,000 leftover Starpoints (could be as many as three free hotel nights)
  • 46,000 Arrival miles

That’s enough to book all the awards and use the Arrival miles for $483 off of the original $519 out-of-pocket expenses.

If you’ve followed all the math, that means you pay $36 out of pocket for flights/taxes and a $75 annual fee on the Alaska Airlines card–or $111 total for a RTW trip with six stops.

How to Book the Awards

Everything in this post can be booked online on the site of the miles you’re using or the site of the low-cost carrier you’re flying except the Etihad flights you’re booking with American Airlines miles. That award needs to be booked by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

The booking order matters a bit, since award space can change. I’d put the American Airlines awards on free five-day holds online or by phone, then book the United and Alaska awards, then book the low-cost carrier flights.

If for some reason, the low-cost carrier flights surge in price or the award space you want to book with United or Alaska miles isn’t there, you can let the American Airlines award holds lapse for free, cancel the United award for free within 24 hours of booking for free, and cancel the Alaska Airlines award for free if travel is more than 60 days away.

Choose Your Own Adventure

This was an arbitrary template for a RTW trip. Use the list of all cheap awards between all regions of the world and your own travel preferences and schedule to plan your own RTW trip. If you want to hire my award booking service, we offer large discounts off our normal $125 per person per award rate when booking RTW trips that consist of several awards. Fill out this form for your free, no obligation quote.

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