Until 2014, the best way to use miles to book a round-the-world (RTW) trip was to save a lot of one mileage currency and book a special RTW award with those miles. If you’ve saved up miles for years to book yourself such a once-in-a-lifetime trip, you’re probably dismayed that the best two RTW awards from American Airlines and Delta were eliminated in 2014.

You can still book RTW trips in 2017, but now the best way is as a series of one way awards across many different programs to take advantage of sweet spots on each airline’s award chart.

In this post, I’ll list some of the cheapest awards, or sweet spots, from each region. When planning your RTW trip in 2017 or beyond, refer to these lists to piece together your trip. For instance, if you know you want to visit South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia, look under each of those headings to find cheap awards to the next region.

But before getting to those lists, let’s consider other types of tickets that should be part of your RTW award.

Avios & Cash

All of the awards on the lists in the next section are from programs with region-based miles. These miles usually offer the best value for international awards.

But before using region-based miles consider using Avios or cash for appropriate flights on your RTW trip.

Cash

Use cash if the possible awards are not getting you a good return on your miles (1.2 to 1.8+ cents each, depending on the miles.) This will be very likely when a low cost carrier flies the route you want to fly, especially within Europe and Southeast Asia or to Iceland.

When cash flights are the best option, you don’t need to actually use cash to book them.

You can book them with points that can be used like cash toward any flight like ThankYou Points or Arrival miles from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, or you can use the $300 per year travel statement credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Credit card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Travel Credit Cards.

Avios

British Airways Avios are fantastic for short, direct, economy awards especially when you can fly a partner with no fuel surcharges. There are tons of times you would want to use Avios on your RTW trip. A partial list:

Region-to-Region Awards

For the longhaul awards, you’ll almost certainly get the best value by using airline miles that allow one way redemptions with the price based on a region-based award chart. A partial list of such airline miles:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage (transfer partner of SPG)
  • Delta SkyMiles (transfer partner of AMEX Membership Rewards and SPG)
  • United MileagePlus (transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards)
  • Alaska Mileage Plan (transfer partner of SPG)
  • Singapore KrisFlyer (transfer partner of AMEX, Chase, Citi ThankYou Points, and SPG)
  • Asiana Mileage Club (transfer partner of SPG)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (transfer partner of AMEX and SPG)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (transfer partner of AMEX, Chase, Citi, and SPG)
  • Air France Flying Blue (transfer partner of AMEX, Chase, Citi, and SPG)
  • Korean SkyPass (transfer partner of Chase and SPG)
  • Etihad Guest (transfer partner of AMEX, Citi, and SPG)
  • Avianca LifeMiles (transfer partner of SPG, often sold for 1.4 cents)

Some of the awards below are listed because they cost very few miles. Some are listed because they present amazing value in a premium cabin. Links take you to longer articles on that award. Any prices listed are one way unless otherwise noted. If no cabin is listed, the award is in economy. If no fuel surcharges are mentioned, the award has none. Remember to check Avios redemptions and cash tickets before booking any awards on these lists.

From United States

To Europe

To Korea or Japan

To China or Southeast Asia

To Central America, Mexico, Caribbean

  • with 12,500 American Airlines miles each year from April 27 – May 20 or September 7 – November 14 on American Airlines flights
  • to Central America only with 15,000 Alaska miles each year from January 16 – June 14 or September 7 – November 14 on American Airlines flights
  • to Central America only with 15,000 Etihad miles each year from January 16 – June 14 or September 7 – November 14 on American Airlines flights

To Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, or Ecuador

  • with 15,000 Alaska miles each year from January 16 – June 14 or September 7 – November 14 on American Airlines flights
  • with 15,000 Etihad miles each year from January 16 – June 14 or September 7 – November 14 on American Airlines flights

To Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, or Uruguay

To Hawaii

To Fiji

To Australia/New Zealand

From Europe

When leaving Europe, don’t fly your longhaul flight out of London. You’ll pay $200 to $300 in taxes for starting a premium cabin itinerary in the United Kingdom. Hop a low cost carrier flight from London to somewhere on the continent and fly your longhaul award to the next region from there.

Intra-Europe

To United States

  • See From United States to Europe above

To Hong Kong

To Middle East/India/Maldives

To South America

  • with 20,000 Air France Flying Blue Miles plus $240 in fuel surcharges when booked 1-3 months in advance to rotating South American cities (Promo Awards)
  • in Business Class with 50,000 Air France Flying Blue Miles plus $240 in fuel surcharges when booked 1-3 months in advance to rotating South American cities (Promo Awards)
  • Note that all these awards have fuel surcharges from Europe to South America, but awards departing Brazil cannot have fuel surcharges by law, so these are all better values leaving Brazil.

From the Middle East

Intra-Middle East

To Europe

  • See From Europe to Middle East above

To East Asia

  • in Business Class with 40,000 American Airlines miles
  • in First Class with 50,000 American Airlines miles

From North Asia

To United States

  • See From United States to Korea or Japan and From United States to China or Southeast Asia

To Australia/New Zealand

To Oceania

To Southeast Asia

From Southeast Asia

Intra-China

Intra-Indonesia

To United States

  • See From United States to China or Southeast Asia

To Europe

  • See From Europe to Hong Kong

To Australia/New Zealand

To North Asia

From South America

Flights leaving Brazil cannot have fuel surcharges, so miles that otherwise collect fuel surcharges on most awards are especially well used from Brazil to Europe.

to United States

  • See From United States to Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, or Ecuador and From United States to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, or Uruguay

to Europe

  • See From Europe to South America. Note that traveling South America to Europe is better than Europe to South America because flights leaving Brazil cannot have fuel surcharges.

Intra-South America

to Central America

  • (from Northern South America) with 10,000 United miles

to Africa

From Australia/New Zealand

Intra Australia/New Zealand

To Rest of Oceania

To North America

  • See From North America to Australia/New Zealand and From North America to Fiji

To Europe

  • See From Europe to Hong Kong

To Southeast Asia

  • See from Southeast Asia to Australia/New Zealand

To North Asia

  • See from North Asia to Australia/New Zealand

Please add your other favorite awards in the comments, and I may include them in this post. Bookmark this post for reference when you want to book a RTW trip.

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