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A trip Round The World using airline miles is the ultimate redemption for many points/miles collectors – at least in daydreams, even if it doesn’t always seem practical in reality. There’s something ineffably romantic about the idea, particularly if it can be done in style, flying Business and First Class. By collecting and redeeming miles smartly, it doesn’t have to be an idle daydream though, it really can be a lot easier and a lot less taxing on your miles (and bank) balances than you might think.
There are a huge number of variations you could pick, depending on your preferences, so I thought I’d run a few different posts working through different examples to kick off the New Year. The core idea is always to combine award chart ‘sweetspots’ with additional award discounts and/or ultra cheap cash fares.
Note that my examples are only designed to be the backbone of a round the world trip – the heavy lifting for the long distances between regions. You could, of course, spend as much time travelling around and exploring each region as you like, using low cost carriers and/or additional Avios/Miles redemptions.
Madrid – Johannesburg – Hong Kong – New York – Edinburgh
I thought we would start with something relatively straightforward…
Step 1: Madrid – Johannesburg Iberia Business Class for 32,000 Avios + £76
OK, technically this one starts in Madrid as that’s where things begin to get interesting – but you can easily find very cheap cash fares (~£20-£40) from throughout the UK to Madrid using Skyscanner.
Madrid is a fantastic city to spend a few days and is also the major hub of British Airways‘ IAG stablemate Iberia. You can transfer Avios freely across from your BA Executive Club account (or Avios.com account) to Iberia Plus, which is worth doing for 3 main reasons when booking Iberia flights:
- Fewer Avios required
- Frequent temporary award discounts
- Lower ‘surcharges’
As Craig highlighted recently, Iberia Plus is currently offering a 25% discount when redeeming Avios to a large range of destinations, which means you can book a one way from Madrid to Johannesburg in Business Class for just 32,000 Avios + £76 in taxes/fees.
Not a bad start!
Step 2 + 3: Johannesburg – Hong Kong (- and then New York…) Cathay Pacific Business Class 62,500 Alaska Mileage Plan Miles, First Class 70,000 Miles
I’ve written frequently about how valuable Alaska Mileage Plan Miles are and why it can even be worth purchasing them if you find them otherwise difficult to collect.
One of the very sweetest spots on the Alaska award chart is for travel between Africa and the USA via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. Crucially, Alaska allows you to stopover for free for as long as you want in Hong Kong en route to the US, even on a one-way award.
Business Class for the whole route is 62,500 Miles, but I’d actually recommend paying an extra 7,500 (so 70,000 in total) for a First Class award. Unfortunately, Cathay don’t have a First Class cabin on the planes they use on the Johannesburg – Hong Kong leg, so you’ll be ‘stuck’ in Business Class for that despite paying more Miles. The Hong Kong – New York leg will be in First Class though, and is well worth paying the slight premium for in my opinion.
Alaska Mileage Plan doesn’t charge surcharges on Cathay Pacific redemptions, so you’d only have to pay the unavoidable taxes and airport fees, which shouldn’t be higher than ~£70 in total.
Step 4: New York to Edinburgh in Norwegian Economy for £60.50
As we covered recently, Norwegian offers some ludicrously cheap one way fares from the US to the UK, including New York (Stewart Airport) to Edinburgh for £60.50:
If you’d rather fly from JFK to London, you’ll have to stump up an extra £30.
At those sort of prices, I personally find it difficult to redeem precious Miles and will (admittedly slightly grudgingly) forget the high life of Business and FIrst Class for 6-7 hours. My top tip when flying Norwegian is to spend ~£25 on an extra legroom seat – it’s a small amount of money for a lot more space.
32,000 Avios and 70,000 Alaska Mileage Plan Miles + ~£207.
You can regularly buy Avios for about 1p each and Alaska Miles for roughly 1.4p each, so even if you were starting with zero Miles, you could put a trip like this together for a little over £1,500 including everything!
If you can’t bear the thought of finishing such a great trip stuck in the back of a plane, the current 25% Iberia discount allows you to fly from Boston or Chicago to Madrid in Business Class for 25,500 Avios. Cathay flies from Hong Kong direct to Chicago and Boston too, so you wouldn’t even necessarily have any additional connecting costs (though getting from New York to Boston is extremely cheap and easy and Chicago isn’t much harder).
Miles and points are a wonderful thing. Stay tuned for more ways to travel round the world using airline miles next year!