How to Book a RTW Trip in 2017. Use These Underpriced Awards Around the World.

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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.

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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.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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67 COMMENTS

    • Maybe there is none. Pretty terrible availability to BsAs more than a month out these days on AA flights. You can check ba.com for LAN space to Lima, but they are pretty awful too about releasing space right now.

    • Yes, 70k miles in First Class (though HKG-JNB only has Business). Free stopover allowed in Hong Kong. Search ba.com and call Alaska to book. I should add that to this page.

  1. What about from U.S to Middle East/India/Maldives? I don’t see it in the “From United States” list above. Would appreciate if you plan to make a post specifically for this route as it’s growing popular now.

    • There is a good RTW award in 2015, this is Qantas 140/280/420K Classic One World award, I guess for your US based flyers it may not be easily accessible but if you happen to have QFF points it’s just brilliant, you get 5 stops/16 sectors/35K miles for 140K in economy, 280K in business and 420K in first. There are fuel surcharges though but it’s still a great value.

      Also, Scott, Virgin Australia business class space between Brisbane/Sydney and LAX is all gone, it’s got to do with VA reconfiguring their long haul fleet cabin installing the new brilliant business class seat. It may come back but at the moment there is none.

      • There are fuel surcharges on every segment of that Qantas RTW award. Sounds terrible to me. And 280k miles in Business Class? You could do a LOT better than that with awards from this list.

  2. How about flying from India to east coast USA? Is AA the only popular option. Can webook The residence on Etihad airways through any other partner? I am looking mostly business class award trip if not first class

  3. Been hitting US, Europe and the Caribbean for a while now. What are some good destinations for South America and Asia for first timers? Travel style is: mother daughter (40/20 yr old), no hostels but don’t need 5 star joints (private bathroom and A/C), love history and raw physical beauty of the land, don’t mind walking lots and lots but not interested in climbing mountains. Enjoy food and wine but rarely spend exhorbitant amounts of time or money on either. Tend to move through cities quickly. Ideas?

  4. I just booked Seoul-Cape Town for only 34k Krisflyer miles (economy, one-way) and Nairobi-Boston (with a 12 hour layover in Zurich) for 40k United miles (economy, one-way).

    • Almost certainly not Cathay miles of Singapore miles because of fuel surcharges. Check the United, AA, and Delta charts.

  5. Hey Scott whats the best way to get from South East asia to Europe? Also, anything good with one world you recommend? thanks!

  6. Scott,

    Thanks to your blog and ebook, I have been able to book 2 out of 3 flight components of what I think would qualify as a RTW trip in your view. My description of our bookings is based on our excitement factor and not in the chronological order of our trip.

    My husband and I were able to book first class return flights from MEL to ABU (777) and ABU to JFK (A380) in latter part of Jan. 2017 with EY, with an add on AA first class flight from JFK to LAX for 60K and 90K AA miles, respectively, per person. We have enough of a layover in ABU so that if space opens up on the later A380 flight from MEL, we can switch to that. We were able to do large “top offs” of our AA accounts by opening the Citi AA card with 50K bonus and some SPG point transfers.

    To book ABU to JFK on the A380, I checked award availability on EY’S website on a virtually daily basis for several months–waiting for flights in latter part of Jan. to open up. I even got up several times in the middle of the night to try to figure out what time a new day of award travel on EY opened up (was unsuccessful). I focused on booking this leg first since availibility was more limited, in that there seems to a large number of Bus. class seats from MEL to ABU that can be booked with guest miles.

    Finally, while we were in London a few weeks ago (on a stopover back from CPT), I woke up at 5:00 a.m. London time (7:00 CPT time) and looked at EY award availability. I saw 2 seats on the A380 on a date that worked for us and I literally shook my husband awake so that he could call AA Australia (using skype on a kindle tablet) to book the EY flights while I searched on AA.com for bus class availibility once we got back to JFK, Thus, we were able to add the “free” leg at the end off the trip that you have posted about.

    We were able to book the MEL to ABU flight a few days ago. Again we had to call AA Australia because AA U.S.A. didn’t see the flights. There has been no A380 availability so maybe something will open up later on. Regardless, we are ecstatic about being able to book these flights, all due to your advice on your blog and ebook.

    In addition, thanks to your “sweet spot” postings, we also booked economy flights from our home town to NCE using 20K AA miles during the off peak awards on the old chart. The 3 flights on this award ticket will be the flights that start our +3 month trip that starts in the beginning of Nov. and will end some time in Feb. 2017 when we go back home from LA. These would have been expensive coach seats since one way add on flights from our local airport to a hub are usually about $150 to $200. From NCE, we go on a 49 night cruise from Monaco to SIN . We just need to figure out flights from SIN to SYD or MEL toward the end of December to finish the main flight bookings for our RTW trip ( We dont’ currently have enough United points to fly Thai Airways Bus–which I believe is what you would suggest we look at.)

    So, Scott, thank you, Thank you, Thank You, and THANK YOU for all the detailed advice you provide on your blog and in your ebook (which I hope you will update this fall.) I only found your blog last summer, but I am pretty confident that I would not have been able to make these bookings without carefully following your advice and making liberal use of bookmarks on relevant or potentially relevant posts. No other travel blogger posts such detailed information on how to actually find and book award flights.

    Soon, I will be studying your Intra-New Zealand Australia flights post to see if our TYP will be useful to us while in Australia.

    Finally, please post if and when you decide to go to the Chicago conference/seminars this fall. We’ve never attended and only learned about them when you posted your slides from your presentation last year. We would definitely go this year if the event is in Oct. and if you will be there.

    Thanks again.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience! That’s amazing how far you’ve come and the great awards you’ve been able to book so quickly after joining this hobby! I will definitely let you know when I know about my Chicago schedule. Safe travels!

      PS: intra-Australia Avios are often a great option on Qantas flights

      • I just gave you kudos in the comments section of Washington Post’s Mar. 18 article on TPG. Hope you get some traffic from it. Husband got approved for the Sapphire Preferred card (despite the 5/24 rule) so we’ll be able to get the United miles we need for the SIN to MEL leg, assuming availability remains open. We have flexibility on dates. Just want to be in SYD for NYE! The time change means that I’ll actually be awake when the clock strikes midnight in SYD!

  7. Hey Scott, I will be in Thailand/Vietnam/Cambodia so what is the best way to get to Europe? Mainly Russia/Finland as I would like to start going country by country from north east to south west. I saw a cheap ticket to position from Bangkok to Delhi and fly there Star Alliance with United miles for 25k but not sure if there is anything better, or even worth it!
    Thanks!

  8. Hey what about from middle east to more places?
    Or from Africa?
    Tlv-mle 30k aa, 35ua
    Intra Africa for 17.5 ua or others?

  9. Dear Scott,
    I follow your blog & appreciate all of your travel savvy.

    What’s the best way to get to & from Africa? I have an August conference in EBB, but would like to visit ADD or CAI en route. I can fly from PDX or visit family in RSW en route. Does being on the east coast matter? Should I plan the family visit at a different time?

    • I’d start with award space, which I think you’ll only find on Star Alliance, which likely means United miles. (No free stopovers on United awards, so you can’t get a free stopover in RSW.)

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