You can book yourself a tour around Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia stopping in four places for only 100,000 miles total with nearly half the trip in a flat bed. By stopping in four places, I am referring to actual destinations, not connections that have to be under 24 hours.
Much like the Mega Trip to the Caribbean and South America I wrote about a few days ago, this deal relies on piecing together some sweet spot awards (and this time also a low cost carrier flight within Europe) into one big trip. Even if you never take a trip like this, knowledge of the sweet spot awards is useful.
For the purposes of this example, this will be the route we examine:
Chicago > Paris > Istanbul > Doha > Bangkok > Chicago
You can tweak the route to your liking and keep the same prices as long as each destination falls in the right region for the pricing of the award.
What does that mean exactly?
- Chicago could be replaced by anywhere that American Airlines flies to.
- Paris could be replaced by anywhere that is in Europe, but that will affect the cost of the low carrier flight to Istanbul.
- Istanbul could be replaced by any nearby city with low cost carrier flights from Europe, although this would affect the out of pocket cost as well as the miles price which will probably go up if you choose a different city since the following award is flown with distance-based Avios to the Middle East.
- Doha can really only be replaced by Amman as the two oneworld hubs in the Middle East.
- Bangkok could be replaced by a different Asian city that is anywhere from 3,001 to 4,000 miles away from Doha or Amman.
- Chicago could be replaced by anywhere that Cathay Pacific or Alaska Airlines flies to.
United States to Paris
Before American Airlines devalued their award chart, you could book economy flights to Europe for 20,000 American Airlines miles during the Off Peak season (October 15 – May 15). With American Airlines’ devaluation, the price went to 22,500 miles one way and, more alarmingly, the available dates were dramatically reduced. However you can still use Alaska or Etihad miles to book American Airlines flights in economy to Europe from October 15 to May 15 for 20,000 Alaska or Etihad miles. Here is such a flight on alaskaair.com:
You can search for and book award space right on alaskaairlines.com’s home page, just check the “use miles” box in the search tool. You don’t even need an account with Alaska’s Mileage Plan loyalty program.
There is space every day of November.
You can book this same award flying American Airlines flights for 20,000 Etihad miles.
Some other options you might want to consider depending on what kind of miles you have and where you live:
- Every month, Flying Blue releases a new list of Promo Awards, which allow travel from specified cities in the USA to anywhere in Europe, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, or Algeria for 25% or 50% off the normal miles price. If you live in one of the specified cities, this could be a very cheap way to get Europe.
- If you live in Boston and have a collection of Avios burning a hole in your pocket, you can book an Economy seat on Aer Lingus for 12,500 Avios and evade British Airways’ usual expensive fuel surcharges– they don’t charge them on Aer Lingus flights.
Paris to Istanbul
Low cost carriers are an economical way of hopping around Europe, especially when you’re trying to save your miles for higher value long distance redemptions. I found the following flight from Paris to Istanbul with Pegasus Airlines for under $100:
As is often the case with these discount airlines, the catch is that you have to watch how much you pack. You get one free carry on that can weigh 17.5 pounds. I am a proponent of one bag travel, but understandably you might want a little more room if you’re going on a trip with as many climates as this one. Luckily it’s only $6 more to bring about 44 pounds of luggage.
Istanbul to Doha
The next two legs are Avios awards. Why? Avios are ideal for short, direct, economy flights, especially between regions on award charts. Why pay 20,000 American Airlines to fly Istanbul to Doha (the same price that London to Delhi would be), when you can pay 10,000 Avios?
You can book a one way ticket between Istanbul and Doha in Economy for 10,000 British Airways Avios and $86 in taxes and fees.
You can search search and book this award right on ba.com– here’s how use the search tool. There is space in Economy every day I checked between these two cities.
Doha to Bangkok
It costs 20,000 British Airways Avios and $62 in taxes and fees to fly from Doha to Bangkok, Thailand.
You can search and book this award right on ba.com– here’s how use the search tool. There is space in Economy every day I checked between these two cities.
Bangkok to United States
You can fly Cathay Pacific’s Business Class featuring a fully lie flat bed for only 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles…
…and about $55 in taxes and fees. The following screenshot is from ITA matrix, which breaks down the costs of a normal revenue ticket. Alaska Airlines does not collet fuel surcharges on Cathay Pacific awards, so we know that the amount of out of pocket expenses will be approximately the sum of the taxes and other fees:
You cannot search for Cathay Pacific award space on Alaska’s website. Use British Airways’ search tool instead– here’s how to search ba.com. The easiest time to find award space in premium cabins on Cathay Pacific flights is immediately prior (a couple weeks or less before travel) or about 11 months out from travel. For example, the availability shown below is for about 11 months from now, and five out of the seven days displayed have three to eight Business Class seats available each day.
Cathay Pacific flights can be booked by calling Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan at 1-800-654-5669.
What Do Those Awards Add up to?
United States to Paris = 20,000 Alaska Airlines Miles and $19
Paris to Istanbul = $80
Istanbul to Doha = 10,000 British Airways Avios and $86
Doha to Bangkok = 20,000 British Airways Avios and $62
+ Bangkok to United States = 50,000 Alaska Airlines Miles and $55
100,000 Miles and $302
Or, if you wanted to fly the leg between the United States and Paris in Business Class it would cost an additional 30,000 Alaska miles for a total of 130,000 miles and $302.
How to Get the Miles Needed for this Trip
Alaska Airlines Miles
The Alaska Airlines credit cards from Bank of America are churnable. Each one has a 25,000 mile sign-up bonus for simply signing up– no minimum spending requirement. For the Business Card you have to charge one purchase to earn the bonus.
While I can not directly link to the current Alaska Airlines credit card, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by American Express, personal and business versions, both are offering 25,000 Starpoints each for spending $3,000 and $5,000 respectively within three months of the accounts opening. SPG Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Alaska miles with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. SPG Starpoints also transfer 1:1 to British Airways Avios.
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (personal)
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
The Citi Prestige® Card comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Etihad is a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points.
Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card
British Airways Avios
Cards that earn Ultimate Rewards are ideal, since they transfer 1:1 instantly to British Airways Avios miles.
The Sapphire Preferred is one of the best personal credit cards on the market. It offers:
- 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months
- 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user
- 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on travel and dining purchases
- 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
- no annual fee the first year and $95 thereafter
While I can not directly link to the current Sapphire Preferred offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)
The Ink Plus is easily the best business card on the market. It offers:
- 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months
- 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services
- 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at gas stations and hotel accommodations
- 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
- $95 annual fee
While I can not directly link to the current Ink Plus offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)
You can see four destinations in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia for 100,000 miles and $302 with about half the trip in a flat bed. The deal relies on using Etihad or Alaska miles to fly American Airlines off peak economy to Europe; using a low cost carrier in Europe; using Avios for direct, region-connecting flights; and using Alaska miles to fly Cathay Pacific home.
The exact destinations in this post are mostly guidelines and can be subbed out for your preferred spots, as long as you understand how these sweet spot awards work.