How I Booked 20 Flights – 40,000 Mile Flying Trip for $1,016

how-i-booked-20-flights-for-1016

Some Background

I never imagined that it would be possible to book the round the world journey I’m about to share with you, had you met me just 3 years ago. I thought that round the world trips was strictly for those who saved up enough funds from working years or that simply you had to be wealthy.

Before I go into the details of how I booked my RTW trip, there a number of “conventional” ways to go about booking your round the world trip. One of the ways is to use a third-party service such as AirTreks that offers round the world planning packages. Expect to shell out anywhere from $3,000 or more for round the world trip itinerary that includes 5 or more cities. The second way of getting round the world packages is to book directly with an airline alliance. Each alliance has their respective round the world plans. Check them out: Oneworld, Star Alliance, Skyteam. Each alliance therefore has their own rules and stipulations on how you can book, change, or cancel flights with round the world tickets.

Now onwards to how I booked 23 flights for just $1,016. I know, sometimes I pinch my cheek just to make sure that I actually did this.

Where I Wanted to Travel

Prior to any booking of flights, I had some general sense of where I wanted to travel around the world. I wanted to check out Australia and New Zealand, connect with digital nomads in Southeast Asia, visit Barcelona out of many friend recommendations, and check out the tallest building in the world at Dubai. Once I figured out where I wanted to go, I had to figure out which airline credit cards was going to get me to those locations in the best way.

The Earning Period – Credit Card Point Accumulation

Over a 3 year time period, I applied to many different travel credit cards. The following are credit cards I’ve applied, accepted, and redeemed mileage points with (in no particular order of preference or timeframe of applying):

Airline Credit Cards

Citi AAdvantage – Personal and Business Credit Card

Chase British Airways Avios – Personal Credit Card

Barclay US Airways – Personal (defunct)

Chase United Mileage Plus – Personal Credit Card

Bank of America Alaska Airlines – Personal and Business Credit Card

Barclays Hawaiian Airlines – Personal Credit Card

Hotel Credit Cards

Chase IHG – Personal Credit Card

Amex Hilton HHonors – Personal Credit Card

Citi Hilton HHonors – Personal Credit Card

The above is majority of cards I applied. Some things to note:

1.  Each credit card has their own rule of applying the first year annual fee or waiving the first year annual fee. For cards that include the annual fee in first year (for example with Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines card), you usually pay it with the slight possibility that you maybe able to call in and have them waive it, but usually doesn’t happen. I NEVER pay the annual fee when it comes time to renew, so be sure to cancel your card right before the annual date. Some credit card companies may entice you with bonus offer or waive the fee … never hurts to call up and ask!

2. Something VERY important to note. Credit card travel hacking ONLY works if you are able to pay off in timely manner all of your statement balances. If you are not able to do this, DO NOT do credit card travel hacking. All the fees you pay will negate any benefits you get from earning and redeeming travel reward. Actually, if you can’t do this step, then just stop reading this post as it will be useless for you. Having good to great credit score helps with credit card application time, but isn’t entirely impossible to apply for multiple credit cards with average credit score.

3. Which brings me to the next point, many people I’ve run into always keep asking if the constant applying and cancelling of cards affects credit score. The answer: only very small amount. When you open and cancel cards, your credit score company will lower your score by only around 5 points and at MOST 10 points. But you will quickly regain those points after one month. I’ve applied to many cards and my credit score always hovers around the upper 700s to 800. Note that the number of credits opened can be seen by credit card approval managers, so at times, space out the types of credit cards you apply.

4. Many major credit card companies now have rules and stipulations pertaining to the eligibility of receiving bonus mileage points. Be sure to read up the fine print prior to applying for cards. For example, the Chase United Mileage Plus card bonus points can only be received if you haven’t gotten the bonus points within a 24 month time period. So that mean you got to wait every 2 years to reapply and get the bonus points. Some other choices such as Bank of America’s Alaska Airlines card allow you to reapply at much shorter timeframe. Again, just depends on how strict a bank is and all the major banks are different in their policies.

5. The number of bonus points you receive on the card will always differ on the time period. On average, most cards provide 30,000 bonus mileage points, but this can range from as low as 20,000 to up to 75,000 bonus points. To get these bonus points, you usually have to spend some kind of amount, on average, most cards have spend of $1,000 to $3,000 within 3 months with as high as $5,000.

In total, I’ve accumulated well over 1,000,000 combined airline and hotel points across all of the credit cards I’ve applied over the last 3 years. As an avid travel hacker, that pales compared to seasoned travel hackers that accumulate well above 5,000,000 points! The key point here is to start slowly and work your way to wherever you feel comfortable.

The Redeeming Period – Airline Redemption Tips and Tricks

Now earning is one part, redeeming these points for travel is another part. I will have separate detailed posts on each airline redeeming strategy, but for now, here’s the general overview:

The process of redeeming your points will totally depend on the number of points you have, which airline mileage program those points are located, and where you want to go. With that in mind, here’s how I went about redeeming my points for the RTW 2016 trip I planned:

Oneworld Alliance via American Airlines & British Airways

I first figured out where all my points were located. Having had multiple credit cards for AAvantage program, majority of my points were located with American Airlines (especially after the US Airways program folded into AA). I had combined number of 180,000 AA points. The next program I had points with was British Airways Avios at around 50,000 Avios points. Note that British Airways and American Airlines are part of the Oneworld alliance, so together, I had 230,000 points that I could use with Oneworld flying partners!

In great ways, many of the locations I went to are within the Oneworld network, and actually in other ways dictated how I would travel.

For my various flight plans to get between all were redeemed using a mixture of the Avios and AAdvantage points:

Taiwan and Hong Kong

Hong Kong and Australia

Australia and Singapore

Thailand and Jordan

Jordan to EU/UK

In separate post outlining Earn and Redeem Process with American Airlines and British Airways, I’ll speak specifics on types of award flights I booked. For Oneworld related bookings, I redeemed a total of:

170,750 AAdvantage and Avios points

$324.19 for taxes and fees

1 Economy Class Flight

6 Business Class Flights

Star Alliance via United Airlines

Other airline points I had accumulated included 80,000 points with my United Mileage Plus account. These points could be used directly with United or with Star Alliance partners. I ended up using a mixture of United few partner airlines. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough points to redeem for a flight segment I needed, so I actually purchased a few additional points in order to redeem the award. Flight segments I booked included:

Hawaii to Taiwan (via Tokyo)

Bali to Krabi (via Bangkok)

New York to Hawaii

For Star Alliance related bookings, I redeemed a total of:

113,500 United Mileage Plus points

$302.88 for taxes and fees

1 Economy Class Flight

3 Business Class Flights

1 First Class Flight

Non-Alliance Airlines via Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines

Another airline program I had many points is Alaska Airlines Mileage account with 100,000 points. Again, you could use those points with Alaska Airlines, but although the airline is not part of a major alliance, Alaska is partnered with MANY lucrative international airlines. One of those airlines is with Emirates. Alaska points go long ways when redeemed to fly with Emirates.

Flight segments I booked with Alaska include:

Spain to Dubai

Dubai to New York

Both those segments are with Emirates with redemption statistics as follows:

100,000 Alaska Airlines points

$79.20 for taxes and fees

2 First Class Flights

I’m definitely excited to experience flying with Emirates in their first class suites on board the A380.

I also had up to 200,000 Hawaiian Airlines points, but I usually use those points for travel strictly with them on domestic and international flights. For the RTW 2016 trip, I will not be redeeming any of those points for this trip.

Other Miscellaneous Revenue Paid Flights

So now that leaves behind flights I actually paid with cash. One of those segments I couldn’t find any award redemptions was between Singapore and Bali. That being said, it makes sense since no Oneworld partners actually fly direct between those two cities. Star Alliance’s Singapore does and Skyteam’s KLM does as well, both airlines of which I didn’t have enough points on.

There was plenty of low-cost airlines that fly in Southeast Asia, but I opted to fly with KLM since they are more of a reputable airline vs. Air Asia Indonesia. The cost of the KLM flight for business was surprisingly only $274 so I figured if that is one of the only flights I’d paid, it was worth the value of flying in upgraded class.

The last flight I purchase was to return to Bangkok from Krabi so I could catch my flight from there to Jordan. With Thai Airways, the short flight costed only $36.62 for economy.

So here’s the tally:

Oneworld Flights

170,750 AAdvantage and Avios points // $324.19 for taxes and fees

2 Economy Class Flight // 7 Business Class Flights

Star Alliance Flights

113,500 United Mileage Plus points // $302.88 for taxes and fees

2 Economy Class Flight // 4 Business Class Flights // 1 First Class Flight

Non-Alliance Flights

100,000 Alaska Airlines points // $79.20 for taxes and fees

2 First Class Flights

Miscellaneous Flights

$310.62

1 Business Class Flight // 1 Economy Class Flight

Grand Totals:

Points Redeemed: 384,250 points

Dollar Value: ($706.27 taxes and fees) + ($310.62 revenue flights) = $1,016.89

Total Flights: 20 Flights

Total Miles Flown: 40,541 Miles

There is much more detail when it comes to the thought process of earning and redeeming award flights, but stay tuned for the detailed specific posts on the above itinerary as I write them up.

Let Me Know: What are your personal experiences with earning and redeeming travel award points?




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