I recently a booked a fun trip for a mere 100,000 miles and about $300. Toronto – Tokyo – Seoul – Hong Kong – Frankfurt – Toronto, all in business class. How did I do it? Let me explain!
While not exactly a secret, it doesn’t seem like too many people take advantage of what is an amazing use of Aeroplan miles — the mini RTW trip! It’s basically the holy grail of award travel.
Aeroplan’s reward chart is here, and you can see that it’s 100k miles for a business class ticket to Asia and 120k miles for a first class ticket to Asia*. So where does the round-the-world thing come in? Well, Aeroplan gives you up to 10 segments on that trip to Asia, and up to two stopovers, plus your destination. (A stopover is a stop that’s longer than 24 hours.) Anything less than 24 hours doesn’t count as a stopover, so you can easily add overnight stops if you want. (One night in Istanbul? Why not?) You have to go either east or west across the world, no backtracking. (For example, you can’t go from YYZ-EWR-SFO-FRA, because that would be backtracking.) So it’s like a RTW trip, but… mini!
* You CAN do this in economy. But I don’t recommend it. 13 hours in an economy seat and you’ll be filled with some serious regret.
The mini RTW is not the easiest thing to book, but the time spent is 100% WORTH IT.
First of all, you need to have an ANA account. If you don’t have one, make one. (And make sure to copy your membership number down, because they don’t email it to you!)
Then, you need to click on “International Flight Awards.” You are supposed to have miles in your account to be able to use the Star Alliance search, but there are ways around this. From there, you can start searching for award availability. Be prepared to spend several hours (if not more) on this.
It’s easiest if you start by searching for the legs of your trip that are the most difficult to find, and building everything else from there. Availability might not be what you want, so you probably won’t know your exact dates (or even destinations) until you do some poking around.
If you’re a Flyertalk member, you can also use Award Nexus. It’s a little simpler.
After approximately one million years of searching, I found two itineraries I liked. One was Toronto (YYZ) – Dusseldorf (DUS) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Singapore (SIN) – Taipei (TPE) – Tokyo (NRT) – Chicago (ORD) – Toronto (YYZ) and one was Toronto (YYZ) – Tokyo (NRT) – Seoul (ICN) – Hong Kong (HKG) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Toronto (YYZ), both all in J (business) class. They both had pros and cons. I weighed them:
- Pro: Transiting east (which I would prefer)
- Pro: Both SIN and TPE are warm in the winter!
- Pro: Flying Singapore Airlines
- Pro: No legs on Air Canada metal (surcharges are less)
- Pro: More stops (whee!)
- Con: More stops (tiring)
- Con: Is TPE fun? Who knows! I picked it randomly because it worked
- Con: Sort of a grueling itinerary, YYZ-DUS-FRA-SIN is basically nonstop
- Con: Less time in Japan (4 nights)
- Pro: Less stops (as mentioned, also a con…)
- Pro: Easier trip overall (includes an overnight in FRA after the 12 hour HKG-FRA leg)
- Pro: More time in Japan (6 nights)
- Pro: Includes ICN and HKG, two cities I really want to visit
- Con: ICN is cold in the winter
- Con: YYZ-NRT on AC metal
- Con: Transiting west (would prefer to go the other way)
- Con: I got sort of attached to going to TPE, a place I know nothing about
In the end, I decided that YYZ-NRT-ICN-HKG-FRA-YYZ was the winner mostly because the combo of Seoul + Hong Kong beats Singapore + Taipei. (I really want to visit Korea!) Plus, two extra days to play UFO catchers doesn’t hurt either. So that’s six nights in Tokyo, and four each in Seoul and Hong Kong.
I printed out my itinerary from ANA, and made some notes about alternate routings. Mike called Aeroplan and had it all booked pretty quickly. (Thanks to my meticulous planning, of course.)
100,000 miles and $311.36 later, our trip was booked. I ended up doing Air Canada YYZ-NRT because the fees weren’t TOO bad. (And I like the pods.) We saved $300 by taking Lufthansa home instead of Air Canada, though.
- Up to 10 segments
- Two stopovers, plus your destination
- Anything less than 24 hours doesn’t count as a stopover, so feel free to spend one night somewhere if it makes sense
- You have to transit east or west, no backtracking
- Try to avoid segments on AC metal, because any AC legs will add a lot to your surcharges (and if you ONLY fly on AC, it will actually cost you more miles as well!)
- Be prepared to spend lots of time doing research
- Be flexible
- When someone tells you that they spent 400,000 Aeroplan miles on a trip to Vancouver, you can laugh at them and tell them they could have flown across the world four times in business class for that
And if you’re wondering why I decided to do business class instead of first class, it was just logistics. The redemption rate for Aeroplan miles is going up significantly after July 15, so I wanted to use the miles we had before then. Plus, several airlines (Air Canada and Thai spring to mind) don’t have actual first class, so if you fly them, you’re getting business class anyway. But if you DO have the miles, the 120k for first is a better deal. (Too bad it goes up by 40% next month.)
On my next mini RTW, I’m definitely going to try to get seats on the A380.
So if you have some Aeroplan miles sitting around and you’re wondering what to do with them — spend them! SPEND THEM NOW!