mini rtw explained

June 28th, 2011 / by / in: travel / 16 Responses

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:

YYZ-DUS-FRA-SIN-TPE-NRT-ORD-YYZ

  • 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)

YYZ-NRT-ICN-HKG-FRA-YYZ

  • 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.

TLDR;

  • 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!


16 Comments to mini rtw explained

  • SarahU. says:

    Slogging away for years to accumulate enough points (240,000 for business with AC) to celebrate our 50th. anniversary in Australia with family; just within reach and the b@#$%^&@s up the ante to 270,000 plus the dreaded fuel surcharge. Pulled the “new credit card with bonus points” trick out of the hat and made it to 271,000 but no availability! Next trick? The mini RTW if l were only techie enough to understand any of this blog. Ah well, maybe l should stick to my broom.

  • Tim says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog as I am also looking into a mini rtw trip using your itinerary you have shown us.
    1) Please help me find a way to mock a booking so I can see the taxes and aeroplan miles required (prior to committing myself).
    2) When I use the aeroplan “redeem aeroplan miles” “travel” “multi city”, I only get 3 segments only? How to get more segments added?

    Many thanks,
    Tim

    • melissa says:

      Hi Tim,

      To check on the availability of a mini RTW itinerary, you need to use the ANA tool as I mentioned — the Aeroplan site will NOT work for this. In order to see how many miles are required, you can look at the Star Alliance award chart that I linked to. It’s 120k miles for a biz class ticket to Asia and 175k miles for a first class ticket.

      In order to find out the taxes, you have to actually call Aeroplan. But they will be less if you avoid segments on Air Canada.

      Hope that helps!
      Melissa

  • LoveToTravel says:

    I will do that. Will be flying some ideas by you if you don’t mind, to see if you have any suggestions. As you mentionned, AC metal is to be avoided. How do I know if the flight is AC metal?
    Thank you for your tips.

  • LoveToTravel says:

    I just don’t know where to start…. As you mentionned on your blog, I went on Nexus. Do I search only Star Alliance AC, Star Alliance UA and Star Alliance ANA?

    • melissa says:

      I’d select them all so that you can get as many options as possible. If you figure out the cities you want to visit, it’s usually easiest to try to find a flight between the two cities that will be the hardest to find a flight for.

  • LoveToTravel says:

    Hi Melissa,
    I love your blog. I’m trying to figure out the aeroplan mini rtw… I’m from Montreal and have lots of aeroplan miles sitting around. Would love to visit Israel and Tahiti, any way I can pull that off with the mini rtw?
    Help!

    • melissa says:

      You could do it — all you really need to do is make sure you’re travelling in one direction across the world. You would be paying for an Israel award and you could stop in Tahiti on the way there or back, depending on where else you want to stop.

  • ben says:

    I love how you’ve combined the best of FT and reddit into one post. Too bad the rates went up, but I’m loving your blog. Keep it up!

  • john says:

    Wait, so those 100k Aeroplan miles are standard points? Not status miles?

    I find this points business all so confusing.

  • melissa says:

    The mileage runs are for status — you can get miles to spend anywhere! Mike puts most things on his Amex, and you can convert Amex points to Aeroplan miles.

  • Michael says:

    I’m so jealous :(
    I guess those mileage runs were worth it. If/when we move back to the US, I will be doing a lot more of those.

  • […] Mini Round-the-World in Business Class on Aeroplan points « melissakaita.com. Toronto, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Toronto in Business class for 100K Aeroplan points and $300. Not bad. […]

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