RTW Award Booking Report
We are exactly three weeks away from our round the world (RTW) trip. As the day comes closer the more and more restless I become. Everyone keeps asking me how did I get a round the world trip for only around ~$710. In this post, I will show you the breakdown of how I was able to book ten flights with six of those flights being on award bookings. This article will only cover our flights as we plan to take other forms of transportation while at each destination.
Flight 1: Economy Class, San Francisco to Haneda on Japan Airlines – 25,000 British Airways Avios + $117 each
Rodalyn and I heavily used British Airways (BA) on the first part of our trip. The great thing about BA is that they are a distance-based award program that is part of the Oneworld airline alliance. Meaning that redeeming for award flights will vary by the distance you’re flying between your origin and destination. Our flight between SFO-HND is 5,160 miles. This distance falls in zone 6 of the avios award chart. Respectively, this costs 16,250 miles and 25,000 miles during off-peak and peak. Here’s a breakdown of BA’s award chart:
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I was able to snag not only two but four seats for our flight to Japan. This is a rare occasion as availability is usually hard to come by for four people on the same exact flight.
Tip – When booking BA flights the best search engine to find award flights flying on any Oneworld airline is through BA’s own search engine.
Flight 2: Business Class, Narita to Seoul on Japan Airlines – 15,000 British Airways Avios + $28.97 each
For our second flight it was a quick fly over to Korea. Since the flight distance was only 783 miles we decided to use BA (Zone 2) again for our flight search. Luckily, Japan Airlines has nonstop flights out of NRT to Seoul (ICN). So I decided to search some award availability. There was no flights available in economy that cooperated with our schedule. However, they had some seats in business class.
In the end we decided to go with business class. Normally economy seats in Zone 2 costs 7,500 avios one-way but for double the points cost we’d get business. Usually I like to fly premium only if the flight is at least longer than 5 hours. That way we can enjoy the experience more. Nonetheless, I’m actually looking forward for this leg of the trip because we get to experience Narita’s Sakura Lounge. I read they have complimentary massages for business/first class guests.
Tip – When searching for flights on BA it’s best to search for nonstop/direct flights. BA will charge you for each flight segment. Which may cost you more points than you intended on paying.
Flight 3: Economy Class, Seoul to Taiwan on Cathay Pacific – 7,500 British Airways Avios + $28.49 each
For our flight out of Korea we once again decided to go with BA. The flight distance between ICN and Taipei (TPE) was 907 miles. Thus, it only costed us 7,500 avios in economy (Zone 2). For this flight segment Cathay Pacific flies nonstop from ICN to TPE.
The best use of BA avios has to be on flights within the South East Asia. Just because Cathay Pacific flies to multiple cities within SEA that you’re bound to get a good award flight redemption on one of the best customer service airlines in the sky.
Tip – Sweet spot of the BA avios is Zone 1 – 3. Try to find nonstop flights that fall within these three zones. You’d be surprise to find some cheap routes.
Flight 4: Business Class, Taiwan to Dubai on Cathay Pacific – 30,000 AAdvantage Miles + $22.90 each
Getting from Asia to Middle East was kind of tricky. There was no direct flights out of TPE to Dubai (DXB) and the flight time alone would be over 10 hours. If we wanted to fly economy using BA it would have costed us 24,500 for one ticket. The reason why it would have costed that much was due to the connecting flight in Hong Kong.
So we had to look at other options. We eventually concluded on using our American Airline (AA) miles because there is a sweet spot in their award chart going from Asia Region 1 to Middle East (before devaluation). AA is a region based award program versus BA which is a distance based. So for only 20,000 AA miles we could get a one-way flight on economy class. However, for 10,000 more miles we could fly business class from Taiwan to Dubai. Since this flight was going to be over 10 hours of flight time we easily decided on flying in comfort.
Tip – The upside of a region based vs a distance base program is that with a region base you can add in connecting flights without affecting the amount of miles it costs. As long as that connecting flight is considered the most direct route to get to your destination.
Booking this leg was very time consuming as I had to research each flight segment one by one. Meaning I had to find flights going from TPE to HKG then HKG to DXB. Once finding those, I would have to call in to AA and feed them the flight information in which I wanted them to book. This part of the hobby is most dreaded by travel hackers but it’s worthwhile in saving thousands of dollars.
Flight 5: First Class, Abu Dhabi to Athens on Etihad – 40,000 AAdvantage Miles + $21.80 each
When I travel I try to fly direct as much as possible. The only two nonstop options to get to Athens from Dubai was either fly Emirates from Dubai or Etihad from Abu Dhabi. I didn’t have any miles or points that could afford to travel on Emirates but I did have AA miles. The great thing about Middle East to Europe is that it’s another sweet spot (before devaluation) of AA award chart. Just like going from Asia to Middle East it only costed 20,000 AA miles for economy, 30,000 for business, and 40,000 for first class.
Tip – Etihad Airways is a partner of American Airlines. Meaning you can book Etihad flights with AA miles.
To find Eithad award flights, you’ll need to search on Eithad’s website. Once you find a flight availability. You’ll need to call AA to book. I managed to find two first class award availability and tried calling the AA reservation hotline. I came across an issue where the USA Call Center for AA did not see Etihad award availability. The workaround for this is to call Australia’s call center which is +62-2-91011948. This seems to be a common glitch in AA’s system.
Flight 6: Economy Class, Athens to Santorini on Ryanair – $23.43 each
For this flight segment paying out of our pocket was the cheapest. Europe is really known for low cost carrier airlines like Ryanair. So getting around Europe is far better paying cash only for flights rather than burning miles. For our flight to Santorini it only costed us $23.43 for a one-way ticket.
Tip – Sometimes paying for a ticket is better than redeeming it with miles.
Flight 7: Economy Class, Santorini to Dubrovnik on Ryan Air/Aegean – $154.91 each
For the next couple of flights we mostly paid for the tickets rather than wasted miles. Getting from Santorini to Dubrovnik only costed us a total of $154.91.
Tip – Use google flights to find the cheapest fares.
Flight 8: Economy Class, Dubrovnik to Zagreb on Croatia Airlines – $56.24 each
For this part of the trip we contemplated on take a bus up from Dubrovnik but we’d lose almost a day of travel by taking the bus. We decided to take a flight instead to get us their quicker.
Flight 9: Economy Class, Zagreb to Munich on Lufthansa – $164.44 each
Again, minimum cost for redeeming with points here was 15,000 for a one way flight. I was getting a poor redemption value. Thus, I opted to just pay for the flight.
Flight 10: Economy Class, Munich to San Francisco on Lufthansa/Air Canada – 30,000 United Miles + $92.20 each
For the final flight back home. We had a couple of options with either AA or United miles. In the end what made us choose United over AA was the fact that United was cheaper in terms of how much fuel surcharge they were charging us.
Tip – Avoid fuel surcharge by flying with other airlines.
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The power of points can be very beneficial to you if you’re a budget traveler. For a mere $710 I was able to travel around the world and you can too.
If you’ve got questions, let us know! We’d love to hear from you.