Wanna Travel Around The World? Here Are The Best Miles To Do A.T.W. Bookings!

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best miles for around the world itineraries

Best Miles for Around the World Itineraries

Booking an around-the-world itinerary has been a dream of mine for the past few years. Hitting several destinations as you circuit the globe just sounds so cool. It’s not likely something that’s gonna happen soon, but that does not means that I have not looked into the best miles for around the world itineraries.

Basics on Booking an Around the World Trip

If I was looking to book an around the world trip in coach, I’d almost certainly use cash. You can put together a reasonable number of itineraries for right around $1,000. No mileage program offers enough value to best that, once you factor in the number of miles required and taxes you’ll still have to pay. My analysis will focus on premium cabin around-the-world trips.

You can use miles for around the world itineraries in a few different ways. First, you could construct a trip using a combination of different miles currencies, piecing together individual itineraries until you circuit the globe. The upside here is flexibility. The downside is likely cost.

A second idea is to book your long-haul segments as awards, using miles for these “important” legs and then filling shorter segments using cash for cheap economy flights. Intra-Europe and some intra-Asia flights can be extremely cheap, making this an ideal option if those are your primary two areas of interest.

The final option is to book your trip as a single award. There are a handful of currencies that are solidly the best miles for around the world itineraries, as you can use them to book your entire trip. Let’s explore each.

ANA Mileage Club Around the World Tickets

All Nippon Airways offers one of the best award charts for booking around the world trip, if not the very best. Their typical award chart is zone-based, with a couple quirky rules (including that you must book round-trip and return to the same country), but also with the ability to book stopovers.

They throw all that out for their around-the-world chart, however. If you scroll down to the section on Round the World itineraries on ANA’s award page, you’ll find the following chart:

As you can see, the required mileage for business class awards are very reasonable. Some of the best bands you can maximize are the 14k-18k and the 22k-25k. The ones in between offer good value as well, but I want to illustrate a couple itineraries with these. Here is one that rings in just shy of 18,000 miles and would only cost you 105,000 miles for business class:

best miles for around the world trips - ana
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Departing O’Hare, you’ll fly ANA, Asiana, LOT, SAS, and United. Here is one that would cost you 145,000 miles in business and covers nearly 25,000 miles total:

best miles for around the world trips - ana
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

This maximizes your itinerary to let you use all eight stopovers in Taipei, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Copenhagen, Warsaw, Athens, and Cairo flying a nice array of Star Alliance carriers. I had to end short of SFO since it would have put me just over 25,000 flown miles. But that final flight is cheap.

ANA Mileage Club is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, so get spending on your American Express Gold Card or Blue Business Plus card if you’re looking to book an ANA Round the World award.

ANA has some rules you should be aware of for booking Round the World tickets:
  • The total miles assessed is based sector mileage for all segments
  • Flights can be used to cross the Pacific and Atlantic oceans once (comment: why they have a 4k-7k band on there when this is a requirement boggles my mind)
  • Up to 8 stopovers are permitted between the departure point and return point (with a limit of 3 in Europe and 4 in Japan)
  • Departure date of the final segment must be at least 10 days after the departure date of the initial segment
  • You can book a maximum of 12 flight segments and 4 ground transfers

Overall, I find that ANA Mileage Club offers the best miles for around the world premium cabin tickets. The taxes and fees will likely sting a bit, depending on the carriers, but if you’re only paying 105,000 miles for a 6-stop trip in business class, it’s likely worth it.

Final note: you’ll need to call ANA to book these awards. I’d do all the legwork beforehand to find the space, and then make yourself a cup of coffee (or pour a glass of wine) as it’ll be a long ordeal to feed the agent all the segments. Or you can call the Miles to Memories award booking service and have them do it for you 😉.

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles Oneworld Tickets

While ANA might offer the best miles for booking around the world trips with Star Alliance carriers, that might not help you if you’re looking to fly Oneworld airlines. Luckily, Cathay Pacific has you covered. They offer fairly reasonable prices for around the world trips in business class. Here is their award chart for Oneworld multi-carrier itineraries, which is what you’d be using:

asia miles oneworld award chart

I want to draw your attention to award zones 09 and 10 in particular. These should cover a fair number of itineraries. If you’re really looking to stretch your legs, zones 11 and 12 are fine as well for the distance they cover. Here is an example that falls within band 8, costing just 155,000 Asia Miles for an around-the-world trip:

best miles for around the world trips -asia miles
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

This itinerary let’s you fly JAL, Finnair, and British Airways business class, maximizing the five stopovers allowed on the Asia Miles Oneworld multi-carrier award chart.

Asia Miles are a transfer partner of multiple bank currencies, including American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Capital One Rewards. You can also sometimes catch transfer bonuses.

Around the world awards on Cathay Pacific are not bookable online. You’ll need to call, and hold times can be long. But if you can book the perfect around the world trip with miles, it’ll all be worth it.

Qantas Around the World Award Chart

In general I don’t find Qantas’ award chart all that attractive. They have a couple sweet spots, and are the only carrier that will let you use miles to book Air Niugini, but they do offer around the world award tickets. Technically, they don’t have to be truly around the world. This is just using their Oneworld Classic Flight Rewards table.

You can probably accomplish an itinerary within Zone 8 (under 16,800 flown miles) if you’re flying roughly around the north pole. Zone 9 will likely give you a lot more flexibility. Prices in business are not as attractive as with Asia Miles, but Qantas is an option. What they do offer that is unique is premium economy awards. Note that you must book at least two non-Qantas Oneworld carriers on a Oneworld Classic ticket.

Qantas Frequent Flyer is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Capital One Rewards. Again, lots of transfer potential.

Around the World Awards: A Use for Aeromexico?

Given how unattractive the Aeromexico award chart is, I’ve basically written them off as a decent option for just about everything. Aeromexico is a Membership Rewards transfer partner, so accruing their miles isn’t hard. The pricing is just unattractive.

However, there may be some value in their around-the-world tickets. You can check out the Aeromexico Go Round the World Pass. At face value, a price of 352,000 miles for an around the world itinerary in business class might seem steep. But if you take the Membership Rewards transfer ratio into account (1:1.6), this is actually just 220,000 Membership Rewards points. Worse than some other options, but honestly not that bad.

What’s crazy is that you can have up to 15 stopovers. Fifteen. That’s insane. If you need a ticket with the most stopovers possible, this is it. I don’t envy the award search work ahead of you.

Here are the terms of the Aeromexico Go Round the World awards:
  • The trip in question must involve travel in the same direction, namely, eastwards or westwards.
  • Seats are subject to availability and confirmation by participating carriers.
  • Applies only to flights operated by SkyTeam™ airlines.
  • Travel must begin and return to the same country.
  • A minimum of three stopovers is required, with a maximum of 15 stopovers permitted during a trip, with a maximum of five stopovers per continent.
  • For the purpose of SkyTeam™ Go Round the World Passes, a stopover means any city on the itinerary in which passengers wish to remain more than 24 hours before continuing travel.
  • The cities of origin and final destination do not count as stopovers.
  • Flights between stopovers must either be scheduled for direct or immediate connections.
    Travel may originate in any city in the world, as long as the flight is operated by a SkyTeam™ airline.
  • Pass applies to following travel regions: North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Africa, Oceania (Australia) and Asia.
  • Passengers may remain at each stopover as long as they wish, provided tickets are still valid.
  • Class of service: Economy and Business Class/Clase Premier. All flights must be booked in the same class: Economy or Business.
  • Valid for one year after ticket issue date.

If you’re looking for the best miles for booking around the world tickets on SkyTeam carriers where you can transfer bank points, Aeromexico is your option.

Other Best Miles for Around the World Tickets

Both Korean Airlines offer around-the-world award tickets at fairly competitive award prices. However, accruing this many Asiana Mileage Club miles or Korean SkyPass miles is nigh impossible. SkyPass would have been a decent choice during the days of its Ultimate Rewards partnership, but those are past.

If you do happen to have some miles banked with the either South Korean airline, here are some basics for booking their around the world awards:

  • Itineraries must cross both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
  • Economy class costs 140,000 miles. For business, Korean charges 220,000 miles and Asiana charges 230,000 miles.
  • Asiana allows up to 7 stopovers, with “backtracking” only permitted within a given zone
  • The stopovers and transfer rules for Korean are confusing, but you should have at least three, if not up to six.

Here is the info page for Korean Airlines Round the World Bonus, and here is Asiana’s Around the World page.

Both Korean Skypass and Asiana Club are transfer partners of Marriott Bonvoy, which is really your only option to earn a significant number of miles (unless you have the co-branded card of either South Korean carrier).

Let Us Know if You Book an Around the World Itinerary!

Around the world itineraries are not something for the typical miles enthusiast, but if you’re looking to book such a trip, there are a few fantastic ways to do so. I’d argue that ANA Mileage Club offer the hands-down best miles for around the world trips, with Asia Miles and Aeromexico filling out the top options for the other alliances.

If you’ve ever booked an around the world award ticket, I’d love to hear about your experience!

16 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for this! It’s interesting how the concept of value is so subjective. For me, with the trips I have in mind, Qantas’ and Singapore’s RTW awards are the best choices, because of the combination of A) the routing I want, and B) easier access to First Class cabins. They may require a few more miles, but I’ll be happy once I’m onboard.

    • True. I did leave off Singapore, as prices are a bit inflated. But they do have an awesome product, and if you can fly SIN-FRA-NYC, it’s excellent. Qantas would allow you better access to QF first, I think? Plus, Oneworld carriers have multiple airlines with first class (CX, AA, BA, QF).

  2. What about AA’s OneWorld Explorer Pass? And, as another Jim asked, are there no good options for a cache of UR points?

    • I thought AA’s oneworld explorer tickets are only paid flights?

      Actually, BA’s multi-carrier chart should work. They don’t really call it “around the world”. But, I believe that if you use two or more Oneworld (non-BA) airlines, you price into a distance-based chart that is based on total miles flown. You should be able to come up with a decent ticket for 200,000 Avios, but you’ll likely be hit with massive fuel surcharges, knowing BA.

      I need to research this, but I may write on it in the future.

    • You may have an option with BA. I didn’t cover it here since I’m not at all sure how it works, but they apparently have a multi-carrier award chart (2 or more non-BA oneworld airlines) that has decent pricing. Going to research and may craft just that into a post.

    • Yes, unfortunately there is no way around the fuel surcharges. They will really vary by carrier, however. If you fly a lot of AA/CX/JL using Asia Miles, they will be lower. If you add in BA segments, or other carriers where YQ are high, they will be less.

      In all cases, I’d budget $400-800 per ticket in fuel surcharges. But given the deal, and amount of flying, this is likely still not bad at all.

      You *may* be able to get away with only $100-200 with ANA, if you pick the right partners. If you fly UA/EVA for the Pacific and Asia segments, I think you’ll come out ahead. ANA’s YQ have fluctuated.

  3. I have a RTW trip booked through ANA in May. DEN-YYZ-LHR (make my way to Paris on my own) PAR-CTU-BKK-SIN-MEL (open jaw on my own from MEL-AKL-SYD) SYD-YVR-DEN.

    Kept it under 25,000 miles (barely), 145.000 points and only $500 in taxes and fees. Long segments on Air Canada, Air China, and Singapore Airlines.

      • I sure hope he stops in Chengdu! This will be eligible for the Chinese TWOV. Vancouver is amazing city, too. Should have enough for London/Paris, Chengdu, Bangkok, Singapore, Melbourne/Sydney, and Vancouver.

  4. Very nice overview!

    Does anyone know a person who has successfully booked the Aeromexico RTW? I had a friend who tried it once and I told him not to transfer his Amex points over until it prices out the way it should and he tried HUCA several times but every single agent claimed to not be seeing award space that were clearly available. Eventually he gave up and booked an entirely different RTW itinerary using ANA.

    Also, technically it would be possible to cross both Pacific and Atlantic ocean in under 7000 miles. Currently, it is not possible because the only Star Alliance partners flying from NA to Iceland are AC from Toronto and UA from Newark. But should UA decide it wants to fly from LAX or SFO to KEF then you can “cross” both oceans per ANA’s regional definition by departing Hawaii to the West Coast and connect to Iceland.

    • I do not personally know anyone who has booked. Would love to pick someone’s brain who has. It has to be quite the difficult process, especially if you’re trying to maximize all 15 stopovers!

      I guess that is true regarding a 7,000-mile Pacific/Atlantic ticket. You’d have a double open jaw, but I’m not sure I’d be interested in such an odd award.

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