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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!