The idea for doing a Round-the-World trip began several months ago when I stumbled upon The Points Guy website. This website is one guy’s compilation of all sorts of schemes, plans, and organized churning of credit cards that gets him so many points, he’s able to travel throughout the world in luxury. I too, want to do the same, but on a lesser scale of sorts.
After reading through the blogs, and seeing what opportunities there were out there, I figured I should take advantage and join the Churner’s club and start amassing points for an adventure to celebrate making it to 35 years old. I will turn 35 in March of 2014, and I want to make it memorable by celebrating my love of travel and completing a full one directional trip that takes me around the globe.
The way I planned, overcame, poured over, and obsessed over making the absolute perfect plan paid off because not only will my flights be business class and free, I will have priceless memories, new connections, new memories, and feel alive by seeing so much more of the world. Most people say, ‘Oh I could never do that’. And indeed, they’re right.
Check out how I went about planning my Trip Around The World by reading the main topics below:
The first thing I did when I was thinking about making this a reality, is really understand what I wanted my trip to be. I looked through several books that I had accumulated through the years. For me, I am always fascinated by the pictures of places, maybe because I enjoy the photography opportunities of seeing colors, landscapes, and new architecture. This helps me also visualize what type of experience I would have. I also like going to visit places, and things, and objects, so seeing man-made objects in pictures entices me more than seeing just a vast empty landscape (although, deserts, amazing mountains, and cool beach areas are always enticing.)
After flipping through various books and jotting down countries in a list of where I had my full list of where I wanted to visit, I printed out a world map to plot out the places to see what a full platter would look like. This will help you visualize really what is possible, what type of time it will take, how much travel is truly involved, and moreover, which points create the biggest hurdles. I took this term from the very helpful website, Boots N All, which laid out some pretty good steps to create a round the world trip. The idea of pillars basically allows you to find the main stops to build your itinerary around. This will also help you narrow down your ‘must haves’, so you can start formulating a realistic plan.
My pillars for this trip included:
- The Great Wall of China
- Angkor Wat (Cambodia)
- Petra and the Dead Sea (Jordan)
- Istanbul (Turkey and the environs)
- Croatia and Hungary
- Portugal and Morocco
Several of my pillars are simply places that I’ve wondered about, have heard good things about, or find appealing for potential adventures of some sort.
Plot Your Journey
I spent hours pouring over various itineraries that would get me to as many places as I wanted on my list, all for free. After researching various products, I found the American Airlines Aadvantage program to have a really amazing product called the One World Award. This award is mileage based. Flying up to 25,000 miles will cost 150,000 award miles, which can easily be made by signing up for various credit card promotions. I signed up for 2 personal cards, 1 gave me 50k miles and the other 30k miles just within the first few months of a small spend of $3000 and $750 over a quarter. Done! I was more than halfway there.
After determining American Airlines/One World would be the set of planes I would use for my journey, I started researching the main hubs, alliance partners, and flight paths to determine the most comfortable moves. There is a great tool out there from the One World website called the One World Timetable App. By using this, you can start plugging in cities to see flights, times, planes, duration, etc. I literally started plotting city by city to see what made the most sense.
Rules of the System
After getting the journey how I wanted it to be, I played with various itineraries the next few weeks with agents to learn more about the One World Award. Tragically, this award is not familiar to the agents, and no one was ever able to give a straight answer as to what was true or not. After about 10 hours worth of back and forth, itineraries being rejected for various reasons, I am now a pro at booking these tickets correctly the first time :) It’s a good idea to research the award you will be using, as there will be lots of rules with them.
Finalize the Award!
The final step in the planning is to get your itinerary accepted, and ticketed. My trip around the world cost 150k business class, beginning AUS – SFO – HND – PEK – HKG – BKK – AMM – VIE – MAD – AUS. I made sure I was flying on the new 787’s through to Japan and China, nice 777’s around the rest of Asia, had no choice with getting from Asia to Europe (Royal Jordanian doesn’t seem all that impressive), and ensuring my flight back across the pond is in American’s beautiful new 777-300ER.
You’ll see I’m making it around the world and able to hit most of the spots I wanted to go to in my initial pillar selection. Getting to Iceland wasn’t going to happen with One World, and India is too hot during the time period I wanted to go, so those will be saved for another trip! This amazing journey cost me just over $400, 150k award miles (free), a lot of time and energy researching and working the system, and a lot of day dreaming about the world.
Now that your trip is booked and ticketed, the rest of the time is spent making preparations for your specific situation, monitoring the countries you will be visiting (any international stories that you should be concerned about?), visas, immunizations, housing, and money. Stay tuned as I document how I plan for this round the world journey for 2014.See Tips