Your complete guide to booking around-the-world tickets with points and miles
With everything that has happened over the past 2 1/2 years, many of our readers are itching to get back out there and see the world. But what if you can’t decide on a single destination? Enter around-the-world award tickets.
These awards let you see multiple destinations across multiple regions in one go. You can stay for extended periods of time in multiple cities and sometimes take alternate transportation between destinations to maximize your trip. These trips typically cost a lot of miles, but you’ll almost always save when compared to booking tickets separately and piecing together your own itinerary. This is especially true if you book business-class around-the-world award tickets.
These complex itineraries are generally made possible by leveraging alliance route networks. So not only are you seeing amazing new cities, but you can fly interesting new airlines too.
You can book around-the-world award tickets with transferable currencies like American Express Membership Rewards points, Bilt Rewards points, Capital One miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Citi ThankYou points — but again, it’s not easy. You need to know where to look to find a transfer partner that works best for your specific around-the-world needs. In this article, I’ll show you all your options for your post-pandemic around-the-world adventure.
This article is broken down by airline alliances. I’ll cover each around-the-world award option for said alliance and discuss the rules and pricing for each around-the-world option.
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Oneworld around-the-world awards
Oneworld is the home of American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and many other reader favorites. Here are your options for booking around-the-world tickets on Oneworld partners.
Booking around-the-world trips with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program offers a quasi-around-the-world award option called “Oneworld Multi-Carrier Awards.” These awards are priced based on distance flown and your cabin of travel. You can book these awards in any class you’d like, including first class.
These itineraries are confusing initially, but it’s easier to visualize once you’re familiar with the award chart’s rules. Here’s a look:
- Must fly at least two Oneworld carriers, three if flying Cathay Pacific.
- Maximum of five stopovers.
- Maximum flight distance of 50,000 miles.
- You must return to the original point of departure.
- Two connections (in addition to stopovers) are permitted.
- Two open jaws are permitted.
- Backtracking is usually permitted but varies based on the phone representative you work with.
Other than that, there aren’t many restrictions to worry about. Prices are as follows:
You will pay moderate fuel surcharges, if applicable, but few Oneworld partners have high surcharges. The exception to this rule is British Airways, which is notorious for charging $500-plus for a one-way business-class ticket to London. Thankfully, Asia Miles has lower surcharges on BA flights when compared to other Oneworld loyalty programs.
You can generally backtrack on these awards as there’s nothing in the terms and conditions that prohibits it. However, you may need to talk with multiple representatives to book one of these tickets. I’ve seen reports of Asia Miles representatives not allowing backtracking award tickets in some cases. If this happens to you, politely end the call and call back.
Asia Miles Multi-Carrier Awards are generally the best way to book first-class around-the-world awards. That’s because Oneworld has the most carriers that still offer a true first-class cabin, like American Airlines, British Airways, Japan Airlines and others. Here’s an example of an around-the-world ticket mostly operated in first class and clocking in at 21,224 miles. It will cost 280,000 miles, since the business-class segments are charged like first class.
Here’s a sample itinerary you could book as part of a single around-the-world award:
- New York to London: British Airways first class.
- London to Madrid: Iberia business class.
- Madrid to Doha, Qatar: Qatar Airways business class.
- Doha to Hong Kong: Qatar Airways business class.
- Hong Kong to Tokyo: Cathay Pacific first class.
- Tokyo to Los Angeles: Japan Airlines first class.
- Los Angeles to New York: American Airlines Flagship First.
How to book: Map out your trip with Great Circle Mapper and find award space with your favorite Oneworld search tool. Then, call Asia Miles to book your award ticket.
Earning Asia Miles: Cathay Pacific is a 1:1 transfer partner of Amex, Bilt Rewards, Capital One and Citi, and a 3:1 transfer partner of Marriott Bonvoy.
Related: Book this, not that: Oneworld award tickets
Booking around-the-world trips with Qantas Frequent Flyer
Qantas‘ around-the-world award program can be difficult to find since it’s named “Oneworld Classic Flight Reward.” You can only fly on Oneworld airlines (not other Qantas partners like Emirates or El Al), and you must fly at least two non-Qantas Oneworld airlines to use this award chart.
That said, these awards have interesting rules. Here’s a look:
- Must fly at least two Oneworld carriers, three if flying Qantas.
- Maximum of five stopovers.
- Maximum flight distance of 35,000 miles.
- One stopover is allowed in any one city.
- Two connections are allowed at any one city in the itinerary.
- If your destination city is different than your origin, you will be charged based on the distance to return directly from your destination to your origin.
- Ground transfers are allowed, but you will be charged for the distance between the two cities.
- Backtracking is usually permitted.
Pricing is as follows:
This award chart isn’t as generous as Cathay Pacific’s, but there is still some decent value in business class. If you max out the five stopovers, you’ll likely pay 240,000-280,000 miles for a business-class around-the-world award. That means you’re effectively purchasing each flight for 40,000-45,000 miles each. You are liable for paying fuel surcharges when carriers charge them.
Here’s an example itinerary I built. It covers 31,279 miles and costs 280,000 miles in business class.
- Los Angeles to Sydney: Qantas, stopover.
- Sydney to Hong Kong: Cathay Pacific, stopover.
- Hong Kong to Johannesburg: Cathay Pacific, stopover.
- Johannesburg to Doha: Qatar Airways, stopover.
- Doha to London: Qatar Airways, stopover.
- London to Los Angeles: American Airlines.
How to book: Map out your trip with Great Circle Mapper and find award space with your favorite Oneworld search tool. Then, either book online by creating a multicity award ticket or call Qantas to book.
Earning Qantas miles: Qantas is a 1:1 transfer partner of Amex, Capital One and Citi. You can transfer Marriott points to Qantas at a 3:1 ratio.
Related: Upgrades, lounge access and more: How to earn top-tier Oneworld status for $1,400
SkyTeam around-the-world awards
SkyTeam is the world’s second-largest alliance based on the number of members. It includes some of the most well-known airlines, like Air France, Delta, KLM and Korean Airlines. Here are your options for booking around-the-world award tickets with SkyTeam airlines.
Booking around-the-world trips with Aeromexico Club Premier
Aeromexico Club Premier’s SkyTeam around-the-world pass is an attractive deal and is relatively simple in comparison to other around-the-world award options. These awards cost 224,000 miles in economy or 352,000 in business class no matter how many miles flown. With Amex’s 1:1.6 transfer ratio, you’ll need just 140,000 Membership Rewards for economy and 220,000 for business class.
The following terms apply:
- Travel must continue in the same direction, east or west.
- Travel must begin and end in the same country.
- A minimum of three or a maximum of 15 stopovers are allowed.
- No more than five stopovers per continent.
- All flights must be booked in the same class of service.
- Pass is valid for one year from the date of issue.
An allowance of 15 stopovers is among the most generous of any around-the-world programs and there are no mileage limits to worry about. You can squeeze in some long-haul flights if you don’t backtrack. This is a great deal for booking long around-the-world trips with lots of stopovers. Even if you don’t max out the 15 stopovers, you may save miles by booking through Aeromexico rather than a similar itinerary with ANA Mileage Club.
Another great thing about Club Premier is that an around-the-world ticket is good for 365 days, meaning you could you can spend an entire year traveling the globe. It doesn't get any better than this.
Here’s an example itinerary:
- Atlanta to Mexico City: Delta Air Lines, stopover.
- Mexico City to Tokyo: Aeromexico, stopover.
- Tokyo to Seoul, South Korea: Korean Airlines, stopover.
- Seoul to Hong Kong: Korean Airlines, stopover.
- Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Vietnam Airlines, stopover.
- Ho Chi Minh City to Jakarta, Indonesia: Vietnam Airlines, stopover.
- Jakarta to Amsterdam: Garuda Indonesia, stopover.
- Amsterdam to Paris: KLM, stopover.
- Paris to Madrid: Air France, stopover.
- Madrid to Sao Paulo: Air Europa, stopover.
- Sao Paulo to New York: Delta Air Lines, stopover.
- New York to Cleveland: Delta Air Lines, stopover.
- Cleveland to Atlanta: Delta Air Lines.
You are liable for paying fuel surcharges on Aeromexico around-the-world tickets, but they’re usually reasonable.
How to book: Map out your trip with Great Circle Mapper and find award space with your favorite SkyTeam search tool. Then, call Aeromexico to book.
Earning Premier points: Aeromexico is a 1:1.6 transfer partner of Amex, a 1:1 transfer partner of Capital One and a 3:1 transfer partner of Marriott.
Related: Book this, not that: SkyTeam award tickets
Star Alliance around-the-world awards
With 28 member airlines serving over 1,300 destinations worldwide, Star Alliance is the largest of the three major alliances.
Here in the U.S., United Airlines is the major Star Alliance carrier. Other well-known carriers include ANA, Air Canada, Avianca, Lufthansa, SAS, Singapore and Turkish. These airlines have hubs all around the globe, making Star Alliance a great bet for around-the-world tickets no matter where you want to go.
Booking around-the-world trips with ANA Mileage Club
ANA Mileage Club’s around-the-world awards are flexible and — in my opinion — the best way to book a Star Alliance around-the-world ticket. Rules are relatively relaxed, but you’ll want to keep the following in mind:
- Flights must be used to cross both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans once.
- You must fly east to west or west to east and can’t backtrack.
- Up to eight stopovers are permitted, up to three in Europe and four in Japan.
- You can book a maximum of 12 flight segments.
- You can also include up to four ground sectors (alternate transportation between two airports, even within the same city).
- The departure date of the final international flight to return to the country of departure must be 10-plus days after the departure of the first international flight on the itinerary.
Pricing is fair too — here’s a look at ANA’s around-the-world award chart:
One thing to note about ANA around-the-world awards is that you’re liable for paying fuel surcharges, taxes and other fees if the operating carrier charges them. This can make booking tickets with carriers like Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines pricey. Thankfully, you can avoid these surcharges by booking with the following airlines that do not add fuel surcharges:
- Air China.
- Air New Zealand.
- Brussels Airlines.
- Ethiopian Airlines.
- LOT Polish Airlines (low surcharges).
- Scandinavian Airlines.
- Singapore Airlines.
- South African Airways.
- TAP Air Portugal.
- United Airlines.
While first-class pricing is enticing for a long around-the-world trip, Star Alliance makes it hard to book. Singapore and Swiss don’t release first-class award space to partners. Lufthansa only does within 15 days of departure, leaving ANA as one of the only Star Alliance carriers that will let you book first class with miles. Thankfully, Star Alliance has great business-class options for you to choose from.
Take the following example, which covers over 20,500 flight miles and includes seven stopovers. This ticket costs 125,000 miles, around what most carriers would charge for a simple round-trip business-class ticket to Asia.
- Newark to Frankfurt: United, stopover.
- Frankfurt to Prague: Lufthansa, stopover.
- Prague to Warsaw, Poland: LOT Polish Airlines, stopover.
- Warsaw to Singapore: LOT Polish Airlines, stopover.
- Singapore to Hong Kong: Singapore Airlines, stopover.
- Hong Kong to Seoul: Asiana, stopover.
- Seoul to Tokyo: ANA, stopover.
- Tokyo to New York: ANA.
How to book: Map out your trip with Great Circle Mapper and find award space with your favorite Star Alliance search tool. Then, call ANA to book your award ticket.
Earning ANA miles: If you’re short on ANA miles, the carrier is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and a 3:1 transfer partner of Marriott Bonvoy. Remember that Marriott also offers a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer to an airline.
Need to stock up on ANA miles? Consider applying for one of these American Express cards that can help you earn points with your everyday spending:
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months of account opening. Earn 4 points per dollar on dining at restaurants, 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x points), 3 points per dollar on airfare purchased directly from airlines or American Express Travel and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases ($250 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Earn 5 points per dollar on airfare purchased directly from airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel and Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases ($695 annual fee; see rates and fees).
Related: How I booked an around-the-world ticket in business class for 170,000 miles
Booking mini around-the-world trips with Air Canada Aeroplan
Air Canada’s Aeroplan program doesn’t have an official around-the-world award chart, but it allows stopovers on one-way tickets. This means you can effectively build a mini around-the-world itinerary by maximizing these stopovers. Routing rules are relaxed and you can stop over in a different region than your final destination.
Here are a few rules to know:
- Stopovers cost an additional 5,000 points.
- Up to one stopover per one-way ticket.
- No stopovers in the U.S. or Canada.
- Up to six segments per one-way ticket.
- You cannot book tickets that are 100% or more physical miles over the direct distance between two cities.
- Itineraries within a single region must stay within said region.
- There are no maximum permitted mileage restrictions for flight rewards on partners.
- Open-jaw tickets are only permitted between one-way tickets, not between connecting cities or stopovers.
- All flights are priced on a one-way basis.
Aeroplan prices flights based on the region you’re flying to/from and the total distance of your flight. You can view the full award chart on Air Canada’s website (PDF link). Further, the program no longer adds fuel surcharges to award tickets, so you can book carriers like Austrian Airlines and Lufthansa without breaking the bank.
You can maximize your Aeroplan tickets further by adding long layovers in up to six cities per one-way ticket. So if you’re flying from Newark to Dubai via Frankfurt, you can stop over in Frankfurt for up to 24 hours without using your one stopover. This can be powerful for quick visits to a city you’ve already been to — just ensure the connection times work out.
Here’s an example of a round-trip award ticket with a stopover on both the outbound and return tickets. There’s also a long-layover connection on the outbound leg for a daylong visit to Frankfurt. This ticket costs 180,000 points round-trip according to the North America-to-Pacific award chart.
- Newark to Frankfurt: Lufthansa, layover.
- Frankfurt to Munich: Lufthansa, stopover.
- Munich to Singapore: Lufthansa, outbound final destination.
- Singapore to Tokyo: ANA, stopover.
- Tokyo to New York: ANA, inbound final destination.
How to book: Map out your trip with Great Circle Mapper and find award space with your favorite Star Alliance search tool. Then, call Air Canada to book your award ticket.
Earning Aeroplan points: Amex, Bilt and Chase points and Capital One miles transfer to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio. Likewise, you can transfer Marriott points at a 3:1 ratio.
If you want to earn Capital One miles, you can open a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. The Venture card offers 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Related: Capital One announces new 1:1 transfer tier, additional travel partners and more airport lounge details
Booking around-the-world trips with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Singapore Airlines’ around-the-world awards are poorly advertised and relatively limited. That said, if you want to include a premium-cabin segment on Singapore Airlines, you have to book through its KrisFlyer loyalty program. The carrier generally doesn’t release premium-cabin award space to partners.
For Singapore around-the-world award tickets:
- Travel must continue in the same direction (east or west) with no backtracking.
- Must begin and end in the same country.
- Maximum of seven total stopovers, with a maximum of two in each country.
- Maximum flight distance of 35,000 miles.
- Maximum of 16 flight segments.
Thirty-five thousand miles is a shallow ceiling to place on around-the-world awards. And the pricing is mediocre at best — especially when compared to ANA Mileage Club. Here’s a look:
- Economy: 200,000 miles.
- Business: 280,000 miles.
- First: 405,000 miles.
Further, you’re liable for paying fuel surcharges if charged by the partner airline. Thankfully, Singapore Airlines doesn’t charge these on its own tickets.
One way to maximize these around-the-world tickets is by building an itinerary that includes Singapore Airlines’ fifth-freedom routes. Here’s an example of a business-class around-the-world itinerary that costs 280,000 miles:
- New York to Frankfurt: Singapore Airlines, stopover.
- Frankfurt to Istanbul: Turkish Airlines, stopover.
- Istanbul to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Ethiopian Airlines, stopover.
- Addis Ababa to Singapore: Ethiopian Airlines, stopover.
- Singapore to Hong Kong: Singapore Airlines, stopover.
- Hong Kong to Seoul: Asiana, stopover.
- Seoul to Tokyo: Asiana, stopover.
- Tokyo to Los Angeles: Singapore Airlines, layover.
- Los Angeles to New York: United.
How to book: Map out your trip with Great Circle Mapper and find award space with your favorite Star Alliance search tool. Then, call Singapore Airlines to book your award ticket.
Earning KrisFlyer miles: Singapore is a 1:1 transfer partner of Amex, Capital One, Chase and Citi. It's also 3:1 transfer partner of Marriott.
If you’re under 5/24, your best bet is to apply for a Chase card with one of these heightened welcome bonuses:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card – Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Related: Book this, not that: Star Alliance award tickets
Around-the-world awards are not for the faint of heart, nor are they an option for every traveler.
They often require multiple weeks (or even months) to enjoy the stops, which requires commitment. That doesn’t even consider the time needed to research and book the flights to make it work. That being said, if you’re able to embark on a multistop trip, these awards can let you do it for just a fraction of the cost of booking tickets separately. Even “shorter” trips of only three or four destinations can benefit from this booking option in the right circumstances.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, click here.
Additional reporting by Ehsan Haque.