Skip to content

How to fly around the world (almost entirely) in first class for 150k miles

Sept. 30, 2019
9 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

Everyone loves a good round-the-world airline ticket. And while in the good old days you could stretch your miles on any number of carriers to book yourself a dream vacation, options today have gotten a little ... slimmer.

This means that those of us wanting to make the trek have had to become creative, piecing together generous stopover policies and one-way awards to recreate the glory days. Thus, I present to you: The (Mostly) First Class Ticket Around the World Thanks to Alaska.

How does it work? Well, Alaska has one of the more generous policies when it comes to stopovers, allowing one stopover per one-way ticket, which you can leverage in order to maximize your time on the ground.

Leg 1: The US to Hong Kong

We begin by redeeming 70,000 Alaska Miles for a one-way ticket on Cathay Pacific. You can originate in any of the cities to which Cathay flies, which include: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York, Seattle, Newark and Washington D.C. The mileage cost will be the same whether you fly from the East or West Coast, so if you can find availability nearer your home you can avoid a positioning flight.

Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy

Whatever route you take, you'll be spending around fifteen hours in one of the best first-class products in the air. It should be noted that you can't book these awards online — you'll have to call Alaska to secure your spot. If you're trying to find availability, you can search either American Airlines' or British Airways' sites for decent chances to view open awards.

Stop 1: Hong Kong

Spend as much time as you like in Hong Kong — you've earned it. The city, famous for Victoria Harbour and its plethora of hotels, leaves you absolutely spoiled for choice. My favorite option? The Hyatt Centric Victoria Harbour Hong Kong, which is a mere category 4 and thus eligible for redemption with your free-night certificate as granted by the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

Image courtesy of Hyatt.

Leg 2, Option 1: Hong Kong to Tel Aviv

Since you're using Hong Kong as your free stopover, in reality you're booking your final destination to one of two places.

Option one, in which you utilize Cathay Pacific's new nonstop flight from Hong Kong to Tel Aviv, gets you ten hours of business class (sorry, they don't even operate these flights with first) all the way to the heart of Israel.

Sign up for our daily newsletter
The Cathay Pacific A350-1000 business class cabin. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)
The Cathay Pacific A350-1000 business class cabin. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

Stop 2: Tel Aviv

If you choose to spend your second stop in this trendy city you'll find tons of things to do. From white sand beaches to the best bar in the Middle East (and Africa!), Tel Aviv is a western oasis in the middle of the Middle East. Though it's not cheap, you can find hotels from all the major chains, including Marriott, Hilton and IHG. My own personal vote is for the David Intercontinental, which will run you just 50,000 points in the notoriously expensive city. For comparison, the Hilton Tel Aviv will proudly charge 95,000 points/night — the same amount as an overwater villa at the Conrad Maldives.

The David Intercontinental lobby. Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy

Leg 2, Option 2: Hong Kong to Johannesburg

If you don't mind spending a couple of extra hours in business class instead of first (the agony!), you can instead make your way to Johannesburg as the final destination.

Though you may end up on the 777-300ER, you'll still be flying in (relative) style.

Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy

Stop 2: Johannesburg

The city is thriving and well known as one of the best locations to take advantage of Marriott's absurdly priced Protea hotel collection (or even the African Pride, which is part of the Autograph Collection).

Don't forget to pit-stop during your trip for a safari and a chance to see the big 5, because if you're heading all the way to Africa you're going to need to spot some animals.

Leg 3: Tel Aviv (or Johannesburg) to London

Regardless of which route you took, you're now 70,000 miles down and well journeyed on Cathay Pacific. It's now time to switch gears and enter British Airways territory. Unlike Cathay, these awards you can book online, though you'll want to make sure you don't accidentally book a mixed cabin award (signified by the blue seat shown during an award search).

Excitingly, if you fly out of Tel Aviv you'll be spending less on British Airways' absurd award fees.

Either of these tickets will run you 80,000 Alaska Miles, and they'll take you to anywhere in the US. As a side note, if you're cheap like me and want to save 10,000 miles when flying out of Tel Aviv, you can always opt to position to Cyprus (for about $30 and a half hour of time) and board your flight from there.

Though many people like to complain about British Airways' first class product, I had a phenomenal time with them, as did TPG Staffer Nicky Kelvin, whose overhead photo shows just how spacious these seats really are:

C:DCIM100GOPROGOPR0449.GPR
Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy

Stop 3: London

No matter how far you've traveled around the world, you haven't gone anywhere if you haven't been to London. The quintessential tourist city (please don't kill me for saying that), London is chock-full of history, tourist sites, the Queen (sometimes) and other royal family members (I think).

Long story short, if you're serious about traveling you need to visit London. And there's no better way to arrive than freshly changed from your first class pajamas on your first-class British Airways flight. Don't sell yourself short here — you can spend a week in London and not scratch the surface of what it offers, from live theatre to Harry Potter attractions. Make good use of your time and take advantage of the luxurious points hotels on offer in such a massive city, like The London EDITION, a high-end Marriott property.

Photo by Melanie Wynne/The Points Guy

Leg 4: London to the US

You're nearly at the end of your round-the-world journey, which has taken you across four continents and too many hours in first class to count. British Airways' extensive US route means that by transiting from London Heathrow (LHR) you can get pretty much anywhere you need — bed included:

Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy

Conclusion

There you have it: a round-the-world itinerary in (mostly) first class for just 150k Alaska Miles. For reference, Alaska charges 150k miles for a one-way ticket in Emirates first class alone:

Is this a 20-stop endeavor with a 30-hour layover amongst a hodgepodge of carriers? No. It's a few long flights across a few different continents for ridiculously few miles. And if you're in the market (and have that much vacation), all of these cities are massive flight hubs, meaning you can spend a little extra time, truly take advantage of Alaska's stopover policy, and branch out with cheap regional flights. However you choose to plan your ticket around the world — enjoy!

Feature photo courtesy of Yuri_B/Pixabay.

Featured image by Image courtesy of Yuri_B/Pixabay
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more