A honeymoon trip to 14 countries — reader success story
Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Adam, who booked round-the-world awards for an epic marriage celebration:
A couple of years ago, my boss took advantage of Delta's round-the-world ticket for his honeymoon, and it immediately went on my radar as something I wanted to do when I got married. My wife shares my love for travel, and after our engagement, we decided to pursue options for round-the-world tickets of our own.
Since U.S. carriers no longer offer these tickets as awards, we began studying our options through Korean Air (SkyTeam) and Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance). We had some idea of where we wanted to go, but ultimately knew flexibility would be key. Korean's round-the-world ticket was cheaper but came with more restrictions, so we went with Singapore. The ticket allows up to 16 segments, so long as you start and end in the same country, never connect in the same airport, and can find super-saver availability.
We had to choose between economy for 180,000 miles (per person), business class for 240,000 miles or first for 360,000 miles. Thanks to 10 years of combined consulting travel and a love for accumulating points, we were in a position to go for business class with the right combination of rewards. To get the 480,000 points we needed, we transferred 175,000 points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, 240,000 from Amex Membership Rewards and 60,000 (plus a 5,000-point bonus) from Starwood Preferred Guest.
Booking the ticket was a whole hassle in and of itself (the phone reps don’t sell too many of these), but we were able to do it. We ended up with an itinerary from Chicago that would take us to Tokyo, Okinawa, Chengdu, Sydney, Singapore, Johannesburg, Tel Aviv, Rome, Brussels and back home. If we had paid in cash, the tickets would have cost over $40,000; instead, we paid $750 each in taxes. We used additional points to add in other destinations on the trip (New Zealand, Langkawi, Cape Town, Aqaba, Florence and Paris), and ultimately made our way to 14 countries over 12 weeks.
In addition to the flights, we were able to capitalize on the pre-merger Marriott pricing and lock in 44 nights in Marriott hotels. We booked lots of properties before they went up in price, which saved us over 750,000 Marriott points and helped us stretch our rewards a lot further than we could have later.
Our accumulation of points over the past several years made this trip of a lifetime come true. We are beyond grateful that we could start our marriage off with such an adventure (and that we have endlessly patient employers). Now it’s back to work for us to start saving up more vacation time and points for our next adventure.
Round-the-world awards have steadily disappeared in recent years, and another one bites the dust (at least temporarily) when Aeroplan rolls out program changes in September. But those that remain still offer tremendous value if you can maximize routing rules and find award availability that fits your schedule — as Adam notes, that's not always easy. If you're only planning a few stops, keep in mind that you don't need an all-in-one ticket to circle the globe. By taking advantage of one-way pricing as well as stopovers and open jaws, you may be able to book a piecemeal trip that gets you where you want to go at an even lower cost.
Accessibility is sometimes underrated in frequent flyer programs. Programs like Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan or Korean Air SKYPASS offer sweet spots with high redemption value, but gathering miles can be challenging due to the limited number of transfer options. In contrast, Singapore Airlines, JetBlue and Air France/KLM partner with all five of the major transferable points programs, so you have abundant ways to earn KrisFlyer miles, TrueBlue points or Flying Blue miles. That doesn't make those rewards more valuable when you redeem them, but it does make them much easier to accumulate in meaningful numbers.
Related: How to Fly First Class Around the World for $273
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Adam a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to firstname.lastname@example.org; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can't respond to each story individually, but we'll be in touch if yours is selected.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!