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Help: which programs for a year around-the-world

Help: which programs for a year around-the-world

Old May 26, 19, 10:52 am
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 12
Help: which programs for a year around-the-world

I have been stockpiling points for my family's year around the world trip in two years, and I'm trying to figure out which programs I should prioritize. There are 4 in our family, and we're fine in economy except we'd like business for long flights (but we're not above flying business but putting the kids in economy!). We will be staying a couple of months in our main locations--Costa Rica, Thailand, and Spain--with excursions from those home bases as points allow.

The rough itinerary (starting July of 2021)
Indianapolis to Costa Rica
Perhaps some time exploring Central/South America in Oct/Nov? Depends on miles situation
From either SJO or our explorations, going to Chiang Mai in Nov/Dec
We'd definitely like trips around Asia in early spring, esp. Vietnam and China, with perhaps Japan/Fiji/Bora Bora/New Zealand
From there, go to Seville in March/April
We plan on traveling around Europe, perhaps even before settling into Spain. We were going to use Eurail, but could be persuaded to do BA short haul flights insteadReturn to US in July of 2022

Our miles situation
UR (with the CSR): 265k
TY: 135k
AA: 195k
BA: 38k
SW: 31k
Alaska: 9k
Korean: 6k

Cards
Me: CSR, CIBP, Citi TY Premier, CF, Barclay's Aviator Red (I'm at 3/24)
Wife: CSP, Barclay's Aviator Red (2/24)
-I can get the Chase SW cards and CP again. My wife closed her SW cards 6 months ago.

Questions
1) The big question is about where I should be putting miles. I've heard that Alaska miles are great for crossing the Pacific in business class on Cathay, but I worry that I can't stockpile enough of those in time. Even with the 40k bonus points on an Alaska card, we might have a hard time getting the 11k via spending that we'd need for 2 business class tickets to Asia to take advantage of companion fares; we spend about $1800/month in stuff we can put on a card. Any other sweet spots for those expensive long-haul flights that I should be prioritizing?
2) If we use the Eurail to get around Europe, is there any reason I should take advantage of the current 30% bonus to move UR points to BA?
3) Is this complicated enough that we should hire someone to do reward booking? If so, any suggestions?

THANKS IN ADVANCE!
eloly is offline  
Old May 30, 19, 4:19 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: PDX
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A lot of uncertainty here given the details. Programs could change/devalue since you are looking quite far out, and there is a big difference between Japan and New Zealand as destinations for example. Also saying you'd like business for long flights is a little vague. What is long to you? Is business absolutely required? I assume you all need to be flying together but thatís an important detail as well, because looking at space for 4 is different than 1 or 2. You might get better responses if you propose five or six specific routes that you are looking at in your itinerary.

Southwest points can get you to Costa Rica from IND, but it won't be much help with the rest of your plans. Iím not sure what an average fare is for this route, but if the point is having enough miles to not pay cash for flights on this trip, I wouldnít be trying to accumulate too many Southwest points. But if you plan on flying back to the USA after this before going elsewhere and want to fly Southwest, then applying for a Southwest card could be useful.

AA plus partners has great coverage for South America, so using those AA miles for that part of your trip could be a good use.There are redemption's USA-Asia for 32,500 AA miles in economy. 60,000 miles business USA-Japan or 70,000 miles to other non region 1 Asia destinations. Finding multiple business seats probably would be tough. Multiple AA cards through Citi and Barclays give some options for accumulating miles.

Alaska Air does have great redemptions on Cathay Pacific, and you could potentially do USA - Hong Kong (Stopover) - New Zealand for 60,000 miles one way in business. But getting enough miles and finding space for 2 people (let alone 4), wouldn't make it a realistic option. And you canít transfer UR or TYP to Alaska Air.

British Airways is good for non stop economy flights on various partners (miles cost is per leg and based on distance), although a few more miles now than before. I like these miles because of the generous cancellation policy too. They are a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards, and through June 16 there is a 30% bonus on transfers, so its 1 to 1.3 ratio. I could definitely see them being useful on intra-europe or intra-asia flights, especially if you arenít wanting to fly cheap LLCís around.

Maybe someone else can chime in on tips with Star Alliance airlines. Most of my knowledge is with Oneworld. I do know that Singapore Air is transfer partners with both Chase UR and TYP, so you could potentially have a lot of those miles.

Another potential card to apply for is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. Itís never gone above the current 70k offer, and it basically would give you $700 in travel credit to use toward airfare or other travel costs. Itís nice having a straight travel credit available, giving you some flexibility to reimburse a cash airfare rather than only being able to use miles.

Hiring a service is one option but if you want to DIY, Iíd recommend playing around with the FlyerMiler website on different routes. Iím not sure if its super up to date with recent award chart changes (Iíve seen some inaccuracies on there), but it will help at least give you a better general idea where to start.
redtigeriii is offline  
Old May 30, 19, 4:27 pm
  #3  
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Be aware that many airlines don't permit parents to place kids in coach while the adults sit in business class without paying UM fees. Age requirements can vary. Moreover, you can NOT visit back and forth between cabins for any purpose other than a very serious emergency.
MSPeconomist is offline  
Old May 31, 19, 5:10 pm
  #4  
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Join Date: Dec 2003
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Posts: 10,435
All I'd add to the above useful advice is to ask whether you're sure you don't want to get more credit cards for initial sign-up/spending bonuses.

Also, you might be able to spend more to satisfy those bonus requirements rather quickly, if you use them to pay income, real estate, home and other insurance, etc., with them. True, you pay extra fees for using those credit cards for such payments. But those fees pale in comparison with the value of the bonus miles you get.

Finally, it's true that you can hop around Europe using BA miles. But be aware that it's a pretty lousy airline and that it sometimes adds surcharges to award bookings.

Anyway, sounds like you have a good trip planned. I hope it all works out!
Thunderroad is offline  
Old May 31, 19, 8:19 pm
  #5  
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BA requires connecting in the UK mostly, BA charges award miles per segment and BA always charged “carrier imposed surcharges” on award flights. Iberia is a better carrier to use intra-Europe. But for a lot of EU Travel is worth looking at the train, or using a LCC for these relatively short flights.

AA has announced they’re moving toward dynamic awards, and the rumors are heavy for a devaluation of AA miles coming at the end of July. For using miles & Points for four on long haul flights, I’d advise you not to get your hopes up with those accumulated miles and points.

I’ve travelled for longer periods of time (up to a year) and would advise you to choose a few places you can settle and work out of. E.g. take day and multi-day trips from a place you can out your feet down in for a bit. The more you move, the more you pay. Look at seasons - E.g. New Zealand you can rent a camper and drive North and South Island in April and enjoy good weather, lower prices. Look at prices - Japan, Bora Bora are bloody expensive. In French Polynesia Moorea, otoh, can be cheaper, is reachable from PPT by high speed ferry and is both every bit as beautiful as Bora Bora and has a lot more opportunities to meet real people.

Plan, research, plan, research. Accumulate credit card points you can use for transport or transfer as convenient.
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JDiver is offline  
Old May 31, 19, 8:37 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Programs: Top Tier with all 3 alliances
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In 2 years there will be nothing left from the FFPs at this rate, there is a crazy race to the bottom and complete devaluation of miles. Two years time is a long time to predict which of the currently terrible ffps will be the worst. One suggestion would be to at least diversify to 2-3 programs, and get some status in 1-2 alliances.

But the main thing you have going for you is that you can be flexible with time, so you could book trips potentially at their lowest mileage rates.

You could also probably do better with paid rates in Y and J, as you get closer, just be on the looked out at the 1-year mark for really good deals, like the current $200 Y fares to Europe. It may be better to get some of the trips in paid fares, as a lot of good deals exist, and they are better value than miles.
nk15 is offline  
Old May 31, 19, 9:07 pm
  #7  
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
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Some suggestions: Consider a month in Bali, Indonesia is cheaper than Thailand. Why landlocked Seville in Spain, if you are in the Mediterranean you want to be closer to the beach. Eastern Europe and Greece will also be cheap, especially in early or late summer season (May-June, Sept-Oct). Japan and other expensive places see if you can do them briefly as trip stopovers in paid tickets.

Get some Hilton points that you can use in cheap but good Hilton hotels, categories 1 and 2 around the world. See this for example for Bali: https://liveandletsfly.boardingarea....8/10/07/72171/
Turkey and Egypt will have many more of these, if you are more adventurous. The Amex Hilton Aspire card will be a good choice as well for HH points and Diamond Status, but perhaps wait until closer to the trip.
nk15 is offline  
Old Jun 1, 19, 8:57 am
  #8  
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Join Date: Oct 2014
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So much good advice, redtigeriii. Thanks!

To answer some questions:
-Business isn't required for long flights (which I was thinking as the flights across the oceans and from Thailand to Spain), but all 4 being on the same flight is. And, MSPeconomist, thanks for the tip about perhaps not being able to put the kids in coach.

-Thunderroad, I am willing to get more cards. That's the main way I'd plan on getting miles/points. We're paying what we can with cards, but our credit union holding our mortgage doesn't allow CC payments, and we miss a huge discount if we use a CC for insurance. We can make a 4k minimum spend in 90 days, but 5k can be challenging unless we have a big charge coming up.

-JDiver, thanks (I think) for the depressing AA news. As much as I don't want to hear that I shouldn't get my hopes up, better to hear it now. Our plan is currently to spend 2-3 months each at a language homestay program in Costa Rica, an apartment in Chiang Mai which will be our home base (my wife and I loved Chiang Mai), and in Spain where I'll be teaching a one-month summer class at the University of Seville (so nk15, that explains why Seville). What I was really hoping to learn was whether there are good sweet spots for miles in these areas to go on excursions for a few days. But your suggestion for camping in NZ is great; is there a company you'd recommend? And I'll certainly look into French Polynesia Moorea...thanks for the suggestion. Those seem like great experiences for when we leave Thailand but before going to Spain.

-Finally, nk15, thanks for the HH suggestion. That's the exact kind of tip I was hoping to get, because I wouldn't have thought of that program otherwise.
eloly is offline  

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