How to plan a dream trip for 2 around the globe with only 350,000 points

May 25, 2020

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Even though a simple return flight is more efficient most of the time, most aviation enthusiasts have one particular item on their bucket list: circling the globe in one single, glorious trip. In most cases, this is not an economical option at all, since crossing the Pacific is a long and expensive endeavour.

But we’re all about flying routes you would not normally take using points and miles. In fact, on long and complex — and expensive — itineraries, that’s where points and miles can really prove their value. While there are many around-the-world options, let’s take a look at one dream itinerary that circles the globe for only 175,000 points per person.

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Around-the-world tickets

Some airlines and alliances offer around-the-world tickets outright, giving you the opportunity to take a set maximum amount of flights and miles for a fixed redemption amount. All of these options are pretty constrained, and you’re depending on one single airline’s award inventory for an alliance.

On top of that, some airlines impose pretty hefty carrier surcharges on all tickets. Furthermore, these tickets only start around a hefty 140,000 miles. Instead, why not look as broadly as possible and exploit every airline’s sweet spots? Of course, you need a flexible points currency or very differentiated mileage balances with different airlines. This is a prime example of why a transferable points currency like American Express Membership Rewards are ideal — you have the flexibility to transfer the points to whichever partner you choose.

Additionally, there may come a point where you need to top up your account balance by buying points or miles in a particular currency. If possible, make sure you’re getting the best deal for those purchases.

Related: When does it make sense to buy points and miles?

Finally, before transferring any miles, ensure that there is availability for your dates of travel in the desired cabins. Tools like ExpertFlyer, which is owned by TPG’s parent company, and SeatSpy are incredibly helpful for setting up alerts when award seats open on particular flights.

The sample itinerary

Starting point: London

As the starting point for this trip, we’ll use London. But most other U.K. airports are possible for about the same cost in miles and surcharges to fly to the next destination, Los Angeles.

Destination No. 1: Los Angeles

Flight

  • Airline: Virgin Atlantic
  • Flight: VS23, LHR-LAX
  • Class: Economy
  • Aircraft: Airbus A350-1000
  • Points needed: 30,000
  • Cash needed: £404.52

Flying out to Los Angeles, we make use of the favourable awards offered by Virgin Atlantic. Here, your miles will take you to Los Angeles for only 15,000 Flying Club miles and £202 per person one-way on the airline’s brand new A350-1000.

Take note that this is also an Economy Classic award, allowing you a 23kg bag per person. For a trip of this size, you might want to pack some extra clothes.

If you’re short on Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, remember you transfer them from American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. Alternatively, you could consider signing up for the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Credit Card, which comes with a sign-up bonus of 15,000 miles after making your first purchase — that’s enough for one flyer in this itinerary. The card comes with a £160 annual fee.

Accommodation in Los Angeles

Close to Los Angeles International Airport, this recently opened and beautifully designed hotel offers an open-air roof deck with dramatic runway views. Aside from this, it has been well-reviewed and offers proximity to Santa Monica for some beach time as well as several other L.A. hotspots. Just don’t forget to visit the iconic In-n-Out Burger branch at LAX coveted by aviation geeks all around the world.

H Hotel Los Angeles Curio by Hilton. Photo courtesy of the hotel.
H Hotel rooftop overlooking LAX. (Photo courtesy of the hotel.)

At 49,000 Honors points per night, this chic hotel is a relative steal. Convert 49,000 American Express Membership Rewards points to Hilton Honors points at a 2:1 ratio to book this award.

Possible side trips

Want to extend your trip from L.A.? There are plenty of options. To the south, there is San Diego, a beautiful city that encompasses the SoCal lifestyle like no other. To the north, there is the widely praised Highway One, leading up the coast all the way to San Francisco — one of the quintessential road trips of the world. Rent a convertible and drive this beautiful stretch of California coastline. Incorporating one or more of California’s beautiful state and national parks is a breeze. Lastly to the east, there is Sin City — a quick stay in one of the landmark casinos alongside the Las Vegas Strip is just a 3-hour drive away.

Destination No. 2: Sydney

Flight

  • Airline: American Airlines booked with Asia Miles
  • Flight: AA73, LAX-SYD
  • Class: Economy
  • Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
  • Points needed: 60,000
  • Cash needed: £8.96

On the long leg from Los Angeles to Australia, you can fly American Airlines for a cost of only 30,000 Asia Miles and £4.48 per person one-way. To book this award, transfer 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards miles to Asia Miles at a 1:1 ratio. Keep in mind when planning your trip that this nearly 15-hour flight crosses the date line. For example, if you take off on the 5th, you will land on the 7th.

Accommodation in Sydney

  • Hotel: Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney
  • Nights: 3
  • Points needed: 70,000 American Express Membership Rewards transferred to Radisson Rewards

This five-star Sydney icon is perfectly located in a historic building in the heart of the central business district (CBD). The traditional heritage architecture and recently updated rooms make this a luxurious stay at a bargain. You can convert American Express Membership Rewards points to Radisson Rewards at a 3:1 ratio, meaning this stay will cost you 210,000 Radisson Rewards points — or 70,000 Membership Rewards points.

Keep in mind that American Express says that transfers to Radisson Rewards can take up to 10 working days, so you may need to do some planning ahead.

Possible side trips

The Great Ocean Road is one of the world
The Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s most scenic drives. (Photo via Getty Images)

Since staying in Australia for only three days is somewhat of a crime, a side trip could be much welcomed here. Melbourne is just a short flight away, but better yet just drive along the Great Ocean Road or visit one of the many natural wonders in the vicinity. There’s so much to choose from, such as Blue Mountains National Park, The Hunter Valley, Manly Beach and many more.

Related: Second cities: Destinations to add on to a trip to Melbourne, Australia

Destination No. 3: Singapore

Flight

  • Airline: British Airways
  • Flight: BA16, SYD-SIN
  • Class: Economy
  • Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
  • Points needed: 26,000
  • Cash needed: £236.54

Starting to miss the British homeland yet? You’re in luck. Halfway across the world, British Airways offers a great way to fly the eight-hour flight from Sydney to Singapore. For only 13,000 Avios and £118.27 per person, you can fly BA’s 777 to Singapore. You want to look for off-peak awards here, since they are significantly more favourably priced.

Accommodation in Singapore

  • Hotel: Conrad Centennial Singapore
  • Nights: 2
  • Points needed: 60,000 Amex Membership Rewards points transferred to Hilton
Conrad Centennial Singapore guest room. Photo courtesy of the hotel.
Conrad Centennial Singapore guest room. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

Recently refurbished, the Conrad Centennial offers classic luxury right within walking distance of major attractions like the Marina Bay waterfront with all of its museums, Gardens by the Bay and Orchard road.

A standard night at the hotel will run you 60,000 Hilton Honors points per night. If you don’t have a slew of points already in your Honors account, you can transfer Membership Rewards points to Honors at a 1:2 ratio.

Return to London

Flight

  • Airline: KLM booked through Virgin Atlantic
  • Flight: KL836, SIN-AMS/KL1007, AMS-LHR
  • Class: Economy
  • Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER/Embraer E190
  • Points needed: 42,000
  • Cash needed: £161.52

With the new partnership between Delta, KLM/Air France and Virgin Atlantic, you can book KLM flights with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, sometimes at very favourable rates. This route back to London is a good example — it will take you all the way from Singapore back home with a short stopover in Amsterdam, with the comforts of KLM’s modern fleet and attentive service for only 21,000 miles plus £80.76 in cash for each person.

Remember that you can transfer Amex Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club at a 1:1 rate, making this redemption even closer within reach.

Bottom line

This dream itinerary will take you to some of the most coveted places on the planet for a grand total of 337,000 American Express Membership Rewards points and a cash cost of £811.54 for two people. Of course, many variations on this trip are possible, like going through Tokyo instead of Singapore, or even adding on more destinations. By choosing less high-end hotels, the trip can be extended even further.

As you’ve noticed by now, you’ll need quite a few Amex Membership Rewards points in order to make this itinerary — or one like it — happen. The Preferred Rewards Gold Card from Amex currently comes with a welcome bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points after spending £3,000 in the first six months. Meanwhile, The Platinum Card from Amex comes with a welcome bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points after spending £4,000 in the first six months.

Related: Understanding the American Express U.K. welcome bonus restrictions

As we cannot fly and travel freely at this time due to the Covid-19 pandemic, why not use your free time to figure out your perfect around-the-world itinerary for 2021?

Featured photo by Howard Kingsnorth/Getty Images.

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