One of my dream trips has always been to take a round-the-world trip. I’ve visited numerous countries on every continent (except Antarctica) and have done so on great airlines in upgraded seats.
However, the idea of a single trip taking me around the globe is still alluring. I set about planning this journey using nothing more than my wits, my miles, and the Internet.
One of the great things about the oneworld alliance is that they offer a round-the-world award known as the oneworld Explorer Award. Instead of traditional mileage requirements for an award ticket, the Explorer Award is based on distance traveled and throws out some of the rules that can make a regular award less appealing.
Among the most frustrating of restrictions on traditional award tickets is the lack of an option to do stopovers. American Airlines allows stopovers only in the North American gateway city, but not when you’re overseas. While the gateway city option is great for tagging on a one-way award to Hawaii essentially for free, it does not offer any benefits outside of the U.S. If you wanted to fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo and then Hong Kong, and then back to Los Angeles, you could not do so on one award. You would have to book three separate one-way segments, increasing the use of miles.
Up to 16 flights on one award
A oneworld Explorer Award allows you the ability to book a trip with multiple stops. In fact, you can have up to 16 segments on a single award, with stopovers in every city along the way. If you have a complicated trip that requires multiple stops, it might be best to calculate how much you’ll need for an Explorer Award instead of multiple one-way awards. The savings can be surprising.
The trip I just reserved flies me in business class from Los Angeles to Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Paris. I then have an open-jaw where I find my own way to London and then the award picks up from London to Los Angeles. All of this was accomplished in business class for only 130,000 miles. The total trip distance falls into Category 6, somewhere in between 14,001 and 20,000 miles. If I were to book this as separate one way trips, it would cost me 182,500 miles. The savings in miles is equal to another international business class ticket.
You get to use two or more oneworld airlines to book it
One of the fun requirements of the Explorer Award is that you actually have to use at least two oneworld airlines, which is a bit of a treat. On this trip, I will be using American Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Cathay Pacific Airlines. I really enjoy trying different airlines and their respective products and this trip allows me the opportunity to do both for free. The leg from Los Angeles to Tokyo is on Japan Airlines in business class and is something I’ve always wanted to try. This is one of their premier routes and I anticipate great service on the flight.
Of course, booking this particular ticket isn’t exactly a walk in the park. It takes quite a bit of planning and checking to make sure everything falls into place. Since you’re looking for award availability on multiple airlines, it’s best to be flexible with timing. I booked mine for a trip more than six months in the future and had some degree of flexibility in terms of the cities I was willing to fly in and out of. For example, I had not really contemplated flying from Hong Kong to Paris as I really wanted to experience Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to London. However, the dates I was hoping for weren’t available but the Paris flight had award space and it was on the same type of aircraft as the London flight. Since it’s so easy to get from Paris to London via a short paid flight or on the Eurostar, I snapped up this seat. These particular business class seats on Cathay Pacific are widely regarded as some of the best in the air.
A huge help in booking award seats is to use online tools such as ExpertFlyer or AwardNexus. These are paid services that can search award space on many airlines. By using these tools to check availability, I was able to piece together my itinerary before calling American Airlines to book the ticket. The whole process took only a few minutes on the phone and the agent was quite pleased. She mentioned that most of these bookings can take quite a long time on the phone as they search and have to go back and forth to review options.
With my ticket booked, I’m pretty excited for the trip to start. Of course, I still have nearly six months before I leave. Remember when you were a little kid and couldn’t sleep the night before a big event? I’m going to have a lot of sleepless nights in the next few months!