Let’s do an example together, as the process can be confusing for people planning their first Aeroplan mRTW (mini round the world) trip. I’ll try to explain my thought process, but in the end it really comes down to you playing around with trial and error to come up with a final itinerary that you are happy with and hits all the spots you wanted.
Step 1: Come up with a route that is under the MPM
This one is really up to you – where do you want to go, which city to visit and which cities will you be doing a layover and which will be a stopover?
Sometimes I use the Aeroplan search tool to see what routes they recommend so I know off the bat what flights have award availability – not all flights have seats available to redeem with points, especially premium cabins (and particularly first class). You can also use the Star Alliance member chart to see which countries you can fly direct to; and usually with good chance of availability as well.
Since I recently planned a trip, I’ll use my outbound route from Toronto to HKG as an example.
I have family and friends in Vancouver so I’ll do a stopover there (I’ll save my second stopover for the return route). To cross the pacific with no carrier surcharge, it looks like it will be Air China through PEK or EVA air through TPE. Both looks OK but EVA air reviews seems slightly better, and given Taipei’s location, it is closer to south-east Asia and gives more opportunity to visit another country before i hit my MPM.
In the end I settled on YYZ-YVR-TPE-BKK-HKG.
Step 2: Search leg by leg for availability, departure / arrival times and flight numbers
This is the hardest part and the task that will take the most time. Sometimes there simply won’t be business/first class availability for certain legs and you will have to settle for a leg in economy.
If this is the case however, it is important you keep monitoring that leg as if business class award availability opens up (its random and usually a bunch will be released 1-2 weeks before departure when the airlines realizes the chance of selling it is low), you can call back in to Aeroplan and get it switched to business/first for free (depending on how many miles you redeemed for your trip).
Start with Aeroplan or United’s search engine and select one way search. Begin with your departure city and work your way through your route. Make sure you have at least 90 minutes between your arrival flight to the next departure flight, and that’s it!
I find it useful to keep a spreadsheet noting city, arrival times, departure times and flight numbers.
Using my trip as an example, there’s only 1 way from YYZ-YVR which is through Air Canada. They have multiple direct flights throughout the day.
For YVR-TPE, there was only one direct flight which works for me (and night departure always beats 6:30am flights in my mind).
Availability from United Air’s search tool
Arriving in the morning is also good because it either gives you a day to explore the city or a good time for your next flight. Most airports shuts down after 1am so if you land at say 11pm, you really can’t do much.
The next leg is TPE-BKK and there are lots of availability here. Thai airways charges carrier surcharge (although when I looked it up on the Aeroplan website, the surcharge for this flight only like 30 bucks) so I opted for the later EVA air flight.
Remember we have the Amex platinum and flying business (we can enter any star alliance business class lounge) so we have no shortage of lounge access!
We arrive at around noon at 12:35pm so again we have lots of choices of when to fly to HKG. Also, remember that Hong Kong legislated no carrier surcharges so we can fly Thai airlines there with no extra costs.
Sample spreadsheet of your route plan
By now you should have a pretty good idea of how to plan your complex round the world trip. Planning these trips really comes down to the effort you put in and past experience.
Put in the research and time and you will be rewarded with one epic trip!
Finally, I will show you how to use those valuable Alaska miles and get the best bang for you buck!