• Around the World in Twelve Days
  • Hotel Review: Augustine, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Prague
  • Trip Report: Prague, Czech Republic
  • Hotel Review: Park Hyatt Seoul
  • Hotel Review: Grand Hyatt Seoul
  • Trip Report: Seoul, Korea
  • Flight Review: Korean Air Business Class
  • Hotel Review: Intercontinental Tokyo
  • Trip Report: Kyoto, Japan
  • Flight Review: Japan Airlines Business Class
  • Flight Review: Singapore Airlines Business Class

Introduction

Recently, I did my first around the world itinerary and traveled to four countries in one trip all made possible by using miles and points from various travel rewards programs.  The countries visited on this 12 day trip were Czech Republic, Korea, Japan, and the US starting out from Germany, where I currently reside.

After acquiring an abundance of miles and adhering to the philosophy of “earn and burn”, I decided after looking into the Etihad Guest rewards program that is was time to burn some miles.  The Etihad award program has some great sweet spots for their partner airline redemption.  Some interesting partner redemptions are on Czech Airlines and Korean Air, so I figured I’d take advantage of that.

Particularly, the 12,805 miles required to go from Prague to Seoul in economy and the 25,610 for business seemed great.   Plus, Prague is one of my favorite cities, so I figured it would be great to take a one day stopover on the way to Korea.  Unfortunately, the business class redemption on Czech Airlines is extremely rare and doesn’t seem to change availability over time, even if the seats are empty.

Planning

Planning a trip like this would be difficult without the use of some very effective tools.  Expertflyer.com for finding flight award availability and pointimize.com for hotel award availability were essential.

Expert Flyer Award Search

Expert flyer has a multitude of features including award searches for most airlines and alerts that can be setup to let you know when a award has been made available.  Above you can see that there are two business award seats between PRG and ICN.  Since the Etihad website does not show award availability on partner airlines, you have to search for availability using expert flyer or airline websites.

If the airline you are trying to get an award seat that is not on expert flyer, there may be alternative ways to search.  Some examples are:

  • To use American Airline miles for a Japan Airlines flight, you can search for availability on BritishAirways.com
  • To use Etihad Miles for a Czech Airlines flight, you can search for award availability on AirFrance.com
  • To use Etihad Miles for a Asiana Airlines flight, you can search for award availability on United.com

Pointimize Search Results

Pointimize.com is an excellent airlines and hotel award search tool.  For hotel stays, it is able to display on a particular date(s) which hotel awards are available, the points required, TripAdvisor ratings, and other details like which elite benefits are included.  Pointimize can also import your travel reward data from Awardwallet.com and let you know if you have enough points available for an award.

Costs

Using Chase UR Points, Citi Thank You Points, SPG Points, AMEX Points, Etihad Guest Miles, Singapore Airlines Miles, and AAdvantage Miles, I was able to take a $9,529 trip for $958. Basically reducing the retail cost by 90%.  See the below breakdown:

Redemption Breakdown

How I Earned These Miles & Points

Etihad Guest Miles

Etihad Guest is a travel rewards program with many redemption partners across the world.  While there are not many great redemption rates on Etihad Airways, there are some good partner redemptions on Czech Airways, Air Serbia, American Airlines, and Virgin Australia.  Etihad Guest is a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest, Citi Thank You, and AMEX Membership Rewards.

From now until 7/5/2017, you can earn 10% bonus miles when transferring points from Citi Thank You to Etihad Guest Miles.  However, the highest bonus I have seen was 30% and I caution not to transfer too many points because Etihad points expire in two years, regardless of account activity.  There are many AMEX cards available that offer signup bonuses between 10,000 to 75,000 points.

Etihad Transfer Promo

Hyatt Points

Hyatt points can be earned by staying at Hyatt properties or by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Hyatt.  You can earn Chase Ultimate Rewards by applying for the below cards:

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card:

  • 50,000 Points signup bonus
  • $4,000 Required spending in first 3 months to qualify for bonus
  • $95 Annual fee waived in first year
  • Additional 5,000 points when adding an authorized user
  • Earn 2x points on travel and dining

 

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card:

  • 80,000 Points signup bonus
  • $5,000 Required spending in first 3 months to qualify for bonus
  • $95 Annual fee
  • Earn 3x points on travel, internet, cable, phone, and advertising

 

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Miles

Since Singapore Airlines is a Star Alliance member, I utilize this program to book most of my Star Alliance flight awards.  Also, whenever I fly United, I ensure the miles are earned on the KrisFlyer program since it earns more miles per flight and redemptions are easy.  Additionally, the KrisFlyer Program is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thank You, and AMEX Membership Rewards.  Singapore Airlines even has great redemption rates on their own airline such as the JFK to FRA route for 20,000 miles in economy class.

You can earn Citi Thank You Points by applying for the below:

Citi Prestige Credit Card:

  • 40,000 Thank You Points signup bonus
  • $4,000 Required spending in first 90 days
  • $450 Annual Fee
  • $250 annual credit for airline ticket and baggage fees
  • $100 Global Entry application fee credit
  • 4th night free benefit for hotel bookings

 

American AAdvantage Mileage Program

I like the American Airlines Mileage program because you can book awards on many partners airlines such as Etihad, Qatar, LAN, Qantas, and other One World Alliance Partners.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard:

  • 60,000 AAdvantage Miles sign up bonus
  • $3,000 Required spending in first 3 months to qualify for bonus
  • $95 annual fee waived in first year

 

CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard:

  • 60,000 AAdvantage Miles sign up bonus
  • $3,000 Required spending in first 3 months to qualify for bonus
  • $95 annual fee waived in first year

 

Starwood Preferred Guest

The Starwood Preferred Guest program has a tremendous amount of great hotels, while being able to transfer to dozens of airline partners.  It is by far the most versatile award currency out there but the points are hard to come by.  They can only be earned by applying for the AMEX SPG Personal and Business Cards which can only be applied for once per lifetime.  The current card offers are below:

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

 

The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints after  $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
  • Access to the Sheraton Club Lounge
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95

Conclusion

Booking amazing trips is not all that hard once you utilize award tools such as expert flyer and learn the basics of how airline partner redemptions work.  It is always best to seek out transferable points because that will allow for better flexibility for award redemptions and not tie you down to a couple of airlines or hotel chains.  It may require more time researching all these award opportunities, but there is no better way to fly around the world in business class at 1/10 of the retail cost.