A Round the World Trip with Points


Booking a round-the-world trip with points is one of my goals. Originally, I planned to do it for 2023 but overbooked myself for this year. It is now on the plan for 2024.  In the meantime, one of our readers, and frequent reader success stories contributor, Trent Sanders, did it! Here is his story! Warning: Trent is NOT a beginner, so this is a harder trip to book but totally doable!

Trent’s Round the World Adventure

My 19-year-old son and I returned from an absolutely mind-boggling round-the-world trip recently. I had been dreaming of doing a trip like this ever since I got into the points and miles world almost 4 years ago. After my son graduated from high school in June, it gave me an excuse to pull the trigger.

I didn’t start planning the trip until early September, and I knew the only open window I had from work to pull it off was around the Thanksgiving break. I would not recommend following my example because we did run into some limitations due to the short planning timeframe and the closed-in dates for travel.


pyramids in desert

Trent and his son visited the pyramids in Egypt.


Using ANA

However, after extensively researching each option out there that offered RTW itineraries, I ultimately decided to go with ANA (All Nippon Airways).  Honestly, I think the determining factor for me was the total amount of points it cost (for business class) and the number of partner airlines available to fly on. The ease of the booking itself was also pleasantly surprising in so much that I would definitely not hesitate to recommend ANA and their RTW process to anyone.

When I first started “exploring” all the ins and outs of the RTW ticket, I tried to decide where to go. Since my son is 19 and is just happy to go anywhere, he was of little help. So, I decided to try and hit some of the places high on my travel bucket list. I made sure that I did not have any backtracking or too many segments (there is a list of requirements you must follow for ANA’s RTW tickets).

Once I had come up with a pretty good idea of where I wanted to go, the next step was deciding if I wanted to head East or West (I live in Salt Lake City). I had read that if you start out heading West, you suffer less from jetlag, and if you start out heading East, your flight times are reduced. In my experience, it came down to what flights were available to book through ANA for the time I was looking.  With some flexibility, we may have had more options to choose from). We started by heading East.



Wadi Rum was on their itinerary.


Finding Flights

To find the flights I wanted to take, I primarily used United’s website (ANA is part of the Star Alliance, so technically, you can fly on any of their partners for the ANA RTW). I did use Air Canada’s website a bit as well. I have found that United’s website is the easiest to use and navigate, but it can mislead you a bit.

When I first started searching, I used my wife’s account on United, which was not a good idea because she has the United Explorer Business Card. Therefore, her account shows flights that are only available to cardholders and elites. During my searches, I looked for Saver Awards, which show up as (I) in the fare class (X for economy).

This is extremely important because ANA will not be able to book these flights on partners unless they have that fare classification. Once I had my list that I found on United, I then went to ANA’s website, which is not quite as user-friendly. Choosing award reservations and signing in is the key to searching ANA’s website for RTW tickets. Then choose Multi City Itineraries, or you will get an error message telling you that you must book a roundtrip flight per ANA’s rules of award redemptions. You can then input all of your segments with dates, and it will show you what ANA can book as available flights. FYI, just because I could find the flights on United’s or Air Canada’s websites still did not mean ANA could see them, let alone book them.


Tall skyscrapers near blue water

Burj Khalifa in Dubai


Figuring Out the Points Needed

When it comes to ANA’s RTW itineraries, they charge you based on the total number of miles flown. In order to get an approximation for our trip, I used Great Circle Mapper, which gets you a pretty close number. I then went to ANA’s RTW chart to see how many points it would cost me.

Our trip originally fell in the 25,000-29,000 total miles flown category and, therefore, would have cost me 170,000 ANA points per person since we wanted to fly in Business Class. I felt like that was a little steep. (Listen to me complaining about paying 170k points for 10 flights all in Business Class, what a diva)! I thought it was steep because many of our flights would only be between 1-2 hours of total flying time. So, I decided to break up the ANA itinerary a bit and only use it for longer flights. (This tactic became necessary once I started to look for flights since some of my segments did not have availability through ANA). Per the ANA RTW rules, you are allowed up to 4 ground transfers (ways to get from point A to point B that is not included in the ANA booking, ie-using trains or other airlines).


green trees near blue water

Cairns, Australia was also a stop.


Working with ANA

We started off flying on Southwest from SLC to LGA (I have the SW companion pass) and then began our RTW itinerary out of JFK. For the middle of the trip, I booked individual flights from Aqaba, Jordan, to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Wizz Air , and from Abu Dhabi to New Delhi, India, on Etihad. I paid cash for the Wizz Air flight ($60 total for both of us) and used Aeroplan points for the Etihad flights (12k Aeroplan points per person + $40 taxes). I also booked flights from Cairns, Australia, to Sydney, Australia, using British Airways Avios (9k points per person + $50 taxes).

At the tail end, we flew Southwest again from LAX to SLC. This reduced my total miles flown on the ANA ticket to what I thought fell in the 20,001-22,000 category, which costs 125,000 points per person. I later discovered that ANA calculated it differently and had a total of 18,001-20,000 or 115,000 points per person.

I was a little bummed that the ANA agent that helped me set up the itinerary could not tell me the number of miles on their end while she and I were on the phone (you have to call ANA to book the RTW ticket. It can’t be done online and calling can be a headache). She had to call me back later to finalize everything, and that is when I was told their estimation. The same is true for their taxes. I had a loose idea of what the taxes would be by using Matrix Airfare Search, which allows you to look at the fees and surcharges of flights.

Looking for the YQ or YR lines in the fees generally lets you know the estimated taxes. ANA does pass on carrier-imposed fees and surcharges, so picking your airlines can be tricky if you try to keep your out-of-pocket costs low (a quick Google search can tell you which airlines have low, medium, or high fees and surcharges).


Large white domed building

Seeing the Taj Mahal would be dream destination!


Transferring and Booking

In order to book the tickets, I transferred 260,000 American Express Membership Rewards to my ANA account. Keep in mind this is not an automatic transfer, and, in my case, it took 3 business days. I also did a test transfer of just 1,000 MRs previously to make sure the transfer would go through smoothly. The delay in the transfer is definitely the biggest gripe I have with the process.

While waiting anxiously for my points to transfer, I would check the availability of my flights each day. Ultimately, my original flights were no longer available when my transfer was complete, and I had to scramble a bit to patch our itinerary back together. The reason I transferred 260k MRs is that I initially thought it was going to cost me 125k points per person. I also read that you can make one booking change, but it costs you 3k-5k points to make the change.

Once ANA returned with their calculations (230k for both of us), I had 30k points left in my account. Normally, that would not be a bad thing, but in the case of ANA, your points expire after 36 months, and there is no way to extend them. I guess I will have to book another ANA ticket sometime in the next 2 ½ years, dang it!


large towers

Kuala Lumpur – Trent and his son went to so many exotic locations!



Below is our itinerary and the airlines we flew:

  • SLC-LGA Southwest (not included in RTW booking)
  • JFK-Cairo, Egypt Egypt Air business class
  • Cairo-Amman, Jordan Egypt Air business class
  • Aqaba, Jordan-Abu Dhabi, UAE Wizz Air (not included in RTW booking)
  • Abu Dhabi-New Delhi, India Etihad (not included in RTW booking)
  • New Delhi-Bangkok, Thailand Thai Airways business class
  • Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Thai Airways business class
  • Kuala Lumpur-Singapore Singapore Airlines business class
  • Singapore-Cairns, Australia Singapore Airlines business class
  • Cairns-Sydney, Australia Qantas (not included in RTW booking)
  • Sydney-LAX United Airlines economy class
  • LAX-SLC Southwest (not included in RTW booking)



Multi domed white building set near water

The iconic opera house is a landmark in Sydney.



After all of our flights were booked, the next task was to figure out where to stay. This portion of the planning was not quite so hard since I already knew where we would be and when. I just had to determine which hotels I wanted to stay at and how to book them. I am not completely loyal to one hotel brand, which was handy. Some of the places we stayed did not have all the normal chain hotels (Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, etc.), so we had to be a bit flexible.

I am fortunate to have points with Hilton, Marriott, Wyndham, IHG, and I don’t mind transferring Ultimate Rewards points from Chase to Hyatt. Also, I wanted to use a few free night certificates and my FHR (Fine Hotels and Resorts) credit from my American Express Platinum card. Not surprisingly, we did have a hiccup or two along the way (to be expected on a trip like this), and I had to adjust some of our hotels.

Luckily, I could transfer points mid-trip to take care of some of the unexpected twists, and all was good. In the end, we stayed  at the following hotels:

  • 4 nights in Hyatts, points transferred from Chase (32k points total for all 4 nights)
  • 1 night Hilton Double Tree (20k Hilton points),
  • 1 night Marriott Residence Inn (20k Marriott points),
  • 2 nights Holiday Inn (36k IHG points)
  • 2 nights Crowne Plaza (FNC + 23k IHG points)
  • 1 night Wyndham Dubai Marina (13.5K Wyndham points)
  • 1 night at the Shangri La Sydney (used $200 FHR credit to cover most of the cost)


I am currently Elite with IHG (from a status match just before we left) and Explorist with Hyatt (from a status match just before we left). Of the 11 nights we spent in hotels, we were upgraded 8 of the nights. Some of the upgrades only meant a higher floor, but some of the upgrades were to suites with much better views.


Old buildings in red rock

Petra is an outstanding place – This trip covered so many wonderful sites!


Trent’s Final Thoughts

The ultimate takeaway from this trip was the quality one-on-one time I spent with my son. At 19 years old, sometimes kids don’t want to hang out with mom and dad. The experiences we had and the memories we made will most definitely stay with me for life. My biggest problem now is that I have a 16- and 14-year-old who told me they better get the same type of trip for their graduation present. That gives me a few more years to continue to accumulate points and miles. Challenge accepted!


Thanks, Trent, for this inspiring report! As you heard from Trent, he started his points and miles journey several years ago, but he is a true rockstar! We always enjoy your reports! A round-the-world trip with points is so aspirational! I don’t think mine will compare, but it’s on the books for next year.


three towers with greenery below them

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  1. Kim says:

    Wow!! This trip was amazing Trent and a trip to aspire to in the future!

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