40K to Far Away: The Votes are In

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The adventure began Wednesday October 2nd.  Nick, Stephen, and I met up in Washington DC to kick off the 40K to Far Away challenge.  Our goal?  Go as far as possible.  Our budget?  40,000 points and $400.  Who picked the winner?  You did.

Each of us was assigned a transferable points currency.  We were allowed to use up to 40,000 points, as follows:

  • Greg the Frequent Miler (AKA me): 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
  • Nick: 40,000 Citi ThankYou Rewards points
  • Stephen: 40,000 Amex Membership Rewards points

We purposely left the objective unclear.  Readers were given the opportunity to debate who won and why; and a reader poll ultimately decided the winner.

And the winner is…

Who do you think won the 40K to Far Away challenge?

  • Greg (51%, 567 Votes)
  • Stephen (31%, 345 Votes)
  • Nick (19%, 210 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,122

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Results

Distance Results

We each traveled at least this far (estimated distances shown here do not include around town travel):

  • Nick: 19,619 miles 16,061 miles before he went over-budget
  • Greg: 18,037 miles
  • Stephen: 13,394 miles 

Budget Results

  • Nick: Spent 39,500 points (500 under budget) and $670.90 ($270 over budget). Details here.  Before going over budget he spent only 23,500 points and $398.70. Details here.
  • Greg: Spent 40,000 points and $397.08 ($2.92 under budget). Details here.
  • Stephen: Spent 40,000 points and $382.44 ($17.56 under budget). Details here.

Why did we do this?

We expect this to be fun!  And it was a great opportunity to highlight sweet spot awards available through each of the transferable points currencies: Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Amex Membership Rewards.

In fact, this contest led to some awesome discoveries such as the ability to book flights to Hawaii for only 7,500 Citi ThankYou points, the ability to book super-cheap fares with Chase points, and tricks for finding 5K United awards.  More examples can be found below under the heading “What we’ve learned.”

The Rules

The goal was to use the budget (40K points + $400) to go as far as possible.  How do we measure success?  We don’t know.  We debated whether we should measure distance from origin to destination, but that didn’t seem right.  After all, someone could potentially fly all the way around the world and end up 0 miles from the start.  How about measuring the combined distance of each individual leg?  Maybe, but should we really count it as going far if Stephen rides a merry-go-round 35,000 miles?  Ultimately we decided that we’ll know success when we see it.  And, if we don’t, it will still be fun debating it!

But we did need some rules, so here they are:

  • Beginning with the first mode of transportation, we must account for all costs within the 40K + $400 budget.  This means that we need to track payments for food, airport transfers (not counting the original transfer to get to the starting location), lodging, visas, etc.
  • This is a one-way challenge.  We do not need to return to the starting location.
  • We cannot accept transit/lodging/food help from readers.  In other words, we can accept help in terms of advice, but we can’t accept a ride to the airport, lodging, food, or other types of material assistance from readers.  Note that accepting help from friends or relatives along the way is fine as long as it is the type of thing that would normally happen when traveling.

What we’ve learned

The challenge to come up with the best possible itinerary with 40K points has led us to many interesting discoveries.  Some are brand new.  Others were already known, but are relatively new to us.  Here are some of the gems:

Media inquiries

Please contact us here: press@frequentmiler.net.

All 40K to Far Away posts:

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John Simpson

It’s cute you would say don’t worry about getting back, but are you about teaching people how to use miles or just go as far away one way? Seems the way you do your challenge isn’t about people getting miles and using them, but rather about how random you can be. I know a million people that can beat you all on this, your travel was easy for almost any newcomer to the miles game as long as they spend an hour or two looking.

Put up a real challenge. Round Trip, furthest destination flown. Let readers vote on uniqueness of destination and a cool site seen when there.

40k points and $400. All receipts need to be validated.

But you have to get home. Otherwise, would be too easy for me to embarrass you all with a 40k one way and $400. Your trips were simple.

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Lukas

Our trips OUR done? Am I missing an obvious pun or something?

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JB San Diego

You need to update the Best Offers page and remove the Ameriprise Plat. No longer offered.

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Captain Greg

Hmmm, I don’t know about this “already ticketed” stuff from the end of Nick’s trip. I’ll be interested to hear how he justifies it! He also went over his budget ever so slightly, and Greg went over his budget on UR points ever so slightly as well, but it’s probably close enough. According to the graphic, Greg still has over $100 leftover! I wonder if he actually spent it somewhere and hasn’t included it (like on food) or if he actually has that leftover. I’ll be really interested to hear an FM on the Air debrief. It’s a really cool challenge. You guys should go to NBC and present it as the next reality TV show!

Sam

Agreed. Does “already ticketed’ just mean that he had purchased these tickets before the competition? Or is he saying that it was “already ticketed” as a part of a flight bought/shown earlier aka a flight with multiple stopovers? If they were purchased before the competition, I don’t think those stops should count (as cool as it was to learn about Niue).

CaveDweller

Sam
I agree it’s unreal what these people pass on I think we need a CPA to look @ these odd numbers.

CHEERs

Larry

So Stephen has used up almost all of his money but he hasn’t used a single MR point yet? Interesting.

Blue

I predict he is going to Svalbard on SAS,

T. Jones

If he managed to do Svalbard, I’d give him the win just because.

Captain Greg

Stephen getting a $115 flight from Newark to Toronto to Madrid is one of the best flight cash values I’ve ever seen!

[…] writers from Frequent Miler are currently right in the middle of their #40KFarAway challenge. Check out their updates on this website. There are things to be learned from both their successes and failures during their trips and […]

alicia

nice animation!

It might be a better idea to do a split-screen animation covering from day 0 until present, so we can compare the 3 cool trips side by side.

Keep it going!

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Rob

Lewisburg, WV? I smell the Cardinal towards Chicago or even backwards to Charlottesville paired with another short hop to enable another excursionist flight w/ UA! Thanks to the writers and other readers for coming out to IAD last night, that was a lot of fun.

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Debit

This is bogus. I think a better game would be each one of you has to go to a place chosen by your readers without your laptop and money except for this 40k + $400. You only know about it in the day of, so the other two make all the outgoing preparations for you. And you have to come home covering the most distance but shortest time. This would mean you don’t have as much time to prepare.

Larry

Sorry if I missed it in a post but what will the consequence be if you go over the $400 budget? Disqualification or readers decide?

Like you show up for the bus but it isn’t running that day and so you have to take a cab and end up at $408. To me, the guy who keeps an emergency fund is way more worthy than the guy who goes a few bucks over and pleads for voter mercy.

Stephen Pepper

Readers will get to decide the winner, so they can certainly keep in mind any kind of penalty for one of us going over budget.

[…] to the 40K to Far Away Challenge the Frequent Miler team has been more motivated than ever to find great ways to eke out value from […]

Lukas

Is carbon offset REALLY necessary considering the flights would fly with or without you? Now if you had your own private jet I’d understand but for general travel, I don’t believe it’s necessary.

Sam

Hey Greg, Nick, and Stephen

Can’t wait for the results. Who’s gonna be top the podium?

But….as interesting as this endeavor is, lemme give you personal experience booking flights the past couple of times: if you are able to go seriously points commando, i.e. fly at inconvenient times and multiple stops, for sure you can get great deals booking directly from airlines. But…if you have more restrictions on times of travel, be it dates or times of day, I’ve actually found that the CSR travel website often offers the best value. (Not always of course.) There are NO black out dates, you’re getting miles, and you’re NOT paying taxes. I’m not saying geting better value thru CSR portal happens all the time, but for sure it does happen and most importantly, all readers need reminding to know that they ought to cross check google/flights for the cash/CSR pay with points option against juicymiles pay with points thru the airline. (Of course this assumes they have the CSR. The CSP would of course be less compelling.)

Two expamples just today: my sister booked a flight for her son using ua miles which was cheaper than the cashCSR option. I on the other hand booked a flight today using CSR points for a specific desired itinerary from SFO-MEX-SFO. It was cheaper than any of the itinerary options booked directly with one of the airlines. Cheaper in miles and points, and I earn miles.

Bottom line: One never knows where the best value is until one fully cross checks. And….the CSR truly is a very powerful tool for someone who flies frequently enough as oppopsed to it’s little brother the CSP.

That said…I do envy you commandoes!!! Bon chance!!!

Nathan

What about wagering? Let the fans make wagers with the money going to a good cause??

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Tom Mackay

So would you allow – or even encourage your fans to follow/accompany you on this adventure? I imagine some of us might think it fun to bounce around the globe with you (without the spending restrictions) I promise not to break the rules, I won’t send any treats back to you from the front of the plane.

Blue

I predict using the one way rule will be key to winning this challenge–and I would suggest at the very least providing the cost in getting back home as part of the voting information.

Greg

Is there an end date too? Or is it just however long it takes?

AlexL

Can’t wait!

Parts Unknown

If Stephen rode a merry go round for 35,000 miles I would vote for him.
Will you guys be live blogging or tweeting the adventure? I’d say make a rules exception for WiFi costs & data roaming fees or whatever.

AJS

How about a DC send off party?

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